Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Minidoka Symposium and Pilgrimage

I returned this week to Seattle from the annual Minidoka Symposium and Minidoka Pilgrimage. This was the 6th year for the pilgrimage and the 3rd year for the symposium. Although both events are centered in Twin Falls (Idaho) at about the same time, the symposium and pilgrimage are separate events with only about a dozen or so folks who attend both.

Both events are high quality, and both had record turnouts this year. The symposium saw a 50% increase (100 to 150) from last year. This audience is predominantly local (Idaho students and teachers) and this year the focus was the relationship of the media to civil liberties. I spoke at the Symposium about how the media in the 1940s portrayed Japanese Americans.

The pilgrimage grew from about 150 to 250 this year. This audience is predominantly Japanese Americans who come from Seattle and Portland. I went to the first pilgrimage and the difference is that there are many more young people who attended this 6th Minidoka pilgrimage.

What I would love to see in the future is more overlap between the symposium and the pilgrimage. I think participants would benefit from mingling and talking with participants from the other event.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Grace Oshita

I just finished my third and final Salt Lake City interview with Grace Oshita. Grace has been telling her life story in schools all around the city for the past 40 years. Born and raised in San Francisco, Grace’s family owned and operated a successful miso factory called the Fujimoto Company. Her father, Eddie, was arrested by the FBI in February 1942, which left her step-mother to close the business and put their affairs in order before mass removal. Grace, her step-mother and grandmother were incarcerated in Tanforan Assembly Center in California and then Topaz in Utah. Grace and her family relocated to Salt Lake City, where her father resumed his miso business. The interview went very well and her story will be an invaluable contribution to our archive!

In other news, Grace took Dana, Rick Okabe and I to lunch in the hotel. Towards the end of our meal, we ran into Dr. Jun Kurumada, who was on his way to be interviewed by Tom. He is in amazing shape, and definitely the sharpest and most spry 94 year old I have ever met!

Guided car tour of Salt Lake City

Last night, Rick Okabe who is our contact person with the Topaz Museum treated us to a fabulous dinner. Joining us at dinner was Steve Koga, another member of the Topaz Museum. We had a lively discussion about Salt Lake City, and its Japanese American history. After dinner, Rick gave us a guided tour of the city in his car. He brought us up into the hills so that we could see the whole city and the valley surrounding the city. Salt Lake City is a gorgeous place with snow capped mountains in the background.

My interview with Nelson Akagi yesterday was fascinating as he talked about his early California experiences, his memories serving in the 522nd in Europe, and the influence of the LDS Church on his life. Later today I have an interview with Jun Kurumada, who was one of the early leaders of the JACL.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

First day of interviews

We just finished our first day of interviews here in Salt Lake City. I interviewed Alice Hirai and Ted Nagata, while Tom interviewed Nelson Akagi. Alice was the first interview of the day. She was born in San Francisco and only 2 years old when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A small child in Topaz, her reflections on camp came from a perspective that often goes unnoticed in discussions about the WWII incarceration. Alice also talked about her lifelong activism in the Salt Lake City public schools, and the sacrifices and struggles of her parents and the issei generation. Ted, who I wrote about in a previous message, told a fascinating story. Among other topics, he discussed the hardship that his family endured after camp and the origins and current preservation efforts of the Topaz Museum (of which he was a founding board member). An artist and graphic designer, he also gave us two books on Japanese Americans in Utah that he designed. It was quite a successful day!

The Trials of a Videographer

One of the challenges facing us when we interview on the road is setting up studios in hotel rooms. Although we often shoot interviews against a black background, whenever possible (and room decor permits) we like to shoot using whatever’s available in the room. This usually involves moving lots of heavy furniture around, and sometimes making a few alterations. For those of you who enjoyed hearing about my ironing woes on our trip to Denver, I’ve got a new one: tassels. Whoever designed the drapes in this hotel room apparently adores little pastel-colored tassels, and I spent a ridiculous amount of time last night laboriously taping them back so they are not quite so visible…

Monday, June 2, 2008

Arrival in Salt Lake City

After a thankfully short and uneventful plane trip, we arrived in Salt Lake City today. The weather is wonderful, mostly sunny and 75 degrees. After checking in to our hotel, we explored the city by car and ended up at Temple Square in the heart of downtown. We went on a guided tour of the square and were able to see the beautiful Salt Lake Temple as well as the interior of the tabernacle.

I’ve posted some photos of our first day to our Flickr account: