Japanese Hospital of Los Angeles
The Japanese Hospital of Los Angeles illuminates the local Japanese American community's determination to ensure that immigrant and American-born Japanese had access to adequate health care in the first half of the twentieth century when mainstream hospitals often discriminated against patients of color. In 1926, five immigrant Japanese doctors applied to incorporate a hospital, but the California Secretary of State denied their application. Despite not having the rights and protections of US citizens, the immigrant doctors challenged the decision. Their case ultimately went to the US Supreme Court in 1928. The doctors prevailed and the Japanese Hospital opened on December 1, 1929. For decades, it served the health care needs of the local community. Although the hospital is a reminder of the discrimination that Japanese immigrants faced, it equally symbolizes a significant civil rights victory.
Early Health Care Facilities
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, Los Angeles's civic and business leaders touted the region's mild climate and abundant sunshine to health seekers. While Southern California became synonymous with health, access to adequate health care was not available to all. Public health officials associated disease with recent immigrants and certain ethnic groups, using race to determine how to administer public health programs.  Ultimately, civic leaders saw immigrant communities as a hindrance to Los Angeles becoming a "modern city." This xenophobic rhetoric provided the justification necessary to deny immigrant communities from receiving public health services.
The early Japanese population in Los Angeles was centered mainly in Little Tokyo and nearby Boyle Heights. In 1913, several Japanese medical professionals established a facility known as the "Japanese Hospital." It was also commonly referred to as Turner Street Hospital in reference to its location in Little Tokyo and later as the Southern California Japanese Hospital.  The hospital operated out of the home of Mary Akita, a Nisei midwife. Akita recognized the need for a maternity ward with the arrival of scores of picture brides .
While the Southern California Japanese Hospital served a critical need, it did not meet the medical care demands for the growing community. Japanese families continued to depend on itinerant midwives or traveling physicians.
Despite the relatively low number of influenza cases reported in Los Angeles between 1918-19, the most detrimental effects of the highly contagious illness were notably felt in immigrant communities. Immigrant and ethnic enclaves often had a higher population density and limited access to health care. The pandemic had an adverse effect on the Japanese population.
In the years that followed, Japanese physicians began thinking about how they could establish a facility that could more sufficiently address the community's medical needs. It was clear to doctors like Kikuwo Tashiro that a larger health care facility with dedicated surgical facilities was needed.
Establishing the Japanese Hospital
In 1926, Tashiro and four other Japanese doctors, Daishiro Kuroiwa, Fusataro Nayaka, Toru Ozasa, and Matsuta Takahashi, combined their savings to establish a medical hospital on land acquired at First and Fickett Streets in Boyle Heights. As construction was about to begin, Tashiro submitted articles of incorporation for the Japanese Hospital of Los Angeles. California Secretary of State Frank C. Jordan denied the physician's request on the grounds that the application conflicted with terms in the 1911 Treaty of Navigation and Commerce between the United States and Japan as well as the Alien Land Law of California . 
The doctors enlisted legal help from local attorney Jacob Marion Wright to challenge the decision.  Wright's extensive experience in defending the rights of Japanese immigrants in a variety of legal cases helped prepare him for one of the most significant cases of his career.  Together, Wright and his former law school classmate Sei Fujii prepared the legal challenge.
Tashiro's challenge to Jordan's decision resulted in a 1927 California State Supreme Court case, known as Tashiro v. Jordan. Interpretation of the 1911 Treaty of Commerce and Navigation was at the center of the court case. Each side focused intently on Article I, which established:
Citizens or subjects of each of the high contracting parties shall have liberty to enter, travel, and reside in the territories of the other to carry on trade, wholesale and retail, to own or lease and occupy houses, manufactories, warehouses and shops, to employ agents of their choice, to lease land for residential and commercial purposes and generally to do anything incident to or necessary for trade upon the same terms as native citizens or subjects, submitting themselves to the laws and regulations there established. 
Jordan claimed that the treaty failed to address whether Japanese nationals could simultaneously incorporate and lease land. In contrast, Wright and Fujii adeptly used the ambiguity of the language to form a counterargument. Wright argued that the language was all encompassing and therefore could be interpreted that Japanese nationals would be furthering trade through a broad spectrum of business activities.
On May 21, 1927, the California State Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the doctors. The 1911 treaty was interpreted to allow Japanese nationals to lease land for commercial purposes, which were medical services in this case.  Jordan appealed the ruling.
