The orange groves that called so many to Southern California in the late 19th century also drew Japanese immigrants to Orange County. Issei farm workers soon moved into the area’s growing celery fields, and began to lease land and cultivate new crops including tomatoes, beans, strawberries and chili peppers. By 1942, Japanese immigrants and their children had helped to make Orange County’s 795 square miles one of the nation’s richest agricultural areas. A handful of Japanese immigrants ran businesses in urban centers, but most of the county’s nearly 2,000 Nikkei residents were spread across a predominantly rural landscape, with small clusters around community institutions such as language schools and churches. Preserving California’s Japantowns' historic resource survey took this dispersed pattern of Nikkei life into account as we searched out the scattered remnants of Nikkei history in today’s highly developed Orange County.
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