Within the Manzanar National Historic Site is the Manzanar Cemetery. 71 years ago today Manzanar was the first of ten “relocation centers” built by the War Relocation Authority as ordered by Franklin D. Roosevelt following the attacks at Pearl Harbor. The order resulted in the forced relocation of over 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were native-born American citizens. They were deprived of their liberty and property without due process of law.
Over the next three years, 140 prisoners died at Manzanar, most were sent home for burial but 15 were buried there. The six existing sets of remains in Manzanar cemetery are: Three adult males in their early 60’s Matsunosuke Murakami, Minoru Kihara, Shinnojo Fukumoto, and two infants Noriyuki Arasuna, Midori Susan Furuya, and an unnamed stillborn infant in an unmarked grave.
In 1943 internee and Master stonemason for the Los Angeles Catholic diocese Ryozo Kado, along with block 9 residents and members of the Buddhist Young Peoples organization, constructed the Cemetery Memorial obelisk. The inscriptions on the monument were written by Manzanar’s Buddhist minister Rev. Shinjo Nagatomi. The three characters featured in this panorama translate as “soul consoling tower”.