Harry Sotaro Kawabe


Name Harry Sotaro Kawabe
Born June 10 1890
Died November 1 1969
Generational Identifier

Issei

Pioneering Issei businessman in Alaska. Born in Maibara, Japan, Harry Sotaro Kawabe (1890–1969) migrated to Seattle as a teenager in 1905, learning English and eventually operating a hotel and café. He journeyed to Alaska in 1909, initially as a cook, eventually settling in Seward where he built a thriving laundry business that served the railroad and steamship industries. This led to string of other businesses including restaurants, a gift shop, hardware store, and real estate ventures that made him one of the region's most prominent figures.

With the outbreak of World War II, Kawabe was among the Japanese American community leaders arrested and detained, to be held eventually at an internment camp at Fort Richardson, Alaska. After the war, he decided against returning to Alaska, settling in Seattle where he worked in real estate and established an import/export business. He returned to Seward in 1965 to form the Japanese and American Development Company of Alaska, an attempt to develop natural resources in Alaska for Japanese consumption.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Inouye, Ronald K. "Harry Sotaro Kawabe: Issei Businessman of Seward and Seattle." Alaska History 5 (Spring 1990): 35–43.

Ringsmuth, Katherine. "Service Unexcelled: A Tribute to Harry Kawabe." Kenai Fjords National Park website.

Russell, Chas. "Alaska—His Labor of Love." Rafu Shimpo, December 18, 1967, II-13, 22.