Biography / Administrative History
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: West Adams Christian Church records
Collection number: 2005.136
West Adams Christian Church
16 linear feet
Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Los Angeles, California 90012
Abstract: The collection consists of documents, photographs, and a small number of three-dimensional artifacts produced or housed by
the West Adams Christian Church (formerly the Japanese Christian Church) from its inception in 1908 to the 1970s. During World
War II the All People's Church used the Japanese Christian Church's facilities, thereby preserving all pre-war records at
the facility. The collections' strengths include Japanese language material from the 1920s-1930s, detailed correspondence
and reports on resettlement and the return of church members to the area, and an associated book collection (see 2004.227).
In addition to materials produced by the church, newsletters of other churches and local/regional ecumenical organizations
were collected and housed in the church's office, and are included in the collection. These include Southern California Japanese
Christian Church Federation reports, summer school (held annually at Terminal Island Baptist Church) newsletters and other
Physical location: Japanese American National Museum
100 North Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
By appointment only.
Please contact the Collections Management and Access department by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or telephone (213-830-5623).
All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from materials in this collection must be submitted to the Collections
Management and Access department at the Japanese American National Museum (email@example.com).
[Identification of item], West Adams Christian Church records. 2005.136, Japanese American National Museum. Los Angeles, CA.
This finding aid was created as part of a project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
The project started in 2007. Project Director was Cris Paschild. Project Archivists were Yoko Shimojo and Marlon Romero.
Biography / Administrative History
In 1904, as part of the Disciples of Christ's ministry to the Issei men living and working near Los Angeles at the turn of
the twentieth century, the denomination funded the Japanese Christian Institute which served as temporary housing for immigrants
and through which ministers conducted English and Bible lessons. The Institute was supervised by the United Christian Missionary
Society, the Disciples of Christ's missions organization. In 1908, the Japanese Christian Church was initiated by a group
of Japanese immigrants as part of the Institute's outreach activities. The first Japanese pastor, Teizo Kawai, was invited
in 1909 from Japan and the Institute and church moved to 936 Wall Street in 1911. By this time, the Institute was also conducting
kindergarten classes for children and sewing classes for women.
In 1923, Kojiro Unoura replaced Teizo Kawai as head pastor. Reverend Unoura served the church from 1923-1969 and the majority
of the correspondence and subject files were compiled by him. Unoura was born in the Japanese village of Wakatsu, 50 miles
north of Sendai, in 1890. He was given away for adoption to a relative's family at a young age and had an unhappy childhood.
He left Japan in 1907 at the age of 17, going first to British Columbia and eventually making his way to the United States,
working at times on a railroad crew. He wrote that he converted to Christianity because of the kindness shown him by the
first family he met in the United States. He eventually attended the University of Southern California, receiving his B.A.
in 1917. He attended the Pacific School of Religion for his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1918 and was ordained in 1919
at Berkeley. He served as pastor of the Berkeley Japanese Christian Church from 1919 to 1923. He was then transferred to the
Japanese Christian Church in Los Angeles in 1923 and served primarily as pastor of the Japanese-speaking congregation. He
was also concerned with the variety of social and cultural challenges faced by both Issei and Nisei, and collected a large
amount of material on diverse issues such as Communism, Nisei occupational news, marital counseling, and intergenerational
In 1926, as the Nisei generation grew older, a self-supporting Japanese language school was started by the church to assist
Issei parents and Nisei children communicate better with each other. In 1930, a new Educational Building was dedicated at
822 East 20th Street. By 1933, the Nisei English-speaking congregation began meeting on its own with a separate board and
largely supporting themselves. Charles Severns served as the pastor of the Young People's Church, as the English-speaking
service was called, until at least 1936.
(This overview based on information in Japanese Christian Church pamphlets, particularly "History of Japanese Christian Institute,
1904-1934," prepared in conjunction with the 30th anniversary celebration of the Institute.)
During World War II, Rev. Unoura was first incarcerated at Heart Mountain and then resettled to Rocky Ford, Colorado, returning
to the West Coast soon after the exclusion order was lifted. Charles Severns, remaining in Los Angeles, helped to keep track
of property owned by church members forced to relocate with their families to WRA camps (correspondence and records related
to these properties is included in the collection). Throughout the war, Rev. Unoura maintained communication with other church
members scattered across the country (much of this correspondence is in the collection) and after returning to the West Coast,
he helped church members find new places to live and regain their possessions. During this time the Disciples of Christ made
a decision to close the Japanese Christian Church, feeling that an ethnically specific church no longer served its purpose,
and to ask church members to begin attending mainstream churches instead. Rev. Unoura argued that given the hardship and trauma
of incarceration, Japanese Americans would especially benefit from having a church where they would feel like they belonged
and could also nurture intergenerational relationships. The Disciples of Christ told Unoura that he could keep an Issei congregation,
but that he could no longer minister to the Nisei, who presumably were expected to attend white Disciples of Christ churches.
