Long-delayed prize

Long-delayed prize now a certainty

Published Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009

One in an ongoing series about new state laws that take effect Jan. 1.
Kiyo Sato doesn't need any more honors to prove how much she's accomplished over her resilient 86 years.

The Sacramento resident has been beating the odds her entire life, starting when she earned a nursing degree as a young woman despite policies barring Japanese Americans from attending college.

She went on to become a captain in the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps and, more than five decades later, won the 2008 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing for a memoir about her family. It was the first book she'd ever written.

Despite that success, Sato said she will especially cherish her latest prize – an honorary degree from Sacramento City College.

Photo: Kiyo Sato.

Like some 2,500 Japanese Americans in the state, Sato was forced to cut short her college education during World War II when she was interned, in her case, at Poston camp in the broiling Arizona desert.

Now she and others are taking advantage of a new law written by Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, that requires state university and community college officials to work with their campuses to confer honorary degrees on former students who were interned.

For Sato, the degree isn't about her achievements as much as it's an acknowledgment of the pain and heartbreak she and hundreds of other Japanese Americans experienced. She recalled how FBI investigations into her family and other Japanese American families during World War II sent fear throughout the community about what would come next. The father of one family in the region killed himself after he was questioned.

"What will I do with an honorary degree?" Sato asked. "The important thing to me is that people are beginning to see, understand what went on."

Furutani said pushing through the new law, Assembly Bill 37, was his contribution to resolving the "unfinished business" of the internments.

Furutani is a product of that history; his parents met at an internment camp in Rohwer, Ark., shortly after graduating from high school.

All Japanese American internees have already received an official apology from the U.S. government; also, surviving internees received $20,000 in reparations in the late 1980s and 1990s.

On top of that, many of the state's universities, including the University of California, have already launched their own initiatives to give internees degrees.

Nonetheless, Furutani said he wanted to make sure all internees received the honor.
"It's a symbolic gesture," he said. "It's not going to help (the internees) get a job. They're 80-something years old."

Some internees such as Foster City resident Kimi Yamaguma never resumed their education after returning from the camps.

Yamaguma had been a business major at San Francisco City College when she and her family were sent to the Topaz internment camp in central Utah.

She was allowed to return to the West Coast four years later, but she didn't go back to school due to "family and financial circumstances," the now 85-year-old woman said.

Instead, Yamaguma took a secretarial job at a federal agency and later worked for 23 years as a secretary at the city manager's office in Redwood City.

"It ruined our whole life, more or less," Yamaguma said of the internment. "Had we not gone to camp, who knew what our life would have been like?"

"I always wanted to finish college, but I couldn't. I didn't have the means. I'd been an A student in all those years in grade school and high school, and it was important to me. I always had it in the back of my mind."

Yamaguma received some solace in May when she received an honorary degree from San Francisco City College and participated in its commencement ceremony.

A few weeks later, Yamaguma testified before the state Senate's education committee, which was considering Furutani's bill, about her experiences.

The task of finding internees such as Yamaguma has fallen to Paul Osaki and his Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California in San Francisco.

Three full-time staff members, paid by the California State Library's Civil Liberties Public Education Program, have been calling community groups, churches and other organizations to locate people on a list of detainees provided by the schools, Osaki said.

"Back in '42 the communities were pretty close and someone knows someone," Osaki said. "There's probably one degree of separation once you make a phone call or an inquiry."

He estimated that about half the internees had already died, meaning they'll receive the degrees posthumously.

The biggest group of internees, 485 of them, attended the University of California, Berkeley, followed by 265 from the Los Angeles Community College District, 244 from the University of California, Los Angeles, and 224 from what then was known as Sacramento Junior College. About 20 Japanese Americans attended the University of California, Davis. California State University, Sacramento, was created after World War II.

Osaki said the internees were glad to have been found, and honored to receive the degrees. Many of them ended up finishing their college education after World War II, while others were later drafted or enlisted into the military.

"Some of them are kind of shocked that 60 or 70 years later (the schools) are finally getting around to doing this," Osaki said. "Some have been thinking about this since they were forced to leave the universities."



Happy Holidays

The Poston Restoration Project is under the Poston Community Alliance, Inc, a 501(c)(3)non-profit organization.
As the 2009 year comes to a close, we would like to make one last request for your support.

