Stories

A Taste for Strawberries: The Independent Journey of Nisei Farmer Manabi Hirasaki

My father was picked up by the FBI on the second or the third round after the first group of Issei were taken into custody on December 7. The first ones to go were Japanese school teachers, Buddhist priests, and martial arts people. My father was high-profile at the time because, besides being the largest Japanese grower in the district, he was also the head of our town’s Japanese school association that year.

I was there when the FBI came with the sheriff's deputies...Even though they didn’t officially find anything, they still took my father away.


—Excerpt from the book [(c)2003 by the Japanese American National Museum]

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Raised on a farm during the Depression, Manabi Hirasaki learned from his father at an early age that fortunes can change dramatically from season to season. In agriculture. In world events. In life.

After a relatively simple and peaceful childhood in Gilroy, California, Hirasaki was forever galvanized by World War II—a life-altering period when his family was uprooted from its home and his father lost his freedom amid anti-Japanese hysteria.

Hirasaki ultimately joined the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion and became part of a now-legendary generation of Japanese American soldiers who demonstrated their integrity and loyalty by risking their lives in U.S. military service. But the war was just one of many challenging seasons that were to follow.

In A Taste for Strawberries, Hirasaki recounts his remarkable rise from modest beginnings to becoming one of California’s most prominent strawberry farmers. Quietly and persistently, Hirasaki was determined to prove himself independent of his impressive father, who was a nationally recognized garlic grower.

It took years for Hirasaki’s career to blossom, but ultimately the rewards were sweet. Yet in finding his own success in strawberries, Hirasaki realized he was still following many of the examples his father had set for him.

“I can’t fault my father for being who he was; I learned a lot from him,” Hirasaki says. “We both took chances as we went along. If he could see me now, he would probably laugh, but I think he would be proud.”

With an engaging, self-deprecating, and sometimes humorous style, Hirasaki (with co-author Naomi Hirahara) takes readers on a moving journey from the fields of California’s rural heartland to the deeply felt gratitude of a son’s heart.

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A Taste for Strawberries is the second book in the Japanese American National Museum’s American Profiles series.

November 2003

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