Many Japanese immigrants settled in the Antelope Valley during the early 1890s and 1900s-1910s, contributing to the construction of the local railroad lines and developing many of the early local farms.
Yoshio Ekimoto’s family first came to Lancaster in the 1910s, with his first-generation Issei (Japanese immigrant) parents purchasing 40-acres of land in 1912. Their property was located on Avenue D, between Seventieth and Eightieth Streets West.
At the same time, several other Japanese families were arriving and settling in Lancaster, prompting the formation of the local Japanese Farmers Association. Soon after, a community hall was constructed which would serve as a cultural center, Japanese language school, and church.
Ekimoto, as a young farmer, traveled to Japan and married young Japanese-American Kiyoko. Kiyoko had been born in California, later returning to Japan where she met Ekimoto. The couple lived peacefully until World War II, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In response to this, Ekimoto offered his support to the United States, joining in the Air Raid Wardens and the Auxiliary Police force while also farming to aid the war efforts.
Soon after this, all Antelope Valley Japanese residents were forced to evacuate the area, including Ekimoto and his family. In May 1942, Yoshio and his family were transported to an internment camp in Poston, Arizona, along with 85 other local Japanese families.
They were finally released in 1945. Upon their return, Ekimoto found that most of their valuable possessions had been stolen. His farm had become so deteriorated that the only viable option was to sell the land. Yoshio estimated his losses to be in the thousands of dollars, though from a humanistic perspective the overall distress and losses of himself and his family are immeasurable in monetary terms.
Despite the hardships his family faced, Yoshio did not leave the Antelope Valley. He and his family stayed, with Ekimoto working for the Palmdale Air Force Plant 42 and NASA at Edwards for 23 years.
"Gurba, Norma H. Legendary Locals of the Antelope Valley. Arcadia, 2013.
Photo courtesy of MOAH Collections"