Day of Remembrance
February 19, 2024 will mark 82 years since the signing of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the forced removal and mass incarceration of Japanese Americans on the West Coast. Most Japanese Americans in the Seattle area spent their first few months in detention at the Puyallup Assembly Center, where the Washington State Fairgrounds stand today. The trauma of family separation, child imprisonment, poor sanitation, bad food, inadequate health care, and uncertain futures persists—and continues today at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma. Join us to hear from incarceration survivors past and present as we remember and resist this Day of Remembrance.
Lunch and Learn: “Lawyer, Jailer, Ally, Foe”
Join us for a conversation between Eric Muller, Professor of Law in Jurisprudence and Ethics at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Densho content director Brian Niiya, for a discussion of Muller’s latest book, Lawyer, Jailer, Ally, Foe: Complicity and Conscience in America's World War II Concentration Camps.
Labeled “a fascinating and detailed account of one of America’s darkest chapters” by attorney-novelist John Grisham, and "an important addition to the literature on moral witness and the history of the Japanese American incarceration" by novelist Julie Otsuka, the book tells the stories of government lawyers who helped to run the camps in which tens of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans were held from 1942 to 1945. These lawyers knew the camps were unnecessary, unjust, perhaps even illegal – yet they signed up for their jobs anyway. As we examine these men’s choices, we come to see more clearly what can lead decent professionals to lend their energies to systems of mass injustice.
Lunch & Learn: Manzanar CloseUp
Join us on December 5th at 12pm Pacific for the official launch of Densho’s newest digital platform! An evolution of Densho’s popular Sites of Shame project, Manzanar CloseUp applies similar data extraction and visualization tools to offer a close-up view of Manzanar concentration camp. Users will be able to see geographical and population features of the camp with an unprecedented level of detail, including information about camp population down to the individual family and barrack level. Densho Content Director Brian Niiya and Deputy Director Geoff Froh will walk through all the site’s features, show you how to use it to deepen your knowledge of WWII incarceration history, and discuss future plans for the CloseUp project.
This project was supported, in part, by funding provided by the California Civil Liberties program, administered by the California State Library.
Join your host, Densho Content Director Brian Niiya, as we challenge three contestants on their knowledge of Japanese American history and trivia! Watch along and see how well you know JA history too!
Writing What Haunts Us: New Works by Yonsei Authors
Join us as we launch new books by Yonsei authors Brynn Saito, Brandon Shimoda, and Jami Nakamura Lin. Their work spans multiple genres but all orbits around intersecting themes of hauntings, inheritance, dreamworlds, collective pasts, and imagined futures. Each author will read from their new works, then come together for a conversation moderated by poet Troy Osaki. This program is supported, in part, by the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and presented in partnership with Tadaima and The Elliott Bay Book Company.
Family History Workshop with Densho
Join Densho’s archives director, Caitlin Oiye Coon for a virtual workshop on Japanese American genealogy/family history. We will start with the basics of researching and writing your family history, then move into researching your family's experiences during the decade of 1940-1950. Topics to be explored in greater depth include federal arrests, exclusion, incarceration, and relocation. You’ll leave this one-hour workshop with tools and resources that will help you gain a fuller picture of your family’s WWII incarceration experience and more.
Our Voices Will Not Be Silenced: Critical Conversation, Art, and Virtual Fundraiser
We are witnessing a new era of whitewashing. Book bans, censorship, and attempts to sanitize our nation’s past are all on the rise – so it’s more important than ever that we raise our voices and collectively refuse to be silenced. Join us for a conversation with "Love in the Library" author Maggie Tokuda-Hall, who bravely stood up against Scholastic Inc. earlier this year when they attempted to censor her use of terms like “racism” in an author’s note about her grandparents’ incarceration experience.
Documenting stories and fearlessly speaking the truth is core to what we do at Densho. And while we uplift the voices of thought leaders like Maggie and WWII incarceration survivors alike, we need your help in carrying that work into the future. Please join us for this evening of conversation, performance, and capacity-building for Densho.
