Scene and Heard: Unveiling Mukai Way

Half-mile portion of 107th Ave SW is renamed “Mukai Way” in special ceremony.

A large group had gathered at the intersection of SW Bank Road and 107th Ave SW on the morning of Friday, Oct. 8. The morning marked the official unveiling of the new sign that designated a portion of 107th Ave SW as “Mukai Way.”

Back in August, the King County Council unanimously approved designating a half-mile section of 107th Ave SW to honor the Mukai Family and the contributions of Japanese Americans to Vashon island in the 20th century.

King County Executive Dow Constantine, King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, King County Local Services Director John Taylor, and members of the Friends of Mukai were in attendance at Friday’s unveiling. Members of the Mukai family were also present and spoke at the ceremony.

In 1910, B.D. Mukai and his wife moved to Vashon Island and began farming strawberries, and leased land to establish the Mukai Cold Process Fruit Barelling Plant. In 1926, the two purchased 40 acres of land under the name of their 15-year-old son, Masa Mukai. As immigrants, they could not own property under Washington state’s Alien Land Law, but Masa could as an American-born citizen.

With the purchase of the farmland, the Mukais built a large fruit barreling plant in 1927 to support their growing business. The farm prospered throughout the Great Depression, employing more than 400 workers each year to pack and ship 200 tons of strawberries. Masa Mukai would later take over the family business when his father retired in 1934.

In 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the internment of Japanese immigrants and their descendants. The Mukais fled to Dead Ox Flat in Oregon, where Masa was able to make a successful living farming row crops, such as lettuce, in land that was primarily cattle country.

After the war, the Mukai family returned to Vashon, where two individuals, Maurice Dunsford and Phillipe Baccaro, had kept the home and business operational during the family’s absence.

“Today’s ceremony to recognize the honorary road designation of Mukai Way is significant in so many ways,” said Constantine. “The Mukai family represents the ideals and values of the American dream. Given little resources, B.D. Mukai and his family worked hard, were innovators, and found success where few thought they could.”

“The name ‘Mukai Way’ is a visible step in celebrating the contributions of the Mukai family to Vashon Island,” said McDermott. “We must honor their history and recognize the irreperable harm inflicted on their family and other Japanese Americans.”

Teresa Grover, the great-granddaughter of B.D. Mukai, also spoke at the unveiling.

“My grandfather and my father and the rest of my family would be very honored and proud to see this happen,” Grover said. “I know that they were proud to be American and worked very hard and were very passionate about the choices they made and the fight that they put up to survive in those times.”