Manzanar: One Weekend, One Incredible Experience

UCSD Nikkei Student Union member Erica Wei (center) is shown here at the location of residential Block 9.
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee
(click above to view larger image)

by Erica Wei

Leading up to the weekend of the Keeping Japanese American Incarceration Stories Alive, trip to the Manzanar National Historic Site, I was actually very reluctant about going. I thought about dropping from participating several times. This was two weeks before final exams and it was one of the last weekends I could use to study for my exams. I was faced with two decisions: Prioritize academics or follow through with my commitment to the Manzanar Committee. Luckily, I chose the latter.

Coming into this project with no expectations, no prior experience of what was going to happen, I was very curious as to what exactly was planned for myself and four other students. We didn’t even know the name of the project. All we were told was that we would be gone mid-Friday to late Sunday. I thought that we were just touring the Manzanar site and doing logistical planning for the upcoming Pilgrimage—while I was partially right, I missed a huge part of the reason we were there.

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Two Reflections on Visiting The Manzanar National Historic Site

During a session in which students read excerpts from oral histories of those who were unjustly
incarcerated at Manzanar during World War II, they began to connect Japanese American Incarceration
to their own experiences with racism, inequality and injustice. The result was a very powerful and emotional discussion. That’s Moet Kurakata and Lauren Matsumoto in front (left and right, respectively)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee
(click above to view larger image)

Editor’s Note: Moet Kurakata and Lauren Matsumoto were participants in the Manzanar Committee’s pilot project, Keeping Japanese American Incarceration Stories Alive, which took a group of college students to the Manzanar National Historic Site for a two-day, intensive, placed-based learning experience about the unjust incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II. For more on this project, we urge you to read about it here.

Kurakata, 23 is a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she is the Community Activities and Cultural Awareness Committee Chair of the Nikkei Student Union at UCLA. Matsumoto, 21, is in her third year at the University of California, San Diego, where she is the past Cultural Awareness Chair of the UCSD Nikkei Student Union.

Both shared the following reflections on what they experienced at Manzanar during those two days.

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Memory Transfer

Photos: Brian Kohaya
(click above to view larger image)

by Brian Kohaya

This tryptic features Pat Sakamoto, a former Manzanar incarceree, and Lauren Matsumoto, a granddaughter of former incarcerees. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which forced 120,000 people of Japanese descent to incarceration camps spread throughout the United States. A few months later, Pat was born. She grew up not knowing her father, as he left the family during incarceration.

Lauren is currently a junior at the University of California, San Diego. Her grandfather was incarcerated at Tule Lake and her grandmother was incarcerated at Gila River.

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Never Again!

The cemetery monument at Manzanar National Historic Site.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

February 19, 2018 marks the 76th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066, authorizing the unjust incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese Americans in ten American concentration camps, and other confinement sites, during World War II, one of the worst violations of civil rights in our nation’s history, and most certainly, one of its darkest chapters.

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