September 8, 2015

Minidoka Pilgrimage Throws New Mission to Younger Generations

Posted in 2015 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , , at 5:23 pm by minidokapilgrimage

http://www.napost.com/2015/08/13/minidoka-pilgrimage-throws-new-mission-to-youger-generations/

By Fumika Iwasaki
The North American Post

The 11th annual Minidoka Pilgrimage was held from June 25 to June 28, and I joined the event as a scholarship recipient of the committee. On the four-day tour, about 200 participants had the chance to visit Minidoka National Historic Site, a former Japanese American incarceration camp site, and to hear stories from those who were incarcerated, researchers and activists.

This year marked the 70th anniversary of the ending of World War II. People who can share firsthand experiences of incarceration are aging, and their number has been decreasing every year.

In this pilgrimage, the great majority of pilgrims were in their 70s or 80s and actually experienced World War II or in their 40s or 50s with parents or relatives who were incarcerated. Meanwhile, about 10% of participants were younger than 30.

Youth had a chance to gather in a session on the second day and discuss and share their thoughts on the pilgrimage, reasons to participate in the pilgrimage this year and how to preserve the history for the next generation.

Preserving history is not easy.

“My grandmother and grandfather were incarcerated, but they did not want to talk about it,” one said, while others added, “My grandmother and grandfather already passed away so I cannot hear about it.”

In Japan, there are usually few chances to learn about Japanese American history. But surprisingly, I also realized that pilgrimage participants told me that some American text books cover Japanese American history in only half a page.

This pilgrimage has significant meaning because youth can visit a historic site and hear about experiences and research of the Japanese American incarceration.

“They had only one room per family, so they had no privacy except in the bathroom,” one speaker said in the legacy session of the pilgrimage program.

Their housing situation was extremely bad as they suffered from dust because of cracks in the floors of the barracks. As all pilgrims experienced, the summer is hot and heavy snows comes in the winter.

But through this tour, I also learned about efforts to make incarceration camps active and livable. As Kay Sakai Nakao said, “Through the negatives, a lot of positives happened,” the Nikkei in the incarceration camp lived with more than sadness. The documentary shown in the educational session shared stories of their making furniture and toys for Christmas.

“Near my house, there still remained a custom that older people took care of younger people, so older people made toys for me,” said Kanji Sahara.

In the warehouse site at the Minidoka National Historical Site, a National Park Service guide said, “From the second year of incarceration, people exchanged food amongst themselves to eat more varieties of food.”

Still, the historic and unjust experiences cannot be changed.

“Some people were put in jail without proper process,” said Harriet Miyasato Beleal. “We have so many civil rights.”

When Japanese people who live in Japan hear about compulsory interment during World War II, they might think of concentration camps such as Auschwitz. For Japanese Americans however, there were no compulsory labor or genocide, but they were forced to leave their homes, and some of them were sent to jail unconditionally. Regardless of homeland or race, to prevent racial discrimination like compulsory internment, we have to learn about history as a problem of human rights.

“We are looking for Sansei and Yonsei to tell the story we heard this pilgrimage,” said Don Shimono, a Minidoka Pilgrimage committee member.

It depends on the next generation to keep the history of incarceration in people’s memories. As one of them, I have been questioning myself after this pilgrimage.

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July 24, 2015

2015 Minidoka Pilgrimage Photos

Posted in 2015 Minidoka Pilgrimage tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:32 am by minidokapilgrimage

Here are links to various sites where pictures from the 2015 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: minidokapilgrimage@gmail.com for more information.

Ryan Kozu:

Minidoka Pilgrimage 2015

Lori Matsukawa:
http://www.king5.com/story/news/local/2015/07/01/minidoka-pilgrimage-2015/29548429/

February 24, 2015

2015 Minidoka Pilgrimage Press Release

Posted in 2015 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Friends of Minidoka, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, News tagged , , , , , , , at 9:30 am by minidokapilgrimage

Press Release – For Immediate Release

2015 Minidoka Pilgrimage June 25 – June 28, 2015
Announcing the 13th Annual Minidoka Pilgrimage

Seattle, WA – February 24, 2015 –
The Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee announces the 2015 pilgrimage dates are Thursday, June 25 through Sunday, June 28, 2015.

