Manzanar National Historic Site
Manzanar Pilgrimage 2013: FAREWELL TO MANZANAR
Dedicated in memory of the late Mary Ishizuka
On a clear September Saturday morning, 46 persons – ages three months to 93 years old – journeyed to Manzanar to visit a place in the desert which was home to 10,000 persons of Japanese ancestry during WWII. Of the 46 persons, eight were former internees at Manzanar.
Enroute we saw a film of the life story of Ralph Lazo, a Mexican American youth, who voluntarily went to Manzanar to be with his Japanese friends. We also heard a narrative on the history of the Owens Valley and the Owens River Water Restoration Project. Nearing Manzanar we glimpsed a view of the Lone Pine train depot where some internees were dropped off in 1942 upon arrival in the arid desert. Interestingly, today the train depot is a private residence.
Our lunch break was on the grounds of the picturesque Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery. No longer a working hatchery, it is now maintained by a volunteer group for enjoyment by the public.
After lunch we arrived at the Manzanar National Historic Site where we were greeted by Ranger Kristen Luetkemeier who boarded the bus and took us on a tour of the camp. On the auto tour, we stopped at Merritt Park, designed and built by Mary Ishizuka’s father, Mr. Kuichiro Nishi, during his time in Manzanar. Fully restored by archaeologists, Merritt Park is graced with a replicated bridge built by Barry Amos. With a recent torrential rainstorm, two neighboring creeks overflowed and flooded the grounds, inundating Manzanar with water and mud. To our dismay and surprise, we saw foot deep dry, cracked mud in the park ponds – all of which will be dug out eventually by volunteers.
In Block 14 we visited the restored original mess hall, now filled with exhibits, displays and “picnic” style dining tables. Two new barracks have been constructed, depicting how the internees lived in a 20’ x 20’ room. Budget permitting, eventually the communal bathrooms and laundry room will be reconstructed. Returning to the museum, we were able to view the orientation film, the exhibits and/or visit the gift shop. Five of our traveling youth – Karissa, Kortney and Karolyn Maeda and Ally and Jennifer Yamashita – completed a Manzanar course of study earning Junior Ranger badges.
Bishop was our destination for the night. After dinner, we had an opportunity for a “sharing time” with Supt. Les Inafuku, who updated us on events, programs and progress at Manzanar. This was our last opportunity with the superintendent as he will be retiring in January 2014.Sunday morning after breakfast, many of us walked to Schat’s Bakery to purchase delectable breads and pastries to take home. The Eastern California Museum in Independence was our next stop and then we returned to Manzanar for a brief worship service at the cemetery, led by Rev. Janet, where we were buffeted by strong blowing winds much like those we experienced during camp days. Origami cranes made by the newly commissioned Junior Rangers were given to us to be placed as memorials on the cemetery monument as we departed.
Leaving Manzanar, we toured the picturesque Alabama hills, site of many western movies. After lunch at the Lone Pine Visitors’ Center picnic tables, we boarded the bus ready for an afternoon nap enroute back to LA.
Thank you to the committee members for making this trip, not only interesting and educational, but also most memorable. Arriving back at the church about 5:30 pm, Rose announced this was the committee’s last trip – truly a “farewell to Manzanar.”
Submitted by Grace Seto
Our recent excursion to Manzanar was our first visit there for Hideyo and me. We were not internees there so I went with little expectations but surprisingly I found it to be a very moving experience. I was somewhat stunned when I had an emotional reaction as I stepped into the barrack and felt the felling of déjà vu. Also, entering the mess hall brought back floods of memories of having my meals with my father and eating those infamous mutton stews that one could smell from blocks away. It almost moved me to tears.
My one regret is that Hideyo was not able to have the full experience of our visit as his vision had gotten so bad. However, he says he’s glad he went. It was a memorable trip.
Hideyo & Mitzi Takimoto
I enjoyed the Manzanar trip because I got to see how people had to live. I also liked it because I got to see my friends from church and I got a junior ranger badge. Lastly, I got Piggies* (a big one and a little one).
Your friend, Jennifer Yamashita
Manzanar was one of ten relocation centers in which the Japanese were incarcerated during World War II. Located between the towns of Lone Pine and Bishop, California, Manzanar was the camp where those who lived in the West Los Angeles area before
the war were sent.
We gratefully acknowledge the following donors and Committee Members.
Donors: California Trust Bank, Mike Dote, Ken Harada, Hashimoto Nursery,Pacific Commerce, Otto and Eleanor Nakano, Carole Nakano, Jeri Okamoto, and Sadie Hifumi.
Manzanar Committee Members: Rose Honda, Sadie and Fred Hifumi, Keiko Kano, Eleanor and Otto Nakano, Norman Sakamoto and Randy Sakamoto.
West Los Angeles United Methodist Church: Rev. Gary Oba, Rev. Janet Cromwell, Rev. Becky Hirata and Diane Yamagata.
Manaznar National Historic Site: Ranger Kristen Luetkemeier, Tour Guide.