Charles Erabu “Suiko” Mikami
Charles Erabu “Suiko” Mikami studied sumi-e, Japanese traditional brush painting in Japan before immigrating to Seattle in 1919 to attend art school. In Seattle he became a produce broker for Japanese farmers in the Kent Valley and brought their produce to the Pike Place Market. He became prominent in the Seattle Japanese American community and was known to be well educated and eloquent. He continued doing sumi-e painting and art as well as writing senryu poetry.
As a prominent community leader, Mikami was arrested by the FBI immediately after the start of the war in 1941 and incarcerated in Pinedale in California and then in Tule Lake and later Topaz in Utah. After the war he moved to the San Jose-Morgan Hill area in California.
While incarcerated in Tule Lake and Topaz he painted many desolate camp landscapes and other scenes imagined. His son remembers one painting of a tiger that his father painted while he as a six-year-old sat mesmerized watching as the tiger slowly emerged in such great detail on the silk cloth
Mikami’s paintings are held by such museums as the Smithsonian, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, the San Jose Japanese Museum, the Sacramento State Art Museum, and the Wing Luke in Seattle, Washington.
In 1977, the Japanese Government awarded Mikami the Order of Sacred Treasure, 5th Class for his civic service and for his contribution to U.S.-Japan friendship and cultural exchange.