Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific University honorary degrees awarded

Almost 70 years late, 24 former students of Japanese ancestry people were recipients on an honorary degree at Azusa Pacific University on Saturday, December 18, 2010.  They were former students  attending  Pacific Bible College as it was called during World War II.   These former students  were forced to abandon their studies and  relocated into internment camps  in the remote areas of the interior states.   

Among the recipients, was the Reverend Paul M. Nagano, age 90, formerly from Poston camp 3 (block 327).



A new blog site now for obituaries of former Poston internees, located at:


Henry “Hank” Oyama

Henry “Hank” Oyama was born in Tucson on June 1, 1926. His father died 5 months before he was born. His mother, Mary, was born in Hawaii but grew up in Mexico. Her first language was Spanish. Oyama said his mother was a hard worker who had an indomitable spirit and always saw the bright side of things. Oyama grew up as a Mexican-American in a barrio in Tucson, and his knowledge of the Spanish language would play a major role in his life. Occasionally, someone who was not from the neighborhood would refer to him as a “Chino” - meaning Chinese.

The racial divide first came into focus for Oyama when he was in junior high. He had been invited to a home in Fort Lowell, and the home had a swimming pool. He had never been in such a palatial home, and he noticed a difference in the living conditions among communities, “depending upon whether you were Caucasian or others.”

But the division between races was put in starker contrast when he turned 15 years old and was hauled off with his family to a World War II internment camp near Poston, about a dozen miles southwest of Parker in La Paz County. 

It was May 1942, and the war was well underway. Oyama recalled that he, his sister and his mother were taken by a bus from Tucson to Phoenix, then to Mayer, an “assembly center,” and finally to Poston (camp I). 

During his 15 months of internment, Oyama attended school and learned the cooking trade. “The school was set up in one of the barracks, so you could have some classes there but your next class might be in another block, so you had to walk through the sand to get to the (next class),” he said. “As you know, summers get a little hot here, and it did in Poston.”

The food was “terrible,” he said. They arrived at the camp at night and were served a bowl of chili beans. It was windy, dusty, and there was sand everywhere, even on the beans. They were given a mattress ticking and were told fill it with straw. The makeshift mattresses were set on Army cots. They also were given Army blankets. But his mother never let her spirit get down while in the camp, Oyama said. “I think because she didn’t want us to become depressed,” he said. Oyama said he signed up for cooking school out of fear that food would run short, and, as he put it, “I could sneak some off for my mother and my sister.”

After internment, he and his mother moved to the Kansas City area. His sister stayed a little longer in the camp because she was engaged to one of the young men there.

Back to the barracks
In 1945, about two years after he had left the internment camp, Oyama joined the U.S. Army, where his superiors assumed he spoke Japanese and wanted to send him to the South Pacific as an interpreter. When he explained that he did not speak Japanese, they thought he was trying to buck the assignment. They sent him to the Military Intelligence Service-Language School. After four months, he earned a diploma. By then his superiors were convinced that he did not speak Japanese and instead was fluent in Spanish.  As a result, he was assigned to the Counter-Intelligence Service.

After his training, he was sent to the Panama Canal, where he worked as an undercover agent. As a spy, Oyama said he had his own apartment and his own car. He wore civilian clothes to blend in and carried a “snub-nosed .38.” His job was to make sure security was adequate in the Canal Zone. It also included surveillance, as well as protecting high-ranking officers who were passing through the Panama Canal. His undercover unit also conducted “loyalty checks” on personnel, an ironic situation for a Japanese-American forced into an internment camp due to his ethnic ancestry. 

Oyama later retired as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

After his military service, Oyama went back to Tucson, earned a bachelor’s degree in education and studied Spanish. He then began teaching American history and Spanish at local schools. Initially, he worked at Pueblo High School, where he and a group of educators pioneered the creation of a Spanish-language program to meet the education needs of Spanish-speaking students. He also helped conduct a survey in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico on the successes of bilingual-education programs. They produced a report called “The Invisible Minority,” which directly contributed to the creation of the federal Bilingual Education Act of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1968. 

Oyama left Pueblo High School in 1970, served as Pima Community College’s director of bilingual and international studies, and later became associate dean of that program in 1978. In 1989, he was appointed a vice-president at the college. He retired in 1991 and was named vice-president emeritus. 

In one of the greatest honors that could be bestowed on a teacher, a school was dedicated in his name - Oyama Elementary School - in 2003.

Exerpt from: http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2009/11/01/couple-broke-down-barriers-to-interracial-marriage/
When "Fun with Dick & Jane" Went out The Window

A Profile of Hank Oyama, The Son Of A Mexican-born, Spanish-speaking Japanese Woman and One Of The Leaders Of Bi-lingual Education In America.
By Keith Ray
It is ironic, but one of the fathers of federally funded modern-day bilingual education in America, which focuses on teaching Spanish-speaking students in their native language rather than English, is of Japanese ancestry.

