The annual pilgrimage to the Minidoka National Historic Site on June 27 drew 190 people. Now the group that promotes the site is looking ahead to its next project — raising money to restore the camp’s former baseball field.
The pilgrimage is in remembrance of the years between 1942 and 1945, when more than 9,000 people of Japanese ancestry were held at the Minidoka camp outside Jerome.
In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order mandating the removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. The order followed Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Japanese Americans were held in 10 different camps across the U.S.
Hanako Wakatsuki — a board member of Friends of Minidoka whose Great-Aunt Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston wrote “Farewell to Manzanar,” one of the most well-known memoirs of the internment era — helped lead tours of the site.
The camp, also known as the Hunt camp, sits on a spare, dry expanse of land. A few remnants and relics of the internment era remain on the site, however, including a couple of barracks, various outbuildings and a mess hall. The Friends of Minidoka and Boise State University worked together to reconstruct one of the eight guard towers located around the perimeter of the camp.
Now the group, which works to educate the public about the internment and to restore the Minidoka site, aims to raise $33,000 to restore the baseball field.
Cho Shimizu, who lived at the camp with his family when he was a child, was among those making the pilgrimage to the site. It was his first visit back, one he made with some trepidation.
“I didn’t want to have the memories,” said Shimizu.
His family, farmers in Washington state, were relocated to Idaho in 1942 even as two of his brothers were serving in the U.S. military. Shimizu frequently speaks publicly, sharing his wartime experiences with young students.