Greetings everyone,

April marked the beginning of this year's WWII camp pilgrimages, and on April 11, 2019, I was happy to give a presentation on American Sutra at the opening dinner of the Rohwer and Jerome pilgrimage, in Little Rock, Arkansas. My talk focused on the Rohwer cemetary monument, which the pilgrims visited by bus the following day. One of the great pleasures of joining this pilgrimage was the opportunity to spend time leisurely talking to everyone, the vast majority of whom had family connections to one of the Arkansas camps.

Then, on April 27-28, I joined over 2,000 people trekking to the Owens Valley desert for the 50th anniversary of the first organized Manzanar Pilgrimage, held in 1969.  One of the 10,000 imprisoned at Manzanar was Reverend Shinjo Nagatomi, a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist priest, who served as the chief Buddhist priest and community leader at Manzanar. He was also the father of my graduate school mentor, Masatoshi Nagatomi, and his diaries and sermons from Manzanar are the spark that lit my initial interest in the stories of the impact World War II had on American Buddhism.

This year, I was grateful to be invited to give a talk at the Manzanar National Historic Site, for the pilgrims who stayed for the second day of programs. Following the event, I paid my respects at the I REI TO cemetary monument , which my teacher's father was responsible for establishing and painting the Japanese calligraphy on, back in August 1943. It is a tradition at the monument to leave a small offering, and so I left a copy of American Sutra, amidst the strings of origami, photos, coins, fruit, and other gifts left by fellow pilgrims.

Finally, although I did not attend the Crystal City pilgrimage held in late March, a contingent of Japanese Americans traveled to Crystal City, Texas where the US Department of Justice once operated a detention facility from 1942 through 1948 that imprisoned mostly Japanese nationals and their families from the continental U.S., Hawaii, as well as Latin America, but also held several hundred families of German descent. Following the gathering and memorial ceremony at the former camp site, the group travelled a few miles away to the U.S.’s largest immigrant detention facility, the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, where as many as 2,000 refuge-seeking women and children are being imprisoned, separated from their families. To prepare for the pilgrimage, the group put out a call for folded origami tsuru cranes, which they hung along the fence surrounding the center, as a an act of activism and solidarity. What I didn't realize until recently was that one of the pilgrims, Nancy Ukai, had folded cranes made from color copies of the front cover of American Sutra, a gesture that I found deeply humbling. Recently, I wrote an article for Lion's Roar Buddhist magazine on the tragedy of the immigrant detention centers along the U.S. southern border and its parallels to the World War II Japanese American concentration camps, which just went to print, so I'll share this once the article is available online.

I will be speaking at two additional Japanese American WWII camp pilgrimages this summer; July 6, 2019 at the Minidoka Pilgrimage in Twin Falls, Idaho, and July 25, 2019 at the Heart Mountain Pilgrimage in Powell, Wyoming and hope to meet up with some of you at these two gatherings.

If you have any questions or comments regarding American Sutra or this newsletter, please email me.

Kindest regards,


Opening dinner talk at the Rohwer/Jerome Pilgrimage, where I included details about the Rohwer cemetery and war monument.


Rina Sasaki Vignola, Sharon Sasaki, Zoe Yamamoto (the youngest pilgrim this year at 16 years old!), and Florence Yokoi, whose family were incarcerated at Rohwer, shared stories and got their copy of their books signed.


With “Toso” Himei and Barbara Takei, of the Tule Lake Pilgrimage Committee, at the Manzanar National Historic Site, following my talk.


Holding the first issue of Tessaku, a new publication by Diana Emiko Tsuchiya’s project that collects oral histories, memories, and testimonies from Japanese Americans who lived through World War II incarceration. In turn, Diana is holding up a copy of American Sutra.


Offering American Sutra at the I REI TO monument at the Manzanar Cemetery.


“American Sutra” origami cranes from color copies the American Sutra book cover, created by Nancy Ukai, which were draped over the fence at Crystal City.


Upcoming Events

Anaheim, CA – Orange County Buddhist Church Sunday, May 19, 2019|1:00 PM-2:30 PM

San Diego
San Diego, CA – Buddhist Temple of San Diego
Sunday, June 9, 2019|10:00 AM - 2:30 PM