The San Francisco Japanese Seventh-Day Adventist Church (SFJSDAC), one of the first Japanese churches outside Japan, has its roots in the early 1900's as Japanese immigrated to the West Coast of the United States. Retired Bible worker Elizabeth Swift established an English school in Oakland to help these Japanese immigrants. One of her students, Kinichi Nozaki, became an ordained pastor and energetic servant of God who founded Japanese churches around the world.
Church founder Kinichi Nozaki organized the first Japanese Seventh-Day Adventist church in America in Mountain View, California in 1926.
In 1904, Kinichi Nozaki was an 18-year-old Buddhist immigrant from Japan who decided to go to America to study advanced farming methods. From Yokohama, Japan he boarded a small steamship bound for Victoria, Canada. The ship's screw propeller suddenly broke off and sank into the ocean nearly causing the passengers to do the same. (For more details, talk with Esther Hashimoto or read An Autobiography: Kinichi Nozaki , 1981)
After that narrow escape at sea, Nozaki arrived in San Francisco and encountered strong anti-Japanese sentiment at a time when blatant racial prejudice prevailed. Japanese children were prohibited from attending public schools. Nozaki felt fortunate to finally find employment on a farm. For 10 hours of hard work, he was paid $1.10 per day, hardly enough to cover for room and board. During the winter with heavy rains and few farm jobs, Nozaki worked as a domestic laborer for $15 per month in Los Gatos. He got up before 5:00 a.m. to milk the cows and did domestic chores until 9:00 p.m. He was fed mainly bacon and potatoes fried in lard. The diet was so poor that his health suffered and he could hardly work.
Nozaki moved to Oakland and did gardening work. Needing to learn more English, he attended the private English school specifically for the Japanese people led by retired Bible worker Elizabeth Swift. On Friday nights, instead of English classes, she conducted Bible studies. Her motherly love and genuine kindness deeply impressed Nozaki. He thought, "When other people hated the Japanese so, why did this woman love us? It might be her religion which made her so thoughtful and kind. I determined in my heart to attend the Bible classes, study the Scriptures and find out for myself."
In 1909, while working at the home of Stephen Haskell, President of the California SDA Conference, he read Early Writings by Ellen White who frequently visited the President. He had the privilege of hearing their conversations about the work of the church. Mrs. White always greeted him warmly saying "How are you today brother Nozaki?" He found her to be soft-spoken and kind. He often ate at the same table with Mrs. White and the Haskells. Impressed by the genuine Christian character of Ellen White, the Haskells, Elizabeth Swift; convinced of Biblical truths, and touched by the love of God, Nozaki was baptized into the Seventh-Day Adventist church in 1910.
After his baptism, Nozaki completed a Bible course in Loma Linda and returned to do missionary work in the Japanese community in the Bay Area for several years. Feeling the need for advanced Bible doctrine courses to do more effective ministry, Nozaki matriculated at Pacific Union College. In 1922, the California Seventh-Day Adventist Conference hired Nozaki to work among the growing Japanese communities in Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, California; and other Bay Area cities.
In 1923, Nozaki married Fumiko Takechi and together they followed Jesus example in missionary work spending most of their time helping others in sickness and sharing God's word as the opportunities arose. Whenever Elder and Mrs. Nozaki heard of anyone injured or ill, they visited them. They often stayed with the sick for days, cooking for them, giving them hydrotherapy, taking them to doctors, and acting as their translators. Though not wealthy, they took many needy people into their home, caring for some for years. Gradually, the Japanese community learned to trust the Nozakis and turned to them when in distress. As a result of their works of mercy, many asked for Bible studies and were converted.
Language Schools in Mountain View
In 1912, Shinobu's father Yoshimatsu Watanabe opened an English night school near the Mountain View railroad station assisted by workers from the nearby Pacific Press Publishing Association. Later, the Japanese community asked him and his wife to teach Japanese to their children. With the help of Joe Matsumura's mother, Tokino Matsumura, school enrollment peaked at 200. The Swedish family of Carl Lindholm opened their home at 982 Wright Avenue to the small company of Japanese believers for Bible studies and hymn singing and occasionally provided simple meals.
After World War II, Naturalization Schools were taught by Elder B.P. Hoffman to help the Isseis gain their United States citizenship. Elder Nozaki translated into Japanese the textbook on the United States Constitution.
With God's help, Elder Nozaki won hundreds of souls to Christ and San Francisco Church was organized after Mountain View Church was founded.