Henry “Hank” Oyama, who can trace his lineage through his father back to Kumamotoken, Japan, is a man of many parts.
     Born in the border town of Nogales, Arizona, USA, he is the son of a Mexican-born, Spanish-speaking Japanese woman whose husband died while she was pregnant with Hank. As a teenager, Hank and his mother were interned during World War II, but Hank later served U. S. forces with distinction. Hank became an educator after the war and early in his career he had to fight another major battle, one that helped change American laws that forbade his marriage to a Caucasian woman.
     The soft-spoken Oyama, now 70, retired as a lieutenant colonel from the U. S. Air Force and as vice president of Pima Community College, one of the largest multi-campus community colleges in the country with five campuses. As a youngster, he grew up in the Hispanic barrios of Tucson, Arizona, where Spanish was his first language. His mother, whose parents emigrated from Japan through a circuitous route that included Hawaii, had settled in Mexico. So Oyama's mother spoke mainly Spanish with very little Japanese. "My father was of Japanese descent, and I suppose I would have learned Japanese, but he died when my mother was pregnant with me, so therefore I grew up speaking Spanish," said Oyama.
      He began to learn English only after beginning elementary school. It was while growing up that the White House issued an executive order requiring all persons of Japanese descent, citizens or non-citizens, to be evacuated to relocation centers throughout the country. There were 10 of these centers that housed some 120,000 Japanese Americans. Two were in Arizona. Hank's family, which included an older sister, were sent to one in Poston, Arizona. It housed 19,543 detainees between May 1942 and November 1945.
      Hank and his mother left the barracks-style housing 16 months later for employment at a hotel in the state of Missouri. Strangely, this was permissible as long as detainees didn’t go to areas from which Japanese Americans had been evacuated. Hank's sister had married in the camp and so stayed behind with her husband.
      Oyama then held a series of jobs until at age 18 he was inducted into the army. In typical bureaucratic fashion, the army sent him to a language school in Minnesota to become a Japanese language interpreter. Military officers refused to believe he could not speak Japanese. Ultimately, however, they recognized their error, as well as his ability to speak Spanish, and made use of his linguistic abilities in intelligence. Later, he was awarded a reserve commission and retired at age 60 from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel.
      After the war Oyama earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Arizona in Tucson and subsequently began teaching there. 
      It the age of 33 Oyama met and fell in love with a fellow teacher, Mary Ann Jordan, who accepted his proposal of marriage. Unfortunately, a law still on the books in 1959 forbade the marriage of a Caucasian, as Jordan was, to non-Caucasians. The lovers took their battle to court, lost round one, won round two, got married and eventually saw the archaic law stricken from the records. Their first child died of leukemia shortly after birth and the Oyamas adopted four other children.
      The second high school established in Tucson, Pueblo High School, was designed to address the needs of Mexican-American students in the southwest part of what was then a small city. Administrators chose as teachers those who had a strong interest and dedication to that goal. Oyama was one of those selected.
      At Pueblo, Oyama and two other teachers, Adalberto Guerrero and Maria Urquides, started a program that provided Spanish for native speakers so they could improve their linguistic ability to be used in more adult, professional work. Now, these kinds of classes are commonplace throughout America. But they were of ground breaking quality three decades ago.
      Oyama and the other two educators conducted a survey of education for Mexican-Americans in the Southwest and wrote a report called "The Invisible Minority." The plight of education for Mexican Americans at that time truly was invisible. People in other parts of the country didn’t even know Mexican Americans existed, much less understand the educational needs of this large population.
      So Oyama, Guerrero and Urquides held a national symposium on the topic. It drew wide attention and the attendance of national education officials, congressmen and senators. The gathering was so impressed that one participant, Senator Yarborough of Texas, went back to Washington and introduced legislation that became the Bilingual Act.
      Out went "Fun With Dick and Jane." In came books and materials bought from Mexico, Spain and Cuba. Oyama eventually left secondary schools for the local community college.
     He has received enough awards to literally fill a book, but he remains active in many civic organizations. He recently founded a Hispanic Scholarship Fund at Pima College. He believes that working with others through organizations, as he does, "prevents some racial tensions from becoming too great. This augurs for a safer, more American society that is willing to accept and understand others."
      Of racially mixed marriages in general, he says that it is the spouse of Anglo background "who makes more of a contribution toward erasing injustices than does the minority member. People feel more negative toward the Anglo or Caucasian rather than toward the minority member".
      Oyama has led a full, rewarding life, and he is well traveled. One place he hasn’t been?
You guessed it. Japan.

Source: http://www.urbanmozaik.com/2001.may1_htmls/may01_fea_oyama.html

Aftermath of Pearl Harbor

Japanese internment victims recall aftermath of Pearl Harbor attack
Dec 4, 2008
 By Michael Moore

Morgan Hill
Betsy Hatakeyama, 85, of Morgan Hill, and Marianne Ogawa, 86, of Gilroy have known each other since long before their families were forced from their childhood homes in Salinas and into internment camps set up by the U.S. government in 1942.

And they are still friends with three other Japanese-American women they grew up with in Silicon Valley, and who also experienced this exclusion firsthand.

"It's a bond of friendship that dates back to kindergarten," said Hatakeyama. "We were somehow connected, and as the years went by we got more and more connected."

The longtime friends still get together once a month.

Sunday is the 67th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which killed more than 2,000 people and catalyzed American involvement in World War II.

The assault also led to the forced relocation of more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry from their homes, mostly on the West Coast.

"We were frightened (when we heard about the Pearl Harbor attack) because we didn't know how it was going to affect us," said Ogawa, who had been in college in Los Angeles for only a couple of months by December 1941.

