BY ELAINE KO
Inter*Im Executive Director
Did you know about all the new developments happening in the historic Japantown on the north end of the International District?

With the completion of the Nihonmachi Terrace, the neighborhood is being filled again with families and children. Visit the Panama Tea House and the popular Maneki and other great Japanese restaurants. Walk across the street and “brown bag” your lunch at our 1.5-acre Danny Woo Community Garden with the most incredible views of the city.

While we need more residents and businesses to locate here, there is a new treasure, KOBO at Higo, which is one of my favorite stores in all of Seattle. I recently had a chance to interview owner Binko Chong-Bisbee.

KOBO at Higo occupies the former home of Higo Variety Store on Jackson Street, which was run by the Murakami family for 75 years. Binko, and husband John Bisbee, finally realized their dream to expand Kobo into a larger space, and were invited by the Murakami family to secure the location as a way to promote the culture and arts of Japan.

Binko says, “Higo Variety Store and the Murakami family played such an important role in the heart of the old Japantown. Even after closing its doors after 75 years, John and I felt very strongly about preserving that history and legacy … we are stewards of a space that has played an important part of the old Japantown that at one time was home to over 8,000 Japanese community members.”

KOBO exhibits, featuring arts, crafts and design, are scheduled six times a year, and the store showcases furniture, textiles, works on paper and photography.

An event space is used for musical performances, book talks, lectures and exhibitions by various artists and authors such as Roger Shimomura, Kate Klippensteen of Tokyo, Japan and many others.

KOBO is known for featuring Japanese-inspired crafts and design. Most popular at KOBO are Japanese folk arts and toys, Japanese-inspired ceramics and our original KOBO T-shirts with Japanese pre-World War II images.

You will find many treasures at KOBO. Visiting KOBO is a truly an adventure.

Binko notes that while Nihonmachi of the past is gone, the legacy of the businesses community members built during that time is remembered and honored at KOBO at Higo, Panama Hotel and the Wing Luke Asian Museum.

We at Inter*Im are working on projects that will continue to revitalize Japantown, including the new Japanese Cultural Center located near South Dearborn and sponsored by Nikkei Heritage Association. Look for our new Green Street on Maynard, along with interpretive signs that will capture the history of Japantown around the area.

Oh … and speaking of new treasures, on the south end of the ID, you must not miss Made In Kitchen, CafÈ H.K. and Umay Select Boutique. See you around in the neighborhood!

The purpose of Inter*Im Community Development Association (ICDA) is to facilitate community development in Seattle’s International District and the larger Asian/Pacific community. Contact:[email protected] or (206) 624-1802. www.interimicda.org..

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