This is a recap of most of my remarks at a recent Feb. 18, 2017 Day of Remembrance event at the Tucson Desert Art Museum, where there are currently 3 ongoing art & history exhibits on the WWII internment camps. About 120,000 Japanese Americans civilians (2/3 were U.S. Citizens, ½ were children) were rounded up by the US Government and incarcerated into 10 large relocation centers in desolate parts of America (including two camps in Arizona). It is fitting to publish these remarks today, February 19, 2017, on the 75th anniversary of the signing by President Franklin D. Roosevelt of Executive Order 9066 which caused this unjust relocation & internment.
“I am Sansei (3rd generation) from Hawaii, as my grandparents Hyakuji and Tai Sugiyama left Hiroshima and arrived in June, 1892 to the Kingdom of Hawaii before it fell in 1893. They became impoverished, indentured servants on sugar plantations in Hawaii. My grandparents had 8 children and my father Sueo was the last and youngest.
My father was the 1st in his family to go to college (University of Hawaii at Manoa) and was unfortunately in Los Angeles at USC Dental School when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. He was summarily expelled from USC due to his race, along with other Japanese American students. My father nicknamed Francis (a U.S. Citizen) did not return home to Hawaii, but stayed in Los Angeles, later obtained a “voluntary” pass from Western Defense Command General John DeWitt and fled to Chicago. He left his belongings with a Jewish woman in L.A. and she subsequently shipped them to him. He stayed in Chicago, took classes at Loyola University, then got re-admitted to Dental School at the U. of Maryland, finishing in 1946. (I found out later that about 5,000 others also got passes and voluntarily left the West Coast for inland states.)
Fast forward to me as a young attorney practicing law on the island of Kauai, when I decided to go to Washington D.C. to work for U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye. How did I know the Senator? He had always been in our family discussions (“Cousin Dan”), as he was married to first cousin Maggie, the 2nd of 6 daughters of Aunty Omitsu Sugiyama Awamura of Honolulu. Aunty was my father’s 2nd oldest sister of the 8 children of my immigrant grandparents. My father had been the last born of the 8 children, and was more then 20 years younger than the oldest siblings.
Dan Inouye and cousin Maggie were married before I was even born. Inouye was a decorated combat veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Battalion, lost his right arm in the war, had been elected as Hawaii’s first Congressman in 1959 (when Hawaii became a state). He became a U.S. Senator in 1963, and attended by older brother’s high school graduation when I was 16 (when I first met him).
Executive Order 9066 Day of Remembrance at Tucson Desert Art Museum, 7000 E. Tanque Verde Rd. Tucson (west of Sabino Canyon Rd.)
February 18, 2017 11:00 am-2:00 pm
“Join us to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the incarceration of over 100,000 Japanese Americans following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. War hysteria and racial prejudice allowed the government to institute a mass detention program based on “military justification.” Speakers include academic experts in history and politics from UA and ASU who have researched or have intimate knowledge of the camps.”
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Academic Panel discussion on Japanese American Internment during WWII featuring:
Carolyn Sugiyama Classen, former Legislative Aide to U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye
Prof. Kathryn Nakagawa, ASU Associate Professor in Asian Pacific American Studies, School of Social Transformation, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Prof.Min Yanagihashi, UA (retired), East Asian Studies Dept.
“Acts of Translation” to be read by poet Heather Nagami at 12:30 p.m. whose work has been on display there since Nov.5, 2016. Heather’s family was interned at several of the camps.
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Discussion on “Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit: Triumphing over Adversity. Japanese American WWII Incarceration Reflections, Then and Now” featuring:
Paul Kitagaki, Jr., Photographer with Susie and Terry Matsunaga relating perspectives on incarceration from personal and family experiences.
Tucson Japanese Festival (new name) was held on January 14, 2017 at PCC Downtown, 1255 N. Stone Ave. to celebrate the New Year.
For the 4th year, Southern Arizona Japanese Cultural Coalition (SAJCC) sponsored a New Year’s festival featuring numerous performances and once again, mochi pounding (from rice). Odaiko Sonora taiko drummers and Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson were festival co-sponsors.
Origami paper folding was taught and Go, fukuwarai and kendama games were played upstairs in the campus center building. Also on display were ikebana flower arrangements, bonsai from the Tucson Bonsai Club, and calligraphy. Photos below courtesy of freelance photographer James Tokishi, except for last 4 photos by M. Fumie Craig.
Retired East Asian Professor Min Yanagihashi has written a paper entitled “Japanese Americans in Hawaii: Acculturation & Assimilation” about the toils and triumphs of the hard working Issei (1st generation immigrants), Nisei (2nd generation born in Hawaii), and us Sansei (3rd generation), Yonsei (4th generation), etc. Find out more by attending an informative upcoming panel discussion on Nov. 3rd, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Himmel Park Library, 1035 N. Treat Ave.
I grew up in Hawaii, after my grandparents emigrated from Japan in 1892 and 1910 to become indentured sugar plantation workers. My parents were born there in the Trust Territory of Hawaii, as U.S. Citizens. Yet my father Francis Sueo Sugiyama was discriminated against following the attack on Pearl Harbor, because of his race –expelled as a dental student by the University of Southern California. He fled to Chicago and avoided the mass internment, but got admitted to the University of Md. Dental School and finished his degree, years later. He then returned to Hawaii and practiced dentistry & orthodontics on the Big Island of Hawaii for 30 years.
Saturday, January 3, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at Yume Japanese Gardens, 2130 N. Alvernon Way, Tucson.
“Pick up your brush and greet 2015 — the Year of the Ram (Sheep)— with a Japanese ink brush painting (sumi-e) and New Year’s card that you create yourself. Zen Tribe Wellness instructor and nationally-known zen calligraphy artist Yoshi Nakano will show you how to write your name and New Year’s greetings in Japanese, and how to create an image of a ram with deft brush strokes that you can mail to friends or frame for your wall.
Nakano creates inspirational brush works and semi-abstract calligraphy that he calls “brush art meditation”. Participants can then compare their technique to Nakano’s award-winning art, which will be on exhibit at the Gardens January 3-17.