On May 30, 2000, descendants of the Mukilteo's original Japanese immigrants join with town citizens to honor the community's historic example of harmonious race relations. A bronze origami crane sculpted by artist Darryl Smith is unveiled. The marker symbolizes one town's efforts toward racial peace and harmony. Mukilteo is located in Snohomish County on Possession Sound.
Mukilteo’s Japanese Heritage
Born in Mukilteo’s Japanese Gulch in 1921, Masaru Odoi saw his dream realized on May 30, 2000, when a monument was unveiled telling the story of Mukilteo’s Japanese community that existed in this location from 1903 to 1930. Mas and the Mukilteo Historical Society had worked for years to put such a marker in place and had helped raise funds to make it possible.
Mas’ parents, Chikaye Kobayashi and Teichi Odoi, sailed from Japan to the Pacific Northwest in 1903 in hopes of bettering their lives in America. The Mukilteo Lumber Company was looking for workers and Teichi was hired. The newlyweds took up residence with other Japanese families in company housing provided by the lumber mill in what is now called Japanese Gulch.
Hard Times and Harmony Too
Everett’s strong union solidarity blocked Japanese and other workers who in the early 1900s were considered cheap labor. In nearby Darrington, loggers rounded up the Japanese and drove them out of town. The Japanese in Mukilteo also met with hostility. Occasional shots were fired into the Japanese settlement and the Mukilteo Lumber Company provided rifles for their workers to defend themselves.
But Mukilteo was a small town and the Mukilteo Lumber Company needed workers in order to keep the mill running. The Japanese workers were needed. Mukilteo residents began visiting and accepting their Japanese neighbors. They taught them to speak English and how to play the piano. In return, the Japanese loyally bought local goods and sent their children to Rose Hill School. Some became lifelong friends. Mas remembers these days as some of the happiest in his life.
Depression and War
Mukilteo Lumber became Crown Lumber Company in 1909. It closed down in 1930, an early victim of the Great Depression and Mukilteo’s Japanese left in search of jobs elsewhere in the state.
During World War II, these families were sent to relocation camps: The Odoi family was assigned to Minidoka. Eventually Mas and his twin brother Hiro joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, one of the country’s most decorated units of the U.S. Army. Both brothers survived.
Mas’s efforts to erect a monument to Mukilteo’s Japanese community began with a state centennial tribute given in 1989. Plans began at that time to place a permanent marker. In 2000 the effort became a reality. The monument is erected in Heritage Park at 1126 5th Street in Mukilteo.