San Jose State University hosted the city’s 36th annual “Day of Remembrance” event Sunday, honoring the estimated 120,000 Japanese prisoners held at internment camps during World War II.
Those interned were held on a 1942 executive order signed by President Roosevelt, which the U.S government has since acknowledged as “a great injustice…motivated largely by racial prejudice.”
During the enforcement of that executive order, San Jose State’s university’s gymnasium was used as a registration center that processed more than 2,000 people of Japanese descent, giving this year’s event an added historical significance.
More than 200 people came together for the remembrance event, which took place from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Jimi Yamaichi, a speaker at the event, was one of those who were processed in the gym, which has since been renamed the Yoshihiro Uchida Hall.
“Coming to the gymnasium here to sign up…that’s when we received our number -- a family number --and lost our dignity as a person,” Yamaichi, 93, said in an interview with NBC Bay Area.
He was only 19 years old when he and his family were sent to internment camps. The next four years of his life were spent being transferred around with his family. Like many others, they were forced to abandon their farm and livelihood in San Jose.
He said that the Remembrance Day was not just about remembering the past, but also about learning from it.
"Don't let it happen again," he cautioned.
Rep. Mike Honda (D-Santa Clara), who was incarcerated at the Amache internment camp in Colorado, was also on hand for the event, along with others who had firsthand experience living in the confines of the camps.
The organizers of the remembrance event selected a “Wartime Hysteria” theme for this year’s remembrance day. The theme is intended to serve as a warning against racial and religious discrimination, according to a news release.