In October 1928, the US Supreme Court, under presiding Chief Justice William Howard Taft, heard the case. Chief Justice Taft was quite familiar with the 1911 treaty since he was president when it was enacted. A month later, the US Supreme Court announced its decision, which upheld the lower court's ruling. 
The State of California recognized the incorporation of the Japanese Hospital a few months later on February 2, 1929. The local Japanese community raised over $100,000 to build the hospital.  The doctors selected Issei architect Yoshisaku Hirose for the project. Hirose played a pivotal role in institution building within the Japanese community in Los Angeles.  Hirose designed the hospital in the Streamline Moderne style, which gave it a modern look. The modest exterior, highly sensitive to the economic climate of the time, also suggested that most of the money designated for the construction was spent on the interior spaces. The basement included a dining room, kitchen, and laundry room. The first floor contained exam rooms, a drug dispensary, nurses' dressing room, X-ray lab, chart room, lab, linen room, parlor, library, and waiting room. A major operating room, minor operating room, delivery room, X-ray room, nursing room, children's room, and doctors' dressing room were located on the second floor. Patients diagnosed with tuberculosis or other respiratory ailments could sit in the "sun room," located at the top of the building, where they could take in sun and fresh air through large windows to aid their recovery.
On December 1, 1929, the 69-room facility opened to the community, signaling hope at the onset of the Great Depression. Despite the dismal economic conditions that followed, the Japanese Hospital remained in operation.
World War II and Beyond
With the impending forced removal near, the trustees of the Japanese Hospital made arrangements with nearby White Memorial Hospital to lease the property and use it as a maternity ward. If the hospital had not been incorporated as a commercial entity, it would have been subject to seizure. 
Following the war, Japanese Americans returned to a hostile social climate in Los Angeles, relatively unchanged from the onset of the war. White Memorial Hospital administrators returned the facility to the Japanese Hospital trustees. The Japanese Hospital remained critical when it reopened on March 3, 1946. 
The Japanese Hospital also provided employment to Nisei medical professionals who continued to face discrimination. Dr. Sakaye Shigekawa acknowledged the racism and discrimination she experienced and the important role that the Japanese Hospital played in reestablishing the careers of Japanese American medical professionals. She reflected on the role of the Japanese Hospital following the war, noting: "The hospitals didn't accept us when we came back here. When I came here, I couldn't get any privileges. So we were very fortunate to have a Japanese Hospital. At least we were able to deliver babies and do surgery there...We had a hard time in Los Angeles in the early days." 
Dr. Tashiro continued to lead the hospital's operations after the war until his retirement in 1950. Following his passing in 1953, the hospital was renamed the Japanese Memorial Hospital in his honor.
The hospital continued to serve the health care needs of the Japanese American community that resettled in Los Angeles. Yet, despite its ethnic-specific name, the Japanese Hospital developed a reputation for providing exceptional care, serving a diverse clientele within the East Los Angeles area.
By 1961, trustees of the Japanese Hospital decided to develop a larger, more modern facility. This facility, in neighboring Lincoln Heights, became known as City View Hospital.  The leadership of the Japanese Hospital sold the building on Fickett Street in 1966. Despite the change in ownership, the Japanese Hospital building has continuously operated as a health care facility.
In 2016, the Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS) submitted a nomination for a City of Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument designation. The Japanese Hospital was designated as the City of Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #1131.  In 2019, the LTHS submitted a National Register nomination.  Due to the owner's opposition to the nomination, the Japanese Hospital was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
For More Information
Hayashi, Kristen. City of Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument Nomination for the Japanese Hospital , 2016.
Kaji, Troy Tashiro. " City View Hospital and the Japanese Hospitals of California. " Discover Nikkei , June 11, 2010.
" Japanese Hospitals: Caring for the Pre-War Nikkei Community. " Discover Nikkei , May 11, 2010. Video in fourteen parts.
Okamura, Michael, Bill Watanabe, and Kristen Hayashi. “ Japanese Hospital: Keeping the Community Healthy. ” Discover Nikkei. Apr. 7, 2017.
- Natalia Molina, Fit to Be Citizens: Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1939 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006), 11. Molina argues that race shaped the city's public health policies and determined the accessibility of health services to various communities. She describes a racial hierarchy that public health officials used to determine whether public health services would be extended to the city's Mexican, Chinese, or Japanese populations.
