On Wednesday, March 30th the Japan-America Society office staff took an excursion to Bainbridge Island to participate in the Commemoration of the 80th Anniversary of the Japanese American Exclusion Act organized by the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community (BIJAC) and the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association (BIJAEMA). March 30th marks the date that 272 Japanese Americans residents of Bainbridge Island were forced out of their homes and sent to internment camps 80 years ago. Our own Society’s Executive Director, Dale Watanabe, is a Japanese American sansei whose family had first-hand experience in the camps, so joining in the event gave us the opportunity to learn and connect more deeply with help from his stories.
The event was packed with community members and, fortunately, the skies were clearing up so we were able to appreciate the memorial wall along with the blooming cherry blossoms. We had the opportunity to hear from many amazing speakers such as Leonard Forsman, the chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, Carol Reitz, president of BIJAC, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, Woodward Middle School student speakers, and Frances Kitamoto Ikegami, one of the survivors who was taken to the camp when she was 5 years old. The event revolved around healing and ensuring that history was not lost through sharing stories from the community and camp survivors. The event also celebrated the strength and support from the Bainbridge Island residents to the Japanese American community that still continues to this day.
After hearing from the many speakers, the names of the Japanese Americans who were sent to the camps were read aloud. The names can be found on the BIJAEMA wall, which both preserves the dark history of the event as well as celebrates the Bainbridge Island community.
We also visited the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art to take a look at their current exhibition for the 80th anniversary by Jan and Chris Hopkins “Americans Incarcerated: A Family’s Story of Social Injustice”, which runs until June 12, 2022, as well as the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, which has documents from Paul Ohtaki recording the daily lives of people at the camps.
Please do check out the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, the exhibit at the Museum of Art, and BIJAC to continue supporting the community and ensuring a just future for the next generations!