As in much of rural California, farm work provided entry into the labor market for early Japanese immigrants in Watsonville as early as 1892. Five years later Sakuso Kimura, an immigrant from Osaka, formed the first labor group and mutual assistance organization. Strawberry and sugar beet farming soon became the dominant local crop tended by Japanese, who formed a strawberry cooperative, Naturipe, in 1910, to distribute their produce.
By 1940, Watsonville’s Nihonmachi was centered along Main and Union Streets with commercial and professional services catering to local Nikkei and migrant farm workers passing through the area. A Japanese language school, Toyo Hall (a community center), and judo and kendo dojos were located next to a much used baseball field. They reflected the varied needs and interests of Watsonville’s Japanese American residents.
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