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Hoshi Farm

Originally a 10-acre estate from the 1920s through the early 2000s, the Hoshi farm was most famous for its flowers. One of the concrete foundations for the original Hoshi greenhouse still stands at the southern part of the estate at Blue Moon Farm and is visible from 91st Ave SW. Visitors are welcome to Blue Moon Farm with advance notice.

Noboru Hoshi immigrated from Japan and arrived in Victoria, BC in 1906. Seven years later, he married Sato Sato in Washington State. Their six children (Yuri, Dorothy, Henry, Margaret, Nora, and Sherman) arrived over the next dozen years. The family raised cattle, rabbits, potatoes, berries, and flowers.

The Hoshi greenhouse business, called “Vashon Garden Company” (and later “Vashon Gardens”), was known for its flowers, including chrysanthemums, roses, calla lilies and zinnias. Family lore has it that some of the chrysanthemum heads grew as large as 8”-10” across; these were in high demand in Seattle markets. Dorothy Hoshi remembered setting up a weekend flower stand at Pike Place Market. In 1932 Noboru expanded the business into Seattle, even opening a shop specializing in Vashon flowers and produce on Jackson Street.

The combination of the Hoshis’ early arrival and economic success meant that they were some of the leaders of the Island’s vibrant 1930s Japanese American community. To some, they were known as the “High-Tone Hoshis,” as Noboru was known to be a handsome man and particularly snappy dresser. In the early 1930s, the Hoshis planted flowers when a new flagpole was installed at the Island Club [LINK HERE], and donated a dozen evergreens to Vashon High School. Yuri Hoshi traveled to Japan by steamship and gave a presentation at the Island Club about her travels. Sato was known for her generous hospitality, especially to those in need during the Depression.

Sadly, Noboru committed suicide in 1934, and for a time Sato struggled to raise her children and manage the farm. She found companionship in Japanese world adventurer Kuichi Tanaka, who had traveled through some 60 countries on his bicycle for approximately nine years before settling on Vashon. By 1942, several of the Hoshi siblings had grown and left home; Sato and Kuichi registered with the remaining children as a family and were forcibly evicted to concentration camps in Pinedale and Tule Lake, California, and then Minidoka, Idaho.

After the war, several of the Hoshi children left camp, scattering to different states in the Northwest and Midwest. The remaining Hoshis returned to a changed estate. Family lore has it that every greenhouse pane was broken and the family’s prized plants were stolen or lost. Like many Japanese Americans, they rarely spoke about their wartime experiences. The Hoshis survived as well as they could, despite a toddler grandson’s accidental death (1953) and two house fires (1952 and 1992). Eventually they rebuilt their flower and farm business, delivering plants to stores like Vashon Thriftway and Seattle’s Chubby and Tubby.

In the early 2000s, grandson Mark Hoshi divided the land into two roughly equal parcels and sold it in 2012. The northern part of the land is used for growing wine grapes. The southern part of the land, where the greenhouse foundation still stands, is now Blue Moon Farm, owned by Kevin Hoffberg. The farm’s crops now include potatoes, cucumbers, mini-pears, vegetables, squashes, and lavender.

Author: Tamiko Nimura


Current Blue Moon Farm sign.

Aerial photo fof the Hoshi Farm fom 1936.

Photo from Kevin Hoffberg.

Unidentified Japanese American women at a flower stand in Pike Place Market.

Photo from the Washington State Historical Society.

Current photos of the foundation.

Used with permission from Kevin Hoffberg of Blue Moon Farm.


Growing up as a “farm kid”

In the 1960s, Mark Hoshi fondly remembers his early years with his “Obaachan” (grandmother) Sato and “Ojiichan” (grandfather) Kuichi. “People always came over for tea and snacks,” he says now. He remembers working in the family greenhouse at a young age, weeding the flower pots, pulling up calla lilies and packing those for sale, dropping off flats of flowers at stores. He used to go to the Tahlequah dock with Kuichi, who was an “expert” fisherman who always seemed to catch a lot of fish. Mark remembers being very proud of one catch at age 9: an octopus with a head roughly the size of a cantaloupe. He learned about proper onsen (Japanese bath) etiquette, The family had a wooden ofuro (Japanese bath tub), which may have been built by Noboru or Kuichi. He recalls riding the tractor with his uncle Henry while plowing the fields. And like many Island farm kids, he recalls picking berries in the summertime.

Farmhouse hospitality

Sato Hoshi was known on the Island for her lavish hospitality, offering abundant amounts of food and drink to guests. During the Depression, she gave rabbits to people in need and candy to neighborhood children. Even after the war, “[it] was always hilarious when [we] had guests come over,” recalls grandson Mark Hoshi. “When someone did not want to eat, they would pick up their dish and put it in the fridge. Obaachan would take the plate right out and try to serve it. Kind of like musical chairs.” Breakfast would include items like green tea and tofu with rice, lunch might include homemade kimchi, and dinner might be a one-pot sukiyaki meal.

Kuichi Tanaka, world traveler

Sato Hoshi and Kuichi Tanaka appear on the 1940 census as “married,” but later records show a marriage in 1972 (at ages 76 and 82).  The remarkable story of Kuichi Tanaka himself, who traveled around the world on his bicycle before settling on Vashon, has yet to be told.

According to East Coast newspapers, the young man left Japan as a member of the Imperial Japanese Geographical Society and traveled around the world with his bicycle. He spoke at various societies and YMCA offices, collecting donations to support his travels. Two newspaper articles remain, along with a picture of Kuichi himself; unfortunately, his diaries were destroyed in a 1992 house fire.

(Click to see full size copy of newspaper clipping.)

Kuichi Tanaka photo from Boston Globe article.

Kuichi Tanaka photo from Boston Globe article.