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Friday, April 2, 2010

Nidoto Nai Yoni

On March 30th., 1942, 276 Japanese-Americans were forced to leave their Bainbridge Island homes. From the former Eagledale ferry landing on the south side of Eagle Harbor, they left with only what could be worn or carried, not knowing their destination or future. On March 30th. of this year, sixty-eight years later, my friend Gigi and I joined a gathering on that very spot, to celebrate the completion of a beautiful stone and cedar wall. It is a wall 276 feet long that curves in gentle waves, designed and built to honour those 276 bewildered souls by some wonderful folks, including neighbour and pal, John Buday. As you can see, it's a breath-taking, unique Pacific-Northwest piece of art...such a gift to the heart and soul of Bainbridge Island, where folks had a newspaper that was the only publication to speak-out about the injustice at the time, where good neighbours tried to help good neighbours in the face of Executive Order 9066.

I was covered in goosebumps, only few of them from the chilly air, to be walking on this piece of ground, on this date and most especially, to be hearing and reading personal stories of just a few of the 150 who made it back to Bainbridge. In the future there is to be a pier built, 150 feet long, that will reach reverently into the harbor, with gratitude for each son or daughter returned home. Some Elders who came on Tuesday were in the Nikkei 276. I met this delightful woman, Lily, who was seven years old at the time...and who anticipated the journey with excitement as an exotic holiday! She explained how special it was then just to get a ride on the ferry, nevermind a long train-ride. Kids will be kids; Lily smiled as she remembered fighting over who got to sleep in an upper bunk. She cracked us all up (in that dark humour way) when she told us, upon reaching Manzanar, she questioned loudly, "What kind of vacation is THIS!!"

Let this give you some idea of the lightness of Tuesday's gathering though, mark my words, one certainly felt a deep and quiet taking-in of the Wall's teaching also. It invited, by its gentle shaping, the hearts of us Pacific-Northwesterners to walk alongside the length of waves. Origami cranes and slips of paper with written thoughts flew in the breeze from black hooks, as we were led to the plaque on a stone at the wall's end amid new plantings of beautiful black grass. As the designers and builders thought, this indeed is a place of remembrance, healing and hope.

Friend and neighbour, Jan Buday, invited me to put a poem I had written about her mother Mayme (nearly seventy years to get her college diploma because of EO 9066) on a piece of origami paper. She then very patiently taught my overly-excited fingers to fold it into a crane, to be hung on the wall. Mayme and I are each others' biggest fans; she loves my music and I love everything about this most tenacious, intelligent, inspiring Elder of my community. It was an honour to honour her and to be included in the joy and appreciation of the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Exclusion Memorial Wall completion.

My friend Gigi's face shone with her emotions as she hung her rainbow string of cranes to the wall and shared wonderful conversations just up the hill, on the site of a future interpretive centre. Up there we filled-up on stories, with a side-order of cookies! Everywhere people introduced themselves and each other, with a warmth that should have brought a jealous sun out. There was, on this crisp Spring day, a real sensing of both the beauty and fragility of freedom. Nidoto Nai Yoni...Let It Not Happen Again.

For more information on future plans for this memorial, please go to

First two photos by Dale Goodvin, second two by Gigi Saunders, and the last is by Jan Buday.


Mizu Sugimura said...

A lovely article. Clearly well thought and with empathy.
I felt as if I were there myself! Bravo!

Lorraine Hart said...

I wish you had been with us Mizu! Maybe in the future, you and I will be able to go to the Interpretive Centre together.

You know, Tweed is now interested in doing portraits of the Elders!

Lorraine Hart said...

PS Mizu, I would like to thank you for being the first to teach me of this history, right here in our own neighbourhood blog.

Gigi said...

Hi Lorraine, As always it's wonderful to get together with you and it was an honor to go to this memorial dedication with you! Thanks for inviting me! Meeting Lilly was incredible as well; what a lovely woman and hearing her story first hand was an added bonus!


JosephMcG said...

I really enjoyed reading this beautiful story of another time that I hope we shall remember these painful times so that we shall never permit our beloved country to hurt anyone who lives here again.

Stephanie Frieze said...

Thank you for taking me there, Lorraine. Until I read Snow Falling on Cedars I was unaware exactly what had happened to Bainbridge's Japanese American community. I am glad that this wall has been built and plan make a trip there.

Lorraine Hart said...

I ask for my friends' forgiveness for not crediting pictures...leaky brain sometimes!