Pilgrimage to Historic Site of First Japanese Settlement in America Planned for Oct. 7

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Nichi Bei Foundation presents a Japanese American community pilgrimage to the historic site of the first large settlement of Japanese in America on Saturday, Oct. 7, with program from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the former Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony site in Placerville, El Dorado County.

For this inaugural biennial Wakamatsu Pilgrimage, the Nichi Bei Foundation is organizing buses throughout Northern California, departing from San Francisco’s Japantown, San Jose’s Japantown, and J-Sei in Emeryville, which will be joined by a bus organized by the Riverside Tanoshimi Kai in Sacramento.

The special program will be generally limited to those arriving in the Nichi Bei Foundation buses. Participants must be able walk unassisted for at least one mile.

A national and state historic landmark, the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony was established June 8, 1869. It is also the birthplace of first Japanese American, and the grave site of the first Japanese woman buried in the U.S., Okei Ito.

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 also trace their own roots through family history consultations led by volunteers from the California Genealogical Society.

Program highlights:

• Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony tours and exhibits, including the Okei Ito grave site and Graner House.

• Gene Gibson, great-great-grandson of Kuninosuke Masumizu, a former Wakamatsu Colony settler.

• Talk on the Japanese immigrant experience by Christen Sasaki, Ph.D., San Francisco State University Asian American studies professor.

• Free family history consultations with volunteers from the California Genealogical Society.

• Preview of Wakamatsu Colony Farm renovation and WakaFest150.

• Blessing by Rev. Ronald Kobata, Buddhist Church of San Francisco.

• Performance by Placer Ume Taiko.

• Bento lunch included in bus package fees (except for Riverside Tanoshimi Kai bus).

• Wakamatsu Colony-related books for sale.

• Craft activity.

Special Bus Packages

The Nichi Bei Foundation will be launching buses from three Bay Area locations while collaborating with a group departing from Sacramento. Bus package fees include charter bus fee, bento lunch and water (there is no on-site food service), Wakamatsu site tours and program including family history consultations. The packages are first-come, first-served, and the deadline is Tuesday, Sept. 26.

• San Francisco Package (limit: 45 persons): Bus loads at 8:15 a.m. $70 per person; $60 Nichi Bei members/subscribers. Departs 8:45 a.m. from Japantown Peace Plaza, Post at Buchanan streets in Japantown.

• East Bay Package (limit: 45 persons). Bus loads at 8:45 a.m. $70 per person; $60 Nichi Bei members/subscribers. Departs 9:15 a.m. from J-Sei, 1285 66th St., Emeryville.

• San Jose Package (limit: 50 persons). Bus loads 8 a.m. $70 per person; $60 Nichi Bei Foundation members/subscribers. Departs 8:30 a.m. from San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin, 640 N 5th St. in Japantown.

A Riverside Tanoshimi Kai bus will depart at 8:45 a.m. (check-in 8 a.m.) from Sacramento Betsuin Buddhist Church, 2401 Riverside Blvd. $25 general, $20 for Riverside Tanoshimi Kai members. Bring your own lunch and folding chair. RSVP to Helen Sakaishi at [email protected] or (916) 600-9291 by Thursday, Sept. 28.

No Angel Island Pilgrimage

The Wakamatsu Pilgrimage replaces a previously planned fourth Nikkei Angel Island Pilgrimage, which this year conflicts with the annual Fleet Week. The Nikkei Angel Island Pilgrimage was launched by the Nichi Bei Foundation in partnership with other organizations in 2014, bringing more than 1,300 people to the former Immigration Station over three years, including more than 650 in 2014 in perhaps the largest such pilgrimage.

“We’re proud to have worked in partnership with other organizations to present such meaningful pilgrimages to the Angel Island Immigration Station the past three years, reconnecting the Japanese American community to our nearly lost legacy on the island while recognizing those who helped to rediscover its history,” said Kenji G. Taguma, Nichi Bei Foundation president. “Due to complications with an unusually early Fleet Week this year, we felt compelled to change directions, but we’re proud to seamlessly present a pilgrimage to the historic Wakamatsu Colony site — connecting Japanese American communities throughout Northern California — while continuing to offer family history research consultations through our partners from the California Genealogical Society.”

This inaugural biennial Wakamatsu Pilgrimage is presented by the Nichi Bei Foundation in partnership with the American River Conservancy and the California Genealogical Society. It is supported by the Riverside Tanoshimi Kai at Sacramento Betsuin Buddhist Church, J-Sei, San Francisco State University Asian American Studies, San Francisco chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, and San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin. The Wakamatsu Pilgrimage is sponsored by the California Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, a program of the California State Library.

To order bus packages from the Bay Area, visit: www.nichibei.org/wakamatsu-pilgrimage. For questions, email: [email protected] or call (415) 673-1009.

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