About

 

Bainbridge Island Memorial Group 2012

The Club had its start in October, 1900, when eleven young men met to form a mutual society to look after the affairs of many people coming from Japan seeking to make their fortunes in the “New World”, as the United States of America was called at that time. It was felt that the people needed an organization to provide support in cases of sickness, death or other social welfare problems when no one else would be willing to come to their aid. The group was formally constitutionalized on January 20, 1901 calling itself “Koryo Gikai” or “support organization”.

Later in 1904, the name was changed to “Hiroshima Ken Jin Kai” since many of the members were from Hiroshima Prefecture in southern Japan.

By 1920, of the more than 280 families who joined the organization, 30% were engaged in vegetable or berry farming, 24% in dairy farming, 11% in the hotel and apartment business, 9% in other businesses such as drugstores, fishing tackle, clothing and laundry and 26% in miscellaneous jobs, according to the first album titled “Ken no Hitobito” ( People from Hiroshima Prefecture) published by Hiroshima Ken Jin Kai celebrating its 20th anniversary.

In December 1941 World War II started between Japan and the United States. In February 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 branding Japanese nationals as enemy aliens. One hundred twenty thousand people of Japanese decent living in California, Arizona, Oregon and Washington including all Hiroshima Ken Jin Kai members and their families were taken to 10 internment camps scattered across the interior of the country, ostensibly to prevent wartime sabotage and espionage.

After enduring very difficult period during and after WW II, on April 13, 1947, former Ken Jin Kai members reestablished the organization which they named “Gei Bi Club” (Gei Bi is the geographical term referring to Hiroshima) with the same mission, purpose and rules as they had before.  In 1948, the name was changed back to “Hiroshima Kenjin Kai”.

Rebuilding of membership took place during the 1950’s and by the early 1960’s it had increased to 450. The annual meeting and New Year party, which resumed in 1948, had 34 attendees, and by 1960 its number had grown to 250.

In 1964, the name was changed to “Hiroshima Club” to reflect a multigenerational membership. Earlier community activities such as family picnics and group tours were resumed. Among the club activities were hosting officers and cadets from visiting Japanese training ships withy dinners, tours of the city, and a trip to Mt. Rainier.

Also in 1964, an effort was made to aid members in fulfilling the hopes and dreams of higher education for their children, by establishing a college scholarship program. The scholarships recognized outstanding graduating high school seniors. The first awards were given to four Hiroshima descendants and since that time over 130 students have been the recipients of Hiroshima Club scholarships.