Ai-Love Japan 2014: Visiting Tohoku After the Quake

Visiting Tohoku After the Quake

by Michael Sera

After the “Tohoku Insights 2013” event at JAMsj last year, I was inspired to visit the Tohoku area and see the aftermath first hand.  My journey was made richer because I was able to visit the region with professional photographer and journalist Darrell Miho, a, a co-founder of Ai Love Japan.  Because the mission of Ai-Love Japan is to document survivor stories and provide direct aid to the people most affected by the earthquake, Miho has visited the Tohoku area more than a dozen times since the disaster of March 2011.  We made the trip the weekend of May 24, 2013, and visited the cities of Matsushima, Nagatsura, Ishinomaki, and Minamisanriku.  During our travels, we met many locals who surprised me with their positive energy and enthusiasm.

Our first stop was Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, one of the three most scenic spots in Japan.  The area is surrounded by hundreds of tiny islands (shima) covered in pine trees (matsu), hence the name Matsushima.  This area was protected by the many tiny islands that acted as breakers for the massive tsunami.  We had lunch at a restaurant that had been previously covered in mud; but because the entire inside had been refurbished, it was like new.  It was apparent that the number of visitors to the area was definitely at a low when we were there.

Our next stop was to the north at Nagatsura, where we met Yasukichi Takeyama and Tomomi Ogawa in front of what remained of the Okawa Shogakko (elementary school).  This school and its students were overcome by the tsunami.  The teachers never thought the tsunami would reach them until it was too late.  Of the 108 students enrolled at the school, 74 students lost their lives. Caught by the tsunami, half of the students tried to escape but instead were pushed up against the mountain side.  The students who went home early that day survived, as well as  one student who didn’t listen to the teachers and climbed the mountain.  There were eleven teachers in total, but only one survived.  The principal, who was at his son’s graduation, also survived.

Takeyama and Ogawa showed us around the area.  Because most of the area was overcome by sea water, all of the farming was wiped out.  Ogawa works at an oyster farm.  Her home is still standing, but because none of the utilities (electricity, water, and sewer) are functional, her home has been condemned.  In total, 418 people lost their lives, with 38 people still unaccounted for.  Both Takeyama and Ogawa go to Okawa Shogakko every day to maintain the make-shift memorial, water the plants, and explain the situation to visitors.  The locals want the school to be demolished, since the very sight of it only brings back bad memories.  Those who want to preserve it are in general from the government and not from the area.

The next day we visited the city of Ishinomaki, site of  the highest number of causalities due to  the population density of that area.  This use to be a large fishing town and  is now being slowly rebuilt.  We met Takatoshi Hayashi and his wife, who own a kimono shop.  The shop was covered in mud but is now cleaned up and open for business.

We then traveled to the next town of Minamisanriku.  Three quarters of the city is gone, and nobody is allowed to live in the low-lying areas in case of another tsunami.  Only shops and businesses are allowed in these areas.  We stopped for lunch at Sansa Café, where Tomotaka Uchida, the 35-year-owner, makes a spicy katsukare (pork cutlet and curry over rice).  We also met Jun Suzuki, who works at Sansa Café.  He was nice enough to take Darrell and I to a beautiful coastal area called Kamiwarizaki.  The name comes from an old story in which two towns are fighting over their borders.  Then a whale comes ashore and they both try to claim it.  Later that night, the people hear a loud explosion and in the morning the whale and rock are both split in half by the gods and so the issue was resolved.

Suzuki was living with his parents in temporary government housing, but because the place was too small, he moved out and is now living in a trailer next to the café.  When we spoke to him, he indicated that the number of volunteers to the area had greatly decreased.  Suzuki now wants more visitors to come and just spend time enjoying the region, as it is important for the people of Minamisanriku to have interaction with others.

We then joined a children’s play group formed by a group from Tokyo.  The members of this group meet once a month on thefourth Saturday of the month in Minamisanriku.  On this particular Saturday, we met Nishimura from Tokyo.  He is in the music distribution business and is also a pop rock vocalist.  We also met Kiyomi Suzuki, a local resident, who was supporting the community even before the tsunami.  He now spends time coordinating school visits to the area, aligning them with volunteer activities.  In a recent interview with him, he said the hardest thing is to match skills with what is currently needed.  Rather than trying to force volunteers to do laborious tasks, he just wants them to come see the area firsthand.

On our last day, we visited a festival that was being held nearby.  There we met many locals, as well as many volunteers from the Tokyo area helping at the various concessions and booths.  We ran into the Yes Kobo team here and found out about the Minamisanriku mascot, octopus-kun. In Japanese, to place something is to “oku” and when you take a test you hope to “pasu” or pass.  If you string it all together, you would say “oku to pasu” or octopus, which translates “to place something to pass.”  So the octopus paperweight was created and has become the Minamisanriku mascot.  The Minamisanriku region is also famous for catching Octopus.

In 1990, Chile gifted an original moai statue from Easter Island to Minamisanriku in honor of the tsunami that hit the Chilean coast after the 1960 earthquake.  Unforunately, the March 11 earthquake and  tsunami destroyed the moai statue.  But on May 25, 2013, Chile donated a new statue, made of stone, to the city.

Seeing the aftermath firsthand and having a chance to meet and talk to many of the survivors was an incredible experience.  Even through the devastation, they are all very friendly and upbeat.  To me, they are an inspiration to everyone:  the ability to experience such a hardship and to bounce back is nothing short of incredible.  As I like to tell students who visit JAMsj, the Japanese are like bamboo because no matter how tough the situation, they bounce right back.

