Ikuo Shinmasu

Ikuo Shinmasu is from Kaminoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. In 1974, he started working at Teikoku Sanso Ltd (currently AIR LIQUIDE Japan GK) in Kobe and retired in 2015. Later, he studied history at Nihon University Distance Learning Division and researched his grandfather who migrated to Seattle. He shared a part of his thesis about his grandfather through the series, “Yoemon Shinmasu – My Grandfather’s Life in Seattle,” in the North American Post and Discover Nikkei in both English and Japanese. He presently lives in the city of Zushi, Kanagawa, with his wife and eldest son. 

Updated August 2021

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Yoemon Shinmasu – My Grandfather’s Life in Seattle

Part 10 – Unfortunate death and sorrowful return home

In Part 9, I wrote about the Japanese Association that provided support for Yoemon and the days leading up to the opening of his hotel. In this part, I will write about how Yoemon came to his unfortunate end.

An unforeseen accident

It was Sunday morning, December 2, 1928. Yoemon left his home in New Central Hotel (map lower right) for a walk and to go and inspect his hotel in Occidental Street (map left). There were still a number of things to see in preparation for the hotel opening the next day. Around that time, Yoemon had been …

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community en ja

Yoemon Shinmasu – My Grandfather’s Life in Seattle

Part 9 – The Japanese Association and Yoemon’s final days

In Part 8, I wrote about the immigrants from Yamaguchi Prefecture, the process of sending money back to Japan, and the construction of Yoemon’s new house in Kamai. This time, I will write about the Japanese association (Nihonjinkai) that supported Yoemon in Seattle and the final days of his life.

Yoemon’s Support: The Japanese Association

In the background of Yoemon’s successful barber shop and his ability to jumpstart his hotel business in the foreign land of Seattle was the presence of a strong community created by the Japanese associations. The Seattle Japanese immigrants established a Japanese Association …

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Yoemon Shinmasu – My Grandfather’s Life in Seattle

Part 8 – Sending money home and a new house

In Part 7, I wrote about Yoemon Shinmasu’s venture into the hotel business. This time, I will write about Yoemon’s birthplace, Yamaguchi Prefecture, him sending money back home, and the construction of his new house in Kamai.

An Immigrant from Yamaguchi Prefecture

Yoemon’s home prefecture of Yamaguchi had one of the highest numbers of emigrants in Japan. According to the immigration statistics by prefecture in the Japanese Overseas Migration Museum’s archives, between 1885 and 1894 and between 1899 and 1972, there were 57,837 Japanese immigrants from Yamaguchi living abroad. Nationally, this ranked Yamaguchi as the prefecture with the fourth …

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Yoemon Shinmasu – My Grandfather’s Life in Seattle

Part 7 - Leap to the hotel business

In Part 6, I wrote about how Yoemon educated his eldest son, Atae, in Seattle. This part will focus on how Yoemon’s barbershop business led him to make a big leap forward in starting a hotel business.


From barbershop business to hotel business

After moving from Kamai, Yamaguchi Prefecture, to Seattle, Yoemon moved to Walla Walla and made his barbershop business a big success. For an even bigger leap, Yoemon was thinking about going back to Seattle and starting a hotel business as his next venture. Running a hotel was something that many Japanese people in Seattle dreamt of …

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Yoemon Shinmasu – My Grandfather’s Life in Seattle

Part 6 – Atae’s education

In Part 5, I wrote about the pinnacle of Yoemon’s barbershop business in Walla Walla. This time I will focus on Yoemon’s other challenge: Atae’s education.

Education for Nisei

Another big challenge for Yoemon, in addition to making his business a success, was giving an education to his eldest son, Atae. He gave his son the name “Atae,” taking one letter from his own name, Yoemon, with the meaning “give everything.” While leaving his two daughters in Japan, Yoemon called over Atae from Japan with a strong intention to have him educated in America. The way Yoemon devoted his …

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