She and Hatakeyama were born in northern California. They had recently graduated from Salinas High School when the attack happened.  Less than a year later they were forced into internment camps in Arizona. "They said it was for our own protection," said Hatakeyama. "The camps were fenced in with barbed wire, and there were sentry towers. The soldiers in the towers were pointing their guns at us. They treated us like enemies."

When President Franklin Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941, "a date that will live in infamy," he wasn't even alluding to this involuntary detention of thousands of American citizens he would soon authorize.

Roosevelt issued executive order 9066 early in 1942, giving the military broad powers to create domestic "exclusion zones" where no people of Japanese descent were allowed, even if they were American citizens. Virtually the entire state of California was classified as such a zone.

In 1988, Congress formally apologized for these actions, acknowledging the program was based on "race prejudice (and) hysteria."

Hatakeyama described how she, her parents, her three sisters and hundreds of other citizens and residents were gathered up and forced into an "assembly center" at the rodeo grounds in Salinas shortly after Roosevelt's order. "It was sad because the people could see their homes from the assembly center," Hatakeyama said.

Families were given five days to get rid of everything they owned except for the bedding and clothes they could carry in their arms, Hatakeyama said. Her parents had just bought a brand-new Dodge sedan they had "slaved" for, but had to sell cheaply.

From the assembly centers scattered throughout the state, detainees were sent to internment camps, or "concentration camps" as Hatakeyama called them, to the east. Hatakeyama recalled how in August 1942 everyone at the Salinas center boarded a "hot, uncomfortable" train.

"We didn't know where we were going," said Hatakeyama. "The shades were drawn, and MPs were patrolling the inside of the train."

She and her family ended up at a camp in Poston, Ariz. They were crammed into small shacks that were poorly constructed, with cracks in the walls that allowed the inside to fill with the desert's dust.

They spent about a year in internment. Upon their release, they were given a list of cities they could move to, none of which were in California. Hatakeyama went to Chicago, where the people were "very, very nice," and where she spent about a year.

Ogawa spent the same time period at another camp in Poston. She said the details are now hard to remember, but the relocation was "quite an experience." After her family was released from the internment camp, they went to St. Louis, Mo., for a couple of years, and then she came back to California to finish college.

By 1945, Hatakeyama was married and raising her family in Fresno. When her husband retired more than 30 years later they moved to Morgan Hill.

Hatakeyama, whose husband passed away about a year ago, still has a letter of apology from President George H. W. Bush and a $20,000 reparations check from the federal government framed and hanging on the wall in her house.

"I believed in the Constitution," she said. "We went to a red school house where we said the Pledge of Allegiance. We recited the preamble (to the Constitution). During wartime it meant nothing because the president could make his own rules."

Source: http://www.morganhilltimes.com/news/251469-japanese-internment-victims-recall-aftermath-of-pearl-harbor-attack

From 1981... Burden of Shame

The Burden of Shame
By Jane O'Reilly;David S. Jackson/Washington; Jeff Melvin/Los Angeles
Monday, Aug. 17, 1981

At last, amends for World War II internment camps? 

"When I heard rumors that all Japanese would be interned, I couldn't believe it. I kept saying that I was a loyal American citizen and that it just couldn't happen in a democracy." —Testimony of Mabel Ota

It did happen. In the months after Pearl Harbor, more than 110,000 "persons of Japanese ancestry" (those with 1/16th Japanese blood or more) were forcibly relocated from the West Coast to inland internment camps in desolate areas of Wyoming, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Arizona. Most were American citizens. One-third were resident aliens born in Japan and therefore, under the law of the time, ineligible for citizenship. No act of espionage or sabotage was attributed to a Japanese American during World War II. They were summarily imprisoned and their constitutional rights suspended solely because of their race. One thousand Aleut Indians were also interned, simply because of their "proximity to a war zone." 

Now, nearly 40 years later, the process of understanding what happened and making reparations has begun. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, created last year by Congress, is holding a summer-long series of public hearings. Last week in Los Angeles, the audience listened with hushed respect to stories almost too painful to remember, but too important to forget. 

The spring of 1942. They had little notice, perhaps a week. Given numbers and allowed to bring only what they could carry, they were herded into "assembly centers" at fairgrounds and race tracks stinking of manure and animals. Finally, they were transported to ten barely habitable camps for the duration of World War II. Mabel Ota, now 64, was sent to Poston, Ariz  (block 6-2-A). 

She would, after the war, become the first Asian school principal in Los Angeles, but would spend her life believing that the camp's poor diet and worse medical care caused her father's death, and her daughter to be brain-damaged at birth (in Poston).....

Strawberry Fields Forever

Strawberry Fields Forever
By Wendy Hinman

The history of the ripe, red fruit in Carlsbad is closely linked with one family.
...The story of Carlsbad’s strawberry fields really began in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Hiroshi Ukegawa (Poston block 22)  grew up in Orange County. His family were farmers and he graduated from Tustin High School. They were interned in Poston, Arizona with a family from Oceanside and Hiroshi moved there after the war. From the camp, Hiroshi enlisted in the 13th Airborne Paratroop Division. His son, Jimmy, one of the five Ukegawa children who run the business side of the family-owned Aviara Farms, says, “He told us he joined the paratroopers because it paid more.”

