August 1, 2013

Johnny’s story

Posted in 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 9:10 am by minidokapilgrimage

The words below are Johnny Valdez’s story.  He shared his powerful story with all of the attendees at the 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage.


June 22, 2013

– Twin Falls, ID – My name is Johnny Valdez. I am a Seattle based photographer, and I currently have a running photo exhibition entitled, “My Minidoka”. I am the son of a Sansei mother, and a Latino American Father, Grandson of two Nisei who were once incarcerated here at Minidoka along with their families. As everyone has a story, this one is mine, and it is an extension of theirs’ as well.

I photograph what I love, and what draws me in. My Grandparents are no longer living, so it is with immense compassion and sensitivity that I go about photographing our surviving Nisei. This is because when I take that picture of what I am seeing, I am essential taking a picture of my own Grandparents, and that is what I love.

In camp, my Grandmother’s name was Porky Noritake. She went to Hunt High School, and was in a band called the Minidoka Matinee. She sang songs on the radio like “Shina No Yoru” and “Don’t Fence Me In”. Her older brother Yosh, was in the 442nd’s 100th Battalion, and was killed in action in Bruyeres, France during the rescue of the lost Texas Battalion.

My Grandfather’s name was Johnny Uno. He was four years older than Porky and graduated from Hunt High School in 1943. He went into the Army, and after training at Camp Shelby was assigned to the 442nd. He served in Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. After the war he went to school on the G.I. Bill, and later became a podiatrist.


My work entitled “My Minidoka” is dedicated to my grandparents, Johnny and Porky Uno.

My Minidoka” is a personal project and an expression that I have been incubating for several years. It is my take on the Minidoka experience through my eyes and its impact on my own life. It comes from my heart. And it is an ongoing lifelong study of ideas and emotion that continues to evolve and manifest, as I often come to revisit it. It has had a profound effect on who I am as a person.

I was not there at Minidoka during the Second World War, but I have a deep emotional connection to it, as it has greatly affected my life. Like many defining moments in the lives of people, this for me was an impacting awakening of sorrow and tragedy. I first learned of the wrongful injustices and incarceration of a people, my people, when I was 8 years old. It was the 28th of May, 1990 – Memorial Day. This day would forever change the course of my life, and this would be the day when I would come to know Minidoka.

My father woke me up in tears repeating my name, “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny…” Soon after, he told me that there had been a car accident. “Grandpa died,” he said, “Auntie Mickey died and Uncle Toshi too,” he continued. I was breathless and in unimagined disbelief. It was awful. In tears I asked, “What about Grandma?” “Grandma is alright,” he said. And although I was experiencing a pain that I had never felt before, I was greatly relieved that I still had my grandmother.

The four of them were on their return journey home to Seattle from a pilgrimage to Minidoka when this fateful tragedy occurred. My father further explained to me the circumstances, significance and purpose of my grandparents’ and their siblings’ journey to this place in Idaho.

I was extremely close to my grandparents, and learning about mortality and impermanence in this traumatic way, I remember thinking that I never wanted to leave my grandmother’s side. During those days I even used to sleep on the floor next to her bed. I found myself extremely curious and inquisitive about these unique lives and the history of my grandparents, and my grandmother was my key to the past.

For years she and I shared in great conversations, and I was full of questions. She spoke of the shame, struggle and trauma of her people that once was, and which now transcends into great pride. Our people lost everything. We have shed our own blood to prove our loyalty and allegiance to the only country that we have ever called home.

Now as I take on this journey with this project, I navigate my way through the past. This work is a homage to my people. It is with immense compassion that I capture these moments, expressions and feelings. My images tend to carry more of a heavier tone and feeling, but in them there is love, and that comes from my heart. This is why I take these pictures. In the words of my Grandmother, “Shoganai! Gaman!”


July 14, 2013

Minidoka Pilgrimage 2013 Generations on Common Ground

Posted in 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, News tagged , , , , at 2:47 pm by minidokapilgrimage

Minidoka Pilgrimage 2013 Generations on Common Ground


Minidoka Pilgrimage 2013 Generations on Common Ground

From June 20th to June 23rd, about 200 former Japanese American incarcerees, their family members and friends gathered for the 11th Annual Minidoka Pilgrimage just outside Twin Falls, Idaho. More than 71 years have past since 13,000 Japanese Americans residing in the Pacific Northwest were removed from their homes and sent to a stark Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho. Pilgrimage participants — many of whom had spent years at the camp as young children — dedicated much of their time touring and reflecting on incarceration grounds, now the Minidoka National Historic Site.

They connected their experiences to advocacy at a civil liberties symposium on the campus of the College of Southern Idaho, helping to ensure all the stories and history of the Minidoka experience are passed on and that no group of people is ever targeted and incarcerated without due process again.

