JAPAN, KOREA AND U.S. MET TO DISCUSS CONTINUED TRILATERAL PARTNERSHIPS

On Friday, Feb. 18 the National Park Service, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation proudly presented the first-ever virtual National Day of Remembrance: 80 Years of Reckoning three-day program. The hour-long event honored those whose lives were forever altered, changed and lost due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, forcing the illegal imprisonment of over 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II. Usually held in person every year since 2007, the organizers of the event decided to hold the program virtually so as to create an inclusive program that highlights over 30 community partners and allow many across the world to witness the event. 

Noriko Sanefuji, a museum specialist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, began the event by acknowledging “the Native peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant Native communities who make their home here today.” Sanefuji continued by reiterating the theme of the event, 80 years of reckoning, which was inspired by Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch’s Smithsonian-wide 2021 initiative called “Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past.” This theme, said Sanefuji, “speaks to the responsibility of the Smithsonian and all museums to address social justice history.”  

Sanefuji then introduced Erika Moritsugu, deputy assistant to the President of the United States and the Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders Senior Liaison. Moritsugu reflected on her family’s personal connections to the EO 9066 anniversary. Along with some family members who were sent from Hawai‘i to the Mainland to become prisoners within the internment camps, Moritsugu also had family members who fought during World War II. Moritsugu was “incredibly grateful” for the opportunity to help remember the bravery of those incarcerated and looks forward to “explore what it means to learn from past mistakes and to build a better future for ourselves.” Moritsugu also helped deliver a message from President Biden, which included Biden’s condemning of Executive Order 9066, stating that it was “one of the most shameful moments in American history.” The president’s message coincided with the theme of the event, of how those of us still living may help rectify 80 years of remembrance since the signing of Executive Order 9066 and concluded by stating “may we all remember our past, stand together against hate and discrimination, and recommit to our coping efforts to create a more perfect union.”

Erika Moritsugu, deputy assistant to the President of the United States and the Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders Senior Liaison. (Screenshot photos of the National Day of Remembrance virtual recap)

Vice President Kamala Harris made an appearance next and reiterated that the United States must remember this day “without flinching at the human cost of racism and xenophobia. Because it is only by understanding our past that we can build a better future.” In response to the influx of Asian American hate crimes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden administration has enacted the signing of Executive Order 14031, which has created the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. According to executive director Krystal Ka‘ai, who followed Harris’s appearance in the program, the initiative was created to help “advance equity, justice and opportunity for the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community” in hopes of creating a more inclusive future for generations to come.

Next was Koji Tomita, the ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Japan to the United States of America, who explained the reasons why we remember a date in history that exemplifies so much “pain” and “anguish” is because we “remember those who suffered as a result of it.”

A photo montage that incorporated Kishi Bashi’s musical animation piece “Violin Tsunami” was presented next to show the history of Japanese American immigration to incarceration. This powerful segment flashed between various images of the Japanese American experience since the late 1800’s. From migration to the United States and snippets of racist signs barring Japanese Americans from establishments, to aerial shots of dusty concentration camp barracks and proud Japanese American soldiers in decorated military uniforms, Bashi’s profound segment shared the amazing journey of Japanese Americans since their story began in the United States many generations ago.

Brian Niiya, the content director of Densho, spoke next to share the history of Executive Order 9066, Day of Remembrances and the redress movement. Dr. Anthea M. Hartig, the Elizabeth MacMilllan director at the National Museum of American History, followed with a reminder to “continue to confront the racist violence perpetrated and experienced by people in a time that seems both faraway and yet extremely present and dangerous.” Lonnie G. Bunch III, the 14th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, continued to say “history must be a guide … so we can prevent them from happening again … to help us become better.” The Smithsonian, he said, is proud to present “Our Shared Future: Reckoning with Our Racial Past” in order to continue the effort in helping our country deal with its “racial past and racial divide.”

Norman Y. Mineta, chair of the board of trustees at the Japanese American National Museum and advisory council member of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, spoke next to reflect on what he remembered as a child before he was incarcerated at the Heart Mountain concentration camp. As a 10-year-old boy in 1942, Mineta was disheartened to learn that he was once known as a “non-alien” and to this day cherishes the word “citizen” of the United States.

Charles F. Sams III, the first Native American to lead the agency and the director of the National Park Service, concluded the speeches, confirming the National Park Service’s role in “telling these difficult histories with accuracy and authenticity, so that we may heal as a nation.”

To end the program, a photo montage of Day of Remembrance participants’ answers to the question “Who inspires you?” followed as they held up various names of those who inspire them.

Dan Sakura, a member of Friends of Minidoka, holds up the name of his grandmother Agnes Sakura, his answer to the question: “Who inspires you?”

Along with collaborations from the National Park Service, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, the National Day of Remembrance program received support from the Japanese American Citizens League (the national and D.C. chapter), the Japanese American National Museum, the Friends of Minidoka, the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation and the Asian American Foundation. To watch the full program of the National Day of Remembrance: 80 Years of Reckoning, go to youtube.com/watch?v=on_DKBf-SoQ&t=6s.

