This is our 5th annual Asian Pacific American theme travel article. We hope you get a chance to visit one of these places or one of the places that we wrote about in our past articles (2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008). If you do, please let us know about your experience and we'll try to add your comments and pictures to our website.
The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri
Among the 79 acres of beautifully landscaped flowers, plants and ponds that make up the Missouri Botanical Garden is a 14 acre Japanese strolling garden named Seiwa-en: the garden of pure, clear harmony and peace. Designed by Professor Koichi Kawana, who taught environmental design and landscape architecture at the University of California, Los Angeles, the Japanese Garden is the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
The Japanese Garden's landscape is inspired by many different Japanese gardening styles including the daimyo or Japanese Feudal Lords of the 17th and 18th Centuries. With a four-acre lake as its centerpiece, islands rising from the water, streams, lanterns, waterfalls, beautifully combed dry gravel gardens, and large grassy areas, there's much to be enjoyed by visitors.
Along with enjoying the natural beauty of the cherry blossoms, azaleas, lotus, peonies and chrysanthemum, visitors can also feed the giant Koi fish while standing on Japanese bridges that link the shorelines.
While the Botanical Garden has been open since 1859, the Japanese Garden was dedicated in 1977 and was delicately constructed so that each item in the garden symbolizes a greater meaning. For example, Paradise Island is the spiritual heart of the garden, representing eternal life and bliss.
If you can't make it to Missouri in time to see this Japanese garden in all its luscious glory, the garden can be enjoyed in any season. In winter snow covers the bare branches and structures creating shapes and contrasts that stimulate the senses and provide pleasurable views.
If you're visiting the Botanical Garden, be sure to also check out The Margaret Grigg Nanjing Friendship Garden, modeled after a traditional scholar's garden. Different from the Japanese Garden, the Chinese Garden has more elements that are built rather than planted. The garden's center of attention, a pavilion built in 1966, has a roof made of tiles that were fired in China. The paved pathways in the garden contain mosaics that were also made from tiles and pebbles from China. Although many Chinese pavilions are known for their intricate carvings of dragons and sea monsters, the scholar's garden pavilion has a more simple design and serves as a place to study alone as well as a place to have social gatherings.
Shan-shui, which means mountain and water is the Chinese word for landscape. Appropriately, the Chinese Garden features many giant rocks and structures that symbolize mountains. The hand-carved white marble bridge passes over a small river that flows to the middle of the pond and the center of the garden. Traditional plantings include bamboos, willows, plum trees, wisteria, hibiscus, rhododendrons, and pen-jing, which were all originally from China, grow in containers carefully placed around the garden.
No Chinese garden would be complete without an inscription. The one inscribed on the wall near the exit of the garden is an ancient Chinese poem which describes a person singing happily and playing a game in the garden and having such a nice time that they didn't realize how much time had passed. The poem is written by Wang Wei and was inscribed in 1900 by Pu Jie, brother of the last Chinese emperor, Pu Yi.
For more information visit the Missouri Botanical Garden website.
Manzanar Historic Site
Do you love history? Are you interested in archaeology? Would you like to spend your free time digging up history? If so, the Manzanar National Historic Site needs you!
This summer, archaeologist Jeff Burton will supervise a group of archaeologists and volunteers in uncovering and preserving artifacts found on the site where Japanese Americans were interned during World War II.
Anyone over the age of 15 can volunteer if they are physically able to work outdoors for long periods of time in any weather, digging with shovels and using small hand tools, operating wheel barrels and screening sediments to uncover artifacts. Volunteers are also needed to take notes, fill out forms or make labels and use a metal detector. All volunteers really need is an interest in history and the willingness to get dirty!
Manzanar National Historic Site is located nine miles north of Lone Pine and six miles south of Independence on the west side of U.S. Highway 395. For more information and to sign up please call Park Ranger Carrie Andresen at 760-878-2194, ext. 2714.
Smithsonian APA Program
June 20th marked the opening of the APA Program's traveling exhibit dedicated to Vietnamese Americans, Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon: Vietnamese America since 1975, at the Eden Center, Northern Virginia's premier Vietnamese American center, in Falls Church, Virginia.
Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon memorializes the fall of Saigon and explores 30 years of Vietnamese American experience through the use of images of joy, sorrow, and hope. The exhibition accentuates the diversity of this community, the adaptation of the Vietnamese to life in America, and their contributions to America in the forms of fashion, food, and film.
The exhibit is curated by Vietnamese American scholar Dr. Vu Pham, developed by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program (APAP), and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). The exhibit will remain open to the public at the Eden Center from June 30th through August 30th before continuing on its 12-city national tour through 2010.
For the Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon tour schedule, please visit Smithsonian Institution's website
In addition to the traveling exhibit, the Smithsonian APA program is now offering a downloadable curriculum, which consists of four units designed for 6-9th graders, that highlights Vietnamese history and culture.
The curriculum can be found at the - Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program's website.
Angel Island Immigration Station
On February 15, 2009 crowds flocked from all around to join in the celebration of the Grand Re-opening of the newly restored U.S. Immigration Station at Angel Island.
Beginning in the mid 19th Century to the beginning of the 20th century millions of people came to America in search of economic opportunity and a better life. While a welcoming Statue of Liberty greeted those arriving on the East Coast, overseas immigrants coming to California between 1910 and 1940 were processed at the not so friendly confines of the Angel Island Immigration Station. Although immigrants from Asia were initially not barred from entering the United States, prejudice and bad economic times lead to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and other restrictive immigration laws that would follow. These laws severely limited immigration from Asia and created a need for a method to manage entry. Angel Island became one of the main locations in the West where this management took place.
The Administration building of the Immigration Station burned to the ground in 1940. Immigrants were moved to a facility on the mainland and finally in 1943, Congress repealed the Exclusion Act but continued to limit immigration from China until 1965. Two years prior, Angel Island was established as a State Park and the California Department of Parks and Recreation managed the conservation of the immigration site.
Motivated by the threat to destroy the barracks in the late 1970's, California State Park Ranger, Alexander Weiss contacted Professor George Araki of San Francisco State College and photographer Mak Takahashi to photograph the poetry covered walls of the barracks. Excited by the discovery, Bay Area Asian Americans, lead by Paul Chow, formed the Angel Island Immigration Historical Advisory Committee which worked on how to best preserve the station for historical interpretation. In the years following, the Immigration Station was awarded funding, named a National Historic Landmark, and adopted by programs that provided funding to preserve the poetry written on the walls of the barracks.
Today, guided tours are offered daily so that the public can see and learn about the Chinese experience that has shaped the history of America at Angel Island.
For more information about the Re-opening of the Angel Island Immigration Station, visit the Angel Island State Park's website.
For more information about daily tours, visit: Angel Island Immigration Foundation's website.
Japanese American World War II Theme Study: The Presidio of San Francisco, Buildings 35 and 640
The Presidio of San Francisco is the oldest Army installation in the Western United States. Two buildings in the Presidio played a significant role in Japanese American history.
Along with being an army base, the Presidio's building 35 was also the headquarters for the Western Defense Command during World War II. It was from building 35 that General DeWitt executed orders, including the infamous Executive Order 9066, which incarcerated Japanese Americans living in the west.
Building 35 is now used as a high school. There are no plaques or markers indicating its former use, but if you get a guided tour of the Presidio, they may point out building 35 and its history, and may even take you to General DeWitt's office.
Building 640, a former airplane hangar, was initially the location of the Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) during World War II. The MISLS trained Japanese soldiers to become translators for the military. Most of the members of these Japanese classes were Japanese American.
Building 640 is currently unoccupied, but is under development by the National Japanese American Historical Society and Military Intelligence Service (MIS) Association of NorCal. The building will eventually house the Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center. This center will feature exhibits and ongoing public programs devoted to the MIS and the Japanese American experience.
"Buildings 35 and 640 of the Presidio of San Francisco demonstrate the combination of the Asian experience-the discriminatory treatment of an Asian ethnicity juxtaposed against the group's service to the nation's defense (Asian Reflections on the American Landscape, p.33)."