Akiyoshi (Aki) Iwata, a Sansei, was born in Alhambra, California on December 28, 1933. Shortly after Executive Order 9066, his family moved to Cedar City, Utah, avoiding incarceration and living as free citizens for the duration of World War II. While the family was fortunate to be “free” during this time, they received no administrative or financial assistance from the War Relocation Authority. After the war ended, the Iwata family returned to California to reestablish their farming business in the town of San Juan Capistrano. Akiyoshi served in the US Army during the Korean War and then went on to continue his education, eventually receiving a BSME degree from U.C. Berkeley. He worked for 40 years in the Silicon Valley high tech industry as both an engineer and manager. His first two notable achievements were the patent for the first “Slow Motion/Instant Replay” color video disc recorder (US Patent #3614333) used in broadcasting the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, and the “Endless Loop Satellite Tape Recorder” (US Patent #3235195) used in the SAMOS Spy Satellite. Akiyoshi retired from Apple Computer in year 2000. He has been happily married for fifty years to his wife, Jane, and together, they have two daughters and five grandchildren.
Akiko (Aki) Awaya was born in Gilroy, California, the second daughter of Tsutomu and Sadae Awaya. While she was still an infant, her family moved to the Cienega Valley, located southeast of Hollister, California, where her father farmed. When she was nine years old, the family, now with four daughters, moved back to Gilroy, where they lived until Executive Order 9066 in 1942 took them first to the Salinas Assembly Center and then to the Colorado River Relocation Center, commonly referred to as Poston concentration camp. Aki graduated from Poston High School in the summer of 1943 and was employed at the Agriculture Department where she did clerical work. In December of 1944, a golden opportunity arose: she was able to leave camp in order to attend college at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After one semester of college, and with the end of the war, Aki returned to Poston; there she helped her mother and two younger sisters pack up and relocate from the soon-to-be closed camp to Gilroy. The family later moved to the San Francisco Bay Area–first to Richmond, then to San Francisco where her older sister was employed. Aki became a Certified Medical Laboratory Technologist and attended the Pine Methodist Church, where she met Art Okuno. In 1954, they were married and in 1958 settled in Saratoga, California, where they started their family of three sons and a daughter. Active in their church and community, they now enjoy their retirement, membership in the Saratoga Sister City Taiko Group, and watching their four grandchildren grow.
Arthur Mayeno is an artist whose primary medium is printmaking. Born in Seattle, Washington, to Japanese immigrants, he was incarcerated at the Minidoka concentration camp in Idaho as a teenager. After being released, he served in the US Army, which enabled him to attend the Chicago Art Institute on the GI Bill. He then studied under Hans Hoffman in New York. He and his wife Rebecca, a fellow art student, raised five children in Berkeley, California. The couple also played prominent roles in the lives of several of their grandchildren. Arthur earned his living in the silkscreen business and is now retired.
Arthur Fujio Okuno was born in San Francisco and grew up in Japantown. He attended San Francisco schools, graduating from Lowell High School, and then went on to the University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in mechanical engineering. He was a sophomore – and in the middle of studying for finals – when the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred in 1941. Art joined Boy Scouts Troop 12 in 1936 and subsequently received his Eagle Scout award in 1939. While imprisoned at Heart Mountain, Wyoming, he was asked to be the Scout Master of Troop 343, composed of boys from San Jose. After leaving Heart Mountain, Art returned to Cal Berkeley for his BS degree. He served a brief stint in the World War II US Army Air Force until the end of the war and returned to UC Berkeley under the GI Bill to obtain a MS degree. He was employed by the then National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in Virginia, which later became the National Aeronautics and Space Agency. He later transferred to the Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, where he was employed until his retirement in 1986. At Pine Methodist Church in San Francisco he met his wife, Aki, and together, living in Saratoga, California, they have raised four children. He now is the proud grandfather of four grandchildren. He has served on various community, church, and civic boards and is now enjoying his participation in the Saratoga Sister City Taiko group.
Born and raised in San Jose, California, Barbara Horiuchi is a visual artist and writer. She grew up in a lively household, where she listened to Japanese folk tales as well as familial stories of immigration, struggle, perseverance, and strength. Realizing the invaluable importance of these stories, she began documenting them in order to pass them on to her own children. These various stories inform her visual art work, which responds to events of American racial and cultural prejudice. Her paintings and installations explore the repercussions of trauma borne from issues of injustice and welling from past personal familial experiences.
Brian Komei Dempster
Brian Komei Dempster’s debut book of poetry, Topaz (Four Way Books, 2013), received the 15 Bytes 2014 Book Award in Poetry. His second poetry collection, Seize, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in fall 2020. Dempster is editor of From Our Side of the Fence: Growing Up in America’s Concentration Camps (Kearny Street Workshop, 2001), which received a 2007 Nisei Voices Award from the National Japanese American Historical Society, and Making Home from War: Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement (Heyday, 2011). He is a professor of rhetoric and language at the University of San Francisco, where he also serves as Director of Administration for the Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Studies.
