A Finding Aid to the Kamekichi Tokita Papers, circa 1900-circa 2010, bulk circa 1910-1948, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.tokikame
Creators:
Tokita, Kamekichi
Dates:
circa 1900-circa 2010
bulk 1900-1948
Languages:
Multiple languages
English; Japanese
Collection is in English and Japanese.
Physical Description:
1.5 Linear feet
Repository:
The scattered personal papers of Seattle area painter Kamekichi Tokita (1897-1948) measure 1.5 linear feet and date from circa 1900 to circa 2010 with the bulk of the material dating from circa 1910 to 1948. The papers include biographical materials, including documents about the closing of the War Relocation Authority's Minidoka Camp in Idaho; correspondence; three diaries written in Japanese documenting Tokita's war time experiences and relocation to Minidoka, two earlier notebooks, also written in Japanese, and scattered notes; a few personal business records; printed materials; one scrapbook; sketches; and one family photograph album.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The scattered personal papers of Seattle area painter Kamekichi Tokita (1897-1948) measure 1.5 linear feet and date from circa 1900 to circa 2010 with the bulk of the material dating from circa 1910 to 1948. The papers include biographical materials, including documents about the closing of the War Relocation Authority's Minidoka Camp in Idaho; correspondence; three diaries written in Japanese documenting Tokita's war time experiences and relocation to Minidoka, two earlier notebooks, also written in Japanese, and scattered notes; a few personal business records; printed materials; one scrapbook; sketches; and one family photograph album.
Biographical materials include a file on the Public Works of Art Project, a file on the War Relocation Authority and the closing of the Minidoka internment camp, an immigration document, and an essay on Tokita written by Shokichi and Elsie Tokita.
Correspondence is primarily professional in nature and concerns exhibitions at the Seattle Museum of Art (previously the Art Institute of Seattle) and other topics. Correspondents include Burt Brown Baker, Roy Boynton, Kenneth Callahan, Henry Gallery, the Seattle Art Museum, and others.
Tokita's writings consist of three diaries, two notebooks, and scattered general writings, most of which are in Japanese. The diaries were kept during World War II and document the family's confinement at the Minidoka Relocation Camp in Idaho. Included is a transcript of the diaries which were translated from prewar to modern Japanese by Haruo Takasugi and from modern Japanese to English by Naomi Kusunoki-Martin.
Scattered business records include a patent application, records from the Cadillac Hotel, and a claim filed through the Department of Justice. A few published books in English and Japanese are about art and religion. Also found are exhibition catalogs for shows in which Tokita participated and clippings. There is one mixed media scrapbook about Tokita's exhibitions.
Artwork consists of unsigned pencil and watercolor sketches by Tokita. There is also a family photo album containing snapshots and portraits of the Tokita family and friends.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 8 series:
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1934-1985 (Box 1; 4 folders)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1920-1944 (Box 1; 6 folders)
  • Series 3: Writings and Notes, 1923-circa 1950 (Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)
  • Series 4: Personal Business Records, 1928-1950 (Box 1; 3 folders)
  • Series 5: Printed Material, circa 1910-1940 (Box 1-3; 0.5 linear feet)
  • Series 6: Scrapbook, 1929-1933 (Box 2-3; 0.1 linear feet)
  • Series 7: Artwork, circa 1910-1940s (Box 2-3; 0.1 linear feet)
  • Series 8: Photograph Album, circa 1900-1930 (Box 2; 0.2 linear feet)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Kamekichi Tokita (1897-1948) was a painter and businessman who emigrated from Japan in 1919 and settled in Seattle, Washington. Tokita was a member of the Seattle area progressive artists' collective known as the "Group of Twelve" and widely exhibited his artwork throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Kamekichi Tokita was born in Shizouka City, Japan and immigrated to the United States at the age of twenty-two. He settled in the Japantown neighborhood of Seattle, Washington where he opened the Noto Sign Company with business partner Kenjiro Nomura. Nomura was also an artist and encouraged Tokita's interest in oil painting. They both used the sign shop as their studio after-hours. In 1936, the Noto Sign Company closed and Tokita took over management of the Cadillac Hotel, although he continued to paint commercial signs. Tokita married Haruko Suzuki in 1932 and together they had eight children.
As a child in Japan, Tokita studied calligraphy in China. Although he attended a few art school classes in in the U.S. and went on weekend painting trips with Nomura and other Seattle artists, Tokita is considered to be a largely self-trained artist. Support and recognition came from Dorothy V. Morrison of the Henry Gallery at the University of Washington who wrote to Tokita to inquire whether a "group of Japanese artists in the city" would be interested in exhibiting their work. Although the exhibition of Japanese artists did not happen, Tokita later loaned paintings to the gallery for inclusion in an exhibition sponsored by the American Federation of Arts. Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s Tokita exhibited widely in the Seattle area. In 1935, the Seattle Daily Times touted the work of Tokita and other painters in the "Group of Twelve" that also included Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan, Walter F. Isaacs, and Ambrose and Viola Patterson, among others. In 1942, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Kamekichi Tokita and his family (five children at the time), along with the 110,000 – 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-American citizens living on the West Coast, were ordered under President Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 to relocate to one of several confinement camps. For the first six months of their confinement, the family lived at a temporary Civilian Assembly Center in Puyallup, Washington. They were transferred to the Minidoka Relocation Camp in Hunt, Idaho where they remained until their release in 1945. The confinement camps were organized much like communes and independent cities (fenced and guarded) where the residents were self-reliant for most of their basic necessities, including schooling. While interned in Minidoka, Tokita worked as a sign painter and continued to privately paint, using whatever materials he could find, including beaver board. His work was featured in art shows at the camp. Many of his camp scenes are now lost or were given away.
At the end of World War II, Tokita and his family (now seven children) moved back to the Seattle-area. Unable to find housing, the Tokitas lived at a Japanese language school until Tokita was able to re-establish his business. During this period he painted very little. In 1946 Tokita and his wife purchased the New Lucky Hotel in the Chinatown area of Seattle. Shortly thereafter, Tokita fell ill and died in 1948. Many of his works are believed to have been destroyed or lost. Some of his work remains, however, and is among the permanent collections of the Seattle Art Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum, the Portland Art Museum.
Note: Much of this biographical note was taken from "A Biographical Resume" written by Shokichi and Elsie Y. Tokita.

Administration
Processing Information
The collection was microfilmed onto reel 4883 shortly after receipt. In 2016-2017, the papers were fully processed with a finding aid prepared by Jayna Josefson with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool.
Separated Materials
A watercolor painting on paper by Kamekichi Tokita, Untitled (Still Life), 9 x 12 in. was transferred to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2012.
Existence and Location of Copies
A portion of the collection is available on 35 mm microfilm reel 4883 at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the material described in the container inventory does not reflect the arrangement of the collection on microfilm.
Author
Jayna M. Josefson
Sponsor
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Kamekichi Tokita papers were donated by his son, Shokichi Tokita in 1990. He donated a third and final diary in 2017. They were collected as part of the Archives of American Art Northwest Asian American project in Seattle, Washington.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Kamekichi Tokita papers, circa 1900-circa 2010, bulk circa 1910-1948. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Conditions Governing Use
The Kamekichi Tokita papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Photograph albums Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art, American -- Northwestern States Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
World War, 1939-1945 -- Japanese Americans Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Diaries Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Japanese Americans -- Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945 -- Diaries Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- Washington (State) -- Seattle Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painting, Modern -- 20th century -- Washington (State) -- Seattle Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art, Modern -- 20th century -- Northwestern States Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Asian American artists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Japanese American art Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Japanese Americans Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Callahan, Kenneth, 1905-1986 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tokita, Shokichi Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tokita, Elsie Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art Institute of Seattle Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Baker, Burt Brown Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Boynton, Roy Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Seattle Art Museum Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hotel Cadillac (Seattle, Wash.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Henry Art Gallery Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Public Works of Art Project Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Minidoka Relocation Center Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/