Venice Japanese Community Center
The story of the emigration of the Japanese into Venice, CA dates back to 1906, the same year of the San Francisco earthquake, which caused significant damage to about 10,000 Japanese residences. Many Japanese immigrants moved to the Los Angeles area, primarily in the West Adams, Boyle Heights and downtown areas. Due to pressure by residents, farmers were forced to move west to the Venice area, which included Palms, Mar Vista, Culver City and Del Rey areas. In 1907, the Japanese Agricultural Association was formed and by 1915, the Venice area was one of the leading celery farming centers. This area brought a great number of farmers and in February 1921, the Venice-Palms Industrial Association was established at 12801 Jefferson Blvd in Venice.
In 1936, as the population increased, occupations diversified beyond agriculture; therefore, the Venice-Palms Industrial Association was renamed the Venice Japanese Community Association.
Upon the expiration of the lease on Jefferson Blvd, the Venice Japanese Language School, the Venice Japanese Community Association and other members of the community contributed $6,000 to acquire land on 12448 Braddock Drive and to construct a building, which was completed by volunteer members and dedicated in March 1941. This site is the current location of the Venice Japanese Community Center.
With the outbreak of World War II, Japanese associations disbanded and on February 19, 1942, Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, ordering the “evacuation of more than 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, including the U.S. citizens from the West Coast without due process of law.”
When the war ended in 1945, many from the community, comprised of over 100 families, returned to the area and stayed at the Braddock Drive facilities which served as a hostel.
“…with the increasing Nisei population, Centinela Avenue became a hub of activity with various stores, professional offices, apartments, restaurants and banks. The Venice Japanese Community Association was reactivated by the returnees. When it received its non-profit status in June, 1948, the Association was incorporated as Venice Japanese Community Center, Inc. (VJCC). By 1960 there were approximately 600 families of Japanese origin (Issei, Nisei and Sansei) with a total of 2,500 persons in and around the Venice, Culver City and Mar Vista areas who were employed as gardeners, wage earners, shop owners, farmers and in other professions.”
As the community continued to expand over the years, the VJCC underwent a major building project to support its growing needs. The new facilities were completed and dedicated on December 12, 1971.
The vision statement of the VJCC continues to be: “a center to preserve the heritage and perpetuate the Japanese-American cultural experience”. It is currently the site of more than 1,500 members with 40 organizations and activities, which include Japanese language, music, martial arts and cultural arts as well as dance, sports and exercise programs for youth through senior adults.