Kyutaro Abiko (1865–1936) was a Japanese-born American businessman.
Abiko was born in 1865 in Suibara, Niigata prefecture, Japan. He was raised by his maternal grandparents after the death of his mother. He worked as a youngster in the family business, being tasked with selling candles and paper in villages close to his home. At age 17, Abiko travelled with several friends to Tokyo, where he settled and worked. Abiko intended to move to the US, so he enrolled in English classes. He converted to Christianity in 1883. Sponsored by the Fukuinkai, he emigrated to the United States in 1885.
Arrival in the USA
He arrived in San Francisco with only $1 in his hands in 1885. He obtained employment in a private home doing domestic chores, and began attending Lincoln Grammar School. After his graduation from Lincoln Grammar School, he attended the University of California at Berkeley.
After his graduation, he used his savings to start a laundry business. Soon afterwards, he established a restaurant. Both businesses made only a modest profit. In 1897, he bought a Japanese language newspaper business.
In 1899, his newspaper merged with a second Japanese language newspaper to form Nichibei Shimbun.
Abiko believed that the future of the Japanese community in California lay in establishing farming communities. In 1904, he purchased 3,000 acres (12 km2) of land in Livingston, Merced County, and founded the Yamato Colony. He began advertising for Japanese immigrants to settle there, selling the land at $35 per acre. Abiko began advertising for settlers in Japanese language newspapers such as his own Nichibei Shimbun and the Shinseki.
The first settler to arrive was Tajiro Kishi, who arrived in November 1906. Within two years, a total of thirty settlers had arrived. The first crops planted were peach trees and grape vines. Both crops required three to five years of growth before substantial harvests could be conducted. In the interim, eggplants, sweet potatos, asparagus, tomatos and melons were grown to provide some income, but the period from 1910 - 1915 was known as Hihei jidai, the Period of Impoverishment.
A food buying co-operative was established in 1910, and a marketing co-operative was established to sell produce in 1914. The settlers avoided establishing any businesses apart from farms. It was believed that avoiding direct business competition with white-owned businesses in their neighboring settlements, racial hostilities could be minimized.
A Christian church was built in the community in 1917. Although Abiko was a Christian, the Yamato colony was not designed to be Christian. However, unlike most Japanese communities in the United States, no Buddhist temple was ever built, and those colonists who were not Christians converted over time.
- "KYUTARO ABIKO". Questia Media America, Inc.
- "Yamato Colony". National Park Service.
- Fugita, Steve (1999). "Kyutaro Abiko". In Hyung-chan Kim. Distinguished Asian Americans: a biographical dictionary. pp. 1–4.
- Matsumoto, Valerie (1993). Farming the Home Place: A Japanese American Community in California, 1919-1982. pp. 25–30.
- Who's who in Japan, Volume 2. The Who's who in Japan office. 1913. p. 8.