JAMsj will be hosting another Tohoku event on February 22, 2014, “Ai Love Japan–Tohoku Update 2014,” to provide an update on how the people in the area are now doing.  Ai Love co-founder Miho will provide a pictorial and video update from his many visits to Tohoku.  We will then place Skype video calls to the people we met during our visit.  This will give participants a chance to interact with and hear directly from the people who were most affected.

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What’s new at Manzanar

Manzanar Guard Tower No. 8 with recently added WWII era searchlight. Photo courtesy of Komo .

Manzanar Guard Tower No. 8 with recently added WWII era searchlight. Photo courtesy of Komo .

Imagine visiting one of the World War II American concentration camps and actually being able to see what it looked like when Japanese Americans were incarcerated there.  Modern technology and the hard work of various organizations will soon make this possible. A good example of the former is  CyArk, a non-profit organization dedicated to the digital preservation of cultural heritage sites. CyArk’s work in digitally reconstructing the Manzanar, Topaz, and Tule Lake Wartime Relocation Authority (WRA) camps, together with the development of a “demonstration block” at Manzanar, will allow visitors to be part of both virtual and physical realities.

Although some of this is still a work in progress, the Manzanar National Historic Site is already well worth a visit. In addition to the demonstration block, which today includes a mess hall and two barracks, there is a lot to see:  a very impressive interpretive center, rotating exhibits, and quality public programs.  In addition, helpful park rangers are on site. The interpretive display inside of the mess hall is already open to the public.  In addition, visitors can walk through the barracks to get a feel for things to come.

CYARK

Cyark’s work in digitally reconstructing Manzanar (circa 1944) is part of an exciting, larger project, the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant.  Cyark is working on this project in collaboration with the National Park Service (NPS), Manzanar National Historic Site, Tule Lake Unit of the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, and Topaz Museum.

Elizabeth Lee, CyArk’s Director of Operations, was interviewed by Manzanar Committee blogger Gann Matsuda last year after a preview/feedback session in Los Angeles. Lee described the project as “going beyond just capturing the physical remains at the site, of which, there are very few.” She went on to say that, “Using that as a foundation, and combining that with historic resources, such as maps, photographs, and even oral histories, we can virtually reconstruct the site in 3D, and in an immersive, interactive environment.”

The first step of Cyark’s work uses laser scan data that is collected at each site, GPS, and photography to accurately capture the sites and their landscape in 3D. Coupled with historic documentation such as architectural drawings, photographs, and archival research, CyArk is able to develop a virtual recreation of the site. For example, although today Merritt Park at Manzanar is arid and dusty, the virtual recreation shows the park as it was in 1944, including the waterfall that connected the two ponds and the famous wild rose bushes grafted by Kuichiro Nishi. Visitors will even be able to hear the sound of the waterfall. A video preview of the Merritt Park reconstruction can be found on CyArk’s Virtual Manzanar blog.

Virtual reconstruction of Topaz. Photo courtesy of CyArk.

Virtual reconstruction of Topaz. Photo courtesy of CyArk.

Parks and gardens are not the only things captured in this project.  A large portion of the entire site, including the barracks (both interior and exterior), is also included.  The high-tech computer generated imagery (cgi) videos, coupled with oral histories featuring former prisoners and historic images, provide a unique opportunity to experience what life was like for the Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in these WRA camps.

Not only will those interested be able to visit these camps virtually via the Internet, but also visitors will be able to experience an “augmented reality” through the use of smart phones or tablets. The vision is for visitors to be able to see not just the reality of a site in front of them today (for example, the dry and arid Merritt Park), but also see on their devices the digitally reconstructed image of what that exact same view might have looked like in 1944. When visitors move, the view on the device would move with them. Lee described this as “a window into time, looking back some sixty years.”

Gann Matsuda’s full-length blog, detailing this very interesting project, “Interactive 3D Model Could Revolutionize Real and Virtual Visitor Experience For Manzanar,” can be found on the Manzanar Committee’s website.

For more information about our upcoming March 16 presentation by CyArk, please contact Komo at PublicPrograms@JAMsj.org. A full announcement will appear in next month’s edition of the JAMsj E-News.

DEMONSTRATION BLOCK AT MANZANAR

National Park Service crews work on reconstructing a WWII era mess hall at Manzanar on Block 14.  Photo courtesy of Friends of Manzanar.

National Park Service crews work on reconstructing a WWII era mess hall at Manzanar on Block 14. Photo courtesy of Friends of Manzanar.

The Manzanar War Relocation Center confined more than 10,000 Japanese Americans in 36 blocks from 1942 to 1945. Each block included 14 barracks buildings, a mess hall, a recreation building, latrines, and laundry and ironing rooms. After the war, the buildings were sold for scrap lumber or relocated. A visit to the site will quickly show how barren it is today. Thanks to an ambitious project to develop a “demonstration block” that interprets daily life in the camp, visitors will be able to get a glimpse of life was like for Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II.

So far, a mess hall and two barracks have been constructed in Block 14.  In addition, the design work for four utility buildings has already been completed. Friends of Manzanar, a nonprofit partner of the NPS, continues to raise funds to support the development and interpretation of Block 14.

Two barracks have been constructed on Block 14, with interpretive displays expected by early 2014.  Photo courtesy of Komo.

Two barracks have been constructed on Block 14, with interpretive displays expected by early 2014. Photo courtesy of Komo.

The project was approved in 1997, after consultation with the Manzanar Advisory Commission, former internees, and historians. The first physical element of the reconstruction was the World War II-era mess hall.  In December 2002, after a period of negotiation with Inyo County, it was delivered by truck in four sections from the Bishop airport. Although this mess hall was not at Manzanar during World War II, it was constructed during the same period from essentially the same mess hall plans used at Manzanar. Eventually,  NPS received funding to restore the building to its 1942 appearance and to develop exhibits.

More information about this project can be found in the Friends of Manzanar newsletter.  Image courtesy of Friends of Manzanar

More information about this project can be found in the Friends of Manzanar newsletter. Image courtesy of Friends of Manzanar

Park staff worked with Krister Olmon, Harvest Moon Studio, and Color-Ad Exhibits and Signage to create the exhibit, with research support from Friends of Manzanar. Opened in 2011, this restoration is a wonderful exhibit, reflecting what life was like in the WRA camps and emphasizing the central importance of the mess hall. The installation includes historic photos, articles, and quotes, as well as period items chosen to reflect what might have been found in the mess hall during that time.

In its January 2011 press release, NPS Superintendent Les Inafuku described his experience saying, “As I walk through the mess hall, I find myself imagining that I’ve walked in right at the busiest moment of a meal and that I’d better be careful not to bump into a cook or dish washer. My great thanks go out to the former internees who provided us with the fine details about meals and the mess halls, plus the countless hours that our Manzanar staff and our creative and dedicated exhibit designers and fabricators devoted to research, develop concepts of, and  produce the exhibits.”

The interpretive displays inside the WWII era mess hall at Manzanar’s Block 14 have already been installed and are being seen by visitors daily.  Photo courtesy of Komo.

The interpretive displays inside the WWII era mess hall at Manzanar’s Block 14 have already been installed and are being seen by visitors daily. Photo courtesy of Komo.

Dick Mansfield, a Friends of Manzanar director and the organization’s treasurer, says there are currently two primary Block 14 projects, both still in the planning stages, under way:

  • Development and installation of interpretive materials within reconstructed Barracks 1 and 8
  •  Reconstruction and interpretation of the four central utility buildings–the men’s and women’s latrines, the laundry room, and the ironing room

The interpretive materials for Barracks 1 and 8 are fully funded, planning is nearly completed, and the installation is expected by late 2013 or early 2014. Detailed plans for the four central utility buildings have been drafted, but the project is still in the funding stage. Friends of Manzanar, which has undertaken to provide funding for the central utility building project, has an anticipated budget  of $1 million.

Barrack 1 will be set up to show what a typical barrack at Manzanar might have looked like in 1942.  Photo courtesy of Komo.

Barrack 1 will be set up to show what a typical barrack at Manzanar might have looked like in 1942. Photo courtesy of Komo.

In the fiscal year 2009 to 2010, Congress approved funding, proposed by California Senator Diane Feinstein, for reconstructing Barracks 1 and 8 on Block 14. The barracks have been open to visitors for more than a year and a half, although the interpretive work in the two buildings is still in progress. Barracks 1 reflects what it would have been like when Japanese Americans first arrived at Manzanar in 1942, while Barracks 8 reflects life in 1945. A visitor viewing the site today can walk through the buildings and see the difference. Barracks 1 has wooden planks, complete with gaps, and no wall covering. In Barracks 8, the planks are covered with linoleum flooring.

Barrack 8 will reflect 1944. Photo courtesy of Komo

Barrack 8 will reflect 1944. Photo courtesy of Komo

In the January 2010 NPS press release for the groundbreaking of the barracks, Superintendent Inafuku noted, “All Americans had to adapt during World War II, including Japanese Americans confined at Manzanar. Future visitors to Block 14 can learn how Japanese Americans lived at Manzanar and improved their living situations. Our elders can still inspire us to improve our lives and help shape our great nation.”

EXCAVATION OPPORTUNITIES

The NPS has offered opportunities for the general public to help with archeological digs at Manzanar for several years. Park Ranger Kristen Luetkemeier confirmed plans to offer this program again this summer. The three digs are led by noted confinement-sites archeologist Jeff Burton (jeff_burton@nps.gov), under whose direction many of the beautiful decorative gardens developed by the confined persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II have been excavated.

A description of one of the 2012 digs states:

Within Block 14 of the internee housing area, volunteers will search for a lost fish pond, investigate possible basements, excavate and restore other landscaping and barracks features, and rebuild a retaining wall next to a basketball court. Uncovering and restoring these will help increase visitor understanding of the internee experience, as well as protect these important historic resources. Volunteers will be digging with shovels and small hand tools, using wheelbarrows, mixing concrete, reconstructing landscape features, and screening sediments to retrieve artifacts.

Last year, the NPS was able to accommodate up to 10 volunteers (15 years old and up) per day. Although some of the work may be physically demanding, a variety of tasks is offered each day, “to suit a variety of interests and energy levels.” Tasks in the past have included digging with shovels and small hand tools, raking, operating wheelbarrows, screening sediments to retrieve artifacts, note taking, filling out forms and labels, and using a metal detector.  All NPS asks is that volunteers have an “interest in history and a willingness to get dirty.” Volunteers can work any number of days.

Click here to read more about last year’s digs.

SPECIAL EXHIBITS & PROGRAMS

The NPS  offers great programs and special exhibits.  One current exhibit features photos and stories from Twice Heroes: America’s Nisei Veterans of World War II and Korea by photographer/author Tom Graves.  Featured among the selected portraits are familiar faces such as the late Senator Daniel Inouye and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta, as well as less familiar heroes. Each portrait is accompanied by a short yet insightful story about that person.  This exhibit was unveiled at a special program held for Veterans’ Day and included a book talk with Graves.

