A solemn ceremony was held Saturday at the Japanese American National Museum, to work toward the completion of a roster listing over 120,000 Japanese Americans sent to concentration camps during World War II.
The 1,000-plus-page book, known as the Ireicho, is the first to compile in one volume the names of the 125,284 who were deemed “enemy aliens” by the United States after the attack on Pearl Harbor drew America into the war.
Former incarcerees and descendants of others who were in attendance acknowledged their experiences by marking with a hanko next to their family names. It is hoped that over the next year, community participation will rectify the historical record by correcting misspelled names or revealing names that may have been omitted from the record.
“Behind each name are family stories and cultural heritage. When we recall Japanese American names from all of the confinement sites, we enliven and remember individuals who had their human dignity erased by our government,” said Rev. Duncan Ryuken Williams, director of the USC Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture.
“This is not just an act of remembrance, but an act of repair,” he said.
Williams is the founder of the Irei project, which includes the book, addresses the erasure of the identities of individuals of Japanese ancestry who experienced wartime incarceration, and seeks to establish a website and light sculptures as monuments.
The Ireicho will be on display for one year at JANM, and reservations to view the book can be made at www.janm.org.
Construction of a replica of the iconic Ireito monument that stands in the camp cemetery at Manzanar National Historic Site is planned for JANM in 2025. That will be linked to other monuments installed at eight former incarceration sites.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the executive order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in February 1942, two months after Pearl Harbor, that authorized the U.S. military to evict residents in specific areas.
Photos by MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo