Japanese Hospital | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by L.A. Conservancy

Japanese Hospital

Good news! On November 1, 2016, Los Angeles City Council voted to designate the former Japanese Hospital in Boyle Heights as an Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM). 

In the spring of 2016, the Little Tokyo Historical Society (LTHS) nominated Japanese Hospital for local HCM status. The Moderne building is significant for its associations with Los Angeles' early Japanese and Japanese American community, as well as the history of medicine and public health.

The HCM application represents a milestone in the LTHS's multi-year efforts to recognize the history of this important community anchor. The Conservancy has worked closely with LTHS to support the nomination and is very pleased with the outcome. Japanese Hospital is now one of only a few local landmarks that recognize the contributions of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans to Los Angeles. 

The Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) held its first hearing on the Japanese Hospital HCM application on May 19, 2016. On July 21, 2016, the CHC voted to recommend designation to City Council. City Council's Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee voted in favor of the nomination on October 25. 

Opened in 1929, the Japanese Hospital provided medical care for the Japanese American communities in Boyle Heights and Little Tokyo until 1962, when operations were moved to the larger City View Hospital in Lincoln Heights. It is closely connected to the community's battle for civil rights during the early twentieth century.

Learn more about the history of the Eastside, including its Japanese American heritage, in our Curating the City: Eastside Los Angeles microsite >>

In 1926, five Japanese immigrant doctors—Kikuwo Tashiro, Daishiro Kuroiwa, Fusataro Nayaka, Toru Ozasa and Matsuta Takahashi—combined their savings to open a hospital on First and Fickett Streets in Boyle Heights. Since Japanese Americans often had difficulties being admitted to predominantly white medical institutions, the project was met with much enthusiasm.

However, despite promising to address a gap in the public health system, the California Secretary of State, Frank C. Jordan, blocked the incorporation of the hospital, claiming that Japanese nationals were legally barred from incorporating and leasing land. The doctors appealed, and the California State Supreme Court overruled Secretary Jordan’s decision.

Secretary Jordan appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and another legal battle ensued. Ultimately, the lower court’s decision was upheld, paving the way for the hospital to open in 1929.

Because Japanese Hospital was incorporated, the hospital trustees were able to maintain ownership through World War II.

This experience stood in contrast to the situation many families and business encountered with the onset of the war. Japanese Americans throughout the West Coast had to quickly liquidate their assets in the confusion that preceded their forced relocation. 

After the war ended, the hospital reprised its role as a Japanese American community institution until 1962, when its operations were moved to City View Hospital in neighboring Lincoln Heights.

City View Hospital closed in 1985 and has since been demolished. The Japanese Hospital building is currently operated by Infinity Care of East Los Angeles, which continues to serve the health needs of Eastside communities 

Click here to read more about Japanese Hospital >>

The Conservancy strongly supported the Little Tokyo Historic Society’s efforts to designate Japanese Hospital as an Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM).

Though the building itself is a modest Streamline Moderne structure, the stories it reveals about medicine, civil rights, and ethnic communities in twentieth century Los Angeles make it a significant part of the city’s urban landscape.

The building is eligible for HCM designation because:

It was established to provide quality healthcare to Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans at a time when members of minority communities were frequently discriminated against and denied treatment at public medical facilities, and

It was associated with the landmark legal case, Tashiro v. Jordanin which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the rights of Japanese and Japanese Americans to incorporate businesses and lease land.