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!
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.
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!
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!
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).
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.
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 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.
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- oral history
- Pacific Northwest
- photo essay
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