In the 1930’s and 40’s, Bainbridge Gardens was a successful Japanese-owned business venture on Bainbridge Island. Zenhichi Harui and Zenmatsu Seko procured 23 acres of land off of Miller Road where they built Bainbridge Gardens Grocery and NurseryOld Bainbridge Gardens along with several ornamental gardens, farmland for growing the plants for the nursery, and a home for their families. The business was a thriving gathering place for the community. During WWII when they were sent away to the concentration camps, however, the business became damaged beyond repair. Upon their return, the Sekos and Haruis were unable to build the business back to where it had been.

Thirty years later a son, Junkoh Harui, would finally rebuild the gardens at the same location into a beautiful thriving business. Today you may visit Bainbridge Gardens, a nursery specializing in natural and organic alternatives for weed and pest control, in its original location at 9415 Miller Rd NE, Bainbridge Island, WA  98110.  Walk the nature path, view some glorious red pines planted back-in-the-day by the Harui family, and visit the Harui Memorial Garden featuring an old pear tree that Zenhichi Harui grafted into an exquisite pear-shaped topiary. For store hours, phone: 206-842-5888.

The Japanese haiku garden, “Haiku no Niwa,” on the west side of the Bainbridge Public Library, was donated by the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community who dedicated it to the Issei (first) generation of Japanese Americans on the island, who were forcibly removed, incarcerated, imprisoned and excluded during WWII.

Photo Credit: Bainbridge Public Library

The garden’s Dedication Stone reads, “The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community gratefully acknowledges the generosity of all the donors and volunteer efforts given to the Haiku no Niwa in memory of the Bainbridge Island Issei generation.”

Many people worked on this project. Among them were: Wayne Nakata who was active in the fund-raising and planning; Junkoh Harui who suggested the garden and agreed to coordinate the effort; and Viki McCabe and Doug Tanaka who designed the project. The garden was installed in 1997 during renovations to the public library. Incorporated into the landscape are a series of haiku poems carved into granite in both Japanese and English.

The American Library Association awarded the Bainbridge Public Library Gardens its Best Library Garden award in 2000. (source: bainbridgepubliclibrary.org)

Moritani Preserve

Moritani contemplation benches on Eagle Harbor

In 1905 Hyakutaro Moritani emigrated from Numata, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. He and his wife leased land west of the present-day Suyematsu Farm on Day Road. They cleared and planted the land with Marshall strawberries and became among the first Japanese American strawberry farmers on Bainbridge Island.

In 1921, the Moritani family moved to a homestead near downtown Winslow. Because the Alien Land Law prohibited Mr. Moritani, who was not a U.S. citizen, from owning land, the homestead was held in the name of a friendly Baptist missionary until the eldest son, Mobulchi (Mort), became old enough to assume ownership. He was born in the United States and therefore was a citizen.

Moritani Preserve

Carved tree stump in the meadow

Mr. Moritani died in 1927 at the early age of 54, leaving his wife to raise four children supported by their work raising and selling strawberries. In March of 1942, the remaining Moritanis were sent to Manzanar and later Minidoka, during which time the children were sponsored out of the concentration camps. When the war ended, the family reunited on Bainbridge Island in 1945 and continued berry farming until the 1960’s, at which time they began phasing out of the business.

After the passing of youngest son Shigeru Moritani in 2016, the Moritani property was purchased by Bainbridge Island’s Fletcher Bay Foundation, who proceeded to fund an extensive clean-up then donate the property to the Bainbridge Island Park District. The 8.5 acre park is a quiet spot nestled surprisingly near the hustle and bustle of downtown Winslow.

“It’s a place to go for serenity, peace, quiet, to sit and have a picnic lunch.  It’s an escape from downtown. When you’re down there you don’t even know that the town exists. You could be in the middle of nowhere.” ~ Terry Lande, BIPD Executive Director

The Moritani Preserve is located at 542 Winslow Way W, Bainbridge Island, WA  98110.

Photo Credit: Suyematsu Farms

Spanning beyond the farmstand of the Suyematsu & Bentryn Family Farms, where one may buy or pick berries, produce, and pumpkins in season, stretches the former Suyematsu Farm, the oldest and largest continuously farmed land on Bainbridge Island. Yasuji and Mitsuo Suyematsu, immigrants from Japan, purchased this 40 acre property in 1928 and registered it under their oldest son, Akio–age 8, since under the Asian Exclusion Act they could not legally own land at the time.

“Mostly by hand and horse, it took three decades for the Suyematsu family to transition this land from a forest into one of the original berry farms that made Bainbridge Island the strawberry capital of the Pacific Northwest.” ~ EduCulture, Education in the Field

Learn more about Suyematsu Farm from EduCulture, an organization that brings “edible education” programs to the classroom.  Suyematsu Farm is located at: 9227 Day Road NE, Bainbridge Island, WA  98110.

Photo Credit: Town & Country Market

No visit to Bainbridge Island would be complete without a trip to the local grocery, Town & Country Market, located prominently on Winslow Way. “T&C” as the locals call it, is a full-service supermarket specializing in organic and local products, and sustainability. It’s a great place to stop for snacks or a take-out lunch to bring with you on your visit to the Exclusion Memorial.

Jitsuzo Nakata and his family came to America from Japan in 1899 and opened a barber shop on Bainbridge Island.

At around the same time, Tom Loverich came to Bainbridge from Croatia, and bought the Winslow Dock Grocery Store.

It would take another 50-plus years, but eventually these two families would come together to establish Town & Country Markets – where many of their descendants still work.

In 1940, John Nakata, Jitsuzo’s eldest son, built the Eagle Harbor Market on the site of his father’s barber shop and family home. He raised chickens behind the store for his weekly Friday fryer specials, and business was good. However, after the war began in 1941, the Nakata families were taken to concentration  camps along with all other Japanese Americans in the Northwest, and the market was sold.

After the war, the Nakatas returned to Bainbridge Island. For awhile, John and his brother Mo worked with their friend Ed, Tom Loverich’s son, making fishing tackle. But soon, they were all back in the grocery business.

Between the three of them, they purchased and operated three markets. Eventually, they sold their smaller stores, and on Aug. 29, 1957, they together opened Town & Country Thriftway on Bainbridge Island. Thus, Town & Country Markets was born. The grand opening on that August day was a community event on a grand scale – helicopters and heavyweight boxing champions and personalities from children’s television were there to mark the Island’s first “super” market – it even introduced islanders to its first set of automatic doors, then called “magic doors.” The store thrived.” ~ Town & Country, About Us

Town & Country Market is located at: 343 Winslow Way E, Bainbridge Island, WA  98110.

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