National Monument for the WWII Japanese American Incarceration

The Irei: National Monument for the WWII Japanese American Incarceration is a multi-faceted project that seeks to address the attempted erasure of those individuals of Japanese ancestry who experienced wartime incarceration by memorializing their names.

This is the first time a comprehensive list of the over 125,000 persons of Japanese ancestry who were unjustly imprisoned in U.S. Army, Department of Justice, and War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps has been successfully compiled - and thus the first time it has been possible to properly memorialize each incarceree as distinct individuals instead of a generalized community. By placing their names front and center, the Irei National Monument Project seeks to expand and re-envision what a monument is through three distinct, but interlinking elements: a sacred book of names as monument (Ireichō), a website monument (Ireizō), and light sculpture monuments (Ireihi).

"We are drawing on Japanese and Japanese American cultural traditions of honoring elders and ancestors, not simply through building monuments of remembrance, but monuments to repair the racial karma of America."
Duncan Ryūken Williams
Irei Monument Director/
Soto Zen Buddhist priest/
USC Shinso Ito Center Director
Irei chō
The Book of Names
The idea of a book as a monument is inspired by the Japanese tradition of Kakochō (literally, "The Book of the Past"), a book of names typically placed on a Buddhist temple altar. This book is brought out for memorial services, when the names of those to be remembered are chanted. Following a ceremonial installation of the book on September 24, 2022 at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), the Ireichō monument will be on display at the museum for a year. The public is invited to view and acknowledge the names in the Ireichō by placing a Japanese hanko (stamp) underneath the name of each individual in the book. If the goal of honoring the 125,000+ names is not reached by the end of the year-long campaign, the Ireichō may be displayed at other locations until every single individual is acknowledged.
The Online Archive
The Ireizō is an interactive and searchable website monument, hosted by the USC Shinso Ito Center, that will serve as an online archive of all of the people listed in the sacred book. On it, additional information about each name can be viewed such as the camps where they were incarcerated, revealing aspects of their lives that extend far beyond their names. Full rosters of all 75 internment or concentration camps will also be provided. A beta version of the Ireizō website - - will be released in September 2022, with a full launch forthcoming in spring 2023. In the fall of 2023, we will be partnering with Densho to pair each name with photographs, camp newspapers, and other WWII-era materials from their vast digital holdings.
Irei hi
The Light Sculpture
The Ireihi unites traditional Japanese cultural notions of memorial monuments with cutting-edge technology to create a light installation memorial that will display all the names from the project. Engineered by a creative team of artists and designers, and coordinated in partnership with the Japanese American Confinement Sites Consortium, these light installation memorials will be on display at Amache, Jerome, Heart Mountain, Manzanar, Minidoka, Poston, Rohwer, and Tule Lake starting in 2024. In 2025, JANM will unveil an Ireihi sculpture that replicates the dimensions of the Manzanar Ireitō as part of its relaunch of its core permanent exhibit.

The name of the project—Irei: National Monument for the WWII Japanese American Incarceration—was inspired by the Ireitō, a monument built by incarcerees at the Manzanar concentration camp to remember those who had died while incarcerated. The Ireitō was formally dedicated by Reverend Shinjo Nagatomi, whose calligraphy I-REI-TO (Consoling Spirits Tower) reflects his belief that reciting the names of the departed and chanting sutras in front of the tower would bring comfort to the spirits of the departed and those left behind.

The Irei Monument includes over 125,000 names compiled by a team of researchers led by project director Duncan Ryuken Williams and produced under the guidance of the project's creative director Sunyoung Lee together with a team of artists and designers.

The Ireichō book monument's production team included Book designers: Jon Sueda and Chris Hamamoto, Text designer: Berton Hasebe, Data designers: Chez Bryan Ong and Eric Ong, Calligrapher: Shumyo Kojima, Bookbinder: John DeMerritt, Ceramicist: John Hasegawa. The compilation of the names involved the assistance of nearly a hundred individuals. They cannot all be listed here, but the key personnel who spent thousands of hours transcribing, researching, and editing the names include: Frederick D. Kakinami Cloyd, Jesse Hendler, Karen Kano, Skye Oyama, Shoichi Shingu, Yukari Swanson, and Mikoto Yoshida. Major institutional collaborators included Densho (especially Geoff Froh and Dana Hoshide), the Japanese American National Museum, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i, the Manzanar National Historic Site (especially Patricia Biggs), and the New Mexico JACL (especially Shelley Takeuchi). Individuals with whom we collaborated and from whom we adapted previously produced camp rosters include Grant Din, Russell Endo, Saara Kekki, Dennis Neumann, Hayley Johnson/Sarah Simms, and Priscilla Wegars.

The Ireizō production team is led by Chez Bryan Ong. The Ireihi production team is led by Akiko Yamashita.

Funding for the making of the Irei Monuments has come primarily from the Mellon Foundation and the USC Ito Center. The initiative to enhance the Ireizō through a collaboration with Densho is supplemented by support from the Japanese American Confinement Sites (JACS) Grant Program.