‘Manzanar Fishing Club’ Returns to Historic Site with Walking Tour and Clean-up

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Filmmakers Cory Shiozaki and Richard Imamura with “Manzanar Fishing Club’s” Adopt-a-Highway sign on Highway 395.

“The Manzanar Fishing Club” returns to the Eastern Sierra during May with two events that mark significant milestones.

Spread over Tuesday, May 16, and Sunday, May 21, will be the second installment of the semi-annual Adopt-a-Highway cleanup near the Manzanar National Historic Site. Sandwiched in between on Saturday, May 20, will be the revival of the walking tour and lecture at the site itself.

“Bringing the walking tour back to Manzanar is really exciting for me,” said Cory Shiozaki, director of the groundbreaking “Manzanar Fishing Club” documentary film about escaping from the World War II “relocation center” to fish the local streams and lakes beyond. “The walking tour was the first public event for this project, back in 2006 when making a film was still just a dream. We actually visited some of the closer fishing holes.”

Shiozaki was working alone at that time, researching and wondering if there was an overarching story to the isolated tales of fishermen at Manzanar. “With the help of some of the rangers at the newly opened Interpretive Center at Manzanar, I had a few stories and artifacts to present, and at that first lecture and walking \tour, I discovered that this story of freedom and fishing really touched some people.”

The event became an annual one until production demands on the film made it too difficult to continue, and the series was discontinued after 2010. “We’re happy to be back this year,” Shiozaki added. “The message of freedom under trying circumstances is still relevant today.”

This year’s event will once again be held at the Interpretive Center at the Manzanar National Historic Site, located on Highway 395 between Lone Pine and Independence. The lecture will begin May 20 at 11 a.m. and feature a 29-minute segment from “The Manzanar Fishing Club,” followed by a Q&A session with Shiozaki.

Following a break for lunch, Shiozaki will lead the walking tour. Representative escape routes and fishing holes will be visited.

“This is where we can get a real taste of what the Manzanar fishermen went through,” Shiozaki said. “Seeing things in a movie can give you an idea of what it was like, but once you experience it on the ground, you can really appreciate the distances involved, the nature of the terrain and weather and so many other factors involved in this endeavor. It can be an eye-opener.”

Admission is free.

The return of the walking tour will be bookended on May 16 and 21 by “The Manzanar Fishing Club’s” semi-annual Caltrans highway clean-up on Highway 395 adjacent to the Manzanar National Historic Site.

This activity, started just last year, is the main feature of joining California’s Adopt-a-Highway program. As announced last summer, “The Manzanar Fishing Club” committed to twice annually pick up litter on a stretch of Highway 395 just north of the Manzanar National Historic Site.

The affected stretch is marked along the northbound lanes of Highway 395 by a sign 1.5 miles north of the Manzanar National Historic Site identifying “The Manzanar Fishing Club” as a participant in the Adopt-a-Highway program. A similar sign alongside the southbound lanes of Highway 395 coming out of Independence marks the northern extent.

“It’s now our job to help keep the highway in front of Manzanar clean,” said Shiozaki. “It’s a purely voluntary program, with the only rewards coming from doing good and getting to wear those hardhats and day-glow yellow vests while you work.”

Anyone interested in volunteering can email Shiozaki at [email protected]

Tools and safety equipment will be provided, as well as lunch and plenty of water. The clean-up will commence at 12 p.m. on both days.

“We’re proud to have been awarded this opportunity to give back to both Manzanar and the state,” said Shozaki. “Our first grant to help make ‘The Manzanar Fishing Club’ came from the state’s California Civil Liberties Public Education Program (CCLPEP) back in 2009; and now we’re part of a program that saves the state millions of dollars annually in highway cleanup costs.

“What we owe Manzanar is beyond words, and to have the privilege of doing good is something we treasure.”

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