The Greenville Bon Dance Festival (3) The Three Waves of Japanese Investments in Greenville, SC / グリーンビルのお盆祭り(3) 日本から南カロライナ州グリーンビルへ、投資の三つの波

Nippon Center, a Japanese culture center which once was in Greenville, SC. It had an excellent, authentic  Japanese restaurant, too.
Nippon Center Yagoto, the Japanese culture center in Greenville, SC, completed in 1990 / 南(みなみ)カロライナ州(しゅう)グリーンビルにて、1990年(ねん)完成(かんせい)直後(ちょくご)のニッポンセンター=やごと Image by Adeptus Architecture
ぶんはこのページのしたほうにあります。Scroll down for the Japanese translation with furigana.
This is the last of the three posts: "The Greenville Bon Dance Festival”. これは、グリーンビルのお盆祭りについての全三回の投稿の最終回です。
Click here for the first post, the report of the Japanese festival on August 24 this year, and 
click here for the second, Why are Japanese companies in Greenville?

1. A memory of a Japanese investor

Since 1977, an annual meeting has been held by the US southeastern states and Japanese companies.

It’s a big meeting with more than four hundred participants including state governors, the Japanese consul, and company executives.

2017 marked their 40th meeting and this time it was held in Greenville, SC.

At this meeting, the mayor of Greenville in his speech mentioned his memory of TSUZUKI Kiyohiro. He was one of the first Japanese investors who came to Greenville in the 1960’s.

Mr. Tsuzuki and his family moved to Greenville from Japan and stayed for life. They built a relationship with the local community beyond business. 

We wanted to know more about TNS Mills, Mr. Tsuzuki’s company, and himself and searched.

2. The story of Mr. Tsuzuki

TNS Mills was closed in 2002 after an operation of 35 years producing quality yarns.

Mr. Tsuzuki was born in Nagoya in 1937, and passed away at a hospital in Greenville in 2005.

He was only 68.

As the owner of TNS (which stands for Tsuzuki New Spinning) Mills, his textile factories, he was energetic in conducting business in the US, Japan, and Brazil. He believed in the future of the American textile industry by investing in research, education and development of technology.

He was also an inventor and had several patents in the textile field.

Besides his business, he was an accomplished artist, a pilot and a published author; truly a talented person!

Also, he was active as a civic leader. He helped the internationalization of Greenville and made the city more attractive for foreign investors. He and his wife, Chigusa, made a founding contribution of one million dollars to the peace center of the city’s theater for performing arts. 

In 1990, he opened “Nippon Center-Yagoto”, a culture center and an excellent restaurant meaning to create a bridge between Japan and the local community. The name Yagoto probably came from the area name of Nagoya where Mr. Kiyohiro’s residence was.

The building exhibited the design and construction techniques of the Muromachi Era (around 14th-century). They hired American architects and Japanese craftspeople in building it. In addition to some materials imported from Japan, more than a dozen species of wood were used in the ceiling, mahogany was brought from the African rainforest, and massive stones were quarried from the Pisgah National Forest.  

There was also a Japanese garden along with a pond of lotus flowers and cherry trees which bloomed in spring.

Nippon Center hosted classes in Japanese traditional arts such as flower arrangement, ink painting, how to conduct a tea ceremony, etc. On the other hand, the restaurant served authentic Japanese fare. 

Mr. Tsuzuki was one of the active Japanese who located operations and was active in the US as early as the 1960’s.

That’s why we consider him as the representative and the embodiment of the first wave of investment to Greenville from Japan.

3. The Tsuzukis’ Temple

However, the American textile industry declined at the end of the 20th century.

Nippon Center-Yagoto lost its funding and was closed in 2001. The once beautiful place went quickly into disarray and became overgrown. 

The TNS Mills factories also closed in 2002.

In 2004, the Tsuzuki family needed to sell some of their land in the US and Japan. 

The new landowners were going to tear the family temple down if it was not relocated by January 2006. The family was heartbroken because it had been only twenty years since they hired skilled artisans and used the best materials to build their family temple called “Heiseiji”.

On the other hand, at that time, Furman University in Greenville, one of the best universities in South Carolina, was trying to establish an Asian Center.

