On March 30, 1942, U.S. soldiers escorted more than 275 people of Japanese descent from Bainbridge Island, their home, to ferries waiting to ship them off to internment camps. These local people were the first of what soon became more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were removed from their homes on the West Coast.
In one of the photos from that sad day, Bill Takemoto, a child then, was one of the first to board the ferry that day. He recently reminisced and, when asked why Seattle was the first, he suggested: “It was because there was military on the island and a military base on land, and they thought we would sabotage it or something.”
This Saturday (Aug. 6), Bainbridge will become a deeper part of the healing that has taken place in the nearly 70 years since. The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association will host the dedication ceremony of the new eight-acre internment memorial: Nidoto Nai Yoni — Let It Not Happen Again.
The memorial, designed by Jones & Jones architectural firm, has been in the works for 11 years, with the first and most significant piece of the site, the wall, recently completed. A description by Jones & Jones says that: “The designer’s intent is that visitors will gain a deeper appreciation for the fear, isolation, confusion, shame, anger and loss that Americans of Japanese ancestry felt.” A series of boardwalks and paths meander through the native forests and wetlands leading to the memorial wall, which stretches 277 feet — signifying the 277 Japanese Americans forced to internment that day — down the path to the dock.
Clarence Moriwaki, a board member of Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association and the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community (BIJAC), says that this wall and the dedication ceremony are important because they “give the survivors something.” The memorial wall displays artwork, quotes, and most importantly, the names of those deported from Bainbridge Island. BIJAC is also planning to build an interpretive visitors center, a contemplative garden, and a recreated 150-foot pier (each foot will represent every Japanese American who came back to Bainbridge after the evacuation), but these projects are not yet fully funded. In 2008, President George W. Bush officially signed a bill making the Bainbridge Island Nidoto Nai Yoni a satellite unit of the Minidoka National Historic Site. The memorial also hosts a 100-year-old western red cedar, which was listed by American Forests’ site National Register of Historic Trees in 2003 as a “living witness to history.”
Takemoto says he believes that the memorial is “something that is meant to [help us] never forget what [can] happen.” He went on to say, “I would just like to see people realize the injustice of the evacuation.” Out of those who were deported on March 30, fewer than 100 are still alive and many will be attending the dedication ceremony. Moriwaki says the ceremony is meant to represent three ideals: healing, honor, and history. Jones & Jones wants the memorial to communicate a “history that dishonored the nation, but to which the community responded with courage and resilience, with layers of symbolism.”
Moriwaki also says, “This is not a memorial about guilt or shame, there is plenty of that to go around; this is a memorial hoping to make sure that this will not happen again.” Takemoto concluded a conversation about his experience: “I don’t really know how to say it, I just don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”
If you go: The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial dedication ceremony is 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday (Aug. 6). Parking is extremely limited (directions can be found on a pdf at the bottom of this BIJAC web page). A free shuttle bus for walk-on ferry passengers (from the 8:45 a.m. sailing from Seattle) will leave the Winslow ferry terminal at 9:25 a.m. A shuttle service will also pick up park–and–ride passengers at 9:35 a.m. at Bethany Lutheran Church, at the intersection of High School Road and Sportsman Club Road, 7968 Finch Road NE. Return service to the park–and–ride lot and the ferry terminal begins at 11:30 a.m. Additional details are here.