Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Historic Bainbridge Review Newspaper: Now Available Online

By Brian Niiya, Densho Content Director

Thanks to the efforts of the Kitsap Regional Library, digitized versions of World War II era issues of the Bainbridge Review, a local newspaper covering Bainbridge Island, Washington went online earlier this year. The more than 200 Japanese Americans who lived on Bainbridge were subject to the very first exclusion orders issued by the army at the end of March 1942, when they were forcibly removed to Manzanar concentration camp.

Run by the young married couple Walt (1910–2001) and Milly Woodward (1909–89), the Review was notable among West Coast newspapers for its editorial stance that largely argued for upholding the civil rights of Japanese Americans and opposing the mass incarceration. Wanting to insure that the removed Japanese Americans remained a part of the community, the Woodwards ran dispatches by Bainbridge Nisei from the concentration camps through the war years and welcomed Japanese Americans back to the island when the West Coast was reopened to them starting in 1945.

The Woodwards and their brave wartime stance has been honored in recent years, with the naming of Bainbridge Island's middle school for them perhaps being most notable. The character of Arthur Chambers in Snow Falling on Cedars, the acclaimed novel by David Guterson that was later made into a Hollywood film and a play, is based on Walt Woodward.

The scanning project covers the years 1941 to 1946. Scanned from microfilm and run through optical character recognition software, library volunteers then spent some 1,500 hours checking the text against the microfilm to detect and correct errors. As a result, users can search the text for key words to find relevant articles.

The Bainbridge Review online archive joins a growing number of online resources on the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans, including those in Densho's digital repository.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Photo Essay: Honoring Fallen WWII Japanese American Soldiers

Between 1942 and 1945, thousands of soldiers of Japanese descent served in the US armed forces. In less than two years, one of their best known units—the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team—compiled an astonishing combat record. However, this segregated unit, which was almost entirely comprised of Japanese Americans, suffered an equally remarkable number with about 800 men killed or missing in action.

The sacrifices of the men who gave their lives in the war effort have been recognized with honor rolls, memorials to the fallen, monuments to the units, and living memorials, though it took decades for nationally visible monuments to emerge in the United States.

This photo essay explores how fallen soldiers were honored, both during the war and in its aftermath.

1. American soldiers of Japanese descent of the 2nd Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, bow their heads in prayer for their departed comrades who gave their lives in combat, Battalion Headquarters area near Cecina, Italy, 1944. Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee Collection.

2.  Memorial service for Amache servicemen killed in action, 1942-45. George Ochikubo Collection.

3.  Memorial service for Amache servicemen killed in action, 1942-45. George Ochikubo Collection.

4. Mrs. Shizuko Kina receives the Silver Star Medal posthumously awarded to her brother, Pfc. Tomaki Shimabukuro, during a ceremony in Honolulu. The presentation, by Chaplain Corwin H. Olds, CPBC, was made for gallantry in action with the 2nd Bn., 442nd Reg. Combat Team, near Bruyeres, France. August 1945. Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee Collection.


5. Service at the Tacoma Buddhist Church, 1949. Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee Collection.

6. A Nisei soldier gives the flag to a grieving mother, 1948. Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee Collection.

7. Nisei veterans at memorial site, 1948. Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee Collection.

8. Memorial Day parade, 1949. Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee Collection.

9. Memorial service at Lake View Cemetery, 1953. Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee Collection.

10. Nisei War Memorial at Lakeview Cemetery, 1956. Seattle Nisei Veterans Committee Collection.

Enlistment in WWII was a difficult decision for many Japanese American citizens, one that was often laden with competing personal, familial, and community obligations and desires. Here, Tosh Yasutake discusses his conflicted views about joining the military. Watch more interviews about Japanese American WWII military service here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Living Legacy of Tamie Tsuchiyama

Today marks the 100th birthday of Dr. Tamie Tsuchiyama--the only Japanese American woman to work full-time for the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study (JERS) Although she never published anything on mass incarceration, Tsuchiyama kept an extensive "sociological journal," and generated a series of short ethnographic reports that have been utilized by later generations of scholars. Here, Dr. Lane Hirabayashi, who wrote a critical biography about Dr. Tsuchiyama, highlights her involvement in wartime research and argues that her experience illustrates how race, class, and gender operated in terms of the traditional relationship between a Euro-American professor and researcher, and an aspiring person of color who was hired as an assistant.

Born in Hawai’i, the late Dr. Tamie Tsuchiyama was an unusual Nisei, or second generation Japanese American. While still a doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley, she became the only Japanese American woman who was hired as a full-time field worker by anthropologist Dorothy S. Thomas for the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study (JERS). Although she could have returned home to Hawaii, Tsuchiyama decided to let herself be incarcerated in Poston, partly with the idea of studying first-hand what was going on. 

For the next year, Tsuchiyama did extensive fieldwork in Poston's Unit I; kept a wide-ranging sociological journal; and composed a number of topically-specific ethnographic reports for Dorothy Thomas. Because she wanted to avoid being labeled as a spy for the government or the WRA, she kept her research activities a secret. Despite her constant level of data production, by 1943 Tsuchiyama's letters to Thomas began to delineate the tremendous stress that she was experiencing as a clandestine fieldworker in Unit I. Tsuchiyama began to complain about the intolerable Poston heat, the pressures of getting access to inside information, and having to write high-quality reports. Eventually, the pressure became too much. Tsuchiyama sent in her letter of resignation in July 1944, and sought release from Poston in order to join the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps [WAAC].

She returned to Berkeley in 1947 and within a year completed her doctoral dissertation--the first sustained study of Athabascan folklore. In doing so, Tsuchiyama became the first Japanese and Asian American to earn a PhD in Anthropology from U.C. Berkeley. Unable to find a job in this discipline, however, she returned to Cal to earn yet another degree, this time in Library Science, and subsequently worked as a librarian at the University of Texas until she retired.

In 1999, I published The Politics of Fieldwork: Research in an American Concentration Camp, a book that that detailed Tsuchiyama’s trajectory led her to the WCCA camp at Santa Anita, and then to the WRA camp at Poston (the so-called “Colorado River Relocation Center” in Arizona). Here, I would like to articulate the reasons why I worked on Tsuchiyama’s biography and why it seems like a worthwhile effort more than a decade and a half later.

The Politics of Fieldwork
is actually a product of an ongoing set of conversations I had with the late Yuji Ichioka, a path-breaking scholar in Japanese American studies. In the mid-1980s, Yuji indicated that since almost nothing was known about the only Issei who was employed as a researcher in Thomas’s JERS project, Richard S. Nishimoto, I should redress this and detail Nishimoto’s background and his specific contributions to JERS. Hoping to put Nishimoto’s biography and his vast collection of JERS field notes, reports, and letters into the wider context of the project, I worked on this task, on-and-off, for a decade.

Once published, my book on Nishimoto and his JERS research—titled Inside an American Concentration Camp (1995)—naturally led to Tamie Tsuchiyama. Tsuchiyama had, in fact, brought Nishimoto to Thomas’s attention and for a while he worked with Tsuchiyama doing research in Poston. As it turned out, Tsuchiyama’s life after the war was even more mysterious than Nishimoto’s. By the late 1990s, however, a revelation presented itself. Tsuchiyama’s story was a perfect example of how exploitation and resentment results when a student of color takes risks to collect data for a senior European or Euro-American scholar, who then subsequently “drops” the student as if they were a recalcitrant employee. Specifically, discovering that Thomas professionally threatened Tsuchiyama when the latter objected to the pressures she was being subject to in Poston both surprised and shocked me. 

Now, fifteen years after writing about this sad and problematic history, what has changed?  For one, Tsuchiyama’s name and accomplishments have been reinscribed on the historical record. Resources such as her JERS field notes about Santa Anita, Poston, and fieldwork in American-style concentration camps have recently been put on line via the Calsphere web site, which will certainly encourage their further use. 

Perhaps most gratifying is that accounts of Tsuchiyama’s experiences have now been reported in the literature on the ethics and politics of fieldwork. Books with substantive passages include David H. Price’s Anthropological Intelligence (2008). Research articles citing Tsuchiyama’s work for JERS include E. Guerrier’s “Anthropology in the Interests of the State” (2007), and T. Middleton and J. Cons’ “Coming to Terms: Reinserting Research Assistants into Ethnographies Past and Present” (2014), which introduces an entire special issue on this topic in the scholarly journal Ethnography.  Tsuchiyama’s story even appears as a case study in widely utilized introductory textbooks such as Cultural Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity.

So on her 100th birthday,  I am grateful to Yuji Ichioka for suggesting that the Japanese American fieldworkers for JERS were worthy of sustained study. I am grateful to my colleagues who have foregrounded Tsuchiyama’s story in their own work. Most of all, I am grateful to Dr. Tamie Tsuchiyama. She may be gone, and never have gotten what she deserved as a scholar, but we can still learn from her travails, both before and after the war.


Lane Ryo Hirabayashi is a full professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at UCLA, where he is also the inaugural "George & Sakaye Aratani Chair in Japanese American Incarceration, Redress, and Community” (2006 to date).
In addition to authoring numerous books, he is a regular contributor to the Densho Encyclopedia. 

Read more about Tamie Tsuchiyama in the Densho Encyclopedia.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Apology Politics: From Redress to Comfort Women

Guest post by Brian Niiya, Densho Content Director

The recent visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the U.S. and his invitation to address the U.S. Congress has brought renewed attention to the issue of the so-called “comfort women,” and the Abe administration's continued efforts to downplay that issue both in Japan and internationally. Two well-publicized reactions to Abe's visit and the "comfort women" issue mentioned the Japanese American World War II incarceration, citing it as an example of the importance of acknowledging historical wrongdoings.

The story of the "comfort women" has become well known in recent decades, at least in broad outline. During World War II, the Japanese military directly or indirectly forced tens of thousands of young girls and women from Korea, China, and other areas it conquered to serve as sexual slaves for the pleasure of Japanese soldiers. Though prior Japanese administrations have acknowledged Japanese responsibility for these abuses—most notably the 1993 Kono Statement, named after Yohei Kono, then the chief cabinet secretary of Japan—Abe's administrations have attempted to dial back such statements. During his first administration in 2006-07, he claimed that there was no evidence that the women had been coerced or that the government—as opposed to private entities—had been the ones to set up the "comfort women" system. In his current administration, he has appealed (unsuccessfully) to the U.N. to water down their 1996 report that called on Japan to apologize and to pay reparations.

The first mention of Japanese American incarceration in response to Abe’s politicking came in a speech and statement by Congressman Mike Honda, one of the harshest American critics of Japanese equivocation on the "comfort women" issue. As a member of the California State Assembly, he authored a 1999 resolution calling on Japan to acknowledge, apologize, and accept responsibility for the "comfort women," and upon his election to Congress, got the house to pass the similar House Resolution 121 in 2007.

Yong Soo Lee, 86, is visiting Washington from South Korea to speak out about her experience as one of the “comfort women” for the Japanese military during World War II. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Honda brought surviving Korean “comfort woman” Yong Soo Lee as a guest to Abe's address before a joint session of Congress. Honda had called on Abe to apologize for this episode in Japanese history during his Congressional speech, but Abe declined to do so. In making his case, Honda cited the Japanese American incarceration as an example of why "governments must not be ignorant of their pasts."

Honda went on to write:

"Our government made a mistake, but they apologized for it, and healed many wounds as a result. Japan must now do the same. It must show the maturity of a democratic country, apologize for its mistake, and thereby gain the trust of her sister Asian nations."

