Mural celebrating Lodi's Japantown to be dedicated Saturday
Tony Segale sketches out an image of the Japanese baseball team projected onto the wall of the Lodi Buddhist Church Annex Building on Stockton and Elm streets, on an early October 2009 morning. (News-Sentinel file photo)

When muralist Tony Segale spotted the blank wall on the north side of the Lodi Buddhist Church Annex Building, he was inspired. He looked past the sleepy East Lodi location and graffiti and saw a blank canvas that would become the home of a mural celebrating the area that was first known as Lodi's Japanese Quarter.

A year and a half later, Segale's vision of "Japantown Memories" is complete.

A dedication of the mural will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Annex Building, between Stockton and Main streets in Lodi.

Located in the northern area of the original Japantown — Elm Street to Oak Street, and bordered by Main and Stockton streets — the Annex Building lended itself to tell the story of Lodi's Japanese community through smaller paintings of actual Lodi Japantown photos.

Before Segale even painted the wall one color that would compliment the mural and remain historic in tone, he spent months securing the building, designing the mural and gathering materials. "Japantown Memories" is the final mural of Segale's 2006 Walldogs Project. The project was funded by the city of Lodi's Art in Public Places Fund.

While Segale worked from specific plans he created early on, there were things that he added as he worked. With "Japantown Memories," he added an endless knot design to the banner.

"The endless knot is the Buddhist symbol for all things that are connected," he said. "To me, it is a symbol of Japanese descendents' connection to the community, as well as a connection (between) all those pictures together in the mural."

The idea of the mural stems from Segale's own memories of growing up in Lodi and visiting Japanese-American businesses, including Jack's Fruit Stand, Lodi Fish Market and Sell Rite Markets. To Segale, the history of Japanese immigrants to Lodi is a story of dignity, humility and perseverance.

"This mural is created to honor and depict the Japanese settlers in Lodi and their contributions to the area," Segale said.

Corey Okazaki, president of the Buddhist Church of Lodi, thinks members of the church and Japanese community are pleased with the way the mural depicts history in Lodi.

"I think that for a lot of people, the images evoke memories and recollection," Okazaki said.

To celebrate the mural dedication, the Bay Area's Purple Moon Dance Project will perform "When Dreams Are Interrupted …" which is meant to evoke memories of World War II internment experiences of Japanese-Americans through dance, music, art and spoken word. "When Dreams Are Interrupted …" will be previewed at the mural dedication on Saturday, and a full-length performance will be held Sunday at Kirst Hall at Hutchins Street Square.

Contact Lodi Living Editor Lauren Nelson at laurenn@

'Japantown Memories' dedication and Purple Moon Dance Performance at a glance

When: Saturday at 11 a.m.
Where: Lodi Buddhist Church Annex Building on Elm Street, between Stockton and Main streets.

Purple Moon Dance Performance
Saturday: 11 a.m. at the mural dedication, free.
Sunday: 2 p.m. at Kirst Hall, Hutchins Street Square, 125 S. Hutchins St., $10 general admission, $7 students and seniors.
Information: 331-2055.

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