Pilgrimage: A Journey with a Purpose
by Linda Okazaki
For more than 250 years, travelers were prohibited from entering or leaving Japan. During the Meiji Restoration, which began in 1868, Japanese were finally permitted to leave the country as “dekasegi,” or temporary workers. As with so many other immigrants, they sought economic prosperity in North America, Hawaii, and, eventually, Latin America and Australia. From 1910 to 1940, the Angel Island Immigration Station was the stopping point for about 85,000 Japanese immigrants, including thousands of picture brides.
On 4 October 2014, the Nichi Bei Foundation hosted a Nikkei Pilgrimage to this site. More than 600 attendees came to honor the immigrants who had been detained and processed on the island. The formal program included poetry, music, awards, and speeches. A reading by poet Hiroshi Kashiwagi and a dramatic performance written by Judy Hamaguchi were my favorite parts of the day. Inside the immigration station’s original Mess Hall were displays, a kids’ corner (sponsored by the Japanese American Museum of San José), and complimentary family history consultations (provided by the California Genealogical Society). Bento lunches were part of the experience as we reflected upon the Issei immigrants who came through Angel Island so many years ago.