The Central Gorge Master Gardener Association will hold a celebration on May 17 at 3 p.m. to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Japanese Heritage Garden at 2990 Experiment Station Dr., in Hood River.

Located between the Oregon State University Extension Service office and the Experiment Station at the Mid-Columbia Agriculture Research and Extension Center, this garden honors the important role of the Japanese American community in the development of agriculture in the Hood River Valley.

This site is particularly significant as it looks out upon lands which the Issei, the first-generation Japanese settlers, were instrumental in developing.

Inspired by the amazing but little-known gardens created in the stark desolation of World War II Japanese internment camps, this restful place represents the Hood River community’s desire to recognize in a permanent and public way the grave injustice of the forced relocation of over 500 Japanese adults and their American citizen children from this valley from 1942 to 1946.

Little has been written about the significant role of gardens in the life of the internment camps where few outsiders were allowed and cameras forbidden. However, the spontaneous creation of both ornamental and edible gardens were expressions of ethnic identity and beauty that represented steps toward personal and community healing.

For the gardeners, the process offered an unusual measure of freedom in a constricted setting. The gardens allowed them to express their cultural values of hard work and the desire to improve their surroundings, values that the Hood River Japanese community has contributed so productively to the development of this valley for 100 years.

The 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Japanese Heritage Garden will consist of a program that will feature short talks by the originator of the Garden, former Central Gorge Master Gardener Rita Saling; renowned Japanese Garden designer and Curator of the Portland Japanese Garden Sadafumi Uchiyama; and readings by local descendants of Japanese Hood River Valley residents who were interned during World War II.

These young people will read letters that their ancestors had written from the Internment Camps when they were children themselves. These letters are very relevant to the world we live in today as they help tell the story of friendly, industrious people who were well integrated into a community they loved, being shuffled off to inhospitable places based on totally unrealistic fears. The program will culminate with a performance by the Portland Taiko.

Refreshments will be served at a reception with a Japanese motif following the program. Japanese Flower Arrangements, arranged by the Odell Garden Club, will be on display, and a video of the garden in several seasons will be playing.

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