My trip to Poston really began because of the Spring Ohigan (Equinox) Service at the Poston Memorial Monument in Parker, Arizona, performed by Rinban Rev. Kakei Nakagawa, Rev. Kaz Nakata, and Rev. Midori Nakagawa.
I went with my friends, Jack and Betty Mori, who invited me to ride along. When we arrived, the first thing that you notice is the tall majestic monument that towers into the sky. It stands on a circular cement foundation surrounded by memorial bricks purchased by family members of the internees.
There were many familiar last names and one particular name was that of my relatives. I took a picture of it and a few other photographs of friends’ relatives. I later realized that they have never seen their family memorial brick and were overjoyed to see a picture of it. I can see that the remoteness of this site would make it difficult to make the trip here for most people. There isn’t a restroom for miles from here.
After the Ohigan service, Rev. Kaz Nakata took us on a tour of the actual relocation camp. To my surprise, I found out that the camp was not behind the monument, but across Mohave Road about a 100 yards to the north where we drove west on a little paved road about a quarter of a mile where you see a row of palm trees on the right (north) side.
The dirt road alongside the palms leads you to some remnants of barracks, school buildings and a large school auditorium built by internees with adobe bricks.
It is such a shame that many of the buildings were vandalized and burned by arsonists. Little did they know that their heinous act was an attempt to erase a dark part of U.S. history. Even the chain-link fence surrounding the compound had been compromised. The restoration project of the Poston War Relocation Center will be a challenge with the remoteness of the area and the town of Parker located 12 miles away.
Overall, the visit to Poston War Relocation Center was an eye opener as to what the previous generations of Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants had to endure at this desolate site in the Sonoran desert.
As difficult as it may have been, the internees made the best of the situation and enjoyed life as best they could without much complaining. They made many lifelong friends and it brought the Japanese American community closer together.