Bainbridge Island, The Island That Inspired Snow Falling on Cedars

From Seattle’s busy waterfront along Alaskan Way, it’s only a forty-minute ferry ride across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island but it’s a voyage to another world and a slower time.

The island was the inspiration for David Guterson’s bestseller, Snow UnknownFalling on Cedars, called San Piedro Island in the book. Guterson makes his home on the island and used to teach school here. We hop off the boat in Winslow, a cozy seaside town located on Eagle Harbor. It’s a great place to explore on foot. For those who want to go further afield, bikes are available to rent between June 1st and the end of September right by the ferry terminal at Bike Barn rentals.

Winslow began as a timber and shipbuilding center and was, for a time, larger than Seattle. Today it’s a bedroom community for Seattle and the picturesque harbor, the trees, the greenery, and the misty hills give it just the right rich ambiance for romance and drama, like that in Snow Falling on Cedars, but it certainly isn’t “downtrodden and mildewed,” like Amity Harbor in in the book.

Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge Island, Washington
Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge Island, Washington

We wandered the charming shops on Winslow Way including Eagle Harbor Book Co. (where they’re happy to tell you about local authors), The Traveler and Bainbridge Arts and Crafts.  We ate a tasty lunch at Cafe Nola.

Yet, fans of Snow Falling on Cedars or anyone who wants to understand the history of the island will find the most satisfaction in exploring the island’s history so head to The Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.  Housed in a red 1908 schoolhouse, the museum tells the story of the island’s history, particularly the Japanese internment as it really played out on the island, the true story at the heart of Guterson’s book. BI-MUSEUM-Tjossem-1024x685After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans became the focus of suspicion, even though many were second-generation citizens. They were rounded up and sent into exile in military-style camps such as Heart Mountain  in Wyoming and Manzanar  in California.

It’s a half-hour bike ride or a ten-minute cab ride to the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, around the bay from the ferry landing. This is the site from which Japanese Americans were removed from their homes and sent to Seattle and then to internment camps on March 30, 1942.

For more on Seattle, see my previous post, All Is Not Grey in Seattle.

Read more: Seattle and Bainbridge Island are featured destinations in Off The Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs,and Girls on Getaways.

And, In Defense of Our Neighbors: The Walt and Milly Woodward Story, about how the publishers of Bainbridge Island’s community newspaper fought the internment of their Japanese neighbors.

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