The five paragraphs on Inouye describe one of his many speaking engagements and ends with:

Those seated near the podium could see him touch the gold star that hung on the sky blue ribbon around his neck. “As a politician, I have been honored many times,” he said. “To be honored by your brothers is the highest honor. When I wear this medal, I wear it on your behalf. There is no such thing as a one-man hero. I can think of at least a dozen men in my company who should be wearing this. The medals belong to you.”

twice-herosAnother soldier’s story told of racism and ended with a note about how 442 soldiers received lesser medals than those of other units. The soldier felt that this was because Hawaii was not yet a state and had no congressman to push a Medal of Honor nomination. He went on to tell of how these veterans and widows were not compensated, saying that, “You cannot eat a Congressional Medal.”

Twice Heroes book website

PILGRIMAGE

The annual pilgrimage to Manzanar is held every year on the last Saturday of April.  The 2012 program included a keynote speech by noted author and scholar Dr. Mitchell T. Maki, an afternoon program at the Manzanar cemetery site featuring taiko, an interfaith service, and traditional ondo dancing  In the evening, the popular Manzanar at Dusk program was held. More information on the 2013 pilgrimage will be available on the Manzanar Committee website as the date approaches.

Links:

http://blog.manzanarcommittee.org/2012/03/19/author-scholar-dr-mitchell-maki-to-keynote-43rd-annual-manzanar-pilgrimage-april-28-2012/

http://blog.manzanarcommittee.org/2011/03/21/mako-nakagawa-to-keynote-42nd-annual-manzanar-pilgrimage/

http://www.manzanarcommittee.org/The_Manzanar_Committee/Our_Pilgrimage.html

VISITING MANZANAR

In addition to the mess hall and two recently reconstructed barracks, the Manzanar’s Interpretive Center features extensive exhibits, audio-visual programs, and a bookstore. For people visiting the Manzanar National Historic Site, Dick Mansfield recommends starting at the interpretive center with the 22-minute film that shows every half hour.  Next, look through the excellent exhibits and visit Block 14, which is just a few steps from the interpretive center.  Lastly,  drive the peripheral road and imagine what this 10,000-person holding facility on the edge of the desert must have been like for people who had been forced out of their Pacific Coast homes, without any semblance of due process, in 1942.  He notes that the site will be even more meaningful to visitors as the planned development of Block 14 moves forward.

Winter hours of operation are 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Manzanar is located at 5001 Hiway 395, six miles south of Independence and nine miles north of Lone Pine, California. Programs and exhibits are free and open to the public. For further information, please call (760) 878-2194 or visit the NPS website at http://www.nps.gov/manz.

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Ai Love Japan: Ongoing Recovery and Relief Efforts in Northeastern Japan

Darrell Miho is a professional photographer and writer from Southern California. Darrell and  fellow photographer, Ken Matsui,   founded Ai Love Japan, an organization that documents survivor stories and provides direct aid to the people most affected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan.  He will be at JAMsj on February 3, 2013 and will talk about his organization and the current situation within the disaster zone. In this article, he recounts how he got involved in relief efforts.

June 13, 2011; Kesennuma, Miyagi Pref., Japan - Fishing boats lie scattered like toys on dry land a quarter-mile from the ocean after a tsunami carried them inland after the March 11, 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami devastated the Northeast coast of Japan. Photo courtesy of Darrell Miho and Ai Love Japan.

June 13, 2011; Kesennuma, Miyagi Pref., Japan – Fishing boats lie scattered like toys on dry land a quarter-mile from the ocean after a tsunami carried them inland after the March 11, 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami devastated the Northeast coast of Japan. Photo courtesy of Darrell Miho and Ai Love Japan.

By Darrell Miho

When the March 11 disasters struck Japan, I was literally on the other side of the world in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I couldn’t believe the video footage I was watching on TV. I knew this was bad and my immediate instinct was to go take pictures.

Unfortunately, I was stuck in Sao Paulo recuperating from emergency retina reattachment surgery and was unable to travel until my eye was healed. Stuck in a foreign country without many resources, I felt helpless not being able to do anything.

On April 1, I was finally able to travel home to Los Angeles where I jumped on board to help some of my friends organize a benefit concert featuring Hiroshima and Quest Crew.

Still feeling that I could do more, I planned a trip to Japan in May to work on a personal project documenting atomic bomb survivors. Once I was finished doing the interviews in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the plan was to head north to the Tohoku region to document the damage and see how we could help.

May 16, 2011; Watari, Miyagi Pref., Japan - The Shishido family rummages through what is left of their house, looking to salvage what they can after the March 11, 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami devastated the Northeast coast of Japan.They have been coming to their house almost everyday, but this was the last day they can take anything out as their house was scheduled for demolition the next day

May 16, 2011; Watari, Miyagi Pref., Japan – The Shishido family rummages through what is left of their house, looking to salvage what they can after the March 11, 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami devastated the Northeast coast of Japan.
They have been coming to their house almost everyday, but this was the last day they can take anything out as their house was scheduled for demolition the next day. Photo courtesy of Ai Love Japan.

After visiting the devastated areas and talking to the local people, it was clear that more help was needed. Clearly, this disaster was unprecedented and the government was overwhelmed and unable to meet all the needs that people had.

Since the March 11 disasters, I have now been to Japan 5 times and to the Tohoku area 8 times and I can say without a doubt, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. Optimistic projections estimate that it will take ten years to rebuild the devastated areas. I think it will take longer. The added reality is that some places may never be rebuilt.

May 18, 2011; Minamisanriku, Miyagi Pref., Japan - Jun Suzuki shows how high the water rose inside a room at the Tokubetsu Yogo Homu Jikeien, a special nursing care home for the elderly, where he, his mother and an elderly resident were caught in the tsunami floodwaters in Minamisanriku during the magnitude 9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region of Japan on March 11, 2011.They all survived when the waters receded after peaking only one foot (30 cm) from the ceiling inside the nursing home. Two months after the disaster, you can still see the water line just a foot (30 cm) below the ceiling. Photo courtesy of Darrell Miho and Ai Love Japan.

