Throughout May, Vashon’s historic Mukai Farm & Garden will welcome visitors to special events to celebrate the beauty and history of the beloved island site.
Founded by Issei pioneer B.D. Mukai in 1926 as a strawberry farm, Mukai Farm & Garden today is on the National Register of Historic places with its rare heritage home, Japanese garden, and barreling plant. Open and free to the public, it celebrates Vashon Island’s Japanese-American and agrarian heritage and is located at 18017 107th Ave. S.W.
“In many ways, the Mukai property embodies the Japanese experience in America,” said Rita Brogan, who is president of the Mukai Farm & Garden Board.
This month, Mukai’s grounds are bursting with blooms and greenery, as well as a display of one of the most simple and beautiful of all poetry forms — Haiku.
Haiku is a poem of three lines, with the pattern of 5-7-5 sounds, or syllables. Matsuo Basho, Japan’s most famous poet, described haiku as “Simply what is happening in this place at this moment.”
Throughout May, visitors can stroll Mukia’s grounds to see hundreds of beautifully calligraphed entries to Mukai’s annual Haiku festival and juried competition, which this year drew 360 entries. Annually, the contest awards prizes in numerous categories. The entries can also be read on Mukai’s mukaifarmandgarden.org/haiku-2021-voting.
Mukai will also hold a Nominoichi Sale Day, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 8. The special flea market and plant sale will include Asian-themed collectibles, contributed by islanders, as well as Japanese vegetables and Marshall Strawberry plants — the famous strawberry plant that was grown at the Mukai Farm and then picked, packed and shipped around the country.
But in addition to these festive celebrations at Mukai in May, a more solemn one will also take place.
At 1 p.m. Sunday, May 16, the Friends of Mukai will commemorate the Japanese American Day of Exile at Mukai Farm & Garden, and the public is also invited to attend in-person or watch live on the Mukai Farm & Garden Facebook page. The Vashon Heritage Museum is co-sponsoring the event. Pre-registration is required at bit.ly/3dtXxe9.
The day marks a shameful anniversary: on May 16, 1942, with two days’ notice, armed soldiers herded 111 Vashon residents onto trucks at the island’s downtown Ober Park to be sent to detention camps in Pinedale, California. Their crime was simply to be of Japanese descent during WWII.
Vashon’s Japanese Americans, along with the rest of the entire Japanese-American population of the West Coast, spent the next four years shunted between different internment camps in remote and desolate locations. Some families were repeatedly moved around different camps, breaking community connections.
Only 30 percent of the islanders who were imprisoned returned to Vashon.
Mukai’s website lists some of their experiences:
Ujiro, Fuyo, and son Yukichi Nishiyori left behind the chicken ranch they started on Bank Road in 1907 in the hands of their neighbors. Those neighbors, the Thurston’s, acted as caretakers during the Nishiyori’s imprisonment.
Jazu, Katsu and son Sam Sakamoto, never came back to their leased berry farm.
High school senior and 1942 Valedictorian Daigo Togami was not able to give his speech or graduate from Vashon Island High School with his class.
Sixteen young women and men left families that were incarcerated to serve in the Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), the Nurse Corps, and military intelligence.
Taichi and Nami Miyoshi and their sons Glenn and Masa, who fought in the 442nd RCT, lost their home and belongings in a fire set by anti-Japanese arsonists aimed at preventing Japanese Americans from returning to the island.
The Remembrance Day event will feature the ringing of a temple bell for each family whose lives were abruptly interrupted and forever changed on that date. Abbott Koshin Cain of the Puget Sound Zen Center will offer a prayer and Seattle poet Larry Matsuda will do a reading, with music and reflection.
For more information on Mukai Farm & Garden, and the heritage efforts of local islanders who saved the site after years of neglect, visit mukaifarmandgarden.org.