Exploring Manzanar: Then and Now

One of the inscriptions in the wall of the Manzanar Reservoir written by a Japanese
American incarceree who worked on the reservoir crew.
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

During a recent solo trip to the Manzanar National Historic Site in which I spent about 14 hours over roughly two days exploring the site by car and foot, it dawned on me that it was the first time that I was exploring the site in such a detailed fashion or spending as much time doing so.

That realization was spurred by a comment made by Manzanar ranger Rose Masters.

“I can’t believe you’ve never wandered around like this before,” she exclaimed (yes, “exclaimed” is the appropriate verb here).

For those of you who know me fairly well, that must sound really, really strange, if not unbelievable. After all, I’ve been involved with Manzanar for more than 31 years. I’ve been a member of the Manzanar Committee since the mid-1990’s. I served on the Manzanar Advisory Commission from 1992-2002. I’ve been one of the coordinators for the Manzanar At Dusk program since 2008, and now I’m one of the coordinators of a project, tentatively named, Keeping Japanese American Incarceration Stories Alive, which I urge you to read about here.
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New At Manzanar NHS: You’ve Got To See The Historic Women’s Latrine

The following is an updated version of a story originally published here on September 23, 2016.


Historically accurate communal toilets in the Block 14 women’s latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site. Note the absence of partitions.
(Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

INDEPENDENCE, CA — With the 25th Anniversary of Manzanar becoming a National Historic Site (March 3, 2017) being commemorated this year, and with the much more significant milestone, the 75th year since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066, also being commemorated, the Manzanar National Historic Site continues to work on bringing two new exhibits online.

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Manzanar NHS At 25 Years Old: More Relevant Now Than Ever Before

The following is an expanded version of a story that will appear in the printed program for the 48th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, April 29, 2017.


The east side of the Visitor Center at Manzanar National Historic Site.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

LOS ANGELES — A little over 25 years ago, after decades of hard work, Japanese American community activists, along with allies in California’s Owens Valley, celebrated a victory when the site of the Manzanar concentration camp, located along U.S. Highway 395 between the towns of Lone Pine and Independence, was designated as a National Historic Site on March 3, 1992, by an act of Congress.

It took twelve more years for the Manzanar National Historic Site to become a fully operational unit of the National Park Service, with its Visitor Center opening in April 2004. Since then, several physical elements of the World War II concentration camp have been reconstructed, additional exhibits continue to be developed, gardens are being excavated and rehabilitated, archaeological digs are uncovering more and more artifacts, and oral histories are being collected.

“It’s amazing,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “It took 23 years to be designated as a National Historic Site. Then, it took twelve more years to build the Visitor Center and have a grand opening in 2004. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

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AUDIO: Manzanar, Manzanar Pilgrimage The Focus of 99% Invisible Podcast

The cemetery monument at Manzanar.
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

On March 28, 2017, the Manzanar Pilgrimage and its origins, along with the Manzanar National Historic Site, was the focus of 99% Invisible, a podcast that. “…is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about—the unnoticed architecture and design [and history] that shape our world. With 150 million downloads, 99% Invisible is one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes.”

You can find out more about 99% Invisible here.

Their podcast on Manzanar features interviews with Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar Committee co-founder Warren Furutani, Alisa Lynch of the Manzanar National Historic Site and Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. You’ll also hear excerpts from Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar Committee co-founder Sue Kunitomi Embrey’s oral history with Densho.org.

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