South Sound Day of Remembrance at Washington State History Museum,
Tacoma, WA – On May 17 and 18, 1942, Japanese in Tacoma were assembled at Union Station for removal to government-established prison camps. The action was in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, which led to President Franklin Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066, authorizing the exclusion of 125,326 individuals of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. To commemorate the impact of this event and the lives of those affected, the Washington State History Museum is hosting its eighth annual South Sound Day of Remembrance on Thursday, May 18, featuring free programming and activities for guests of all ages.
“The focus of this year’s event is youth, arts and remembrance,” said Tamiko Nimura, who is a creative nonfiction writer, public historian, and Affiliate Professor of Urban Studies at UW Tacoma. “Though all ages are always welcome, this year we invite the youth of our community to come and create art, and to learn about the art that’s been created by Japanese American descendants of WWII incarcerees as a way to process this painful chapter of our history.”
The museum is currently showcasing two exhibitions that highlight the impact of EO9066. The first exhibition, “Remembrance: The Legacy of Executive Order 9066,” is a permanent exhibit that delves into the effects of the incarceration on JAs in Washington State through firsthand accounts and family belongings. The second exhibition, “Resilience — A Sansei Sense of Legacy,” is a traveling exhibit that runs through July 7. It features eight Sansei (third generation) JA contemporary artists whose work reflects the intergenerational impact of the incarceration (napost.com, Feb. 2023).
A variety of creative activities will be available to help May 18 visitors connect. One such activity is printing their own “Daruma” poster on a letterpress, provided by our partner, Write 253. Daruma are a prominent symbol of perseverance and luck in Japanese culture.
For younger guests, a coloring table will feature Daruma artwork from Washington-based JA artist Marie Okuma Johnston. In addition, volunteers will teach visitors how to fold origami paper cranes and Daruma figures.
Two California-based artists whose work is featured in Resilience, Na Omi Judy Shintani and Reiko Fujii, will also be in attendance to screen their short documentary about their shared connection to EO 9066, “Sansei Granddaughters’ Journey” (2020, 28 min.). Following the screening, Nimura will lead a question-and-answer session with the artists, providing an opportunity to engage with the artists and to learn more about their inspirations and creative processes.
As part of the museum’s annual commemoration, Nimura will lead a procession from the museum to Union Station next door. Participants will gather in the Remembrance exhibit where the first 25 people will receive a complimentary handmade ceramic cup, courtesy of local artist Teruko Nimura. From Remembrance, participants will proceed to Union Station, the departure site for over 700 people of Japanese ancestry who were forced to board trains headed to prison camps throughout the West. The procession serves as a reminder of Tacoma’s connection to EO9066 and pays tribute to those who were impacted by this event.
The event will conclude with a “Scholarly Selection” lecture presented by UW Tacoma. The lecture will preview the digital exhibition, “Tacoma Japantown,” presented by Nimura and a panel consisting of technical lead Sarah Pyle and research assistant Chris Beyer. This interactive project is dedicated to telling the story of Tacoma’s historic Japantown and the community’s vibrant life before its decline in the 1940s. This project features extensive research from Tamiko Nimura, Lisa Hoffman, Mary Hanneman and Michael Sullivan, making it a valuable historic resource on Japanese communities.