Irei is the National Monument for the WWII Japanese American Incarceration

/ May 5, 2024

Irei: National Monument for the WWII Japanese American Incarceration is a multi-faceted project to address the erasure of the identities of individuals of Japanese ancestry who experienced wartime incarceration and to expand the concept of what a monument is, through interlinking elements: a sacred book of names as a monument (Ireichō), and a website as a monument (Ireizō).


The Ireichō Book of Names contains the first comprehensive listing of over 125,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, most of them American citizens and one third of them children, who were incarcerated in War Relocation “camps”, prisons carved out of America’s most unwanted, desolate deserts throughout the west and as far east as Oklahoma. “Ireichō” is translated into ‘record of consoling ancestors’.

Ireichō Book of Names

The inspiration for the Ireichō comes from the Japanese tradition of Kakochō (literally, “The Book of the Past”), a book of names usually placed on a Buddhist temple altar. This book is brought out for memorial services, when the names of those to be remembered are chanted.

The book is the end product of a project funded by the Mellon Foundation and led by Duncan Ryuken Williams, professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and Religion at USC and director of the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture, and Project Creative Director, Sunypung Lee.

Internees’ names are listed by birth year. The stamping of names (the stamp is known as a hanko) allows the recognition of the presence of each internee. Each name can be stamped and validated as a recognized person within a camp. The toddlers and babies who were incarcerated during WWII are now in their 80’s, if they are still alive. In their absence, many descendants have made the trip to the Ireichō Book of Names in Los Angeles to recognize and honor their family members.

Stamping of the Ireichō requires a reservation. Each group or individual may stamp a total of up to six names per reservation. You do not have to be a former incarceree, a relative, or a descendant of a former incarceree to stamp the book.

Applying for a reservation requires the names, dates of birth, and camp location (if known) for the people you are stamping so the Japanese American National Museum personnel can prepare for your visit. People can visit the Ireichō without stamping, just to take in the immensity of seeing how large a book it takes to list 125,000+ names.

The original plan was to have the book travel throughout the United States. Then, it has been acknowledged that the Book of Names is sacred enough to not subject it to the possibility of damage by packing/unpacking and unnecessary handling. However: with the passage of time and many people making the trip to the Book of Names, the decision to keep the book in Los Angeles was re-considered and the latest plan is to take the book around the country after December 2024, with the ultimate goal to have every name stamped._

Stamp added to Ireichō Book of Names

When people first started to stamp names, they were asked to touch only the name to be stamped. However loved ones cried over names, kissed names, touched names with love, compassion and honor. It became clear that the Ireichō is a living monument to honor the more than 125,000 people incarcerated by their own country. Now the book has pages wrinkled by tears, kisses and touches and has taken a life of its own, holding silent stories of tragedy, love and hope for future generations.

Go to Stamping Instructions for information on how to make a reservation to stamp the Ireichō book.


The Ireizō lists those names online at Visitors can search for the person’s name by name, birth year, or camp.

More information: Japanese American National Museum –

Listen to this 6-minute recording aired by NPR, about a couple, now in their 80’s who visited the Ireichō to see their names and the names of their family members.