From early Dutch settlers, to eastern Europeans, Irish and Dominicans, the story of Inwood has always been an immigrant’s tale—and so it was with a “colony” of Japanese who settled the region in the years surrounding World War I.
These early arrivals consisted of some thirty-five families and were led by Dr. Minosuke Yamaguchi.
Yamaguchi, a leader of the National Temperance League of Japan, was a well-known speaker on the anti-Saloon League circuit. He also ran an art supply shop on Dyckman Street.
While not allowed serve in the military the Japanese of early Inwood proudly tended to “War Gardens” throughout the neighborhood.
Japanese artist Toshi Shimizu, later renowned for his battlefield paintings during World War II, lived at 38 Post Avenue. His early works had familiar neighborhood titles that included Road to the Ferryboat, Impression of Dyckman Street, Summer Evening on Sherman Avenue and Hill Along the Hudson.
What follows is a 1917 description of Inwood’s Japanese “colony” printed in the New York Herald:
New York Herald
August 9, 1917
Japanese Win Commendation for Model West Side Colony
Thirty-Five Families in Settlement, Many Converts to Christianity, Are Well-Behaved and Prosperous—Take Steps to Erect Church
To New York’s numerous “colonies” of foreigners, a new one has recently been added, far uptown on the west side. It is a “colony” of Japanese, and residents in the Inwood section affirm that there could be no better neighbors.
There are thirty-five families in the settlement. All of them are well to do, the men being prosperous businessmen and members of various professions. Among them are enough converts to Christianity to warrant the erection of a church, and a campaign for that purpose is already under way. At the present time the members of the “colony” worship in the Mount Washington Presbyterian Church at Broadway and Dyckman Street.
The recognized leader of the “colony” is Dr. Minosuke Yamaguchi, who lives at No. 38 Post Avenue. He came to this country twenty years ago, after having preached the Methodist faith in his native land. He owns an art store at Dyckman Street and Sherman Avenue, but is interested in medicine and has his medical degree.
Several of the families have taken up “war gardening,” and may be seen every afternoon toiling on their plots and thus “doing their bit,” though they are aliens and exempt.