This one-hour virtual program is free to all who register. In addition to a featured conversation between Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Densho Executive Director Naomi Ostwald Kawamura, the program will include a live musical performance by Tomo Nakayama, a poetry reading by traci kato-kiriyama, and will be hosted by Erin Shigaki and Brady Wakayama.
The Art of Making Do: Matthew Okazaki Artist Talk
Join Matthew Okazaki for a virtual unveiling of work created as one of Densho’s 2022/23 artists-in-residence. Through archival photos, sculptural pieces, and excerpts from his grandfather’s post-war diary, Okazaki attempts to capture the resilient spirit reflected in the domestic interiors of Japanese American WWII incarceration.
As Okazaki writes of his grandfather’s incarceration at Crystal City, “Transforming the sterility of the desert and the architecture into makeshift homes, an act of quiet rebellion took place. A form of perseverance, of gaman, not to be viewed as reactive, but as a radically projective act. Through the transformation of prisons into makeshift homes, this ad-hoc, make-do process brought forth a richness and resilience of spirit into the desolate landscape.”
Seattle Reads: Julie Otsuka in conversation with Naomi Ostwald Kawamura
Founded in 1998, Seattle Reads is a city-wide book group, where people are encouraged to read and discuss the same book. The 2023 Seattle Reads selection is "The Swimmers" by Julie Otsuka, a novel that explores memory, loss, and what we owe each other. Join Densho at two events in May with the author!
Friday, May 19, 7-8pm
Seattle Central Library
Julie Otsuka in conversation with Densho Executive Director Naomi Ostwald Kawamura
The Past is Not Past: Japanese American WWII Incarceration and the Yonsei Generation
“In what ways do you feel the incarceration has impacted your own life?” That’s the question posed in Dr. Donna Nagata’s recent survey of nearly 500 Yonsei descendants of WWII incarceration. Their responses show that the past is anything but over, and that the incarceration continues to impact Yonsei identity, career choices, and much more. In the first major public event for the Yonsei Project, Dr. Nagata will share her preliminary findings and interpretations. She will be joined in conversation by Dr. Satsuki Ina, Brandon Shimoda, and Daryn Wakasa. Participants are invited to attend an optional Healing Circle event hosted by Tsuru for Solidarity on Saturday, March 25 from 10-12pm PST. This event is funded, in part, by 4Culture.
An evening with Japanese American poets and writers
Five award-winning authors share poetry, stories, memories, and letters in this special event hosted by Densho, a grassroots organization devoted to preserving Japanese American stories of the past for the generations of tomorrow. Featuring David Mura, traci kato-kiriyama, Karen Tei Yamashita, Mia Ayumi Malhotra, Kiku Hughes, and hosted by Brynn Saito, the event will include a light reception and will take place in Densho's community room located at 1416 S. Jackson St. in Seattle.
This event is organized in conjunction with the 2023 convening of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), which will be held in Seattle March 8-11. Conference registration is not required to attend this free, off-site event. For those who aren’t able to attend in person, we will be recording some of the readings and making them available in the future.
This event is funded, in part, by 4Culture and the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation. Food and drink provided by Sankaku, Lucky Envelope Brewing, and Aslan Brewing Co.
Community History Dialog: Growing and Sharing Community History
Densho is a community-based archives whose mission is to preserve and share the stories of the Japanese American incarceration during World War II. Caitlin Oiye Coon will talk about Densho’s 27 year history, going from a volunteer oral history project to an award-winning non-profit organization. Today Densho has over 1,000 oral histories and about 100,000 digitized historical materials that they freely offer through the Densho Digital Repository. In addition to Densho’s dedication to preservation, they also aim to educate, collaborate, and inspire action for equity. Caitlin will discuss the ways in which they do this, from creating their own educational content, to teaming with Ted ED and podcasters, to supporting artists and writers using Densho content for interpretation and storytelling.
