The Forced Removal & Resettlement of Juneau’s Japanese Community, 1941-1951

City Museum Postcard 001

On June 2, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum opened its anticipated Empty Chair exhibit focusing on the Juneau Japanese people who were forcibly removed and incarcerated in 1942 at Minidoka Internment Camp, Idaho. The collective reflections include information about each family’s life before, during and after confinement. The eight featured families, who consented to share their experiences, include those of Kiichi (Henry) Akagi, Hikohachi Fukuyama, Torao (Bob) Kanazawa, Haruo (Ham) Kumasaka, Saburo (Sam) Kito, Katsutaro (Slicker) Komatsubara, Sam and Gim Taguchi and Shonosuke Tanaka.

The exhibit’s posters tell each family’s story with accompanying photographs, documents and letters, lending gravity to the displays. Their stories recall how friendships with people in Juneau helped them hold onto hope and build new lives again upon their release. Also showcased are crafted items made at Minidoka from available materials such as wood or onion sacks and local historical artifacts like a laundry bag from the Juneau Laundry when it was owned by the Fukuyama family.

Juneau artist Fumi Matsumoto created seven mixed media pieces depicting the physical and emotional isolation of the camps adding an underlying emotional element to the exhibit. (View some of these pieces that were featured earlier in this blog by scrolling down a few paces.)

A station giving directions and materials for making cranes, a symbol of peace, are offered to all visitors. Also in the exhibit, a suitcase filled with cranes contributes an element of color and hope to an otherwise somber and thoughtful reflection on this regrettable portion of American history.

The museum is the site of a public reception the day of the Empty Chair Memorial Dedication on July 12, 2014, from noon to 5pm. Their Empty Chair exhibit will run through October 26, 2014.

Please visit and add your crane to the mix!

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