(WICHITA, Kan.) – Kansas recalls hundreds of road signs on the streets containing the "JAP" sign in the wake of…
(WICHITA, Kan.) – Kansas recalls hundreds of road signs on the streets containing the “JAP” sign in the wake of complaints that it is an ethnic oppression against Japanese Americans.
The Kansas Department of Revenue said there are 731 active registrations that contain the random letter combination on standard plates. Vehicle owners were sent a letter dated Tuesday and asked them to return the sign to their county office within 30 days for compensation at no charge. Tiles that are not replaced within that period will be identified in the state system and will be replaced by their annual renewal.
The issue arose last year when Keith Kawamoto saw a car with the Kansas sign in traffic near his home in Culver City, California, and took a photo of it. The 70-year-old California man wrote several letters to Kansas officials, including Gov. Jeff Colyer.
“I let them know that it is considered a very depressing race and I do not think it will be allowed somewhere,” Kawamoto said.
He received an apology from the State of Motor Vehicle, but Kawamoto wanted Kansas to get back the plates.
Kawamoto’s photo of the Kansas sign was first published by the Pacific Ocean citizen, the Japanese newspaper American Citizens League.
When Barbara Johnson, a 67-year-old Japanese woman living in Abilene, Kansas, discovered the circuit board, Kawamoto had read and read the story in the Pacific, it took back memories of her childhood.
“It was not a good time to be Japanese because of Pearl Harbor and World War II,” she said. “I remember living like a child called Jap, and how it made me feel so little and hurt by being called it.”
Johnson knew that the signpost was not a vanity trap and said she thought maybe Kansas officials “just do not know what it means anymore since it was World War II, a couple of generations ago.”
Together with her husband Rick, the Kansas couple saw maybe they could do what Kawamoto had not been able to do last year from California: get the discs recalled and off the road.
“It was very pleasing to know that there is someone in the government who was willing to hear our side of history and to recognize it and to act proactively as quickly as it did,” said Rick Johnson.
The Riksdag’s spokesman for the Kansas Department of Revenue said that the issue came to the departmental board, which took the decision at the end of October to draw some current license plates with “JAP” letters and limit use in future plates.
“We take these types of complaints very seriously and appreciate it being noted,” said Whitten.