In 1942, almost 13,000 people of Japanese-ancestry living in Washington and Oregon, many of whom were American citizens, were removed from their homes and sent to a desolate “concentration camp” near Twin Falls, Idaho. This summer, the 13th 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 Minidoka Pilgrimage officially begins in Twin Falls, Idaho on Thursday evening, June 25, for dinner. On Friday, this year will feature a full day of educational programming. On Saturday, the group tours the Minidoka National Park Site followed with small group discussions to learn and share experiences of the incarceration experience. On Sunday morning, we will conclude our pilgrimage with a commemorative closing ceremony at Minidoka National Park Site.

Pilgrimage Details
Registration forms and additional information for the pilgrimage can be found at www.minidokapilgrimage.org.

There are two different registration packages:
·       The Seattle/Bellevue package includes bus transportation from Bellevue, Washington to Twin Falls, Idaho. The registration fee is $400.00.

·       The Boise/Twin Falls Package requires participants to provide their own transportation to Twin Falls, Idaho. The price is $200.00. **There is a discount on both packages for children under 12 and seniors 75 years and older.

The registration fee includes meals and all activities during the pilgrimage. Lodging must be made by each participant. Please review the Hotel and Information document and the Registration Form for more information on Pilgrimage packages (Seattle and Twin Falls). This information can be found on the Minidoka Pilgrimage web site at: www.minidokapilgrimage.org.

The Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee is excited to once again offer a SENIOR SCHOLARSHIP for those who are over 80 years of age and were imprisoned in any of the American concentration camps during WWII. Please review the Senior Scholarship Registration Form to apply for the scholarship.

All forms and information can be found on the Minidoka Pilgrimage website at: www.minidokapilgrimage.org.

For other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at minidokapilgrimage@gmail.com.

For those who cannot access the forms and information by computer, please leave your name and address with Dale H Watanabe at 206-296-6260 and they can be mailed to you.

Contact: Dale H Watanabe
(206) 296-2156
watanad@seattleu.edu

###

October 13, 2014

Remembering Henry Miyatake: A man with the plan

Posted in Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, News tagged , , , , , , at 11:25 am by minidokapilgrimage

http://www.iexaminer.org/2014/10/henry-miyatake-a-man-with-the-plan/

Remembering Henry Miyatake: A man with the plan

BOB SHIMABUKURO OCTOBER 13, 2014

Henry Miyatake was one of the earliest proponents behind the redress movement from the early 70s. • Image from a video at Densho Encyclopedia

History demands that the person who gave birth to an idea must be recognized when it reaches maturation.

—Washington Supreme Court Justice Charles Z. Smith, on Henry Miyatake, 1997


A one-liner from the October 3 edition of the Auburn (Washington) Reporter reported under “Deaths:”

Miyatake, Henry, 85, September 16.

That’s it.

After all he did for the Japanese American community and everyone who was affected by E.O. 9066, which means all of us residing in the United States, he gets a one-liner in the County Register. I shed a few tears over that thought. And then I wrote:

“Great man, restless mind

Died alone, apparently;

Maybe he wanted it that way.

RIP, Henry.”

I couldn’t think of anything more to write.

*   *   *

Later, I remembered half-promises to him.

“Bob,” Henry said about 3-to-4 years ago, “you haven’t finished writing about the Internment.”

“Yes, I have,” I said.

“No you haven’t,” he answered, handing me a book. “You’ve got to read this. You’ll see what I’m talking about.”

I looked at it. Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor, by Robert D. Stinnett. I thought, “Oh no, not another book about Magic Cables and stuff like that. What’s Henry doing reading this kind of crap?”

He must have read my mind. “Just read it, Bob,” he said. “It’s the real story of United States getting into the war. And why we ended up in the camps.”

