Audio tours now at BI’s Japanese American Exclusion Memorial

If you haven’t been to the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial recently, there’s a new way to experience the Bainbridge Island park through an audio tour.

The voices of those who experienced the exclusion are featured on the audio tour hosted by the National Park Service. It allows visitors to learn how 120,000 Japanese Americans were banished from their West Coast homes and placed in concentration camps during World War II.

The idea came to Chris Mueller, former executive director of Visit Bainbridge Island, after touring the memorial with middle school students with City Councilmember Clarence Moriwaki as their guide. “He brought it to life with the stories and little vignettes of what it was like for them to be taken from their home and sent away and what it was like in the camps. After hearing all these personal stories, I wanted to learn more.”

Carol Reitz, president of the BI Japanese American Community, said: “With this tour and technology, we may help visitors better understand this memorial through first-hand survivor accounts when they tour the memorial.”

The 60-minute audio tour was made possible through a grant from the Port of Seattle and funding from local donors and community partners. BI parks, BI historical museum, BI museum of art, and the NPS regional office were instrumental in finding audio interviews and materials.

Through recorded interviews, visitors can listen to survivors talk about the memorial, describe how families were “rounded-up” and lived in the camps around the country. Frank Kitamoto described the origins of the memorial project, Gerald “Jerry” Nakata talked about growing up on BI; and Victor Takamoto shared his memory of arriving at Camp in Manzanar, eating lima beans that he disliked and living through dust storms.

Everything about the audio tour is personal, even the narrator, Shannon Dowling, a BI resident and voice-over actress, who wanted to be part of the project to honor her family that was interned in the camps. “My mother lived in the Los Angeles area during WWII and was first taken to the Santa Anita racetrack to be housed with her mother and four siblings in a horse stall,” Dowling said.

The tour includes 16 stops with an onscreen map that follows a path from the entrance to the pavilion, along the memorial wall to the deportation deck and back. The tour is available for download for free through the NPS website and app at