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Japan’s Consul-General visits the Panhandle | KTIC Radio

Japan’s Consul-General visits the Panhandle

Japan’s Consul-General visits the Panhandle
Nick Sakurada, left, discusses the history of the Japanese immigrants to the Valley with Japan's Consul-General Naoki Ito at the Legacy of the Plains Museum in Gering. KNEB/RRN/Guzman

Consul-General Naoki Ito of Japan in Chicago, Ill. and his delegation spent Saturday, March 24, touring Chimney Rock, the Scotts Bluff National Monument and visiting the Legacy of the Plains Museum among other areas.

Ito and his delegation visited the area as they are traveling across Nebraska, to become more familiar with the state and its people. This September the 50th annual conference of the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association will be held in Omaha.

The delegation also learned more about the Japanese immigrants, who came to the Panhandle and put down roots, as farmers.

One such farmer, is Nick Sakurada of Bayard. He met the delegation at the Western Sugar Factory in Scottsbluff.

“My dad was in Colorado in 1912 with the railroad, during the winter and while he was at the section camp a rancher came looking for people to raise sugar beets,” Sakurada said. “So, my dad decided to leave the railroad and farm.”

Sakurada’s father would eventually move to Scottsbluff on the advice of his brothers, who said the beets were easier to grow in the sandy soil. He began by renting 80 acres and five years later rented 160 acres, where he grew corn, dry beans, cabbages, onions and other vegetables.

“It was how most Japanese survived the Depression,” Sakurada said. “We grew the vegetables to sell and then were able to pay rent to the landowners.”

Sakurada said the Japanese were good farmers, and brought many skills with them to the U.S. in raising crops. His father had a “hot bed” or greenhouse where he would plant his crops first and then transplant them in the spring.

At the luncheon for the Consul-General and the delegation an announcement was made on preserving a part of the Japanese history by Vickie Sakurada Schaepler, who grew up in the area.

“We have just signed an agreement to move the Japanese Hall to the Legacy of the Plains” she said. “Thompson Glass has bought the property and donated the building to preserve the history of the building and the people who used it.”

The Japanese Hall on Ave C in Scottsbluff has been in the area for 90 years.

A building fundraiser will be held by the Oregon Trail Community Foundation to upgrade utilities, add a basement and move the building. Sakurada Schaepler added an endowment fund will also be created in order to pay for landscaping, education and more.

Along with the history, Ito and his delegation also visited the Western Sugar Company, where they learned about the sugar beet to packaged sugar process and then finished the day at the High Plains Feedlot learning more about the cattle industry in Nebraska.

“I look forward to visiting beef in Nebraska and see how it is produced” Ito said. “See how we can build on partnership between Nebraska and Japan.”

Ito stated that Japan is one of the largest exporters of beef and pork from Nebraska and can see increasing economic ties with the state.

 

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