“But it’s not my kind of reading,” I said. “It’s all words, numbers, and people’s names. Lots and lots of description. No dialogue. Tough to follow. My mind drifts too much.”

Henry made me promise that I’d take a look at the book. I did. And I knew why it consumed him. But after slogging through five-to-six chapters of the book, I was asking myself, do I really want to write anything on this?

I figured out what got Henry’s attention. Stinnett was making the case that President Franklin Roosevelt knew of Japan’s plans to bomb Pearl Harbor, but he wanted to let it happen in order to unite the country into entering the war and, perhaps, even incarcerating us.

But I really didn’t see any reason to pursue a book, let alone finish Day of Deceit. Whether we were pawns in FDR’s political battles or the entire country’s scapegoat for the war made no difference to me. In the end the President, Supreme Court, Congress, and every U.S. citizen shoulder the responsibility. They all used us for pawns in their game in which people who can be identified by their looks and appearances may be sacrificed without regard to the laws written on the books. No different than what is happening now.

But I just couldn’t tell Henry that I wasn’t interested. Because he was a very persistent guy. And then I’d end up making a promise I never would keep, … as opposed to only a half-promise. So I avoided giving him his book back. And I’ve felt bad every time I see this book in my house. It’s too late now to give it back.

For those who don’t know about Henry’s historic achievements, he was the “Man with THE Plan,” the Seattle Plan for redress. In November 1979, Congressman Mike Lowry introduced the first redress bill for the 120,000 Japanese Americans who were incarcerated for no reason other than their ancestry under the guise of “military necessity.” Henry’s plan was the basis for that bill.

Henry did a lot of research, pitched his plan to his friend, Mike Nakata, who talked to his friend Shosuke Sasaki, and all of them started talking to community members and organizations, including nationalJapanese American Citizens League, and reached out to the remotest parts of the country to gather enough votes in Congress to redress a wrong.

This 20-year organizing campaign, ending in the 1990s when payments of $20,000 went to individuals who were incarcerated or forcibly evicted from where they were living is one of the most remarkable stories of the 20th century.

I asked some of the younger folks in the community if they had heard about Henry Miyatake who had just died last month. Too many of those I asked did not know who he was. I felt sad once again.

So I can’t let this rest. There are a lot more stories about Henry Miyatake. In a month or two or even three, we will have a memorial service for Henry. All of us who knew Henry should get together with those who did not know Henry and what he did for everyone who who cares about democracy and everyone who takes it for granted.

Watch for notice of it. We need this, whether we know it or not.

I, along with Tom Ikeda of Densho, Japanese American Citizens League Seattle Chapter, Nisei Veterans Committee and other individuals and organizations will be working on a memorial service for Henry. More information will follow in the coming weeks.

Bob Shimabukuro is the author of “Born in Seattle: The Campaign for Japanese American Redress.”

*UPDATE: COMMUNITY MEMORIAL EVENT FOR HENRY MIYATAKE*

There will be a community memorial event for redress activist Henry Miyatake on Saturday, December 6, 2014, at NVC Memorial Hall, 1212 S King Street, Seattle, WA 98144. A pre-event social, with light refreshments, will begin at 1:00 PM. The memorial program will be from 2:00-3:00 PM.

August 5, 2014

Memories Revisited on the Minidoka Pilgrimage

Posted in 2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, News tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:39 am by minidokapilgrimage

Memories Revisited on the Minidoka Pilgrimage
by Dana Mar

DSC_0054 copyPhoto by: Dana Mar

Heartfelt stories and hopes for the future were shared on the annual pilgrimage to the Minidoka incarceration camp from this past June 19 through the 22nd. Over the course of these few days, pilgrims—a vast majority of whom were from Washington and Idaho—traveled to gather in Twin Falls, Idaho to commune with one another over the subject of Minidoka and the current-day application of the consequences of the incarceration of so many Japanese and Japanese Americans.

Still full of energy, many of the Nisei revisited memories during the pilgrimage of their time in camp and imparted stories of life seventy years ago when President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, effectively removing Japanese and Japanese Americans from the majority of the West Coast. Some flew with multiple generations of family, while others braved the long bus ride, incidentally turning out to be more of an adventure than half the Seattle pilgrims expected as one of the buses unexpectedly broke down. Difficulties of the drive aside, yet incomparable to the experience of those bussed to Minidoka in the 1940s, it provided time for pilgrims to get to know each other and seek out old friends.

DSC_0307Tetsuden and Kanako Kashima standing next to the 2014 Pilgrimage Momento at the Closing Ceremony
Photo by: Dana Mar

This year, the Minidoka Pilgrimage held an educational program on the second day rather than a trip to the Civil Liberties Symposium. The session featured several notable speakers and presenters including opening remarks by Yosh Nakagawa, and sessions held three at a time following presented by Rev. Brooks Andrews, Dr. Neil Nakadate, Dr. Lawrence Matsuda, and more. In addition, the Pilgrimage provided genealogy workshops run by Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee members Stephen Kitajo and Bif Brigman, a film screening of Kash, directed by Vince Matsudaira, and the Minidoka Collections Tour held in previous years. The educational sessions turned out as quite a success and allowed a great variety of opportunities to listen, learn, and ask questions on subjects regarding Minidoka and the many aspects varying groups and individuals brought to the Pilgrimage.

As it was when I first attended the pilgrimage last year, the pilgrims bussed to the Minidoka site itself for a tour of the grounds upon which they were allowed to view and experience a number of returned and still standing original structures from the grounds and block 22, as well as, for the very first time, see the newly built historically accurate guard tower, constructed thanks to generous donations to the Friends of Minidoka who managed the project. Where trains and buses dropped families upon families of those defined by their Japanese heritage and “the wind swirled dust clouds,/ghosts of Minidoka wandering the land” as Lawrence Matsuda read aloud during his session on Friday, memories were unstuck from their place behind gaman. The experience of desolation, sadness, wind, heat, and sheer distance one must walk to get from one location to another gave just a small sense of what life was like for all the Issei and Nisei incarcerated there.

DSC_0091Pilgrims walking towards the site of Block 22, where an original mess hall and barrack sit
Photo by: Dana Mar

We remembered the great hardships the Issei had to go through in being imprisoned in a foreign nation and regarded as dangerous enemies despite having shown no indication of the sort. As the few remaining Nisei shared their stories and thoughts in the subsequent talk story session wherein pilgrims were split into smaller discussion groups, I recalled the words repeated to me so many times before, “Nidoto nai yoni.” In the words of Vince Matsudaira just after the showing of Kash,

DSC_0098Pilgrims walking by an original barrack building on Block 22
Photo by: Dana Mar

“people forget, history forgets, so, you know, I think we can all make our marks somewhere. …Each of us know, like, a hundred people so that keeps spreading out and spreading out, but unless it keeps going it’ll die.”

Accounts of fond memories and reminiscences of bitterness and healing from those who were in the camps were passed on from families and pilgrims previously incarcerated to those who needed to know what a grandmother never shared or how precisely did an incident occur or even what it felt like to be in the shoes of the unjustly persecuted generations of the past. It was both a sobering and heartwarming experience that one truly must be present on the pilgrimage to experience. It was an amazing experience one is not likely to forget and, as so much of the memories are being lost as time passes, ought not to for how valuable these first and even second-hand accounts are for younger and future generations to know of.

DSC_0279Presentation of the Colors by American Legion Post #41, Wendell, ID
Photo by: Dana Mar

The Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee and this year’s student scholarship recipients did such outstanding work for this year’s pilgrimage, deemed the “year of the guard tower,” and is in deserving of much thanks and appreciation. The pilgrimage has served for years to As we work to commemorate generations past and educate others about the deeper meaning of the camps and the incarceration, we hold high hopes for future generations to carry on the legacy of the Issei and Nisei.

DSC_0270Pilgrims waiting for the ribbon cutting ceremony of the newly reconstructed guard tower
Photo by: Dana Mar

July 30, 2014

2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage Photos

Posted in 2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, News, Photos, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 4:48 pm by minidokapilgrimage

Here’s links to various sites where pictures from the 2014 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: minidokapilgrimage@gmail.com for more information.

