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Japanese Americans on Chicago’s South Side - Oakland/Kenwood 1940s-1950s - Part 1

Historic Residences on the 4300 block of S. Lake Park, 2015. Courtesy of the author.

Fred Yamaguchi: That was like Japantown. 43rd and Ellis.
Karen Kanemoto: But now, I don’t think there are any Japanese Americans down there.
Yamaguchi: I don’t think so.
Kanemoto: It’s kind of like a lost history, and I think it’s important to document it.

—Excerpt from an interview of Fred Yamaguchi by Karen Kanemoto

As a result of Executive Order 9066, in 1942 some 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry—two-thirds of whom were American citizens by birth—were forcibly removed from their homes on the West Coast and incarcerated in various concentration camps across the interior of the United States.

From that time until the War Department rescinded exclusion orders, bit by bit Japanese Americans were filtered out of the camps through work and education release programs, wherein many, disallowed to return to the West Coast, relocated to the Midwest and East Coast. Chicago became a destination city due to its bevy of opportunities and relative racial tolerance compared with the prevalent sense of “Yellow Peril” on the West Coast, which predicated the mass hysteria leading to their unjust incarceration.

Historic Residences on the 4400 block of S. Ellis, 2015.
Courtesy of the author.

From a pre-war count of roughly 400, Chicago’s Japanese American population swelled to some 20,000 by 1945. Three neighborhoods became the focal point of this early resettlement: the Near North Side centered around Clark & Division Streets, and the contiguous Oakland and Kenwood communities centered at 43rd & Ellis.

Of note is that in this transitional area of resettlement, although there were commercial thoroughfares, many Japanese American businesses of the time, as well as cultural and religious institutions, were based out of residences.

The Oakland/Kenwood community later bled southward into the neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and South Shore, while much of the Near North community spread northward into Lakeview, Uptown, and Rogers Park. Today, whereas the North Side maintains residential, commercial, cultural, and religious remnants of the post-war community, there exists nary a trace of the once expansive Japanese American presence on the South Side.

Historic Residences on the 4400 block of S. Berkeley, 2015.
Courtesy of the author.

The companion map (below), the second in a series denoting historic Japanese American neighborhoods in Chicago and the first of its kind outlining this particular community, plots 155 points in the Oakland/Kenwood area of Chicago’s South Side from the 1940s-1950s. (Read about the first map project.) While extensive in points derived from Japanese American commercial directories of the time, it is not all-encompassing as many more private residences dotted the landscape among those listed.

Special thanks go to Karen Kanemoto, former longtime Legacy Center Archives manager at the Japanese American Service Committee, for her support, encouragement, and assistance in aggregating the materials necessary to develop this series of historic maps, beginning with “30 Years of Lakeview: Chicago’s Japanese American Community 1960s-1990s.”

According to former residents:

Rainbow Beach circa 1954, near 75th and South Shore Drive, on Chicago’s South Side. In the foreground are David Ventura (L) and Mariko Ventura (R).
Courtesy of Mariko Ventura.

I was born in Kyoto of an American father, Charles Ventura from Chicago, and a Japanese mother, Teruko Fujiki, and resided in the South Side community of Kenwood from 1953 until 1959. It was in the earlier years where there was the highest concentration of Japanese in that neighborhood, when we lived at 4958 South Blackstone from 1954 to 1956 in a building across the street from Kenwood Grade School (today, it is Miriam G. Canter Middle School).

The brownstone apartment rental units were operated by Mr. and Mrs. Tanaka. She was Nisei, and he was Issei, several years older. Was he her husband or father? This remains a mystery. Living in these apartments were recently released Japanese Americans who were interned and released far from their West Coast properties, Japanese war brides, Japanese American students attending University of Chicago, Appalachian families, Native Americans, and Puerto Ricans. The rent was cheap and the atmosphere friendly.

We shopped at Fuji Grocery store ’til they moved to “Clock-ru Street” (as my mother would say) on the North Side, then Franklin Food Store (I remember they were from Hawaii and Americanized their Japanese name). Franklin Food store was in Hyde Park well into the1970s; my parents would travel there from the Far North suburbs before Mitsuwa was built in the Northwest suburb of Arlington Heights, and before tofu became an American household staple.

