STORIES OF SOLIDARITY:
The Japanese Americans in Five Points

A neighborhood mapping project + exhibit from Japanese Arts Network and Mile High JACL

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ABOUT THE PROJECT

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 through the voices of lived experiences- and we celebrate the Japanese Americans and Five Points residents who are creating history for future generations in Denver's Five Points. 

According to Densho.org, by the time World War II ended, many Japanese Americans who'd been in concentration camps didn't want to return to the West Coast, where they had lost their homes and businesses. The War Relocation Authority (WRA) stated in 1944 that out of 22,000 Japanese Americans released from the 10 concentration camps that year, the largest number to head to one place, was the 5,000 that relocated to Chicago. Denver was second with 2,507 former prisoners hoping to start new lives - and this doesn't include the number of Department of Justice prisoners who were also released. After the war, the Japanese population in Colorado swelled to 11,700, with almost half living in Denver.

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Pictured Above: The Ozaki Family outside of their Larimer Street residence between 26th and 27th Streets.  Photographer unknown.

ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE

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As part of an ongoing endeavor directly connected to this project - we are archiving each community oral history interview.  You may access this archive at any time.

THE MAPPING TOUR 

There are multiple ways you may choose to experience our free neighborhood mapping tour.  The tour is best experienced in-person, which you may participate in by downloading the PocketSights App onto your mobile phone, then navigating as a self-guided tour by foot or car.  The tour is approximately 2 hours by foot, and 2.6 miles in total.  Stops may include audio tracks, stories to read, photos, or video - you may want to bring your headphones! 

TO NAVIGATE BY PHONE:

STEP 1: 

Download the mobile app to take this self-guided tour on your GPS-enabled mobile device.

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STEP 2: 

To find the tour, search for "Stories of Solidarity: The JA Experience in Five Points" in the app - or once you are in the Five Points area, Search by Location.

TO NAVIGATE BY DESKTOP:

Visit the tour here, or choose to journey through the tracks via the below interactive map.

JAPANESE OWNED BUSINESS DATABASE

Many Japanese owned businesses and establishments that are and have been important to the Japanese community in Denver were not able to be included in this walking tour due to its artistic storytelling and narrative nature.  We have begun documenting all of the businesses that have contributed to Denver's economy and the Five Points/Curtis Park/Downtown Denver communities in a digital archive.  You may access and view that archive here:  

This is an ongoing process, and if you have any information that we may include in our database, please reach-out to us at: japaneseartsnetwork@gmail.com.

THE EXHIBIT

For a limited time, join us at The Savoy Flex Space (2700 Arapahoe, #103, Denver, CO) to deepen your connection to the stories of the walking tour, and hear more about life in Five Points - including a dedicated section to Manual High School where many of our interviewees attended, and a special opportunity to experience the Japanese American National Museum's A Life in Pieces: The Diary and Letters of Stanley Hayami. Connecting the viewer to the experience of many Japanese Americans prior to coming to Denver - follow one young man's writings from camp and his wartime letters as they are brought to life with an interactive, 360-degree video that can be viewed on a mobile device, and a virtual reality (VR) version.

GALLERY DATES + HOURS:

Sat 7/9 - 12PM - 9PM (Opening Day)

Opening Night Reception 7:00 PM
Sun 7/10 - 11AM - 4PM
Fri 7/15 - 3PM - 8PM
Sat 7/16 - 11AM - 7PM
Sun 7/17 - 11AM - 4PM
Fri 7/22 - 11AM - 7PM
Sat 7/23 - 12PM - 7PM (time change)

CREDITS AND THANK YOU'S

We are very grateful to all who have made, and who continue to make, this project a rewarding and meaningful endeavor.  

This project is made possible with the generous support of Arts in Society and the JACL Legacy Fund. 

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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 “Drean” Meza, Terry Nelson, Mary Jane Okamatsu, Charles Ozaki, Joe Ozaki, Teri Ozaki, Carolyn Plummer, Marge Taniwaki, Richard Yoshida. 
 

Interview Venues

  • Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library 

  • Nikkeijin Kai Office at Sakura Square 
     

Sonny Lawson Park "Five Points Merchants" Artwork 

  • Lauren Iida - Artist, Paper and Watercolor Artwork

  • Mary Jane Okamatsu - Photo provider 

  • Special thanks to Denver Theatre District, David Moke and the City of Denver Parks & Recreation 
     

Additional Walking Tour Acknowledgments 

Research and information resourced from DENSHO.org, Pacific Mercantile and Jolie Noguchi, Gil Asakawa and Nikkeiview, Tri-State Denver Buddhist Temple, Mabel Googins for Sky Bakery, Rex Aoki for Akebono, and the Ozaki Family photo albums. 

PRODUCERS


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 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.