On June 19, 1945, in the waning days of World War II, a baby girl was born to Ben and Michiko Katsuyoshi. The place of birth was behind an encircling barbed wire fence and armed guard towers at Tule Lake Relocation Center. Along with 120,000 other Japanese-Americans, my wife was born in eerie echoes of another fence along the southern border of the United States today.
She was a beautiful child and grew into a beautiful woman who came to live in Ashland in 1990 along with her new family, son Chris and me, her husband. She died exactly one year ago today in the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco of “complications.”
As a flower arranger and keen mah-jongg player, she honored her Asian heritage. Those who knew her were happy to have been a part of her life. On her birthday last year, in Cotton Memorial picnic area in Lithia Park, a memorial celebration was held, and today, I am seeking to honor Chiyemi’s memory and that of her fellow 120,000 internees by placing a Japanese lantern in the park, across from the tennis courts.
The chosen location is perfect for a Japanese lantern and appropriate as an unmarked memorial to Chiyemi. In May of last year I met with the Ashland parks director and the benefactor Jeff Mangin, who wished to honor his wife in a similar but grander fashion. Much has happened since then and the new Japanese garden is on hold. I hope that Jeff renews his offer and that the city of Ashland, its residents and the architect, Toru Tanaka, can come to a mutual agreement, that the Japanese garden bequest will be renewed and the garden built in a more authentic style.
The memorial lantern to Chiyemi was kept out out of the Japanese garden because it was not from Japan and its designer was not trained in Japanese gardens. This is true, even though my chosen artist, an SOU graduate , Japanese green card holder and 30-year friend of my wife, seems perfect to me. His artistic credentials are impeccable. The designs and reasoning for the location along the path into the Ashland Japanese garden was presented to the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission last month. They received my presentation favorably, as did the APRD director and Jeff Mangin nearly a year ago when I did not know of the garden renewal project.
It awaits presentation to the Public Arts Commission and would be a fitting addition to Lithia Park.
Terry Doyle lives in Ashland.