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PRESS RELEASE: Reflections on the Japanese American Sesquicentennial at Wakamatsu Farm

PLACERVILLE, CA. (July 31, 2019)   WakamatsuFest150 was a sesquicentennial festival celebrating 150 years of Japanese American heritage, arts, and cuisine at Wakamatsu Farm in Placerville, California.  Held June 6th through 9th, American River Conservancy (ARC) hosted the event to recognize the 150th anniversary of the first Japanese pioneers’ arrival at Wakamatsu Farm where they established the first Japanese Colony in America in June 1869.  The occasion honored 150 years of Japanese American immigration by drawing a large and diverse international crowd to the one-time-only historic occasion.

Wakamatsu Farm 150th Anniversary crowdOver 4000 visitors, performers, artists, demonstrators, vendors, and volunteers joined WakamatsuFest150, including the after-hours VIP event.  Many were new visitors who had no prior knowledge of the Farm nor its history. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of significance.  The Farm was declared California Registered Historic Landmark #815 during the June 1965 centennial celebrations hosted 50 years ago at Wakamatsu Farm.

Festival-goers this year included over 60 people from Japan and many more from across America.  Japanese and Japanese Americans showcased their culture and history during 41 live performances spanning 72 hours on three simultaneous stages.  The festival offered 2.5 hours of Japanese language programming.  On the first festival day, about 300 local school children participated in activities to learn about Japanese art, culture, and history.  Every festival day, kids enjoyed playing in the outdoor nature play space.  Over 50 vendors and booths offered Japanese-inspired merchandise, Japanese American history, information, and business services, along with Japanese food and other festival fare.

Artists shared ongoing hands-on demonstrations of Japanese art forms like haiku, temari balls, calligraphy, sumi-e painting, wood block printing, and silk Wakamatsu Farm 150th Anniversary ceremonyspinning, spooling, and weaving.  Lecturers, farmers, and historians discussed tea, history, their books, and Japanese culture.  Musicians played traditional Japanese instruments such as taiko, koto, and shakuhachi.  Masters and students demonstrated Japanese archery, swordsmanship, and martial arts.  Japanese women clad in colorful kimonos prepared and served ceremonial tea.  Ministers held at least one Buddhist service each day at the gravesite of Okei-san, the first Japanese woman and immigrant buried on American soil.  Her gravesite is the main reason why the Wakamatsu story has survived over the past 150 years.

To bring the Wakamatsu story alive during the festival, audiences enjoyed daily performances of the live action play, Gold Hill Samurai.  Docents were posted at history stations throughout the Farm to support self-guided tours.  Artifacts on display in the historic Graner House included the magnificent gold-threaded banner and 14th century samurai dagger left by the Wakamatsu Colonists, three volumes of Commodore Perry’s ship logs, and much more.  Visitors parked offsite and rode free luxury shuttles between Wakamatsu Farm and nearby Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park so they could extend their exploration of local history in nearby Coloma.

Wakamatsu Farm 150th Anniversary ceremonyDignitaries from Japan joined WakamatsuFest150, including Japanese Parliament member, Shinji Oguma, and the Consul General of Japan in San Francisco, Tomochika Uyama.  As a lecturer and special guest, ARC was honored to host Iehiro Tokugawa, heir of the Tokugawa Shogunate whose ancestors ruled Japan for over 260 years.  Also remarkable, the 15th heir of the Matsudaira clan family who is referred to as a “prince,” Chikamori Matsudaira participated during the weekend wearing the traditional costume of his samurai lord ancestors.

On the exact 150th anniversary date of June 8, 2019, all distinguished visitors from Japan met several descendants of Wakamatsu colonists from both America and Japan.  The momentous occasion represented a full circle reunion in the Japanese immigration story when the descendants of nobles and commoners of Wakamatsu history finally met at their “Plymouth Rock” landing site in America.  In that historic moment, young Prince Matsudaira presented the Wakamatsu Colony descendants with sake and samurai swords made in Japan.

American elected officials who joined WakamatsuFest150 included Placerville Mayor Mark Acuna, Assemblyman Ken Cooley, County Supervisors Lori Parlin Wakamatsu Farm 150th Anniversary Taikoand Brian Veerkamp.  The San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival Queen and Court participated in the festivities.  Visitors were quite surprised to find former Governor Jerry Brown at WakamatsuFest150, including the VIP after-hours event.

To understand the historical significance of the event, ARC circulated over 6000 copies of the festival program before and during WakamatsuFest150.  The public is welcome to contact ARC to obtain free copies of the collectible 16-page WakamatsuFest150 Commemorative Festival Program containing articles and the event schedule while quantities last.

In partnership with the El Dorado County Visitor’s Authority, the influx of visitors boosted local businesses and organizations.  The event brought accolades
to ARC through overwhelmingly positive feedback, thank you cards, Japanese gifts, and governmental declarations from California and Japan.  Happy visitors have shared countless event photographs.  To view and download event photos, ARC created a public photo share site at https://photos.app.goo.gl/rLUnqBMP63S18Xrc9.  Print and social media attention about WakamatsuFest150 continues, particularly on Facebook where Wakamatsu Farm continues sharing its ongoing story.

Wakamatsu Farm 150th Anniversary visitorsThe most common request after WakamatsuFest150 is a similar event every year.  Although any 150th anniversary celebration can never be repeated, WakamatsuFest150 created a timely reason for ARC to invest in infrastructural improvements to support future events at Wakamatsu Farm.  Onsite improvements include two new performance stages, a small tea house, the nature play space, drinking fountains, and much more.  Building on the momentum of WakamatsuFest150, it is easy to predict more memorable events at Wakamatsu Farm in the years ahead.

Find out more about WakamatsuFest150 at www.ARConservancy.org/wakafest150, email wakamatsu@ARConservancy.org, or call 530-621-1224.

For More Information

Author: Melissa Lobach – melissa@ARConservancy.org

Phone: (530) 530-621-1224

Email: wakamatsu@ARConservancy.org

Website: ARConservancy.org/wakafest150

October is Bullying Prevention Month

Every day thousands of young people experience bullying from their peers while at school, after school in their neighborhoods, and even when they are at home, through social media and texts.  50% of Asian American students in New York City schools report being bullied. There is a high prevelance of suicidal ideation as a result of unceasing bullying. There are many ways to support bullying prevention as an individual or with friends and family and within your school or community. EVERYONE needs to stand up for the victim to help stop bullying. 
stopbullying.gov

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/   You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line https://www.crisistextline.org/

Free online curriculum for high school and college students coming Fall 2019

Sign-now for updates.

What Does it Mean to be an American?

Inspired by the Legacy of Secretary Norman Mineta, the curriculum was developed by Mineta Legacy Project in partnership with SPICE (Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education). The free educational curriculum offers six lessons for educators, high school students and college students to examine what it means to be American.
  • Six easy-to-use lessons with readings, videos and assignments
  • Meets Common Core and national standards for history, social studies, civics, and government courses
  • Created in partnership with the PBS documentary film, Norman Mineta and His Legacy: An American Story

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month October is National Bullying Prevention Month

There is a strong link between bullying and suicide, as suggested by recent bullying-related suicides in the US and other countries. Parents, teachers, and students learn the dangers of bullying and help students who may be at risk of committing suicide.

In recent years, a series of bullying-related suicides in the US and across the globe have drawn attention to the connection between bullying and suicide. Though too many adults still see bullying as “just part of being a kid,” it is a serious problem that leads to many negative effects for victims, including suicide. Many people may not realize that there is also a link between being a bully and committing suicide.

The statistics on bullying and suicide are alarming:

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
  • Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University
  • A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying
  • 10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above
  • According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying

Bully-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting, or circulating suggestive or nude photos or messages about a person.

Some schools or regions have more serious problems with bullying and suicide related to bullying. This may be due to an excessive problem with bullying at the school. It could also be related to the tendency of students who are exposed to suicide to consider suicide themselves.

Some of the warning signs of suicide can include:

  • Showing signs of depression, like ongoing sadness, withdrawal from others, losing interest in favorite activities, or trouble sleeping or eating
  • Talking about or showing an interest in death or dying
  • Engaging in dangerous or harmful activities, including reckless behavior, substance abuse, or self injury
  • Giving away favorite possessions and saying goodbye to people
  • Saying or expressing that they can’t handle things anymore
  • Making comments that things would be better without them

If a person is displaying these symptoms, talk to them about your concerns and get them help right away, such as from a counselor, doctor, or at the emergency room.

In some cases, it may not be obvious that a teen is thinking about suicide, such as when the suicide seems to be triggered by a particularly bad episode of bullying. In several cases where bullying victims killed themselves, bullies had told the teen that he or she should kill him or herself or that the world would be better without them. Others who hear these types of statements should be quick to stop them and explain to the victim that the bully is wrong.

