The gravesite of Okei, the first Japanese immigrant to be buried in the U.S. mainland, is adorned with flowers, notes and mementos by visitors WakamatsuFest in 2019 in Gold Hill, Calif., on the site of what later came to be known as the Wakamatsu Colony. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

SAN FRANCISCO — The Nichi Bei Foundation presents the third pilgrimage to the historic Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony on Saturday, Oct. 7, in Placerville, El Dorado County.

This will mark the third biennial pilgrimage to the site of the first large settlement of Japanese in America, which was established 154 years ago. A national and state historic landmark, the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony was established June 8, 1869. It is also the birthplace of first Japanese American, and the gravesite of the first Japanese woman buried in the U.S., Okei.

This year’s pilgrimage is a rare opportunity to learn about the storied history of this colony led by John Schnell and former samurai from Aizu-Wakamatsu, present-day Fukushima Prefecture. Participants can trace their own roots through family history consultations with volunteers from the California Genealogical Society.

Highlights include:

• Talk by Professor John E. Van Sant, author of “Pacific Pioneers: Japanese Journeys to America and Hawaii, 1850-80.”

• Bus and bento packages from San Jose, San Francisco, East Bay and Sacramento.

• Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony tours and exhibits, including the Okei gravesite and Graner House Museum.

• Recognizing descendants of Wakamatsu colonist Kuninosuke Masumizu.

• Free family history consultations with California Genealogical Society volunteers.

• Recently installed monuments.

• Bon Odori dancing to honor ancestors and pioneers.

• Taiko by Koyasan Spirit of Children Taiko.

Must be ambulatory; there is much walking involved.

This year, bus packages are being offered for four Northern California locations. Each package includes admission onto the charter bus there and back, as well as a bento lunch on-site, water and tours of the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony.

San Francisco Package (limit 45): Loads 8 a.m. Departs 8:15 a.m. from Japantown Peace Plaza, Post at Buchanan. Returns 7:09 p.m. $75 general, $65 for Nichi Bei Foundation members.

East Bay Package (limit 45): Loads 8:30 a.m. Departs 8:45 a.m. from J-Sei, 1285 66th St., Emeryville. Returns 6:32 p.m. $75 general, $65 for Nichi Bei Foundation members.

San Jose Package (limit 50): Loads 7:15 a.m. Departs 7:30 a.m. from Issei Memorial Building, 565 N. 5th St., San Jose Japantown. Returns 7:19 p.m. $75 general, $65 for Nichi Bei Foundation members.

Sacramento Package (limit 45): Loads 9:45 a.m. Departs 10 a.m. from Tenrikyo High Sacramento Church, 2216 6th St., Sacramento. Returns 4:28 p.m. $50 general, $40 for Nichi Bei Foundation members.

Presented by the Nichi Bei Foundation in partnership with the California Genealogical Society and American River Conservancy. The event is sponsored by UCLA Asian American Studies Center and the George and Sakaye Aratani CARE Award.


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