BIJAC History - Bainbridge Island Nikkei since WWII

In 1952 the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community organized itself into an official "club" with a main purpose of sponsoring social activities and providing community support. Picnics and potlucks were organized over the years to help maintain connections within the community for those living both on and off the island. As the Issei passed on and the Nisei and Sansei got involved in other activities, the group slowly became less active.

In the 70s Junkoh Harui, Frank Kitamoto, Don Nakata, Ron Nakata, and John Sakai, realizing the importance of preserving their heritage, started an oral history project. For years they were met with resistance. Many wished to forget the past and were shy about sharing their feelings and experiences of that time. Several things happened during the next few decades that turned this sentiment around. The Woodwards, who always felt they were just doing their job by reporting all sides of every story, started to receive many awards in recognition of their unique stance against exclusion during the war. With each ceremony and speech given, more and more people started to reflect on how the Woodwards affected their lives. In the early 80s producers John de Graaf and Cris Anderson started to record interviews of Island Issei and Nisei in preparation for their PBS documentary Visible Target. Once people started sharing their stories they found it both healing and rewarding to leave part of their history for future generations. In 1995 David Guterson's book Snow Falling on Cedars, whose main character was based roughly on Walt Woodward, brought the story of Japanese exclusion and internment to the mainstream. In the 1990s the naming of two Bainbridge Island schools, Woodward Middle School and Sakai Intermediate School, showed the importance this Island felt in remembering and preserving the events of World War Two.

Today the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community is dedicated to preserving its history and the lessons learned when fear overcomes the importance of constitutional rights and prejudice blinds people from seeing others as individuals.


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