A little extra pay and a penchant for craps games helped Hiroshi save during the war years. While Hiroshi was jumping out of planes over farms across the pond, the future Mrs. U, Miwako, was in Japan. “I worked in a bank in Osaka during the war,” she says. “It was next to a factory so when the American bombers came over everything really shook.” Miwako’s father was a farmer, too; he had a pepper plantation in Borneo, Indonesia. Miwako was sent back to Japan from Indonesia when it was time for school and grew up with her grandmother and uncle.

After the war, Miwako came to Sacramento and earned her cosmetology license. An entrepreneur herself, she planned to learn how to perm hair, because it would be the next big thing in Japan. An excursion to L.A. and San Diego before her trip home changed those plans; she met Hiroshi. Both Miwako and Hiroshi’s families were originally from Wakayama, on the main island of Japan.

Married in 1956, they moved to Carlsbad in 1960. Hiroshi began growing strawberries in Oceanside and grew them for awhile on Stewart Mesa on Camp Pendleton before finding that perfect spot to lease in Carlsbad overlooking the lagoon. He started with strawberries because he wanted to keep his workers year round.  Tomatoes have always been the Ukegawas’ main crop, but strawberries kept the field hands working. At their peak the Ukegawas employed around 3,000 workers.

The Ukegawas do not whip their workers. They get accused of this every couple of years or so. Yes, there is a man in the field with a bullwhip. Jimmy says, “He’s a walking scarecrow.” Just like baseball is that odd sport where the defense has the ball, the strawberry is that odd fruit that carries its seed on the outside.   Starlings are the problem. “We put up the fake owls and in about a week the starlings are landing on them,” Jimmy says. They had a fake bird kite on a pole because it would blow in the wind. “A woman stopped her car in rush hour traffic on Cannon and came running across the field with a knife to ‘free the bird,’” Jimmy says. She needn’t worry about the bullwhip, either—they don’t whip the birds, but the crack of it and the constant movement keeps the starlings in the chapparal. “It’s works the best by far.”

Aviara Farms sells for about 10 other growers. For more than eight years, the Ukegawa family has invited its customers to come pick their own strawberries. 

Source: http://www.carlsbadmagazine.com/Stories/strawberries.html

Early Guadalupe Cemetery Records

From: Early Guadalupe Cemetery records are unreliable and few
Shirley Contreras

Before World War II the ashes of many of the Japanese people were kept in the Buddhist Church. When the Japanese people returned from the internment camps and found that a law had been enacted prohibiting ashes to be so stored, the ashes of many of the deceased were moved to family burial plots, while others were placed into a common grave site. The grave site containing the ashes of about 30 people is covered with a cement slab showing the names of those interred within the site. However, at least two of those containers of ashes have been moved to family burial sites during the ensuing years.

A number of the headstones of the Japanese people show the dates of death as occurring during the World War II years, indicating that they died in one of the internment camps. 

Thanks to the help of Jack Morishima and Tets Furukawa, I learned that Kishie Minami, Kito Oishi and Ichiro Gilbert Miyake died in the Gila River Relocation camp, Mary Kinuyo Miyake died in the Poston Camp (block 13-11-D) , and Matagoro Sakamoto died in the Port Lincoln camp in Bismarck, North Dakota.


Calif State University Honors

By Tanya Ghahremani
Daily Titan Staff Writer
Published: March 17, 2010
In the spring of 1942, hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans were removed from their homes and forced into internment camps. Among those who faced this injustice, many were students who had to leave their studies.

The Nisei Diploma Project is a collaborative effort of all the current CSU campuses that had Japanese-American students who were removed and forced into internment camps during World War II. While Cal State Fullerton was not open at the time, six other CSU campuses were – Fresno, Pomona, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and San Luis Obispo.

Through the project, those removed and forced into internment camps will receive Honorary Bachelor of Humane Letters degrees.

According to the project’s Web site, the CSU system hopes to at least ease the pain of the incarceration the students faced, and welcome the students back into the CSU.

When Beverly DiDomenico heard about the project, she was overjoyed. Both of her parents were removed from their studies and placed in internment camps during the spring of 1942 and neither were able to complete their education later. “I know if the war hadn’t happened they would have finished school,” DiDomenico said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill calling for this project last summer. According to Colleen Bentley, who has been working on the project, the six campuses included began planning their ceremonies soon after and figuring out how to locate the students.

Unfortunately, many of the students who were removed from their studies are now deceased.
“Should we have done it years ago? Of course,” said Bentley. “It’s late, but it’s still a worthwhile program we put together.”

The internment of Japanese Americans began shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. It was during that time that approximately 110,000 Japanese-Americans on the United States West Coast were interned – all under the justification of ‘national security’.
“It was an injustice upon people,” Bentley said.

DiDomenico’s parents were each placed in different camps – her mother, Ellen Kuyama-Matsumoto, in Poston War Relocation Center (Block 329-8-B) , and her father, Shigeki Matsumoto, in Gila River War Relocation Center.

“When I was young, my relatives would get together and talk about camp – I didn’t know what they were talking about. I didn’t find out about the relocation camp until I was taking American history in high school,” DiDomenico said.

Her mother, now 88, didn’t tell DiDomenico much about the internment. “She really wouldn’t talk about it (when I asked),” DiDomenico said. “It was the worst time of her life.”