The denomination eventually agreed to keep the Japanese Christian Church open. It was reorganized as West Adams Christian
Church in 1948 and the current church building, located at 3625 West Adams Boulevard, was completed in 1950. The church held
its last services in February 2012, and disbanded because of its small congregation size and aging population.
Scope and Content of Collection
The West Adams Christian Church Records contain correspondence, documents, maps, photographs, printed materials, and three-dimensional
artifacts spanning from 1904 to 1969. The collection's strengths include Japanese language material from the 1920s and 1930s
and detailed correspondence and reports on resettlement and the return of church members to the Los Angeles area after the
The collection is organized into 14 series divided by subjects and type of materials.
Series 1: Japanese Christian Church, 1910-1964 (3 linear feet)
This series contains materials from the Japanese Christian Church. It is organized alphabetically by type of records. Folders
organized by topics can be found under "Events" and "Subjects." Includes materials in Japanese. Other materials of the Japanese
Christian Church can also be found under the series by type of materials.
Series 2: West Adams Christian Church (post-war), 1947-1969 (8 folders)
This series contains materials from the West Adams Christian Church during the post war period. It is organized alphabetically
by type of records.
Series 3: Japanese Christian Institute, 1921-1942 (16 folders)
This series contains materials from the Japanese Christian Institute, mainly financial records. It is organized alphabetically
by type of records.
Series 4: United Christian Missionary Society, 1918-1960 (21 folders)
This series contains materials from the United Christian Missionary Society. It is organized alphabetically by type of records.
The series contains a large amount of correspondence to B. E. Watson from United Christian Missionary Society.
Series 5: Young People's Church, 1928-1942 (20 folders)
This series contains materials from the Young People's Church including materials from summer school. The folders organized
by topics can be found under "Events" and "Subjects." Includes materials in Japanese.
Series 6: Other Institutions, 1907-1960 (31 folders)
This series contains materials from other institutions such as publications from various Christian institutions, reports from
the Japanese Church Federation, and materials from summer schools. The sub-series is organized alphabetically by type of
records. The folders organized by topics can be found under "Subjects." Includes materials in Japanese.
Series 7: Rev. Unoura, 1917-1963 (4 linear feet)
This series contains materials from Reverend Kojiro Unoura. It is organized alphabetically by type of records. Folders
organized by topics can be found under "Subjects." The bulk of the series consists of correspondence organized alphabetically
by institutions and individuals. Also in the series are materials on valuables and properties left behind by congregation
members due to their forced relocation during World War II. Under correspondence, there are letters from Rev. Unoura and his
wife addressing to their son from the camp. Includes materials in Japanese.
Series 8: Charles Severns files (World War II), 1937-1956 (20 folders)
This series contains materials from Charles Severns' files. It is organized alphabetically by type of records. Reports by
Rev. Unoura on church member's properties are included.
Series 9: Miscellaneous, 1918-1950 (15 folders)
This series contains a variety of materials that do not belong to any of the series above. It is from variety of sources
including the Japanese Christian Church and some are unclear. It is organized alphabetically by type of records. Includes
materials in Japanese.
Series 10: Bound Materials, 1906-1931 (26 folders)
This series contains bound materials such as address books, ledgers, record books and roll books. Majority of them are from
the Japanese Christian Church. The sub-series is organized alphabetically by type of records. Includes materials in Japanese.
Series 11: Oversized Materials, 1911-1963 (15 folders)
This series contains oversized materials stored in different shaped boxes. It is from different sources including the West
Adams Church and the Japanese Christian Church. The sub-series is organized alphabetically by type of records. Most of the
scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings. Also in the series are blue prints of West Adams Church. Includes materials in Japanese.
Series 12: Photographs, Negatives, 1919-1968 (1 linear feet)
This series contains photographs and glass negatives stored in flat boxes. Some photos are in an album, framed or loose.
The album is from the Japanese Christian Church and the others are unclear. There is one panorama of Rev. Unoura's commencement
from University of Southern California.
Series 13: Publications, 1904-1930 (5 folders)
This series contains publications mostly related to Christianity including the Holy Bible. The publications belonged to the
Japanese Christian Church and the United Christian Missionary. The publications are organized alphabetically by titles.
Series 14: 3D Objects, 1939 (1 object)
This series contains a wooden object: a plaque, baseball 1939 Kalifans "B" champions.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in
the library's online public access catalog.
West Adams Christian Church
Los Angeles (calif.)