Terminal Island Japanese Fishing Village Memorial

Terminal Island Japanese Fishing Village Memorial

On one of our trips to San Pedro, we were traveling across the expansive Vicente Thomas Bridge when we noticed an exit sign that said “Japanese Fishing Village Memorial.”   With time on our hands and our usual curiosity, we turned our sedan onto the exit ramp to explore further.

Through the maze of streets we drove, marveling at the old abandoned buildings sitting dormant against the backdrop of the dynamic port of Los Angeles.  Across the bay you can see the massive cargo ships stacked many stories high with containers from all over the world.  The enormous vessels remain motionless while the towering cranes work furiously either loading or unloading the shipping crates.

The sheer magnitude of the commerce that is accomplished at this port every day is amazing.

Yet on this side, the buildings were empty, worn down, and decrepit.  At water’s edge, rusty old cranes were discarded and left in place, leaving you to only imagine what they were like in their heyday.   Nearby would have been functioning canneries with conveyor belts unloading the catches of the day.

The canneries of course, are no longer there.  They are now empty shells of buildings filled with cobwebs and ghosts.

When we reached the memorial, It was very quiet…a slight gust of wind provided the only sound in a place that was once full of activity, once full of life.

This was home to the Terminal Island Japanese Fishing Village.


Abandoned buildings and cranes. In the distance you can see the blue tops of the newer cranes.

The History
To understand the memorial, we must go back in time.

It was the early 1940’s where a vibrant community of over 3,000 Japanese and Japanese-American residents settled this area.   The neighborhood was filled with energy from a booming industry of tuna fishing and canning.

This fishing and canning district actually started in 1907 when there were over 600 Japanese fisherman working the boats, while wives providing some of the labor at the canneries.

Life was simple; everything was in such close proximity.  You could hear the whistles blowing, signaling the arrival of a fishing boat making its way from the open sea.


The boats and cannery circa 1938

At its peak over 3,000 Japanese residents owned homes, stores, restaurants.  There were billiard rooms, churches, candy stores, banks, shrines, and even a judo hall.  A school was built in 1924 to accommodate the hundreds of children living here.

The families lived close together so there was a strong sense of community. This was especially noticeable when the families were left behind while the men were on the fishing boats for long stretches.

This was their life, they were a tight knit group who helped each other out if needed.

December 7th
Sadly, life changed on December 7th, 1941.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, a newly formed committee was stirring up anti-Japanese sentiment with the idea that the fisherman and villagers were spies.  Since they were located near a U.S. Navy facility, the village was the first to feel the effects of this campaign.

The government took the entire non-native Japanese fisherman into custody. The women and children were left behind to fend for themselves.  This obviously put them in dire straits not having the working fisherman in the family.  Some of the men were released and some were later reunited with their families at detention centers.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, sending 120,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps.

The residents were told that they had 72 hours to prepare for relocation, leaving only a short period to sell all of their possessions. Obviously they had to sell for pennies on the dollar as they weren’t given much of a choice.

All had to say goodbye to their way of life, their Fursato, as they called it, their “Home Sweet Home.”

Three years later, on January 2, 1945, the exclusion order was rescinded.  Not much of a consolation as most returnees came back only to find their beloved homes or property demolished and bulldozed over by the Navy.  Only the canneries were still open and some went back to work there.

Others left the area, saddened by the memory of their once thriving community and to find jobs elsewhere.

In 1971,  the Terminal Islanders Club was formed as a way for these former residents to keep in touch and preserve the history of their neighborhood.   They still meet for annual picnics and gatherings to this day. Over 1,000 people get together at these happenings which includes many generations and descendants.

The club dedicated the Terminal Island Japanese Memorial in 2002 in remembrance.  There is a statue of two Issei fisherman, a gateway of a Shinto Shrine, and panels giving the history of Terminal Island.


Today, fishing boats still line the docks

For me the statue and memorial here serves as a reminder to never let this happen again. It is heartbreaking to read stories of what they had to go through.