Professor Shaner, a philosophy professor at Furman, had taught Chigusa, Mr. Tsuzuki Kiyohiro’s wife, twenty-some years back. He later became her Aikido teacher and a friend. Ms. Chigusa passed away in 1995 but the university and the Tsuzukis stayed connected.

The Tsuzukis offered to donate the temple to the university, and the Former president, Dr. Shi, accepted it.

Relocating an entire temple from Japan to the US was (and is to our knowledge) unprecedented. 

Also, it is said that Furman University made a little unusual decision to have a Buddhist temple relocated on campus. Furman was founded by the South Carolina Baptist Convention in 1826. It seems to have a little more politically and socially conservative climate than other liberal-arts colleges.

A Japanese temple was relocated and reconstructed on the campus of Furman University, Greenville, SC. It was an exceptional gift of a Japanese family who was a friend of the university and the city.
Heiseiji Temple under reconstruction on the campus of Furman University in 2008 / 2008年、ファーマン大学(だいがく)へ移築(いちく)再建(さいけん)中(ちゅう)の「へいせい寺(じ)」Image by

4. Place of Peace

After the agreement of the Tsuzukis and Furman, Heiseiji Temple was dismantled into 2400 pieces, each labelled, and shipped to Charleston, SC. Japanese carpenters crafted wooden braces around the pieces to hold them tightly in place and keep them from warping during the humid ocean voyage. 

Then it took the university more than three years to raise $400,000 for the temple’s reconstruction. Finally in 2008, they began the work.

A team of highly specialized artisans were brought from Japan. They were seven wood specialists, four tile specialists, and two plaster specialists. Then they built the temple using mostly keyaki, and hinoki for floors, both wood native to Japan. They also used the best materials available for other parts. The temple is built without the use of a single nail. The intricately crafted tongue and groove joints hold the structure together.

In 2008, at the ceremony of blessing and dedication, the daughter and son of Kiyohiro and Chigusa Tsuzuki spoke of their childhood when they played at the temple. 

The temple is now called Place of Peace.

The family altar had been removed from the temple and kept at the Tsuzukis. And instead, calligraphy is hung where the altar was. For this reason, Furman considered it was not precisely a temple, and named it “Place of Peace”.

“Place of Peace” has become a tool of Philosophy and Asian Studies. It’s also an example of sustainability to which Furman has committed. Keyaki wood is very solid and can last hundreds of years. Each of the wood pieces is designed to be taken apart so they can be repaired individually if needed. 

Photo of an ornament on the roof of Place of Peace, Furman Unviersity
This is an ornament on the roof of ex-Heiseiji temple. It is made with such attention to details. It took an inordinate amount of money but it was really generous of the Tsuzuki family and Furman University to let it demolished in Japan. By the way, we still don’t know the kanji for “Heiseiji”. We found a framed calligraphy written from right to left “治清平” in a related page of Furman University Place of Peace. However, we are not sure if the last character 治 is correct and have not been able to use them as 平清寺 on our own accord. In the future, we may have an opportunity to meet and ask a Japanese professor at Furman…we look forward to that time. へいせい寺の屋根の装飾。莫大なお金がかかったけれど、こんなに細部までうつくしく丁寧に作られたお寺を日本で取り壊すままにさせなかったツヅキ家と大学の雅量に、感謝します。ところで、「へいせいじ」の漢字はいまだにわかりません。ファーマン大学の写真に、右から書かれた「治清平」という書の額を見つけましたが、最後の「治」がどうも気になって、勝手に「平清寺」と書き直すこともできずにいます。将来、大学の日本語の先生に伺う機会があれば。。。と楽しみにしています。(2019年9月17日)Image by Furman University,

5. The memory of Mr. Tsuzuki’s factories

We found several voices of former workers at TNS Mills. That the factory was kept clean, productive and effective, and my colleagues were nice, etc.

A woman said that she had learned the process of making yarn, and she loved opportunities to learn. She was the first female in maintenance who moved forward three positions in the company. It was a very rewarding experience for her.

Another former worker proudly remembers. He had operated four winders and held the highest production among the winder operators on all shifts his entire employment.  

American textile industry still has not done well. However, at one period, it presented opportunities for people to earn their living and to work with pride. We would like to remember it. 

6The second wave of investment to Greenville

Mr. Tsuzuki, who relocated to the US in the 1960’s and was successful through the 1990’s, was more or less alone. Except, of course, his family, he singlehandedly built a relationship with the local community.

Apart from that, in late 1980’s, there was a period when the Japanese yen was highly valued. Taking advantage of it, many Japanese companies started their businesses abroad and/or expanded their overseas operations.

Investments and business expatriates to North America increased. As a result, Japanese families began to live there, and in a close proximity in some areas.

Greenville was one of them. 

This was the time of the second wave of investments to Greenville.

7. The Japanese community in Greenville

After their moving is complete, a business expatriate family wants to provide their children with a special environment. Their purpose is to enable them to re-enter the Japanese education system smoothly after they return to Japan.

We imagine Japanese companies in the area cooperated for that purpose to establish the Japan America Association of Western South Carolina. Later the name was changed to Japan America Associate of SC, the host of the 2019 Greenville Bon Dance Festival.

The next year, 1989, Greenville Saturday School was opened.

This is a school where children would go only on Saturday mornings. They study Japanese subjects there for four hours from Japanese teachers, using Japanese textbooks. Other days of the week, they went to local American schools.

The number of students was 26 at the opening in 1989. It gradually increased and exceeded 110 from 1996 to 2004. After that, it has slowly decreased to about fifty this year.

A Japanese grocery shop in Greenville, SC.
“Tampopo” in Greenville is the only Japanese grocery shop in the Upstate South Carolina. A Japanese sushi restaurant owner has been running it since the time of the second wave of the Japanese investment. / 南(みなみ)カロライナ州(しゅう)北西部(ほくせいぶ)唯一(ゆいいつ)の日本(にほん)食料品(しょくりょうひん)店(てん)「たんぽぽ」。第二(だいに)の波(なみ)のころから、お寿司屋(すしや)さんが経営(けいえい)しているお店(みせ)です

8. The third wave and the Japanese community

Back to the present, and the third wave of Japanese investments has been occurring for these 12 years or so.

This time, it has brought more size-able investments to Greenville. However, the size has never been reflected in the number of students in Greenville Saturday school.

We wonder if the type of business does not require relocating many Japanese businesspeople from Japan. 

9. The Greenville Bon Dance Festival 

The Greenville Bon Dance Festival began in 1996.

That year was when the number of students soared.

Maybe this may have led the Japanese people in Greenville to think: 

“We have so many our children here. So, we will be able to create a lively atmosphere of a festival for them. And if it’s a festival, local people can also find the Japanese culture and enjoy it!”

…and the motivation for the festival got stronger and finally materialized.

As we participated in this year’s festival, we were happy to feel the warm atmosphere. We saw some fun and some educational activities. We were also impressed by their careful organization. 

It will be a good memory for both Japanese and Americans of the area. [End of the English text.]

Click here for the first post, the report of the Japanese festival on August 24 this year, and 
click here for the second, Why are Japanese companies in Greenville?

For references, please see the bottom of this page.

At the Greenville Bon Dance Festival, there were hundreds of people who came and enjoy the traditional Japanese summer festival.
At the 2019 Greenville Bon Dance Festival / 2019年グリーンビルお盆祭りにて













1960年代ねんだいにグリーンビルにじゅうし、紡績工ぼうせきこうじょうTNS(ツヅキ・ニュー・スピニングTsuzuki New Spinningのかしら)ミルズのオーナーとして米国べいこくほん、ブラジルでせいりょくてきごとをしていました。けんきゅうけんしゅうじゅつ開発かいはつとうが、米国べいこくのテキスタイルさんぎょうあかるいらいをもたらすとしんじていたといいます。



















ほんから、おてらまるごと米国べいこくちくしたれいほかにありませんでした (いまでもないかもしれません)。











5. ツヅキこうじょうおも













おそらくそれを とう さいじゅうようだいとして、いき日系にっけいぎょうちゅうしんになり、ウエスタンサウスカロライナ日米にちべいきょうかい(のちにサウスカロライナ日米にちべいきょうかいかいしょう)が設立せつりつされたのでしょう。















References / 参考さんこうサイト

=>Return to 2019 Posts / 2019年投稿記事へ戻る

=>Return to Home/「ホーム」へ戻る

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