Erik Matsunaga relates the history of J. Toguri Mercantile Co. in front of its former location at 851 W. Belmont, 1st floor. Toguri’s was founded by first generation Issei Jun Toguri, a resettler from Los Angeles by way of Gila River War Relocation Center. Toguri’s was a three generation family Japanese import dry goods shop originally situated in the WWII resettlement enclave of Clark & Division on Chicago’s Near North Side. It followed the community’s migration to Lakeview in 1969, where it anchored the corner of Belmont and Clark until its closing in 2013. From 1972-2013, the 2nd floor loft was occupied by Shojiro Sugiyama’s Japan Karate Association of Chicago. Sugiyama sensei was invited from the association’s Tokyo headquarters in 1963 by Nisei 442 veteran Walter Nakamoto of the Chicago Karate Club. His students currently carry on his legacy at the Japanese Culture Center, down the block. In 1979, Sugiyama sensei invited Yutaka Miyazaki to form a kendo club at his dojo above Toguri Mercantile, which would become Choyokan Kendo Dojo operating today out of Ravenswood Fellowship UMC, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Dee Park Recreation Center in Des Plaines.

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