September 8, 2015
By Fumika Iwasaki
The North American Post
The 11th annual Minidoka Pilgrimage was held from June 25 to June 28, and I joined the event as a scholarship recipient of the committee. On the four-day tour, about 200 participants had the chance to visit Minidoka National Historic Site, a former Japanese American incarceration camp site, and to hear stories from those who were incarcerated, researchers and activists.
This year marked the 70th anniversary of the ending of World War II. People who can share firsthand experiences of incarceration are aging, and their number has been decreasing every year.
In this pilgrimage, the great majority of pilgrims were in their 70s or 80s and actually experienced World War II or in their 40s or 50s with parents or relatives who were incarcerated. Meanwhile, about 10% of participants were younger than 30.
Youth had a chance to gather in a session on the second day and discuss and share their thoughts on the pilgrimage, reasons to participate in the pilgrimage this year and how to preserve the history for the next generation.
Preserving history is not easy.
“My grandmother and grandfather were incarcerated, but they did not want to talk about it,” one said, while others added, “My grandmother and grandfather already passed away so I cannot hear about it.”
In Japan, there are usually few chances to learn about Japanese American history. But surprisingly, I also realized that pilgrimage participants told me that some American text books cover Japanese American history in only half a page.
This pilgrimage has significant meaning because youth can visit a historic site and hear about experiences and research of the Japanese American incarceration.
“They had only one room per family, so they had no privacy except in the bathroom,” one speaker said in the legacy session of the pilgrimage program.
Their housing situation was extremely bad as they suffered from dust because of cracks in the floors of the barracks. As all pilgrims experienced, the summer is hot and heavy snows comes in the winter.
But through this tour, I also learned about efforts to make incarceration camps active and livable. As Kay Sakai Nakao said, “Through the negatives, a lot of positives happened,” the Nikkei in the incarceration camp lived with more than sadness. The documentary shown in the educational session shared stories of their making furniture and toys for Christmas.
“Near my house, there still remained a custom that older people took care of younger people, so older people made toys for me,” said Kanji Sahara.
In the warehouse site at the Minidoka National Historical Site, a National Park Service guide said, “From the second year of incarceration, people exchanged food amongst themselves to eat more varieties of food.”
Still, the historic and unjust experiences cannot be changed.
“Some people were put in jail without proper process,” said Harriet Miyasato Beleal. “We have so many civil rights.”
When Japanese people who live in Japan hear about compulsory interment during World War II, they might think of concentration camps such as Auschwitz. For Japanese Americans however, there were no compulsory labor or genocide, but they were forced to leave their homes, and some of them were sent to jail unconditionally. Regardless of homeland or race, to prevent racial discrimination like compulsory internment, we have to learn about history as a problem of human rights.
“We are looking for Sansei and Yonsei to tell the story we heard this pilgrimage,” said Don Shimono, a Minidoka Pilgrimage committee member.
It depends on the next generation to keep the history of incarceration in people’s memories. As one of them, I have been questioning myself after this pilgrimage.
July 24, 2015
Here are links to various sites where pictures from the 2015 Minidoka Pilgrimage have been posted!
Feel free to browse and use for your own personal usage but if you wish to use pictures for commercial purposes please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
March 10, 2015
Contact: Debbie Kashino
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Seattle NVC Foundation To Show Emmy Award Winning Documentary “The Legacy of Heart Mountain” with ABC7’s Los Angeles Eyewitness News Anchor David Ono at the Seattle NVC Hall on March 15, 2015
SEATTLE, WA – There have been many documentaries produced about the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII but none that truly captures the essence of internment in one complete package. In 1942, over 1,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were sent from the Yakima Valley in the State of Washington to the Portland Assembly Center and then onto their final destination of the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp in Wyoming.
This new hour long Emmy Award winning documentary “The Legacy of Heart Mountain” was co-produced by 19 time Emmy Award and 4 time Edward R. Murrow Award winner David Ono, co-anchor for ABC7’s Eyewitness News newscasts at 4 PM and 6 PM in Los Angeles in addition to co-anchoring the station’s new prime time newscast at 8 PM as a joint venture with KDOC-TV Channel 56, and Jeff MacIntyre, a 11 time Emmy Award winner and producer / owner of Content Media Group in Southern California.
