Tomorrow (Sunday) at 2 pm, you’re invited to the Delridge Library to hear Mas Tahara talk about the Tengu Fishing Club, in the next Southwest Stories presentation from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. Here’s the SWSHS announcemen:
The “Tengu Fishing Club” was founded by one of several Japanese-American tackle shops that had been established in downtown Seattle. One particular shop started a salmon fishing competition, later called the “Tengu Fishing Club,” around 1936 or 1937.
Fishing competitions like this were common at the time, but the Japanese-American population was not welcomed during the typical salmon fishing season during warmer weather (spring or summer). They began their own tradition, with the distinct difference of welcoming any participants, regardless of their ethnic background or gender. Held during the cold winter months of November through January, each weekend of the competition would document who had caught the largest fish, and the ultimate winner was chosen at the end of the 12-week period.
There was a notable interruption to the Derby’s history when, beginning on December 7, 1941, the national intolerance toward Japanese-Americans (and even naturalized American citizens of Japanese descent) was severely heightened, leading to the internment order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942.
The fishing derby resumed in November of 1946, one year after the war had ended, and has continued in Seattle (with periodic closures due to fishing moratoria) ever since. In the past most of the fishermen and women launched their crafts from a structure known as the Seacrest Boathouse, at the present location of Marination Ma Kai on Harbor Avenue in West Seattle, which, now rebuilt, is still known by the same name. Today many of the participants launch from the Don Armeni Park Boat Ramp.
What is a “Tengu”?
The “Tengu” are mythical folkloric creatures from all over Japan. They were thought to have the power to create the wind out of nowhere. Sometimes good and sometimes bad, these supernatural beings take a human form that can also change, sometimes depicted with dog-like characteristics and sometimes taking an avian form. Common features include a red face, golden eyes, and a prominent, protruding nose. The fishing club took this name partly because of the unpredictable nature of Tengu, and also because the enlarged nose is like a “boast” or “exaggeration” that can sometimes be associated with a “fish tale.”
About Mas Tahara
Masaru (Mas) Tahara is a longtime Seattle resident and former University of Washington microbiology researcher who was born in Japan in 1936. Mr. Tahara moved to Seattle in 1955, originally to attend school, and met his future wife while attending a vocational training school based on the G.I. Bill where they were both attending. This happy union changed his plans, and he ended up staying in the US and making his life here. Having chaired the Tengu Fishing Club for over 40 years, in 2015 Mas Tahara wrote and self-published a book on his experiences, “Tengu – Tales Told by Fishermen & Women of The Tengu Club of Seattle.”
Please come and hear Mr. Tahara as he is interviewed about his amazing fish-tales on Sunday, December 16, 2018 from 2 pm to 4 pm at the Delridge Library.
The library is at 5423 Delridge Way SW. Admission is free – first come, first served.