One of its young attendees Johnny Valdez is a vessel of that history, and inheritor of those stories. A Seattle-based photographer, and the son of a Sansei mother and Latino-American father, Valdez is the grandson of two Nisei who were incarcerated at Minidoka with their families.

“In camp, my grandmother’s name was Porky Noritake,” he says. “She went to Hunt High School and was in a band called the Minidoka Matinee. She sang songs on the radio like ‘Shina No Yoru’ and ‘Don’t Fence Me In.’ ”

Valdez incorporates his Japanese heritage and grandparents’ identities into his artist name, “Johnny Valdez y Uno.”

“My Grandfather’s name was Johnny Uno,” he says. “He was four years older than Porky and graduated from Hunt High School in 1943. He went into the Army, and after training at Camp Shelby was assigned to the 442nd. He served in Italy, Switzerland and Germany. After the war, he went to school on the GI Bill, and later became a podiatrist.”

Valdez’s photo essay honors his grandparents and all Nisei survivors.
“I photograph what I love and what draws me in,” he says. “My grandparents are no longer living, so it is with immense compassion and sensitivity that I go about photographing our surviving Nisei, because, essentially what it is that I am seeing as well as what I am taking a picture of, are my own grandparents. And that is what I love.”

Valdez captures the experience of his first Minidoka pilgrimage in 2012 in the exhibit, “My Minidoka,” which is on display at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington on 1414 South Weller Street in Seattle through Wednesday, July 17th. For more information about the exhibit, please contact

Children of the Issei

Posted in 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , , , , , at 2:31 pm by minidokapilgrimage

Children of the Issei by Dana Mar

Upon a dream
In a ship set on the path of the rising sun
I sailed under the billowing black of a Japanese steam ship
The sea roared her protest and the ship creaked fear into our sleep
We, the voyagers of the Japanese, traversed the ocean over time and uncertain promises
We brought our bags, our skills, our culture, our dreams, and our legacy to the
Land of the Free
They discovered the red and the white of our nations
Were separated by the blue of the ocean, in which our stars fell one by one
Shot down by fighter pilots and blown to bits in Pearl Harbor
In a ship set on the path to the golden waves of grain
I ceased being Japanese and became the enemy

In the nightmare of war
I was the first-born in the United States
Just a Nisei in Issei arms
How could they, those Americans just like us, say
These nurturing arms are the arms of the enemy?
As if my parents had never braved the blue waves to live under the stars and stripes
As if my loving mother could kill as well as she breathed life in a family
My family
Put into “camps” so desolate and so removed from our homes that someone once said
Will they let us die here or kill us first?
Two bags and our own arms to hold the past and future of every family
We were given mere days to leave home behind
All she could carry were her children and her American dream
Shattered by Japanese bombs
Those days were framed in barbed wire and dust

They spit Jap in my eyes and blinded me to hope
We were all faithful to the red, white, and blue
So I swore on my mother’s fear
My children would not be Japanese
Because I was equal in the eyes of God
Equal in my Asian eyes
The eyes that stood witness to the red of the rising sun
The red of the blood shed for atomic bombs that blew up the whites of our eyes

I became Sansei
I grew up knowing little of what that meant
I grew up as an American
Not quite knowing why other kids asked how I spoke such good English
The war had not ended with a mushroom cloud
I fought the shrapnel that threatened to cut my feet as I walked
Down a dusty road
And back to a place where barbed wire pierced my eyes
Pierced my heart
And told me that I had to say something

I woke up and I was Yonsei
Fourth generation in the United States
1942 became a paragraph briefly mentioned in a small classroom
I lived in an alien nation
In alienation
As my peers were deceived by Asian stereotypes
I was a type of person
But somehow not quite a person
My mother’s words echoed on the cases of three men
Korematsu, Hirabayashi, Yasui
In three generations of Japanese Americans
I found a suffering and a sadness that embraced my heart, seventy years later, in tears
But in that ship set on the path of the rising sun
I rose the sails of my voice and became more than my face and my meager height
The words of those who lost themselves in a concentration camp
Resonated stronger than the shockwaves of Nagasaki and Hiroshima
Japanese American became a badge of pride
It was silly when friends became honorary Asians
But from a people feared and hated so strongly once before
I became the dream

Once upon a dream
In a ship set on the path of the rising sun
Over an ocean of every color in one
I dreamt of being an immigrant
An enemy
A prisoner
A mother
A daughter
A legacy
A voice
I opened my eyes to see the sun rise
And woke together with purpose in my voice
And determination in my eyes
We were all American
All proud children of the Issei

A Wooden Heart

Posted in 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , , , , , at 2:27 pm by minidokapilgrimage

A Wooden Heart by Dana Mar

Dana Mar - Wooden Heart MP Poem 2 photo (alternative poem)

