Activists seek to secure Japanese immigrants’ ‘sacred’ land

HUNTINGTON Seashore, Calif. (RNS) — The terms “Jesus Lives” are emblazoned across a dilapidated unoccupied structure on the hectic intersection of Warner Avenue and Nichols Lane in this Orange County town south of Los Angeles.

The building’s windows are boarded up. Different shades of white and unmatched paint deal with 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, in accordance to the Countrywide Trust for Historic Preservation, is amongst the only surviving Japanese American houses acquired just before California enacted the Alien Land Regulation in 1913 that barred Asian immigrants from possessing land.


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The first acknowledged Japanese immigrants arrived in Orange County in 1900, and just 4 years later on, spiritual leaders — Episcopalians, Buddhists, Presbyterians, and Methodists amid them — founded the Wintersburg Japanese Mission, the National Believe in stated. Charles Furuta and the Rev. Barnabus Hisayoshi Terasawa purchased the land in 1908, and the first properties went up in 1910. The mission was formally recognized as a church by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. in 1930. A greater church for the expanding congregation was created in 1934.

Nearby advocates and historians have for decades sought to maintain the historic home — now owned by Republic Providers, a waste management business — that numerous refer to as a sacred spot. In the previous there have been tries to create the web-site as a self-storage facility.

And in new weeks, the general public has reignited their efforts to protect this piece of land immediately after a Feb. 25 fireplace destroyed two of the six buildings on the home, which includes a 112-yr-outdated parsonage and the 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Mission, which was demolished a handful of hours after the hearth, in accordance to local historian Mary Adams Urashima. The Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church, created in 1934, remains intact.

Police claimed they “have no motive to believe” the fire was intentionally established.

On March 19 Asian American companies held a rally outside the house Historic Wintersburg to desire an impartial investigation into the fire, chanting, “Don’t trash our record, we should have the fact!” Some held symptoms declaring, “Save the church Help save our historical past!”

“It established anyone into panic manner, mainly because there truly was a loss,” mentioned Jamie Hiber, executive director of the Heritage Museum of Orange County, of the fire. “It permitted a platform for this to once yet again occur to the forefront.”

Urashima, who has written extensively about the background of Wintersburg, reported she prolonged feared the house would catch hearth and said the buildings’ reduction was “demolition by neglect.” Weeds and brush posed a hearth hazard, and vandalism experienced degraded the affliction of the structures. Urashima and others hope Heritage Museum of Orange County could finally get the land for a park and museum the community can appreciate.

Neither Republic Solutions nor the city of Huntington Beach front returned a request for comment, but interim City Supervisor Sean Joyce explained to the Los Angeles Periods not long ago that he had “held exploratory conversations with Republic regarding the status of the house, including a probable invest in by the metropolis.”

The property encapsulates 3 generations of Japanese Americans’ religion and community lifestyle. Urashima stated Japanese immigrants took English language courses and discussed money preparing, even as they ongoing Japanese traditions these as celebrating the emperor’s birthday. It’s also wherever Furuta turned the initially Japanese human being baptized as Christian in Orange County, she reported.

To Urashima, this place is “consecrated floor and a spiritual location for so quite a few.”

“I think that tends to make the ground sacred,” she extra.

Urashima explained the home could provide Americans the chance to discover about Japanese American everyday living further than the Globe War II-period internment camps and see that Japanese American heritage is not “one dimensional.”

“When you get rid of these issues from the landscape that tell other views, other chapters of American historical past, men and women lose that link, and they really don’t normally think about them section of American heritage,” Urashima said. “It fades away.”

The Wintersburg community was incarcerated in the course of Globe War II, and Furuta was taken to the Tuna Canyon Detention Middle in Los Angeles. Family members returned right after the war. The church, which had been shuttered, reopened and continued to grow until it moved to close by Santa Ana, wherever it stays a predominantly Japanese American congregation.

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

Her coalition functions to raise awareness about the record of the station, which held Japanese Us residents the U.S. governing administration considered “enemy aliens” for the duration of the war. The station website has been turned into a golfing course.

“There’s a expressing, ‘Out of sight, out of intellect,’” Oda said. “People often really do not want to understand this wonderful loss of human liberty … They acquire away your church. They just take absent your house, your small business, all the things that you have.”

The Historic Wintersburg house is viewed as a person of “America’s Most Endangered Historic Places” and in 2015 was selected a “National Treasure” by the National Believe in for Historic Preservation.

Hiber explained the Heritage Museum of Orange County has a eyesight for the area as a museum and a spot for nearby pupils for lectures.

“Even right after the hearth, it is a religious location. It’s previously a vacation spot of pilgrimage for not just Japanese Us residents, but the Japanese people today in standard,” Hiber mentioned.

“The loved ones came back again right after (internment) to occupy that place and designed it into anything new and applicable to their knowledge just after the war and coming back from the internment camp,” she claimed. “Just walking the perimeter … you really feel it you experience the heritage.”