We lived in Kenwood in the early ’50s because my mom and I were newly arrived Japanese-speaking Army dependents; the 5th Army Division was a few blocks away and the Korean War was just winding down. My father was about to be assigned on a tour of duty as that war was ending, and his concern was for his wife and daughter to be around the culture we just left behind in Kyoto in 1952. Sadly, he had to leave us for his tour one week after my brother, Junior, was born. I was in kindergarten and didn’t speak English, but at that age was able to learn quickly and came home to help my mother along with her own English.

The community of Japanese, then, helped each other. I know this through the connections my mom made, the Japanese students attending University of Chicago who would translate my dad’s letters for my mother, and she dictating letters back in Japanese to be translated by them to English to send off to my dad. They were there to study law and medicine. Their names are etched in my mind…the Moriharas and the Katos.

Then there was the Japanese War Brides Club. As I recall, a few other war brides lived in our building and nearby apartments. I would accompany my mom to their meetings at the Buddhist Temple on Dorchester Avenue, founded by the Rev. Kubose (which later moved to Leland Avenue on the North Side). The War Bride’s Club put on a review in 1955. I remember attending rehearsals and among the women was a Japanese classical dance artist who performed and a Gaijin husband did a stand up comedy routine. I ran around the backstage with a newly found friend as my mom sat in as a greeter.

The Tanakas may have had the only telephone available to their Japanese tenants in 1954. The first year my dad was in Korea he had a Rest and Relaxation break in Kyoto. He and my aunt called long distance from Japan, and we spoke with them. Tanaka-san also hosted a New Year’s feast for their preferred tenants, and I remember as a six year old marveling at the low table beautifully set with Japanese style dishes. Never will I forget these precious moments of generosity and camaraderie.

—Mariko Ventura, former resident

Part 2 >>




  1. Tea Pot Inn (Setsuko & Hana Tsuji), 905 E. 43rd St.
  2. Atlantic Inn (Frank Matsumoto), 807 E. Pershing
  3. Rose Inn (Sumi Sakiyama), 837 E. 43rd St.
  4. Bob’s Cafe (Bob Ishii), 834 E. 47th St.
  5. Submarine Tap Tavern (Shigenobu “Shrink” Fujino), 817 E. 43rd St.
  6. Southside Market (T. Shiomoto), 1215 E. 47th St.
  7. Mori Tofu Company (A. Mori), 4325 S. Ellis
  8. Fujimoto Grocery, 913 E. 43rd St.
  9. Far East Cafe (Hiro Uchiyama, E.L. Oshima), 1025 E. 43rd St. (1949)
  10. Maruhachi Cafe, 1025 E. 43rd St. (1951)
  11. Little Tokyo Chop Suey (Koichi & Frank Matsumoto), 1025 E. 43rd St. (1952)
  12. O.K. Grocery (Yone Okamoto, Roy Yamaji), 1037 E. 43rd St.
  13. Fujiya & Co. Mochigashi (Tokutaro Goto), 1121 E. 43rd St.
  14. Iwakuni Chop Suey (Koichi Matsumoto), 4060 S. Ellis



  1. Church of Christ Presbyterian (Rev. Kohei Takeda), 4611 S. Ellis
  2. Ellis Community Church (Rev. George Nishimoto), 4430 S. Ellis (1940s), moved to 4608 S. Greenwood (1950s)
  3. First Baptist Church of Chicago (Rev. Jitsuo Morikawa), 935 E. 50th St.
  4. Rengo Buddhist Church (Rev. Mokuriu Tsuda), 4457 S. Ellis
  5. St. Paul Episcopal (Rev. Mike Yasutake), 4945 S. Dorchester
  6. Seicho-no-Iye (G.T. Akagi), 808 E. 37th St.



