Vancouver Parks and Recreation is hosting an event at 7 p.m. July 15 at Nikkei Park to celebrate its renaming, which the Vancouver City Council officially adopted in September 2021. Alton Takiyama-Chung will share traditional Japanese tales and local groups will perform.
A park’s title is typically a default of what its neighboring developments are. Nikkei Park’s previous placeholder name, North Image, was derived from North Image Elementary, which was loosely named after Lewis and Clark, Williams said.
The duo’s record is well-documented and inescapable in the region — a story that doesn’t need further retelling. Renaming the park to acknowledge the unjust incarceration of its past residents seemed more valuable, she said.
Todd Yuzuriha, a committee member and third-generation Japanese American, said it’s vital for a community to remember the past — even if it is painful.
“People from every cultural background can be thankful for the hard work and sacrifices made by previous generations to make our lives better,” he said. “I am thankful for the previous generations of my family.”
Yuzuriha’s grandparents immigrated from Japan more than 100 years ago. His paternal grandparents were forced from their home in Portland and imprisoned at Minidoka, an internment camp in Idaho, and his mother’s side of the family was moved from their farm in Wapato to Heart Mountain, Wyo. However, it wasn’t until Yuzuriha was older that he learned about what his grandparents faced at the encampments.
“(My grandparents) definitely did not want to talk about it,” he added. “They just wanted to put that behind them.”
During their imprisonment, Yuzuriha’s grandparents and other internees would play swing music to transport their minds outside the gated perimeter. Yuzuriha, his wife and children were founding members of the Minidoka Swing Band, established in 2007, to honor this resilient spirit. They will be performing at Nikkei Park’s renaming ceremony on July 15.
Vancouver’s Japanese American truck farmers
The small farms dedicated to harvesting strawberries, cabbages, and other produce were scattered around the area. Goods were sold in corner stores and markets throughout the county, making the farms central to the community’s food source. By 1930, 47 percent of Clark County truck farmers were Japanese American, a population that was upended during World War II, according to city staff.
Following attacks on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order in 1942 to move West Coast residents who were perceived as security threats to internment camps. Internees were allowed to return home in 1945, with the last being released in 1946.
Clark County was not exempt from the nationwide forcible removal of Japanese American residents. They were required to abide by curfews and travel restrictions, had their homes raided and were placed in internment camps. There were 19 recorded Japanese American households in Clark County in 1940. Only one family returned after being released from their imprisonment.
Nikkei Park’s name is meant to remember those who succumbed to this discrimination while honoring their legacy and impact in the region.
Vancouver Park and Recreation is continuing its push to modify the city’s process of naming parks to represent the community’s diversity. It is currently conducting community outreach to select a name for an anticipated park in the Rose Village neighborhood.
“There is so much ground to be unearthed,” Williams said. “This is just the start of the process.”