August 5, 2014

Memories Revisited on the Minidoka Pilgrimage

Posted in 2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, News tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:39 am by minidokapilgrimage

Memories Revisited on the Minidoka Pilgrimage
by Dana Mar

DSC_0054 copyPhoto 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.

DSC_0307Tetsuden 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.

DSC_0091Pilgrims 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,

DSC_0098Pilgrims 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.

DSC_0279Presentation 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.

DSC_0270Pilgrims waiting for the ribbon cutting ceremony of the newly reconstructed guard tower
Photo by: Dana Mar

July 30, 2014

2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage Photos

Posted in 2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, News, Photos, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 4:48 pm by minidokapilgrimage

Here’s links to various sites where pictures from the 2014 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: minidokapilgrimage@gmail.com for more information.

Ryan Kozu:
https://picasaweb.google.com/103180039956765998297/MinidokaPilgrimage2014?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCJ7Pxp7Wm9vVEQ&feat=directlink

Minidoka Pilgrimage 2014

Dana Mar:
https://picasaweb.google.com/minidokapilgrimage/2014MinidokaPilgrimageDana?authuser=0&feat=directlink

2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage – Dana

Eugene Tagawa:
https://picasaweb.google.com/100930662448489700454/2014MinidokaPilgrimageGroupsL?authkey=Gv1sRgCLuK1-3l-vSb3wE&noredirect=1

July 14, 2013

Children of the Issei

Posted in 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , , , , , at 2:31 pm by minidokapilgrimage

Children of the Issei by Dana Mar

Upon a dream
In a ship set on the path of the rising sun
I sailed under the billowing black of a Japanese steam ship
The sea roared her protest and the ship creaked fear into our sleep
We, the voyagers of the Japanese, traversed the ocean over time and uncertain promises
We brought our bags, our skills, our culture, our dreams, and our legacy to the
Land of the Free
They discovered the red and the white of our nations
Were separated by the blue of the ocean, in which our stars fell one by one
Shot down by fighter pilots and blown to bits in Pearl Harbor
In a ship set on the path to the golden waves of grain
I ceased being Japanese and became the enemy

In the nightmare of war
I was the first-born in the United States
Just a Nisei in Issei arms
How could they, those Americans just like us, say
These nurturing arms are the arms of the enemy?
As if my parents had never braved the blue waves to live under the stars and stripes
As if my loving mother could kill as well as she breathed life in a family
My family
Put into “camps” so desolate and so removed from our homes that someone once said
Will they let us die here or kill us first?
Two bags and our own arms to hold the past and future of every family
We were given mere days to leave home behind
All she could carry were her children and her American dream
Shattered by Japanese bombs
Those days were framed in barbed wire and dust

They spit Jap in my eyes and blinded me to hope
We were all faithful to the red, white, and blue
So I swore on my mother’s fear
My children would not be Japanese
Because I was equal in the eyes of God
Equal in my Asian eyes
The eyes that stood witness to the red of the rising sun
The red of the blood shed for atomic bombs that blew up the whites of our eyes

I became Sansei
I grew up knowing little of what that meant
I grew up as an American
Not quite knowing why other kids asked how I spoke such good English
The war had not ended with a mushroom cloud
I fought the shrapnel that threatened to cut my feet as I walked
Down a dusty road
And back to a place where barbed wire pierced my eyes
Pierced my heart
And told me that I had to say something

I woke up and I was Yonsei
Fourth generation in the United States
1942 became a paragraph briefly mentioned in a small classroom
I lived in an alien nation
In alienation
As my peers were deceived by Asian stereotypes
I was a type of person
But somehow not quite a person
My mother’s words echoed on the cases of three men
Korematsu, Hirabayashi, Yasui
In three generations of Japanese Americans
I found a suffering and a sadness that embraced my heart, seventy years later, in tears
But in that ship set on the path of the rising sun
I rose the sails of my voice and became more than my face and my meager height
The words of those who lost themselves in a concentration camp
Resonated stronger than the shockwaves of Nagasaki and Hiroshima
Japanese American became a badge of pride
It was silly when friends became honorary Asians
But from a people feared and hated so strongly once before
I became the dream

Once upon a dream
In a ship set on the path of the rising sun
Over an ocean of every color in one
I dreamt of being an immigrant
An enemy
A prisoner
A mother
A daughter
A legacy
A voice
I opened my eyes to see the sun rise
And woke together with purpose in my voice
And determination in my eyes
We were all American
All proud children of the Issei

A Wooden Heart

Posted in 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , , , , , at 2:27 pm by minidokapilgrimage

A Wooden Heart by Dana Mar

Dana Mar - Wooden Heart MP Poem 2 photo (alternative poem)

They close their eyes and hide their tears
Not looking at the horrible sights and fears
Know happiness and laughter, don’t look away
I can’t help anyone with nothing to say
Thus why I keep living with care
I protect all I can, just try me: I dare

We thought we would die in that lonesome camp
The face of my race became a terrorists’ stamp
I opened the door to a shoddy shack
And lived with dust blowing through every crack
To make the most of our situation
We built schools and a fire station
Some volunteered for the war effort
Loyalty to the States never fell short

Regretfully hope was lost at times
When we remembered our nonexistent crimes

To doubt one’s self, is to doubt another
Part of you might be a friend or brother
Don’t jump to judge by nationality
Even you are a native fallacy
In Minidoka I had a wooden heart
After these years, I’ve got to restart

Fly above the trees, soar below the stars
It is a process now, to heal all the scars
A smile can brighten even the darkest days
Just one rain-drop laugh, clears away the haze
I returned to that desolate campsite
The memories came back in new light
Feelings of fear and resentment
Melted away in American testament

I felt the tears passing through that door
Seeing the desolation of camp once more
I looked at it thoughtfully from afar
A blue wooden door standing just ajar
Where now my heart stands wide open
I am made of stronger stuff, unbroken

The future of the past is held in Yonsei hands
Where now that old wood building stands
Hope is rebuilt for a future of
Uneasy prejudice turned communal love