On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, resulting in the forced removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans. They were charged with no crime. The cause of their imprisonment was their ancestry. Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton later identified the causes of WWII injustice as racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and failed leadership.
This February 2018, a new urban trail—the Japanese American Remembrance Trail—provides an opportunity to explore Seattle’s original Japantown from Pioneer Square to the Chinatown-International District to the Central District, visiting Japantown past and present, learning the personal stories of resilience, and exploring connections to today.
The trail has been developed by Seattle residents over the past year, with generous support from the Neighborhood Matching Fund from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. Project partners include the National Park Service and Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, along with Densho, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington, Keiro Northwest, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, NVC Foundation, Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority, and Aging and Disability Services. The initial trail route was tested last summer to great success, with pilot tours at full capacity. Participants reflected on personal stories, discussed current issues, and shared time outside, walking, enjoying the day and exploring another part of Seattle.
The trail includes over 40 sites, past and present. A printed map and project website includes information about each site. Three cultural institutions anchor the trail, including the Wing Luke Museum, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington, and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. In addition, the Wing Luke Museum offers neighborhood walking tours including sites along the trail.
The trail is full of powerful stories of individuals who inspire. One core part of the trail is called Hiro’s Walk, named after Hiro Nishimura, a WWII military veteran and a current resident of assisted living home Nikkei Manor, now in his 90s. He would take a walk in the neighborhood every day, making a loop to stop at all of his favorite, familiar places. To be so active and stay connected—hopefully it inspires all of us to head out, walk and do the same.
To learn more about the trail and explore it on your own, visit www.wingluke.org/japanese-american-remembrance-trail.
Contributor Cassie Chinn is the Deputy Executive Director of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.
Top Photo Credit: Alabastro Photography. Hirabayashi Place, at 442 S. Main Street, one of 40 sites on the Japanese American Remembrance Trail, includes artwork and historic displays about resistance efforts during the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.