Stories of Solidarity: The JA Experience in Five Points

Stories of Solidarity: The JA Experience in Five Points

Denver, Colorado 80203, United States

Created By: Japanese Arts Network

Tour Information

In the wake of WWII during the 1940’s, following the closing of America’s incarceration camps, the area surrounding and within the historic Five Points neighborhood in Denver, Colorado saw a surge of Japanese-American culture and business in the “Larimer Corridor” downtown. Japanese businesses were concentrated during this time in the Five Points area due to oppressive redlining which did not allow them to open in other parts of the city. Japanese arrivals joined other communities of color who also inhabited and owned businesses in this stretch of neighborhood.

Today, we remember this vibrant and cross-cultural neighborhood thorugh the voices of lived experiences- and we celebrate the today's Japanese Americans and Five Points residents who are creating history for future generations in Denver's Five Points.

*** Please also join us at our in-person exhibit at The Savoy located at 2700 Arapahoe Street to see more artifacts and hear more from our interview participants.***

The Japanese Arts Network (JA-NE) partners with artists to cultivate opportunities for deeper connections with Japanese artists in America. JA-NE recognizes that voices of Japanese artists are often marginalized or placed into “cultural arts” stereotypes in order to check proverbial boxes instead of being recognized for their value/artistic merit. We provide pathways for audiences to connect with Japanese heritage and culture while supporting artists whose Japanese identities inform their work. We envision an ecosystem of mutual support between artists, stakeholders and intergenerational community members through intersectional collaboration.

The Mile High JACL chapter represents the state of Colorado. Founded in 1929, the National JACL (Japanese American Citzens League) is the largest civil rights organization in the country focused on Americans of Japanese ancestry. The JACL mission is to uphold and secure the civil rights of Japanese Americans and all Americans, while preserving the cultural heritage of our people.

CREDITS + THANK YOU'S:
This project is made possible with the generous support of Arts in Society and the JACL Legacy Fund.

Team:
Japanese Arts Network + Mile High JACL
Shannon Geis - Oral Historian + Audio Editor + Interviewer
Matthew Ryan Durgin - Sound Designer
Richard Hamai - Treasurer
Joshua Mattison - Sound Designer + Composer of Original Music
Dylan Mori - Producer + Interviewer
Courtney Ozaki - Producer + Interviewer
Akemi Tsutsui-Kunitake - Research and Documentation
Allison Yaguchi - Transcriptions

Interview Participants:
Milton Domoto, Nancy Domoto, Mabel Googins, Hiroko Hanson, Leandra Marin-Cruz, Jaida Masud, Melissa Meza, Terry Nelson, Mary Jane Okamatsu, Charles Ozaki, Joe Ozaki, Teri Ozaki, Carolyn Plummer, Marge Taniwaki, Richard Yoshida.

Interview Venues:
Blaire Caldwell African American Research Library
Nikkeijin Kai Office at Sakura Square

Sonny Lawson Park "Five Points Merchants" Artwork:
Lauren Iida - Artist
Mary Jane Okamatsu - Photo provider
Denver Theatre District + David Moke
Denver Parks & Recreation

Additional Acknowledgments:
Research and information resourced from DENSHO.org, Pacific Mercantile and Joli Noguchi, Gil Asakawa and Nikkeiview, The Denver Post, Tri-State Denver Buddhist Temple, Rex Aoki, the Ozaki Family photo albums.


Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

The Japanese community in Denver today is growing, with Japanese Americans and those coming here direct from Japan for work and otherwise.   The diaspora of Japanese and JA’s in Colorado is spread throughout the state with organizations... Read more
Casey Kawaguchi's family in Utah represent another side of Japanese in America - his grandfather owned a farm and was allowed to stay to manage the farm - created jobs for rural JA’s vs. Incarceration.     Casey Kawaguchi is a Japanes... Read more
PLAY AUDIO TRACK TRANSCRIBED INTERVIEW with CHARLES OZAKI
T. K. Pharmacy was one of few Japanese American businesses that remained open during World War II. Operating out of Denver—outside the so-called “exclusion zone”—it offered a lifeline to Japanese Americans in Topaz, Heart Mountain, ... Read more
Japanese Americans in Denver’s Five Points Neighborhood JUL 9, 2021 A Story about Tortillas by Courtney Ozaki as featured in History Colorado's the disCOurse the disCOurse features writers sharing their lived experiences and their perspec... Read more
PLAY AUDIO TRACK TRANSCRIBED INTERVIEW with RICHARD YOSHIDA: "I noticed that there's a lot of diversity in the area. I used to walk to school, only five blocks (not like you), but everybody was so friendly, as you go back. I heard when we m... Read more
Look down Champa towards 30th Street to where G&F Market used to be on the corner of 30th & Champa. PLAY AUDIO TRACK TRANSCRIBED INTERVIEW with NANCY DOMOTO + MILTON DOMOTO NANCY: My mom was already in Colorado, but my dad, he had ... Read more
PLAY AUDIO TRACK TRANSCRIBED INTERVIEW with MARY JANE OKAMATSU and MILTON DOMOTO  
PLAY AUDIO TRACK TRANSCRIBED INTERVIEW with MILTON DOMOTO Fats Domino was staying at the Rossonian at Five Points. I was kind of scared to go into the Rossonian to get his autograph. I knew this kid, this girl, that was brave enough to go ... Read more
PLAY AUDIO TRACK TRANSCRIBED INTERVIEW with MILTON DOMOTO I used to go to the drugstore on the corner of 26th and Welton. They had two Black guys who created the first… who were pharmacists who had created a pharmacy store – a drug sto... Read more
PLAY AUDIO TRACK TRANSCRIBED INTERVIEW WITH MILTON DOMOTO Down the street, maybe half a block, was the Roxy Theater. It was the first time I went there. The first run movie was Godzilla. I remember my dad taking me there to see Godzilla. Bu... Read more
First generation Japanese “Issei” brought baseball over with them from Japan, and saw it as a hopeful way to connect with Americans.  Became a favorite socioeconomic and social pastime for Japanese Americans leading up to WWII - in the... Read more
RedLine Contemporary Art Center is appropriately named after its neighborhood's history.  From CurtisPark.org- The (Curtis Park) neighborhood was home primarily to persons of European descent at first, but by the 1920s, both African Ame... Read more
For many Japanese Americans, a stay at the Burlington Hotel at 22nd and Larimer streets was a first stop in Five Points.  In 1944 out of 22,000 Japanese Americans released from the 10 concentration camps that year, the largest number to he... Read more
“My father opened the bakery after he quit the Brown Palace. His cakes were pretty popular for weddings. He opened the bakery first and then expanded to a coffee shop and restaurant…He gave special deals to policemen at the restaurant; ... Read more
See description in 1947 Lawrence Street Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temple. 
PLAY AUDIO TRACK TRANSCRIBED INTERVIEW WITH JOE OZAKI and MARGE TANIWAKI Joe: When, um, my dad first got to Denver, he did everything he could to survive. So he worked in the daytime with the JR-, JA Scharf Egg Company, which is down about ... Read more
Sakura Square has been a central gathering place for the Japanese American community to celebrate our heritage, culture and arts for multiple generations in the Rocky Mountain Region. The Tri-State/Denver Buddhist Temple (TS/DBT) has long ... Read more
Pacific Mercantile celebrated 75 Years in 2020!  The history of Pacific Mercantile Company begins with George Inai, who was born in Tokushima Japan in 1893. He arrived in the U.S. at age 18.  He ran a small grocery store in Sacramento, CA... Read more
Japanese immigrants settled in and around Denver in the early 1900s. Many were Jodo Shinshu Buddhists with strong ties to their religious heritage. Married couples especially wanted a strong Sangha for their families. In 1916, the Tri-State... Read more
Amache survivors opened the 20th Street Cafe in Denver after the war. It lasted 74 years through three generations. The pandemic forced it to permanently close in April. To the 20th Street Cafe thank you for creating community ... and for s... Read more
"I loved the old Mandarin Cafe, which, confusingly, was a Japanese restaurant in the space that's Ophelia's now.  They had perfect tempura: light-tasting and crisp with just enough batter to give crunch but not overpower the main ingredien... Read more
A 1969 view of New Mexico Inn at 1949 and Akebono Restaurant at 1953 Larimer street in downtown Denver, Colorado. Signs on the buildings read: Sukiyaki TEmpure Akebono," "Coors," "American Mexican Food," "2 Jumbo Beers 25," "1 Small Beer 10... Read more
Pictured:A photo of Michi Aoki Kajiwara, with her mother, Chiyo, was taken in front of Fred's Place, aka Akebono Restaurant  
Written by Gil Asakawa - from the Nikkeiview:  NOTE: I just heard today that Mas Nonaka, a member of the local Japanese American community who has cut hair at several iterations of his barbershop, Nonaka’s, in and around Sakura Square si... Read more
AUG 14 1951, AUG 17 1951; Believe it or not, folks, Denver manages to find a warm spot in its tummy for seafoods-despite being more than 1,000 miles from the nearest seashore. For proof, consider the Granada retail and wholesale fish market... Read more
The Rocky Mountain Jiho/Journal opened in 1962, and was a newspaper published in Japanese and English.  Early-on it featured a weekly article by Journalist Bill Hosokawa (pictured here).  INTERVIEW WITH HIROKO HANSON My parents started t... Read more
The Japanese Arts Network (JA-NE) is a national resource for artistic collaboration and connection, developing programs to support and strengthen the visibility of Japanese Artists in America who create with cultural intention. Art should b... Read more

 

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