Groups join together to mark the Day of Exile on Vashon

On May 16, 1942, armed soldiers forced 111 Japanese American residentsof Vashon onto trucks outside Ober Park.

Several local organizations will present a Day of Exile commemoration at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, at Ober Park, marking the 82nd anniversary of a tragedy born of xenophobia and racism.

The Day of Exile commemorates May 16, 1942, when armed soldiers forced 111 Japanese American residents of Vashon-Maury Island onto trucks outside Ober Park. Their eviction came after President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the forced removal and incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry in the West Coast Exclusion Zone.

Following that senseless day came more trauma: Vashon’s Japanese American population was ultimately scattered into seven of nine West Coast concentration camps, shattering a once vibrant community. Only about a third of the population of Vashon who were forcibly removed returned to the island.

The commemoration on May 19 will be presented by Mukai Farm & Garden, Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust, Vashon Heritage Museum, Vashon Library, Vashon Park District, and Puget Sound Zen Center.

The program will begin outside, on the lawn of Vashon Park District’s building in the park, with a brief reflection by a Vashon resident, Dr. Joseph Okimoto, who was incarcerated at Poston Internment Camp. Also on the program will be recountings of the 1942 roundup written by three exiled Japanese American teenagers and read by Vashon youth. This will be followed by a traditional temple bell ceremony, facilitated by Koshin Cain of the Puget Sound Zen Center, to honor each of the exiled families.

After the commemoration, the public will be invited into Vashon Library for a presentation by Vashon artist Miya Sukune, who recently published the graphic novel “Searching for Saito,” featuring Rinzo Saito, a Japanese immigrant living in Seattle from 1912 to 1969.

A free PDF of the novel can be found at The Vashon Library will also feature a display of books related to the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

This event will kick off a year-long campaign to design and fabricate a permanent art installation at Ober Park to serve as a memorial marking Vashon’s Day of Exile.