Asia Matters logo

Preserving Harmonious Living in Washington’s Japanese Gulch


The City of Mukilteo, Washington recently signed an agreement with the Metropolitan Creditors Trust to purchase 98 acres of land in Japanese Gulch for $5.4 million according to Forterra. This agreement will preserve a place that is unique in America’s Asian history.

Japanese Gulch was once home to a community of Japanese immigrants living harmoniously with local Americans for two generations in the early 20th century.

The booming lumber industry and establishment of the Crown Lumber Company in 1903 encouraged heavy immigration to Mukilteo. Lumber mills attracted lumber workers from around the country and around the world, particularly from Japan. Japanese immigrants in the nearby logging community, Darrington were met with hostility and even gunfire as they were considered to be cheap labor, threatening the jobs of local residents. But the substantial labor shortage in the Mukilteo area led the local community to accept their Japanese neighbors, marking the beginning of a harmonious multi-racial lifestyle in the area, as described by HistoryLink.

What followed was cultural exchange including language, food, and the arts. The residential area east of the mill provided for the workers and their families became known as Japanese Gulch which still retains a heavy presence of Japanese culture and artifacts. It was here that Japanese immigrants became Japanese Americans and local Americans connected to Japanese culture.

The Crown Lumber mill closed in 1930 with beginning of the Great Depression, forcing the resident Japanese workers to find work elsewhere.

This newly established agreement thus aims to preserve the rich heritage and natural environment of Japanese Gulch. With a $3.3 million dollar grant from the Snohomish County Conservation Futures Program, the area will harbor a variety of wildlife in its natural environment and also preserve the cultural significance of the Japanese-Americans who resided in the area.

Tim Su is a University of Sydney intern at the East-West Center in Washington.