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Image: Courtesy of Tsuda University Archives

Yona Tsuda Abiko

More than any other individual, Yona Tsuda Abiko was instrumental in the creation and continued life of the 1830 Sutter building and its legacy. Her family supported women’s education - her sister Umeko Tsuda founded Tsuda College for Women in Japan. Active in the Japanese Christian community, Yona Abiko helped found the San Francisco Japanese YWCA as an independent organization, served on its board of directors, raised funds in the U.S. and Japan, and taught classes for Nisei in Japanese culture. She spearheaded creation of the legal trust that circumvented the Alien Land Law and secured the community’s interest in the property. Eighty years later, entries from her diary provided crucial evidence of the nature and purpose of the trust that led to the building’s return to the Japanese American community. 

Yona Abiko worked closely with her husband, community leader, businessman, and Nichibei Shinbun newspaper publisher, Kyutaro Abiko. Kyutaro Abiko and lawyer Guy Calden had used land trusts to circumvent the Alien Land Law to establish the Yamato Colony and other farming cooperatives decades earlier. Yona Abiko consulted with Calden to create the land trust for the Japanese YWCA in 1921. After Kyutaro’s death in 1936, Yona became publisher of the Nichibei Shinbun. Possessing extraordinary education, experience, connections, intelligence, and charm, Yona Abiko was a mentor and role model for Nikkei women and an outstanding advocate and representative for the Japanese American community.

Video Interview with Dr. Iino

Video: Courtesy of Tsuda University Archives - The interview was filmed on October 20, 2021

About Dr. Masako Iino:

Masako Iino, a distinguished Japanese historian and former honorary professor, holds a prominent position as the president of Tsuda College. Born in Toyonaka City, Osaka Prefecture, she graduated from Tsuda College in 1966 and later earned a master's degree in history from Syracuse University in 1968 as a Fulbright scholarship recipient, specializing in the transition of American history from politics to "social history." Upon her return to Japan, Iino delivered lectures at Tsuda College and conducted extensive research on Japanese immigrants to the United States, mainly through oral history interviews with Issei and Nisei individuals in California during the 1980s and 1990s. Joining Tsuda College as an assistant professor in 1981, she ascended to the position of professor in 1991, serving until 2013. Additionally, she held visiting roles at McGill University and Acadia University during this period. In 2012, Iino assumed the role of chairman of the board at the Tsuda College Foundation, and in 2013, she was granted the title of Professor Emeritus while becoming a director of the Mitsubishi Foundation. Her impactful career reflects a commitment to scholarly research, education, and leadership in various capacities.

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