If you are ever in the San Pedro, take a short trip over to the Japanese Fishing Village Memorial.

Take time to imagine this area as a flourishing village with bustling activity.  A place with active canneries, boats full of tuna, kids playing, neighbors chatting, and the delicious aroma of food escaping from the kitchens.   I am told the former residents come to visit from time to time and I am sure these are the exact memories they try to conjure up in their head… and their heart.

However, let’s not forget the history and the dark time they had to endure.

We have to embrace history in all its good or bad, so we can learn from it. I was definitely moved when researching this story.

Thanks to this memorial, everyone can gain knowledge of this period. This is a place and time that they have obviously not forgotten, and now…we won’t either.

Parting shots:
Not from that era but still almost 40 years old, the culture can still be seen along the streets of this area.

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell

Except from shot for 1938: Courtesy Google Images

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Santa Monica Pier

SM-Lit up pier 2 FB
Santa Monica Pier

People, people, and more people.  A few weeks back I did a story on the Belmont Shore Veterans Memorial Pier.  In that story I mentioned that when I was strolling on that pier, it was if I had gone back in time.   The design of the pier seemed reminiscent of a time long ago with old lanterns that subtly lit the walkway and an unusual lack of crowds.    It felt like something from the 1950’s.

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Two weeks later it was feeling more like the  21st century as we stepped on to the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles County, California.  Unlike the Belmont Pier, we were now sharing it not with a handful of people, but with thousands!!    It was bumper to bumper people as far as you can see.

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So what attracts so many to the Santa Monica Pier and not the Belmont Pier?

The Belmont Pier has a snack bar, fishing, plenty of bathrooms and a great view, what more could you ask?   In comparison, the Santa Monica Pier also has those features but with a few wee minor additions, such as,  a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel,  a carousel, a two story restaurant, a flying trapeze,  shops,  carnival games and rides,  vendors, music,  and much more.  It is an amusement park sitting on top of a pier and that is why it is so crowded!

SM-Long distance roller coaster ferris wheel FB

The Santa Monica pier is where you go to play, eat, drink, and have fun.   We went on the Saturday after the Thanksgiving holiday so I am sure it was more crowded than normal, although I can’t be sure of that fact.  Summer is probably even more crowded and I also overheard someone say it was busier at night.   So with that in mind, plan to to spend the day here as you would any amusement park or fair.

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The Santa Monica Pier was built in 1909 and strangely its purpose at the time was to carry sewage out to sea,via pipes.  Obviously through the years it has been re-built to house and to hold the weight of the amusement park type rides and structures.     I stood in awe as I watched the waves crash against the pilings wondering how they could possibly hold up all of those rides.

SM-Waves crashing on Pier 2 FB SM-Waves crashing on pier FB

Looking north you can see Malibu in the distance and Venice Beach to the south. With its close proximity to Hollywood, the pier has been used in many films and TV shows.   Some scenes from Forrest Gump were filmed at the pier and not surprisingly a Bubba Gump’s restaurant still sits at the entrance.  I’m  told it is owned by some of the producers of the film.

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Standing tall like a beacon for Margarita lovers, the two stories of the Marisol Mexican restaurant are positioned at the end of the pier for your dining and drinking pleasure.    Directly behind it you will find a set of bleachers perfect for relaxing and viewing the stunning Pacific Ocean to the west.   At the absolute end of the pier there is a second level for anglers to reel in their prizes without contending with the crowds.

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Scattered about are small street vendors as well as the sweet sounds of performing local musicians.   Bathrooms are aplenty much to my relief after guzzling two large iced teas.

Santa Monica Pier is a floating party, a carnival, a street fair, and an amusement park all wrapped up in one.    Staycations California recommends it as a fun place to visit for the day and enjoy the rides, games, food, and shops.   Or people watch, there are plenty of them.

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However, if you want mellow there is always the San Simeon Pier some 200 miles up the coast or the peace and quiet of above mentioned Belmont Pier.

Wherever your mood takes you, nothing beats taking a stroll on a pier, even if it means sharing it with a thousand of your closest friends.