- From Our Side of the Fence
- Q & A with Editor Brian Komei Dempster
- An Intergenerational Writing Workshop
- Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement
Chizu Iiyama is a Nisei. During World War II, she and her family were forced to move from San Francisco to the Santa Anita racetrack. She received her diploma from UC Berkeley while living in a horse stall. Her family then was imprisoned at the Topaz, Utah, concentration camp, where she met her future husband. A former Contra Costa College educator, Chizu has been a lifelong activist, pushing for peace and justice. She and her husband received the Clifford Uyeda Peace and Humanitarian Award from the Bay Area Day of Remembrance Consortium in 2009.
Born at the Tanforan Assembly Center, Fumi Nihei is the youngest of six older brothers. Through the Collecting Nisei Stories writing workshop and her regular Berkeley writing class, she wants to pay homage to, Ken, the eldest sibling in the family. He went to war while the family was incarcerated at the Central Utah Relocation Center in Topaz, Utah. They later moved to subsidized housing with other former camp prisoners in Richmond, California; thereafter, Fumi’s family moved to Berkeley, California, where she attended Armstrong College and worked for University of California, Berkeley, University Health Services, from which she retired in 2005. After retirement, she worked as assistant to the CFO for Philip Wood at Ten Speed Press. The company was later purchased by Random House, Inc. Fumi now volunteers at the University Health Services as well as fundraising events and lunch programs for seniors in the San Francisco and East Bay Areas. She is an avid San Francisco Giants fan and has traveled to many Spring Training games in Arizona.
George Yoshida was born on April 9, 1922, in Seattle, Washington. His parents, who emigrated to America during the early 1900s, enjoyed Western harmonies–his father, Koji, sang American hymns and popular tunes in a Japanese male vocal ensemble and his mother, Kiyoka, played the organ for Christian worship services. Together they provided athe nurturing environment, as well as the genetic predilection, for the development of for George’s musical tastes. The Depression forced the Yoshidas to relocate to East Los Angeles in 1936. Following the Japanese attack onof Pearl Harbor, his family, which included two younger sisters, was incarcerated in Poston Detention Camp #1, Arizona, in April 1942. A year later, George left Poston for Chicago, where he was drafted into the U.S. Army and assigned to the Military Intelligence Language School at Ft. Snelling, Minnesota. In 1945, during his stint in the army, Yoshida married Helen Furuyama in Chicago. In 1946, George and Helen moved to Berkeley, California, where George eventually earned his teaching credential at the University of California. Later, the two settled in El Cerrito, a neighboring community, where they raised their four children–Cole, Clay, Maia and Lian. George retired in 1987 after 35 years as a teacher in the Berkeley School District. Today, he continues to teach tai-chi to senior citizens. George Yoshida’s “September Song” remains filled with music. In 1989, he organized the J-Town Jazz Ensemble, a 17-piece swing band based in San Francisco. He also laid plans to form a male vocal ensemble led by May Murakami featuring joyful Japanese folk songs. He credits his love of music for keeping his spirit and “chops” intact.
Jean Shiraki Gize
Jean Shiraki Gize was born on June 16, 1938, to June Nakayama Shiraki and George Kiyonobu Shiraki in Alameda, California. Jean and her parents lived with her maternal grandmother and mother’s brother and boarders in an old Victorian in West Oakland. Later, in 1941, her parents bought a new home in East Oakland. Shortly thereafter, in 1943, they were forcibly removed from their home and imprisoned in Tanforan and then in Topaz. In March of 1944, June and Jean were the first Japanese Americans to return to the Peninsula and to the Duveneck Ranch in Los Altos and one of the first to move back to California. In the spring of 1945 Jean’s mother, June, left Jean at the ranch in the care of June’s sister-in-law, Mary Shiraki. June reopened their home in Oakland and then returned to work at the Oakland Board of Education. The family reunited in September and, in November, her father George safely returned from service. A new member of the family, Anne, was born in 1947. Later, Jean attended UC Berkeley and then married and transferred to the National College of Education in Evanston, Illinois. Later, she returned to teaching and obtained her Master’s Degree from Loyola University of Chicago. Jean and her second husband John moved back to the Bay Area and settled in Los Gatos where Jean’s son, Mark, joined them and where John Jr. was born. Jean worked in San Jose as a Math, Science and Reading Resource specialist and teacher; she was honored twice as teacher of the year for innovative grants and projects and for piloting and creating new programs. In retirement, Jean’s new passions are yoga, qigong, watercolor painting, and writing.
