Tokio Ueyama

Name Tokio Ueyama
Born September 22 1889
Died July 12 1954
Birth Location Wakayama, Japan
Generational Identifier


Tokio Ueyama (1889-1954) was an oil painter who created realistic landscapes, still-lifes and portraits, and exhibited extensively in prewar San Francisco and Los Angeles, before he was incarcerated at Amache , Colorado. He was born on September 22, 1889, in Wakayama, Japan, and immigrated to the United States at age nineteen to study at the San Francisco Institute of Art.

In 1910, he moved to Los Angeles and enrolled at the University of Southern California, graduating with a degree in fine arts in 1914. He continued his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia before he was chosen for a Cresson travel scholarship, which enabled him to travel and study painting in France, Germany, Italy and Spain in 1920.

Ueyama returned to Los Angeles in 1922 and co-founded the painting association "Shaku-do-sha" with fellow artists Hojin Miyoshi, Sekishun Masuzo Uyeno and the poet T.B. Okamura. He traveled to Mexico in 1924 and exhibited his paintings in Mexico City, and continued to show his work frequently both within and outside of Los Angeles' Little Tokyo neighborhood, and began receiving notices of his work in the local press. Despite his successes, a 1930 census of Los Angeles shows that he worked as a salesman in a bookstore to support his painting, which must have been fit around his work schedule. In 1937, he went to Japan for a visit, but returned to the United States by the time that World War II broke out in 1941.

In 1942, he and his wife Suye were held first at the Santa Anita Assembly Center in California, and then at Amache , Colorado. He took part in exhibitions at both camps, and at Amache and supervised the camp art department with Koichi Nomiyama , instructing fellow inmates in watercolors, charcoal, and oils multiple times daily, three days a week. [1] The paintings Ueyama produced in camp were less documentary and more formal, such as his best-known internment era work, The Evacuee , which depicts his wife sitting, crocheting in the open doorway of their barrack home.

After the war, Ueyama returned to Los Angeles, where he opened the gift shop BunkaDo, located on East First Street in Little Tokyo, in downtown Los Angeles. Active in community affairs, he headed the arts and crafts committee for the annual Nisei Week festival in 1951.

He died on July 12, 1954, in Los Angeles.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information

Chang, Gordon H., Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, editors. Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 . Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.

The View from Within: Japanese American Art from the Internment Camps, 1942-1945 . Los Angeles: Japanese American National Museum, UCLA Wight Art Gallery, and UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 1992.


  1. Santa Anita Pacemaker , July 4, 1942, 4; "K. Nomiyama, Yoshio Harry Tsuruda, and Tokio Ueyama at art exhibition in the recreation hall at Granada Relocation Center," photograph, Japanese American Archival Collection, California State University, Sacramento, ; Gordon H. Chang, Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, editors, Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 (Stanford University Press, 2008), 440.

Last updated Jan. 14, 2015, 7:54 p.m..