Carlsbad Lagoon

Snug-Snug Harbor
Carlsbad Lagoon

Aqua Hedionda Lagoon is one of 3 lagoons in Carlsbad.   Known just as the lagoon by locals,  this lagoon spans on either side of the I-5.   The inland side of the lagoon is home to the small marina aptly named Snug Harbor.    Snug Harbor is located between Tamarack and Cannon road off  Interstate 5.

The inland part of the lagoon is where you can boat, water ski, wake board, use your personal watercraft, sail, windsurf or fish.   In order to operate any vessel on the lagoon, visitorsand residents must meet certain requirements and purchase either an annual or daily permit. Read about lagoon rules.

Snug Speed boat with beach in the background

The Snug Harbor Marina features a boat ramp, dock, snack bar, and a beach.   The privately owned California Water Sports rents water sports equipment and vehicles at the harbor. As far as I can tell the back part of the lagoon has a cut off area where the speed boats have to stay away from allowing a calmer area for stand up paddle boards and kayaks.

Snug kayakers Snug dog beach view

Snug- view over house

Continue reading “Carlsbad Lagoon”

Redondo Beach Pier

Redondo Graphitt sign
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Redondo Beach Pier

Redondo Beach is not exactly one of your sleepy coastal California towns. Located minutes from LAX airport in Los Angeles County, it is one of a few beach towns that comprise of what is called the South Bay. Along with Hermosa and Manhattan Beach, Redondo is where L.A. goes to the beach. As you can imagine it can be incredibly crowded in the summer.

On one extremely warm day in early March, you could have sworn it was smack in the middle of summer. People flocked to the beach that day as if it was a boiling hot July weekend. With parking often a problem in these Los Angeles beach towns, it was nice to find a space in the first parking lot we drove through. Because of the crowds, the pier offers multi level parking and additional lots are scattered around the nearby area.

The Pier
The Redondo Pier is a hub of activity with all the shops, restaurants, arcades, boat rentals, and more. Seafood was abundant as local vendors were selling it out in an open market, or you could dine at one of the many sit down restaurants. I am not a fan of seafood so my face scrunched up a few times as a plate full of sea urchin or crabs passed by on its way to a table of anxiously waiting dining guests. I was in the minority though as the restaurants were packed full and the lines to buy the fresh seafood were especially long.

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Small shops selling various items were lined on one side of the small marina while on the other side sat the gaming arcade which was alive with all the usual sights and sounds of video games old and new. At the entrance of the new cement section, you can rent kayaks, SUP’s, paddle boats, book a boat tour, or take a ride on a glass bottom boat.

Redondo-Looking towards little shops
REdondo-Glass boat
Redondo-Towards piers and resturants
Redondo-Towards pier
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Redondo-Lighthouse Building

Continue reading “Redondo Beach Pier”

Belmont Park, Mission Beach

Belmont Park is an amusement park built steps away from the sand and boardwalk in Mission Beach, California.

Its claim to fame is the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster which stands tall for all to see as you approach the entrance to the park.    Built in 1925 this icon is a part of San Diego’s history and has been restored to give riders the thrills of an old- fashioned roller coaster with its steep drops and fast turns.  I didn’t ride it on the day we visited but our crew said it was actually pretty fast and a lot of fun.  It doesn’t match up to the coasters of today with their elaborate twists and turns and their sole purpose to outdo each other.  This is just a plain old fun coaster that is worth a try.

Bel--Roller coaste rwith flags Bel--Roller coaster showing cart

The amusement park has other adult thrill rides as well as old favorites such as the Tilt O’ Whirl.  There is something for everyone including bumper cars, carousel, rock climbing, zip line, and a sizable arcade.

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Bel-Looking down by games

The arcade had all of the newest games with the exception of a few Pac Man and Skee Ball machines scattered about for you nostalgic types.  It also houses the Lazer Tag room.

