Tag Archives: Japanese Americans

Last month at TDART for WWII Japanese American internment camp exhibits

Since November, 2016 there have been three art exhibits ongoing at the Tucson Desert Art Museum (TDART) on the WWII Japanese American internment camps, two which were here in Arizona (at Poston and at Gila River).  I posted at the opening:  https://blogforarizona.net/3-exhibitions-at-tucson-desert-art-museum-on-japanese-american-internment-during-wwii/

All exhibits are closing on April 30, 2017.  TDART is open Wed. to Sundays 10 to 4 p.m., 7000 E. Tanque Verde Rd. (west of Sabino Canyon Rd.)

Particularly moving are lovely, solemn watercolors painted by Tokutaro “Kakunen” Tsuruoka (on loan from AZ Historical Society).  Here’s one of Poston Relocation Center with the guard tower and barbed wire fence:

Poston Relocation Center painting by Tokutaro Tsuruoka, photo taken by Carolyn Classen

Also as part of this exhibit,

Art of Circumstance: Art and Artifacts Created by Japanese Americans Incarcerated During WWII

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Former U.S. Senate Aide Carolyn Sugiyama Classen: Creation of National Commission which investigated the wrong done to WWII Japanese Americans

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.

Carolyn Sugiyama Classen speaking at Day of Remembrance, courtesy of atty. Robin Blackwood. Panelists Professors Min Yanagihashi & Kathryn Nakagawa in background.

“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).

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Upcoming events regarding WWII Internment of Japanese Americans

Although it was almost 75 years ago when on Feb. 19, 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt signed E.O. 9066, which was neutral on its face, but applied only to rounding up & interning nearly 120,000 Japanese American civilians (2/3 were U.S. Citizens) into relocation camps across America — there is still interest today in the injustice done by these camps and relocation of innocent people. My father Francis Sueo Sugiyama was one of those who fled Los Angeles for Chicago in 1942, before the camp round up. (He had just been expelled from USC’s Dental School due to his race).

Event coming up Friday at the Tucson Jewish History Museum (564 S. Stone Ave.), see flyer below: Gallery Chat with poet Brandon Shimoda. “A researcher on this subject and a direct descendant of this history’s victims, Brandon will facilitate a discussion on the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans in Arizona.”


Coming up Sunday Jan. 22 at the Tucson Desert Art Museum (7000 E. Tanque Verde Rd.) is a talk entitled “Baseball Behind Barbed Wire”.

January 22, 2017 1:30 pm
Baseball was immensely important to the Japanese Americans in concentration camps. Bill Staples, author of “Kenichi Zenimura: Japanese American Baseball Pioneer”, will share how baseball helped raise the spirits of those in the camps and also helped with outside prejudice as the camps invited outside teams to play in matches. This event is free in the auditorium. Museum admission rates apply for entrance to the exhibit.”


Bill Staples – author of “Kenichi Zenimura: Japanese American Baseball Pioneer”

Kerry Yo Nakagawa – author and baseball historian, expert in Japanese American baseball

Tets Furukawa – former player/pitcher with the 1945 Gila River Eagles

Kenso Zenimura –  followed in his father’s footsteps as a talented player, coach, and mentor, as well as an ambassador for international baseball

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“Allegiance” film starring George Takei on December 13 (nationwide)

George Takei’s musical film “Allegiance” to show in Tucson (and elsewhere nationwide) on December 13.



“Their loyalty was questioned, their freedom taken away, but their spirit could never be broken. Rejoice in one family’s triumphant story of hope, love, and forgiveness in the new Broadway musical: Allegiance.

Inspired by true events, Allegiance is the story of the Kimura family, whose lives are upended when they and 120,000 other Japanese-Americans are forced to leave their homes following the events of Pearl Harbor. Sam Kimura seeks to prove his patriotism by fighting for his country in the war, but his sister, Kei, fiercely protests the government’s treatment of her people. An uplifting testament to the power of the human spirit, Allegiance follows the Kimuras as they fight between duty and defiance, custom and change, family bonds and forbidden loves. Legendary performer George Takei — (Star Trek, “Heroes”), who was himself an internee as a child, stars alongside Tony® winner Lea Salonga – (Miss Saigon, Mulan) in this enthralling and epic new musical.
But as long-lost memories are unlocked, Sam finds that it is never too late to forgive and to recognize the redemptive power of love.”

 Playing in Tucson at Oro Valley Marketplace, Foothills 15, El Con 20, Century Park Place 20.  See movie theaters for details on December 13.
Check for your theater locations:

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3 exhibitions at Tucson Desert Art Museum on Japanese American Internment during WWII

“On November 5, the Tucson Desert Art Museum will open three related exhibitions on the removal and incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  President Roosevelt ‘s signing of Executive Order 9066 (February 19, 1942), authorized the government to forcibly exclude all people of Japanese ancestry from designated military areas along the west coast. Nearly 120,000 people, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, were removed and detained in government facilities scattered across the U.S.”

Please join TDART for a sneak peak of these shows on November 4th (5 to 7:30 p.m.) before they officially open to the public on November 5. Light refreshments will be served.  7000 E. Tanque Verde Rd. Tucson.
Museum Members: free
Non-Members: $7

 The three exhibitions are listed below:

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Happy Father’s Day 2016

DadOver 20 years ago my beloved biological father Dr. Francis Sueo Sugiyama passed away. He had been sick for about a month, in and out of the hospital, but his death was unexpected. He was only 81, and had intended to live to 90.  Sadly, he did not, but he died of old age nonetheless, not due to any cancer or other terminal illness. He had practiced dentistry and orthodontics in our home village in North Kohala, Hawaii for over 30 years.

And Dad was also an artist of Hawaiian landscapes and  painted beautiful images on smooth rocks. Happily he was also a world traveler and had been retired for 20 years. This was success for my father, as he had grown up very poor, the youngest of 8 children to immigrant sugar plantation indentured servants/workers from Hiroshima, Japan. He told me that he and his siblings had to walk to elementary school barefoot in rural Trust Territory of Hawaii.  When my father was 12 years old, one of his teenaged older brothers (Mitsuto) was dragged and killed by a sugar plantation mule.  One of his older sisters (Helen Hayayo) later died after giving birth to her 5th child on the rural island of Molokai, but such was the life of sugar plantation families.

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