The first Japanese arrived on Bainbridge Island in the 1880's, finding work alongside immigrants from around the world — Finland, Austria, Hawaii, Italy, China, and other locales — at the soon–to–be preeminent Port Blakely Mill Co. Most were laborers, although some, like Torazo Nakao, were given positions supervising others. As the men became secure in their jobs, they brought wives to join them. Soon a thriving village of Yama grew on the hillside above the mill, housing more than fifty families.

It was nestled between the so–called "Dagotown," a Hawaiian village, and a settlement of Native Americans from nearby Suquamish. Torazo and Kuma Nakao raised eight children in Yama, establishing one of Bainbridge Island's most esteemed families. Presaging things to come, the Moritani family began farming strawberries in 1908.

Slideshow

This is a collection of photos and artifacts of the Issei (first generation Japanese Americans) who immigrated to the US from Japan. Most came as bachelors to work in the Port Blakely Mill. Soon they married, raised children, and built homes in a small hillside village called Yama on land owned by the mill. When the mill closed many of these families remained on Bainbridge Island as farmers and small business owners.

  • This Japanese bowl or cup was found at the site of Yama, the Japanese village at Port Blakely. (Credit: Bainbridge Island Historical Society. Digitally photographed by Fenwick Publishing)

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