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James Dean
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A Tribute To James Dean
by Seita Ohnishi

His name was James Byron Dean. He was an actor. He died in an automobile accident just before sunset on September 30, 1955 at the intersection 800 meters east of this tree, which has long been called the "tree of heaven." He was only 24 years old.

Aside from appearing in several Broadway plays, he starred in just three motion pictures before he died: EAST OF EDEN, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and GIANT. Only one, EAST OF EDEN, had been released prior to his death. Yet, before he was in his grave, he was already a myth. With the subsequent release of the other two pictures, he became a legend.

It is a fitting tribute to his brilliance as an actor that his movies continue to be shown throughout the world even today. Everyday somewhere, in a cinema or on television, his image lives on, an inspiration to millions everywhere, young and old alike. His fame is international, his impact, historic. He was the brief, living manifestation of a new era, the persona on which a whole generation pinned its hopes for a better tomorrow. He was more than merely a movie star. He was, and remains, a symbol.

I am only one of many who feel strongly that James Dean should not be forgotten. There are some things, like the hatred that accompanies war, that are best forgotten. There are others, like the love inspired by this young actor, that should be preserved for all time.

Yet this monument is not intended to be merely a tribute to James Dean. It is also meant to be a reaffirmation of the value of all human life. That is why, in accordance with an old Japanese custom, this marker has been placed at the site of the accident that took his life, to serve both as a memorial to this young man I so admired and a reminder to all that life is a precious gift to be preserved at all costs.

Indebted to the guidance of his closest friend, William Bast, I have at long last been ableto realize my dream. Having transported this monument across the Pacific Ocean from Japan where it was designed and made, I have had it erected on this spot and dedicated on this day. For me, there is no greater happiness. It is but a small token of the appreciation I feel for all that I have learned from America.

To all Americans who have given to me this opportunity, I express my heartfelt thanks. Especially to the Hearst family, on whose land this monument stands, for their consent and undertstanding, and to the people of this area for their friendship and cooperation, I offer my deepest gratitude.

September 30, 1977
Seita Ohnishsi

Copyright © 1977 Seita Ohnishi

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