North American Post and Nikkei West Feature Juneau’s NPS Grant

Additional committee members Alice Tanaka Hikido and Mary Tanaka Abo.

Wow! We got the grant!
Empty Chair Committee Members Alice Tanaka Hikido and Mary Tanaka Abo

North American Post, a newspaper published since 1902 in Seattle’s International District, featured Karleen Grummett’s press release regarding our NPS grant award on its front page recently. The newspaper contains articles in both English and Japanese and covers items of interest to Nikkei in the Pacific Northwest.

In addition, the San Jose Japanese newspaper Nikkei West featured the Confinement Sites Grant Program awards on its front page. Since the grant’s recipients were listed in alphabetical order according to state, we were the first ones mentioned. So now the Empty Chair is in the news in California, Washington, and Alaska! Here is Karleen’s article in the North American Post:

“National Park Service Grant Recognizes Nikkei in Alaska

A memorial project in Juneau, Ala., for Seattle-connected Japanese, Japanese Americans and Japanese Tlingits who were incarcerated during World War II was recently granted $80,000 through the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Sites program. It will be the first of its kind in Alaska.

Called the Empty Chair Project, the memorial is based on the story of a Japanese American student slated to be class valedictorian who could not attend his graduation because a troop transport took the entire community of Japanese people out of Juneau, Ala., in April of 1942. The student was honored by a black, wooden chair standing empty in the high school gym during the ensuing graduation ceremony.

The bronze memorial, designed by Seattle Artist Peter Riequam, represents a wood, slatted chair one and a half times actual size and indicative of the era. Names of all those incarcerated will be etched into the bronze planks beneath that signify the gym floor and that also feature Japanese symbols for remembrance and a narrative text of the memorial’s history and purpose. The chair symbolizes all those who were exiled and the Juneau community that refuses to forget them.

This NPS grant and private donations will also finance related educational resources. Members of the project are consulting with the Sonoji Saiko Intermediate School on Bainbridge Island, the Wing Luke Asian Museum, DENSHO and the Japanese American Citizens League about school curriculums.

Many Juneau Nikkei live or have lived in the Puget Sound area including the families of Sam Kito, Sr., Kiichi Akagi, Hikohachi Fukuyama, Katsutaro Komatsubara, Shonosuke Tanaka, Takao Mori, Haruo Kumasaka and Sam and Gim Taguchi. Several were recently interviewed for the development of typed oral transcripts and a planned documentary about the evacuation for incorporation into the educational component for schools, libraries and museums.

Scheduled for completion in July 2014, the memorial will be located in a park next to the former Juneau High School where the 1942 graduation took place. The Empty Chair Committee, made up of former Juneau classmates, hopes that the project will be another teaching tool for justice.

A website for the Empty Chair Project has been established at”.


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