At the heart of the film are striking photos taken between 1943-45 from inside the Heart Mountain camp by George and Frank C. Hirahara, who were from the Yakima Valley. The family, once a part of the vibrant Yakima Valley Japanese community with Japanese centers in Yakima and Wapato, a Buddhist and Methodist Church as well as a Japanese Language School, and farms spreading across the Yakima Valley, saw this area destroyed, due to internment, with only 10 percent of the population returning after WWII.
While incarcerated at Heart Mountain, George and his son Frank – both avid photographers – captured over 2,000 images of camp life and special family milestones such as engagement celebrations, weddings and family portraits of many of these Yakima families. The photo collection served as an inspiration for the duo to produce this documentary.
Ono and MacIntyre have combined their award winning talents in hosting, writing, editing, and camerawork to put together this fresh and new introduction on one of the 10 Japanese internment camps during WWII.
David Ono writes,
“Heart Mountain is a spectacular and beautiful backdrop to a story of triumph and tragedy. Over seventy years ago, an internment camp, filled with over 10,000 Japanese Americans, sat in the shadow of the mountain.
It was just a few miles outside Cody, Wyoming, where the land is rugged and the weather is brutal. It’s where American citizens were imprisoned, behind barbed wire and guard towers, for no other reason than their heritage.
Most importantly, the story of Heart Mountain still resonates today on how do we define Americans? The lessons from Heart Mountain are invaluable, as relevant today as the day they happened.
This documentary features the remarkable people of Heart Mountain. Some have gone on to gain international acclaim. Others have lived modest lives, yet have enormous wisdom for those willing to listen.”
Ono concludes, “This is the story of passion, despair, anger, and rebirth. A story that should never be forgotten.”
The documentary features interviews with former US Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson, Judge Lance Ito, Heart Mountain internees and their descendants, who discuss what life was like there as well as visiting the new Heart Mountain Wyoming Interpretive Center on the original site.
The film has won the Radio Television Digital News Association’s national “Unity” award for diversity programming and an Edward R. Murrow regional award, three Emmy Awards, and a national Asian American Journalist Association’s Pacific Islander Issues Television/Online Award with David Ono personally funding the documentary production.
Following the screening, attendees will have an opportunity to be part of a discussion with David Ono, who will be available for questions and answers.
The screening will be held on Sunday March 15 at 1:00 PM at the NVC Memorial Hall at 1212 S. King Street, Seattle, WA 98144. For more information, please check the NVC’s website at http://www.seattlenvc.org/ Or contact Debbie Kashino at email@example.com.
February 24, 2015
Press Release – For Immediate Release
2015 Minidoka Pilgrimage June 25 – June 28, 2015
Announcing the 13th Annual Minidoka Pilgrimage
Seattle, WA – February 24, 2015 –
The Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee announces the 2015 pilgrimage dates are Thursday, June 25 through Sunday, June 28, 2015.
In 1942, almost 13,000 people of Japanese-ancestry living in Washington and Oregon, many of whom were American citizens, were removed from their homes and sent to a desolate “concentration camp” near Twin Falls, Idaho. This summer, the 13th pilgrimage will take place with former incarcerees, their families, and friends – from Seattle, Portland and across the nation – to the former Minidoka Camp in Idaho. This is an opportunity to learn, share memories, and ask questions about the Minidoka experience. Consider participating as a way to bring your family together and reconnect with friends. Participation is limited.
The Minidoka Pilgrimage officially begins in Twin Falls, Idaho on Thursday evening, June 25, for dinner. On Friday, this year will feature a full day of educational programming. On Saturday, the group tours the Minidoka National Park Site followed with small group discussions to learn and share experiences of the incarceration experience. On Sunday morning, we will conclude our pilgrimage with a commemorative closing ceremony at Minidoka National Park Site.
Registration forms and additional information for the pilgrimage can be found at www.minidokapilgrimage.org.
