Immediately after the Japanese military attack on the U.S. naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i on December 7, 1941, the FBI swooped down on Japanese American communities across the mainland U.S. and Hawai’i, arresting Issei who, according to the Bureau, were “aliens who led cultural or assistance organizations,” “slightly less suspicious aliens,” and “members of, or those who donated to, ethnic groups, Japanese language teachers and Buddhist clergy.” In Seattle, over 100 Issei were detained at the Immigration and Naturalization Service building (waypoint #27), located just blocks away from here on Airport Way; they were later sent to U.S. Department of Justice detention camps throughout the U.S., held for a few months or for years.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the U.S. military to remove all of Japanese ancestry from designated U.S. West Coast “military areas” due to potential espionage and sabotage – even though an act of either by a person of Japanese ancestry in America has never been proven.
What the U.S. government called “relocation” was set in motion in Seattle during April 1942. Civilian Exclusion Orders – “to all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien” – were posted throughout Seattle. Issei and Nisei (American citizens by birth) hurriedly sold off property and businesses – a lifetime of work – at a fraction of their worth. They could only take with them what they could carry.
On April 30, the Murakami family, along with over 1,100 others, was swept up in the first wave of Seattle Japanese Americans bussed and guarded by U.S. Army soldiers to the grounds of the Western Washington State Fair in Puyallup, Washington. Over 7,000 Japanese Americans stayed at the site renamed “Camp Harmony” for up to four months before being transferred to the also heavily-guarded Minidoka War Relocation Center in south-central Idaho for the next three years.
Here in the Jackson Building Warehouse, the Murakami Family stored their business inventory and family personal belongings, along with items for family friends and neighboring businesses. A display created by the Wing Luke Museum (waypoint #1) in the storefront windows recounts the story of the Murakami family while imprisoned in the Minidoka concentration camp and their return to their home in Seattle at the Jackson Building.