May 18, 2011; Minamisanriku, Miyagi Pref., Japan – Jun Suzuki shows how high the water rose inside a room at the Tokubetsu Yogo Homu Jikeien, a special nursing care home for the elderly, where he, his mother and an elderly resident were caught in the tsunami floodwaters in Minamisanriku during the magnitude 9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region of Japan on March 11, 2011.
They all survived when the waters receded after peaking only one foot (30 cm) from the ceiling inside the nursing home. Two months after the disaster, you can still see the water line just a foot (30 cm) below the ceiling. Photo courtesy of Darrell Miho and Ai Love Japan.

Seeing the devastated areas in person will change anyone’s preconception of the disaster. Being in the midst of all the destruction and then seeing it repeated in town after town is something that I can’t put into words. The enormity and the scale is just mind-boggling. So I want to encourage people to go visit or volunteer so they can see it first hand and contribute to the recovery.

When we asked one of the survivors what she wanted, she simply said to come visit. The last thing the evacuees want is to be forgotten. So I will do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.

——————————————————————————————————–

 A native of Southern California, Darrell Miho is a professional photographer and writer specializing in people, sports, travel and special events. His work has been published in such notable publications as Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest and The New York Times. Miho extends his love for taking pictures to the community by donating his services to worthy causes. It is this inner desire to help others that motivates him to pursue personal projects that will help make this world a better place.

He is currently working on two personal projects documenting atomic bomb survivor stories and earthquake and tsunami survivor stories:

Apr. 07, 2011; Hiroshima, Japan - Ernest Arai holds up a photo of the t-shirt he was wearing when the bomb detonated. The t-shirt is now part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum's permanent archives.Project Hibakusha : Hope for Peace

Apr. 07, 2011; Hiroshima, Japan – Ernest Arai holds up a photo of the t-shirt he was wearing when the bomb detonated. The t-shirt is now part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum’s permanent archives.
Project Hibakusha : Hope for Peace

Project Hibakusha : Hope for Peace will create a traveling exhibit of portraits and multimedia presentations to promote world peace by educating future generations about the devastating effects that nuclear weapons have on people’s lives and to spread the hibakusha’s message – their hope for peace.  Interviews and photographs are being conducted in Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Canada and the United States.  http://projecthibakusha.blogspot.com


 

August. 2011, Kesennuma, Miyagi Pref., JPN - A student holds a pair of new rubber slippers donated by Locals Slippers and the people of Kauai. Locals Slippers were delivered to the Kesennuma Shiritsu Shishiori Shogakko (Shishiori Elementary School).

August. 2011, Kesennuma, Miyagi Pref., JPN – A student holds a pair of new rubber slippers donated by Locals Slippers and the people of Kauai. Locals Slippers were delivered to the Kesennuma Shiritsu Shishiori Shogakko (Shishiori Elementary School).

Ai Love Japan: The earthquake and tsunami survivor stories are being used to raise more public awareness about how people were affected and what they are doing to rebuild their lives. The goal is to keep people aware of the current situation in the disaster area in hopes of encouraging more volunteers to go help and to raising more money to help the people in the hardest hit areas in the Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures.  http://ailovejapan.org

In addition to the links above, you can see more of his photos and read more about his work by visiting the websites listed below:

http://www.darrellmiho.com

http://www.theeyescreamfactory.com

http://darrellmiho.blogspot.com

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A Remembrance of Senator Daniel Inouye

In the wake of the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye, we heard or read a groundswell of memories about his persona, as well as his many contributions to the Japanese American community and to the country. The following remembrance of Senator Inouye was written by JAMsj volunteer, Sandra Komo Gauvreau, on December 17, 2012, the day of Senator Inouye’s passing. The power of role modeling is exemplified in Komo’s reflections. As busy adults, we often forget how impressionable our words and actions are to those who learn from us. Thank you, Komo, for sharing this heart-felt memoir.

A Remembrance of Senator Daniel Inouye

By Sandra Komo Gauvreau

Senator Daniel Inouye1924-2012

Senator Daniel Inouye
1924-2012

You probably already know this … but I just found out that my senator (Daniel Inouye) passed away today.

I’m so sad. He was a hero that most kids in Hawaii, especially JA kids, grow up respecting and admiring. Not a year of my childhood went by without at least one kid presenting a report on his life. Inouye was a senator for almost 50 years. How many politicians can say that they were able to hold the faith of their constituency for so long? I remember his campaign bumper stickers from back when I was a teenager. They just said “Dan” and everyone knew which Dan it was. It didn’t matter if Akaka or any other Dan was running in that election — we knew that “Dan” could only be Daniel Inouye.

Dan Inouye was President pro tempore.  This meant that if anything happened to the president, he would have been third in the line of succession (behind the Vice President and the House speaker).  He recently commented on how things had changed since WWII. To imagine going from being thought of as an enemy alien to being constantly escorted by security agents because he was now third in line for the presidency — he was amazed.

With the recent election, I found myself thinking about and appreciating him often. We are so fortunate to have so many JA politicians who represent our people with so much integrity. I can’t help but think that our history has something to do with that. Daniel Inouye was a hero and he lived up to that throughout his long life. I never doubted any decision or action by my senator, because I knew with certainty that he was a man of integrity. He fought for and accomplished so much for us — the people of Hawaii, the Japanese American community and, in fact, we the entire nation. Everything he did was with our best interests at heart.

I’m so sad to know that he’s gone. I’m a little teary eyed … but I don’t know if it’s sadness or sheer appreciation. I have a lot of love for my senator.

