It started with a dream and $1,200 in a shoebox.
The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial marks the place where 227 Japanese Americans were taken from their homes and relocated to an internment camp almost a thousand miles away. They were the first of thousands of Japanese Americans to undergo this ordeal that resulted from racial prejudices that were intensified after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in WW||. What happened to these people was truly horrific and this place could have very easily been developed into something that would erase the uncomfortable memory of what happened here 75 years ago. However, because of the persistence of Clarence Moriwaki and the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community, this site elegantly shares the story of those who were victimized through Executive Order 9066.
The memorial simultaneously evokes feelings of sorrow and celebration as you walk along the wall, with all of the names and ages of the Bainbridge Island Japanese Americans that were relocated. Beautiful hand-done carvings with accompanying quotes capture the range of emotions that were swirling in the hearts of those affected. Two traditional Japanese arches mark the beginning and the end of the memorial space, which is decorated with tiny paper cranes made by visitors and hung from the wall and arches. Eventually, the hope is to rebuild the dock over the bay where the ship was boarded by those evacuated.
Hearing the story of this place first-hand from Clarence was a true gift. Learning about the site’s rich history and creation process brought a deeper meaning to where we had just spent the morning pulling blackberry. Every element–from the location, to the pathways, to the memorial wall itself–has been intentionally designed to communicate the level of care that the community has for this place and the memories it holds. I feel very fortunate to visit this amazing site, and I encourage everybody to head out there and see a real dream come true.
BY MATTIE POWELL