The Wakasa Monument belongs back home in Japantown, San Francisco


It’s not 1942 anymore; “Shikata ganai” is no longer in my vocabulary. I was four when they put me in that prison camp, Topaz. I’m 84 now. Today I shall fight the injustice/racism before me.

Back then, we were apolitical, in survival mode. We were so afraid of our government. Just the labels on cushions, “Do not remove under penalty of law,” scared me to death. I thought breaking the law meant they would put us back into Topaz.

Today, I’m feeling unheard and ignored regarding the disposition of Mr. Wakasa’s monument and remains. There were 139 deaths at Topaz. There was a designated graveyard just outside the southwest corner of camp.

However, no one was buried there because the locals of Millard Co. said, “We don’t want any Japs buried in our backyard.” Therefore, the ashes were given to the surviving families to take back to San Francisco.

The only one who is still being held hostage there is Mr. Wakasa. I believe Wakasa’s ashes were buried with his monument stone. It was dug up and desecrated without care by those without any connection to Topaz. It now sits unprotected in back of the museum. I am deeply offended and insulted they never consulted with any of us former prisoners.

I call for the immediate resignation of the president of the Topaz Museum board, Jane Beckwith and her replacement by a living survivor of Topaz or a descendant thereof.

I say, Mr. James H. Wakasa should be brought home to rest at the Nihonmachi Peace Plaza where he belongs for all of us to bring flowers and pay our respects to him. He lived in San Francisco before being sent to Topaz, and so many of us no longer can make that long journey back to Delta, Utah.

Toru Saito and his four siblings, were all born in Japantown, San Francisco. His family, and neighbors, were evicted from their homes and forced into Topaz concentration camp, Block 36 next door to Mr. Wakasa. Toru and his family shared supper with Mr. Wakasa in the mess hall prior to his murder that evening. Toru is a retired mental health clinician and lives in Berkeley. The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

See the 2024 CAAMFest