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Tanforan Memorial Officially Dedicated

By September 22, 2022October 11th, 2022No Comments

The Tanforan Assembly Center Memorial Committee holds a ribbon-cutting ceremony, culminating a decade of work to honor those once imprisoned at the San Bruno site.

The Tanforan Memorial Committee formally opened the Tanforan Memorial with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that was held at the site of the former Tanforan Assembly Center on Aug. 27 in San Bruno, Calif.

TACMC Chairman Doug Yamamoto (left) and Vice Chairman Steve Okamoto, also of the San Mateo JACL, stand in front of the newly dedicated Tanforan Memorial featuring a statue of the Mochida sisters. (Photo courtesy of Steve Okamoto)

The $1.4 million memorial, which took more than 10 years to complete on land that was donated by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), the city’s regional transportation system, is situated just outside the San Bruno BART station and the Shops at Tanforan.

More than 700 individuals, including 48 Tanforan survivors, gathered for the unveiling ceremony, which included 16 speakers including San Bruno Mayor Rico Medina; Acting Consul General of Japan Hajime Kishimori; Dr. Leroy Morishita, president of the Japanese American Community Foundation; State Sen. Josh Becker; and Rep. Jackie Speier.

Tanforan survivors, who all wore red carnations, were represented by Mary Ann Furuichi, who was 4 years old when she and her family went to Tanforan following the issuance of Executive Order 9066.

According to the TACMC, “During WWII, the U.S. Army converted what was then the Tanforan Racetrack into one of 17 temporary detention centers at which persons of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated while more permanent detention centers in the inland United States were being built.”

The Tanforan Assembly Center, over the course of six months, held nearly 8,000 people of Japanese descent.

The Tanforan Memorial stands as a permanent monument to honor all those who were forcibly imprisoned at Tanforan and “to ensure that the injustice they suffered is not forgotten.”

It features a replica horse stall as well as a statue sculpted by Sandra Shaw of the two Mochida sisters, who were photographed by Dorothea Lange in 1942 as they waited to be transported to Tanforan from their home in Hayward, Calif.

Ceremony attendees also were able to view the updated permanent “Tanforan Incarceration 1942: Resilience Behind Barbed Wire” exhibit, curated by Judy Na Omi Shintani, at the BART Station.

The TACMC, which was formed in 2012, is comprised of former Tanforan detainees, in addition to several Bay Area Japanese American activists.

Chairman Doug Yamamoto said that “he was overcome with emotion” when he addressed the crowd with his closing remarks. “After looking at the finished memorial, I felt that the effort we put in was well worth the time in honoring the 8,000 souls that lost everything when they were forced to come here in 1942.” 

Tanforan survivors all wore red carnations at the unveiling ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Steve Okamoto)