By David Yamaguchi, The North American Post
New, interactive children’s booklets have been completed for families visiting two linked National Park Service sites, the Bainbridge Japanese- American Exclusion Memorial and Minidoka National Historic Site. The Bainbridge booklet is just in time for spring weekend family day trips.
While at first not seeming like “front page news,” the booklets matter because they are for widespread public use by the parks—they are web-downloadable—and because of what they represent. The booklets document serious effort on the part of the United States government to educate the next generation of young students about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Until now, an often-heard refrain has been, “Why wasn’t this important chapter of US history covered in school?” The answer is that it takes a long time for a subject to get from papers published in academic journals, to books, to websites, to newspapers, and to become common knowledge among adults. To build public parks that interested people can see with their own eyes also takes decades. The last step—to make the topic accessible to schoolchildren—is similarly difficult, for suitable teaching materials have to be developed.
One source of the funding used to develop the Bainbridge booklet is also notable. The booklet was supported in part by the Kip Tokuda Civil Liberties Program, established by the Washington State Legislature to educate the public regarding the history and lessons of the WWII exclusion, removal, and detention of persons of Japanese ancestry (2014; RCW 28A.300.405).
In comparing the complementary Junior Ranger booklets for the Bainbridge and Minidoka sites, that for Bainbridge is richer in drawings of the displaced people.
In fact, the NAP reader will find that the Bainbridge art has a familiar, “manga” look to it that many young readers will like. It is because it is the work of JCCCW‘s Arisa Nakamura, who draws the “Shin-Issei Journey” comic for this newspaper.
This is not to say that the Minidoka book lacks charms of its own. For example, it uses a maze to make the point that the residents would get lost between the many rows of identical barracks. The maze’s endpoint is the baseball field, a place that made people feel better, and gave them hope.
Both booklets are a step in the right direction of engaging young readers on either armchair or actual trips to the two National Park Service sites. The booklets may be obtained, along with those for other parks, by typing “junior ranger” into the search box at:
Minidoka National Historic Site