The Community History Dialog series is hosted by the Pennsylvania State Archives and is made possible through funding from a National Historical Publications and Records Commission State Board Programming Grant.
Wiki-APA Edit-a-thon: Help give Japanese American women the Wikipedia visibility they deserve
Guyo Tajiri played a key role in transforming the Pacific Citizen into a paper of national stature and, in doing so, giving voice to Japanese Americans at a moment when their voices were being actively suppressed. But this important historical figure – and many more like her – are absent from Wikipedia, the go-to information source for millions of Americans. In honor of DOR 2023, we’re calling on you to help us correct the record.
Densho is partnering with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC) and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative for a WikiAPA Edit-a-thon! This virtual event is open to all skill levels, and Wikipedia experts will work with participants to address the underrepresentation of Japanese and Japanese American women on Wikipedia and Wikidata. We’ll focus on adding people like Guyo Tajiri as well as other notable Japanese American women whose stories need to be heard.
During this virtual event, attendees of all experience levels will learn the basics of how to edit Wikipedia by updating articles and drawing content from Densho’s encyclopedia and archives.
Artist & Curator Conversation: Alison Moritsugu, Erin Shigaki, and Sarah Freeman
VIRTUAL: Zoom & Facebook Live
Artist Alison Moritsugu, Densho community activist and artist Erin Shigaki, and curator Sarah Freeman discuss Moons and Internment Stones, an exhibit of paintings of the moon and of stones collected by Moritsugu’s grandfather in the Santa Fe Internment Camp during World War II. This event is presented in partnership with Densho, a nonprofit organization committed to documenting the oral histories of Japanese-Americans incarcerated during World War II.
Alison Moritsugu was born and raised in Hawai‘i and now lives in Beacon, New York. Her work has been exhibited in solo shows at the Honolulu Museum of Art at First Hawaiian Center, Lux Art Institute, Littlejohn Contemporary, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, and the Knoxville Museum of Art. She received a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in painting and participated in residencies at the Cité International des Arts, Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, and The Marie Walsh Sharpe Space Program. She holds a B.F.A. from Washington University and an M.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts.
Erin Shigaki was born and raised in Seattle, where she recently returned after many years studying and working on the east coast. Her work as both an artist and an activist focuses on the experiences of communities of color, especially on the unjust incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Shigaki has received numerous grants and commissions, including from the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, Densho, the Wing Luke Museum, and the Pacific Bonsai Museum. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and completed additional art and design study at American University and elsewhere.
Katie Yamasaki discusses Shapes, Lines, and Light
IN-PERSON: Seattle Public Library - Central Library
Learn more about the life and legacy of Minoru Yamasaki, the architect who designed Pacific Science Center at this all-ages event at the Seattle Public Library.
Minoru Yamasaki described the feeling he sought to create in his buildings as “serenity, surprise, and delight.” In her new picture book Shapes, Lines, and Light, Minoru’s granddaughter, Katie Yamasaki charts his life and work: his childhood in Seattle’s Japanese immigrant community, paying his way through college working in Alaska’s notorious salmon canneries, his success in architectural school, and the transformative structures he imagined and built. A Japanese American man who faced brutal anti-Asian racism in post–World War II America and an outsider to the architectural establishment, he nonetheless left his mark on the world, from the American Midwest to New York City, Asia, and the Middle East.
The event is presented by the Seattle Public Library in partnership with Densho and Elliott Bay Book Company.
2022 Densho Virtual Gala
You're invited to the Densho Gala: November 2, 2022 @ 5pm PT / 8pm ET
Join us for an evening of art, conversation, and community as we celebrate our collective power to keep Japanese American history alive now and in the future. In addition to paying tribute to outgoing director Tom Ikeda, we’ll introduce Densho’s new Executive Director Naomi Ostwald Kawamura, highlight emerging artists, and honor the elders whose stories are at the heart of all that we do.
