Japanese farmed land leased from The Irvine Co., growing celery,
tomatoes and other vegetable from the 1920s until World War II when
they were banished from the area. Photo courtesy of the Orange
The forest of transmission towers at the
electrical substation on the northeast corner of Bryan and Browning gives
little indication of what once occupied that space.
During the 1920s, 1930s and early 1940s, this
corner was home to a small Japanese settlement of approximately 35 families
who leased land from The Irvine Co. to grow vegetable crops such as celery
and tomatoes. Their farms were on Irvine land abutting Tustin as well as in
nearby canyons, including Peters Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon. The Irvine
Co. allowed the Japanese, who were prevented by law from owning land, to
lease farms, but prohibited them from living on the land.
Children from the six families living in the
Bryan/Browning community attended Tustin schools. Families living farther
out on the Irvine Ranch sent their children to Irvine Grammar School.
Everyone came by bus to Tustin High and many continued their education at
Santa Ana Junior College.
Although there was little socializing outside
of the classroom, these young people were an intricate part of our school
lives. They ranked among the brightest and most athletic. They participated
in clubs and student government and made their letters in sports.
The Bryan/Browning settlement was the center
of activity for all Japanese families living on the Irvine Ranch because it
had a large wooden hall which was used for the Irvine Japanese Language
School called Gakuto. Founded in 1929, this school held Japanese classes for
the young people on Saturdays in addition to offering evening classes for
The hall, which faced Bryan Avenue, also was
used for meetings of the Young Womenís Association and the Young Menís
Association. These groups held annual events such as a Motherís Day Tea, a
Fatherís Day celebration and a Sports Day.
The nearest Buddhist Temple at that time was
in Los Angeles. Most Irvine families made the trip to attend it only on
special occasions. Children from at least one family attended Tustin
Presbyterian Church Sunday School.
The small wooden houses were basic; primitive
by todayís standards. Windmills provided energy to pump water from a well on
the property and generate some electricity, but many homes used oil lamps.
Indoor plumbing was limited to a water faucet. Because Tustin was the
nearest town most families patronized the Tustin Hardware store, First
National Bank and the downtown grocery stores. Small trucks known as
shopping wagons came from Los Angeles with special provisions such as tofu
The settlements were abandoned when the
families were forced to leave the area after the start of World War II. A
few former residents eventually returned to Orange County, but the small
Japanese communities never reformed.