PROJECT DANA SAYS “ARIGATÖ” FROM ITS NEW HOME

After 33 years, Project Dana — an organization founded by members of the Mö‘ili‘ili Hongwanji Mission — continues to serve the community by providing a range of supportive services to Hawai‘i’s elders and their caregivers. This “Faith-in-Action” organization could not accomplish what it does without the hundreds of volunteers throughout the state who embody the spirit of selfless giving.

On Sunday, Jan. 30, the Project Dana staff, leadership, and supporters held a “Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Service” via Zoom, to honor all of its volunteers and express heartfelt gratitude to those who support the organization and its mission.

A special service was held at the Mö‘ili‘ili Hongwanji Mission and officiated by the temple’s resident minister, Rev. Toshiyuki Umitani, with temple member Donna Higashi serving as emcee. Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii Bishop Eric Matsumoto was the guest speaker and delivered the Dharma Message.

Bishop Matsumoto’s talk focused on the importance “connection.” For Buddhists, this involves connecting with the “all-inclusive wisdom and all-embracing compassion” of Amida Buddha. Beyond that, it involves connecting with others, a need as basic as food, water and shelter. Bishop Matsumoto shared the collected wisdom of others who have written about the power of social connections, even with just one person, as he reflected on the themes of connection and gratitude.

Rev. Toshiyuki Umitani, left, joins the “Happy Strummers” (Susan Morishige, Betsy Nishioka and Ann Nakata) for songs as part of Project Dana’s 33rd Virtual Volunteer Appreciation Service. (Screenshot by Kevin Kawamoto)

For example, he recalled the words of the late Lily Miyasato Horio, an inspiring figure in the Okinawan and Japanese American community in Hawai‘i, who among her many accomplishments was the organist and choir director at Jikoen Temple for many years. Horio wrote a gatha (song or verse) about the many different kind of offerings that exist, Bishop Matsumoto explained, including flowers, food, money and incense. But she also reminded people through her gatha about non-tangible offerings: Happy face, gentle heart and helping hand – offerings that Project Dana volunteers share with elders all the time.

The service provided an opportunity to let those who haven’t heard, know that Project Dana’s new location, at least for now, is at Mö‘ili‘ili Hongwanji Mission on 902 University Ave. The little blue house, where it used to be located on 2720 Näko‘oko‘o St., was sold last November due to the need for major costly renovations. The house once belonged to longtime temple members Masaru and Kuniyo Kawamoto and was donated to Mö‘ili‘ili Hongwanji Mission after the death of Mrs. Kawamoto and served as Project Dana’s headquarters for close to 30 years.

Memories of the late Shimeji Kanazawa and Rose Nakamura, co-founders of Project Dana in 1989, continue to be honored, but the next generation of Project Dana staff under the leadership of Cyndi Osajima have stepped up to plate during a challenging period in the program’s history due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Project Dana has found innovative ways to continue serving the population, including offering its caregiver support group meetings online, but like so many other community organizations in Hawai‘i, it is hoping that the new year will bring a gradual return to more normal operations when it is safe to do so.

Although Project Dana was founded by members of the Mö‘ili‘ili Hongwanji Mission, a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist denomination, its impact has spread far beyond the Buddhist community in Hawai‘i and includes volunteers and clients from many different faith organizations, weaving the themes of connecting, gratitude, and giving generously with compassion. More information can be found at Project Dana’s website at projectdana.org or by calling (808) 945-3736.

100TH INFANTRY BATTALION CHALLENGE

As this June 2022 marks the 80th anniversary of the 100th Infantry Battalion’s creation, the 100th Infantry Battalion 80th anniversary commemoration committee will be celebrating with a project-based learning opportunity for all of Hawai‘i middle- and high-school students. The 100th Infantry Battalion Challenge asks students to identify “an important issue or problem facing Hawai‘i and create an innovative solution to address this challenge by applying values, sacrifices, contributions and accomplishments of the World War II 100th Infantry Battalion soldiers and veterans.”

In an email to The Hawai‘i Herald, Janice Sakoda — a 100th Infantry Battalion 80th Anniversary Commemoration Committee member — hopes that students’ participation within this challenge will inspire them to “also make a difference by thinking big and conquering daunting odds and challenges through hard work, sacrifice and sheer determination.”

There will be an information meeting about the challenge on Thursday, March 24 at 4:30 p.m. Register at kickoff-100th.eventbrite.com. Sign up for the challenge at 100th-challenge.eventbrite.com. Last day to sign up for The Challenge is Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

Participants are welcome to visit the websites of the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans Education Center (100thbattalion.org) and the Nisei Veterans Legacy (nvlchawaii.org) to learn more information for their Challenge submission. Sakoda also noted that the Committee is planning on giving each participant an achievement award, a nominal gift card (contingent on donations given to the Committee), and their projects’ exposure on the Nisei Veterans Legacy website.   

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