75 years later, a Venice memorial will mark the spot where Japanese Americans boarded buses to internment camps
By Gary Walker
Arnold Maeda still carries the memory of leaving behind his beloved dog Boy when his family was forced to leave their Mar Vista home shortly after the United States entered World War II.
“That still hurts after all these years,” says Maeda, one of more than 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent who were forced into relocation and incarceration camps in 1942 —
including many who lived on the west side of Los Angeles.
Maeda, 90, will join others who were interned or their surviving family members for the dedication of the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 27.
A nine-foot obelisk of polished black granite, the monument displays a map of the Manzanar camp, where Maeda and his family were forced to live for three years. It will stand at the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln boulevards — the very spot where on April 25, 1942, families like Maeda’s boarded buses bound for internment camps with whatever they
Retired Venice High School teacher Phyllis Hayashibara, whose parents also faced internment during World War II, is an organizer of the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument Committee, a community group that has been raising funds to create the monument.
“The committee has been working on this monument since 2009 and some for much longer. We almost can’t believe that it’s happening,” she said.
Hayashibara sees parallels between the internment of Japanese Americans and the Trump administration’s recent attempts to ban refugees and others from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
“This monument is a reminder that the powers of the government can be used to discriminate and incarcerate people without due process. In this political climate, this kind of reminder is even more important,” she said.
Venice muralist Emily Winters, who helped design the monument, echoed Hayashibara’s sentiments.
“We’re hoping people will realize that you can’t discriminate against a group of people because of their race, ethnicity or religion, and we hope this will be a reminder that we don’t want this to happen again,” Winters said during a 2012 ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of locals’ departure to the camps.
Dedication ceremony speakers include Thomas Yoshikawa, who was incarcerated at Manzanar, and Dr. Jimmy Hara, a professor at the UCLA School of Medicine who was born in the Gila River War Relocation Center.
For Maeda, who still lives in Mar Vista, the past is never that far away.
“I’ve always had these gut-wrenching feelings whenever I passed by that corner. But now, when I’m at the ceremony, I don’t know how I’m going to react,” he said.
Visit venicejamm.org for more information, including how to participate in a fundraising lunch at Hama Sushi in Venice after the ceremony.