$4 million sought for new memorial visitor center

The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association has launched a campaign to raise $4 million for a new visitor center at the historic site of the Eagledale ferry dock.

BIJAEMA executive director Ellen Sato Faust said, “This endeavor marks the final phase in the more than two-decade-long journey of grassroots community support, dedicated to honoring the history of the Japanese Americans of Bainbridge Island.

The memorial serves as a testament to their sacrifice and resilience.”

The 1,545-square-foot visitor center will include an interpretive center with restrooms, an outdoor amphitheater, and a paved plaza enhancing accessibility for visitors. It will help educate the public about the first group of Japanese Americans forcibly removed from their homes and incarcerated in concentration camps during World War II.

The center’s design was created by National Humanities Medal recipient Johnpaul Jones from Jones and Jones Architects of Seattle, who previously designed the Memorial Wall and Departure Deck.

The project has received more than $2 million in funding from private donors, grants and awards from local and national agencies for construction to begin in early 2024.

Reflecting on the memorial, BIJAEMA board member Lilly Kitamoto Kodama, who was 7 years old when her family was forcibly uprooted, expressed her amazement.

“When I first moved back to the island in retirement and heard about this project, I was very skeptical. What they were proposing cost millions of dollars that our small Japanese-American community did not have. Today I look around and marvel at what has been achieved through the efforts of the community and support from grants and government agencies.”

The visitor center will further educate people about human and Constitutional rights, so that the memorial’s motto, Nidoto Nai Yoni, “Let It Not Happen Again,” can be made perpetually relevant to future generations.

Visit bijaema.org to contribute to the campaign.