Activists seek to secure Japanese immigrants’ ‘sacred’ land


HUNTINGTON Seaside, Calif. (RNS) — The text “Jesus Lives” are emblazoned throughout a dilapidated unoccupied structure on the active intersection of Warner Avenue and Nichols Lane in this Orange County city south of Los Angeles.

The building’s home windows are boarded up. Various shades of white and unmatched paint include graffiti and highlight cracks in the property’s exterior.

This is the historic Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church that sits on a 4.5-acre landscape that, according to the National Have confidence in for Historic Preservation, is amongst the only surviving Japanese American qualities obtained just before California enacted the Alien Land Law in 1913 that barred Asian immigrants from possessing land.


This content material is composed and generated by Religion News Assistance and distributed by The Affiliated Press. RNS and AP spouse on some religion information content. RNS is solely responsible for this story.


The initially regarded Japanese immigrants arrived in Orange County in 1900, and just 4 yrs afterwards, spiritual leaders — Episcopalians, Buddhists, Presbyterians, and Methodists amid them — started the Wintersburg Japanese Mission, the Countrywide Trust mentioned. Charles Furuta and the Rev. Barnabus Hisayoshi Terasawa purchased the land in 1908, and the first structures went up in 1910. The mission was formally regarded as a church by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. in 1930. A larger church for the expanding congregation was created in 1934.

Community advocates and historians have for several years sought to protect the historic assets — now owned by Republic Expert services, a waste administration firm — that many refer to as a sacred place. In the past there have been attempts to develop the internet site as a self-storage facility.

And in recent months, the community has reignited their efforts to safeguard this piece of land after a Feb. 25 fire wrecked two of the 6 buildings on the home, including a 112-yr-old parsonage and the 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Mission, which was demolished a couple of several hours just after the fireplace, in accordance to neighborhood historian Mary Adams Urashima. The Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church, designed in 1934, stays intact.

Law enforcement said they “have no cause to believe” the hearth was intentionally set.

On March 19 Asian American corporations held a rally outside the house Historic Wintersburg to demand an unbiased investigation into the fireplace, chanting, “Don’t trash our record, we are entitled to the truth!” Some held indications declaring, “Save the church Save our record!”

“It set absolutely everyone into stress mode, since there really was a reduction,” said Jamie Hiber, govt director of the Heritage Museum of Orange County, of the fireplace. “It allowed a system for this to at the time all over again arrive to the forefront.”

Urashima, who has penned extensively about the record of Wintersburg, reported she very long feared the assets would catch fire and said the buildings’ reduction was “demolition by neglect.” Weeds and brush posed a fireplace danger, and vandalism had degraded the ailment of the properties. Urashima and other people hope Heritage Museum of Orange County could at some point receive the land for a park and museum the public can love.

Neither Republic Products and services nor the metropolis of Huntington Beach front returned a ask for for remark, but interim City Manager Sean Joyce advised the Los Angeles Occasions a short while ago that he had “held exploratory conversations with Republic relating to the position of the house, together with a probable invest in by the city.”

The assets encapsulates a few generations of Japanese Americans’ religion and general public life. Urashima reported Japanese immigrants took English language classes and mentioned money setting up, even as they continued Japanese traditions these as celebrating the emperor’s birthday. It is also exactly where Furuta became the very first Japanese particular person baptized as Christian in Orange County, she explained.

To Urashima, this place is “consecrated ground and a religious put for so quite a few.”

“I consider that helps make the ground sacred,” she extra.

Urashima explained the assets could present People in america the chance to learn about Japanese American lifestyle over and above the Planet War II-period internment camps and see that Japanese American history is not “one dimensional.”

“When you eliminate these things from the landscape that tell other sights, other chapters of American heritage, persons eliminate that link, and they really do not typically contemplate them aspect of American background,” Urashima stated. “It fades absent.”

The Wintersburg local community was incarcerated through Environment War II, and Furuta was taken to the Tuna Canyon Detention Center in Los Angeles. Households returned just after the war. The church, which experienced been shuttered, reopened and ongoing to develop until eventually it moved to nearby Santa Ana, wherever it continues to be a predominantly Japanese American congregation.

To Nancy Kyoko Oda, president of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition, “it would be a tragedy to get rid of some thing like this.”

Her coalition functions to increase consciousness about the record of the station, which held Japanese Us citizens the U.S. governing administration viewed as “enemy aliens” during the war. The station site has been turned into a golf system.

“There’s a indicating, ‘Out of sight, out of head,’” Oda mentioned. “People at times don’t want to identify this good reduction of human liberty … They take away your church. They just take away your dwelling, your organization, everything that you have.”

The Historic Wintersburg residence is deemed just one of “America’s Most Endangered Historic Places” and in 2015 was selected a “National Treasure” by the Countrywide Belief for Historic Preservation.

Hiber mentioned the Heritage Museum of Orange County has a eyesight for the area as a museum and a destination for community learners for lectures.

“Even after the fireplace, it is a religious area. It is by now a vacation spot of pilgrimage for not just Japanese People in america, but the Japanese men and women in normal,” Hiber claimed.

“The family members came again after (internment) to occupy that space and created it into a little something new and relevant to their working experience immediately after the war and coming back from the internment camp,” she mentioned. “Just walking the perimeter … you come to feel it you truly feel the background.”


Supply link