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Japanese Grave Markers in the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery
 

Japanese Grave Markers in the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery

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Changing styles of Japanese grave markers in the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery, Auburn, Washington.

Changing styles of Japanese grave markers in the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery, Auburn, Washington.

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    Japanese Grave Markers in the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery Japanese Grave Markers in the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery Presentation Transcript

    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen Evolution of Japanese Grave Markers In the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery Auburn, Washington By Kristy Arbuckle Lommen 2012
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen The earliest grave markers used by Auburn’s Japanese community consisted of wooden posts like the ones pictured here. The top photo is from the funeral of baby Masaru Natsuhara. The bottom was taken at the funeral of toddler Hiroshi Iseri. Both children died and were buried at the Auburn cemetery in 1913. None of these older style markers remain. (Photos from the collection of the White River Valley Museum)
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen In 1928 under the direction of the Buddhist church, the wooden markers were gathered up and replaced with concrete markers. These were created assembly-line fashion in a local warehouse. Each is inscribed with three columns of kanji characters. Although in deteriorated condition, almost 100 of these markers remain in the cemetery today. (Miho Togami marker, 2012)
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen The column of characters on the far left consists of the family name and then the first name of the deceased (usually in that order). (Junko Sato marker, 2010)
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen The column of kanji characters in the center lists the deceased person’s kaimyo. A feature of the Buddhist faith, the kaimyo is a name given to the deceased by his or her priest at the time of death. It will serve as the name the person will be known by in the afterlife. Although the kaimyo names are not helpful to genealogists, they can be valuable to descendants, especially if they are practicing Buddhists; however, the kaimyo names on these stones have not been translated as of this date.
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen The column of kanji characters on the far right lists the date of death. This date is something like a graduation date as it represents the date the deceased person attained the afterlife; it is therefore far more important than the birthdate, which is merely the date the person entered the less important physical realm. Birthdates are not included on these stones.
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen After 1928, members of the Japanese community could purchase identical tombstones for a cost of about seven dollars. Most have a small vertical pipe inserted in the base. Too small to hold a flower arrangement, these were almost certainly meant to hold offerings of incense.
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen Jizo statues (Ojizo Sama) are typically placed in cemeteries or at the sites of tragedies, especially tragedies involving children. Although a common feature of cemeteries in Japan, only four Jizo were ever placed at the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery. They were placed in honor of the four Kato children who died in 1937.
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen Many of the cemetery markers were targets of vandalism when the local Japanese community was imprisoned in far-off internment camps during WWII. Although they survived the war, three of the Jizo had disappeared by the early 1960’s. One was later located in a Federal Way backyard serving as a lawn ornament. It has long since been returned to the cemetery. The two remaining Jizo flank the original Kato family monument (which is not a grave site, per se).
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen Kato Family Monument At left: pre-World War II (Photo: White River Valley Museum) Below: 2011 (Photo: Christina Russo)
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen According to the White River Valley Museum, the local Japanese community consisted of about 300 families prior to WWII. After the war, only about 25 of these families returned to the area. Many continued to use the cemetery. During this era, kanji characters started to disappear from the tombstones. Birthdates started to be included. The double wisteria crest, a symbol of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, became a common feature on many markers.
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen In addition to the Double Wisteria Crest, Japanese family crests are also included on some of these more modern monuments.
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen Older and newer style Japanese grave markers at the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery, 2009.
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen Today, the markers follow the same trends you can find in any American cemetery. They have become highly individualized, often with images that reflect the deceased person’s personality. This 2011 marker includes a rendition of Mt. Rainier—a vista much beloved in western Washington state—as well as symbols reflecting husband Maki’s military service and wife Mae’s love of crafting.
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen Once again, the two 1913 funerals pictured here depict an Iseri Family funeral (bottom) and a Natsuhara Family funeral (top) which happened a few months later. Coincidentally almost a century later in 2011, the cemetery hosted just two funerals, one for a member of the Iseri Family (Mae Iseri Yamada) and one, a few months later, for Jack Natsuhara. The community’s traditions endure. (Photos from the collection of the White River Valley Museum)
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen Currently the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery accepts only cremated remains from families who already have ancestors buried in the cemetery. This photo shows the inurnment ceremony for Maki and Mae Yamada in the summer of 2011. (Photo: Robert Whale, The Auburn Reporter)
    • Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.netc 2012 Amerie & Kristy Lommen Auburn Pioneer Cemetery Located at NE 8th Street & Auburn Way N. Auburn, Washington