Shinkichi Tajiri was born in Los Angeles in 1923. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, a Presidential “security” order sent him, along with all other American citizens of Japanese ancestry in California, to a remote internment camp for the duration of the war. Tajiri earned early release by volunteering for military service in Europe, where he was seriously wounded.
After studying at the Art Institute in Chicago, Tajiri returned to Europe in 1948. He taught in Germany before settling in the Netherlands. Knots are a recurring motif in his work, including this 1972 piece originally called Square Knot.
In 1981, the company developing the Weller Court mall in Little Tokyo purchased Square Knot, to fulfill the requirement for redevelopment projects in Downtown Los Angeles to include public art. Before installing it at the entrance to the mall, Tajiri and the committee in charge of public art in Little Tokyo decided to rename the work Friendship Knot as a symbol of “unity between two cultures.”