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Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Washington (#35)

Also known as: The J; JCCCW

Shikata ga nai. You take whatever you are given and work with it.

Minidoka, the Japanese concentration camp near Hunt, Idaho, was closing. After living there for three years during the War, families now had to quickly make arrangements to leave the camp. But they couldn’t leave until they had arranged a place to go. And that was no easy task.

People had left their homes and most of their belongings behind when forced to evacuate. Many had received words of good faith from white neighbors to take care of their homes and businesses until they could return. Often it proved to not be the reality. Now, after years away, many found that their homes were no longer their own.

What to do? Go back home, find a place to stay and restart their lives all over again?

Many families did just that. Some people who left the camps ahead of the others went home and set up supports, making it easier for those who followed. There were places for people to stay – Japanese language schools, dojos and other buildings served as temporary living quarters. Conditions were still much like the conditions at camp – with cramped quarters, little privacy, and limited facilities. But with grit, people found a way through the difficult times.

Shikata ga nai.

Here at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington (JCCCW), we witness the strength, resiliency and vibrancy of community. The main building is the historic Nihongo Gakko (Japanese Language School). It was originally located on the 2nd floor of the Furuya building (see waypoint #20) on 2nd Avenue in 1902, then moved to the Buddhist Church on Main Street, before finally relocating to its current location here on Weller Street in 1913. At its peak, nearly 2,000 students attended the school, going five days a week after regular school to study for two more hours a day.

After World War II, Japanese Americans with nowhere to return to after being released from the Minidoka concentration camp found refuge at the Japanese Language School, known as the “Hunt Hotel.”

The Japanese Community Service has made its home here for many decades. Perhaps no one is more associated with the building than Genji Mihara, community leader for over 50 years and president of the Japanese Community Service from 1949-1980.

Today, the JCCCW is a central gathering place for sharing and promoting Japanese and Japanese American culture and heritage. With the Japanese Language School, Nikkei Bunko Library and Hosekibako (Japanese resale shop), there are many ways to connect with community at the JCCCW.

Images

The JCCCW’s main building, the historic Nihongo Gakko (Japanese Language School).

Alabastro Photography. Courtesy of Wing Luke Museum.

Kintsugi Garden, located on the north side of the building.

Alabastro Photography. Courtesy of Wing Luke Museum.

Groups often posed in front of the Japanese Language School for formal portraits. This one was taken on August 20, 1930.

Courtesy of Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington.

Video

JCCCW: Preserving a Legacy. This 5-minute video shares the history and present-day life of the JCCCW. Courtesy of the JCCCW.