Tom Oshidari (left) and Neil Kozuma carry banners as they lead a candlelight walk through the streets of San Jose Japantown.
By Christy Chung
More than 250 members of the community came together to commemorate the 35th annual San Jose Day of Remembrance, which was held on Feb. 15 at the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin. The event was organized by the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee and was emceed by the NOC’s Will Kaku.
Drawing on the theme “Stories From the Past, Lessons for Today,” Tom Izu, executive director of the California History Center at De Anza College, shared stories of three people who dedicated themselves to the
The strength and determination shown by Sue Tokushige, George Yoshioka and Mits Koshiyama continue to inspire Izu today. Izu said that redress was “never meant to be the end of the story, it was meant to be the beginning of a commitment by our community to make our Constitution and Bill of Rights mean something for everyone.”
During a 1979 pilgrimage to Tule Lake, where he was incarcerated as a child, Vernon Hayashida wrote a poem, which he read. Titled “From a Sansei,” it reflected on the questions his parents and grandparents wouldn’t answer, and it ended with understanding and “arigato, arigato, arigato” for what they endured.
Kent Carson recounted the experiences of his grandfather, Terry Terakawa, whose father was a prominent leader in the Japanese American community in Salt Lake City. The story, told in the first person, described the FBI’s pursuit of Terakawa’s father, including attempting to arrest him while he was in the hospital in an iron lung.
Central to the event was the traditional candle-lighting ceremony. Shakuhachi and koto music accompanied the roll call of the concentration camps and population count, read by Silicon Valley JACL chapter officer Mariko Fujimoto and the NOC’s Reiko Nakayama. San Jose JACL chapter officers Tom Oshidari and Neil Kozuma, as well as members of the NOC, led the group carrying candles through historic Japantown.
Congressman Mike Honda said that although H.R. 442 was signed, after the 9/11 attacks, there was evidence of racial profiling, and thousands were taken into custody. He spoke of the power of sharing personal stories as a way to practice citizenship and fight oppression, racism and sexism, and he encouraged the audience to learn about other cultures and other religions.
Performances by San Jose Taiko underscored the emotional power of the night. The first song was “Day of Remembrance,” which was composed and choreographed by artistic director Franco Imperial, who was inspired by the 2002 San Jose DOR event.
In addition to the NOC, the event was sponsored by a number of community organizations, including the San Jose, Sequoia, and Silicon Valley chapters of the JACL; Santa Clara County Asian Law Alliance; Campaign for Justice; Santa Clara County Office of Human Relations; Japanese American Museum of San Jose; San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin, San Jose Peace and Justice Center; San Jose Taiko; South Bay Islamic Assn.; Wesley United Methodist Church; and Yu-Ai Kai.