Friday, April 30, 2010

Revered Canadian Architect Is Honored

We learned about a respected Japanese Canadian architect in this column in The Globe & Mail. Raymond Moriyama is one of country's greatest architects, the genius behind buildings such as the Toronto Reference Library, the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa (pictured), and scores of university buildings.

In World War II, Moriyama's father was arrested for refusing to go into internment, while Raymond and his mother were held at Slocan, British Columbia. Another illustrious Japanese Canadian, environmentalist David Suzuki, was also interned at Slocan as a boy.

According to The Globe and Mail columnist, Moriyama showed his penchant for building at an early age:
Though it was forbidden at the internment camp, the young Raymond scavenged an axe, some nails and some scrap wood and built a rough, rhomboid-shaped tree house at the edge of the Slocan River. It was a place of quiet refuge and healing. “The view of nature from the tree house was absolutely astonishing,” he recalled in his speech Saturday night. “The mountains, green and silver, around the river; the whisper of the river and the sounds of night; the crisp night sky and the stars so close.”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Japanese TV Drama Filming in Seattle

"A major film is being made in Seattle, but you'll probably never see it. It's a 10-hour movie that will be shown only in Japan." That's how a KING 5 news story of April 24 began. The reporter interviewed Densho executive director Tom Ikeda about a Japanese production crew filming scenes in Seattle before moving on to Eastern Washington. Filming is also taking place in Japan and Idaho.

The final product won't in fact be a 10-hour movie, but rather a 5-part mini-series called "Japanese Americans" to be broadcast on Japanese TV. The producers consulted with Densho about the script, which focuses on multiple generations of a Japanese American family that settles in Seattle and is incarcerated at Manzanar, California, during World War II. The mini-series will air in fall 2010, and Densho will launch a companion Japanese-language website with historical references, thanks to funding from the United States-Japan Foundation.

We've been told that 10 to 20 million Japanese viewers will see the mini-series, something that pleases Tom Ikeda, who says, "It's a clear signal that the Japanese are becoming more interested in Japanese Americans." Densho looks forward to more international communication and collaboration.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wartime Irony

A friend told us today about an NPR story of interest. At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, General David Petraeus honored veterans who helped to liberate the Nazi concentration camps. One vet interviewed for the story is Susumu Ito, who as part of the 552nd Field Artillery Battalion, attached to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, came upon prisoners walking out of the Dachau concentration camp. In 1998, Densho interviewed Sus Ito, who went on to become a professor at Harvard medical school.

He describes going to see his parents, who were confined at the Rohwer, Arkansas, War Relocation Authority camp: "It was strange visiting my parents in a camp, to report to military police in uniform -- and they're in uniform as well -- getting a pass to see my parents." Strange, or ironic, indeed.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bad Meat and Missing Sugar: Food in the Japanese American Camps

"Americans are being rationed, and these Japs are getting steaks." -- Frank Kikuchi

When asked to share their strongest memories of the Japanese American camps, many survivors talk about the food. Life-sustaining but boring is the consensus. Worse than boring was the food served in the early days of the "assembly centers" in spring and summer 1942. Untrained cooks, unsanitary kitchens, and unreasonable food allowances added up to episodes of food poisoning in various camps and increased the misery of the displaced Japanese Americans. While false reports claimed that detainees were being treated to rich and costly meals, in reality they were fed a dismal diet of wieners, dried fish, pancakes, and other cheap starches. Canned and pickled vegetables replaced the bounty of fresh produce Japanese Americans were accustomed to. As with other aspects of camp, food quality improved only through the efforts of the detainees themselves.

Read more of this article

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sports Illustrated & ESPN take a look at the Japanese American incarceration

There is a good feature story in Sports Illustrated about the Champion Utah basketball team during World War II. It features Wat Misaka, one of the stars of the team and the challenges he had to face by being Japanese American while the US fought Japan in the war. After Wat graduated from Utah he was a first round draft choice of the New Your Knicks. Another Japanese American Tut Tatsuno joined the Utah basketball team after being removed from his home in San Francisco and held at the Topaz concentration camp.

ESPN also did a short video feature about the Santa Anita race track which served as a temporary detention facility that held nearly 20,000 Japanese Americans during the war. The ESPN film crew was at Santa Anita doing background work for the upcoming Breeders Cup when they came across a group of Japanese Americans who had been incarcerated at Santa Anita. The ESPN crew interviewed a few of these former inmates and also interviewed Cory Nakatani, a top jockey at Santa Anita whose grandfather was incarcerated at Santa Anita.