Bainbridge Island is across Puget Sound from Seattle. It has several excellent tourist attractions. Ruth and I saw the best one, the 5 Compass Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, last Sunday. Our experience was enhanced by meeting Clarence and Kay.
Seeing this memorial requires a car because it’s not in Bainbridge Island’s only town, which is usually called Winslow. It’s on the other side of Eagle Harbor from it for a very good reason. In 1942 all of Bainbridge’s Japanese residents, 227 people of Japanese ancestry according to a sign at the memorial, were given 6 days notice that they would have to leave. They didn’t know where they were going but ended up in Manzanar, a military-style relocation center in California’s Owens Valley. This was one of ten such camps as far east as Arkansas that were established during World War II by Presidential order. The Bainbridge Nikkei, persons of Japanese descent, were the 1st to be incarcerated. Eventually, 120,000 were encamped in less-than-pleasant, often desert-like places. Two-thirds of the Bainbridge Nikkei were American citizens. They left from this side of Eagle Harbor in exactly this place under the State of Washington’s oldest and tallest cedar tree, which is such a landmark that it’s reportedly on the National Registry of Historic Trees.
Before being forced to leave, Japanese residents were scattered across Bainbridge Island. Many of them were strawberry farmers. Only 150 of them made it back in 1945. Kay, now 98, was one who eventually returned. I perhaps shouldn’t give her age, but she proudly told me what it was. Kay is a delight who also told me the story of her beloved Japanese grandmother who didn’t survive the bombing of Hiroshima. Kay said that she cried so much while touring Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial that she didn’t see much of it.
The Bainbridge memorial today is basically a curved wall of remembrance designed by John Paul Jones and some walkways. Clarence Moriwaki, the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial’s founder and past president, told me about future expansion plans, which are thrilling, but it’s already a site well-worth traveling to if you’re lucky enough to get to Bainbridge Island. I’ve been told that many visitors day-trip to Winslow after taking an Alaskan cruise. Few of them, however, get the opportunity to see this memorial that is exactly where it needs to be. Nidoto Nai Yoni–Let It Not Happen Again.
ps The Moji’s dog King, according to another sign, wanted to go with his master and jumped into the army truck. But pets were not allowed so King was left with a neighbor, stopped eating, and died.