In stories of the forced removal and incarceration, certain types of stories recur. There is the shock of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent exclusion orders, the preparations for removal including human “vultures” who come by to buy household goods for a fraction of their value, and Issei women who break dishes rather then sell them at such prices. Once at the concentration camp, there is dust, extreme temperatures, barbed wire fences and guard towers, spartan living conditions (sometimes in converted horse stalls), lack of privacy, and the slow disintegration of family life. And there are the toilets. Always the toilets.
If Japanese American/Canadian incarceration happened today, what would you bring with you? That’s the question at the heart of Kayla Isomura’s new Suitcase Project. This year she has been photographing Yonsei and Gosei in Seattle and Vancouver who answered her call for participants. The portraits serve as somber reminders of our not-distant past and will appear in an exhibit opening June 16, 2018 at the Nikkei National Museum (and sometime soon in Seattle, we hope). We talked to Densho Development Manager Danielle Higa about her experience as a participant in The Suitcase Project, and then to Kayla Isomura about the thinking behind the project and her reflections now that it’s wrapping up.
Do you love the stories we share at Densho? Use our digital archives and educational materials? Appreciate the insightful analysis, on-the-ground advocacy, and fire clapbacks we deliver online and IRL? Then we hope you’ll consider donating to Densho through the Seattle Foundation’s one-day online giving event GiveBIG on May 9th!
A middle school renaming process in Palo Alto, California has kicked up some of the same xenophobic dust that clouded public understandings about Japanese American complicity in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although the local school board issued their decision on the matter in March — well before this issue was even on our radar — we think it’s critical that we revisit the debacle, and we’ve got some suggestions for how they can go about starting to repair some of the damage done.
April 23, 2018 marks what would have been Gordon Hirabayashi’s 100th birthday. As a young man, Gordon learned the hard way that without a vigilant and engaged citizenry, our Constitution is little more than a scrap of paper. He took a stand and became one of the best known resisters to World War II incarceration–and we have much to learn from his example today.
First of all, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule of being triggered by other people’s gender pronouns, asking women what they were wearing, and trying to debunk “white privilege” with anecdotes about your blue collar background. We know you have many choices when you engage in online trolling, and we thank you for flying Densho.
In recent months, an outpouring of stories of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault has sparked long overdue conversations around the prevalence of sexual violence and the policies, attitudes, and silences that uphold it. As descendants of Japanese Americans criminalized during WWII who often use our own families’ stories to warn against the repetition of history, we know well that to understand our present we must reckon with our past. But for too long, the stories we tell have erased the victims and survivors of sexual violence in our own community. It is time we broke that silence.
In honor of National Women’s History Month we are excited to introduce the Guyo Tajiri Collection, new to the Densho Digital Repository. Guyo Tajiri was a journalist and writer at a time when opportunities were limited for women. Her tireless work and unique voice helped establish the Pacific Citizen as one of the major Japanese American publications. And as if being a successful journalist wasn’t enough, she went back to school when she was in her fifties and became a beloved teacher to special needs students in Oakland.
Michael Ishii is a New York based activist and organizer whose deep ties to interracial solidarity began decades before he was even born. In remarks made to a crowd gathered for New York City’s 2018 Day of Remembrance, Ishii introduced the Dunns, an Irish American couple who took in a young Japanese immigrant in the 1920s, raised him and his offspring, then came to the aid of their Japanese American family members and neighbors during World War II. That young immigrant was Ishii’s grandfather and the Dunns’ acts of kindness are now a fundamental part of his family story. Here, Ishii reflects not just on on what the Dunns gave, but also on what they gained.
Seventy-five years ago this week, Japanese Americans in War Relocation Authority (WRA) concentration camps were being asked to fill out the notorious “loyalty questionnaire.” After throwing them into these camps nearly a year before, with no attempt to determine individual “loyalty,” the WRA was now attempting to do just that. But the hastily designed questionnaire and its heavy-handed administration led to many unintended consequences, most of them bad for both Japanese Americans and their jailers.
- book review
- camp life
- current events
- Densho statement
- film review
- hidden histories
- In memoriam
- open letter
- oral history
- Pacific Northwest
- photo essay
- popular culture