By Shihou Sasaki
The North American Post
Frank Hori recalled days when he enjoyed soaking in the family bathtub in the 1930s in a farming valley along the Green River in Auburn, Wash. He sometimes heard train sounds, but mostly there was silence, unlike today’s constant vehicle noise from State Highway 18.
The Hori Furoba (bathhouse) at the historic Neely Mansion was restored this year after a long preservation project. The site is located in the back yard of the mansion, built in 1929 by Hori’s father Shigeichi for use after a long and hard day of labor.
“I liked the hot [water],” said Hori, who talked about his days helping with the laundry and enjoying relaxing in the bath.
Hori, now 89, lived in Neely Mansion from ages four to 10, experiencing farm life and daily activities like fishing in the Green River.
“We have a very good family story,” he said.
The restored building is 10′ x 16′ and divided into a laundry room and bathroom. Neely Mansion had no plumbing system at the time, but the Hori family built a water system into the bathhouse. The toilet flushed, just like a modern one.
The bathhouse may be bigger than other bathhouses built around this region by Japanese farmers. Cho Shimizu recalled his family bathhouse was smaller and simpler than the Hori Furoba during his youth in Fife, but his parents still enjoyed soaking in it every day.
“They did very good job on this preservation,” said Hori, whose family joined the dedication on June 25 and a reunion a week before. “This is exactly what I remembered except some of brand-new equipment.”
The dedication ceremony included a prayer by Rev. Koshin Ogui from White River Buddhist Temple in Auburn and cultural performances by the local Japanese community including taiko and minyo dance.
The Neely Mansion Association hopes that the bathhouse will be a cultural site recognizing the Japanese American community, which has roots in the valley area. Like other Nikkei farmers in the valley area, two former Nikkei families ran their daily life and farming operations from Neely Mansion from 1914 to 1936, including 15 years by the Fukuda family and seven years by the Hori family.
Both family histories are exhibited in Neely Mansion, which is on the National Register for Historic Places, the Washington Register for Historic Sites and is a designated King County Landmark.
Auburn City Council Member John Holman said that he enjoyed learning from the community in the area, including how to use chopsticks, how to make rice and how to count from one to five in Japanese.
“This is such a rich tapestry, not only our life is beautiful because of it but our life is stronger because of it,” he said. “This is the definition of our life. I have seen many different people growing together and sharing culture and food.”
The bathhouse site is open on Saturday during the summer season and also available by appointment. More information can be found at <www.neelymansion.org>.