 

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2013 San Jose Day of Remembrance: The Changing Face of America

2013 San Jose Day of Remembrance: The Changing Face of America

2013 San Jose Day of Remembrance: The Changing Face of America

By Will Kaku

The 2013 San Jose Day of Remembrance commemorates the signing of Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were American citizens.  The event will also recognize the 25th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. This landmark legislation stated that “a grave injustice was done to both citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry by the evacuation, relocation, and internment of civilians during World War II.”

To many of us in the Japanese American community, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 demonstrated that America can be a great nation.  America can look back in painful introspection and admit our past wrongs. But because our families and our community have been the recipients of the government’s apology and redress, many of us also believe that we bear a special responsibility to uphold the lessons learned from Executive Order 9066.

The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 stated that the government’s actions “were motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” The reference to “prejudice” strikes a special chord with many Japanese Americans, leading us to believe that we must not be silent when we see our neighbors, friends, classmates, colleagues, and various communities become the targets of discrimination and violence. The 2013 San Jose Day of Remembrance program reflects this belief.

Day of Remembrance candlelighting ceremony

Day of Remembrance candlelight ceremony honors internees, war veterans, and people who were displaced by EO 9066

The 2013 Day of Remembrance program, The Changing Face of America, acknowledges the changing composition of America. Many political observers have stated that the 2012 election results demonstrated a dramatic shift in the demographics of the country, citing the increasing influence of particular groups, such as Latinos, Asian Americans, African Americans, women, and younger Americans. The election also revealed some progressive gains in LGBT equality, the great civil rights struggle of this decade.

Accompanying this dramatic demographic and attitudinal shift is an increased risk of backlash, intolerance, ignorance, xenophobia, and violence.  Some vocal segments of society have challenged or do not accept President Barack Obama’s American origins and his Christian faith; the Muslim American community has been under special scrutiny since the terrorist attacks of 9/11; and some groups, like the Sikh community, have been the target of violent hate crimes.

Photo by Ernie Mastroianni, Courtesy of the Sikh Coalition

Candlelight vigil after the Oak Creek massacre. Photo by Ernie Mastroianni. Courtesy of the Sikh Coalition

The Department of Justice has stated that it has “investigated over 800 incidents since 9/11 involving violence, threats, vandalism and arson against Arab-Americans, Muslims, Sikhs, South-Asian Americans and other individuals perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin.”1

For the first time in San Jose Day of Remembrance history, a representative from the Sikh community, Simran Kaur, the advocacy director of the Sikh Coalition, will speak at the annual event.  The Sikh community has been a target of violence in the post-9/11 world, including the recent temple massacre in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; the 2011 double murder in Elk Grove, California; and the 2006 attempted murder in Santa Clara, California.2

San Jose Day of Remembrance brings multiple communities together to build trust, respect, and understanding. Photo courtesy of Andy Frazer.

The San Jose Day of Remembrance brings multiple communities together to build trust, respect, and understanding. Photo courtesy of Andy Frazer.

Other featured speakers will be Molly Kitajima, a Japanese Canadian who was incarcerated by the Canadian government during World War II; Congressman Mike Honda; and Sara Jaka from the South Bay Islamic Association. The program also includes a performance from internationally acclaimed  San Jose Taiko, a candle-lighting ceremony and remembrance, and the traditional candlelight procession through historic Japantown. The Japanese American Museum of San Jose will also have a special exhibit on display at the event. For more information, email info@sjnoc.org or visit www.sjnoc.org.

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The Day of Remembrance is an event that aims to bring different communities together in order to build trust, respect, and understanding among all people and to renew our pledge to fight for equality, justice, and peace. Please plan on attending to help us all remember what happened and ensure that such injustices never occur again.

sikhcoalition.poster.tbThe Sikh Coalition was born in the aftermath of bigotry, violence and discrimination against the Sikh population following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Sikh Coalition is a community-based organization that works towards the realization of civil and human rights for all people. In particular, the organization works towards a world where Sikhs may freely practice and enjoy their faith while fostering strong relations with their local community wherever they may be.

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Lost Words

The following year-end essay is written by Will Kaku, a JAMsj board member and an organizer for the San Jose Day of Remembrance program.

By Will Kaku

It has been said by many that writing letters is a lost art form. People under the age of 35 or so may have never experienced the sentimental emotions of discovering that dusty old shoebox full of beautifully crafted letters that convey love, joy, sorrow, and introspection.   The grief-stricken letter with tear-stained handwriting or the scented love letter expressing longing and passion cannot compare to a laboriously long email thread or be reduced to a 140-character tweet with an embedded emoticon.

Itsuyo Kaku Hori in the Heart Mountain camp

Itsuyo Kaku Hori at Heart Mountain

I recently had a remarkable shoebox moment when I came across several wartime letters written by my aunt, Itsuyo Kaku Hori (or “Aunt Its” as we called her) while she was incarcerated in the Santa Anita Assembly Center and the concentration camp in Heart Mountain, Wyoming .  The letters were unknown to me until UC Davis professor Cecilia Tsu visited JAMsj and, by chance, informed me that she had discovered the letters when she was performing research at the History San Jose archives.  The letters were sent to Elizabeth Wade, who was the friendly and caring landlord of the San Jose property where my aunt and her family farmed before the war.

Those personal letters, as well as other wartime correspondence and documentation that I have collected,  challenge us with the concept of what it really means to be an American. The letters also dramatically reveal a tumultuous period that propelled my young aunt into an incredible emotional journey and a great personal transformation.

