Japanese tradition holds that the first dream of the new year may foretell the future. Eijiro Machida, a farmer, a caring father and a 1st generation Japanese immigrant must have had an auspicious New Year’s Day dream because on January 17, 1936, he formally donated one acre of his prime farmland in the east end of the San Gabriel Valley for use by the Japanese community to foster the learning and the preservation of their cultural heritage and traditions.
From the start, the “community center” offered a language school, a Judo club and served as a social-cultural meeting place for friends and families. It was forcibly closed during World War II. But Machida’s dream was never extinguished by the nightmare of that tragic war. Japanese Americans returning from the Internment Camps and from distinguished service in the battlegrounds of Europe vigorously revived the dream.
After moving to a larger area, two name changes and two major construction expansions, his dream stands today as the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center (ESGVJCC), incorporated in 1951 as a not-for-profit organization located in West Covina, California. The ESGVJCC is a regional Community Center serving over 1000 families from the San Gabriel Valley, the Inland Empire, Orange County and the South Bay.
It is home to over 20 cultural, educational and recreational clubs and groups including a K – 12 Japanese Language School, 5 different Japanese martial arts, 2 classical dancing groups, Japanese drums and flute, youth basketball, golf, ballroom dancing, a seniors club, Hula, calligraphy, abacus, Bonsai, flower arrangement and several social clubs for youth and adults.
Recently, the ESGVJCC was instrumental in the creation of the annual City of West Covina Cherry Blossom Festival and the Sister City agreement between West Covina and Otawara, Japan. One outstanding outcome of this relationship is the annual summer student exchange program between the two cities. As the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center confidently embarks on its next 50 years, it does so with a profound respect for its past, an inspiring vision of its future and an unwavering commitment to its founder’s dream.