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70th Anniversary of Fukuoka Kenjinkai Mexico

Mr. Shozo Ogino

In celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of Fukuoka Kenjinkai Mexico, Mr. Shozo Ogino, a community historian of Nikkei community in Mexico, contributed some anecdotes which include in a commemorative book of the Kenjinkai. Here, I would like to share with you some episodes from the book.

* * * * *

1. The first president of Fukuoka Kenjinkai – Mr. Tokichi Baba

In 1952 a group of roughly 30 former residents of the Fukuoka prefecture gathered at a school Chuo Gakuen and founded the Fukuoka Kenjinkai Mexico. Its first president was Mr. Tokichi Baba.

His personal history is uncertain, but he worked for a Mexican bank as well as a Mexican insurance agency. He was also head of correspondence at the Mexico branch of Shin Nichibei Shinbunsha, the Japanese-language newspaper company based in San Francisco, California.

The residential address of Mr. Baba—12-5, Santa María La Ribera—was registered as Kenjinkai’s adddress. He served as president for three years, then he passed down the position to Mr. Sankichi Tsutsumi, and returned to Japan.

It seems that his social circle while in Mexico was primarily limited to Mexicans, while his contact with the Nikkei community was only through Fukuoka Kenjinkai. It could be that, to the Japanese at that time, it seems Mr. Baba was like a man of higher level, rising far above the clouds.\

Ad by Mr. Tokichi Baba

2. A Diary, “40 Years In Mexico” – Mr. Todomu Matsushita, Kenjinkai Advisor

Mr. Todomu Matsushita

When Fukuoka Kenjinkai was first founded, Mr. Todomu Matsushita served as Advisor. He fist migrated to La Oxaqueña in Veracruz. Later on, he managed his own clock shop, and then worked at the Japanese Legation in Mexico. Due to the war, the then minister and entire delegation were forced to return to Japan. Mr. Matsushita maintained the Legation alone.

He wrote a diary, titled “40 Years In Mexico.” I found out that the diary could be located in Tanoshimaru, Fukuoka, so I traveled to Japan to retrieve it. Mr. Sonoda, who was Mr. Matsushita’s only son, possessed the diary. Mr. Matsushita had married in Tanoshimaru before migrating to Mexico. For whatever reason, however, he had to left his family in Japan and migrate to Mexico. He himself sent the diary to his son in Japan. It was truly first-class documentation, as it detailed the situation as the war was breaking out.

Mr. Matsushita re-married in Mexico and had a daughter. She told me: “we want you to return my father’s diary to us”; so I did, and she kept it. The daughter has since passed, and I’m afraid there’s no way of knowing where the diary is now.

3. A man dedicated to Kenjinkai – Mr. Yoshio Hayashida (owner of a cotton plantation in Mexicali)

Mr. Yoshio Hayashida run a cotton plantation in Mexicali, Baja California Sur, before the war. He also took over a Kenjikai presidency from Mr. Yokichi Tsutsumi and served for five years. Mr. Hayashida devoted himself to the Kenjinkai. The success of the Fukuoka Kenjinkai, which is still going strong to this day, is thanks to his achievement as well as Mr. Toshiaki Iida, who served as president for seven years. An organization like the Kenjinkai needs a strong leadership.

Fukuoka Kenjinkai always celebrated the shinnen-kai (New Years’ party) at the Mexico-Japan Association. The consul to the Japanese Embassy was always invited. Consul Masahiro Maekawa had been in Mexico for seven years. He said that I cannot have a new year without hearing hear Mr. Hayashida toast so that he joined the Kenjinkai’s New Year’s Party every year. Mr. Hayashida was a small man, but his voice reverberated from the bottom of his stomach, and his toast, “salud,” was magnificent.

Hayashida Family

4. Border Control – Mr. Jyukichi Tsutsumi (owner of the department store, “El Nuevo Japón”)

A long long time ago, I drove all the way down to Mexicali from Los Angeles. It was midnight, so I simply went through the border check point without stopping. The next day, I met Mr. Jyukichi Tsutsumi, who ran a department store, “El Nuevo Japón.” He told me: “it was a bad idea to go through a border checkpoint without reporting yourself,” and he took me back to the checkpoint himself. I discreetly handed off a few pesos to the border official, saying: “you sure were sleeping like a log last night.”

Since then, I had opportunities to meet with him more often. When he came to visit his daughter in Mexico City, where she moved after marrying, he would call me to invite me for drinking at her house. He liked Red Label Johnnie Walker. He was a very wealthy man, but he said he preferred thatdrink instead of Black Label. Whenever he went to a meeting of the Meishinkai club, he would always sing this one song that said: “the evening sky is clear and the autumn wind is blowing….” Hearing this song and thinking of my hometown, , it truly and deeply got to my heart.

Tsutsumi Family

5. Friendships with Mr. Takeo Miki, Prime Minister of Japan – Mr. Tameyasu Otsuka (the doctor of Namiquipa, Chihuahua)

Mr. Tameyasu Otsuka

Mr. Tameyasu Otsuka lived in the town of Namiquipa, the outskirts of Chihuahua. He was a medic by trade, but he owned a large farm. I have no idea where he studied or how he got his medical license, but for this small town he was a great medic.

He spoke Spanish fluently. During Sunday mass some would say that he gave an even better sermon than the pastor. He was at one point president of the Lions Club and an advisor of the bank. He even worked in the mines with a man who tried to assassinate Pancho Villa. 

Before the war, Mr. Otsuka had been living in Mexicali, Baja California Sur. At the time, a young Takeo Miki (who would later become the Prime Minister of Japan), was studying in Los Angeles. He frequently crossed the border. He was a poor student, so Mr. Otsuka and Mr. Takugoro Shibayama often invited him to their houses and fed him his fill.

Later when Mr. Otsuka’s wife (who was Mexican) passed away, Prime Minister Miki, who had not forgotten his old debt of gratitude, introduced him to a Japanese woman if he would like for her to be his new wife. Mr. Otsuka married her and decided to live in Japan. His new job was as an interpreter at the Hamamatsu Hotel. At this hotel, he brought mariachi bands from Mexico. Being a good-looking, fortified, strong man with such a powerful aura of importance, he was frequently mistaken for the president of the hotel.


*This article was originally published in Spanish and Japanese in the Asociación México Japonesa's newsletter, Boletín Nichiboku (No. 259, December 2022), and translated in English for Discover Nikkei. All photos are the courtesy of Shozo Ogino. 


©2023 Alberto Teramoto

anniversaries generations immigrants immigration Issei Japan Japanese prefectural associations Jyukichi Tsutsumi Mexico Fukuoka Kenjinkai migration Shozo Ogino Tameyasu Otsuka Todomu Matsushita Tokichi Baba Yoshio Hayashida
About the Author

Alberto Teramoto is a Mexican Sansei, currently working as a dental surgeon, specializing in Orthodoncy. He is an advisor for the Department of National and International Relations in the Asociación México Japonesa A.C. (Mexico-Japan Association).

Updated September 2022

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