Send your tax-deductible donations to:

The Poston Restoration Project
c/o Marlene Shigekawa, Treasurer
956 Hawthorne Drive
Lafayette, CA 94549


State Center Community College

Help us honor former Japanese-American students!

The State Center Community College District (SCCCD) will present honorary degrees to all Japanese-Americans who were students during World War II and had their education disrupted by incarceration in internment camps.

Nisei students attending Reedley College or Fresno City College in 1941/1942 are eligible to receive the honorary degree.

Families of deceased former students may apply on behalf of their relatives to accept the honorary degree for them.

The colleges need your assistance in indentifying potential honorees.

If you know of any potential recipients, contact Deborah Ikeda at (559) 325-5214 or email deborah.ikeda@sccd.edu.

The colleges will validate the honoree's attendance and contact the family regarding the ceremony.

Please provide the potential honoree's first and last name, date of birth and any other names that may have been used (i.e. maiden name).
In addition, please provide contact information including your name, telephone number with area code, street address and email.

For more information about the SCCCD Japanese-American honorary degrees, please contact Deborah Ikeda by phone at (559) 325-5214 or by email at deborah.ikeda@scccd.edu


UC Berkeley

Japanese Americans receive honorary degrees, 67 years after WWII internment cut short their studies at Berkeley

By Cathy Cockrell, NewsCenter
16 December 2009

BERKELEY — Forty-two former UC Berkeley students now in their eighties and nineties have finally received the campus degrees they had been working toward nearly seven decades ago, when Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps in the midst of World War II.

In a special ceremony during the traditional December convocation Sunday, Dec. 13, the elderly Japanese Americans accepted their honorary diplomas. Mounting the stage in Haas Pavilion's cavernous basketball arena, some with the help of canes, they sat in two long rows of chairs, wearing mortar boards, gowns, and blue-and-gold leis of origami cranes fashioned by local school children. For 78 additional Japanese Americans now deceased or too infirm to attend, family members accepted diplomas in their honor.

"I'm just glad to see my grandma and my dad be able to be represented in graduating, after what happened. I'm happy," declared 12-year-old Nathan Tokuno at an honorary luncheon preceding the formal ceremony.

The Honorable Norman Mineta — who was interned as a child, earned a Cal degree in 1953, and went on to become a U.S. congressman, U.S. commerce secretary, and then secretary of transportation — gave the convocation keynote address. "The journey from 1941 to 2009 has been a long one for our community," Mineta told close to 7,000 graduating seniors (young and old) and their supporters. "We struggled to rebuild our lives after the internment. We struggled to build a new place for ourselves in the American family."

Under Executive Order 9066, issued by President Franklin Roosevelt in early 1942, people of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed from the West Coast. Mineta and his family were sent first to a Southern California racetrack and then to a relocation camp in rural Wyoming. "For me, as an 11-year-old, it was the first time I ever saw my father cry," he said of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that precipitated and helped justify the internment. "He couldn't understand why the land of his birth was now attacking the land of his heart." Mineta was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which led to formal apologies for the wrong done to citizens of Japanese ancestry by the internment, as well as financial compensation.

Associate Professor Duncan Ryuken Williams, chair of the campus's Center for Japanese Studies, spoke at the luncheon of the "courage and perseverance in the face of adversity" of those one-time UC students "whose educations and lives were disrupted in 1942 by war, war hysteria, and the abrogation of civil rights."

With the internment order, some 120,000 individuals — more than 2,500 of whom were students at California public colleges and universities — were forced to leave their homes, farms, and businesses on short notice for fairgrounds, migrant quarters, warehouses, racetracks, and stables in the interior. UC estimates that close to 700 Japanese American students on four of its campuses, some 500 of them at Berkeley, were impacted by the internment.

Williams referred to lesser-known acts of heroism and integrity associated with the internment. Honoree George Ichiro Nakamura, he noted, was killed in action in the Philippines even as members of his family were incarcerated behind barbed wire "by the same U.S. government he so loyally served." UC President Robert Gordon Sproul, he said, led a group of faculty from Berkeley opposed to the internment, forming the Committee on American Principles and Fair Play.

"This acknowledgement and ceremony comes a little bit too late," Williams acknowledged with irony — primarily because "so many of our honorees have passed on. But we are here today to right a wrong.”

Each honorary diploma bestowed Sunday bore the name of its Japanese-American recipient, along with the Latin inscription Honoris causa inter silbas academi restituere justitiam — "to restore justice among the groves of the academy."