  1. Hiroshi Inouye, M.D., 3901 S. Cottage Grove
  2. Frank Uyeno, M.D., 810 E. 47th St.
  3. Koki Kumamoto, D.D.S., 810 E. 47th St.
  4. Roy Morimoto, D.D.S., 4230 S. Ellis
  5. Isamu Tashiro, D.D.S., 4429 S. Ellis
  6. Norman Miyagi, O.D., 944 E. 43rd St.
  7. Catherine Itatani, O.D., 4335 S. Lake Park
  8. Motoo Itatani, O.D., 4335 S. Lake Park
  9. Randolph M. Sakada, O.D., 810 E. 47th St.



  1. Chicago Nisei Bowlers League (Frank Kasuyama, manager), 824 E. 47th St.
  2. 76 Sign Service - Silk Screen, Window, & Truck Lettering (J. H. Nozawa), 4466 S. Berkeley
  3. Okamoto Moving & Express (F. Okamoto), 816 E. Bowen
  4. Hawaiian Radio (N. Nakagami), 4309 S. Berkeley
  5. Ace Refrigeration Service (Mas Harano), 4201 S. Oakenwald
  6. Nor’s Shoe Repair (Norio Tsusaki), 911 E. 47th St.
  7. Lakeside Dental Laboratory (Akira Kawai), 3901 S. Cottage Grove
  8. The Chicago Shimpo (Ryoichi Fujii), 1325 E. 47th St.
  9. Murakami & Sons (Mitsuru Hamaguchi, Nob Murakami, Henry Murakami), 4146 S. Lake Park
  10. Imamura Express Citywide - Moving, Delivering, Trucking (Ray Imamura), 4368 S. Oakenwald
  11. Nisei Realty Service (Shig Kariya, Jack Furumura, Carl Kita), 944 E. 43rd St.
  12. Nisei Beauty Shop (Toshi Itaya, Amy Kusumoto), 4355 S. Lake Park
  13. Rosy’s Beauty Shop (Rose & Bette Nojiri), 4126 S. Lake Park
  14. Alvin Watch Repair (Jack Kabumoto), 808 E. 43rd St.
  15. Robert’s Watch Repair (Bob Kushida, Roy Yamashita), 1048 E. 47th St.
  16. Select Diamonds (Jim Murata), 4217 S. Ellis
  17. Shigeji Takeda, CPA, 4419 S. Ellis
  18. Ise Studio Photography (K. Ise), 4709 S. Cottage Grove
  19. Portraits for Remembrance (Fred I. Yamaguchi), 4321 S. Ellis
  20. Tellone Beauty Shop (Kay Kumagai), 4648 S. Drexel
  21. James E. Kidwell, Florist (Yosh Hiraoka, rep., Sats Tanakatsubo, salesman), 826 E. 47th St. (1940s), moved to 827 E. 47th St. (1950s)
  22. Wakasa Photography Studio (K. Wakasa), 4311 S. Berkeley
  23. The New Fashion Cleaners (K. Koide), 942 E. 41st St.
  24. Doris’ Dressmaking Shop (Doris K. Ito), 4146 S. Ellis
  25. George Kita, Attorney at Law, 944 E. 43rd St.
  26. S. Takemoto, CPA, 4450 S. Oakenwald
  27. Newt Photography Service (Nakaji Bros.), 4211 S. Ellis
  28. Seno Realty Company (Tom & Sam Seno), 4514 S. Oakenwald (1940s), moved to 4322 S. Ellis (1950s)
  29. Don’s Radio Sales & Service (Don T. Arata, Ken Sakata), 944 E. 41st St.
  30. Richard’s Barbershop (Richard & George Yanagidate), 911 E. 43rd St.
  31. Sawa Painting Service, 4564 S. Oakenwald
  32. Kusu Custom Tailors (Mori & George S. Kusunoki), 4345 S. Lake Park
  33. Mitsueda Express Citywide, 4316 S. Greenwood
  34. Nisei Cab Association, 1137 E. 47th St.
  35. Carl’s Watch Repair (Carl Yasunaga), 4705 S. Cottage Grove
  36. City Watch Service (K.L. Inouye), 1118 E. 43rd St.
  37. Maytime Precision Watch Repairing (George Morisato, Hideo Motoike), 1314 E. 47th St.
  38. Nisei Vue Magazine, 4901 S. Lake Park
  39. Jerrold Cosmetics (J. Gerald Kakehashi), 4511 S. Cottage Grove
  40. Dane’s Cleaners (Dane Nakanishi, George & Evelyn Kebo), 4307 S. Drexel
  41. Nisei Woodworking, 4323 S. Lake Park
  42. Shibata Carpenters, 3652 S. Lake Park
  43. Tsuda Artificial Flowers, 4457 S. Ellis
  44. Taigen Kai, 4454 S. Oakenwald
  45. Alice Mayeda Piano Studio, 4418 S. Oakenwald
  46. Hagio Photography, 4206 S. Berkeley
  47. Boydston Bros. Funeral Home (Nisei Clergy), 4227-31 S. Cottage Grove
  48. Ken Cleaners & Tailors (W.T. Miyake), 1319 E. 47th
  49. Lake Park Cleaners & Tailors (Iwao Shibata), 5017-1/2 S. Lake Park (1951),moved to 4971 S. Lake Park (1952)
  50. George Matsuura Advertising Art, 4347 S. Lake Park
  51. Woodlawn Nisei Barbershop (Hana Fujiwara), 1211 E. 47th St.
  52. Sho & Bob Barbers (Sho Nakata, Robert Taki), 4712 S. Lake Park
  53. Triangle Cleaner (Kozo Yazaki), 1231 E. 47th St.
  54. Ken Gift Shop (Corky Kawasaki), 1302 E. 47th St.
  55. Hayashiguchi Insurance (Yukio Hayashiguchi), 3816 S. Ellis
  56. Mitsuji Doi Real Estate, 4321 S. Berkeley
  57. George Yonehiro, Attorney at Law, 953 E. 47th St



  1. Belmont Apartments (Senbei Nakawatase), 4220-22 S. Berkeley
  2. Chicago Nisei Hotel (Takaji Tsumagari), 3991 S. Ellis
  3. Corky’s Apartments (Tokuyoshi “Corky” Kawasaki), 4310 S. Berkeley
  4. Endo Apartments (Heigoro Endo), 4401 S. Berkeley
  5. Hayashi Apartments (George K. Hayashi), 4431 S. Ellis
  6. Ito’s Boarding House (Harry Ito), 3610 S. Ellis
  7. Iwakiri Apartments (June Iwakiri), 4337 S. Drexel
  8. Kitahata Apartments (Sally S. Kitahata), 1220 E. 46th St.
    Hidaka Apartments (Susumi Hidaka), 1220 E. 46th St.
  9. Kimura Apartments, 927 E. 42nd Pl.
  10. Lake Park Boarding House & Apartments (Y. Idaka), 4905 S. Lake Park
    Lake Park Apartments & Rooms (J.K. Nishioka), 4905 S. Lake Park
  11. Lake Side Mansion Hotel (K. Matsumoto), 3934 S. Lake Park
  12. Oakenwald Apartments (Tahei Matsunaga), 1225 E. 44th Pl.
  13. Kuki’s Apartments (Matsusaburo Kuki), 5026. S. Blackstone
  14. Kusumoto Apartments (A. Kusumoto), 4355 S. Lake Park
  15. Maruno Boarding House, 1016 E. 41st St.
  16. Matsumura Apartments, 4069 S. Oakland Crescent—Not plotted—street no longer extant
  17. Murakami Apartments, 4146 S. Lake Park
  18. Murakami Apartments, 4206 S. Ellis
    Okuno Apartments (Katsumi Okuno), 4206 S. Ellis
  19. Oishi Apartments (T.M. Oishi), 4008 S. Drexel
  20. Onoda Apartments, 4310 S. Greenwood
    Yamaji Apartments (Kazu Yamaji), 4310 S. Greenwood
  21. Sakiyama Rooming House, 4345 S. Drexel
  22. Shimbo Apartments, 4019 S. Lake Park
  23. Takano Apartments (Bunji Takano), 4206-14 S. Berkeley
  24. Tom Seno Apartments, 4508 S. Drexel
  25. Tsuda Apartments, 4457 S. Ellis
  26. Vista Apartments (Noriaki Kitaoka), 4454 S. Oakenwal
    Sawa Apartments (Gakuhajo Sawa), 4454-56 S. Oakenwald
  27. Yamada Rooming House, 3856 S. Cottage Grove
  28. Yamaji Boarding House (Roy Yamaji), 3985 S. Drexel
  29. Berkeley Apartments (U. Umekubo), 4219-21 S. Berkeley
  30. Date Apartments (Frank Date), 4076 S. Lake Park
  31. Iwakiri Apartments (June Iwakiri), 4307 S. Ellis
  32. Kataoka Apartments (Ichiro Kataoka), 3949 S. Lake Park
  33. Kito Apartments (Frank Kito), 4508 S. Ellis
    Hirota Apartments (Frank Hirota), 4508 S. Ellis
  34. Kudo Apartments (Shigeru Kudo), 4332 S. Ellis
  35. Kumashiro & Hama Apartments (Hideo Hama), 824 E. Bowen
