September 8, 2015

Minidoka Pilgrimage Throws New Mission to Younger Generations

Posted in 2015 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , , at 5:23 pm by minidokapilgrimage

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

2015 Minidoka Pilgrimage Photos

Posted in 2015 Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:32 am by minidokapilgrimage

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: for more information.

Ryan Kozu:

Minidoka Pilgrimage 2015

Lori Matsukawa:

February 24, 2015

2015 Minidoka Pilgrimage Press Release

Posted in 2015 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Friends of Minidoka, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, News tagged , , , , , , , at 9:30 am by minidokapilgrimage

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.

Pilgrimage Details
Registration forms and additional information for the pilgrimage can be found at

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:

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:

For other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at

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
(206) 296-2156