The Crane Sculpture
A central feature of the Memorial is a sculpture by Nina A. Akamu. As a child Nina and her father would go fishing in Pearl Harbor where the rusting remains of ships destroyed in the Japanese attack could still be seen. She was aware of Pearl Harbor for another reason: her grandfather, Hisahiko Kokubo, an immigrant from Japan who had lived on the island of Kauai for more than 40 years, was among the first in Hawaii to be jailed by federal officials after the outbreak of war because of unsubstantiated suspicion of disloyalty. Kokubo was interned on Sand Island near Honolulu Harbor. Three months later he died of a heart attack, the first Japanese American in Hawaii to die in internment. "The death of my grandfather," Akamu said, "stripped of his civil liberties, is a powerful metaphor for the fragility of human freedoms."
With a height of 14 feet, the upper portions of the monument are visible above the confines of the Memorial wall, symbolic of rising beyond restrictions to freedom.
The base of the sculpture is rough cut from green Vermont marble which has a beautiful serpentine texture. The identical position of the bronze cranes represents the duality of the universe.
Their bodies are nestled side-by-side with their free wings pressed against each other, symbolizing both individual effort and and communal support, emphasizing interdependency.
Their right wings are held flush to the sides of the base by an incuse strand of barbed wire. The birds have grasped the wire in their beaks in an attempt to break free.
The sculpture is 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.