japanese internment

It’s a small, triangular patch of ground behind a wrought iron fence off of Pleasant Valley Road, in Oxnard.

Tens of thousands of people pass by it daily, not realizing they are literally within feet of Ventura County’s history. It’s a more than century old Japanese cemetery, the final resting place for 200 people who were mostly immigrants in the late 1800’s, and early 1900’s.

But, the community is reeling after learning that this sacred spot was desecrated by a man believed to be under the influence of alcohol, or drugs who knocked down a number of grave markers, and tombstones.

This is a story about a pair of sandals.

They aren’t just any sandals. To a Santa Barbara man, they are the symbols of an unjust ordeal his family went through 75 years ago, an ordeal they faced just because of their Japanese ancestry.

Now those sandals are in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian Institution, as is Mike Takeuchi, whose grandfather made them, and whose father owned them.

December 7th, 1941 marks the 75th anniversary of the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which plunged the United States into World War Two, a day which has double meaning for an 88 year old Ventura County woman.

The shock, and fear in the months following the attack also triggered a shameful, and increasingly forgotten event in the nation’s history. Concern was high that Japanese forces were planning to follow up the Pearl Harbor attack with an invasion of the West Coast. Some panicked military and civilian leaders called for Japanese immigrants, and Americans of Japanese ancestry to be rounded up, and moved to inland relocation camps out of fear they might aid an invasion.