There are two different registration packages:
· The Seattle/Bellevue package includes bus transportation from Bellevue, Washington to Twin Falls, Idaho. The registration fee is $400.00.
· The Boise/Twin Falls Package requires participants to provide their own transportation to Twin Falls, Idaho. The price is $200.00. **There is a discount on both packages for children under 12 and seniors 75 years and older.
The registration fee includes meals and all activities during the pilgrimage. Lodging must be made by each participant. Please review the Hotel and Information document and the Registration Form for more information on Pilgrimage packages (Seattle and Twin Falls). This information can be found on the Minidoka Pilgrimage web site at: www.minidokapilgrimage.org.
The Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee is excited to once again offer a SENIOR SCHOLARSHIP for those who are over 80 years of age and were imprisoned in any of the American concentration camps during WWII. Please review the Senior Scholarship Registration Form to apply for the scholarship.
All forms and information can be found on the Minidoka Pilgrimage website at: www.minidokapilgrimage.org.
For other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those who cannot access the forms and information by computer, please leave your name and address with Dale H Watanabe at 206-296-6260 and they can be mailed to you.
Contact: Dale H Watanabe
February 19, 2015
73 years ago…EO 9066 was signed. Let us never forget. #minidoka#DayofRemembrance
Originally published February 18, 2015 at 6:02 PM | Page modified February 19, 2015 at 12:52 PM
Guest: The day Japanese Americans lost their rights
Gordon Hirabayashi believed the forced removal of 120,000 Japanese Americans was unconstitutional — and he went to prison for his belief, writes guest columnist Esther Toshiko Hirabayashi Furugori.
By Esther Toshiko Hirabayashi Furugori
Special to The Times
SEATTLE TIMES FILE
A 1949 photo of Gordon Hirabayahsi (left) and Frank Miyamoto
Thursday marks the 73rd anniversary of an American day of infamy. On Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which set in motion the forced removal of my family from our Auburn-area home, joining the exile of 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast to American concentration camps.
My family was first forcibly removed in crowded, hot trains to Fresno, Calif., arriving at a stark place surrounded by barbed wire fences called Pinedale Assembly Center. A month later, we were transported by bus to the Tule Lake Relocation Center in Northern California.
Conditions were harsh at both locations. Crammed into open ceiling “apartments” no larger than 20 by 25 feet, no conversation or movement was private. Everyone was forced to adjust to a culturally uncomfortable reality of sharing everything from meals in mess halls to humiliating communal showers and latrines with no privacy dividers.
I was just 13, and my family kept me busy playing softball, reading Nancy Drew novels and enjoying music. Looking back, perhaps they wanted to distract me from thinking about my brother, Gordon Hirabayashi, who wasn’t with us. He was in prison.
Before our forced removal, the entire Pacific Coast was under a federally imposed curfew for Japanese Americans. Gordon was attending the University of Washington and he strongly believed that this curfew and Executive Order 9066 were unconstitutional.
Deliberately staying out past the curfew, Gordon turned himself in to police and demanded that he be arrested. The police officers knew Gordon and told him to go home, but he persisted and was arrested by the FBI, tried and found guilty of violating the curfew. With no transportation paid for by the government, Gordon refused to pay his own way to go to prison in Arizona, so he decided to hitchhike.
Gordon also refused to be sent to the concentration camps or serve in the military, spending nearly two years in different prisons while appealing his curfew verdict. Eventually in 1943, his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled against him.
Gordon’s principled stand was both unusual and lonely. Hardly anyone stood up for civil rights in the 1940s like they did in the 1960s, and most people in the Japanese-American community — let alone the nation at large — disagreed with his views as being unpatriotic and criticized him for making things harder by “rocking the boat.”
Forty years after his Supreme Court verdict, the U.S. District Court in Seattle overturned Gordon’s conviction. Blockbuster evidence was uncovered that the federal government deliberately withheld important military documents from his Supreme Court case, disclosing that racial reasons and not military necessity were used to justify the exclusion and incarceration of Japanese Americans.
