Last updated: May 4, 2021
The Harada House on Lemon Street in Riverside, California was the focus of a landmark court case brought by the State of California against Jukichi Harada, a Japanese immigrant living in Riverside. The case tested the constitutionality of laws preventing immigrants, primarily from Japan, from owning property in California.
Around 1900, Jukichi Harada emigrated from Japan to the U.S. and in 1903, was joined by his wife, Ken, and their son, Masa Atsu. The family settled in Riverside, California, eventually having several more children and leasing and operating a rooming house and a restaurant. After his five year old son Tadao died of diphtheria while they were living in the rooming house, Harada began to look for a single-family home in a nice neighborhood near the children's school and the family's church. In 1915, he bought a house on Lemon Street five blocks from the family restaurant. The purchase of the house paved the way for the landmark court case The People of State of California vs. Jukichi Harada, Mine Harada, Sumi Harada, and Yoshizo Harada.
At the time that Harada bought the house, California's Webb-Haney Act (also known as the Alien Land Law of 1913) barred "aliens ineligible for [U.S.] citizenship" from owning property in the state. The Webb-Haney Act drew, in part, on the Naturalization Act of 1870, which had expanded naturalization (the ability to become a citizen) to people of African descent or those originally from Africa, but not to other non-white immigrants. These other immigrants, primarily from Asia, were considered ineligible for U.S. citizenship and could not become U.S. citizens. This meant that Jukichi Harada, a Japanese immigrant, could not legally own the house on Lemon Street.
Knowing that he was barred from owning property, Harada placed ownership of the house in the names of his three American-born children – Mine, Sumi, and Yoshizo – who were all U.S. citizens. He had bought a small piece of land in Mine's name a few months before and there had been no issues with the ownership, so Harada probably felt safe placing the house in his three children's names. In addition, he wanted to ensure that the children would always have a home.
After the purchase, several of Harada's neighbors in the predominantly white community formed a committee to persuade him to sell the house. Harada refused, saying that it was owned by his American-born children and that he had no legal interest in the property. The committee then approached the California Attorney General's office and asked that Harada be charged with violating the Webb-Haney Act. Although the house had been purchased in the names of Harada's three American-born children, the committee argued that the real purchaser was Jukichi Harada, who had provided the money to buy the property.
The State's first complaint was filed in Riverside Superior Court in October 1916, and the first hearings in the case were held in December 1916. The case attracted local, national, and international attention. This was due in part to the relationship between the U.S. and Japan, an emerging international power. In 1907, the two countries had entered in to a formal "Gentleman's Agreement" which said that Japan would not issue any passports to Japanese laborers trying to enter the U.S., and the U.S. would not restrict other Japanese immigration. The Agreement was a result of rising anti-Japanese laws and sentiments in California and was meant to reduce tensions between the two countries. The immigration provisions in the Agreement were formalized in a 1911 treaty between the U.S. and Japan. Because of the treaty and the fact that the U.S. had entered World War I in 1917, with Japan as one of its allies, the Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. followed the trial closely, feeling that it should not be ignored by the Japanese government.
The trial lasted for two years, with numerous hearings, continuances, and postponements. On September 14, 1918, Judge Hugh Craig of the Riverside Superior Court ruled in favor of the Harada children. Judge Craig upheld the Alien Land Law of 1913, reiterating that aliens ineligible for citizenship could not own land, but ruled that American-born children of aliens were entitled to all the constitutional guarantees of citizenship under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, including land ownership. This meant that the Harada children were the legal owners of the house on Lemon Street. In his opinion Judge Craig stated that "They [Mine, Sumi, and Yoshizo] are American citizens, of somewhat humble station, it may be, but still entitled to equal protection of the laws of our land...The political rights of American citizens are the same, no matter what their heritage."
After the conclusion of the court case, the Harada family continued to own and live in the house until May 23, 1942 when, because of their Japanese ancestry, they were evacuated and relocated to three different U.S. government relocation centers - Tule Lake (California), Poston(Arizona), and Central Utah (Topaz) (Utah). The family had six adult children at the time – Masa Atsu, Sumi, Yoshizo, Mine, Harold, Clark, and adopted son Roy Hashimura. While the family members were interned in the relocation centers Jess Stebler, a family friend, lived in the Lemon Street house, cared for the property, and managed all of the Harada's business affairs. In 1943, Harold, Sumi, and Roy successfully petitioned for a transfer to join their parents at the Central Utah Relocation Center. Ken Harada passed away in 1943, a few days after her three children were transferred, and Jukichi Harada passed away in 1944. Also during the war, Harold and Yoshizo served in the U.S. Army's 442nd Regimental Combat Team, one of the most decorated units of World War II.
After the war only Sumi, the youngest daughter, returned to the house in Riverside. She opened it to displaced Japanese American families and provided a place for the internees to rebuild their lives. Sumi continued to live in the house until 1998, when she moved to a nursing home. She owned the house until her death in 2000, at the age of 90. After Sumi's death, her brother Harold inherited the house. Following his death, his heirs transferred the Harada House in 2004, to the City of Riverside under the stewardship of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum.
The house that Jukichi Harada bought in 1915 was a single-story "saltbox" cottage with a front and back yard. Harada remodeled the house in 1916, adding a second story with four bedrooms, a bathroom, an open front porch, a small garden with vegetables and water plants, and a small concrete fishpond. In the 1940s, the dining room was modified, resulting in a lowered ceiling. Today, the Harada House looks much the same as it did when it was remodeled in 1916. Some of the interior features remain in place including the note Harold Harada wrote on a bedroom wall when the family was forced to leave the house for the relocation centers – "Evacuated on May 23, 1942 Sat. 7am." In addition, artifacts from the house and collections of papers and articles have been inventoried and preserved by the Riverside Metropolitan Museum. The Museum is in the process of preserving the house and plans to open it to the public.
The Harada House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 3356 Lemon St. Riverside, CA. For more information on the Harada House, visit the Riverside Metropolitan Museum website. In 2020, the City of Riverside received a $500,000 grant from the Save America's Treasures program for the rehabilitation of this historic property. This grant program is funded by the Historic Preservation Fund managed by the State, Tribal, Local, Plans & Grants Division of the National Park Service.