Dolls by Seki Nishimura Kuniyuki

Seki Nishimura Kuniyuki

Seki Kuniyuki

Seki Nishimura Kuniyuki was born on October 22, 1883 in Yamaguchi Prefecture in Hikuma on the island of Oshima located in the Inland Sea. She was the oldest daughter of Shinkichi and Chiori Nishimura. She married Kojiu Kuniyuki, also from Oshima, and they had five children. They immigrated to Seattle and in the prewar period they operated various family businesses including a laundry, barbershop and hotels. At the start of World War II they owned and operated the Wiltshire Hotel on 7thand Virginia. With the help of a white friend, an attorney, they were able to sell the hotel at market rate and also store their belongings there.

Her family was incarcerated in Minidoka concentration camp. Her oldest son, Yukio, was drafted into the army and served in the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team even though he was over 30 years old.  During her incarceration in Minidoka, she enjoyed doll making.  Two of the three dolls she made at Minidoka are displayed.

Upon their return to Seattle, the Kuniyuki family opened Tad’s Café (named after her third son) with sons, Yukio and Tad, and daughter Mariko.  Mariko, who was a Kibei raised in Japan, was part of the test case against the U.S. government to restore citizenship to Japanese Americans who had lost citizenship while in Japan.  The other son, Kaname,  until his death a few years ago, was a 9th dan, the highest ranking Judo black belt in the US.

–Vicki Asakura

Video interview with Vicki Asakura.