Bel--Lazer Tag
Lazer tag didn’t sound that appealing to me especially since I was under the weather and didn’t have much energy.  So I choose to sit that one out.  However, my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to give it a try at the last minute. We entered into a room where you picked out a vest with a name on it like Ultra, Lightning, Atlas, etc.

We formed two opposing teams and were led into the room to begin play.  All of a sudden my adrenaline kicked in making me feel like a middle aged Rambo.  I stayed on the lower level and proceeded to dominate a Mom and her two small girls.  I ran around the room hiding behind pillars until my prey came in sight, I’d shoot and then run off to the next area.

Once in a while my vest squawked and I could feel myself being hit but no worries, I was getting in a lot of hits myself. Never mind if it was against the two young girls and Mom who were really just standing around and not doing much of anything.   As the game wound to an end, I circled around a pillar and there they were again, the two kids just standing there!   I pelted them with my imaginary laser power one last time and took off feeling like I was really good.

Stepping out the door the results are posted for all to see. To my dismay, I came in last on my team. I guess I wasn’t that good after all.   Laser tag was surprisingly fun and I would definitely do it again.  This time I would aim a little better. Buy their unlimited pass so you can go in all day and at any time. One time just wasn’t enough to get the feel for it.  Also, watch out for sneaky 7 year olds, obviously they shot me more times than I thought.

The climbing wall, I left to my Nephew who attempted the hardest wall first. As he made his way up at least three quarters to the top I think it occurred to him that it was really hard.

With only a few foot holds, you really had to work hard on that expert course.   There were other levels that had more frequent holds and one that had huge round holds for the smaller kids.  The zip line hovered above and traversed over a small area.  It seemed like a good chance to at least try it before attempting the larger and scarier ones that are popping up all across the state.

Arlo Rock Climbing

Outside in the center of the park were your typical carnival skill games. I challenged my nephew to the water squirt game where you shoot water from a gun into a clown’s mouth to see who pops the balloon first.  Again I thought I was dominating but the pop came from my nephew’s side, not mine.   It must be my eyesight, yeah that’s it.

There were a few sit down restaurants as well as your typical sweets and snack bars along the way.

On one side of the park sits a sizable parking lot with a smaller one on the other side. Be careful, it can get packed in the summer so you might want to start off early.

I was impressed by the Wave House Beach club located just behind the park and nestled right up to the sidewalk and beach.    Each table actually sits on sand giving you the ultimate beach bar and restaurant experience.  Your view is that of the boardwalk, sand, and ocean beyond.

Bel--Wavehouse cafe
Bel--Wavehouse sign

Wavehouse cafe -1

The Wave House is home to the Flowrider stationary wave which is a must see.  This free standing wave breaks just like an ocean wave with one small exception, the water is only a few feet deep and when you wipe-out you fall on padded cement.  Unlike the soft landing you receive on an ocean wave, riding this wave can come with injuries and the reason you have to sign a waiver to ride.

Bel--Flowrider

One of two standing waves at the park, the larger wave has a built in lip where the water hits and gives the form of a breaking wave.  On this day it was not in operation but I have seen it many times and you can sit for hours watching the skilled prone and stand up riders perform.  This is not for the faint of heart as you do not want to try this one without some experience.   The Wavehouse did develop a smaller wave that sits at the other end of the restaurant for beginners as well as advanced riders wanting to hone their skills.

Bel--Snall wave

We walked the boardwalk for awhile and only imagined how busy it must be on a summer day.   Nearby you can find other restaurants as well as a rental shop where you rent bikes, bodyboards, surfboards, etc.

Bel--Boardwalk

If you stay for the weekend, Mission Bay is close and Sea World is only a few miles away.

This qualifies for one of our weekend getaways because beside Belmont Park, there is so much more to do around the area.

Bel--View towards La Jolla

If you are looking for something to do just for the day consider Belmont Park.  The entrance and parking are free and you can also view the Flowrider wave for free.

Sounds like a perfect day.  Oh and by the way, try the laser tag and see if you can beat my last place.

Again, Faces have been blurred out to protect privacy.