Other ways to help people who may be considering suicide include:

  • Take all talk or threats of suicide seriously. Don’t tell the person they are wrong or that they have a lot to live for. Instead, get them immediate medical help.
  • Keep weapons and medications away from anyone who is at risk for suicide. Get these items out of the house or at least securely locked up.
  • Parents should encourage their teens to talk about bullying that takes place. It may be embarrassing for kids to admit they are the victims of bullying, and most kids don’t want to admit they have been involved in bullying. Tell victims that it’s not their fault that they are being bullied and show them love and support. Get them professional help if the bullying is serious.
  • It is a good idea for parents to insist on being included in their children’s friends on social networking sites so they can see if someone has posted mean messages about them online. Text messages may be more difficult to know about, so parents should try to keep open communications with their children about bullying.
  • Parents who see a serious bullying problem should talk to school authorities about it, and perhaps arrange a meeting with the bully’s parents. More states are implementing laws against bullying, and recent lawsuits against schools and criminal charges against bullies show that there are legal avenues to take to deal with bullies. If school authorities don’t help with an ongoing bullying problem, local police or attorneys may be able to.

People who are thinking about suicide should talk to someone right away or go to an emergency room. They can also call a free suicide hotline, such as 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Friends and relatives of suicide victims also need to find someone to talk to as they grieve, especially if they are suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts themselves.

Sources:

WebMD, Depression Guide, “Recognizing the Warning Signs of Suicide” [online]
Nemours, KidsHealth, “Helping Kids Deal with Bullies” [online]
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Suicide Prevention, “Youth Suicide” [online]
Yale University, Office of Public Affairs, “Bullying-Suicide Link Explored in New Study by Researchers at Yale” [online]
Matt Dickinson, The Independent, “Research finds bullying link to child suicides” [online]
Michael Inbar, MSNBC Today, “Sexting bullying cited in teen’s suicide” [online]
Susan Donaldson James, ABC News, “Teen Commits Suicide Due to Bullying: Parents Sue School for Son’s Death” [online]
Erik Eckholm and Katie Zezima, The New York Times, “6 Teenagers Are Charged After Classmate’s Suicide” [online]

https://www.pacer.org/bullying/nbpm/

https://www.nami.org/suicideawarenessmonth/hp

NO on Measure A Campaign

Measure A is placed on the June ballot as a means to circumvent a current lawsuit pending against the city of Santa Clara.  Measure A’s complicated and unprecedented formula used for ‘ranked choice voting with single transferrable vote’ makes it confusing for voters to make informed, strategic decisions. Measure A’s two at-large district system will disproportionately disenfranchise two thirds of the people of color and seniors who make up Santa Clara’s diverse population.  This is why JACL NCWNP District Council voted to endorse the NO on Measure A Campaign.  For more information and to support efforts for fair election practices in the city of Santa Clara, go to: https://www.fairelectionsforsantaclara.com

JA Incarceration Defense used for Student Accused of Sexual Misconduct

The Japanese American Citizens League was shocked to learn of Minnesota attorney Ryan Pacyga’s reference to the Japanese American incarceration experience in reference to his client, University of Minnesota basketball player, Reggie Lynch. Mr. Pacyga, in attempting to make the case that his client is being punished without due process, used the Japanese American incarceration experience as a historic example of the “hysteria” that led to the imprisonment of innocent people at a massive scale.
We would like to remind Mr. Pacyga that his client has gone through the school’s disciplinary process and was determined to be in violation of school standards. Japanese Americans did not have any such consideration. This false analogy notwithstanding, it is patently offensive that anyone might try to draw a comparison between the mass incarceration of 120,000 people for their ethnicity, the vast majority of whom were American citizens, and his individual client’s personal situation.
JACL also takes this opportunity to condemn Mr. Pacyga’s invocation of Title IX enforcement as an injustice to his client and affirm our support for the 45 years of progress Title IX has brought for women in education. The use of the word “hysteria” in itself further tinges his comments as being predisposed against women’s rights to equal education opportunity, unfettered by the threat of sexual assault.
It is particularly worth noting that the greatest champion for passage of Title IX in Congress was Rep. Patsy Mink, a Japanese American who lived through World War II. Living in Hawaii, she was not subject to incarceration, though faced the sting of suspicion and continuing discrimination because of her ethnicity during and after the war. Title IX was named the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002, 30 years after its initial passage.
The Japanese American Citizens League is a national organization whose ongoing mission is to secure and maintain the civil rights of Japanese Americans and all others who are victimized by injustice and bigotry. The leaders and members of the JACL also work to promote cultural, educational and social values and preserve the heritage and legacy of the Japanese American community.