After the war, Gordon earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in sociology from the University of Washington, enjoyed a successful academic career and received many awards including our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Among all of his accomplishments, I’m most proud of my brother for his courage to protest the unbridled use of power by our government during times of fear, war hysteria and racial prejudice, and, since Sept. 11, 2001, I suspect that Gordon wouldn’t mind if I added religious intolerance to that list.
Gordon died on Jan. 2, 2012. To ensure that his story lives on and inspires generations to come, our family is honored that the permanent Legacy of Justice installations of public art and interpretive elements will be the cornerstone of the mixed-use Hirabayashi Place project currently under construction in Seattle’s Chinatown International District.
“I never looked at my case as my own, or just as a Japanese-American case,” Gordon said in reference to his overturned conviction. “It is an American case, with principles that affect the fundamental human rights of all Americans.”
Esther Toshiko Hirabayashi Furugori is a charter member of the Hirabayashi Place Legacy of Justice Committee.
January 9, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Taiko Concert to Benefit Pilgrimage to Minidoka Incarceration Camp in Idaho
Seattle, WA – January 9, 2015
The Minidoka Pilgrimage and Seattle University are proud to present the Day of Remembrance 2015 Taiko Concert on Sunday, February 15, 2015.
The Taiko Concert will feature performances by several renowned taiko groups from the Seattle area. Taiko refers to a traditional Japanese form of percussion using large barrel-shaped drums, dynamic playing styles, and choreographed movements. It is widely popular in Japanese American communities throughout the United States, and increasingly with youth groups.
A free exhibit in the Paccar Atrium, located directly outside the auditorium, will include displays about the Minidoka Pilgrimage, Seattle University, National Park Service and the Minidoka National Historic Site, and the Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee/NVC Foundation. Raffle ticket sales and a general store will also be in the atrium to help support the work of the Minidoka Pilgrimage.
The concert benefits the 13th annual Minidoka Pilgrimage from Seattle, Portland, and across the nation to Minidoka Incarceration Camp in southern Idaho. Minidoka was one of ten camps where Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. Today, it is a unit of the National Park System and is developing into an educational site about civil liberties. The pilgrimage brings together former incarcerees, their families and friends, and those interested in learning more about the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. The pilgrimage offers a unique opportunity to hear and learn directly from those who experienced it firsthand.
The Day of Remembrance marks the 73rd anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 by Franklin D. Roosevelt which led to the mass incarceration. The Day of Remembrance commemorates the injustices, race prejudice, hardships of 120,000 Japanese Americans who were imprisoned in concentration camps during World War II.
Date: Sunday, February 15, 2015
Time: Exhibit hall opens at 1:00pm, Concert begins at 2:00pm
Location: Seattle University – Pigott Auditorium, 901 12th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122
Ticket Price: $20 General Admission
Tickets Available at:
- Brown Paper tickets at: http://dayofremembrancetaiko2015.bpt.me/ Please bring identification for Will Call tickets, as no actual tickets will be provided.
- International Student Center of Seattle University in the James C. Pigott Pavilion
- Day of show at the Paccar Atrium, subject to ticket availability
Parking: Provided at the Broadway Garage of Seattle University.
Questions: email@example.com or 206-296-6260
Sponsors: Minidoka Pilgrimage, Seattle University International Student Center
November 6, 2014
Seattle woman in famous wartime photo dies
By VANESSA HO, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF
Updated 12:09 pm, Thursday, November 6, 2014
Fumiko Hayashida holds 13-month-old daughter Natalie, while waiting board a ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle on March 30, 1942. They were among 227 Japanese Americans forced into interment camps during World War II under Executive Order 9066.
Photo: Seattlepi.com File/MOHAI, –
Seventy years ago, Fumiko Hayashida was a face in the crowd, one of 227 Japanese-Americans forced to leave Bainbridge Island during World War II. But as she awaited imprisonment with a baby in her arms, a news photographer took her picture.
That photo would later become an iconic wartime image, propelling Hayashida, then a modest farmer’s wife, into the limelight of civil rights activism.
“She was a nobody, but she was everybody,” said Hayashida’s daughter, K. Natalie Ong. It had been Natalie, then 13 months old, that Hayashida was holding the day their family was exiled.
“She represented everybody and what happened to Japanese-Americans.”
Hayashida died Sunday in Seattle. She was 103.
From farmer’s wife to living icon
Born on Bainbridge Island, Hayashida was the oldest living Japanese-American incarcerated from the island. Because they were near naval bases, the Bainbridge group was the first of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry detained under Executive Order 9066 in the country.
Most were U.S. citizens.
The government gave the Bainbridge group six days’ notice of their March 30, 1942 internment. Then 31 and pregnant, Hayashida wore all the clothes she could; boarded a ferry to Seattle; and then a train to Manzanar, an isolated desert camp in California. She was anxious and scared.
“It’s awful when you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know long you’re going to stay,” Hayashida told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2009. Her family later went to Minidoka in Idaho, spending a total of about three and half years in camps. She gave birth to her son Leonard. She had three kids under 5 while incarcerated.
When she and husband Saburo returned to Bainbridge, their strawberry fields had gone fallow. Many of their friends never returned to the island. He got a job at Boeing and they moved to Beacon Hill, where Hayashida raised three kids and lived for decades.
It had been a Seattle Post-Intelligencer photographer who took the photo, but a MOHAI staffer who identified her. The archivist had enlarged the photo and was able to read her internment tag.
By that time, Hayashida was an old woman. Her photo appeared in magazines and the Smithsonian. She quickly became a living icon, a survivor of wartime heartbreak.
“She wasn’t a political person, or an activist, but she relished that role,” said Ong, her daughter. “It really added an interesting dimension to her later life.”
‘I had a good life’
In her 90s, Hayashida joined the effort to get federal recognition for a Bainbridge site memorializing the internment. She testified before Congress, rolling down the halls in a wheelchair. At first, she was reluctant.
“She said, ‘Oh no, I can’t speak, I’m an old lady,'” recalled her friend Clarence Moriwaki, who had convinced her to testify.
“She nailed it,” he said. “She said, ‘I’m 95 years old, I’m an old woman, I hope I live long enough to see this memorial be recognized.'”
The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, of which Moriwaki is president, is now open to the public.
Earlier this year, Hayashida came out for Bainbridge’s annual New Year’s mochi-pounding festival. Crowds greeted the petite, white-haired centenarian with enthusiasm.
“I think the crowd clapping for her was louder than the taiko drums,” Moriwaki said.
Hayashida was vibrant in old age and didn’t dwell on the past. She preferred instead to root for her beloved Mariners, fill her house with frog figurines and play poker with girlfriends.
“This war was so long ago,” she told the P-I in 2009. “I’m proud of my life. I had a good life, not a perfect one. But nobody’s life is perfect. I have good family and good friends, and I feel so lucky.”
Hayashida is survived by sister Midori Yamasaki; daughter K. Natalie Ong and son Neal Hayashida; grandchildren Dennis Hayashida, Richard Hayashida, Kristine Hayashida Moore, Gary Ong and Paula Ong; five great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by husband Saburo Hayashida and son Leonard Hayashida.
The family has planned a celebration of her life on Nov. 16 in Seattle.
October 13, 2014
Remembering Henry Miyatake: A man with the plan
OCTOBER 13, 2014
History demands that the person who gave birth to an idea must be recognized when it reaches maturation.
—Washington Supreme Court Justice Charles Z. Smith, on Henry Miyatake, 1997
A one-liner from the October 3 edition of the Auburn (Washington) Reporter reported under “Deaths:”
Miyatake, Henry, 85, September 16.
After all he did for the Japanese American community and everyone who was affected by E.O. 9066, which means all of us residing in the United States, he gets a one-liner in the County Register. I shed a few tears over that thought. And then I wrote:
“Great man, restless mind
Died alone, apparently;
Maybe he wanted it that way.
I couldn’t think of anything more to write.
* * *
Later, I remembered half-promises to him.
“Bob,” Henry said about 3-to-4 years ago, “you haven’t finished writing about the Internment.”
“Yes, I have,” I said.
