A reading of Mona Z. Smith’s play “All That Remains,” which tells the tale of a young Japanese American man uncovering the story of his late father, who fought as a member of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II, will be presented at the Japanese American National Museum on Saturday, June 4, at 2 p.m.
The play is set in October 1969 in the Vosges Forest on the French-German border, the site of major combat for the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd RCT. The son travels to France and, in the tradition of Japan’s ghost-warrior noh plays, encounters seven men who fought alongside his father.
Wanting to solve the mystery of his father’s death during the war, he entreats the seven ghosts to take him back in time and discovers a story of friendship and betrayal, camaraderie and rivalry, courage and trauma and love and revenge.
Smith emphasized that while the play is historically based, it remains a work of fiction. Research began as far back as 1994, including work done at the museum.
The story of the 100th/442nd, the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American armed forces, has become well known over time. Segregated by race, most of its members came from Hawaii, where Japanese Americans lived under martial law because of the war. However, some of its members volunteered out of government-run domestic concentration camps that unconstitutionally incarcerated thousands of people of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of them U.S. citizens.
The characters include six Nisei soldiers from Hawaii, one mainland Japanese American who came out of the camps, and a Kibei (born in the U.S., but educated in Japan).
“All That Remains” was inspired by the dreamlike ghost-warrior plays of noh theater, especially “Ikuta Atsumori” by Zembo Motoyasu (1453-1532). Noh drama was perfected during the Muromachi period (1336-1568). In noh ghost plays, a traveler asks a local to tell the story of this place. Time flows backward as the storyteller enacts a great drama; at the end, he admits he is the ghost of the hero of the tale. He recounts his glories and begs forgiveness for his mistakes. At dawn, he disappears; his visit is presented as the traveler’s dream.
The museum is located at 369 E. First St. (at Central) in Little Tokyo. For more information, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org.