Filed Under Bainbridge Island

Japanese Exclusion Memorial

"Nidoto Nai Yoni" - Let it not happen again.

It has been said we create memorials, so we never forget, and monuments so we always remember. The Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial provides its visitors a means of never forgetting the incomprehensible experiences of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast during World War II. It simultaneously recognizes the importance of remembering that citizens' freedom and rights are worth fighting for in America regardless of the foreign foe.

It is essential to examine the Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorials history by focusing on the events leading to the Internment Decision, the Exclusion of the Japanese, and the impact on residents of Bainbridge Island. These factors influenced the desire to create the Memorial, its support, and the eventual design. It is a unique Northwest site of memory compared to other Japanese Memorials in the United States.

The attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 led to a nationwide anti-Japanese fervor in the United States that culminated in the Internment of over 120,000 Nikkei in several concentration camps inland of the West Coast. This act was legally sanctioned by Executive Order 9066.

Bainbridge Island, a small island eight miles from Seattle by boat, was an interracial rural community where 272 Japanese lived and worked in harmony with their neighbors. On March 30, 1942, given only six days advance notice, 227 residents of the island became the first Japanese-Americans to be removed from their homes. They were force-marched down the path leading to the Eagledale Ferry dock guarded by US soldiers, where they boarded the vessel for Seattle and an unknown destination. Eventually, 12,892 Washington residents found themselves relocated to concentration camps. Over time, the term for these camps has been softened to "internment camps" or "relocation camps" to avoid direct correlation with Holocaust concentration camps. Still, the phrase at the time was "concentration camps." Most of the Bainbridge Island Japanese would remain in camps until the end of the war, and many of the younger Nissei men would serve in the United States Army in Europe. Of the 272 Japanese-Americans who left Bainbridge Island, only 150 would eventually return. The injustice of incarcerating citizens for unfounded security fears would not bring an apology or reparations by the government until 1988.

Before their expulsion, Japanese-Americans had been an integral part of the Bainbridge Island community and were generally welcome in coming back. The Bainbridge Review, a local paper, was one of the only publications on the west coast that objected to the exclusion and reported updates on life in the camps. However, despite help from local friends who had remained, many had to start over when they returned to the island. The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community (BIJAC) was founded after the war to assist those returning and new residents.
In 1988, directly after the passing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 by the United States Congress, the BIJAC partnered with the Bainbridge Island/North Kitsap Interfaith Council (Interface Council) to form the Bainbridge Island WWII Nikkei Internment and Exclusion Memorial Committee. This committee led fundraising efforts and partners with local politicians to receive federal funds for the project allowing it to proceed with partnership from the City of Bainbridge Island.

The first Memorial, a simple stone with an information plaque, was dedicated in 2002. Later that year, the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Memorial Study Act was passed into law, and progress resulted in the groundbreaking dedication in 2006. In 2008, the site received Federal Status and officially connected to the Minidoka National Historic Site in Idaho.

The Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial has multiple sections planned in phases on the road once leading to the former Eagledale Ferry Dock site. Building the Memorial along the same path and same space where the Nikkei boarded the ferry off the island creates a link to the past that visitors to the site can envision. This experience also aligns with famous photos taken as the Nikkei walked to the ferry (Figure 1) that further "evokes the day of departure." The official vision is as follows:
The vision is for a memorial area that is evocative and contemplative with the power to instruct future generations about the injustices of the past and the fragility of assumed rights. Perhaps most importantly, the Memorial will commemorate and honor the strength and perseverance of the people involved and celebrates the capacity of human beings to heal, forgive and care for one another.

Local Native-American artist Jonpaul Jones was the designer of the Memorial. Jones has been honored nationally for "honoring the natural world and indigenous traditions" and designed the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. Growing up in Oklahoma as a member of the Choctaw reservation brought a personal connection to the exclusion that influenced his design. "I'm an American-Indian, and I understand being sent away from your homeland." His design incorporates the area's landscape while combining Japanese and Pacific Northwest materials and building styles spaced over five acres of land.

Of the completed portions of the Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial, the "story wall" is the most prominent feature and is meant to be the most thought-provoking. It intends to "convey a feeling of belonging, stability, and quiet strength…[and also to] convey a sense of slow and steady movement". Visitors move quickly to the wall past the information pavilion and solemnly walk down the path, reading the names and contemplating the friezes. Dozens of paper cranes hang from the wall as symbols of peace and add a living connection to the past. The Memorial can be uncomfortable to view as it poses the greatest generation in a way seldom seen. Depicted is an inherently bad light of racism and reactionary policies justified by "a means to an end." The monument captures the event while providing information on anti-Japanese bias after Pearl Harbor but does not go into great detail on racism or life in the camps. However, politicians and interned Nikkei pressed to ensure all visitors understand the focus on "Nidoto Nai Yoni." At the dedication ceremony, local politician Jay Inslee (and eventual state governor) alluded to this with "We don't sit in judgment of the past but in inspiration of the future."

