My class took a trip to visit the Japanese Internment Memorial located in downtown San Jose. The internment of the Japanese is not a new subject to me, but seeing the memorial was a first time for me. The images on the memorial came to life and made the shadowed American memory come to life like I had never before seen.
The Japanese and Japanese-American people living in the United States were forced to go to internment camps following the attacks on Pearl Harbor during World War II. These camps degraded the people living inside of them, with most of them being American citizens many of which were women and children. The internment camps were just short of the Holocaust camps of Germany. Following the war and the atomic bombs being dropped in Japan, people were slowly let out of the internment camps and the memory of the act has been a top priority of memories to be erased in American history.
Ruth Asawa, along with many others interned during the world war, was able to make it out and chase her dreams as an American citizen. She has become a well known sculptor and artist since having her family locked up during her childhood and now has works in places like Ghirardelli Square and downtown San Jose. She is the artist behind the Japanese Internment Memorial in downtown San Jose. San Jose was relevant in the time of the Japanese internment. People of Japanese ancestry living in San Jose were ordered out of their homes during the war and were ordered to report to downtown before moving to camps located across the bay. San Jose State University was a place that held some of these families for some time.
There were a couple of images on the memorial that stuck in my head longer than others. On of the images was not a single image alone but rather was a theme on the artwork. There were several pictures of people monitoring the Japanese people in the camp. I presume that these people on lookout were guards based on their attire and the weapons they seemed to be holding. It was surreal for me to see American citizens being monitored at camps they had no choice but to go to. Although I already knew of the camps, the idea of the Japanese Internment became much more real with that image in the background on the memorial.
Another image that stuck with me is the pictures of the families working together to survive with what they have. Families were ripped out of their homes when the internment began. Regardless of their social status, people had to go to the camps because of Japan’s involvement in the world war. Seeing these families on the wall starting a new life and having their lives changed but still working together through it told me a lot. It further solidified America’s horrible actions and showed the resilience of the Japanese and Japanese-American people.
Visiting the Japanese Internment Memorial was a great experience and I recommend anyone to visit the memorial and learn more about the horrible actions taken by the US and the stubbornness of a race of people to let those actions bring them down.