View the video located at:

      Photo:  Joe Ikemiya (Poston 13-6-B) receives his honorary degree


Reedley College students

I received a phone call from Reedley Community College. They need help with locating former internees or a family member of a former internee who had their education at Reedley College interrupted due to the evacuation & relocation during WW II, and was unable to complete their education.

They are planning to have an honorary ceremony during their next graduation ceremony in May 2010.

Please ask your relatives during this holiday season.


Historical Information

To read historical information about the Poston Relocation Center (also know as the Colorado River Relocation Center), visit: http://postoncamp.blogspot.com/


San Diego State University

SDSU seeks ex-internee students
California campuses want to give honorary degrees

By John Wilkens
November 5, 2009

SAN DIEGO — More than 120,000 Japanese-Americans were shipped to internment camps at the outset of World War II. Some lost their livelihoods and homes. Young children lost their schoolmates and friends.

The sting of reduced possibilities also hit college students hard. They thought they had lost their futures. One wrote about feeling like “a moth fluttering futilely against a street lamp.”

It’s not clear what happened to them after the war ended and the camps closed. Records are spotty. Some probably came home and resumed their studies. Others went elsewhere and started over. And some probably abandoned the dream.

Now, 67 years later, colleges throughout the state are searching for those former students to give them or their heirs honorary degrees.

“The internment of Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War II represents the worst of a nation driven by fear and prejudice,” California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed said in a statement. “By issuing honorary degrees, we hope to achieve a small right in the face of such grave wrongs.”

Internment camps were created under an executive order signed by President Franklin Roosevelt in February 1942, two months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Tensions ran high, especially on the West Coast, amid widespread fear of a follow-up assault on the U.S. mainland.

About 2,600 students of Japanese ancestry were enrolled in California colleges at the time, including more than 30 at San Diego State University. The local students most likely were sent to the Poston camp in Arizona, with most of the estimated 2,000 San Diego County internees, said Susan Hasegawa, a history professor at San Diego City College.

In the decades since the war, there have been numerous government apologies about internment. Reparations have been paid.

But there was “unfinished business” involving colleges, said state Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-South Los Angeles County.

He co-wrote Assembly Bill 37, which calls on the University of California, the California State University system and community colleges to reach out to people whose educations were disrupted by incarceration. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill Oct. 11.

“Time is running out for these individuals, and while California’s colleges and universities have had 60 years to act, few have chosen to extend honorary degrees to these former students,” Furutani said in a statement.

Now the trick is finding them.

There are no SDSU enrollment records from that era, said Robert Ray, head of the school’s special collections and university archives. No one had compiled an official list of campus internees.

“It’s not that things were hushed up, but documentation during the war years is very slim,” Ray said. “And after a time, there was a sense that whatever records were around didn’t need to be saved.”

San Diego State has been combing campus newspaper accounts — Ray said they document how “disturbed and disappointed” the community felt about internment — and pulling names from yearbook photos. The university’s officials have placed notices in the alumni newsletter. They’ve also been working with Hasegawa and the local Japanese-American historical society.

So far, they haven’t identified anyone eligible for the honorary degrees.

Colleen Bentley, director of special projects in the CSU chancellor’s office, said there were about 250 Japanese-American students at the system’s half-dozen or so campuses that existed at the time. (There were only two University of California campuses then, Berkeley and Los Angeles; UCSD was founded in 1960.) The students would be in their 80s or 90s now. Many have died.

Finding them may come largely the old-fashioned way — through word-of-mouth, Bentley said. School officials will be reaching out to nursing and retirement homes. News conferences are scheduled for next week.

“It’s an incredibly exciting project and an important one,” Bentley said. “These are people who had to delay or abandon their college dreams through no fault of their own.”

A Japanese cultural center in Northern California has been awarded a $25,000 grant to help find the former students. The same group spearheaded a similar effort several years ago involving high school degrees.

Once the honorees or their heirs are located, it will be up to the individual campuses to decide how to award the degrees, Bentley said. Some are planning to do it during regular commencement ceremonies.

Source: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2009/nov/05/sdsu-seeks-ex-internee-students/


National Park Service Report

A Report on Fiscal Year 2009 Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program Awards



Pacific Citizen Front Page

The Hanada brothers

The diverse membership of the groups involved in the Poston restoration effort sheds light on the internment camp’s colorful past.