Joy Sato’s parents were both interned in 1942 as well. “They said that they felt safe there. They were all together.”

Having heard about the Nisei Diploma project, Sato says she feels very happy for her parents. “It would have meant more to my father, because he studied very hard and then the war broke out and he had to stop.” Though Sato’s father did attend a Quaker college in Philadelphia for some time later, he had to leave in order to tend to his family’s farm back west. “He continued his education, teaching himself.”

Her mother, Mariko Sato, and her father, Jyuichi Sato, both attended what is now San Diego State University at the time of the relocation.

Sato and DiDomenico both found out about the project through letters from their parents’ schools. Their parents are among the approximately 250 other Japanese-American students that the CSU campuses are trying to find, though Bentley is quick to point out that this is not an exact number.

“It’s as close as they can get,” she said, adding that it’s believed that, statewide, as many as 2,500 students were removed from their school during the internment. That number comes from studies done by other Japanese-American organizations.

The ceremonies for the degrees are officially in May, but the campuses are being flexible with the dates, accounting for the schedules of family members attending and the wishes of the families.

“The campuses are being incredibly thoughtful,” Bentley said.


‘Tag Project’: Wendy Maruyama

‘Tag Project’ Exhibit Connects Generations with WWII Internment History
Inspired by her own family history, artist Wendy Maruyama sought to recreate all of the identification tags used during the forced evacuation. The sheer numbers of tags has been shocking to some.

By Christine McFadden, Correspondent
Published November 19, 2010

The black and white photos taken by prolific photographer Dorthea Lange depict Japanese American families waiting by train tracks to be shipped off to concentration camps. They are sitting on the tops of their few suitcases with solemn expressions.  All are pinned with matching identification tags that display their name, an identification number, and the isolated camp they are headed toward. The photos with the tags are haunting snapshots of life pre-camp. For artist Wendy Maruyama, they are both haunting and compelling.

Maruyama, the head of the furniture design and woodworking program at San Diego State University has been a Fulbright scholar to England, so she is no stranger to artistic endeavors. But her most recent project is literally a massive undertaking. After making the decision to research her family history, Maruyama, a Sansei, simultaneously found the launching point for her “Tag Project”: a mission to replicate all 120,000 tags worn by the internees during World War II.  She began by replicating 1,011 tags from the internees from her hometowns of San Diego and Chula Vista. From there, Maruyama made the commitment to making all 120,000 tags, looking to reflect and educate the public on the sheer scale and numbers of those incarcerated.

Maruyama’s family was directly affected by the WWII incarceration: her mother’s family took the option to leave the West Coast rather than be shipped to concentration camps, but still lived the lives of displaced peoples — “invisible internees,” as Maruyama called them. They had “equally sad and horrible stories about their experiences.”

“The ‘Tag Project’ started at my mother’s dining room table and it was here that she and my aunt shared their stories,” she reflected. “Unfortunately my grandparents never talked about their experiences but I feel fortunate that I was able to hear the stories through my mother.”

The project, now traveling around the nation, has since sparked more dialogue about the internment while bringing generations of JAs together.

Tale of the Tags
“I remember seeing photos and seeing the Nisei and Issei at the train station with these tags,” said Robert Ito, a Sansei San Diego JACL board member. “[I] always wondered what it was.” After hearing Maruyama present her project to the San Diego JACL board in 2008, he knew he had to get involved. “I just totally embraced it.”

Utilizing his expertise in grant writing, Ito volunteered in 2008 to take the lead in writing a grant application for the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. Earlier this year, the ‘Tag Project’ received news that it had won the $25,000 grant.  “I knew that it was going to resonate with whoever read it [the grant proposal],” he said.  Both of Ito’s parents were incarcerated at Poston and his father volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. His mother is currently involved with helping string the tags.

The tags, still in the making, have traveled to high schools, colleges, and art galleries across the country: from Tennessee to Tule Lake, from Madison to Manzanar.  The process of making the tags began with a phone call from Maruyama to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles to verify the exact dimensions of the tag from their collection.

“These tags are no longer made in this size so I had 120,000 tags custom made to replicate the exact size of the original,” she said. “I then created rubber stamps of the print that was on the tag.”  All of the names on the tags are authentic, drawn from the online National Archives and Records Administration (add.archives.gov). Jean Saito, a Shin Nisei graduate student at San Diego State University and recent volunteer for the “Tag Project,” is currently involved in crosschecking the names on the tags with the electronic database.

“The whole project really intrigued me,” Saito said. “[I’m] making sure we don’t miss anybody’s names, just double-checking.”

Sansei volunteer Tami Joplin first encountered the “Tag Project” at an exhibit at the Escondido Center for the Arts.  “I must have looked like a crazy person examining the work after that, since I started going all around it, over and over, reading all the tags to see if I could find my mom’s name, or my grandmother’s, or my aunt’s or any of my uncles ... ,” said Joplin.   Joplin brought her mother, Connie (Yahiro) Striklen, a week later to see the tags; what she saw moved her and inspired her to sign up to volunteer. “Sometimes my mom and I would work on the tags at my house, and we would laugh, talk, and discuss the names of the people on the tags,” she said. “Even saying each name in our heads was a way of honoring those who were in the camps.”

Making Tags
To make a tag, a volunteer ties a string to the end of the tag, makes a print from the recreated stamp, writes in the name of the former internee, makes another stamp of the ID number assigned to each internee, and finally writes in the camp name. The tags are then scrunched up, dyed with coffee, and dried with some old-fashioned San Diego sunshine to achieve the aged look. The tags are then bundled into groups of 48 and weaved into strands.

Because the camps are so large, Maruyama can only work on one camp at a time. Thus far, the tags for all of those interned in Gila River, Poston, Manzanar, Rohwer, Minidoka, and Tule Lake have been completed; currently, Maruyama is working on Heart Mountain and Amache. 
At the various events and schools the tags are taken to, Maruyama says that the size and dimensions of the tags has sometimes been “overwhelming.”

“ … Suddenly the number of Japanese Americans who were removed from their homes in 1942 [has] some physicality to it: the visual weight and sheer numbers of tags was shocking to some,” she said.

Since initiating the project, Maruyama has experienced a seemingly exponential growth of volunteers ranging from people in their 90s down to “8-year-olds who were ‘tag runners’, taking tags from station to station” at volunteer events.

Many young volunteers immerse themselves in the “Tag Project” as a means of respecting their family’s history. “The project is one way that I am honoring and recognizing my grandparents, my grandparent’s friends, my friend’s grandparents and parents,” wrote volunteer Kaity Sakurai, a senior at San Diego State University, in an e-mail. Sakurai’s grandparents were incarcerated in Crystal City, Texas. “We cannot forget all the hard work and sacrifices that our ancestors have done to get us, Yonsei, decent lives.”

Traveling Tags
In addition to bringing generations and communities closer together, the “Tag Project” has helped to open up dialogue about the incarceration.  “Initiating the conversation was not directly one of the goals of the project, but certainly it has created an environment of young people working alongside older JA internees and hearing their stories,” reflected Maruyama.  

“I wanted to learn more about what happened … I just love to listen to their stories,” said Saito.

In addition to relating stories of the past, the “Tag Project” has helped some to draw comparisons between the JA incarceration and the present. According to Maruyama, some viewers of the massive amounts of tags draw “parallels to 9/11 and the persecution of Muslim Americans, or even the recent controversy with the Arizona immigration laws.”  According to Maruyama, the tags will make their complete debut in 2012 at the new SDSU Downtown Gallery. They are currently based at the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego.

Following the SDSU Gallery unveiling, one of the camps’ tags will make its way to Boston alongside a work project of Maruyama’s called “E.O. 9066”, a woodworking series started when she was awarded an artist-in-residency position at the State University of New York at Purchase. Following Boston, all of the tags will head south to Charlotte, N.C. to be shown at Queen College. Maruyama then hopes to take the project to two more venues on the West Coast.  After the tour, she is looking to send each group of tags to their respective camp interpretative centers. Because not all of the camps have centers, Maruyama hopes that camps such as Tule Lake can use the tags in performances or displays during their pilgrimages.



Update: Congressional Gold Medal

NOTE:  This is an update to the original post dated :  Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Veteran Registry
The National Veterans Network (NVN)  has set up a Veterans Registry on its web site in the "ceremony" section. www.nationalveteransnetwork.com

The purpose of the registry is to determine the interest of veterans, next of kin and family members who wish to attend the Washington DC events. Thanks to outreach done by several NVN organizations, there has been a high volume of registrants. We continue to receive a steady flow of registrants each week.

As of November 10, 2010, the following numbers have registered.

113 Veterans
106  Next of Kin of veterans who were killed during the war or have passed on.
917 Total people registered, majority of whom are family members. Also includes the "maybes."

The final decision on who attends (living veterans, next of kin, family etc)  and how many can attend (based on venue) is determined by the Speaker of the House. The veterans registry was designed for planning purposes so that we can provide the Speaker with concrete numbers of those interested in attending the ceremony. 

It is our understanding that that all living veterans will be invited. NVN will share the registry numbers and interest level with the Speaker in hopes that others will be invited, however, the final decision will be made by the Speaker's office. While the ceremony attendance is unknown, please know that invitations to the memorial services and gala dinner will be extended to all parties so that we can collectively honor and commemorate this historic occasion. 

Honor Flight
Honor Flight, a nonprofit organization who flies veterans to Washington DC to see "their" memorial, has agreed to partner with NVN for the Congressional Gold Medal event. Honor Flight is seeking to fly 100th, 442nd and MIS veterans to Washington DC  for free by providing airfare and accommodations and an opportunity to see the National WWII Memorial. Living 100th, 442nd and MIS veterans who are registered with NVN will be considered by Honor Flight.

If you know of veterans who would be interested in attending the ceremony, we highly encourage you to register by going to NVN's web site - www.nationalveteransnetwork.com.

We need your help - please help us by spreading the word to everyone about the Congressional Gold Medal. We are seeking 100th, 442nd and MIS veterans who would be interested in attending next year's events. We know that many are not active with veterans or civil organizations and outreach beyond NVN will be necessary. 

Please share the news, and encourage them to go to the NVN web site to register. 

