Friday, August 15, 2014

The Kitayama Story


This past week, Maya, Grace and I visited Bainbridge Island which is the “homestead” of the Kitayama Family.  We went to visit Auntie Yo and my cousins to show my girls where the Kitayamas came from.  For those who have never been to Bainbridge, you have to take a ferry out of Seattle across Puget Sound on a 30-minute ride.  Bainbridge was once a sleepy little island where the main industry was strawberries.  Today it is an expensive bedroom community for Seattle with incredible water scenery to match our Sunset Beach.  


Around the early 1920’s, Grandma and Grandpa Kitayama rented a greenhouse on the south part of Bainbridge Island to raised tomatoes, potted plants and 6 children.  It was there that the boys started their love of growing.  It was a tough life but they managed to support themselves until Dec 7 1941 and Pearl Harbor Day.   

Here is a photo of the farm today which the girls visited, it’s just a field.

And here is a photo when the family was there just prior to WWII.


On March 30 1942, Japanese Americans on Bainbridge were ordered by the US government to be ready for “relocation”.   They were the first group relocated in the USA because of the proximity to Bremerton Naval yards across the sound.   

The Kitayama family was part of this group which was marched onto a ferry to be taken away; not really knowing what their future held while being escorted by armed US soldiers.  They were taken by ferry, bus and train to Manzanar, a camp located in east California, not far from Death Valley. 


Maya, Grace and I visited the recently opened Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial on the site of the ferry dock which took the Bainbridge Japanese Americans away.  

Just like most of my parent’s generation, we didn’t hear much about their experiences and they didn’t bear grudges. They dealt with the circumstances and went on to make huge contributions to their communities, industries and a good future for their families.


The message at the memorial is, Nidoto Nai Yoni, translated as "Let It Not Happen Again". 
The lesson I hope my girls learned from their grandfather, grand aunts and uncles...when bad things do happen, how you adapt is most important.