The VJAMM obelisk being polished in India prior to shipment.
The VJAMM obelisk being polished in India prior to shipment.

The Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument (VJAMM) Committee eagerly anticipates the arrival of the VJAMM obelisk at a Bay Area port the first week of October.

Arnold Maeda with a full-scale model of the VJAMM in 2014.
Arnold Maeda with a full-scale model of the VJAMM in 2014.

David Williams of Williams Monument Company emailed photos of the VJAMM obelisk being shaped, polished, crated, and loaded into a shipping container in India. He assured the VJAMM Committee that the obelisk was not being shipped by the South Korean shipping company Hanjin, which recently filed for bankruptcy.

“This is so exciting!” enthused VJAMM Committee member Suzanne Thompson. “I am crying with joy!”

“How amazing and incredible all this is! It’s happening!” echoed VJAMM Committee member Emily Winters.

“Wow! Seeing the actual obelisk being packaged and ready for shipment is fantastic,” wrote VJAMM Committee member Yosh Tomita. “Everyone should be commended for all the hard work they put into getting the obelisk to where it is today. There were so many events that had to be taken to get it this far. I really didn’t realize this task had so many events that needed to take place. I’m sure there are more events that need to be [planned for the] final event and big celebration forthcoming.

“Everyone did a fantastic job. Looking forward to the final day of the installation and celebration of the VJAMM obelisk.”

The committee has been working on the VJAMM since 2010, gathering letters of support from community organizations and local elected officials, including those serving on the Los Angeles City Council and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and in the California State Assembly and State Senate; raised funds (still ongoing); secured calculations and plans from civil engineers, soil engineers, and structural engineers; and successfully applied for approvals from the City Council, Cultural Affairs Commission, Board of Public Works, California Coastal Commission, and Cal Trans District 7.

Workers in India load the obelisk into a shipping container.
Workers in India load the obelisk into a shipping container.

Once the obelisk is shipped to Arvin in Kern County, Williams, a certified memorialist, will personally engrave all four sides of the monument with historical text, quotes from four former Manzanar concentration camp internees, acknowledgement of major donors, and a map to Manzanar National Historic Site. For updated text, a complete list of donors, or to make a donation, visit

The VJAMM Committee thanks Venice Community Housing for serving as fiscal sponsor. VCH’s nonprofit status allowed the committee to successfully apply for a $50,000 matching (2:1) grant from the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program in 2012.

The committee also deeply appreciates the ongoing support of Esther Chaing, who has hosted the VJAMM fundraiser at her restaurant, Hama Sushi in Venice, for five years, cumulatively donating an extremely generous $14,536.43. Once a year, Chaing has donated 100 percent of the profits from special bento box lunches and 10 percent of all dinner sales, and many of her staff have volunteered their time and expertise. The committee thanks everyone who has supported the VJAMM fundraiser at by pre-ordering bento at lunch and/or coming for dinner.

The next challenge is to raise the funds for the transport, foundation, and installation of the VJAMM. The $16,000 originally budgeted for the foundation and installation will not cover the higher-than-anticipated costs of the transportation (not originally budgeted), foundation, and installation. The bids so far have come in at two and almost three times the original budget for all three tasks.

The committee also realizes that the April 2017 dedication will coincide with the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the forced removal and incarceration of the Japanese Americans from the West Coast to ten American concentration camps under the War Relocation Authority. The committee will certainly be planning special events, including the dedication, as Tomita predicted.

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