Or please contact: Metta Tanikawa (cgm.tanikawa@gmail.com), Terry Shima (ttshima@comcast.net) or Christine Sato-Yamazaki (Christine@csy-assoc.com)


Nat'l Trust for Historic Preservation

The Poston Community Alliance Receives $10,000 from the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Only a week ago, a proposal was submitted to the Western Region Office in San Francisco to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for intervention funds.

Anthony Veercamp, Director of Programs, acted quickly and was able to secure funding to support the Poston Relocation & Rehabilitation Project.

In March 2010, the Poston Community Alliance received a grant of $31,000 from the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program for relocating and preserving the internment camp barrack located in Parker.

On September 15, 2010 staff from the Intermountain Regional Office of the National Park Service and the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office made a site visit. Members of the Poston Community Alliance, (Jon Villalobos, Marlene Shigekawa & Ruth Okimoto), were also present.

It was determined that a storage facility is needed on the Poston site to protect and secure the barrack. The storage facility currently on the site is inadequate and is incapable of storing the barrack.

The estimated cost for constructing a steel building that would preserve, protect and secure this historic structure from vandals would be range from $12,000 to $15,000. The Tribal Council of CRIT has already spent $50,000 to secure the Poston site with a fence.

Project Director, Marlene Shigekawa, and Assistant Project Director, Ruth Okimoto contacted the National Trust for Historic Preservation Office in San Francisco. A proposal was written for emergency or "intervention" fund.

Anthony Veercamp notified Marlene and Ruth that a $10,000 grant was awarded to the project.

We are fortunate to have received these funds and are appreciative of Anthony Veercamp's rapid response and commitment to our project.

Those interested in further supporting this project can send their contributions to Marlene Shigekawa or go to Paypal and send payment to


New! Poston Block Map Project

MANY THANKS to Bob Iwamasa (Poston II) who continues to help me with making a dream come true...

With Bob's numerous volunteer hours at the computer, we are attempting to put the Poston camp census and the database that I created from numerous sources and putting the names in their apartments/barracks/blocks.

The sources of my database are numerous: reading the Poston Chronicles at least 3 times searching for people's names and camp addresses, browsing through the first Poston Red Cross directory, "Mohaveland" (Poston III YBA Directory), the high school yearsbooks for camp II & III, old Poston reunion program booklets & mailing list directories, reading obituaries, and the Watsonville/Santa Cruz JACL newsletter edited by Mas Hashimoto, *multi-tons* of hours searching on the on-line NARA database, obtaining my own family's WRA records, emailing people, interviewing people, reading news articles on former Postonites, especially the recent honorary degree recipients, various internet webpages, including the California State University Fullerton Oral History project, California State University, Sacramento library special collection on Japanese Americans, Tulare County Public Library oral history, California State University Fresno Special collections on Japanese American Relocation, Fresno County Public Library oral history collection, University of California-Berkeley on-line photo archives, Arizona Historical Society website, various former Postonites books, and websites, and emails from total strangers searching for information about their family in Poston.  Also thousands of hours of research contributed by Tak Kohatsu (Poston I) using the FAR records and sharing with us.

I will be uploading the draft copy of the block maps as they are completed.

They were a *huge hit* at the April 2010 Poston III reunion. I received many valuable bits of information from everyone and have included them on these maps.
Because of the tremendous additional information obtained, I am starting with the Poston camp III block maps. I hope to have all of the camp III maps revised before the next Poston III reunion in April 2011 (week before Easter) in Las Vegas. (EVERYONE is invited to attend.)

NOTE: We have many names with their block numbers, but need the information on the barrack and apartment numbers before we can add them to the maps. If you have access to this information, please share!

The Poston Camp Block Maps blog is located at:


Congressional Gold Medal

Letter from Christine Sato Yamazaki
National Veterans Network
A coalition of Japanese American Veteran and Civic Organizations

Dear Colleagues and Friends,
September 24, 2010

The US Congress has passed a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal collectively to the 100th, 442nd and MIS.

Personnel in the Military Intelligence Service who qualify for the CGM are those who “intercepted radio transmissions, translated enemy documents, interrogated enemy prisoners of war, volunteered for reconnaissance and covert intelligence missions, and persuaded enemy combatants to surrender” while they served overseas or in the US during WW II.

All members and families of the 100, 442 and MIS and the Japanese American community are deeply grateful and humbled to receive the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow on an individual or group.

The National Veterans Network (NVN), an organization of 22 Japanese American veterans and civic organizations was organized to assist the US Congress as appropriate to organize a two‐day program in Washington, DC to celebrate this important event.

Congressional sources have informed us that priority for seating will be given to living 100, 442, and MIS veterans. NVN believes that widows or next of kin of Nisei killed in action or deceased veterans also should be recognized for priority seating.

We will strive to achieve that goal.

The date of the award ceremony will be announced by the Speaker of the House.

Because of the extensive preparatory work that must be done, e.g. the minting of the medal, we believe the award date will be in Summer or Fall of 2011.

Also, we have been advised that there is only one gold medal that will be presented to all three units.

Replicas of the medals will be available for sale at the time of the congressional ceremony.

The first step in this endeavor is to take a headcount of those in the following categories who are planning to come to Washington, DC for the two‐day award festivities.

Would you please provide the following information as soon as possible to:
Metta Tanikawa
email: cgm.tanikawa@gmail.com

She is a member of the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) but in this endeavor has volunteered to serve NVN. She will be the keeper of the master list.

Or, send to Terry Shima
415 Russell Ave, #1005
Gaithersburg, MD 20877


I. If you are a 100, 442, Nisei who served in MIS veteran, complete this section:

Name _________________.

Plan to attend ______.
Plan to attend if transportation/lodging support provided _____

100th and 442nd veteran:
Battalion _______ Company_____ Date of Service ___________

MIS veteran.
Which MIS Language School attended___________ .

Which other US Army Language School attended___________.
Location served________
Date of Service ____________.

Postal Address________________________

Telephone: ___________________________
E‐Mail _______________________________
FAX ________________________________

Accompanied by (if yes)__________________

[Please provide names of all in your party. Needed for seating and to facilitate entry in US Capitol Building.]

II. If you are a widow or next of kin of 100, 442, MIS deceased member.

Plan to attend _________

Name of widow or next of kin of 100, 442, MIS: _________________.

Name of deceased 100, 442, MIS member ________________________

100th and 442nd veteran: Battalion _____ Company_____ 
Date of Service ___________

MIS veteran.
Which MIS Language School attended___________ .

Which other US Army Language School attended___________.
Location served________
Date of Service ____________.

Postal Address________________________
Telephone: ___________________________
E‐Mail _______________________________
FAX ________________________________

Accompanied by (if yes)__________________
[Please provide names of all in your party.]


One Korean War Veteran

 Japanese American Living Legacy Project Documents
October 30, 2006
By Mimi Ko Cruz

.....Indeed, said Robert Wada (Poston 30-2-B), a 75-year-old Japanese-American Korean War veteran who, with his parents and eight older siblings, was forced to live in an Japanese internment camp during World War II. His oral history is being compiled by the JA Living Legacy Project.

“I’ve got a whole pile of history of my life just sitting in boxes,” Wada said.

“This is stuff that will eventually get all thrown in a box and forgotten when I’m gone, but this project is helping to preserve an important time in American history that Japanese Americans lived through. It’s educating future generations about what our generation went through.”

His own compelling story is full of details that grammar school history books don’t include, such as what it was like living in an internment camp as a young boy and, then, becoming a Marine and fighting for a country that harbored anti-Japanese sentiment.

For him, Dec. 7, 1941 — the day Pearl Harbor was bombed — is one of his most unforgettable days, Wada said, recalling the orders that rounded up 120,000 Japanese Americans, who were forced to abandon their properties and most of their belongings and live in internment camps.

“The internment camp where I spent three years, from age 11, was known as Poston, Arizona (block 30-2-B),” Wada said. “An entire family lived in one room that had one central light hanging from the ceiling. There were four rooms in tar-papered barracks over pine boards with holes in the floors. Each person was given a folding cot with a mattress bag that had to be filled with hay — the same kind you feed to horses…. The saddest moment for me in the camp was the day my father died when I was only 14.”

Source: http://calstate.fullerton.edu/news/inside/2006/Korea/korea2.html

From Internment, to Korea, to Solitude by Robert M. Wada.
CreateSpace, June 2010. Paperback, 199 pages.
ISBN-13: 9781439258286 ISBN: 1439258287

In his moving memoir, we are carried into the world of WWII Japanese-American internment camps, discrimination, tragedies and as a young Marine fighting for his country in the Korean War. This is a story about struggle and loss of hope, followed by new purpose and faith.


"Poston Barrack Relocation Challenge"

In 2006, the U.S. Congress established the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program in 2006 to preserve & interpret the places where Japanese Americans were imprisoned after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The law authorizes up to $38 million in grants for the life of the program to identify, research, evaluate, interpret, protect, restore, repair, and acquire historic confinement sites.

In May, 2010. the Poston Community Alliance Project, "Poston Preservation Project—Barrack Relocation and Rehabilitation" was awarded funding for $30,000.
Currently, the Poston Community Alliance received a donated Poston barrack (2-tiered roof original) from V. Ramsey. The rapidly deteriorating barrack remains in the town of Parker, AZ, about 17 miles from the Poston Restoration Project site.

Each grant requires a 2:1 Federal to non-Federal match. For example, to receive $2 of Federal funds at least a $1 non-Federal match is required.
The match may be composed of cash or 'in-kind' contributions.
The non-Federal match may be raised and spent during the grant period; it does not have to be “in the bank” at the time of the application.

Today, the Poston Community Alliance is about $2K SHORT of the required "MATCHING funds" required by the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program.

We need YOUR help now.

We have received a challenge grant from an anonymous donor.
It's called the "Barrack Relocation Challenge".
Every dollar you donate will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $500

Ready...get set.... GO!

All monetary donations are tax deductible.
Make checks payable to: The Poston Restoration Project

Mail to: Marlene Shigekawa, Treasurer
956 Hawthorne Drive
Lafayette, CA 94549

Thank you!
Dianne Kiyomoto
Board Member/Archivist
Poston Community Alliance, Inc.
The Poston Restoration Project
electronic mail: diannerd79 at yahoo dot com

Update: 9/10/10 GREAT NEWS!
With our Barrack Challenge Grant, we now have $500! Let's keep it going---need to get to $2K mark to "move that barrack!"

UPDATE: 9/4/10
So far in just a few days, we have received $275 to meet our Barrack Challenge Grant. Let's keep it up!