By MARTHA NAKAGAWA, Rafu Contributor
According to Ken Nomiyama, Tule Lake Committee member, Phase II of the jail program is finished, which means that reconstruction and preservation of the jail can begin.
“When we see you again at the next pilgrimage, the jail may be complete,” said Nomiyama. “We might be able to walk through it in the way that it appeared in 1944 when the prisoners were kept there. That’s the plan.”
In addition, the TLC and the National Park Service are working on plans for a Visitors’ Center, preserving a warehouse, and rebuilding/preserving a guard tower.
“These are things that will require a lot of planning and feedback from all of you,” said Nomiyama. “We’re also asking for donations as we embark on these projects.”
Karen Korematsu, founder of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and daughter of Fred, said she was shocked by the June 26 Supreme Court ruling that upheld President Trump’s travel ban but at the same time overturned the 1944 Korematsu decision.
“I got a text message that I couldn’t believe from my press consultant in D.C. that said Korematsu had been overruled,” said Korematsu. “I thought, ‘What?!’ I was just kind of stunned. I thought, how can that be? But the travel ban was upheld. And I didn’t know how to react. I was just stunned. It was like somebody had just socked me in the stomach.”
Korematsu did not think her father would be happy with this outcome. “This is not a victory. There is no point of celebration, absolutely no point of celebration … All the Supreme Court did was to replace one injustice for another. … The Supreme Court, the majority at least, have not learned the lessons of history. They keep making the same mistakes, and as an educator, I’m determined more than ever that this generation understands and has moral principles to uphold our civil liberties and the Constitution.”
This year, both Gary Mayeda, JACL (Japanese American Citizens League) national president, and David Inoue, JACL executive director, participated in the pilgrimage. Neither knew the other was attending until a few days earlier.
Inoue is a Shin Nisei with a Japanese father and Chinese American mother. “My father immigrated here in the 1960s, and I think that actually gives me a different perspective on what happened because I don’t have any ties to either one side or the other,” he said. “I feel like I can lift up both sides.
“You don’t have to take away from one side to support the other. This is a situation where our government did something so egregiously wrong to us that there was really no place for any sort of fair dialogue. You had to take sides, and it was forced upon us.”
Inoue said he was participating in as many pilgrimages as possible in order to learn what had happened. “There’s an emotional aspect to doing a pilgrimage versus reading about it, so I’m really trying to attend them and experience the different pilgrimages.”
Inoue was noncommittal about JACL apologizing to the Tuleans, but Mayeda said “it wouldn’t be a bad idea.”
“I think it’s a good way to extend the olive branch to recognize what we did was hurtful to the community. Whether right or wrong, the hurt is there, and that’s something we need to acknowledge,” said Mayeda.
Mayeda had 11 family members at the 2018 pilgrimage, including three surviving Tuleans.
“It might surprise the JACL membership that I’m a descendant of a no-no, and on my mother’s side, I’m a descendant of someone who was on the other side of the ocean during the war, so I bring together a lot of different factions,” said Mayeda.
“David Inoue and myself, we’re constantly putting out statements in regards to the (Trump) administration to never do things like this again, which pretty much aligns with the Tule Lake Committee’s thoughts and mindset, so a big part of my job is to try to help heal the community and also to educate our internal membership that is also divided in what we think,” said Mayeda. “So I need to try to bring that all together to say that it’s not a matter of right or wrong but it’s what the government did to us that fractured our community.”
The 2018 pilgrimage also included Ann Burroughs, CEO of the Japanese American National Museum, and 14 JANM docents/supporters.
Richard Murakami was largely responsible for getting the JANM group together.
“The program is so good, and the committee is so well prepared that every time I come, I learn something new,” said Murakami, a third-time pilgrimage attendee. “Another reason I come is because I really appreciate the fact that we get many, many young people. To me, that’s important because those are the people who are going to keep our stories alive.”
Murakami was especially touched during his Intergenerational Discussion session, which included 6-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy. Murakami was 10 years old when he entered camp.
He noted that the girl could not verbally describe her experience, so she drew a picture.
“She expressed herself by her artwork,” said Murakami. “I asked her for the artwork and I asked her to sign it. At least she was listening and learned something, and that really made me feel good. To me, for the young people like that to learn these things — I really appreciate that part.”
This was Burroughs’ first pilgrimage to Tule Lake. She has participated in the Manzanar Pilgrimage twice and was this year’s keynote speaker, and also attended the Heart Mountain Pilgrimage.
“My reason for coming was twofold,” said Burroughs. “First, for professional reasons, this was enormously important for me to learn as much as I can possibly can.…It has given me just an extraordinary perspective that I wouldn’t otherwise have had I gotten it from reading or studying or even just from talking to people who had experienced it.
“On a personal level, it also felt very important for me to go to as many pilgrimages as I can because it’s a way for me to get connected much, much more deeply with the story and with the people in the JANM community and JANM family. It informs my own thinking about where JANM should be going and what JANM should be doing.”
She pointed out that each camp had a powerful story to tell but for her personally, the former jail at Tule Lake moved her.
“On a personal level, it resonated with my own experience when I was imprisoned in South Africa,” said Burroughs. “It was certainly difficult to go into the jail, but I felt it was a very important thing to do. I think that jail is, in a way, symbolic of that entire period. Even though Tule Lake was alone in having a jail or stockades, it nevertheless reinforces the notion of separation of a community that is already shunned and excluded. It also feels to me such an important symbol of where we are in this country at the moment …
“It’s powerful because we’re living that moment again. There’s this very, very strong sense, certainly from JANM’s perspective and for all of us from JANM who were here, that JANM was founded to ensure that what happened to Japanese Americans never happen to anybody else. And here we’re seeing that tragic, dark episode of history coming to the fore again. Certainly the climate that gave rise to it is present with us.”
Burroughs said she is looking forward to working with the Tuleans “to think about how JANM can help tell the Tule Lake story.”
Clement Hanami of JANM drove to the pilgrimage to help display artifacts from the Allen Hendershott Eaton Collection. In 2015, a private party attempted to auction off the collection but was prevented when there was an outcry from the Japanese American community and supporters.
Glenn Nelson, a former Seattle reporter/columnist and head of a nonprofit media project involving people of color and the outdoors, does not have any family members who were imprisoned in a U.S. concentration camp but he has felt a connection with the community.
Nelson is the son of a Japanese mother and Caucasian American father who had been stationed in Japan during the Korean War.
Like many war brides, Nelson’s mother endured discrimination from the Japanese side as well as from the American. Among Japanese Americans, the experiences of war brides are rarely discussed.
Playwright Velina Hasu Houston has been one of the few to raise the issue on a national level with her successful play “Tea.”
JANM also recently had a program on war brides.
Nelson said he has always been civil rights minded and wrote frequently about racial issues when he was at The Seattle Times. During the 1990s, he wrote a column in which he joined in solidarity with a Muslim NBA player who had refused to stand for the singing of the national anthem before a game to protest the treatment of Muslim Americans, which echoes what is occurring in the NFL today. For this column, Nelson and his newspaper received threatening phone calls and death threats, to the point that **The Times** assigned security to Nelson for a while.
Recently, Nelson decided to explore his own identity and participated in his first pilgrimage last year at Minidoka. Initially, he felt enryo about sharing his story since he didn’t have a direct camp connection, but after witnessing others opening up, he decided to do so as well.
Tule Lake was his second pilgrimage, and he said he’s really come to appreciate “the importance of breaking silence, especially because history is starting to repeat itself.”
Anna Sakaizawa Hasegawa was not imprisoned at Tule Lake, although her husband’s family had been torn apart as one brother went to the military and the other went to Tule Lake.
Sakaizawa Hasegawa was imprisoned at Santa Anita, Jerome and Amache (Granada) but she felt an affinity toward the Tuleans because her family felt the sting of ostracism for being of Ainu descent.
Her father’s mother was an Ainu. “Because of that, in his village in Japan, they were looked down upon,” she said.
She shared that her father had become a Japanese language teacher and Methodist minister in the U.S. but the stigma of being of Ainu descent followed the family. She recalled that a woman in the church once told her oldest sister, “Well, you know, your father was Ainu.”
She thinks her last name is a tip-off of her Ainu descent similar to the way certain last names are associated with the Okinawans, another discriminated group in Japan. “I don’t have the details but I think people were given certain names in order to identify them as Ainu, but I can’t confirm that from research. It’s something I heard.”
Although most Ainu hide their ancestry, Sakaizawa Hasegawa and her daughters are proud of it. One of her daughters, Betsy, even traveled to Hokkaido last year to do more research on the Ainu. “The girls are very much interested. We’re very much civil rights people.”
Daughter Ellen Hasegawa Bruning concurred with her mother. “My family has been very much into civil rights. And there’s almost a pride in being Ainu, and I hope as our world develops, we can come to appreciate all types of people.”
The daughter said her maternal grandmother was a strong woman, who had suffered abuse from her mother-in-law and divorced her first husband, which was almost unheard of in Japanese society at the time, and married her grandfather, who was of Ainu descent. However, the daughter noted that when her grandmother revealed their Ainu heritage, it was not done openly.
“I think there was a little bit of shame for my grandmother because she was secretive when she shared this with my sister,” said the daughter. “She said, ‘I need to tell you a secret.’ But she knew, being this kind of strong women, that it was important for us to know our heritage.”
Tule Lake Taiko
The pilgrimage was topped off with a performance by the Tule Lake Taiko, an ad hoc group of taiko players and musicians who gather together every two years at the pilgrimage. This year’s group included:
Stan Shikuma, Patrick Oiye (shamisen), Bethany Narita — Seattle Kokon Taiko
Kristy Oshiro — independent
Karen Young, Kumiko Yamamoto — Genki Spark
Lois Yoshishige — Eugene Taiko
Stuart Payton — Burlington Taiko Group (who also performed as the shishi or lion)
Emily Harada — Ho Etsu Taiko Chicago
Last of three parts.
Photos by MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo