Thursday, July 3, 2014

Shosuke Sasaki: "Escape" from Camp


Shosuke Sasaki was incarcerated at the Minidoka concentration camp, Idaho, during World War II. In this clip, he remembers a humorous incident in which he cut through the camp's barbed wire fence. Shosuke Sasaki's full interview is available in the Densho Digital Archive.

View the Archive Spotlight interview excerpt

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Loni Ding Collection

We are very pleased to have recently received a collection from the family of acclaimed filmmaker Loni Ding of the raw materials used to make her influential documentaries Nisei Soldier: Standard Bearer for an Exiled People (1983) and The Color of Honor: The Japanese American Soldier in WW II (1987). The large collection includes 738 pieces of media and will be processed over time and added to the Densho Digital Repository.

These two films are among the earliest, most decorated, and most influential cinematic accounts of the Japanese American World War II experience. A sociologist, television producer, and independent filmmaker based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Ding was inspired to do the film after attending the hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) in 1981. Supported by grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the California Public Broadcasting Commission, California Council for the Humanities, Washington Council for the Humanities, and National Endowment for the Humanities, Ding embarked on what would become a five plus year project.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Yuri Kochiyama: Changing Perspectives on Racism and Prejudice

Civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama was working for a USO office in Mississippi in 1944. Later, while working at a restaurant in New York, she talked to her black co-workers and became more aware of the racist climate facing African Americans. Yuri Kochiyama's full interview is available in the Densho Digital Archive.

View the Archive Spotlight interview excerpt

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

New Densho Encyclopedia Articles, May 17 to June 2

One of the often repeated stories that Sansei who grew up the '50s and '60s tell is of learning about the wartime removal and incarceration of their families during World War II in college or through reading a book or seeing a documentary film—and not by hearing about it from parents or other family members. Perhaps as a result, many of us have redoubled efforts to tell this story to children, whether our own or to groups of children in schools or on field trips. One of the tools we have to do this are books for children and young adults. Once few in number, we have seen a tremendous upsurge in titles on the incarceration, such that even those of us who pay attention to this subject can lose track.

Over the past year or so, Jan Kamiya, a young adult librarian here in Honolulu, has been reading the dozens of new and old children's books on some aspect of the incarceration story and has produced an excellent encyclopedia article on these books: Children's and young adults' books on incarceration. In addition to the narrative overview in the article, she has also worked to create as comprehensive a list of children's/young adult books as possible, divided into several categories. (There is one category of books that is missing, at least for now: the many that are published outside of mainstream publishing houses, a group Jan is calling the independent/e-book/self-published category. We'll be adding list of these books to the article later on.)

If you are at all interested in these books, take a look at the article and list. Are there any other books you know about that are missing? Jan will be adding separate articles that include more information on many of these books in the weeks to come.

Other newly added articles address other legacies of the camps, starting with one of the most popular fictional accounts of the incarceration, Jamie Ford's novel The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. The Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund is an organization formed by Nisei who were able to leave camp and go to college with the help of many good samaritans and who have chosen to honor their benefactors by helping young people today. Adding to his contributions on key postwar legal cases, Greg Robinson writes about Oyama v. California, the Supreme Court case that effectively ended the power of the alien land laws. Finally, we've added two new articles by UC Berkeley Ph.D. student Jeffrey Yamashita on Fort Snelling, the second home of the Military Intelligence Service Language School, and on Frank "Foo" Fujita, a Nisei soldier who was a prisoner of war of the Japanese Imperial Army.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Records about Japanese Americans relocated during World War II

[There is an enormous amount of information on the Japanese American removal and incarceration available online even beyond the resources that Densho provides. This abundance is both a blessing and curse; a blessing because one can do an enormous amount of research online that once required travel to archives located in various parts of the country and a curse because the sheer volume of material makes it hard to figure out what is unique and truly useful and what is of limited use or even misleading. Every once in a while, I'll be posting on some of the most useful non-Densho web resources.]

Many years ago, when I worked at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), in the early to mid 1990s, one of the most popular attractions in the old "Legacy Center" of the historic building—before the construction of the new building—was a computer file we colloquially referred to as the "camp database." For a small donation one could look up and print out "camp records" that indicated what camp a given person or family had been in, along with a host of other information including prewar location, occupations, age, schooling, and so forth. In those largely pre- (or at least limited) Internet days, it seemed kind of miraculous. For many visitors, it must have felt like a validation that yes, this did happen, and here are the government records that prove it. Though perhaps seeming less miraculous to our jaded post-internet eyes, this database—officially titled "Records about Japanese Americans Relocated during World War II—is available online through the National Archives and is still a useful tool for various kinds of research.

Monday, May 12, 2014

New Encyclopedia Articles, April 19 to May 9

The so-called "Citizen Isolation Centers" in Moab, Utah, and Leupp, Arizona—essentially War Relocation Authority maximum security prisons that held those deemed too dangerous for their run-of-the-mill concentration camps—have always had an air of mystery due both to the general neglect of the topic in the academic literature and the absence of photographs or other visual representations. Eileen Tamura's excellent new book, In Defense of Justice: Joseph Kurihara and the Japanese American Struggle for Equality, includes a chapter on Kurihara's time at the two camps that is one of the best accounts of the camp yet published. Adding to that is Art Hansen's detailed article on Moab and Leupp, just published to the Densho Encyclopedia, which further illuminates the two camps. We still don't have period photographs, but the accounts by Tamura and Hansen at least start to conjure an image of the places in the mind's eye, shedding some light on a slightly less dark topic.

Also recently added was Sheila Chun's portrait of Kumaji Furuya, a Issei businessman and poet in Honolulu who was among those arrested on December 7, 1941, and held for the duration of the war in a bewildering succession of detention camps both in Hawai'i and the continental U.S. He published a memoir of his internment in 1964 titled Haisho tenten, which roughly translates to "An Internment Odyssey." Chun, a volunteer at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i, has been working with Tatsumi Hayashi on a translation of this valuable first person account that provides unique views of relatively little documented camps such as Camp Forrest, Tennessee, and Camp Livingston, Louisiana. The cultural center hopes to publish it later this year, completing a trilogy of Issei internment volumes that includes Yasutaro Soga's Life behind Barbed Wire: The World War II Internment Memoirs of a Hawaii Issei, translated by Kihei Hirai (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2008) and Family Torn Apart: The Internment Story of the Otokichi Muin Ozaki Family, edited by Gail Honda (Honolulu: Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, 2012).

Finally, Greg Robinson returns with new articles on Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and the landmark Takahashi v. Fish and Game Commission case. The first two are of course famous figures, but their actions regarding Japanese Americans are less known. The Takahashi case was one of a string of early postwar legal cases that broke down legal discriminatory barriers for Japanese Americans and other ethnic minority groups. Adding to the article are photographs of Torao Takahashi, the suit's plaintiff, contributed by his granddaughter, Lilian Takahashi Hoffecker, who had earlier contributed an article on Terminal Island to the encyclopedia.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Roy H. Matsumoto: Shouting Military Orders in Japanese to Confuse the Enemy

In 2003, Densho interviewed the 90-year-old Roy Matsumoto who recounted his incredible story of fighting in the jungles of Burma with Merrill's Marauders against the Japanese. Roy saved his unit with heroic actions and he was later inducted in the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame. We are sorry to report that Roy passed away on April 21st at the age of 100. This clip comes from Roy's 2003 interview where he describes a mission to hold Nhpum Ga hill in Burma, in which he shouted military orders in Japanese to confuse the attacking Japanese soldiers. Roy's full interview is available in the Densho Digital Archive.

View the Archive Spotlight interview excerpt