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).
ABOUT THE NAME
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.
MAKING OF THE MONUMENT
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.
GRATITUDE TO FUNDERS
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.