Nippon Kan Theater opens in Seattle's International District in 1909.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 4/09/2001
  • Essay 3180
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In 1909, the Nippon Kan (Japanese Hall) Theater opens on S Washington Street in Seattle's International District. The Nippon Kan serves as the cultural center of Seattle's Japanese community. It is busy several nights a week with "actors and musicians from Japan, kabuki, movies, concerts, variety shows, Judo and kendo competitions and community meetings" (Takami).

Famed performers who played at the Nippon Kan Theater included the Japanese soprano Tamaki Miura and the Eurasain tenor Yoshie Fujiwara. There were also numerous amateur productions conducted amidst friendly gossip and children running up and down the aisles.

The theater was built by funds from the community and designed by the father-son team of Charles L. Thompson and C. Bennet Thompson. It was a lively center of community activity from 1909 until the forced internment of Japanese Americans in 1942. It was rehabilitated in 1978.


David Takami, Executive Order 9066: 50 Years Before and 50 Years After: A History of Japanese Americans in Seattle (Seattle: Wing Luke Museum, 1992), 19; Walt Crowley with Paul Dorpat (Photography Editor), National Trust Guide: Seattle (New York: John Wiley & Son, Inc., 1998), 58.

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