Hayward, Calif. community holds dedication for Japanese American Memorial

­DEDICATION — Dozens of Bay Area community members attended the Feb. 4 dedication ceremony for a new Japanese American memorial at the Hayward Heritage Plaza in Hayward, Calif.
photo by Robbin Kawabata

Dozens of Bay Area community members paid tribute to the 606 Japanese American residents of the Hayward, Calif. area who were forcibly removed from their homes in 1942, at a ceremony Feb. 4, dedicating a new public sculpture installed at the Hayward Heritage Plaza. The sculpture, designed by artist and historian Patricia Wakida, was commissioned by the city of Hayward nearly three years ago, and includes the names of persons of Japanese ancestry from the Hayward region who were imprisoned in incarceration camps as a result of Executive Order 9066.

More than 60 Hayward city officials and guests attended the dedication ceremony at the Hayward Heritage Plaza, where these Japanese American families were ordered to report with their baggage for the buses that would take them to the Tanforan detention center in nearby San Bruno, Calif. on May 8, 1942.

Before the area was called Hayward, it had other geographical identifiers, including Eden Township, its most common name in the 1900s, when it existed as a largely agricultural area with fruit orchards, truck crop farms and dozens of flower nurseries run by Japanese American immigrant families. Flower production thrived in the cool Bay Area climate and required less land than vegetable or fruit farming, since it utilized glass covered greenhouses and lath covered structures.

Following the passage of Executive Order 9066 in February 1942, 108 Civilian Exclusion Orders were issued to remove Japanese Americans on the West Coast from their homes, under penalty of fines and imprisonment. Exclusion Order No. 34 affected the area of Alameda County from San Leandro to Warm Springs and ordered Japanese Americans to register at the Civil Control Station on 920 C St. in Hayward on May 4, 1942 and then required about 600 of them to assemble at the Hayward Plaza at Watkins and C Streets on May 8. The others assembled in Centerville on May 9.

The Wartime Civil Control Administration hired renowned photographer Dorothea Lange to record the removal of the Japanese Americans on location in Hayward. Lange’s photo shoot of the day has resulted in some of the most iconic government photos produced of the World War II camp experience, including portraits of the Mochida family, the Aso family, Mae Yanagi, and Hisako Hibi and her daughter Ibuki.

The new sculpture has been installed near a series of historical markers describing the events that occurred there in 1942. The sculpture, fabricated of stainless steel, consists of three distinct layers, which represent “Earth, man, and heaven,” according to artist Wakida.

“The largest metal cylinder references the surrounding geography and land, the ‘earth,’ where the names of the 606 people we are honoring and remember are etched upon. The uppermost cut edge of the cylinder echoes the undulating surrounding hills, with its spring streams and oak and bay laurel forests. The shape of the Hayward hills are meant to capture the vista and root the names in this site specific place. The second cylinder, or ‘man’ tells the story of the Japanese Americans who settled in this region and were predominately engaged in the floral industry, growing carnations, chrysanthemums, lilies, and roses among other cut flowers and plants for the booming flower industry. This image of the once ubiquitous greenhouse, that enabled the community to bloom, despite a rampantly anti-Asian climate, is mirrored by an image of the stark barracks at Topaz — the roses of their labor transforming into lengths of barbed wire that would entwine in their lives during the war. The third and uppermost circle, or ‘heaven,’ features four circular motifs that represent peace, solidarity, Japan and the United States, and finally a remembrance of the day that the community was forced into exile by their own government. These circular symbols intentionally hang above the greenhouses and barracks like constellations in the night sky.”

Honorees whose names appear on the sculpture or were born in camp, and attended the event were: Sumi Haramaki Lampert, Frank Koji Hashimoto, Ibuki Hibi Lee, Satoshi Hibi, Takeo Kato, Kayoko Mochida Ikuma, Tooru Mochida, Fred M. Shinoda, Aileen Yamashita Hisaoka, Jane Yanagi Diamond and Mae Yanagi Ferral.

The ceremony’s speakers included Hayward Mayor Mark Salinas, Memorial Art Committee project leader Robbin Kawabata, honoree Mae Yanagi Ferral, artist Wakida, Lois Oda from the Eden Township chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and Master of Ceremonies Victor Fujii. Musicians Peter and Wendy Horikoshi and Kyle Kashima performed the original song “Tanforan” at a reception held after the ceremony at the Hayward Public Library.
The city of Hayward and the JACL Legacy Fund Grant primarily funded the sculpture.

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