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Tometaro Kitagawa papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: IHRC1289

Content Description

The papers (1918-2004) of Tometaro Kitagawa (1876-1962), a Japanese born American businessman, consist of 44 diaries (some diaries contain loose items -- 1920, 1939, 1949, 1950, 1958), transcripts of the diaries, two photographs, and a catalog from the store Kitagawa owned and operated in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The diary transcripts were created by his descendants starting in the late 1980s, and completed in the early 2000s. The majority of the collection in English, with some Japanese.


  • 1918-early 2000s


Language of Materials

English, Japanese

Conditions Governing Access

Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library Reading Room.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law..

For further information regarding the copyright, please contact the IHRCA.

Biographical / Historical

Tometaro Kitagawa was most likely born January 1, 1876 in Omi, Shiga Prefecture, which is now part of Maibara, Japan. He first arrived to the United States around 1900, and worked for some years in California. Around 1909, he started studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and received a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering in 1911. In 1913, Kitagawa returned to Japan to marry Yone Nishiyama. Yone was also born in Omi, Shiga Prefecture, in 1893. Together, they returned to Madison, where their son, Kiyoshi (1914-1990), and daughter, Nobu (1915-2012), were both born.

The family briefly returned to Japan again in 1916/1917, and appears to have been staying in Sakai City. Here, Kitagawa's third child, a daughter named Miyo (1917-1995), was born. Yone and the three children stayed in Japan until 1919. During this time, Kitagawa returned to the United States at least once, but possibly multiple times, to make arrangements to move his business from Madison to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Yone and the children then travelled back to United States in 1919, this time to Minneapolis, as Kitagawa had finished setting up a shop in downtown. It was originally located at 723 Marquette Ave, but it moved to 37 S 8th St in the 1930s. The shop was called 'Japan Art Store', and specialized in Japanese imports.

A few years after settling in Minneapolis, a third daughter, Kazuko (1922-2009), was born. In 1928, a fifth child was born, a son named Tadashi, but he only lived one day. Kitagawa's shop continued to be successful during this time, and was so until the mid 1930s. After that, it began to struggle. It was forced to close in 1941 when the business/family was bankrupt. It is unknown if Yone and the family stayed in Minneapolis with Kitagawa during this entire time, but they were definitely back together in 1945, and possibly as early as 1943.

Kitagawa does reference the upheaval caused by the incarceration of Japanese Americans in his diaries as early as March 1942, and continues to through the remainder of World War II. In March 1942, Yone, Kazuko, Kioyshi, and Kitagawa move to Reedley, California to live at a relative's farm, whom had already been sent to the Poston internment camp in Arizona. In May however, Kitagawa returns to Minnesota, with the help of Miyo and her husband, who were still living in Minneapolis at the time. Kazuko returned in July, but Kiyoshi was unable to secure the paperwork to leave California, so he went “join” his family member at the Poston internment camp. He later joined the Army to get out of Poston. Although unclear, it appears Nobu, her husband, and children were living in California at the time, but were sent to Denson, Arkansas in October of 1942, which was the location of the “Jerome Relocation Center” internment camp.

After World War II, Kitagawa continued to sell Japanese woodprints as a mail-order business from his home, and Yone worked in alterations at Jackson Graves department store in Minneapolis. He and Yone moved in with their daughter, Kazuko, and her family, in 1960. Kitagawa died on October 9, 1962, and Yone on May 31, 1976. Both are buried at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

Family history provided by family member Marilyn Lauglo, and supplemented by the Minneapolis Star Tribune (08.11.1920, 12.08.22, 12.18.1935, 12.05.1937, 04.10.1940, 10.11.1962, 06.02.1976) and the Wisconsin Alumni Magazine (vol 14 no 6).


2 Linear Feet : (2 Paige boxes)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection donated in 2019 by Marilyn Lauglo and family.

Tometaro Kitagawa papers
IHRC Archives
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Immigration History Research Center Archives Collecting Area