Japanese Language School or Nihon Go Gakko

1400 to 1414 S Weller Street

Japanese Language School (Nihon Go Gakko), Seattle, October 15, 2020, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Japanese Language School (Nihon Go Gakko), Seattle, 1917-1920, Courtesy Densho (ddr-densho-43)
Japanese Cultural and Community Center direction sign, Japaneses Language School, Seattle, October 15, 2020, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Kokeshi exhibit, Japanese Cultural and Community Center, November 1, 2009, Photo by Joe Mabel (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Japanese Language School from Weller St and Rainier Ave, Seattle, October 15, 2020, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
School employees with student crossing guards, Japanese Language School, Seattle, Courtesy Wing Luke Museum (2000.015.032)
Japanese Language School, Seattle, 1913-1917, Courtesy Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington
Children playing a form of basketball at Japanese Language School picnic, Woodland Park, Seattle, 1911, Courtesy UW Special Collection (SOC0832)
Ground Breaking for the new Japanese Language School at 14th and Weller, Seattle, Courtesy Wing Luke Museum (2006.038.001.013)

1400 to 1414 S Weller Street

As part of a thriving and large Japanese American community, the Japanese Language School was established in 1902 and is the oldest such school in North America. In the early years, instruction in Japanese culture and language was given in other buildings but as the number of children in the community grew, so did the Japanese American community’s commitment to build a larger and more accommodating facility. There are three buildings that comprise the Japanese Language School complex. The two-story building to the west with entrance on Weller Street is the oldest, built in 1913. The building to the far east of the lot was built in 1917; it is connected to the original structure by a common corridor. The single-story structure to the north was completed in 1920. These two additions reflect a growing number of students and teachers who taught classes immediately following public school attendance.

During World War II and the incarceration, the school was used by the Army Air Corp. Following the war and the release of Japanese Americans from camps, the school helped provide housing for 27 families who used the classrooms as living quarters, hanging sheets as room dividers and cooking meals in the school’s community kitchen. At that time, the building was called “the Hunt Hotel” that referred to the name of the town that was nearest to the Minidoka, Idaho, incarceration camp where many of Seattle’s Japanese community were taken.

In 2008, a merger of the Japanese Language School with the Nikkei Heritage Association of Washington created the Japanese Community and Cultural Center of Washington (JCCCW). The JCCCW has expanded the language and cultural classes to include museum exhibits, community events, and public performances. In June 1982, the Japanese Language School buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places and in October 2006, the buildings were designated as a Seattle Landmark property.

Walk north to S. Main Street and turn left.

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