“No you haven’t,” he answered, handing me a book. “You’ve got to read this. You’ll see what I’m talking about.”
I looked at it. Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor, by Robert D. Stinnett. I thought, “Oh no, not another book about Magic Cables and stuff like that. What’s Henry doing reading this kind of crap?”
He must have read my mind. “Just read it, Bob,” he said. “It’s the real story of United States getting into the war. And why we ended up in the camps.”
“But it’s not my kind of reading,” I said. “It’s all words, numbers, and people’s names. Lots and lots of description. No dialogue. Tough to follow. My mind drifts too much.”
Henry made me promise that I’d take a look at the book. I did. And I knew why it consumed him. But after slogging through five-to-six chapters of the book, I was asking myself, do I really want to write anything on this?
I figured out what got Henry’s attention. Stinnett was making the case that President Franklin Roosevelt knew of Japan’s plans to bomb Pearl Harbor, but he wanted to let it happen in order to unite the country into entering the war and, perhaps, even incarcerating us.
But I really didn’t see any reason to pursue a book, let alone finish Day of Deceit. Whether we were pawns in FDR’s political battles or the entire country’s scapegoat for the war made no difference to me. In the end the President, Supreme Court, Congress, and every U.S. citizen shoulder the responsibility. They all used us for pawns in their game in which people who can be identified by their looks and appearances may be sacrificed without regard to the laws written on the books. No different than what is happening now.
But I just couldn’t tell Henry that I wasn’t interested. Because he was a very persistent guy. And then I’d end up making a promise I never would keep, … as opposed to only a half-promise. So I avoided giving him his book back. And I’ve felt bad every time I see this book in my house. It’s too late now to give it back.
For those who don’t know about Henry’s historic achievements, he was the “Man with THE Plan,” the Seattle Plan for redress. In November 1979, Congressman Mike Lowry introduced the first redress bill for the 120,000 Japanese Americans who were incarcerated for no reason other than their ancestry under the guise of “military necessity.” Henry’s plan was the basis for that bill.
Henry did a lot of research, pitched his plan to his friend, Mike Nakata, who talked to his friend Shosuke Sasaki, and all of them started talking to community members and organizations, including nationalJapanese American Citizens League, and reached out to the remotest parts of the country to gather enough votes in Congress to redress a wrong.
This 20-year organizing campaign, ending in the 1990s when payments of $20,000 went to individuals who were incarcerated or forcibly evicted from where they were living is one of the most remarkable stories of the 20th century.
I asked some of the younger folks in the community if they had heard about Henry Miyatake who had just died last month. Too many of those I asked did not know who he was. I felt sad once again.
So I can’t let this rest. There are a lot more stories about Henry Miyatake. In a month or two or even three, we will have a memorial service for Henry. All of us who knew Henry should get together with those who did not know Henry and what he did for everyone who who cares about democracy and everyone who takes it for granted.
Watch for notice of it. We need this, whether we know it or not.
I, along with Tom Ikeda of Densho, Japanese American Citizens League Seattle Chapter, Nisei Veterans Committee and other individuals and organizations will be working on a memorial service for Henry. More information will follow in the coming weeks.
Bob Shimabukuro is the author of “Born in Seattle: The Campaign for Japanese American Redress.”
*UPDATE: COMMUNITY MEMORIAL EVENT FOR HENRY MIYATAKE*
There will be a community memorial event for redress activist Henry Miyatake on Saturday, December 6, 2014, at NVC Memorial Hall, 1212 S King Street, Seattle, WA 98144. A pre-event social, with light refreshments, will begin at 1:00 PM. The memorial program will be from 2:00-3:00 PM.
August 5, 2014
Memories Revisited on the Minidoka Pilgrimage
by Dana Mar
Photo by: Dana Mar
Heartfelt stories and hopes for the future were shared on the annual pilgrimage to the Minidoka incarceration camp from this past June 19 through the 22nd. Over the course of these few days, pilgrims—a vast majority of whom were from Washington and Idaho—traveled to gather in Twin Falls, Idaho to commune with one another over the subject of Minidoka and the current-day application of the consequences of the incarceration of so many Japanese and Japanese Americans.
Still full of energy, many of the Nisei revisited memories during the pilgrimage of their time in camp and imparted stories of life seventy years ago when President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, effectively removing Japanese and Japanese Americans from the majority of the West Coast. Some flew with multiple generations of family, while others braved the long bus ride, incidentally turning out to be more of an adventure than half the Seattle pilgrims expected as one of the buses unexpectedly broke down. Difficulties of the drive aside, yet incomparable to the experience of those bussed to Minidoka in the 1940s, it provided time for pilgrims to get to know each other and seek out old friends.
Tetsuden and Kanako Kashima standing next to the 2014 Pilgrimage Momento at the Closing Ceremony
Photo by: Dana Mar
This year, the Minidoka Pilgrimage held an educational program on the second day rather than a trip to the Civil Liberties Symposium. The session featured several notable speakers and presenters including opening remarks by Yosh Nakagawa, and sessions held three at a time following presented by Rev. Brooks Andrews, Dr. Neil Nakadate, Dr. Lawrence Matsuda, and more. In addition, the Pilgrimage provided genealogy workshops run by Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee members Stephen Kitajo and Bif Brigman, a film screening of Kash, directed by Vince Matsudaira, and the Minidoka Collections Tour held in previous years. The educational sessions turned out as quite a success and allowed a great variety of opportunities to listen, learn, and ask questions on subjects regarding Minidoka and the many aspects varying groups and individuals brought to the Pilgrimage.
As it was when I first attended the pilgrimage last year, the pilgrims bussed to the Minidoka site itself for a tour of the grounds upon which they were allowed to view and experience a number of returned and still standing original structures from the grounds and block 22, as well as, for the very first time, see the newly built historically accurate guard tower, constructed thanks to generous donations to the Friends of Minidoka who managed the project. Where trains and buses dropped families upon families of those defined by their Japanese heritage and “the wind swirled dust clouds,/ghosts of Minidoka wandering the land” as Lawrence Matsuda read aloud during his session on Friday, memories were unstuck from their place behind gaman. The experience of desolation, sadness, wind, heat, and sheer distance one must walk to get from one location to another gave just a small sense of what life was like for all the Issei and Nisei incarcerated there.
Pilgrims walking towards the site of Block 22, where an original mess hall and barrack sit
Photo by: Dana Mar
We remembered the great hardships the Issei had to go through in being imprisoned in a foreign nation and regarded as dangerous enemies despite having shown no indication of the sort. As the few remaining Nisei shared their stories and thoughts in the subsequent talk story session wherein pilgrims were split into smaller discussion groups, I recalled the words repeated to me so many times before, “Nidoto nai yoni.” In the words of Vince Matsudaira just after the showing of Kash,
Pilgrims walking by an original barrack building on Block 22
Photo by: Dana Mar
“people forget, history forgets, so, you know, I think we can all make our marks somewhere. …Each of us know, like, a hundred people so that keeps spreading out and spreading out, but unless it keeps going it’ll die.”
Accounts of fond memories and reminiscences of bitterness and healing from those who were in the camps were passed on from families and pilgrims previously incarcerated to those who needed to know what a grandmother never shared or how precisely did an incident occur or even what it felt like to be in the shoes of the unjustly persecuted generations of the past. It was both a sobering and heartwarming experience that one truly must be present on the pilgrimage to experience. It was an amazing experience one is not likely to forget and, as so much of the memories are being lost as time passes, ought not to for how valuable these first and even second-hand accounts are for younger and future generations to know of.
Presentation of the Colors by American Legion Post #41, Wendell, ID
Photo by: Dana Mar
The Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee and this year’s student scholarship recipients did such outstanding work for this year’s pilgrimage, deemed the “year of the guard tower,” and is in deserving of much thanks and appreciation. The pilgrimage has served for years to As we work to commemorate generations past and educate others about the deeper meaning of the camps and the incarceration, we hold high hopes for future generations to carry on the legacy of the Issei and Nisei.
Pilgrims waiting for the ribbon cutting ceremony of the newly reconstructed guard tower
Photo by: Dana Mar