AAPI Authors Humanizing Our History: A Conversation with Julie Otsuka & Tom Ikeda
The AAPI Coalition of Wisconsin presents a special virtual event with Julie Otsuka in conversation with Tom Ikeda. Otsuka is the author of the award-winning novel When the Emperor Was Divine, which tells the story about the incarceration of a Japanese American family during World War II.
In this webinar, Otsuka will be interviewed by Tom Ikeda, the founding director of Densho, an online archive and public history organization that has documented stories, since its founding in 1996, about Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII. They will discuss the art of writing the novel itself as well as Otsuka and Ikeda’s family’s experiences in the WWII camps.
While this novel was originally published in 2002, it gained renewed prominence this June when the Muskego-Norway School Board in Wisconsin rejected a request by their teacher-led curriculum committee to fund the novel for use in a 10th grade English class. This issue has been well-covered by local, regional, and national press ever since local Muskego parents and students spoke out against the school board’s action this spring. In July, 150 members of the Muskego community and the AAPI Coalition of WI stood together at our Muskego Community Teach-In supporting this novel.
The issue is not only about this novel. It is about how our K-12 teachers’ professional judgement is being overruled by people who are uncomfortable with dealing with the truthful representation of our nation’s history, particularly when told by authors of color. Asian American history is American History.
Introducing the 1950 U.S. Federal Census
Did you lose track of your family after resettlement? Do you wonder where they lived in the years following their release from incarceration? Are you curious to find yourself in the most recently released census? Researching census records is critical for every family historian, but the 1950 census is particularly powerful for Japanese Americans.
The 1950 U.S. Census was publicly released on 1 April 2022, 72 years after it was enumerated. Genealogist Linda Harms Okazaki will show you how to find the 1950 census, help you to understand the nuances of the data, and share strategies for locating your relatives.
Daniel James Brown and Tom Ikeda discuss “Facing the Mountain”
Best-selling author Daniel James Brown will talk with Densho's Executive Director Tom Ikeda and Michael Shiosaki about Brown's latest book, "Facing the Mountain: An Inspiring Story of Japanese American Patriots in World War II." From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Boys in the Boat, a gripping World War II saga of patriotism and resistance, focusing on four Japanese American men and their families, and the contributions and sacrifices that they made for the sake of the nation.
This event is being presented in person at Central Library, with the option to view the livestream from home. It is presented in partnership with Elliott Bay Book Company and Densho. Books will be available for sale at Central Library on the evening of the event, and signed copies may be available from Elliott Bay Book Company after the program.
This event is supported by The Seattle Public Library Foundation and the Gary and Connie Kunis Foundation.
The Truth Is Not Always Pretty: A Radical History and Zine Making Workshop
We’re partnering with the Wing Luke Museum to offer a free, hands-on zine-making workshop for high school students on Sunday, July 10. Using the radical Asian American newsletter Gidra — and its mission statement, “Truth is not always pretty, not in this world” — as our guiding force, we’ll dive into the history of the Asian American movement and create artwork to reflect on the power of art, activism, and solidarity. Students will learn about Sound Transit’s planned light rail expansion and the threats it poses to Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, as well as some anti-displacement organizing history and how to put those lessons into action today.
Youth in King County are invited to join us at Densho’s Seattle office on July 10 for a free lunch at 11am followed by a two-hour workshop from 12-2pm. The workshop will be outdoors (weather permitting) or indoors in a well-ventilated space, and masks are required.
Participants who verify proof of vaccination can receive a $150 stipend for their participation. This workshop is funded, in part, by 4Culture and Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.