  36. Mayeda Apartments (Sam Mayeda), 4721 S. Lake Park
  37. Murata Apartments (Yoshiyuki Murata), 4538 S. Lake Park
  38. Murakami Apartments (Henry T. Murakami), 4518 S. Oakenwald
  39. Nakayama Apartments (Herbert Nakayama), 4335 S. Ellis
  40. Nishi Apartments (Soichiro Nishi), 4424 S. Berkeley
  41. Nojiri Apartments, 4126 S. Lake Park
  42. Okamoto Apartments (Kichitaro Okamoto), 816 E. Bowen
  43. Takagi Apartments (John S. Takagi), 4138 S. Ellis
  44. Tanabe Apartments (John Tanabe), 4419 S. Ellis
  45. Uchimoto Apartments (Dan Uchimoto), 4357 S. Lake Park
  46. Wada Apartments (James S. Wada), 4454 S. Ellis
  47. Watanabe Apartments (Tom I. Watanabe), 4323 S. Lake Park
  48. Yamaguchi Apartments (Ken I. Yamaguchi), 4329 S. Lake Park
    Ishiwari Apartments (Roy Ishiwari), 4329 S. Lake Park
  49. Matsumoto Apartments (Frank T. Matsumoto), 4458 S. Oakenwald
  50. Matsunaga Apartments (Tahei Matsunaga), 4450-52 S. Oakenwald
  51. New Ellis Apartments (D. Kawaguchi), 4160 S. Ellis
  52. Iwakuni Hotel (Koichi Matsumoto), 4060 S. Ellis
  53. Tobey Apartments (Ushitaro & Kenji Umekubo), 4219-21 S. Ellis
  54. Umekubo Apartments (K. Umekubo), 4438 S. Greenwood
  55. Takatsuki Apartments (Harry Takatsuki), 4350 S. Berkeley
  56. Suyama Apartments (Takashi Suyama), 4500 S. Woodlawn
  57. Seno Apartments (Seno Realty Co.), 4514 S. Oakenwald
  58. Seno Apartments (Seno Realty Co.), 4458 S. Ellis
  59. Sakiyama Apartments (George Sakiyama), 4801-03 S. Lake Park
  60. Okauchi Apartments (Taneko Okauchi), 4311 S. Oakenwald
  61. Okauchi Apartments (Taneko Okauchi), 4461 S. Oakenwald
  62. Miyamoto Apartments (Kaye Miyamoto), 4723 S. Lake Park
  63. Kuruma Apartments (Toraichi Sam Kuruma), 4122 S. Lake Park
  64. Kurokawa Apartments (Kiyoshi Kurokawa), 4461 S. Ellis
  65. Itano Apartments (Roy Itano), 4450 S. Ellis
  66. Hashimoto Apartments (Tom T. Hashimoto), 4420 S. Greenwood
  67. Harada Apartments (Kameichi Harada), 4200-02 S. Berkeley
    Hasegawa Apartments, 4200-02 S. Berkeley
  68. Fujimoto Apartments (Harold Fujimoto), 935 E. 43rd St.
  69. Fujimoto Apartments (Harold Fujimoto), 4451 S. Ellis
  70. Hiromura apartments (T. Hiromura), 4723 S. Kenwood
  71. Chicago Apartments (Yasuye Tanaka), 4958 S. Blackstone


© 2015 Erik Matsunaga

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