September 30, 2008

When the Densho staff opened our Monday morning email, we found multiple messages from Japan. People were writing to thank us for our work, register for the Digital Archive, and sign up for the eNews. All this interest was generated by a television program broadcast over the weekend on NHK, the Japanese public television station.
Densho came to the broadcaster’s attention in March 2008, when our executive director, Tom Ikeda, visited Japan as a member of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation. In the April 2008 eNews, Tom shared stories and pictures of the delegation’s VIP meetings and evenings out.

An NHK television crew arrived at Densho’s Seattle office in late June. They interviewed Tom (representing the Sansei generation) and our Interview Coordinator, Megan Asaka (speaking for Yonsei). The questions were all about Japanese American identity. The crew also interviewed Tom’s parents and other Japanese Americans in California.

For Japanese readers, the NHK webpage describes the September 28 program.

And here’s an English translation, courtesy of staff member Naoko Magasis:

The Japanese government, with its international status lowered among fast-growing Asian countries, is seeking ways to strengthen its relationship with the United States. The government is counting on the Japanese American community to play the role of bridge builder.

To date, Japanese Americans have been distanced from Japan and the Japanese because of their past experiences, such as the internment camps during the World War II. In an effort to build interest in Japan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited thirteen noted Japanese Americans to visit Japan, and meet with Prime Minister Fukuda.

Some Japanese Americans have started to recognize their roots and consider their relationship with the county in a positive light. At a national Japanese American conference held in July, 700 Japanese Americans attended. On the other hand, younger generations are beginning to identify themselves more as “Asian Americans.” After considering the 60 years since World War II, we take a look at contemporary Japanese American who are searching for their identity and trying to measure their distance from Japan.