Beautifying the Japanese Cemetery

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Volunteers learn about the history of the cemetery from Diane Matsuda.

SAN FRANCISCO —  In preparation for Memorial Day, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California organized its third annual Colma Japanese Cemetery Clean-up Day on May 19, with over 100 volunteers from around the Bay Area giving up most of their Saturday beautifying the three acre cemetery.

A young Cub Scout from Pack 58 gently cleans a headstone.

Close to 50 large garbage bags of green waste were discarded as a result of the clean-up.

This year, an anonymous donor made a $1,000 contribution to purchase supplies, food and beverages for the volunteers. Some volunteers also brought their own special homemade treats to share. Typically, the JCCCNC funds the event as part of a giving-back program and as a tool to educate others about a place that deeply represents the history of the Japanese American community.

“It’s a unique cultural treasure that deserves our attention, our respect, our time. For many of us, it’s the place where our loved ones are laid to rest. For all of us, it represents our history,” explains Lori Matoba, JCCCNC deputy director. “Furthermore, currently the sole caretaker of the cemetery, Mr. Nishi, is over 80 years old and can only do so much.”

Before breaking for lunch, Diane Matsuda, co-organizer of the event, shared a brief history of the cemetery, thanked the volunteers, and called for a moment of silence to remember the lives lost as a result of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The JCCCNC thanks all of the volunteers and the following supporting organizations for helping to make this project a success: Bay District Jr. YBA, Genryu Arts, Japanese Benevolent Society of California, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, Japanese Community Youth Council, Kokoro Assisted Living, National Japanese American Historical Society, Nihonmachi Little Friends, Pack 58, San Francisco Japanese American Citizens League, Sei Ko Kai, and Troop 58.

For more information or to have a group participate in next year’s clean-up, call Matoba at (415) 567-5505.

Volunteers clean the resting place of Makoto Hagiwara, the creator of the San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden.

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