By Christine McFadden, Special to the Pacific Citizen
Published October 16, 2009

The roofs of the 16 buildings that still stand on the former site of the Poston internment camp need work. The wood is raw and exposed. The structures are vulnerable to the arid temperatures of southwestern Arizona. It needs sealant and metal roofing — not just to protect its physical history, but its unique personal history as well.

If left alone, there is a possibility that Poston, which has the largest remaining infrastructure of all 10 internment campsites, will deteriorate in just a few years.

Members of the Poston Restoration Project are doing everything they can to prevent this from happening. Funded by grants from organizations such as the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program and guided by the Environmental Protection Agency, members are racing against the clock to restore this pinnacle place in Japanese American internment history.

Working toward the end goal of building preservation and the construction of an onsite multicultural museum, the diverse membership of the Poston restoration effort sheds light on the internment camp’s colorful past.

Uncovering Poston

When Dr. Ruth Okimoto, 73, became curious about the history behind the internment camp that imprisoned her for three years as a child, she uncovered a unique story behind it that eventually launched a full-scale effort toward its restoration.

“I began to wonder about how in the world did that whole thing come about, and that’s when I got real curious,” she says of Poston, located on Native American reservation lands near Parker, Arizona.

Okimoto obtained a research grant and access to reservation archives on the land that once imprisoned over 18,000. She uncovered an interesting relationship.

“The War Relocation Authority (WRA) were looking for a site — a deserted site, and the reservation certainly fulfilled that requirement,” she says.

Her research revealed that the WRA contacted the former Office of Indian Affairs (OIA) and struck a deal during WWII. The OIA agreed to relinquish their land as an internment camp in exchange for Japanese American labor to build a canal, bringing in water to the reservation.

“She [Okimoto] discovered this connection that nobody had ever really written about,” says Dr. Jay Cravath, who works for the education department of the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT).

“Midlife she developed this incredible rage about this experience, for herself, for her parents, for her family, and she wanted to trace it down,” he continued. “She wanted to take care of these demons, so she came out to Parker.”

Okimoto met with Dennis Patch, CRIT Tribal Councilman and Education Director, who coincidentally lived in one of the former barracks.

According to Cravath, the two “had the same vision.”

In 1999, CRIT set aside an initial 40 acres (now 80) of reservation for the project. Four years later, 15 former Poston detainees, including Okimoto, and 15 CRIT members met at the reservation to plan for restoration.

“They got it rolling,” Cravath says.

Restoration Efforts

Poston is broken into three separate sites separated by 1-3 miles. As of Sept. 23, all asbestos and lead-based paint had been removed from Camp 1.

However, progress on some fronts has been hindered.

In 2002, a match was lit and thrown in the auditorium located in Camp 1.

“It was still standing, and it was beautiful,” Okimoto remembers. “But it burnt the wood part of it, the stage, and all of the beautiful hardwood floor. It was a real shame.”

According to Poston Community Alliance Board member and archivist Dianne Kiyomoto, RD, the group is currently working on bringing back an original donated barrack to camp, located 17 miles away in Parker.

Cravath recently wrote a successful grant to the National Park Service, earning a “challenge” grant of $25,994 to record the oral histories of former internees. This means that the National Park Service will double whatever money is contributed.

Additionally, he is hammering out the details of a memorandum of agreement between the JA community and the tribes.

“There are all sorts of issues, legal ramifications and sovereignty and CRIT— they’re the feistiest,” he says.

Carrying on the Legacy

Not all tribal members are as positive about the restoration as Cravath.

“There are still tribal members against doing anything with Poston,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The current generation heard their parents/grandparents complaining about how good the internees got it.”

According to Cravath, tribal members were told nothing by the OIA of why the JAs were relocated to their land.

“For all they knew it was like Israeli development on the West Bank,” he says.

Both parties working on the project are strong advocates for the spread of education of the historical events that took place onsite.

“One thing I’ve tried to do is get the story out as often as possible,” Cravath adds.

Kiyomoto’s parents lived in Poston Camp 3, Block 305. When attempting to collect information for a family tree for her parents’ 50th anniversary, she was disappointed to find that little existed.

“I searched the Internet on the subject of Poston and was very disappointed. There was very little information, and only a few government photos,” she wrote.