Compared to other Japanese-American memorials to World War II, the Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial links most directly to the location and individuals. Its existence proves the desire of the Pacific Northwest Community to learn from its past. Monuments are not history, but the Memorial urges us to "feel" history and tie the past to the present and the future through specific victim imagery and comfortable Northwest styling.

With remembrance, there is also a notion of guilt by creating the Memorial and paying community reparation for the mistreatment of Japanese-Americans on the very site where it occurred. The Bainbridge Review, along with others in the community, fought specifically against racial bias that attempted to prevent the return of the Nikkei to the island. The Review's owners, Bob and Milly Woodward, hosted heated community forums on the Japanese. They fought for the rights of their friends as American citizens regardless of their nationality.

A specific effort acts as evidence connecting the Japanese-Americans that were an integral part of the local schools, businesses, and social community before the exclusion and after the war. One frieze depicts a Japanese boy in a Bainbridge High School baseball uniform. It is an attempt to show the Japanese were "just like us," playing baseball for the local high school they attended with local [and as] residents. This example helps the viewer embrace the sense of guilt and disgrace to exclude "good citizens."

Sharing the local history of Bainbridge Island, the Memorial's creation, the direct design decisions, and the reaction to the monument creates an understanding of why the monument exists. It will be a supported part of Bainbridge Island for years to come. The motto "Let it Not Happen Again" is intended never to forget what happened to Japanese Americans in World War II. It is also a promise by a community always to remember.

(edited by Laura Bailey)

Images

Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial A portion of the wall with a depiction of a Japanese farmer in the fields on the memorial. Source: Gerald Butler Creator: Gerald Butler Date: 2021
Japanese American families leaving Bainbridge Island, March 30, 1942 Japanese and Japanese-American families walking the original path to the Eagledale Ferry Dock. They walked to the waiting ferry for relocation from Bainbridge Island to an unknown location on March 30, 1942. Source: Staff Photographer. “Japanese American Families Leaving Bainbridge Island, March 30, 1942.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection (Image Number PI28055), Museum of History & Industry
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Creator: Museum of History & Industry, Seattle (MOHAI) Date: 03/30/1942
The Path to the Past Current path to old Eagledale Ferry Dock which now holds the Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial wall. Source: Gerald Butler Creator: Gerald Butler Date: 2021
Site of Old Eagledale Ferry Dock Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial dock construction is near completion at the site of the old Eagledale Ferry Dock. Source: Gerald Butler Creator: Gerald Butler Date: 2021
Entrance Information Pavilion The pavilion was the first building built for the Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial. Source: Gerald Butler Creator: Gerald Butler Date: 2021
Names of Japanese and Japanese-Americans Forcibly Removed (1) Names of individuals, organized by family name, that were forced to leave in 1942 on the Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial. Source: Gerald Butler Creator: Gerald Butler Date: 2021
Names of Japanese and Japanese-Americans Forcibly Removed (2) Names of individuals, organized by family name, that were forced to leave in 1942 on the Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial. Source: Gerald Butler Creator: Gerald Butler Date: 2021
A Face of Exile One of the stone murals placed along the wall of the Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial. Source: Gerald Butler Creator: Gerald Butler Date: 2021
Local Baseball Player Forced to Leave One of the stone murals placed along the wall of the Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial. Source: Gerald Butler Creator: Gerald Butler Date: 2021
Japanese-American and Japanese families in 1942 with present Memorial Black and white photo of Japanese-American and Japanese families leaving Bainbridge Island in 1942 merged with color photo of present Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial. Source:

Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association (BIJAEMA). “Image of Japanese American Families in 1942 with Present Memorial.” Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, n.d.
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Creator: Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association (BIJAEMA) Date: n.d.
Blueprints of Exclusion Departure Deck Finalized and approved copy of blueprints for the Exclusion Departure Deck that was approved for a building permit in April 2020. Source: Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community. “Construction of the Exclusion Departure Deck Begins.” BIJAC, November 23, 2020.
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Creator: Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association (BIJAEMA) Date: 04/2020

Location

4195 Eagle Harbor Dr NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

Metadata

National Park Service, Bainbridge Island Japanese Exclusion Memorial, part of the Minidoka National Historic Site (accessed September 2021).
Gerald Butler, “Japanese Exclusion Memorial,” Global World War II Monuments, accessed July 24, 2024, https://worldwariimonuments.org/items/show/4.