Persons of Japanese ancestry arrive at the Santa Anita Assembly Center. Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Persons of Japanese ancestry arrive at the Santa Anita Assembly Center. Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The first letters that she wrote from Santa Anita captured my 19-year-old aunt’s youthful innocence, optimism, trust, and naiveté. She mentioned the arduous, seventeen-hour train ride from San Jose to Santa Anita, how she missed the ranch in San Jose, and the long lines of people waiting for their camp meals. But she also remarked that Santa Anita is “a nice place” and that ”the race track is beautifully built with a large grandstand.”

“There are millions of people from all directions,” Aunt Its wrote. She was awestruck. “For you know that this is our first experience to see such a big place with so many people, that it will be a great, big adventure to us.  We don’t know how long the government is going to keep us here, but we are well satisfied. It’s amazing to see what the government can do for so many people at this and the other camps.”

My cousins, Kathy Chang and Noreen Kudo, came to the archives at History San Jose to look at the letters from their mother (my Aunt Its)

My cousins, Kathy Chang and Noreen Kudo, view the wartime letters that were written by their mother (my Aunt Its) and other documents at History San Jose.

Aunt Its wrote to Elizabeth Wade every two months.  And she continued to write the “newsy” letters, as she referred to them, after the family was transferred to the Heart Mountain concentration camp. She wrote cheerfully, “This is our first experience in snow and it looks so pretty and white. The children seem to enjoy themselves by playing snow fights and making a snowman.”  Coincidentally, she mentioned that she saw “the young Mr. Sakauye every time I go to the post office.” (I wasn’t aware that she knew JAMsj founder, Eiichi Sakauye).

These later letters from Heart Mountain also conveyed the first depictions of hardship. She remarked that the cold weather “affects the old folks very much, especially our Mom. She says that she feels as though her ear has been taken off.  We all wish this war would be over pretty soon, but I guess it’s for the time to decide it. Let us all wish for the best of things now.”

Strangely, the continuous stream of letters comes to an abrupt halt in March 1943.  I’m not sure why, but this is the same month the family requested repatriation to Japan (the request was rescinded a few months later).  In addition, it was around the time that the highly controversial “loyalty questionnaire” was issued at Heart Mountain.

Jack Matsuoka's depiction of the arguments that raged within the camp over the questionnaire. Matsuoka's artwork is on display at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose.

Jack Matsuoka’s memories of the heated arguments that raged within the camp over the “loyalty questionnaire” are depicted in his book, Poston, Camp II, Block 211.  My family remembered similar tense moments.  Matsuoka’s artwork is on display at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose (JAMsj).

My father recounted to me many years ago when he was still lucid that the camp became a highly volatile place during that period. He recalled that there were people who applied great pressure on him to take a stand one way or another on the questionnaire. He remembered that whenever he had a meal in the mess hall, there was always somebody on the other side of the table emphatically demanding that he answer the questionnaire according to their strongly held point of view.

Perhaps because my Issei grandfather wanted the family to repatriate to Japan, his children who were old enough to sign the questionnaire did not answer the controversial questions #27 and #28 in the affirmative.  Although government records show that my father argued with his father because he wanted to stay in America and that he subsequently registered for Selective Service, he did not answer the questions, which was considered the same as giving a negative response.  He was thus labeled as a disloyal “No-No Boy.”

Local artist, Jack Matsuoka, states, "Discussion and debate on the questionnaire issue grew heated and not infrequently led to quarrels and fights. " From Matsuoka's book Poston, Camp II, Block 211.

Local artist, Jack Matsuoka, states, “Discussion and debate on the questionnaire issue grew heated and not infrequently led to quarrels and fights. ” This sketch is from Matsuoka’s book Poston, Camp II, Block 211.

Most people who answered “no-no” to questions #27 and #28 were moved to the Tule Lake Segregation Center, a high security camp in California near the Oregon border. The results of the questionnaire eventually separated my aunt from the rest of her family. After getting married, my Aunt Its decided to stay in Heart Mountain while the rest of the family was sent to the Tule Lake.

Transcripts of my aunt’s leave clearance hearings reveals a young woman who was undergoing a radical transformation in her thinking. Her husband failed to report to his draft induction, demanding that he would serve in the armed forces only if his rights were fully restored. My uncle is subsequently arrested and sent away to a Department of Justice camp and then later to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. My aunt is left alone in Heat Mountain, separated from her husband and her family. Her earlier feelings of optimism, trust, and hope are now replaced by confusion and cynicism.

Anderson (Assistant Project Director): How has all this made you feel toward the United States?
Hori (my aunt): Before evacuation, it was swell, it was all right, just like other people. I felt good, but since being put in camp, it is something different.
Anderson: As far as the future is concerned, do you feel that you could live your life here and be satisfied that you are an American?
Hori: It is hard to tell right now.
Anderson: You may feel that as a citizen you haven’t been treated right, but there is no question about your being a citizen. You are. Do I understand that the thing that you object to, you disagree with, is the fact you have been evacuated and have been required to live in a relocation center?
Hori: Yes. As citizens we should be treated like other Americans.
Anderson: You still think that under these conditions, you could be a sincerely loyal American, or do you feel that would make you feel a little bitter toward this country?
Hori: (No reply)

Assistant Project Director Anderson continued to press the argument that it is a citizen’s responsibility to report for military service even though he or she is forced into a “relocation center” and that the two issues are separate and should not be confused.

Anderson: Why do you think that you and your husband are any different than myself in regard to such an obligation? You think that I should go, but you feel you and your husband are justified in not going (to join the army).
Hori: They should give us some of the rights back to us, and then it is all right for us to go.
Anderson: What rights?
Hori: Rights of the citizen. Free to go out like other Americans before evacuation. They shouldn’t force us into relocation centers.
My father and my uncles were labeled as disloyal to the United States. After the war when their rights are restored, my father works for 2 years in Korea for the U.S army and another uncle serves in the Korean War and made a career in the military.