Ryan Kozu:
https://picasaweb.google.com/103180039956765998297/MinidokaPilgrimage2014?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCJ7Pxp7Wm9vVEQ&feat=directlink

Minidoka Pilgrimage 2014

Dana Mar:
https://picasaweb.google.com/minidokapilgrimage/2014MinidokaPilgrimageDana?authuser=0&feat=directlink

2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage – Dana

Eugene Tagawa:
https://picasaweb.google.com/100930662448489700454/2014MinidokaPilgrimageGroupsL?authkey=Gv1sRgCLuK1-3l-vSb3wE&noredirect=1

June 30, 2014

2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage Group Pictures

Posted in 2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Friends of Minidoka, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, Photos tagged , , , , , , , at 9:55 am by minidokapilgrimage

Here are some of the large group pictures from the 2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage.
Photo Credit: Eugene Tagawa

IMG_2571

2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage Participants

IMG_2563b

Everyone who was incarcerated in Camp

IMG_2575b

Sanseis

IMG_2577b

Yonsei/Gonsei

IMG_2584b

Hapas

IMG_3106a

2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee

IMG_3215a

2014 Seattle Bus Riders

June 10, 2014

Minidoka: Memory and Survival Captured in Literary Works

Posted in 2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage, Friends of Minidoka, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, News, Photos tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:17 am by minidokapilgrimage

http://www.iexaminer.org/2014/06/minidoka-memory-and-survival-captured-in-literary-works/

Minidoka: Memory and survival captured in literary works

STAN SHIKUMA JUNE 9, 2014

Minidoka War Relocation Center, Idaho, USA. Inside the coop store of block 30, 1943. • Photo by U.S. Department of the Interior

In 1942, almost 13,000 people of Japanese ancestry, many of whom were American citizens, were removed from their homes and sent to a desolate incarceration camp near Twin Falls, Idaho. Japanese Americans spent nearly three years incarcerated at Minidoka and other camps during World War II.  Today, the Minidoka site continues to hold a mixture of memories and strong emotions—feelings of denial, distrust, shame, and joy.

 —Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee

The memories won’t die and the legacy lives on in generations that never lived inside the barbed wire of Minidoka. This is due in large part to the work of groups like the Minidoka Pilgrimage Planning Committee and Friends of Minidoka who continue to raise consciousness around the Japanese American concentration camp experience and the designation of Minidoka as a National Historic Site.

Credit is also due to the work of many authors, scholars, filmmakers, photographers and journalists who continue to research and write about the incarceration and removal, finding new details, new stories, and new connections that help keep the story alive and relevant to the present.

Two such works were recently published. One is a book by photojournalist Teresa Tamura and the other is a compilation of essays edited by historians Russell M. Tremayne and Todd Shallat.


Minidoka

Minidoka: An American Concentration Camp
By Teresa Tamura
Caxton Press, 2013

Tamura’s Minidoka chronicles the author’s own journey from a passive state of ignorance and embarrassment about Minidoka to a passionate desire to unearth and illuminate the history of the people and the place. As a photojournalist, she achieves this largely through the photos she takes of people, sites, and artifacts associated with Minidoka and the explanatory captions supplied.

Through her research, well documented in footnotes and bibliography, Tamura reveals several little known facts and provides a clear historic context. The author’s intro and a special essay by Mitsuye Yamada make fascinating reading, but the heart of the book lies in the black and white photographs taken by the author.

Tamura includes many voices in her book, providing us with the photos and perspectives of those who lived or worked in the camp; those who left Minidoka for school, work, the army or prison; those who were actually born in camp; and those who worked to keep the memories alive through organizing, teaching, speaking, writing, art, literature, and poetry. She gives a voice, a name, a face, and a historical backdrop to each portrait.


surviving_minidoka

Surviving Minidoka: The Legacy of WWII Japanese American Incarceration
Russell M. Tremayne and Todd Shallat, editors
Boise State University, 2013

In Surviving Minidoka, editors Tremayne and Shallat preserve 10 “essays and insights from the College of Southern Idaho’s annual Minidoka Civil Liberties Symposium. Contributors, in pictures and words, honor the enduring spirit of nidoto nai yoni: “let it not happen again.” (Tremayne, from An American Tragedy).

The pieces range from historical scholarly works like that of Professor Greg Robinson on Mixing the Races, to personal remembrances from artist Roger Shimomura and the late Frank Kitamoto, to reflections on specific topics or personalities like Anna Hosticka Tamura’s piece on Minidoka Gardens or Russell M. Tremayne’s piece on Nakashima woodworker. Interspersed throughout are poems and excerpts from the writings of Lawrence Matsuda, Mitsuye Yamada, Lawson Fusao Inada, and others.

Like any collection of writings by several authors, the leap from one essay to the next is sometimes wide, both in style and content. Taken as a whole, however, the 10 essays, punctuated with numerous ancillary photos and writings, create a nuanced picture of Minidoka concentration camp and of the social milieu in which it was created: early 20th century America.

Viewed side by side, Minidoka and Surviving Minidoka offer a stark contrast: one in muted black and white with a single narrative and author, the other a busy full-color volume with multiple viewpoints and far-ranging topics. Both, however, are artistically attractive, both apt to kindle some emotional response, each with a unique take on one of America’s ten concentration camps of WWII: Minidoka.

The 2014 Minidoka Pilgrimage takes place from June 19 to 22. This 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. For more information, visit www.minidokapilgrimage.org.

June 3, 2014

Visitor Center Planned for Minidoka National Historic Site

Posted in Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, News tagged , , , , , , , at 9:55 am by minidokapilgrimage

http://magicvalley.com/news/local/visitor-center-planned-for-minidoka-national-historic-site/article_feed3a24-e625-11e3-878f-001a4bcf887a.html

Visitor Center Planned for Minidoka National Historic Site

May 28, 2014 1:30 am  •  

EDEN • The Minidoka National Historic Site near Eden was an internment camp established during World War II where approximately 13,000 Japanese-American internees were detained. Now, through the National Park Service, the old Minidoka Relocation Center will be receiving a brand new visitor center to tell the story of the hardships of Japanese-Americans held there.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. The order authorized the Secretary of War to exclude any persons from designated areas as a national security measure. According to Carol Ash, chief of interpretation and education for the National Park Service at Hagerman Fossil Beds and Minidoka, nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were rounded up along the Pacific Coast following Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and placed into internment camps throughout the country.

In addition to a new staffed visitor center at the site in Eden, some of the camp’s original buildings will be rehabilitated to provide a better perspective of life while imprisoned there. Exhibits detailing the incarceration experience will be built and a public reflection area will also be available where visitors to the site can record their feelings about the camp.

“There were government reports that said they (Japanese-Americans) were no threat to their country during WWII,” Ash said. “After the war was over there was not one single documented case of sabotage by the Nisei, by the Japanese. It truly, truly was a civil liberties issue and that’s what makes these sites so very important.”

Ash also said that an oral history area will be on-site and contain audio of camp internees talking about their experiences. Ash hopes that a new visitor’s center at the site will help better educate and illustrate the importance of remembering what happened. Ash said that plans are moving Planning for the new visitor’s center began in April and it will hopefully completed by 2017, Ash said.

“We call it a site of conscience,” said Ash of the Minidoka site. “Two thirds of those people were American citizens. There was no due process of any kind and they were forcibly removed from their homes.”

The internees were sent to detention centers where they stayed for months until the relocation centers were built. From 1942 to 1945, the internment camps would be home to American citizens because of widespread paranoia following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

“They spent three years in prison,” Ash said. “With no due process it becomes a civil liberties issue and that’s why it’s so critical that we remember that.”

