Memorial to Japanese-American Patriotism in World War II
Memorial to Japanese-American Patriotism in World War II
Artist Nina Akamu
Year 2000 (2000)
Type Bronze
Dimensions 1,083.9 cm (426.72 in)
Location Washington, D.C., United States

38°53′40.28″N 77°0′37.76″W / 38.8945222°N 77.0104889°W / 38.8945222; -77.0104889

The Memorial to Japanese-American Patriotism in World War II is a memorial and monument designed by Davis Buckley and Japanese American artist Nina Akamu. The work is located at Louisiana Avenue and D Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C.. The memorial commemorates Japanese American war involvement, veterans and patriotism during World War II, as well as those held in Japanese American internment camps.[1]



The memorial consists of two Japanese cranes caught in barbed wire on top of a tall pedestal made of green Vermont marble. Standing amongst a landscaped plaza, a semi-circular granite wall curves around the sculpture. The wall features inscriptions of the names of World War II battles that Japanese Americans fought in, as well as the names of the ten internment camps where over 100,000 Japanese Americans were placed. There are also two panels that feature the names of Japanese Americans who died fighting in World War II and inscribed writings by Japanese American writers such as Bill Hosokawa.[1][2]


Acquisition & creation

The concept for the monument began with the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation in 1988. Approval for the construction of the memorial and sculpture was passed by a federal statute on October 24, 1992.[1]

Sculptor Nina Akamu traveled to the National Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin where she spent time studying and sketching what would form into the centerpiece of the memorial.[3]


Rising above the rest of the memorial the cranes are visible from beyond the memorial walls, which celebrates the ability to rise beyond limitations. Their postures reflect one another - one wing pointing upwards, the other downwards, mirroring each other they represent the duality of the universe. Pressing their bodies against one another and seeming to hold onto the barbed wire the birds show individual effort to escape restraint with the need for communal support and interdependency on one another.[4]

According to the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation the memorial: symbolic not only of the Japanese American experience, but of the extrication of anyone from deeply painful and restrictive circumstances. It reminds us of the battles we've fought to overcome our ignorance and prejudice and the meaning of an integrated culture, once pained and torn, now healed and unified. Finally, the monument presents the Japanese American experience as a symbol for all peoples.[4]

Veterans honored

The memorial honors Japanese American veterans who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd RCT, Military Intelligence Service and other units.[4]


Then United States Attorney General Janet Reno spoke at the dedication where she shared a letter from President Bill Clinton stating:

We are diminished when any American is targeted unfairly because of his or her heritage. This memorial and the internment sites are powerful reminders that stereotyping, discrimination, hatred and racism have no place in this country.[3]

Nina Akamu

Born in Midwest City, Oklahoma, Akamu lived in Hawaii and East Asia as a child due to her father serving in the Air Force. At the age of 10 her family moved to Japan, where her passion for horseback riding was instilled (which would eventually lead to a passion for sculpting horses). In 1969 her family was transferred back to the United States, moving to Dover, Delaware, where Akamu graduated high school. She received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1977, however, she found her passion for sculpture the final year of her education.[5]

Akamu trained under American painter Joseph Sheppard in Florence, Italy in the late 1970s. After furthering her painting skills and knowledge she moved into sculpture full time, becoming a member of the National Sculpture Society in 1981. Moving to Pietrasanta, Italy in 1984, Akamu proceeded to expand on her skills and catalog of sculpture work.[5]

Returning to the United States after 12 years in Italy, she eventually moved to Beacon, New York to work on a full-scale sculpture of Leonardo's horse, which became her most notable work to date, dedicating the piece in Milan, Italy and the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan.[5]

Currently living in Rhinebeck, New York, Amaku serves as Vice President of the National Sculpture Society. The cranes and memorial she created was awarded the Henry Hering Award by the National Sculpture Society in 2002.[5]

Connection to the memorial

Amaku's grandfather, on her mother's side, was arrested in Hawaii during the internment program. He was sent to a relocation camp on Sand Island in Pearl Harbor. Suffering from diabetes upon his internment, he died of a heart attack three months into his imprisonment. This family connection, combined with growing up for a time in Hawaii where she fished with her father at Pearl Harbor and the erection of a Japanese American war memorial near her home in Massa, Italy, inspired a strong connection to the memorial and its creation.[6]

Further reading

  • Moeller Jr., G. Martin. AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C.. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 4th ed., 2006. ISBN 0801884683.
  • Pencak, William A. Encyclopedia of the Veteran in America: Volume 1. Greenwood, 2009. ISBN 0313340099 - Features the memorial and others dedicated to the American veteran.

External links


  1. ^ a b c Smithsonian (2001). "National Japanese American Memorial, (sculpture).". Inventory staff. Smithsonian.!siartinventories&uri=full=3100001~!351342~!0#focus. Retrieved 14 Feb 2011. 
  2. ^ Bill Gallo (2008). "Champion of Japanese culture - and dignity". Local News. Rocky Mountain News. Retrieved 15 Feb 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Goode, John Washington Sculpture. The John Hopkins University Press, 2008, p. 16.
  4. ^ a b c "Japanese Crane Monument". Visit the Memorial. National Japanese American Memorial Foundation. 2009. Retrieved 15 Feb 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d Nina Amaku (2007). "Biography". Studio Equus, et al.. Retrieved 15 Feb 2011. 
  6. ^ Nina Amaku (2007). "The National Japanese American Memorial, "Golden Cranes"". Public Sculpture. Studio Equus, et al.. Retrieved 15 Feb 2011. 

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