This community hall was constructed in 1963 as an accessory to the Seattle Buddhist Church (c. 1940; Seattle Landmark). The design for both the original church building and this accessory building are attributed to A.K. Arai. Richard O. Parker is the architect of record, with Arai as associate architect. In addition to its significance as a Japanese community institution, the building is an example of the adaptation of traditional Japanese architectural style to contemporary American building techniques and modern form. Japanese immigrants began to arrive in Seattle in the late 19th century. Gradually the Japanese developed their own community enclave adjacent to Chinatown. The business center of Nihonmachi, or “Japan town,” was centered at South Main Street near Fifth Avenue and the community extended eastward to 12th Avenue. Just prior to the advent of World War II, the Yesler Terrace housing project was begun. The project, and the subsequent relocation of the Japanese community to internment camps in 1942, effectively destroyed the core of the Japanese commercial district.
The Seattle Buddhist Church building was constructed in 1940 to replace the original building that was condemned for the development of the Yesler Terrace housing project. This accessory community hall, which is connected to the sanctuary building by a short, single story enclosed corridor, was designed to include classrooms, a chapel and a nokotsudo (columbarium). It was dedicated in honor of the 700th anniversary of the passing of Shinran Shonin, the founder of Shin Buddhism. The design of the building was the final executed work by A.K. Arai before his death in 1966. Kichio Allen Arai was the first Asian American to graduate from the Architecture program at the University of Washington. Arai went on to receive his Masters in Architecture from Harvard University, and he is known for his contributions to the design of numerous buildings associated with the Japanese community in the Pacific Northwest.