March 23, 2014

Dr. Frank Kitamoto, 74, Japanese-American leader dies

Posted in Bainbridge Island, Friends of Minidoka, Japanese American Incarceration, Minidoka, Minidoka Pilgrimage, News tagged , , , , , , at 9:09 am by minidokapilgrimage

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2023194344_kitamotoobit1xml.html

Dr. Frank Kitamoto, 74, Japanese-American leader dies

Dr. Frank Kitamoto, a leader of Bainbridge Island’s Japanese-American community, who spread awareness about Japanese internment camps, died of kidney and heart complications March 15 at a Seattle hospital. He was 74.

March 22, 2014

By Paige Cornwell
Seattle Times staff reporter

Frank Kitamoto sits next to a plaque at the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial.
COURTESY THE KITAMOTO FAMILY, 2008
Frank Kitamoto sits next to a plaque at the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial.

When Japanese Americans returned home after being incarcerated in internment camps during World War II, no one wanted to talk about their experiences. It was too painful. They wanted to move on.

Determined to ensure that what his community experienced would never happened again, Frank Kitamoto broke that silence.

Dr. Kitamoto, a dentist, was a leader of Bainbridge Island’s Japanese-American community, who spread awareness about Japanese internment camps, died March 15 at a Seattle hospital. He was 74.

He died of heart and kidney complications, according to his sister Lilly Kodama, of Bainbridge Island.

Frank Kitamoto was 2½ years old in 1942 when he, his mother and three sisters were sent to the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California after President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. His father had already been rounded up by the FBI for questioning; he joined the family later.

The Japanese Americans on Bainbridge Island were the first group in Washington to be taken to the internment camps, Dr. Kitamoto said during an interview with Idaho Public Television in 2007. The Kitamoto family stayed in Manzanar for 11 months, then they were transferred to Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho.

Dr. Kitamoto’s earliest memories were from the camps, so, he said, he didn’t know what he was missing then. Later, he realized how difficult it must have been for the adults. He remembered spit-wad fights with other children and getting trampled at the end of the Miss Minidoka contest. When he was 5, he stole cigarettes from his dad’s dresser and smoked the whole pack, he told the television interviewer. Afterward, he was sick for a week.

“But I did give up smoking when I was 5 years old,” he said. “I remember that.”

Dr. Kitamoto was 5 when his family returned to Bainbridge Island near the end of the war. He struggled with identity, said Gerald Elfendahl, who met him in the early 1980s when they worked together on an exhibit at the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, where Elfendahl was the curator.

“After World War II, there was such a strong social pressure for the Japanese to assimilate and not share their culture,” Elfendahl said. “He didn’t think it was good to be Japanese,” Dr. Kitamoto told him.

That changed when Dr. Kitamoto realized the public needed to hear about their experiences, Kodama said. When he tried to interview those who had been interned, some members of the community viewed him as an “angry young man who was rocking the boat,” said Clarence Moriwaki, who met Dr. Kitamoto in 1998 when Dr. Kitamoto was president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community.

“There were 120,000 stories, and all their stories are different, “Moriwaki said. “Some have spent their whole time trying to forget it. Talking about it picks at that scab, and it’s painful. Frank did understand that, but he wanted to make sure that it didn’t happen again.”

Dr. Kitamoto worked with others to create an oral-history project, which he presented to students in Washington and across the nation. When Dr. Kitamoto’s exhibits and the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial were completed, the same men who initially had been opposed came forward, Kodama said.

“They told Frank they were sure glad he didn’t pay any attention to them,” Kodama said.

Dr. Kitamoto had a successful dental practice on Bainbridge Island. In his offices, there were rooms filled with heirlooms donated to him by Japanese-American families. It must have driven his wife, Sharon, crazy, Moriwaki said, but she also recognized how important the items were.

“The artifacts were all over the place, and yet he felt these were important to save,” Moriwaki said. “He knew those pieces weren’t junk, they were somebody’s story.”

In addition to his sister, Lilly, survivors include Dr. Kitamoto’s wife, Sharon, and son Derek, both of Bainbridge Island, and sister Frances Ikegami of Bremerton.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or pcornwell@seattletimes.com

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