They close their eyes and hide their tears
Not looking at the horrible sights and fears
Know happiness and laughter, don’t look away
I can’t help anyone with nothing to say
Thus why I keep living with care
I protect all I can, just try me: I dare

We thought we would die in that lonesome camp
The face of my race became a terrorists’ stamp
I opened the door to a shoddy shack
And lived with dust blowing through every crack
To make the most of our situation
We built schools and a fire station
Some volunteered for the war effort
Loyalty to the States never fell short

Regretfully hope was lost at times
When we remembered our nonexistent crimes

To doubt one’s self, is to doubt another
Part of you might be a friend or brother
Don’t jump to judge by nationality
Even you are a native fallacy
In Minidoka I had a wooden heart
After these years, I’ve got to restart

Fly above the trees, soar below the stars
It is a process now, to heal all the scars
A smile can brighten even the darkest days
Just one rain-drop laugh, clears away the haze
I returned to that desolate campsite
The memories came back in new light
Feelings of fear and resentment
Melted away in American testament

I felt the tears passing through that door
Seeing the desolation of camp once more
I looked at it thoughtfully from afar
A blue wooden door standing just ajar
Where now my heart stands wide open
I am made of stronger stuff, unbroken

The future of the past is held in Yonsei hands
Where now that old wood building stands
Hope is rebuilt for a future of
Uneasy prejudice turned communal love

July 11, 2013

2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage Photos

Posted in 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, Photos tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:30 pm by minidokapilgrimage

Here’s links to various sites where pictures from the 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage have been posted!

Feel free to browse and use for your own personal usage but if you wish to use pictures for commercial purposes please contact us at: for more information.

Ryan Kozu:

Eugene Tagawa: 

Saturday: Site tours, Legacy sessions:
Saturday evening:

July 3, 2013

Minidoka Pilgrimage Reminds Us Of Our Past

Posted in 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , at 1:53 pm by minidokapilgrimage

If you wish to view the video, please check it out on the KMVT’s website using the link below:

Minidoka Pilgrimage Reminds Us Of Our Past

By Brandon Redmond

Story Created: Jun 23, 2013 at 9:41 PM MDT

Story Updated: Jun 24, 2013 at 3:42 PM MDT

Jerome County, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KTWT-TV ) “My wife and I have been here twice before and we thought it would be nice to bring our kids and grandkids with us,” said Tebo Matsudaira, a Japanese American.

The Minidoka Pilgrimage is a way for Japanese Americans and all Americans to remember a controversial part of our past.

“This site is important because it’s a piece of American history that maybe we shouldn’t be proud of, but we should acknowledge and learn from,” said Christine Smith with the National Parks Service.

During World War II, thousands of Americans with Japanese ancestry were moved to the Minidoka internment camp. Most of the Japanese community from Alaska, Oregon and Washington spent three years at Minidoka. The pilgrimage is a way for Japanese Americans to reflect on the past.

“To let them know what we went through because we never discussed anything about Minidoka with them and now they are all interested because they are here now and they are very interested in what happened and this is a real good education for them,” said Tebo Matsudaira.

After the war, the land was turned over for agriculture use. Now the park’s service is buying back parts of the land and restoring some of the old buildings.

“And the fact that we are now doing that and we are doing it as part of the National Parks Service story makes it a national story and that’s what makes this important,” said Christine Smith.

Learning from our past for a better future.

Former Internees Trek to Minidoka Relocation Center

Posted in 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, News tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 1:46 pm by minidokapilgrimage

Former Internees Trek to Minidoka Relocation Center

June 24, 2013 2:00 am  •  By Julie Wootton –

EDEN • Louise Kashino remembers windy days as a teenager at the Minidoka Relocation Center when the dust would fly up and sting her eyes.

At the camp surrounded by barbed wire, it would make it hard to see anything.

Saturday, the weather conditions were much the same as in the 1940s, as the wind whipped the tall grass at what’s now the Minidoka National Historic Site.

But Kashino – who is in her 80s and lives in Seattle – said when she comes back to visit what was once the internment camp, it isn’t the sagebrush and sand-covered landscape she remembers.

“It’s totally different,” she said, sitting in a tour bus during the annual Minidoka Pilgrimage.

Kashino described the experience as “nostalgic.”

She arrived at the Minidoka Relocation Center – about 15 miles north of Twin Falls – when she was 16 .

About 200 people went on the Minidoka Pilgrimage this weekend, participating in walking tours and ceremonies.

Kashino and about 10 other people on the pilgrimage – many of whom were internees – recalled their experiences as they talked to each other on a tour bus.

Most were children or teenagers when they were at the Hunt Camp. Many come back year after year for the pilgrimage.

Tosh Okamoto, who lives in Seattle, said most of the people who were sitting around him live in the Portland and Seattle areas now.

“Most of us are in our 80s,” he said.

Looking back on his time as an internee, Okamoto recalled what it was like to be forced to relocate.

“I think for most of us, it was an injustice against us,” he said.

But Okamoto said he’s proud of the Japanese-American culture.

“We could have been really angry,” he said, but noted most of his peers aren’t.

The anger over what happened hasn’t been so much that it prevented them from moving forward, he said.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in February 1942.

It forced the relocation of more than 120,000 West Coast Japanese-Americans into temporary incarceration facilities.

The Minidoka Relocation Center was one 10 centers.

When internees arrived at the Minidoka Relocation Center in 1942, the camp wasn’t even complete yet. But Hunt, Idaho, ended up becoming the seventh largest population center in the state.

In the 1940s, the camp comprised about 600 structures spanning 33,000 acres. After it closed, many of the buildings were moved. Only a few remain.

Saturday, participants in the Minidoka Pilgrimage wore paper tags on strings with their names, similar to the IDs internees wore at the camp.

Groups took walking tours along a 1.6-mile trail, making stops at buildings such as a root cellar, old warehouse and two barracks with peeling white paint.

But the most of the camp has long been dismantled.

As one of the tour groups stopped in half of an old warehouse, dozens of visitors took pictures and looked up at the old wooden ceiling beams.

In a town that had nearly 10,000 people, the tour guide said, warehouses were essential for storage.

People of several generations – from children to those in their 80s or 90s – looked around the historic site, which was created in 2001.

Many brought cameras and took pictures.

During the pilgrimage, tour groups looked at the honor roll, which lists the names of Japanese Americans from the relocation center who served in the military during World War II.

Okamoto, a World War II veteran, recalls a memorial service for his fellow internees who volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army and were killed in action.

“It was a sad time,” he said.

May 28, 2013

Registration Fees increase on June 1st

Posted in 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Minidoka Pilgrimage, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 4:08 pm by minidokapilgrimage

Registration now before the registration fees increase on June 1! You can register online:

March 29, 2013

2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage Press Release

Posted in 2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Civil Liberties Symposium, Friends of Minidoka, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, News tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 8:53 am by minidokapilgrimage

Press Release – For Immediate Release

2013 Minidoka Pilgrimage June 20 – June 23

Scholarship for 80 Years Old and Over Imprisoned in Any of the American WWII Concentration Camps

Seattle, WA – March 11, 2013 –Seventy-one years ago, close to 13,000 people of Japanese-ancestry, many of whom were American citizens, were removed from their homes in the Pacific Northwest and sent to a desolate “incarceration camp” near Twin Falls, Idaho.  This summer, the 11th pilgrimage will take place with former incarcerees, their families, and friends – from Seattle, Portland and across the nation – to the former Minidoka Camp in Idaho.  This is an opportunity to learn, share memories, and ask questions about the Minidoka experience.  Consider participating as a way to bring your family together and reconnect with friends.  Participation is limited.

The 2013 Pilgrimage will include:

  • Access to an original barrack building and mess hall.  People will be able to go in portions of both historic buildings.
  • Reconstructed fence is complete.  It runs about one mile in length from the stone entrance buildings along the North Side Canal to the historic swimming hole.  The trail is parallel to the fence, so that visitors can see the fence and walk along it.
  • New collections storage building completed to house Minidoka collections items at Hagerman Fossil Beds.
  • Guided tour of the Minidoka National Historic Site by National Park Service staff.
  • Commemorative Closing Ceremony at Minidoka.

This year, the Civil Liberties Symposium sponsored by Friends of Minidoka is going to be held at the College of Southern Idaho (CSI).  The Pilgrimage will officially begin in Twin Falls on Thursday evening, June 20, 2013.

Registration deadline is June 1, 2013.  You can mail your forms and payment to:  Minidoka Pilgrimage, 511 16th Ave. S., Seattle, WA  98144.  Please note that lodging is not included in either the Seattle/Bellevue Package or the Twin Falls Package. Please arrange your lodging accommodations in Twin Falls, Idaho on your own.  Also, Pilgrims in need of services of a personal nature are responsible for arranging for such services prior to registering for the pilgrimage and are encouraged to travel with a companion for such purposes.

We will again be offering a SENIOR SCHOLARSHIP for this year’s Pilgrims who are over 80 years of age and older, and were imprisoned in any of the American Concentration Camps during WWII.  This scholarship covers the registration fee, hotel, and bus costs (roundtrip bus transportation from Bellevue College to Minidoka) will be waived.  We are grateful to the 2003 Minidoka Remembrance fund and the proceeds from the 2013 Day of Remembrance Taiko Festival for making this opportunity available.

For other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at  All documents will be available on the Pilgrimage website:  If you are unable to access the forms and information by computer, please leave your name and address with Ann Fujii Lindwall at 206-367-8749 and they can be mailed to you.

Contact:  ANN FUJII LINDWALL; (206) 367-8749;