Rafu Staff Report
SANTA MONICA — The Bay Cities Japanese Community 63rd Anniversary Joint Memorial Service ws held May 30 at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica.
The ceremony is held every Memorial Day in front of the Japanese American Memorial Monument, which was created in 1959 to honor the area’s Issei pioneers and Nisei soldiers, and rebuilt in 1994 after that year’s earthquake.
Opening remarks were made by Dr. Alan Oda, who served as emcee. Boy Scout Troop 764 from Venice Japanese Community Center conducted the presentation of colors and Pledge of Allegiance.
The sutra “Juseige” was chanted by Rev. Kory Quon of Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple and Rev. Koho Takata of West L.A. Buddhist Temple. Prayers were given in English by Rev. James Miyabe of Venice Free Methodist Church (this year’s hosting organization) and Rev. Becky Hirata of West L.A. United Methodist Church.
Rev. Miyabe, who is retiring, was thanked for more than four decades of service.
Organizational representatives presenting floral and incense offerings were: Kazuko Sue Takahashi, Santa Monica Nikkei Kai; Judy Okita, Japanese Institute of Sawtelle; Jerry Iseda, Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple; Wesley Shimoda, VJCC; Steve Tuggy, Venice Free Methodist Church; Gaylen Kobayashi, West L.A. Buddhist Temple; Isao Ikehara, West L.A. Holiness Church; Jeri Okamoto-Tanaka, West L.A. United Methodist Church.
The singing of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” was led by Rev. Brian Nakamura of West L.A. Holiness Church, who provided accompaniment on guitar.
Sermons were given in English by Rev. Gary Oba of West L.A. United Methodist Church and in Japanese by Rev. Mari Otsuka of Venice Free Methodist Church.
Discussing the importance of Memorial Day, Rev. Oba noted, “33,000 Japanese Americans either enlisted or were drafted into the nation’s military … Some 800 Nisei were killed during the Second World War … They did this while their spouses and fiancees and siblings were interned in concentration camps on the West Coast.”
He added that the Issei pioneers “came from Japan with little resources and land available and … worked 24 hours a day, practically, in order to survive. We know that so many of them lost all of their hard work after World War II started, and after the war ended they had to start all over again.”
What the Issei and Nisei had in common was that “they were willing to sacrifice their life for us so that we might have a better life. So that’s why we gather here today, to remember and honor their sacrifice as the greatest act of love, and hopefully to be inspired,” Oba said.
The gatha “Ondokusan II” was recited by Rev. Quon, who also gave a sermon in English. Rev. Takata gave a sermon in Japanese.
Rev. Quon said that when he looked at the Boy Scouts participating in the service, “I remember seeing pictures of young soldiers sitting together like that … Many of these soldiers didn’t make it to 25 … and (did) not experience finding the love of their life, maybe having children, taking part in lifelong friendships … They sacrificed their lives. They sacrificed their livelihoods.”
He expressed hope that future generations will appreciate the “wonderful gift” left to them by the Nisei soldiers, “those youth that made such big decisions, had big hearts, and determined to do something greater than … themselves.” In addition to those who never came home, Rev. Quon paid tribute to “those that came back and had to carry the heavy heart of surviving and … missing their fallen comrades.”
Closing remarks were given by Oda and the Boy Scouts retired the colors. Participants stayed for a group photo.
Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo