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43rd Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage/2012 Manzanar At Dusk: A Shin-Nisei Perspective

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Manzanar National Historic Site, the 43rd anniversary for the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, and the 25th anniversary of the UCLA Nikkei Student Union’s (UCLA NSU) participation in this event. We arrived at Manzanar early, like previous years, to have enough time to take a personal tour inside the Interpretive Center before the day program started at noon.

UCLA student Yuta Ebikawa (right), shown here facilitating one of the small group discussions during the 2012 Manzanar At Dusk program, held at Lone Pine High School, Lone Pine, California, April 28, 2012. Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee.

This year’s speakers were really passionate and moving, stressing the fact that the incarceration that happened about 70 years back did not just affect Japanese Americans, but people of all ethnic backgrounds. Each of them expressed hope for a better and brighter future. However, this cannot be achieved unless we all constantly keep learning about the past and thinking about anything we can do so the darkest history would never repeat itself again.

During the day program, UCLA Kyodo Taiko performed two of their songs, Matsuri and Swing, with full energy and excitement. After the speakers portion of the program was the interfaith memorial service, when we placed 1,000 cranes we all folded and stringed with everyone in our organization, right by the Soul Consoling Tower, i rei to.

The day portion of the Pilgrimage ended with the ondo dance lead by UCLA NSU Odori, everyone dancing with joy and happiness.

We also collaborated with UCSD Nikkei Student Union and Cal Poly Pomona Nikkei Student Union to lead the Manzanar At Dusk (MAD) program at nearby Lone Pine High School, where all of the generations came together to have small group discussions. Before the main discussion session, representatives from each of the organizations shared actual quotes from the former internees, obtained from oral histories, in order to help the audience a feel of what the situation was like back then when the incarceration happened in 1942.

I really enjoyed the discussion group I was in, which had a different feel from last year, since most of the people of my group were students. I had an opportunity to serve as a discussion leader again, and I felt more comfortable speaking and trying to moderate the discussion than last year. I was happy to hear how many students felt more aware of what happened in the past and how our generation is responsible for maintaining the peaceful foundations and relationships the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei generations have built for us and the Japanese and Japanese American communities here in the United States.

Although I have participated in the MAD for three straight years, I learned more about the camp life during the incarceration, like how some internees went to the Sierra Nevada mountains as the brave fishermen of Manzanar, despite the severe security.

After the small group discussions, representatives from each small discussion group shared what they learned from the discussion during an open mic session. I was especially touched by the comments made by a Native American, who fights for the betterment of peaceful relations among all the minorities and majorities of America.

As soon as MAD ended, we headed straight to the Lone Pine camp site to spend a night over under the star-lit sky.

As a UCLA NSU staff member who has had an opportunity to go to Manzanar Pilgrimage the last three years, I would love to come back again next year because I learn something new every year. I was really happy to see more people from the Muslim communities and Japanese American communities from Northern California come out to the Pilgrimage this year. I would love to see more Japanese exchange students or shin-Nisei students like me to join us for the future trips as well, because every one of them who came out so far said that they learned so much about what the Japanese Americans had to go through before, during, and after World War II, more than ever before.

As a scholar, and a world citizen, I have a mission to achieve complete world peace in the near future, and this is why I will keep learning something new and sharing it amongst others every day, every moment.

The views expressed in this story are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.

*This article was originally published on the Manzanar Committee blog on July 17, 2012.

© 2012 Yuta Ebikawa

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