So Much More Than a General Store: Uncovering the Records of the Yasui Brothers Company

The Yasui Business records document the experiences and contributions of businessman and noted community leader Masuo Yasui, and his family of first- and second-generation Japanese immigrants who lived in Hood River, Oregon, during the first four decades of the twentieth century. Masuo Yasui operated the Yasui Brothers’ Store with his brother, Renichi Fujimoto, for more than thirty years before they were forced to close it permanently following President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066 in February 1942, which allowed the U.S. Army to forcibly remove all Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans from the West Coast and incarcerate them in camps. The Yasui Business records document the brothers’ business activities and extensive support of their local community and offer a glimpse of what was destroyed by Japanese incarceration during World War II.

Dating primarily from 1905–1942, the collection consists of over 180 linear feet of business and personal materials, over half of which is written in a pre-WWII Japanese language script that is difficult to translate. Homer Yasui, son of Masuo, donated these records to OHS in 1991, yet due to its size and the language barriers present in the library collection, it was never fully processed. Through this project the records are now available for researchers, and the translation and digitization of select documents make highlights from this collection discoverable to anyone with internet access and will help researchers better understand its contents and place in the broader history of the Japanese American community of Oregon.

Translations of these collection materials is the work of project translators Yoko Gulde, Naomi Diffely, and Mami Kikuchi, with assistance from volunteers Chizuko Suzuki, Masahisa Suzuki, Yoichiro Watanabe, and Atsuko Richards.

Selected materials are available here:

Mss 2949 - Yasui Brothers Business Records

Coll 949 - Yasui Family Papers

Related collections:

Coll 956 - Masuo Yasui Letter to Sagoro Asai

Public Program

In collaboration with the Japanese American Museum of Oregon and the Hood River History Museum, the Oregon Historical Society hosted a public program featuring noted historian Dr. Linda Tamura in a discussion with Barbara Yasui and Maija Yasui on the history of the Yasui family. The program touches on the Yasui Brothers’ Store and the critical role the Yasui family played in shaping Japanese American history in their home of Hood River, Oregon. While the Yasui family has been explored in books and documentary films, this public program offers personal insights and stories on the history of this prominent Oregon family. This program also features a display of select objects and materials preserved in OHS’s museum and research library collections relating to the Yasui family.

Further research materials are also available from our friends and partners:

Learn more about the life of Minoru Yasui on the Oregon Encyclopedia

View objects from the Yasui Bros. Co. on our Museum Collections Portal

Learn more about the Japanese experience in Oregon from the Japanese American Museum of Oregon

Learn more about the incarceration of Japanese Americans and their experiences during World War II from Densho

Listen to Oral Histories with Japanese Americans from the Japanese American Oral History Project

Homepage image: ddr-densho-259-660; Exterior of the first Yasui Bro's store on Third Street between State and Oak, Courtesy of the Yasui Family Collection, Densho

This project was supported in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.

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