Preserving Our Voices for the Future – Remembering the Legacy of Japanese American Incarceration
In honor of AAPI Heritage month, Democrats Abroad AAPI Global Caucus, the Global Black Caucus, and the Reparations Task Force will host a discussion about the importance of preserving the legacy of Japanese American incarceration. This event coincides with what would have been the 101st birthday of Japanese American activist Yuri Kochiyama and also the 97th birthday of Malcom X, who worked closely together in bridging Asian American and Black American civil and human rights. Densho Content Director Brian Niiya will appear in conversation with Grace Shimizu, Director of the Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project and Coordinator of the Campaign for Justice: Redress NOW for Japanese Latin Americans!
Untold Stories of Post-Camp Pasadena
In September of 1944, Esther Takei Nishio became the first “test case” of a Japanese American to return to the West Coast following her incarceration at the Amache, Colorado, concentration camp. She made Pasadena, California her home — and hundreds of others followed after her. Drawing upon recent oral histories, panelists will share little known stories of Pasadena’s postwar Japanese American population boom. In addition to Esther’s story, we’ll hear about a hostel that became a mecca for displaced Nikkei families, the turbulent process of desegregating all-white neighborhoods, and a local group of white supporters — Friends of the American Way — that aimed to help Japanese Americans rebuild their lives after camp.
Join historians Bryan Takeda, Naomi Hirahara, and Brian Niiya on May 10 at noon PDT for this enlightening conversation. This event will be held on Zoom and is free and open to the public.
Sponsored by Densho, this activity is funded, in part, by the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program.
“You Brought Us Here”: The Plight of Japanese Peruvians in World War II U.S. Incarceration
To complement the February 18-May 29, 2022 exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee, Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII and the Demise of Civil Liberties, CLACS has organized parallel programming to tell the stories of Japanese Latin American populations during the same time period. Hear from Densho's Natasha Varner about the plight of Japanese Peruvians in World War II U.S. incarceration.
Day of Remembrances and the Japanese American Community
As we commemorate the 80th anniversary of the signing of EO 9066, we must also take time to celebrate how the community has reclaimed this date to seek justice. Frank Abe helped organize the first Day of Remembrance in Seattle in 1978 with Frank Chin and Henry Miyatake, sparking a wave of such events across the country. These events became the center of the movement to demand an apology and monetary redress from the federal government. In this panel, Frank Abe and other early organizers will discuss the evolution of these events. Historian Brian Niiya and JACL Executive Director David Inoue will reflect on the legacy of the Day of Remembrance, and discuss its role in the Japanese American community today.
Moderator: Erin Aoyama
Speakers: Frank Abe (writer, historian); Susan Hayase (San Jose Nikkei Resisters); David Inoue (JACL); Brian Niiya (Densho)
Watch the panel live on Japanese American Memorial Pilgrimages’ YouTube channel.
Emerging Radiance: Honoring the Nikkei Farmers of Bellevue
Join Emerging Radiance artist Michelle Kumata, creative director Tani Ikeda, and Densho founding director Tom Ikeda for a live Day of Remembrance broadcast. The program will highlight the stories of Bellevue’s Nikkei farmer community, introduce descendants of the farmers depicted in artist Michelle Kumata’s Emerging Radiance mural, and provide a behind-the-scenes look at the installation at Bellevue Arts Museum.
REMEMBER and RESIST Day of Remembrance
Most Japanese Americans in the Seattle area spent their first few months in detention at the Puyallup Fairgrounds (“Camp Harmony”) until their transfer to the concentration camps at Minidoka, ID, and Tule Lake, CA. The trauma of family separation, child imprisonment, poor sanitation, bad food, inadequate health care, and uncertain futures persists—and continues today at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.
Join Tsuru for Solidarity, Seattle JACL, Puyallup JACL, Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee, Densho, and La Resistencia for a car rally at the Puyallup Fairgrounds and NWDC. Together, we will Remember and Resist these past and present injustices.
Details: At 10 am, meet at the Puyallup Fairgrounds (Blue Lot Parking, 311 10th Ave SE, Puyallup, WA 98372). At 11 am, we will move to the Northwest Detention Center (1623 E J Street, Tacoma WA 98421) for a continuation of the program starting at 12 pm. Weather permitting, there will be some outdoor programming. Masks and social distancing required.
Lauren Iida | Citizen’s Indefinite Leave
ArtXchange Gallery presents Citizen’s Indefinite Leave, a new series of intricate paper cutaways by Lauren Iida incorporating historical scenes from the unjust incarceration of 126,000 people of Japanese ancestry in the USA during World War II. With the assistance from Seattle-based organization, Densho, Iida was able to dive deeper into her own family’s history and create a narrative exhibition that explores questions of citizenship, belonging and home. With access to Densho’s vast digital archives and personal assistance from their archivists and historians, as well as her family’s personal collection of photos, Iida created works with references to real places and real people, blending them with surreal painted backgrounds and dreamlike characters that embody the fears, anxieties and hopes of the time.
The narrative thread running throughout Iida’s exhibition is the story of Clara, the older sister of Iida’s grandmother. While investigating her family’s personal archives, Iida came across Clara’s “indefinite leave” pass, giving her early release privileges from Tule Lake, CA where she was incarcerated. The artworks in Citizen’s Indefinite Leave pay homage to the struggle of Iida’s grandparents and great-grandparents and explores how the trauma of this era has influenced her own relationship with her Japanese American cultural heritage. Iida writes, “Having been robbed of my cultural heritage by the unjust incarceration of my ancestors, and the subsequent lack of education they were able to offer me as a child, I have had to turn to historical artifacts to learn about my own ethnic roots as an adult, through my own art-making process and research.”
Organizing Your Family History Research with Linda Harms Okazaki
Researching your family history is a labor of love. But do you sometimes feel like you are drowning under a pile of paper, have no idea what to do with all of your findings, or can’t even find those records on your hard drive? There are as many ways to organize your data as there are researchers. The only “right” way to organize your genealogy is to do it in a way that you will consistently follow!
In this latest webinar in Densho’s Family History series, genealogist Linda Harms Okazaki will help you tackle that growing mountain of data. She will share strategies to help you start your research, keep track of your findings, and establish naming conventions for both digital and paper files. Join us on January 20th at 11am Pacific.
Memory Net Remembrance Project
In recognition of the 80th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, Densho is launching a new community art initiative: the Memory Net Remembrance Project. Together with Densho resident artist Lauren Iida, we invite submissions of “memory objects” that symbolize hope, strength, and/or resistance for you or your ancestors during WWII Japanese American incarceration.
Lauren will select from these objects to incorporate into a 30-foot-long cut paper net to be hung as a semi-permanent installation in Densho’s community room. Please join us in this powerful act of remembrance! The Memory Net will be unveiled on February 19th at 3pm PST.
Support for this event comes from the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation.
Densho Anniversary Gala: 25 Years of Story
Tadaima! Mystery After Manzanar: A Conversation Between Naomi Hirahara and Brian Niiya
Tadaima! J-Town Is Not for Sale: Displacement and Community Resilience in Japantown
Sites of Shame Virtual Launch
Facing the Mountain: Virtual Book Launch Event
On May 11, 2021, Densho hosted the official book launch of Facing the Mountain, a new book about WWII Japanese American incarceration and the 442nd RCT by Daniel James Brown, NY Times bestselling author of The Boys in the Boat. The virtual event featured a conversation between Brown and Densho Executive Director Tom Ikeda, who has conducted oral histories with many of the men highlighted in the book. Facing the Mountain grew out of conversations Brown had with Ikeda in 2015.
Facing the Mountain is an unforgettable chronicle of war-time America and the battlefields of Europe. Based on Brown’s extensive interviews with the families of the protagonists as well as deep archival research, it portrays the kaleidoscopic journey of four Japanese American families and their sons. While some fought on battlefields as members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, others fought to defend the constitutional rights of a community. Regardless of where their battles played out, these individuals were exemplifying American patriotism under extreme duress by striving, resisting, standing on principle, and enduring.