Upon first glance, the word nozomi sounds like a Native American word, perhaps one related to the O'odham (Pima) language. Their word for “little spring” is the origin of the word arizona. But it is not an O’odham word. Instead, the word nozomi is Japanese for “hope” or “wish”.
What is the Japanese connection to Chandler, the Valley or the Southwest? It is a significant connection, one often overlooked by Valley residents, both new and old.
During World War II, the United States government moved approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans to internment camps across the American Southwest. An estimated 30,000 people of Japanese ancestry (Nikkei) were sent to Arizona, with more than 13,000 sent to the Gila River Indian Community (Chandler’s neighbors to the south) and 17,000 sent to the Poston Camp near Parker, Arizona.
Behind barbed wire the great game of baseball helped make life at the internment camps bearable for many Japanese Americans. It bonded the war-time internees and provided a sense of hope, normalcy and community pride.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, legislation authorizing the Secretary of War to prescribe certain areas as military zones, which cleared the way for the relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps.
In conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the start of the Japanese American internment, and the centennial of Arizona’ statehood, the City of Chandler established Nozomi Park in 2012 as a way to remember and reflect upon the significance of this important chapter in baseball, Arizona, and U.S. history.
Nozomi Park was created to honor the past, educate the present, and provide a source of wisdom future generations. Nozomi Park will:
Honor those who were interned in Arizona during WWII
Teach today’s generation about this little known chapter of U.S. and Arizona history
Serve as reminder that as long as we live in a multicultural society, we should be prudent in how we respond to our fellow citizens who “look like the enemy”, but in fact have nothing to do with the current war or conflict.
In 1988 President Ronald Reagan issued a public apology for Japanese Americans Internment. “It is not for us today to pass judgment upon those who may have made mistakes while engaged in that great struggle (WWII),” said Reagan. “Yet we must recognize that the Internment of Japanese Americans was just that, a mistake ... For here we admit a wrong; here we reaffirm our commitment to equal justice under the law.”