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Kamekichi Tokita papers, circa 1900-circa 2010, bulk circa 1910-1948

Tokita, Kamekichi, 1897-1948


Collection Information

Size: 1.5 linear feet

Summary: 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 two diaries were kept during World War II and document the family's confinement at the Minidoka Relocation Camp in Idaho.
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.

Biographical/Historical Note

Kamekichi Tokita (1897-1948) was a painter and businessman who emigrated from Japan in 1919 and settled in Seattle, Washington. Born Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. Received his college education in Japan and immigrated to Seattle in 1919. Operated a sign painting business, Noto Sign Co., with Kenjiro Nomura. Tokita became one of a small number of progressive artists in Seattle in the 1930's which included Morris Graves and Kenneth Callahan. His work was supported by the Seattle Art Museum and exhibited regularly in Seattle and California between 1929 and 1936. Tokita was interned with his family at the Minidoka internment camp in Idaho, during World War II.


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.

Related Materials

Language Note

Diaries, notes and notebooks, and books are in Japanese.


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool.