The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community (BIJAC) honors the heritage of the Issei (first–generation Japanese) who came to the United States, and particularly to Bainbridge Island, to make a new life for themselves and their children. We hope to promote a better understanding of the diversity of our nation by sharing their history, customs, and values.

Fumiko Hayashida and daughter Kayo await the ferry during evacuation,  March 30, 1942

BIJAC is dedicated to preserving and sharing an accurate historical record through oral histories and educational outreach programs.

A principal focus for BIJAC has been the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, which honors those forced to leave their homes during World War II. The Memorial is the product of the efforts of local, county, state, and federal governments, as well as many, many individuals who have donated their time, money and energy toward its completion. Today the Memorial is a unit of the Minidoka National Historic Site, part of the National Parks Service.

BIJAC’s other projects include our annual Mochi Tsuki celebration–one of the largest community events held on Bainbridge Island–and a bi-annual BYOB (Bring You Own Bento) summer picnic that brings together old friends and new. Each year at our March 30th Commemoration we gather with guest speakers and members of the community at the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial to reflect on the first forced removal and exile of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. All events are open to the public.

Survivors bearing golden shovels

Survivors bearing golden shovels break ground for new Exclusion Memorial Departure Deck–February 19th, 2018

Other ongoing BIJAC programs include an oral history project, a photo exhibit, and the Milly and Walt Woodward Fund. The traveling photo exhibit, Kodomo no Tame Ni (“For the Sake of the Children”) is an educational outreach photo display shared locally and off-Island, and Woodward Fund promotes the values of acceptance, understanding and respect of civil rights for all. The Woodward Fund is named to honor the former editors of the Bainbridge Review who consistently opposed the exclusion of Japanese Americans in the 1940s.

NPS Intern at Memorial

National Park Service intern Madeline Vinh leads tour at Exclusion Memorial

BIJAC has supported authors of a number of books chronicling the story of the Japanese Americans of Bainbridge Island, as well as the filming of documentaries, and even the development of an educational video game. We currently collaborate with numerous organizations throughout the community who share our mission.

Our meetings, which are held on the first Wednesday of each month from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., are currently hosted via Zoom. Check our homepage under Events for more information. Annual membership is $20.

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Photo Information:

(TOP LEFT) Fumiko Hayashida on Day of Forced Removal — Fumiko Hayashida and her one year old daughter Kayo wait at the Eagledale Ferry Dock in Bainbridge Island, WA for the arrival of the ferry Kelohken to take them to Seattle during evacuation to the Manzanar Assembly Center in California. March 30, 1942. — Copyright: Library of Congress.

(MIDDLE RIGHT) Survivors at Departure Deck Groundbreaking — Survivors bearing golden shovels break ground for the new Exclusion Departure Deck. (l-r): Reiko Kino Nishida, Lilly Kitamoto Kodama, Shinchi Tonooka, Yasuko Hayashida Mito, Tomi Hayashida Egashira, Junji Yukawa, Eiko Suyematsu Shibayama, Hisa Hayashida Matsudaira, Island Visitor, Frances Kitamoto Ikegami, Hiro Hayashida.

(BOTTOM LEFT) NPS Intern Leads Tour of Memorial — Intern Madeline Vinh assisted the NPS by interacting with visitors and Junior Rangers at the Memorial in Jul-Aug 2019 — Photo courtesy of Kevin Mahe, NPS.

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