SENIOR MOMENTS: Densho — An Important Resource for Our Community

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By PHIL SHIGEKUNI

My column today is a bit involved, but please stay with me. Through a series of circumstances I came to discover a matter that has benefitted my family and can possibly impact other families in our community.

Those of you who follow my column know that the late Paul Tsuneishi has made a huge difference in my life. I first became active through working on the redress movement after a panel Paul put together in the San Fernando Valley in 1975 while I was president of San Fernando Valley JACL. Along with a few others, we organized EO9066 Inc., which through various means furthered the cause of redress.

One of the reasons I respected Paul was his dedication to preserving the stories of the men and women who played prominent roles in our history. Paul would, at his own expense, travel to various part of the country to interview those people, and after recording their interviews, transcribe them and donate the transcriptions to the JA National Museum. On occasion, Paul would have others, such as Frank Chin, accompany him.

As the transcriptions were primitive by today’s standards, my daughter Laurie took to upgrading them. Her son, Miles, along with Marion and I, spent a few hours at JANM on this project. Being in San Francisco, Laurie became acquainted with the late Hiroshi Kashiwagi and his wife. Laurie had an idea to improvise a soundbooth used by Hiroshi to make available the transcripts that Paul had produced. Unfortunately, Hiroshi’s passing put an end to this project.

At about this time, I got an email from a man I had met briefly through JACL. Mits Tomita was a member of the San Diego Chapter. He told me that he had come across a Densho interview I had done in 2011 (interviewed by Sharon Yamato), which I had completely forgotten about. Not only was the interview on video, but the interview was available in printed form. For Father’s Day, Laurie had the written transcript made into an album, along with pictures of our family.

Then it occurred to me that some of the people Paul interviewed may also have been interviewed by Densho. In viewing the scope of the work of Densho, I was quite impressed. Along with its extensive archives, Densho has on record 880 interviews. In comparing the 50+ interviews done by Paul, 20 were also done by Densho.

I told my story of re-discovering my interview done so many years ago to two of my friends. They remembered being interviewed and looked them up. They too were pleased to see them again.

I would suggest Rafu Shimpo readers investigate these easily accessible interviews. As each of those interviewed gave their consent to have their interviews made public, there would be no privacy issues. This may be an opportunity to learn matters concerning your parent or grandparent that they were reluctant to discuss with you. You can ask questions and get a better understanding of them. Also, if that person is no longer with us, their interview can serve as a memorial.

So, how do you get to these 880 interviewees? Go to www.densho.org, then click on Digital Repository, then Browse, then Narrator. The people interviewed are called Narrators. They are listed alphabetically.

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Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at [email protected] The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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