The 1939 New York World’s Fair, held in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in Queens, featured pavilions representing 33 countries from around the world. The Japanese pavilion was constructed to resemble a Shinto shrine and was surrounded by a Japanese garden. A children’s fair also opened in early August 1939. Here boys received Japanese kites or “balloon-like caps” derived from Japanese Army caps and girls received Japanese dolls.
In the forefront of each photo stands Miyo Kuwashima, the daughter of Marie Kuwashima. Marie was hired to work in the tearoom at the Japanese Pavilion. The daughter of Japanese immigrants, Kuwashima was born in Chicago on November 27, 1897. In 1925, her marriage at St. Michael’s Church made newspaper headlines as the first Roman Catholic ceremony performed for a Japanese couple in Chicago (see newspaper scan). The couple had two children, Miyo and Teruo, and moved to East Orange, New Jersey in 1937. However, marriage and financial difficulties in 1939 forced Kuwashima to put her children up for adoption with the help of St. Michael’s Church. In search of employment, she moved to New York and found work at a Japanese tea shop, which led to a position at the Japanese Pavilion’s tearoom. Income from working at the fair allowed Kuwashima to resume guardianship of 13-year-old Miyo. After the fair, Kuwashima found work as a stenographer for a Japanese company in Manhattan and was able to retrieve Teruo from the Angel Guardian Orphanage (AGO) in Chicago.