POWELL, Wyo. — For the first time ever, the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation will host the Japanese ambassador to the U.S. and several members of the Japanese diplomatic corps at its Heart Mountain Pilgrimage.
The annual pilgrimage event will take place July 25-27 at Heart Mountain Interpretive Center between Cody and Powell.
Ambassador Shinsuke Sugiyama and Minister Kenichiro Mukai from the Embassy of Japan in Washington, D.C. will be honored guests at the event, as will Midori Takeuchi, the Japanese consul general in Denver.
The visit reflects the Japanese government’s growing interest in the Nikkei community in the U.S. and the story of Japanese American incarceration. The embassy has previously participated in events held in Washington and Salt Lake City by the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation and other Japanese American organizations.
“We’re honored that the ambassador and so many of his colleagues will be joining us at Heart Mountain,” said Shirley Ann Higuchi, chair of the board of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation. “It’s another sign of the growing interest the Japanese government is demonstrating toward the Japanese American incarceration, and we hope it’s the beginning of many visits to come.”
Heart Mountain was one of 10 concentration camps where the U.S. government unjustly incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II. Former incarcerees from Heart Mountain began holding reunions in the 1980s, and eventually teamed with local supporters to form the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation. The pilgrimage, in its current form, was first held in 2011 and served as the grand opening for Heart Mountain Interpretive Center.
For younger members of the Japanese American community, the pilgrimage is an opportunity to learn about their ancestors’ experience. The event includes tours of the site by former incarcerees, educational sessions by scholars of Japanese American history, and guided multigenerational discussions.
In addition to the Japanese dignitaries, this year’s special guests include former Cabinet Secretary Norman Mineta, former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, newscaster Tom Brokaw, and retired Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, who will serve as the event’s keynote speaker.
The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation works to preserve the remains of the former confinement site in Wyoming, to educate about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, and to demonstrate how the lessons learned from this history are still relevant today.
For more information about the pilgrimage, call Heart Mountain Interpretive Center at (307) 754-8000 or visit www.heartmountain.org.