Document Type

Occasional Paper

Paper Type

Faculty Research

Publication Date

Summer 2018


This article, drawing on oral histories with Nisei, addresses the dearth of publications about pre-WWII Japanese life in the urban U.S. and provides evidence of Japanese immigrants’ active presence in the lumber industry and on Tacoma’s tideflats. This is important not only for Tacoma’s history and a fuller accounting of the major industries that shaped the south Puget Sound region, but also because Japanese contributions to early industrial development are often overlooked. The oral history narratives also stretch the boundaries of what has been depicted as a densely-connected and lively Japanese community in the downtown core. Also, stories of moving from and between sawmills and the ethnic economy highlight the fluidity of employment from the lumber industry to self-employment. This article thus argues for a remapping and expansion of existing visualizations of the Japanese community and for recognition of Japanese presence in the tideflats and sawmill spaces.

Occasional Paper Number