Higo 10 Cents Store, owned by the Murakami family and a social hub in Seattle’s Japantown, has a long and fascinating community and family history. Meet Me at Higo welcomes younger generations to connect with and explore what it means to be Japanese American. Today, Higo 10 Cents Store (or Higo Variety Store) is KOBO at Higo and is still located at 604 South Jackson in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District.
From February 1st through March 26th, the Central Library Gallery is hosting Meet Me at Higo, a traveling exhibition by the Wing Luke Museum. Visitors will immerse themselves in archival photographs, journals and letters from the Murakami family—the original proprietors—as well as goods such as ceramics, toys, and textiles sold there through the 20th century until it closed its doors in the early 2000s when Masa, the last surviving member of the Murakami family, retired.
Founded before 1910 (dates are variously given as 1907 and 1909 depending on the source), Higo 10 Cents Store, which was later renamed Higo Variety Store, became a center for Japanese Americans who came to the Pacific Northwest to as migrant works in the railroad, agriculture, and fishing industries. The Japanese population grew into a neighborhood called Nihonmachi (Japantown or J-Town), a hub of culture and community located in the International District-Chinatown, less than a mile from the Central Library. At Nihonmachi’s heart was Higo, a central point of connection for the community, providing imported and local goods that local residents relied on to make their homes feel familiar and comfortable as well as a place for people to meet and connect. Continue reading “Introducing Higo! New Central Exhibition”
Join us on Saturday, July 23, at 1 p.m. for a conversation with Densho’s executive director Tom Ikeda, Michael Shiosaki of Seattle Parks and Recreation, and author Daniel James Brown about writing Facing the Mountain and the importance of oral histories in revealing a legacy of resilience and courage. The event will include a book signing with the author, with books available for purchase in partnership with Elliott Bay Book Company. Check out this list of further reading and resources around the Internment in our library catalog, and see past Shelf Talk posts on this topic here.
If you aren’t familiar with the local nonprofit organization Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project, come learn about the incredible work they do collecting and preserving the legacy of Japanese Americans unjustly relocated and incarcerated during World War II. And if you are familiar with Densho, take a second look, because there is so much more to discover, including a podcast, interactive maps, digitized documents from the 1940s and beyond, and over 900 oral histories recorded to date—all available online. The incredible depth, breadth, and accessibility of these sources make books like Facing the Mountain: An Inspiring Story of Japanese American Patriots in World War II , by Daniel James Brown possible.
Densho’s work chronicles events leading up to and the 80 years since the spring of 1942, when the United States passed Executive Order 9066 to forcibly remove and incarcerate “all persons of Japanese ancestry, including aliens and non-aliens” from “military zones” on the West Coast. Some 120,000 residents of Japanese ancestry, many from Western Washington, were incarcerated in camps across the United States. Entire families, from infants to elders, were taken from their homes and livelihoods, forced to live in poor conditions with no freedom to come or go. Some people, like young University of Washington student Gordon Hirabayashi, objected to being incarcerated; he refused to board a bus and was taken to King County jail to await legal action that would end up spanning years as he and others challenged Order 9066’s legality. An additional 1,500 Japanese American and Hawaiian men were drafted or volunteered to fight in World War II, such as the all-volunteer 442nd Regimental Combat Team, even as their families were imprisoned by the country they fought for. Continue reading “In Their Own Words: Densho and Japanese Americans making oral history”
Just over 80 years ago, on March 30, 1942, more than 200 Bainbridge Island residents were expelled from their homes and forcibly relocated and incarcerated in American concentration camps. They were among the first of the 120,000 Japanese Americans – according to a recent story in the Seattle Times – who were incarcerated during World War II solely on the basis of race.
In May 2021, a groundbreaking graphic novel was published that shared a lesser-known story of that mass injustice: resistance. Published by the Wing Luke Museum and Chin Music Press, We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration, authored by Frank Abe and Tamiko Nimura and illustrated by Ross Ishikawa and Matt Sasaki, wove together an epic narrative of three Japanese Americans who refused to submit to imprisonment in American concentration camps without a fight.
Want to learn about this remarkable graphic novel and the story behind it? Watch the YouTube recording of the Library event that celebrated its publication, hosted in partnership with the Wing Luke Museum, Densho and Elliott Bay Book Company.
Gold Star father Khizr Khan made headlines when he offered to lend his copy of the Constitution to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump during a speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, asking him to read the document and “look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.'” Khan will be speaking at Seattle Center on Sunday, February 19th at Densho’s 2018 Day of Remembrance–Our History, Our Responsibility–an event to honor Japanese Americans of World War II and stand in solidarity with American Muslims today. Continue reading “A Day of Remembrance with Khizr Khan”
Seventy-five years ago, approximately 7,000 Seattleites were ordered by the U.S. military to leave their homes and sent to incarceration camps. Most ended up at desolate Minidoka in southern Idaho. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, signed on February 19, 1942, two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, forcibly evacuated 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the Pacific Coast to one of ten concentration camps scattered across the country, where they would remain imprisoned for the duration of World War II until 1945.