Thursday, May 29, 2008

Salt Lake City narrator Ted Nagata

I just finished my pre-interview with Ted Nagata. He is a founding member of the Topaz Museum and is active in all sorts of projects around the city. Born in Santa Monica and raised in Berkeley, Ted was removed with his family to Tanforan, and later, Topaz, when he was a young child. Ted’s mother had a particularly hard time in camp, with two young children and a husband who was gone most of the year working in the sugar beet fields. Like many Topaz detainees, Ted’s family resettled to Salt Lake City after the war. His parents struggled financially and emotionally during this time, which Ted remembers as a particularly difficult period of his life. Ted has many insights about Salt Lake City’s Japanese American community and history. I am looking forward to the interview!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Back in Seattle

After 3 days of chilly, wet weather in Denver, we returned to sunshine and 70 degrees in Seattle! Our trip to Denver was a big success. We returned with 13 interviews, 3 photo collections, new friendships, and wonderful memories. We also strengthened our working partnership with the National Park Service staff at the Manzanar National Historic Site (Richard Potashin and Kirk Peterson) with three days of solid interviewing.
All day in the office we have been sharing stories of nice moments during the interviews, looking over the great photographs that we are borrowing from Bob Fuchigami, or laughing about our makeshift studios in our hotel rooms. I am looking forward to returning to Denver in July to meet more people and do more interviews.
Below is a photo from Monday evening as we met to discuss the week’s interviews. (Left to right) Dana Hoshide, Megan Asaka, Kirk Peterson, and Richard Potashin.

And here is a photo from inside a great restaurant that Gil and Erin recommended during our last night in Denver. (Left to right) Daryl Maeda, Megan Asaka, Dana Hoshide, Erin Yoshimura, Tom Ikeda, Kara Miyagishima, and Gil Asakawa.

Big thanks to Professor Daryl Maeda and National Park Service Historian Kara Miyagishima for helping us identify and select people to interview!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dinner at Domo

Wednesday evening we had a fun dinner with Daryl Maeda, Kara Miyagishima, Gil Asakawa and Erin Yoshimura at a great place called Domo Restaurant. They specialize in country-style Japanese food, and they also have a Japanese garden (where the photo was taken). Today we’re conducting a few more interviews before packing up and making our way back to Seattle. Here’s hoping the flight is smoother than on the way in!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Day 3 in Denver

I just finished my interview with Mary Hamano. Mary doesn’t drive, so Dana and I picked her up this morning. She lives in Tamai Towers, which is located in the center of Sakura Square (Denver’s Japantown). The interview lasted a full three hours and afterwards, Mary showed us photos of Amache and a collection of wooden pins that the Issei men made in camp. Born in San Gabriel and raised in Los Angeles, Mary had fascinating prewar stories of her childhood and memories of LA’s Japantown. Luckily the weather today is sunny and warm, so Dana and I were able to walk around Sakura Square after taking Mary back home. We went shopping in Pacific Mercantile (the Uwajimaya of Denver)...I couldn’t resist all the Hello Kitty merchandise and ended up buying a Hello Kitty sunglass case. I’m such a sucker for Japanese branding!

Sakura Center, Al Miyagishima, Bob Fuchigami

Yesterday was a full day with lots of delightful surprises. In the morning, Gladys Konishi showed me Denver’s Sakura Center while her husband was being interviewed. This is the central location for Denver’s Japanese stores, restaurants and the Buddhist temple. I bought a variety of Japanese snacks and drinks for each studio.

In the afternoon I interviewed Al Miyegishima who was born and raised in Scottsbluff Nebraska. One of the interesting discussions we had was about the differences between West Coast Japanese Americans and interior Japanese Americans.

And then after the interview with Al, Richard Potashin and I drove up into the foothills to visit Bob Fuchigami. The scenery was spectacular and by the time we got to Bob’s house, there were several inches of snow on the ground. That morning they had about 8 inches of snow. Bob showed us some fabulous photo collections and is allowing me to bring back to Seattle four of the collections for scanning.

Today is another full day of interviews.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My first interview

I just finished my first Denver interview – with Bessie Konishi. It lasted a little over an hour and we talked about her family’s farm, the Japanese American community in Alamosa and her memories of WWII. Everything went smoothly and Dana’s setup looked great! A snapshot of the interview is attached (please ignore my head, which seems to be taking up half the room).

Morning before the interviews

This morning I woke up with a dull headache that reminded me of when I hike at altitude. It’ll probably take me a day or so to acclimate to the higher elevation in Denver. The weather is cold and rainy (and snowy in the higher elevations.) After my afternoon interview I am scheduled to visit Bob Fuchigami to look at some photos of Amache. Bob lives in the hills so I hope it warms up during the day!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Travel, Setup and Ironing

After a fairly non-eventful but long travel day, we finally arrived in Denver. We did encounter some awful turbulence on the flight in. Megan and I weren’t feeling so hot, but we glanced over and Tom was doggedly reading his book the entire time. The weather was rainy and exremely windy by the time we got here, although it was apparently nearly 80 degrees earlier in the day. As it turns out, things aren’t very close together in Denver… the airport is miles outside of town, and just getting to the rental car place seemed to take forever. By the time we made it to our hotel and checked in, we only had time to drive into town and grab a quick dinner before meeting with Richard and Kirk from the National Park Service. Later, I had managed to convert my hotel room into a semblance of an interview studio, only to discover that the enormous black fabric backdrop we brought with us was horribly creased and wrinkled. Forty-five minutes of ironing hell later, I believe I’ve managed to get it looking somewhat presentable…

Here’s a link to our flickr account for some new photos, including a video taken from our car ride into Denver!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mary Hamano

Mary was born in San Gabriel, California, and spent the majority of her childhood in Los Angeles. On December 7, 1941, Mary was spending the day in Japantown with her family and remembers the FBI swarming the neighborhood, shutting down businesses one-by-one. Mary and her family were removed to Santa Anita “assembly center” and then Amache incarceration camp in Colorado. After the war, Mary moved to Denver and worked in a seaweed factory in Nihonmachi. She eventually settled in a small town in the Arkansas Valley and opened a greenhouse with her husband. My interview with Mary will focus on her experiences moving to Denver after the war and her memories of life in Japantown during that time.

Nancy Miyagishima

Nancy Miyagishima is my second interview in Denver. Tom will be interviewing her husband, Alfred, during the same time. Nancy has a fascinating background and family history. Born and raised in Sacramento, Nancy was sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Ft. Lupton, Colorado during the summer of 1941. Nancy was trapped in Colorado following the outbreak of WWII. Her grandparents and brother eventually joined her, leaving the West Coast during the “voluntary evacuation” period. However, she was separated from her step-father and younger sister, both of whom renounced their citizenship and repatriated to Japan in 1946. I will be focusing on her childhood in Sacramento and memories of Ft. Lupton during the war.

Densho’s equipment packed

Densho's video equipment is packed and ready to go! We’re taking it all on the plane with us, a combination of carry-on and checked baggage. We now have to deal with the addition of airline fees for more than one checked piece, as well as the surcharge for overweight luggage. With a new (and much smaller) camera and tripod this year, carrying all our gear looks to be much more manageable than in the past. Looking forward to getting underway!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bessie Konishi

Bessie will be my first interview in Denver. She lives in Alamosa, a rural community located near the Colorado/New Mexico border. Bessie also grew up in Alamosa and is one of our 5 prewar Colorado narrators. Alamosa has historically been home to a large Latino population; the relationships among the various ethnic groups will be a focus of my interview with her. Bessie’s vivid descriptions of Colorado’s prewar Japanese American farming communities as well as her memories of the aftermath of Pearl Harbor will be great additions to our archive! I’m looking forward to the interview.

Pre-interview with Alfred Miyagishima

I conducted a preliminary phone interview with Alfred Miyagishima yesterday afternoon. I heard he was hard-of-hearing so I called him from our sound-insulated studio so that I could talk loudly and not disrupt the office.

Alfred was born and raised in Nebraska, where his father settled after working with a railroad company. I plan on asking him about the small Japanese communities that formed from former Japanese railroad workers. In 1940, Alfred and his family moved to Stockton where he got his first exposure to a larger Japanese community. How he felt about this move and the Japanese community will be another area for my questioning. He was sent to Gila River, left Gila River to finish high school in Nebraska, and then was drafted into the army. After the war he settled in Denver.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Densho Staff Blog

The purpose of this blog is for Densho staff to share what they do on a day-to-day basis. This summer we will be traveling a lot and this blog gives us an opportunity to keep staff and others updated on what is happening. nuff said.