Mukai supporters form new group, launch program

A group of islanders concerned about the state of the historic Mukai farmhouse and Japanese garden is in the process of becoming its own, newly constituted nonprofit.

The group, which plans to call itself Friends of Mukai, will continue to focus on the situation at the historic site and advocate for its restoration and protection, said Helen Meeker, vice president of the group. The group will also launch a series of interpretive programs focusing on the Japanese-American experience on Vashon and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, Meeker said.

To that end, the group is inviting Clarence Moriwaki to a public meeting at 7 p.m. next Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the Land Trust Building.

Moriwaki, president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association and past CEO of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington, will discuss his successful effort to install a memorial that traces the path along Bainbridge’s waterfront that Japanese-Americans took when they were forced to board a boat that sent them into exile.

Next week’s event is the first of many that Friends of Mukai plans to hold focusing on the history of Japanese-American immigrants who came to Vashon Island and the Northwest, Meeker said.

“We want to begin telling these stories,” Meeker said.

The organization had called itself Island Landmarks, the name of the nonprofit that currently owns the historic Mukai property, and had attempted to take over ownership of the historic property. But because the issue of ownership is in litigation, Meeker said, the group decided to stop calling itself Island Landmarks and to reconstitute itself as a new nonprofit.

The group has 140 members, Meeker said. The existing Island Landmarks, headed by Mary Matthews, has a new set of bylaws and is no longer a membership organization.

Meeker said the group is disappointed its efforts to take on ownership of the historic property have not been successful. The group lost in King County Superior Court and is now appealing the decision.

But the officers decided it needed to continue to move forward with its goal of raising awareness about the Japanese-American experience in the region and pressing for the stewardship and restoration of the Mukai property.

“We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of energy. And we’d like to see this become more than a vision, to become a reality,” Meeker said.


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