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For the first time in 81 years, not a single Japanese is walking the streets of San Francisco. The last group, 274 of them, were moved yesterday to the Tanforan assembly center. Only a scant half dozen are left, all seriously ill in San Francisco hospitals.

Last night Japanese town was empty. Its stores were vacant, its windows plastered with "To Lease" signs. There were no guests in its hotels, no diners nibbling on sukiyaki or tempura. And last night, too, there were no Japanese with their ever present cameras and sketch books, no Japanese with their newly acquired furtive, frightened looks.

A colorful chapter in San Francisco history was closed forever. Some day maybe, the Japanese will come back. But if they do it will be to start a new chapter—with characters that are irretrievably changed. It was in 1850 — more than 90 years ago — that the first Japanese came to San Francisco, more than four years before Commodore Perry engineered the first trade treaty with Japan. The first arrival was one Joseph Heco, a castaway, brought here by his rescuers. What happened to Heco is, apparently, a point overlooked by historians. He certain came and probably went – but nobody seems to know when or where.

Not for another 11 years did the real Japanese migration begin. In 1861, the second Japanese came here. Five years later, seven more arrived. The next year there were 67, and from then on migration boomed. By 1869 there was a Japanese colony at Gold Hill near Sacramento. In 1872 the first Japanese Consulate opened in San Francisco – an office that passed through many hands, many regimes, and many policies before December 7, 1941. On that fateful day, according to census records, there were 5,280 Japanese in San Francisco.

They left San Francisco by the hundreds all through last January and February, seeking new homes and new jobs in the East and Midwest. In March, the Army and the Wartime Civil Control Administration took over with a new humane policy of evacuation to assembly and relocation centers where both the country and the Japanese could be given protection. The first evacuation under the WCCA came during the first week in April, when hundreds of Japanese were taken to the assembly center at Santa Anita. On April 25 and 26, and on May 6 and 7, additional thousands were taken to the Tanforan Center. These three evacuations had cleared half of San Francisco. The rest were cleared yesterday.

These last Japanese registered here last Saturday and Sunday. All their business was to have been cleaned up, all their possessions sold or stored. Yesterday morning, at the Raphael Weill School on O'Farrell Street, they started their ride to Tanforan. Quickly, painlessly, protected by military police from any conceivable "incident," they climbed into the six waiting special Greyhound buses. There were tears – but not from the Japanese. They came from those who stayed behind – old friends, old employers, old neighbors. By noon, all 274 were at Tanforan, registered, assigned to their temporary new homes and sitting down to lunch.

The Japanese were gone from San Francisco.

San Francisco Chronicle
May 21, 1942

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