The second mention came in the May 5 "Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan" that was signed by 187 American and Canadian historians of Japan, issued after Abe's visit and his failure to address the "comfort women" issue. The letter notes that the "comfort woman" issue "has become so distorted by nationalist invective in Japan as well as in Korea and China that many scholars, along with journalists and politicians, have lost sight of the fundamental goal of historical inquiry, which should be to understand the human condition and aspire to improve it." Given this, it makes it clear that whatever disagreement and uncertainties there may be about the details, that "the 'comfort women' system was distinguished by its large scale and systematic management under the military, and by its exploitation of young, poor, and vulnerable women in areas colonized or occupied by Japan." The historians call for a "just history" that "must resist national and gender bias, and be free from government manipulation, censorship, and private intimidation."

Though primarily aimed at scholarship, the historians also write that the Japanese government has an opportunity "to show leadership by addressing Japan's history of colonial rule and wartime aggression in both words and action." In doing so, it acknowledges that "[m]any countries still struggle to acknowledge past injustices," citing specifically that "[i]t took over forty years for the United States government to compensate Japanese-Americans for their internment during World War II."

Densho supports the crux of what both Congressman Honda and the historian signatories have to say. As with the historians, we too believe in the goal of a "just history," whether of the "comfort women" or any other contested historical topic, and we provide the resources that we do towards that aim. We also stand with Congressman Honda in calling for Japan to accept responsibility for their actions and to apologize while a few of the women victims are still alive. The comparison with our redress movement is an apt one: the apology would not only help to heal wounds of the past, but would make it less likely that anything similar can ever happen again.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Photo Essay: Ten Portraits of Mothering in WWII Japanese American Concentration Camps

This Sunday, families across the United States will celebrate Mother's Day. In honor of the holiday we've compiled a set of photographs that attest to the remarkable strength and tenderness that Japanese American mothers displayed under the harsh conditions of WWII incarceration.

1. A young mother of Japanese ancestry arrives at Assembly center with 21-day-old baby. May 19, 1942. Stockton, California. Dorothea Lange Collection.

2. Families of two Shinto priests who were interned on December 8, 1942, immediately upon declaration of war. The mother at right has nine American born children and has been in the United States ten years. The mother on the left has been in this country two years, and neither speak English. April 25, 1942. San Francisco, California. Dorothea Lange Collection. 

3. Knitting warm woolen clothing for her children against the coming winter, this Japanese mother, at the Topaz Relocation Center, takes advantage of the warm Utah sun. October 17, 1942. Topaz, Utah. National Archives and Records Administration Collection.

4. Mother and child in the Rohwer concentration camp, Arkansas. 1943. Kuroishi Family Collection.

5. This family of Japanese ancestry has just arrived in the center this morning. The mother and the children are waiting at the door of the room in the barracks to which they have been assigned. The father is at the baggage depot where their bedding and clothing are unloaded and inspected for contraband. May 19, 1942. Stockton, California. Dorothea Lange Collection.

6. Hide Yasutake, her children May and Joe, and a Nisei soldier. Their barracks are in Block 4, Apartment C at the Mindoka concentration camp, Idaho. 1943. Yasutake Collection.

7. Mother and baby await evacuation bus. Posted on wall are schedules listing names of families, buses to which they are assigned, and times of departure. May 9, 1942. Centerville, California. Dorothea Lange Collection.

8. Mother and son in camp graveyard. This photo was taken at the Minidoka concentration camp's graveyard. The rocks in the background were probably used for grave markers. The tombstone shown here was more elaborate than most. 1944. Bain Collection.

9. Mother and two daughters (Kara and Amy) at Heart Mountain concentration camp, Wyoming. 1943. Kondo Collection.

10. Shigeko Kitamoto and her children (left to right): Frances, Jane, Frank, and Lilly Kitamoto in front of their barracks at the Minidoka concentration camp, Idaho. 1944. Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection.


To learn more about mothering in the camps, watch this segment from an interview with Fumiko Hayashida, whose evacuation photograph is perhaps the most widely recognized image of mothering from the WWII incarceration era.