Marlene Shigekawa’s involvement in the project lies in her motivation to carry on her father’s legacy. Shigekawa, the Poston Community Alliance, Inc.’s current treasurer, was born in Poston Camp 1 and her father served as the camp’s chief of police.

“I feel like he did much to uphold the rights of Japanese Americans and I heard a lot of stories from both my parents and I feel like that history should not be forgotten,” she says.

Okimoto decided to take a step back from the project in hopes that the younger generation will get involved in the restoration.

“I was thinking younger people should probably get involved,” Okimoto said, although she continues to help by presenting oral histories of the camp.

“There is a core of people who believe the stories of those who suffered so grave an injustice need to be told, their lives honored, and the remarkable ways they survived recorded,” Cravath says.

Christine McFadden is a Portland JACL member.

Help Restore Poston
A donation of $10, $20 or more will go far.
Send checks payable to ‘Poston Community Alliance’ to:
Marlene Shigekawa
956 Hawthorne Drive
Lafayette, CA. 94549-4640




Rafu Story: Camp 1 Reunion

CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Nostalgia Is The Enemy of Truth
By W.T. Wimpy Hiroto

As any Rafu reader of CR2S can attest (ad nauseam) these many past weeks, I was faced with an impossible task: Putting together a program without benefit of emcee, keynote speaker or entertainer. You wanna know the definition of challenge?

If you’re not a Nisei, on the far side of "older" or have a distaste for nostalgia, I strongly suggest spending your precious time washing your car, hair or dishes. Without pause or apology what follows will most certainly fall into the category of unabashed sentimentality & reminiscence. [I promise to make time & effort on behalf of ACLU & Concentration Camp adherents at a later date.]

As Frank Sinatra sings "It Started All Over Again" in the background, I will try to create what occurred during & after the 2009 Poston Relocation Center Unit I Reunion held at the Cal Club in Las Vegas Sept. 28-30. (Shame on those of you who decided not to attend; condolences to those who could not come.)

Nearly 250 hardy if not hale mixer & banquet attendees gathered for a last hurrah to relive memories of Poston. This was the 8th & undoubtedly final all-camp reunion. As with recent wrap up revivals staged by Heart Mountain, Tule Lake & Manzanar, it appears Age the Conqueror is going to have the last word.

It was apparent nothing would or could douse the enthusiasm of the ex-Postonites, let alone a neophyte program coordinator who did his best to revive thoughts of 70-mile wind storms, 112 degree weather when sunblock meant a parasol, trying to make believe the mess hall clanger was a symphonic refrain. But I tried, oh how I tried.

When not near the speaking caliber of Father John or Senator Dan, material & presentation becomes all important. So when memory & notes had temporary relapses, it was a choice between a firing squad & Titanic. But it was a "Susume, Susume, Hai-tai Susume" moment & a challenged Wimpy soldiered on.

No matter the many kind comments & warm compliments at program’s end, I unfortunately did not achieve a *Riverside moment. Not bad though, considering. Considering I decided to cut down my material by almost a half, alas, leaving out some of the best stuff (personal opinion)! For example I had spent more than 40 hours downloading every issue of the 3-year camp newspaper Poston Chronicle, looking for forgotten events & names that might trigger a pleasant memory or two for ex-campers. I shoulda quoted more. (*My first official public speaking gig was at Riverside earlier this year, a shocking success.)

Now as if on cue, Andy Russell is crooning "What a Difference a Day Makes", a reminder that looking backward isn’t all bad. People choosing to look into the rear view mirror of life are chastised & criticized. But wait a minute. Isn’t there a reminder etched into the glass that warns the image can be distorted & a second look might be in order?

I will allow reunions are not high on everyone’s list. But you wanna know something? I haven’t met many who have ever regretted attending a school reunion, work place, church or neighborhood gathering. We’re all social animals.

And what could be more unique & memorable than an assemblage of special Nisei commemorating a time in their lives no one else will ever experience? A latrine. Mess hall. Outdoor movies meant stand up, not drive-in. Well-educated students emerging from chaos. A miracle of peaceful coexistence. The basis of friendships that would flower after relocating out of the centers. Poston was not Cloud Nine, for sure, but neither was it Stalag 17. (It‘s no won¬der CR2S is never interviewed about incarceration & constitutional rights.)

So maybe I fell short of what I had in mind today. Never no mind. Methinks I’ll be continuing this subject in many more columns to come.

But there is always room for another confessional: I was so relieved & comforted after the banquet I forgot departure time Wednesday a.m. Which meant a search party and embarrassment of seeing my bag sitting alone on the sidewalk beside an idling bus waiting to leave for San Gabriel (I don’t wear a watch.) At Barstow stopover I bought an ice cream cone & made up my mind another faux pas would not be committed. (There was only our bus in the lot upon arrival, the second in our convoy arriving shortly thereafter.) I got back aboard to insure I wouldn’t be the last dummy straggler, there’s always one who delays departure, right? Well, they had to come get me again. I had reboarded the wrong bus!



"Passing Poston" on PBS

"Passing Poston" has been picked-up by more than 85 PBS stations nationwide via American Public Television. It will air in February 2010. Check local listings!

The Poston Restoration Project is offering the DVD of this documentary movie with additional footage not shown in the movie with your donation of $30 or more.

For more information on how you can own a DVD of this award-winning documentary film (with additional footage that will not be aired), please contact:
email: kueyd at yahoo dot com


California State University

World War II internees may get honorary degrees 9/20/2009
By Cyndee Fontana / The Fresno Bee

Dozens of Japanese-American students forced to abandon Fresno State for World War II internment camps may soon receive honorary degrees.

The California State University Board of Trustees, prompted partly by state legislation, will consider the degree program this week at a meeting in Long Beach.
But officials already are looking for candidates, including nearly 80 students once enrolled at Fresno State.

CSU likely will join a long-running movement in education to honor a lost generation of Japanese-American students. High schools across the state have awarded diplomas, and the University of California announced an honorary degree program in July.

UC officials describe it as one way to address an historical tragedy that forced about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry into internment camps.

In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order allowing the military to round up Japanese-Americans on the West Coast & imprison them in camps that included barbed wire & armed guards. The move came in the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Locally, 2 Assembly Centers -- one at the fairground, the other in Pinedale -- were set up to hold Japanese-Americans before they were sent to internment camps.

UC & CSU officials say many college students of that era may have never returned to earn degrees.

Bill Secrest Jr., local history librarian at the Fresno Co. Public Library, is heading the Fresno State research effort that began earlier this month. Official university records no longer exist, he said, but student directories have yielded 78 names. Over the decades, students have relocated, changed names through marriage & died. He said it will take a few months to comb through census records, newspaper obituaries & other sources. "We are just now starting to work on this data to find the students who might still be around," Secrest said.

CSU policy now provides for honorary Doctoral degrees. Trustees will be asked to make an exception to allow the honorary Bachelor's degrees.

Nine CSU campuses had been established by 1942, including then-Fresno State College. CSU officials say historic accounts show nearly 250 Japanese-American students were on 4 of those campuses when the internment began.

Bobbi Hanada, past governor of the Central California District Council of the Japanese American Citizens League, praised the concept of honorary degrees.
"Lots of people were uprooted and didn't have a chance to graduate," she said.

UC & CSU plans closely mirror recent efforts to award diplomas to Japanese-Americans removed from high school. Dozens of diplomas have been presented locally in the last few years.

Assembly Member Warren Furutani, D-South Los Angeles Co. introduced a bill in December that called on UC, CSU & California Community Colleges to extend honorary degrees. He estimated that more than 2,500 degrees could be conferred -- some posthumously. Furutani's bill received strong support -- including from the state community colleges' Board of Governors -- and now is pending on the governor's desk.

Fresno City College officials said no discussions have yet occurred about honorary degrees. Furutani, whose parents met in an Arkansas internment camp, said he wanted to "take care of unfinished business before this generation passes ... it's like tying up a loose end."

Carole Hayashino, vice president for university advancement at California State University, Sacramento, spoke at legislative hearings on Furutani's bill. For Hayashino, who testified as an individual, the issue has personal echoes. Her father, then a freshman at College of the Pacific in Stockton, was forced to drop out & report for internment, she said. "And after the war, he never had a chance to go back to college," Hayashino said. In the 1990s, Hayashino was involved in efforts at San Francisco State to recognize war-era Japanese-American students as honorary alumni. Honorary degrees, she said, would "bring closure to a group of Japanese-Americans who were really denied their constitutional rights ... it is part of the unfinished business of 1942."

At the University of California, officials estimate that about 700 Japanese-American students were removed from 4 UC campuses. That includes 15 students at the College of Agriculture, now UC Davis.

Eric Heng, policy & program analyst for Student Affairs in the UC President's Office, said officials have received 125 inquiries since the program was announced in July. Officials, mainly at the campus level, are sorting through the information.
UC began work on the issue last fall after officials at the San Francisco campus asked about honoring the students. Heng said they decided to consider a systemwide approach. That led to the formation of a task force, which recommended the honorary degrees to regents this summer. Diplomas will bear the Latin phrase "Inter Silvas Academi Restituere Iustitiam" -- translated, "to restore justice among the groves of the academe."

Honorary degrees

Former CSU students whose studies were interrupted by World War II internment (or their families) can call (562) 951-4723 or e-mail Nisei@calstate.edu
A local contact for Fresno State students is Bill Secrest Jr. at (559) 488-6720.
Former University of California students, or their families, can e-mail HonoraryDegree@ucop.edu or call (510) 987-0239.


Film Crew Visits

June 2009

A PBS documentary film about Kristi Yamaguchi took the filmmakers to Poston where her father (a former Poston internee) and her mother were given a tour of the site by Ruth Y. Okimoto, from the Poston Restoration Project.

Click on photos to enlarge.

9/12/09 More info re: PBS film

Konstantinos Kambouroglou worked with John Maggio and Julie Marchesi, who recently filmed at the Poston Internment Camp site for an upcoming PBS documentary. The PBS series is entitled "Faces of America" and features Harvard Professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. exploring immigration and identity through the family histories of celebrity guests.

Producer Leslie Asako Gladsjo and Konstantinos Kambouroglou, Associate Producer of Faces of America for Ark Media are working on the story of skating champion Kristi Yamaguchi and her family's experience during internment. Kristi's father, Jim Yamaguchi, spent his early childhood in Poston and her mother, Carol Doi, was born in Amache. They had not returned to Poston since, and agreed to do it with the filming company.


WANTED: Your Help

Last month we received GREAT NEWS!

The National Park Service has awarded the Poston Restoration Project a challenge grant of $25,994 to record video oral histories of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II at Poston.

This grant will support our travel to other communities so that we can conduct interviews.

You can help by nominating former Poston internees.
Please contact: Dianne K. at diannerd79 at yahoo dot com

The "challenge" grant is means that for every $1 we contribute, the U.S. National Park Service will contribute $2.

Please consider helping us make this challenge by making a monetary donation.

Send your check payable to "Poston Restoration Project"
Mail to our Treasurer, Marlene Shigekawa
956 Hawthorne Drive
Lafayette, CA. 94549-4640
marshige at gmail dot com

Thank you!


Recent Environmental Cleanup

The U.S. Department of Defense funded an environmental clean up using a 15-man crew working full-time this past summer for 3 months. There was soil contamination on the Poston Restoration Project site from the asbestos used in the old roofing and the use of lead-based paint.



Recent Donations

We recently received the "Camp Days" watercolor collection donated by the artist Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz, who was 9 years old when she was relocated to Poston.


We need your help!

We are looking for people who have equipment & skill with woodwork to make picture frames from the old Poston barrack wooden planks.

Do you know of anyone? Please submit their names & contact information to me.

Dianne Kiyomoto
Board Member, Archivist
email: diannerd79 at yahoo dot com


Nisei Baseball

Ports Honor “Fibber” Hirayama, Nisei Players
By Cody Kitaura

STOCKTON—When Nisei baseball player Satoshi “Fibber” Hirayama (Poston 227-2-A) played his first of 10 seasons in Japan, he immediately had some pointers for the Japanese players.

The language took him a little longer to figure out. “One of the first things (the other players) taught me was when the manager says something, say ‘I understand,’” Hirayama said. The real translation of that phrase was “go jump in a lake,” he said.
“Everybody in the dugout was laughing up a storm,” the 79-year-old Stockton native said.

                                                     Photo: Satoshi Fibber Hirayama

On July 10, about 20 Nisei baseball players & their families were honored in a pre-game ceremony by the Stockton Ports minor league baseball team. They played in Japanese-American leagues from the 1940s to the 1960s. The event was important enough for Gary Horita to make a drive all the way from Los Angeles. His late father, George Horita, was the manager of the Stockton Yamato team that won the NorCal championship in 1940.“He would’ve been very happy to see this,” Gary Horita said. “I’m sure he’s here in spirit.”

Hirayama was recognized for his 1952 season with the Stockton Ports & his 10 seasons of play in Japan’s Nippon Pro Baseball League playing for the Hiroshima Carp.

When Hirayama moved to Japan in 1955 with his wife, Jean, they never thought they would stay more than a few years. “In Hiroshima they really treated me well,” Hirayama said. “It was a pleasure to be there.” He noticed that the Japanese teams played the game differently. They didn’t go for high-scoring innings, & instead focused on each run individually. “They played for one run, not a big inning,” Hirayama said. “They were very meticulous as far as the fundamentals were concerned.”

Another of the differences Hirayama noticed were the wild, raucous crowds at each game. “I couldn’t believe the intensity of the fans,” he said. “They had drum sections in the stands & everything like that.”

Although the Japanese & American attitudes toward baseball were very different, the game went a long way toward fostering bonds between the two countries. Consul General of Japan in San Francisco Yasumasa Nagamine, who was a guest at the July Stockton Ports event, said the two countries “have always cherished their relationship through baseball.” “Baseball is very much a global sport,” he said.

California State University, Stanislaus history professor Samuel Regalado agreed, & pointed out that Issei baseball players made trips to Japan to play against Japanese teams as early as the 1920s. “(Baseball) has been really instrumental in terms of establishing a social connection between the two nations,” said Regalado, whose first journal article on the history of Japanese-American baseball was published in 1992.

Baseball also worked to unite Japanese-Americans on a smaller level. Some of the first baseball games Hirayama played were inside the walls of the (Poston) Arizona internment camp his family had been sent to during World War II. He was only 12 at the time, & said he didn’t really understand why he was there. The only thing about the camp that caught his attention was the number of Japanese families that were there. “Coming from a small town, the fact that it was all Japanese was really different,” Hirayama said. He enjoyed those pickup games, but mainly played because there wasn’t anything else to do in the internment camp. “I just enjoyed doing it,” he said. “I never dreamt I would’ve made a career out of it.”

But Regalado said baseball was more than something to pass the time in internment camps. He said many Japanese-American players brought their uniforms with them to the War Relocation Authority assembly centers & immediately organized leagues; in many cases, teams that had played before the war broke out were interned together & continued to play. Regalado said through baseball, internees “were able to keep the community together not only as teammates, but also keep morale up.” “It added to their comfort levels,” he said.

Nisei baseball player Ted Kamibayashi’s internment led to a slightly different path – he left his internment camp & enlisted in the military. He had already had years of earlier experience – he pitched for the 1940 NorCal champion Yamato team. He & his two brothers left the internment camp & joined the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the all-Nisei Army unit that received many awards for its tour of duty through Europe. His brothers also played with him on the 1940 Yamato team & made it all the way to a final showdown with the Southern California champions – a bigger, older team, Kamibayashi said. “We were still a young team,” Kamibayashi said, adding that most of the players were 17 or 18 years old. He said the 1940 Yamato team also played against many Caucasian teams. Regalado said this was significant because baseball was one of the few sports where Japanese-Americans’ smaller height didn’t put them at a disadvantage. “It was one of the only team sports where (Japanese-Americans) could compete with Caucasians,” Regalado said.
When Kamibayashi was a child, he played baseball in rural Stockton. He said the day he played baseball was the only day of the week his parents would let him skip working in the fields. “That’s why we loved baseball – we didn’t have to work,” Kamibayashi said.

Regalado said as a generational gap drove the Issei & Nisei apart on many issues, baseball always helped bring them together. “Baseball was one of the chief components that bridged a lot of the gaps in those generations,” he said, adding that baseball also did a lot to help Japanese-Americans connect with mainstream America at a time when they faced hostility & discrimination.“Mainstream America, especially on a political level, was not all that welcoming,” Regalado said. “(Baseball) was a means by which they could represent their community in a better light.”

Fred Oshima, a journalist who covered the Yamato & Lodi Templar teams from 1937 to 1941, said another gap became apparent in the generations following World War II. “Before the war, the teams in every community in California had the backing of the first-generation parents,” Oshima said. “Today, the (Japanese-American) NorCal baseball league only has 4 teams.”

Regalado said as more & more opportunities opened up to Japanese Americans, their communities became less centralized & lost many social activities like baseball. “The community itself is no longer in a small area,” he said. “The only time Sansei & Yonsei had really spent on Japanese-American social activities would’ve been on holidays or social days.”