Kuni Wada Bakery Remembrance

Kuni Wada Bakery Remembrance is part of the semi-permanent exhibition “Interactions/Interruptions: Ten Years of Public Art in Memphis” that opened in January 2008 on Madison Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, and serves as a smell-based memorial to a forgotten bakery.

On December 9, 1941 in a paroxysm of fear and anger after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Memphis placed German families under house arrest and the few families of Japanese origin in jail. Among the Japanese families rounded up were the Kawais and the Nakajimas, joint owners of the Kuni Wada Bakery at 1310 Madison Avenue. That same day the bakery was shut down with policemen guarding the building, and the Kawais’ and Nakajimas’ assets seized by the Federal Reserve Bank. The bakery is long since gone and Jones Tool Service is the building’s current occupant.

The Kuni Wada Bakery Remembrance is an olfactory-based memorial installed next to the site of the old bakery, located directly opposite the Cleveland Station trolley stop in Memphis, Tennessee.  During the morning and evening hours an unobtrusive device emits the smell of baked cookies and doughnuts into the air.  Upon searching for the bakery producing this smell, one instead finds a utility box with a simple plaque that serves as the only acknowledgement to the Kawai and Nakajima families and their bakery. Inherent in Kuni Wada Bakery Remembrance is the affirmation of the strong linkage between smell and memory.

Neither the Kawais nor the Nakajimas ever returned to Memphis.

By acting in this fit of xenophobia Memphis lost not only active, contributing members of society, but they lost a bakery. The Kuni Wada Bakery Remembrance attempts to uncover this forgotten trauma, and place it within the context of larger current dialogues of healing and reconciliation within the Memphis Community.