- "Articles of Incorporation of the Japanese Hospital," February 7, 1913, Seaver Center for Western History Research at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
- Janice Marion Wright La Moree, "J. Marion Wright: Los Angeles' Patient Crusader 1890-1970," Southern California Quarterly , 72.1 (Spring 1990): 51. See also " Alien Land Laws ," an article in the Densho Encyclopedia, for further information. The following articles, which announced the California State Supreme Court's decision, indicated that the case examined whether the proposed hospital violated the "anti-alien law." See "Japanese Hospital Approved: Supreme Court Holds it to be Legal in Opinion on Local Dispute," Los Angeles Times , May 22, 1927; "Jap Hospital Wins in Court," Los Angeles Examiner , May 22, 1927; and "Supreme Court Holds it to be Legal in Opinion on Local Dispute," Los Angeles Times , May 22, 1927.
- While in law school at the University of Southern California, J. Marion Wright became friends with Motohiko Miyasaki and Sei Fujii, two Issei law students. Although Miyasaki and Fujii graduated together with Wright from USC Law School in 1913, the Japanese nationals were prohibited from taking the California State Bar Exam. As a result of the friendship that Wright had formed with his Japanese classmates while in law school, he became an advocate and trusted ally for members of the Japanese American community.
- La Moree, "J. Marion Wright," 51.
- "Treaty of Commerce and Navigation Between the United States and Japan," The American Journal of International Law , Vol. 5, No. 2, Supplement: Official Documents (April 1911): 100.
- Memorandum to Paul G. Robertson, Subject: Resume of California Alien Land Law 20 March 1945," National Archives, RG 210, E-47, Box 80, Folder 502.
- Jordan v. K. Tashiro, 49 S.Ct.47, Supreme Court of the United States, 1928. WestlawNext 278 U.S. 123; "Japanese Hospital Wins: United States Supreme Court Orders Charter Issued to Los Angeles Group," Los Angeles Times , Nov. 20, 1928, 1.
- Minutes from a series of planning meetings in January 1929 detailed various estimated expenses, including: $25,000 for real estate; $60,000 for building construction; and $15,000 for equipment. The notes indicated that $75,000 would come from stock shares and the remaining $25,000 would come from a bank loan. Japanese American National Museum, (Gift of Yoshiro Kaku, 91.153.1).
- In 1903, Yoshisaku "Yos" Hirose left Nagasaki, Japan, his birthplace and home of twenty-one years to immigrate to the United States. From 1911 to 1915, Hirose attended the Armor Institute of Technology in Illinois. Soon after earning a bachelor's degree in architecture, he migrated to Los Angeles where he began working as an architect, draftsman, and engineer. Although Hirose's office was located in the Pico-Union area of the city, the majority of his architectural work was rooted in Boyle Heights and Little Tokyo, in close proximity to where he lived and socialized. Hirose designed (the current) Koyasan Buddhist Temple on First Street in Little Tokyo. In 1937, he designed several of the buildings that comprise Tenrikyo Junior Church of America at 2727 East First Street, located less than two blocks from the Japanese Hospital and his residence at 2607 Gleason Avenue in Boyle Heights.
- "Doctors Found a Way to Treat Tradition of Bias," Los Angeles Times , Sept. 14, 1986.
- Japanese Hospital to Resume Service Sunday," Rafu Shimpo , March 1, 1946.
- Sakaye Shigekawa interview by Leslie Ito, Dec. 14, 1997, REGenerations Oral History Project: Rebuilding Japanese American Families, Communities, and Civil Rights in the Resettlement Era: Los Angeles Region: Volume II , accessed on June 9, 2020 at http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=ft358003z1;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=d0e17957&toc.id=0&brand=calisphere . Dr. Sakaye Shigekawa, a Nisei who earned her medical degree from the University of Southern California in the 1930s, worked as a resident physician at the Los Angeles County Hospital in 1941. Soon after Pearl Harbor, she and all other Japanese American staff at the hospital were dismissed, as a result of their ancestry.
- Around the same time, leaders of the Japanese American community established Keiro Senior Health Care to meet the needs of the aging Issei population. Keiro was intended to be a "culturally-sensitive environment with familiar language, food, and values—a place for seniors in their twilight years to call home." Over the next twenty years, Keiro moved toward senior care, establishing three nursing homes, an intermediate care facility, and a retirement home. These facilities were off-shoots of City View Hospital.
- Kristen Hayashi, City of Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument Nomination for the Japanese Hospital , 2016.
- Kristen Hayashi, National Park Service National Register Nomination for the Japanese Hospital , 2019.
Last updated Jan. 22, 2021, 1:50 a.m..