Historic Higo Garden Hub

Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience

Funding Received: 2012
Seattle, WA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
November 23, 2012

Funding from ArtPlace supports the reactivation of a hidden, historic outdoor space in Seattle’s Nihonmachi  (Japantown) as a safe, accessible and sustainable community hub that will serve as a new cultural destination for The Wing’s walking tours and an economic driver for the entire neighborhood.

ArtPlace spoke with Cassie Chinn, Deputy Executive Director of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (The Wing), about this new project.

Why is storytelling important to your project? And what makes a good story?

Over the last few months, we’ve been meeting with a group of community members who are setting the goals, framework and direction for the development of this outdoor garden space. They have identified four goals. Through this project: 1) visitors will experience the Nihonmachi that was never lost and remains active, vibrant and growing; 2) we will enhance an existing asset, serving as an authentic tribute to the inherent history of the garden; 3) the garden will be a must-see draw, totally unique, energizing the area, and attracting and inspiring people to visit it and Nihonmachi; and 4) we will tell the story of Nihonmachi at its height – bustling and thriving as a place that people love(d).

For them, a place that is a must-see draw is a place where they can enter into another time, where their imaginations are sparked, and where their spirits are lifted, being completely transformed by the experience. When you put it all together, storytelling is an evocative means to achieve these goals.

We’re fortunate to have discovered a powerful, moving story inherent to the history of the garden. Sanzo Murakami originally created this outdoor space in 1932 when he constructed its surrounding building, the Jackson Building, establishing a new place for his business (the Higo 10 Cents Store), and for his family home. In 1936, Chiyo Murakami (then 21-year-old daughter of Sanzo) recorded in her daily diary what life was like in Nihonmachi in her family’s little corner of the world. Powerfully, the diary also records the last year of her life; Chiyo, like so many of the time, tragically died from tuberculosis in January 1937.

We’re scouring through her diary – saved by the family all these years – for connections to the garden, finding special moments of laughter, play and meaning in this young woman’s life, and developing ways to integrate her story throughout the garden, bringing back to life “Chiyo’s Secret Garden.”