To celebrate what would have been Yuri Kochiyama‘s 98th birthday, we asked next-gen Nikkei artists and activists to share what they’ve learned from Yuri’s revolutionary life — and how they carry on her legacy of building bridges and interrupting injustice in their own lives. Here’s what they had to say about what #YuriTaughtMe.
This year’s Densho Dinner is on November 2, 2019 and we’re encouraging friends and supporters from all over the country to make a trip out of it! With Satsuki Ina as our keynote speaker and an impressive lineup of arts, activism, and history, we promise that the program alone will be worth the trip — but just to sweeten the deal, here’s a whole weekend’s worth of Japanese American and pan-Asian history, culture, and foods you can enjoy while you’re in Seattle.
The Fresno Assembly Center* (FAC) opened on May 6, 1942 and held a total of 5,344 Japanese Americans forcibly removed from the Fresno and Sacramento areas. One of fifteen dedicated short-term detention camps opened in the spring of 1942, the facility closed six months later when the population was transferred to a more permanent prison camp in Arkansas. Though surrounded by barbed wire fences and guarded by military police—all the while facing oppressive heat in a nearly shadeless camp and a nightly curfew and roll call—Fresno inmates did their best to make the best of things. We’ve put together a list of some of these FAC facts of life and stories of making do.
2042 will mark the 100th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 and Densho is already making some ambitious plans for what we want to accomplish by that date. We recognize that our strength in reaching these goals will come from our community, so we’re launching a listening tour in order to create space for your input and ideas!
It seems like more people are talking about Japanese American history than ever before. As it’s become increasingly relevant to our country’s current political moment, the Japanese American story has started to pop up in some unexpected places, from podcasts and breaking news coverage to viral Reddit threads and popular TV series. But the language used to tell this story hasn’t quite caught up with its newfound reach. While more people know what happened to Japanese Americans during WWII, most of them are still learning that history through decades-old euphemisms that diminish its harsh realities.
If there’s one true thing about studying history, it’s that there’s always more to learn. Less (in)famous than sites like Manzanar and Tule Lake, Rohwer was one of two WRA concentration camps located in Arkansas, where inmates were exposed to the unique climate and racial politics of the South, and had regular interactions with Nisei soldiers training at nearby military facilities. This year’s Rohwer Pilgrimage will take place this weekend, and Densho Content Director Brian Niiya has collected ten little-known facts about the former incarceration site to get ready. Keep reading to learn more — and look for Brian at the pilgrimage to ask your own questions!
We’re pleased to introduce the two artists who will receive 2019 Densho Artists Initiative funding! Out of a wide selection of gifted artists and their powerful proposals, Brynn Saito and Mari Shibuya submitted ideas that we felt had the greatest potential to provoke important dialogues about trauma, healing, and the legacy of Japanese American WWII incarceration as it relates to contemporary injustices. We are also pleased to share that we were able to give several additional artists smaller grants, and we’ll be sharing their work throughout the year. Follow Densho on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates on these projects and for opportunities to engage.
Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi was born in Los Angeles on October 17, 1921, the second of four children—and oldest of three sisters—of Hatsu and Tahei Matsunaga. She grew up in a very musical family, and dreamed of becoming a concert pianist in her early years. After graduating from high school, she enrolled at the University of Southern California as a music major. But with the onset of World War II, and growing pressure to oust Japanese Americans from the West Coast, Setsuko was unable to pursue a career in music and instead set down a very different path.
Patsy Takemoto Mink was born in Pā`ia, Maui, on December 6, 1927, to Nisei parents Suematsu and Mitama Takemoto. Like many Japanese Americans growing up in Hawai`i at that time, she was raised on a sugar plantation. However, as the Sansei daughter of a land surveyor allotted a private cottage, company car, and two acres of land, her experiences were very different from her mostly Nisei peers in the overcrowded and heavily segregated plantation camps—differences she began to see clearly once she started attending school. As a young girl, she would accompany her father to local election rallies, sparking an early interest in politics.
There’s a tendency during women’s history month to focus our celebrations on the women who accomplished great things as activists, artists, and thinkers. And indeed these women should be celebrated! But there’s also something to looking back at the lives of everyday women and the unique challenges they faced as they navigated racism, misogyny, and other social barriers just to simply be. Peggie Nishimura Bain’s life was interrupted by WWII incarceration, but it was also profoundly shaped by toxic masculinity and structural racism before and after the war. Here we draw from photos and oral histories in our digital archives to give you a look into that life.
- What #YuriTaughtMe: Lessons from Yuri Kochiyama on Her 98th Birthday
- 36 Hours in Japanese American Seattle
- Thieving Guards, Mass Food Poisoning, and Other Facts of Life in Fresno Assembly Center
- Densho Community Listening Tour
- It’s Time to Retire WWII-Era Euphemisms for Japanese American Incarceration
- book review
- camp life
- current events
- Densho statement
- film review
- hidden histories
- In memoriam
- open letter
- oral history
- Pacific Northwest
- photo essay
- popular culture