Genji Mihara: An Issei Pioneer

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“I came to Seattle in 1907, at age 17, to study the English language. I was not originally planning to stay, but I liked America better than Japan.” - Genji Mihara

An Issei Pioneer, JCCCW’s feature exhibit on the life of Issei (first-generation Japanese immigrant) leader Genji Mihara (1890-1982) is open to the public starting May 21, 2018.

The exhibit is part of a larger biographical project on the long and distinguished life of Genji Mihara, who immigrated to Seattle in 1907. Features include original photos and artifacts donated by Mihara’s family, historical research and quotes from oral history interviews including one conducted with Mihara himself in the 1970s.

The project is significant as a case study on the experience of the Seattle Issei, from the Nihonmachi era, Pearl Harbor and World War II, through the post-war rebuilding era. The exhibit sheds new light on the lesser-known Department of Justice detainment centers, where Mihara and hundreds of Issei men were kept separated from their families living in War Relocation camps during WWII. Notably, Mihara was also a member of the community core of Seattle Issei who returned to the city following the war to help other Japanese rebuild their lives there.

The uniqueness of Mihara’s legacy will also be shown through the exhibit. Though he was mostly known as a leader and representative of the Seattle Japanese community, Mihara was also an award-winning poet, a small business owner, and a devoted family man. Despite preferring to live in the U.S., Mihara also played a key role in U.S.-Japan relations of the time through his leadership connections plus organization of charity efforts for his home country.

The exhibit will be located near Mihara’s former office, now the front office for JCCCW and the Japanese Language School. The support of Mihara’s family members, 4Culture’s Heritage Projects grant, staff and volunteers created a project that honors the local, national and international legacy of an exemplary Issei pioneer.

[Admission to An Issei Pioneer as well as its companion exhibit Hunt Hotel: Unsettled/Resettled is free and open to the public during regular business hours. Pamphlets are available for self-guided visits. Please contact JCCCW in advance to schedule guided and group tours. The exhibit has no closing date scheduled but availability for guided tours is limited.]