KOBO at Higo - Part 1

Inside the store, photo by Dean Wong
Inside the store, photo by Dean Wong

KOBO (at Higo) is our second shop and gallery space, located in Seattle’s historic Japantown. KOBO, which means “studio” in Japanese, occupies the former home of Higo Variety Store, which was run by the Murakami family continuously for 75 years. My husband John Bisbee, an architect who has worked in Tokyo, New York and Seattle, and I realized a dream to expand KOBO on Capitol Hill into a larger space. Exhibits featuring art, craft and Japanese design are scheduled 6 times a year. KOBO (at Higo) maintains much of the flavor of the old variety store by utilizing its vintage fixtures, including 1930s glass cases unearthed from the Higo storeroom. Uncovered treasures include classic tin toys, an electric train set and antique cash registers, which are displayed in the refurbished space. A museum wall display and the “Meet Me at Higo” installation created by the Wing Luke Museum is also featured to tell the history of Higo Ten Cents Store in Japantown.  We want to continue to tell the story and to preserve the history that there were over 8,000 Japanese living in Seattle’s Japantown. Before the war years, it was a bustling and vibrant neighborhood. As families moved away, and the area experienced economic decline, there were only a handful of Japanese businesses by the 1970s that included Higo Variety Store, Sagamiya [the confectionary store], Uwajimaya and a few restaurants and flower shops. 

Place(s): Seattle, Tokyo, New York

– Binko Chiong-Bisbee

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant