Linda's Orchard

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Category: Nichi Bei Foundation

February 19 – A Day to Remember

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On February 19, 1942, then President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. This legislation set the stage for approximately 120,000 ethnic Japanese to be incarcerated; the majority were American citizens. Many were initially housed in animal quarters at racetracks. Eventually, most were sent to live in “Internment Camps”  located in remote areas of the United States. There were also camps in Canada and Australia, as well as Hawai‘i. Eventually, Germans, Italians, Japanese Peruvians and others were also held without due process, primarily in Department of Justice Camps. Some were intended to be used in a prisoner-of-war exchange.

Throughout the month of February, community events, special church services and film festivals will be held in honor of those unjustly imprisoned. In Los Angeles, the Skirball Cultural Center has on display camp photographs by Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams and Toyo Miyatake, which runs through February 21. The Nichi Bei Foundation will host an all-day Films of Remembrance on February 20. And on Sunday February 21, the National Japanese American Historical Society  will hold an event in San Francisco. Commemorations will also be held across the country, including an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Densho has developed a “Teach-In” consisting of five free digital lessons about the internment experience.

If you aren’t familiar with Densho, be prepared to be impressed. The website states that “Densho’s mission is to preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished. We offer these irreplaceable firsthand accounts, coupled with historical images and teacher resources, to explore principles of democracy, and promote equal justice for all.”  

Seventy six years have passed. Let’s not forget.

It was a Beautiful Day for a Pilgrimage!

Second Annual Nikkei Pilgrimage to Angel Island

Angel Island Immigration Station

Angel Island Immigration Station

On 3 October 2015, the Nichi Bei Foundation hosted the second annual Nikkei Pilgrimage to Angel Island, in honor of the Japanese immigrants who arrived there between 1910 and 1940. An emphasis was placed on the women who immigrated, specifically the picture brides. There were over 300 attendees who journeyed by ferry to enjoy the music, dramatic presentation, speeches, bento lunches, and family history stations.

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Kenji Taguma, Nichi Bei Foundation

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Picture Bride, Produced by Judy Hamaguchi, SF JACL

Linda Harms Okazaki and Karen Korematsu

Linda Harms Okazaki and Karen Korematsu

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Learning about Picture Brides, inside the Immigration Station Barracks

There were honored guests and special speakers, including Karen Korematsu, who is perhaps best known as the daughter of civil rights activist, Fred Korematsu. On this day, however, she spoke about her grandmother, Kotsui Aoki, who arrived on Angel Island on January 12, 1914 as a picture bride. Karen addressed the importance a discovering family roots and understanding the experiences of our immigrant ancestors.

Following the formal program, six volunteers from the California Genealogical Society provided research consultations, including Todd Armstrong, Grant Din (also of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation), Linda Okazaki, Jim Russell, and Adelle Treakle. By far the most frequent question among the consults was “Did my ancestor come through Angel Island?”

Though most of the participants were of Japanese ancestry, there was a definite mix of ethnic groups represented. Guests had ancestors from Korea, China, Latin America, Canada and Europe. The genealogists were rewarded every time someone “found” an ancestor on an immigration record or census document. Those asking questions ranged in age, as well. One woman was 97 and had been incarcerated in an internment camp. Another young man was eight years old and very interested in family history. His parents listened intently as he asked questions about his great grandmother who was born in Mexico and was currently living in California. It was a teachable moment when he discovered the importance of interviewing the eldest living relatives. He is most definitely the “NextGen” in genealogy.

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Author’s Note: This blog publication can also be viewed at blog.CaliforniaAncestors.org, where it was republished with permission.






Pilgrimage: A Journey with a Purpose

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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.

Terumi and Ted Okazaki

Terumi and Ted Okazaki

 

Isla de los Angeles

 

California Genealogical Society Members: Kay Speaks, Grant Din, Linda Okazaki

California Genealogical Society Members:                                                                Kay Speaks, Grant Din, and Linda Okazaki

 

Angel Island is a beautiful place for a picnic, a picture perfect location for tourists and locals alike. But the real beauty lies in its history. I am a fourth generation San Franciscan who grew up in Marin County, but it wasn’t until I was an adult with children of my own that I understood my personal connection to this gem.

The largest island located in the midst of San Francisco Bay, Angel Island has a long and rich history. Occupied first by Coastal Miwok Indians, it was visited and named by Spanish explorers in the 1700’s. Later, there was a cattle ranch. Eventually the U.S. federal government took hold of the island. An army base operated there during the civil war. A quarantine station opened in 1891, and from 1910 to 1940, the government operated an immigration station. Though most immigrants were Chinese, individuals came from all over the world, including approximately 85,000 Japanese. POW’s were detained on the island during World War II, among them, hundreds of Japanese immigrants from Hawaii and the mainland who were declared Enemy Aliens. [i]

Over the past several decades, Angel Island became better known a place for recreation. Fortunately, numerous individuals have worked tirelessly to preserve the historical site. The Immigration Station Barracks now serve as a museum. The former Immigration Station Hospital is currently being renovated.

On July 19, 2014, the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation hosted a Family Reunion Day. Led by AIISF Community Relations Director Grant Din, speakers presented information about Chinese, Japanese and Russian immigrants, as well as employees who lived and worked there. This was particularly personal for me. My English immigrant great grandfather worked as a night watchman in the Quarantine Station for 11 years, during which time many of my husband’s Japanese family members were “processed” through the Immigration Station. My children’s history is two sided; speaking about both sides of their ancestry at this event was truly a privilege.

For additional information regarding the preservation of this historical site, please visit AIISF.org.

The Nichi Bei Foundation will host a Japanese American pilgrimage to the island on October 4, 2014. Please visit NichiBei.org later this summer for details.


[i]Erika Lee and Judy Yung, Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 9-27.

Honoring Our Heroes

Roy Matsumoto and Linda Okazaki

Roy Matsumoto and Linda Okazaki

Held in conjunction with the Bay Area Day of Remembrance, the Nichi Bei Foundation presented “Films of Remembrance” at the New People Cinema in San Francisco on 23 February 2014.

World War II was complex on many levels. In just 28 minutes, one film brought to attention many of those issues: Internment, MIS, Merrill’s Marauders, Issei, Nissei, Kibei, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima.

Honor and Sacrifice: The Roy Matsumoto Story was a moving documentary. Roy Matsumoto was a US war hero; one of his brother’s also fought for the US; three brothers were in the Japanese Army; the rest of the family lived in Hiroshima. The sensitive material was presented in a thought provoking and respectful manner. Producers Don Sellers and Lucy Ostrander, as well as Roy’s daughter Karen Matsumto, were available for an in-depth Q&A following the presenetation.

It was an honor to meet Roy Matsumoto at this special event.