iwamura - Critical Faith Japanese Americans and the Birth...

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Critical Faith: Japanese Americans and the Birth of a New Civil Religion Iwamura, Jane Naomi. American Quarterly, Volume 59, Number 3, September 2007, pp. 937-968 (Article) Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/aq.2007.0058 For additional information about this article Access Provided by University of California @ Irvine at 09/27/10 6:05PM GMT http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/aq/summary/v059/59.3iwamura.html
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| 937 Critical Faith O n a bright day in April, not far from Independence, California, sev- eral charter buses can be seen rambling down some old dirt roads in what appears to be the middle of nowhere. Although the scenery is spectacular—the dusty Owens Valley framed by snow-peaked mountains and a broad blue sky—one can not locate the attraction. What are these people coming to see? The dirt roads, as well as the abandoned concrete foundations that punctu- ate the acres of desert scrub, are part of the Manzanar National Historic Site. While many do come here as tourists, today’s arrivals converge on the location with a different purpose in mind; they are on a pilgrimage. ©2007 The American Studies Association America , Manzanar National Monument, California, April 2007. Photograph by Tim May, © http://www. pbase.com/mityam Tim May. Critical Faith: Japanese Americans and the Birth of a New Civil Religion Jane Naomi Iwamura
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| 938 American Quarterly The Manzanar Annual Pilgrimage is now in its thirty-eighth year. In 1969, 150 young Japanese Americans journeyed to the site that once served as an internment camp in which their parents and grandparents were detained. “The bitter cold and biting wind gave us our first lesson on how life must have been for the internees. Our humility was reinforced when we learned that what we had brashly called our ‘first’ pilgrimage was, for two Issei ministers, their 25th—Rev. Sentoku Maeda and Rev. Soichi Wakahiro are gone—but their spirits live on.” 1 After this initial pilgrimage in 1969, hundreds more began to make the trip each year. And eventually, a dedicated committee of volunteers would come to organize the annual event. The pilgrimage now takes place over several days and includes speakers, spoken word performances, contem- porary bands, and Taiko drumming. The crux of the program is the Saturday afternoon ceremony, which begins with the raising of the ten banners (repre- senting each of the ten internment camps) and a roll call commemorating the former internees. At this moment, the crowd gathers in front of the cemetery monument—a “soul consoling” tower or memorial to the dead erected by the evacuees during their internment—for a service of remembrance. 2 Christian and Buddhist ministers, Catholic and Shinto priests preside and offer chants and prayers. The service is brought to a close as each participant places a flower on the monument—an offering in memory of those who died and suffered within the barbed wire that once enclosed the site.
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