Taking part in the ribbon-cutting were (from left): Nisei Week Princess Tamara Teragawa; Vince Beresford, GFBNEC president/CEO; Irene Hirano Inouye, U.S.-Japan Council; Linda Lopez, Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs; Rep. Mark Takano; Bill Seki, GFBNEC chairman; former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta; MIS veteran Ken Akune; Chip Mamiya, GFBNEC Board of Governors; Consul General Harry Horinouchi; Assemblymember David Hadley; West Covina Mayor James Toma; JANM President/CEO Greg Kimura; Nisei Week Princess Camryn Sugita.
By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, the Go For Broke National Education Center opened its new home in Little Tokyo to the public on May 28 with ceremonies and celebration.
Following a ribbon-cutting and a kagami-biraki ritual, people lined up to view the center’s inaugural exhibition, “Defining Courage,” which explores the Japanese American World War II experience and its relevance to today’s civil rights issues. Visitors enjoyed food, a beer garden and entertainment in the plaza and also saw documentary films in the adjacent Tateuchi Democracy Forum.
Previously located in Torrance, GFBNEC has moved into the former Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, located at 369 First St. at Central Avenue, one of the sites where local Japanese Americans assembled to be taken by bus to “relocation centers” in 1942.
GFBNEC is now a tenant of the Japanese American National Museum, which opened at the temple building in 1992 and moved to its current location across the plaza in 1999.
Taking part in the kagami-biraki ceremony were (from left) Don Seki, Norman Mineta, Ken Akune, Chip Mamiya, Vince Beresford, Irene Hirano Inouye, Linda Lopez, Mark Takano, James Toma, David Hadley, Harry Horinouchi, Greg Kimura.
The day’s activities started with a ceremony at the nearby Go For Broke Monument, which honors more than 16,000 Japanese American soldiers who served in segregated units during the war.
“Seventeen years ago, this monument was unveiled to the public because of the tenacity and vision of a group of Japanese American World War II veterans under the leadership of Col. Young Oak Kim,” said emcee David Ono of ABC7 Eyewitness News. “… Since that day, Japanese American World War II veterans and their families, veterans of all wars, schoolchildren on field trips, Americans from across the nation and many visitors from around the world have come to this monument to pay their respects to a generation of men who answered their country’s call even as that country turned its back on their families and their communities.”
Chris Brusatte, exhibit manager, greeted visitors as they entered the building.
Veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, 232nd Combat Engineer Company, 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion, and Military Intelligence Service were recognized with wreaths. The Hawaii-based 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment Color Guard posted the colors. Brig. Gen. Stephen Curda’s children, Riley, Piper, Major, Glory and Saylor, sang the national anthem, Jenna Moy led the Pledge of Allegiance, and “Taps” was performed by Timothy Moy.
“This morning we stand in the shadow of the monument but we also stand on the site of our new home,” said Vince Beresford, GFBNEC’s new president and CEO. “Last November we moved our new offices in to the historic Nishi Hongwanji building … This iconic temple opened its doors in 1925, almost a century ago. It was the first structure in Los Angeles designated specifically to be a Buddhist temple. Today we honor our veterans at this monument and also take a symbolic march to the future to our new education center, a place where future generations will learn about our veterans’ legacy …
Interactive stations enabled visitors to explore different aspects of the Japanese American wartime experience.
“I hope today’s ceremony will touch all of you deeply and we can show our Japanese American World War II veterans the respect that we have and that we will continue to have for them.”
Members of North Torrance Junior ROTC escorted the veterans to the GFBNEC building, followed by VIP guests.
“In 1986, a group of Japanese Americans who had served in military units during World War II despite overwhelming prejudice against them embarked on a mission to build a monument for the Japanese American soldiers who fought beside them,” said Bill Seki, GFBNEC board chair. “The monument was completed in 1999, but that was just the beginning. The Go For Broke National Education Center has a mission to educate and inspire character and equality through the virtue and valor of our World War II American veterans of Japanese ancestry.
The exhibition included anti-Japanese propaganda posters that reinforced racial stereotypes.
“Seventy years have passed since the end of World War II, yet the lessons learned from the Japanese American experience could easily be from our time, though from different ethnic communities … As you experience our ‘Defining Courage’ exhibition, we invite you to take the torch that is being passed from our Japanese American veterans.”
Ono noted that more than 30,000 Japanese Americans lived in Little Tokyo when Nishi Hongwanji was built. “This temple is one of the places they were forced to assemble to be transported to government-run incarceration camps … There are famous pho