Eugene Japanese American Art Memorial


Memorial garden located in downtown Eugene, Oregon, near the site where Japanese Americans from the area were assembled prior to their World War II expulsion and incarceration. The Eugene Japanese American Art Memorial was dedicated on February 19, 2007, the 65th anniversary of Executive Order 9066.

The memorial has its roots in annual Days of Remembrance in the Eugene area that have taken place since 2000. Wanting a more permanent commemoration, the Eugene Japanese American Art Memorial Committee (EJAAMC) formed in 2003 and began planning and fundraising for a permanent memorial. The City of Eugene approved the use of a site at Willamette & 6th Avenue east of the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, a city-run complex that includes a concert hall, theater, and art gallery. A key milestone for the project was securing a $50,000 gift from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, a foundation run by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, funded by proceeds generated by the Spirit Mountain Casino, located in northwest Oregon. The matching grant spurred fundraising efforts, and the $100,000 required for the memorial was secured by 2006.

The 1,800 square foot memorial takes the form of a garden that includes a central sculpture, along with three stone pillars featuring art and text on the themes of "Justice," "Perseverance," and "Honor." Kenge Kobayashi, who was incarcerated at Tule Lake as a teenager, designed the memorial and did the paintings on the pillars. The "Justice" stone features a painting of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Min Yasui against a backdrop on the American flag and barbed wire, with text briefly profiling the men, with a focus on Yasui's story, given Yasui's Oregon roots. The "Perseverance" stone depicts a Japanese American family behind barbed wire with a guard tower in the background, with text that provides an overview of the exclusion, incarceration, and eventual reparations. The "Honor" stone shows a Nisei soldier against a backdrop of barbed wire and focuses on the story of Japanese Americans were served in the armed forces during World War II. The EJAAMC held a design contest for the sculpture, which was won by David Clemons. Clemon's bronze sculpture titled "Forced Journey" features a Japanese American girl sitting on a pile of suitcases and footlockers reaching out for a butterfly.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Calhoon, Martha. "Forced Journeys." Eugene Weekly, November 16, 2006. http://www.eugeneweekly.com/2006/11/16/coverstory.html.

Eugene Japanese American Art Memorial website. http://www.lesd.k12.or.us/tah/ejaam/.

Wright, Jeff. "Japanese-American Project Gets Boost." Eugene Register Guard, November 15, 2005, A1, A10. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1310&dat=20051115&id=ymtXAAAAIBAJ&sjid=jvADAAAAIBAJ&pg=6824,3599693.