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Every year on the last Saturday of April, individuals from all walks of life set off from Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo and various parts of the country to reach the Manzanar historical site, just south of the town of Bishop. This pilgrimage, now known as the Manzanar Pilgrimage, serves as a poignant gathering where people of all ages and backgrounds, including former inmates, unite to honor those who lost their lives at Manzanar.  

What is the Manzanar Historical Site 

In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor bombing, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order (9066) with the aim of preventing espionage within the United States. This order led to the forced relocation of American citizens of Japanese descent from their homes to what were termed “wartime residences.” Manzanar was the first among the ten American centers where over 125,000 Japanese Americans endured unjust incarceration during World War II. Delve deeper into this history in our article, “Journey to Manzanar.” 

How The Pilgrimage Began 

During the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, younger Japanese Americans broke the silence and shame surrounding the camps, previously held by their elders. In December 1969, approximately 150 individuals made a journey to Manzanar for what they termed the inaugural Manzanar Pilgrimage. Since then, this event has been commemorated annually on the last Saturday in April. 

What To Expect At Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage 

The event features speakers, cultural performances, an interfaith service honoring those who died at Manzanar, and Ondo dancing. Following the afternoon Pilgrimage program is Manzanar at Dusk, offering the chance to engage with former incarcerees in intimate group discussions to listen to their personal narratives. They share their experiences of Japanese American Incarceration and its relevance to present-day issues. 

When you’re enjoying Bishop’s big backyard for outdoor fun, take a moment to delve into the rich history it holds. If you visit during winter, consider including a stop at the Manzanar Historical Site as part of your E.S.T. winter tour itinerary. 

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