My father (far left, first row) and my uncles, seen here at Heart Mountain,  were labeled as disloyal to the United States. After the war, when their rights were restored, one of my uncles served in the Korean War and made his career in the military. My father worked for  the U.S Army in South Korea for nearly two years. To this day, some “No-No Boys” feel that they have been ostracized within the Japanese American community for the position that they took during the war.

Several members of the Leave Clearance Review Committee debated whether my aunt was truly a loyal American. One member wrote his review with underlined annotations for emphasis, “There are no indications of disloyalty, but rather a misconception of evacuation and Selective Service which has not been cleared up. If her husband and she are willing to suffer because of what they think American rights are, both would fight if they were given an understanding of the total picture.”

What they think?  When I read this handwritten notation, I am amazed that people cannot see within themselves their own misconception about what American rights are.

My aunt stayed in Heart Mountain, separated from her husband and her family in Tule Lake. When she found out her father was dying, she had to obtain permission to visit him.  Aunt Its told me once about the multiday train ride from Heart Mountain to Tule Lake. “The train was full of soldiers and nobody would give me a seat. Finally, one Japanese American soldier gave me a seat.” When she arrived at Tule Lake, the camp authorities recorded her fingerprints and took several mug shots. “ We were discriminated against. We were Japs,” Aunt Its said.

My aunt was amazed that I was able to find her 1945 letter to the camp project director. Here she is seen reading the letter in my interview with her in 2006.

My aunt was amazed that I was able to find her 1945 letter to the camp project director. I filmed her reading the letter in my interview with her in 2006.

There was another handwritten letter from my aunt in the government’s archives that stirs sadness within me. In her letter, my aunt emotionally pleaded with a government official to let her stay at the Tule Lake camp so that she could take care of her ailing father.

“When I met him, I was so shocked to see him completely changed from the time we separated last,” my aunt wrote in her letter to the project director. “That really was terrible for me to bear. I feel so sorry for my mother, watching her care for my father and children also. It makes me feel that I want to stay here forever and help, but I’m afraid that is impossible. I do not know when I will meet them (the family) again, and probably by then, he’ll pass away.”

My grandfather's funeral at Tule Lake.

My grandfather’s funeral at Tule Lake.

My aunt was eventually given permission to stay at Tule Lake. She took care of her father until he died several weeks after the war ended.

I was lucky to interview my Aunt Its before she passed away in 2007. Her controversial stories cover a topic that has been very difficult and painful for the Japanese American community. But, the stories also strike at the heart of the definitions of American identity, loyalty, equality, and justice. They have inspired me to ensure that her story, as well as the stories from others, are kept alive at JAMsj.

In my eulogy to her, I said that my aunt took me on a wonderful journey, resulting in my coming  out as a different person on the other side.  Discovering these previously unknown letters let me travel on that remarkable journey with her one more time.  I hope that one day you will also find the “lost words” of a loved one so that you can embark on a similar journey.

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Contact: will@jamsj.org

Links:

To request “WWII Japanese American Internment and Relocation Records” from the National Archives: http://www.archives.gov/research/japanese-americans/

San Jose Day of Remembrance: http://www.sjnoc.org/

San Jose Day of Remembrance. Photo courtesy of Andy Frazer.

San Jose Day of Remembrance. Photo courtesy of Andy Frazer.

The Day of Remembrance commemorates  the anniversary of  Executive Order 9066 which led to the forced incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were American citizens. Each year, we gather to remember that great civil liberties tragedy from over seventy years ago and each one of us reflects on what that event means to us today.

The Day of Remembrance is an event that aims to bring different communities together in order to build trust, respect and understanding among all people and to renew our pledge to fight for equality, justice and peace.

Other articles by Will Kaku:

The Secret of Tule Lake

Living History

An American Time Capsule

The Echoes of E.O. 9066

The Emotional Journey Into Camp Days

 

 

 

 

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Winter Boutique 2012 Artist Closeup: E. Fukushima

Winter Boutique 2012

JAMsj will hold its annual Winter Boutique on November 10, 2012. We sat down with one of the participating boutique artisans, Emi Fukushima, and talked to her about her products and her background.

Emi Fukushima

Creations by Emi
www.emiscreations.com

As a bilingual instructor in precious metal clay (silver clay), polymer clay, washi paper, and other materials, Emi teaches her techniques at stores and shows in the United States and Japan.

JAMsj: How long have you been designing jewelry?

Washi paper fan brooch with gold cord

Emi: I’ve been designing and making jewelry with fabric (especially kimono and obi fabrics) for more than 20 years. I mainly focus on jewelry at this time.  When I first started, I made other arts and crafts, which is my passion.  You can check my website (www.emiscreations.com) to see exactly what I did in the past.

JAMsj: Why did you want to be involved in the JAMsj Winter Boutique?

Emi:I have been participating in the JAMsj Winter Boutique ever since it started more than 20 years ago. It’s a great venue for JAMsj fundraising.  I mainly sell my jewelry at fundraising events.  Additionally, I am involved in other activities such as teaching, demonstrations and television programs showcasing my work (as noted on my website).  I have also taught workshops and classes throughout the U.S., including Hawaii, and in Japan.  I also teach and do demonstrations at major trade shows.

JAMsj: Were you part of the evacuation and incarceration during World War II?

Emi: Yes, I was incarcerated in the Tule Lake incarceration camp during WWII.  My memories of that time are very limited since I was quite young at the time.

Click here for more information about the 2012 JAMsj Winter Boutique.

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