The Topaz Museum Board and Wakasa Memorial Committee will co-host memorial events at the Topaz concentration camp site in Delta, and Salt Lake, Utah, to honor the memory of James Hatsuaki Wakasa, who was walking his dog when he was killed by an Army guard on April 11, 1943, at Topaz.
The memorial events in Utah will require registration (free). The two-day program will commence Friday, April 21, at the Salt Lake City Buddhist Temple.
An evening program will feature a presentation on the life of Wakasa, followed by a panel presentation by officials from the Utah State Historical Preservation Office and the National Park Service, as well as a stone conservator. They will discuss the long-term preservation of the Wakasa memorial stone and site.
At Topaz, on Saturday, April 22, a ceremonial walk will retrace Wakasa’s steps from his barrack to the sacred place where he died. After his death, a monument was built nearby in his memory but taken down by government order. A brief interfaith ceremony will be held near the fence where he died.
After the memorial walk, a ritual ceremony at the museum will be livestreamed to the Delta Community Center from the Wakasa memorial stone in the courtyard of the Topaz Museum in Delta, 16 miles from Topaz.
To register, go to the website https://www.wakasa80th.org/register/. The deadline is April 3, or when event capacity of 160 is reached. Registration includes two box meals and, if selected, round-trip bus transportation between Salt Lake City and Delta on Saturday. For more information, email email@example.com.
The Wakasa Monument, a 2,400-pound memorial stone, was erected in 1943 near the fence at Topaz by Issei friends and members of the landscape committee, in defiance of the authorities’ orders not to build a monument. Soon after, they were ordered by the War Relocation Authority administration to destroy the monument.
The builders, instead, buried the stone. The top was rediscovered in 2020. It had lain in the ground for 78 years, until it was unearthed by the Topaz Museum Board and relocated to the museum’s courtyard in 2021, to protect it from vandalism and other acts of deliberate destruction, according to a museum spokesperson.