Joan Yamasaki Matsuoka was 5 years old when the war began, and her family was imprisoned at Topaz, Utah. After leaving Topaz, they resettled in Berkeley, where she grew up, attending all the public schools there. She attended U.C. Berkeley before obtaining a job with Pan American Airways, for which she was assigned Honolulu as a base; from there, she had the routes of the Pacific region and, after changing her base to San Francisco, added Australia and the polar route to England for her trips. Joan then married, and a couple of years later, in 1967, she and her husband purchased a home and moved from San Francisco to El Cerrito, where they raised a daughter and a son. During these years, she became very active with the Parent Teacher Association and the church; she also was involved with childrens’ activities/lessons, including piano, dance, karate, and Girl/Boy Scouts. After both children finished high school, Joan volunteered mainly with the Japanese American Citizens League and church, and her newsletter editing played a primary role in both organizations. Some of her main hobbies are photography, moviemaking/videotaping (analog/digital), music, crafts, and gardening—and these activities have always provided her with much pleasure throughout her life.
Kazue Nakahara was born in January 1946 in Fort Snelling, Minnesota, where her parents were working for the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) Language School. Her mother, a native of San Francisco, left Topaz concentration camp, Utah, to work for the MIS as a civilian. Her father, a Kibei, born in Hood River, Oregon, and raised in Fukuoka-ken, Kyushu, was drafted during his last quarter at the University of Washington, in Seattle, by the U.S. Army, which assigned him to the MIS as a Japanese language instructor. Kazue and her parents moved to Fort Ord and then Richmond, California, before joining the Occupation of Japan in Yokohama. After the war, the family lived in Seattle, where Kazue went to school, attending Broadway Nursery School and eventually the University of Washington, where she completed her undergraduate studies. She and her husband raised their two children in El Cerrito, California, where the couple has resided since 1975.
Kazuko Iwahashi was born and raised in Berkeley, California. After Executive Order 9066 was proclaimed on February 19, 1942, her family was imprisoned – along with many other Japanese and Japanese Americans – at Tanforan and then later in Topaz concentration camp in Utah between 1942-1945. In July of 1945, at the age of 15, Kazuko was released from Topaz, leaving behind her mother and three younger siblings in order to meet her father who was already in Berkeley; there, Kazuko started Berkeley High School that September. She worked as a school girl while in high school and while enrolled in a pre-nursing program at San Francisco State College (then located off Market Street near the Mint). She graduated from the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing in June of 1953. She married and raised four children while working at San Francisco General Hospital, the Kaiser Outpatient Department in San Francisco, and then at Oakland Kaiser Outpatient Department Hospital for a total of almost 40 years. Now living in El Cerrito, Kazuko enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren, taking various classes, and volunteering and staying active at the Berkeley Methodist United Church.
Kazumaro Ishida, the last of seven children, was born in the Crystal City Internment Camp in Crystal City, Texas, in 1946 after World War II. After his family’s release from camp, they relocated to the transitional, government housing project in Richmond, California; after one year there, Kazumaro’s father, a Nichiren Buddhist priest, and the entire family moved back to San Francisco to resettle at the Nichiren Church of America, a Buddhist church on Pine Street. Kazumaro graduated from Lowell High School, received his Associate of Arts degree from City College of San Francisco, and completed his baccalaureate degree at San Francisco State University with a major in social welfare. Later he received a master’s degree in social welfare from the University of California at Los Angeles. After his graduate studies, Kazumaro was employed by various government agencies, including the Karl Holton School For Boys, Department of Youth Authority (as a social worker), Youth Authority in Stockton, California, and San Francisco Department of Social Services as an Eligibility Worker in the Medical Indigent Adult program. Later he was employed as a Social Worker II (Department of Social Services) for the County of Santa Clara, Social Services Agency, where he worked for thirty-three years until his retirement. Fluency in speaking Japanese was a requirement for this position, because many Issei and other Japanese-speaking were in need of assistance. Along with his professional duties, for many years he assisted his father, the late Archbishop Nitten Ishida, as a Nichiren Buddhist priest with major church services. During his retirement years, Kazumaro has served as President of Nichiren Church of America and been active in Japanese community events. He has enjoyed pursuing his favorite activities, including gardening, going for brisk walks, reading, writing, and traveling overseas.
Laurin Mayeno is the second child and eldest daughter of Arthur and Rebecca Mayeno. She grew up a mixed race child amidst the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, which had a profound influence on her life. Laurin now works to develop inclusive multicultural organizations and communities through Mayeno Consulting (www.mayenoconsulting.com). The mother of a gay son, she launched Out Proud Families (www.outproudfamilies.com) to create support and acceptance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth of color.
Prior to World War II, Lorraine M. Itow Sonoda’s parents worked in San Francisco for a relative of the Sutro family. When the forced removal became more imminent, her parents moved to Placer County to be closer to their siblings. They were incarcerated at the Tule Lake concentration camp for the duration of the war. Lorraine was six-months old when the war ended, and she and her family moved from Tule Lake to San Francisco. Her parents worked again for the same family before moving to Wheatland, California, and then eventually to Sacramento in 1950, where they lived near 10th and T Streets (close to downtown). In 1969, she and her husband, Ron, moved to Fort Pierce, Florida, a place with a small Asian Pacific American population. Because they wanted their son, Koji, and daughter, Aiko, to know their relatives, they made frequent visits to Sacramento. Koji and Aiko attended Jan Ken Po Gakko, Sacramento, so that they could learn about their Japanese heritage. After moving to the East Bay in 2002, Lorraine’s family is enjoying and learning so much about this diverse community. Over the years, Lorraine learned of the growing dialogue on the West Coast about the incarceration and internment. Her parents did not tell her or her younger siblings much about their “camp” life; the wartime years have remained a “gap” in the siblings’ family history. Lorraine sincerely appreciates the personal experiences shared by former camp prisoners, internees, and their families both in this workshop and beyond.
Margie Oyama spent the first three years of her life confined at Heart Mountain concentration camp during World War II. She shares the complexity of that experience on her identity through her writing and art.
Mary Ann Furuichi
Mary Ann Furuichi was born in San Francisco, California. Her family lived in the building where her father owned Soko Fish Market on Post Street in San Francisco’s Japantown. When Mary Ann was 4 1/2 years old, she and her family moved to Berkeley and returned there after the war. They were sent to Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno first and later, to Central Utah Relocation Center in Topaz, Utah. After retiring as a teacher with the Berkeley Unified School District, Mary Ann is currently a substitute teacher and has also taught at Daruma No Gakko, a children’s summer school program designed to help young people develop an appreciation of Japanese American culture. Mary Ann sits on the board of the Contra Costa Japanese American Citizens League, a civil rights organization, and helps to plan programs for their members. She is a student of and has performed with Emeryville Taiko and also assists Ruth Ichinaga with teaching taiko to the Sakura Kai seniors. Mrs. Saku Moriwaki, who taught piano to Mary Ann, and Mrs. Moriwaki’s daughter, Suga Ann, appear on the cover of Brian Komei Dempster’s anthology Making Home from War. As former Berkeley school teachers of many years and also former camp prisoners, Carolyn Miyakawa Adams, who was incarcerated at Tule Lake, and Mary Ann have visited and will continue to go to classrooms and share with children and adults their experiences before, during, and after their imprisonment along with photos and posters that offer historical context. By writing stories about her childhood memories and sharing them with other writers in Dempster and Jill Shiraki’s Collecting Nisei Stories project, Mary Ann and others have even more information to teach children this message: the tragedy of incarceration should never be allowed to happen again to any group.
Namiko Sakamoto is a Sansei (third-generation Japanese American). She completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a Master of Arts degree in Education. She has taught essay writing skills at four college writing centers. She has also taught English at the middle school and high school level and worked in Education with age groups from preschool to college. She has worked over fifteen years in Technical Publications on government contracts.
Nora/Shizuko Hataye was born in 1918, the fourth of six daughters to parents Makitaro and Toki Sakaki. She lived with her family in Irvington, California, until Executive Order 9066 was issued; shortly thereafter, they were forcibly removed from their home and sent to Tanforan Assembly Center and later to the concentration camp in Topaz, Utah. In 1944, Nora married her longtime sweetheart, Tatsuo Hataye. After Tatsuo was discharged from the U.S. Army, he and Nora settled in Berkeley, California, where they raised two children. Nora still lives in the same home that she and Tatsuo bought over 63 years ago.
Reiko Fujii is an artist who shares her experiences of growing up Japanese American in her creative works. She was born in 1950, four years after her family was released from their imprisonment in Crystal City “family” prison camp. Before their imprisonment in Crystal City, Reiko’s mother and her mother, along with six siblings, were in Manzanar prison camp for a year and a half. During that time, Reiko’s mother’s father was a prisoner in Tujunga prison camp, Lordsburg prison camp, and finally joined his family at Crystal City “family” prison camp. Reiko’s father was in Manzanar prison camp, Tule Lake prison camp, and spent his last few months at Crystal City “family” prison camp, joining the rest of the family. Reiko’s mother’s family returned to their farm in Riverside, California after the war, and Reiko’s father settled in the Los Angeles area.
Ronald Sonoda was born in 1939 at the Yamanoha Hospital in Hilo, Hawaii. His parents had a small vegetable stand in Hilo and moved to Mountain View around 1940 to a 30-acre farm, about 18 miles west of Hilo, where they grew cucumbers and Chinese cabbage. Attending Mountain View Grammar School, Ron and his classmates spoke a mixture of Pidgin and English. His peers had more educated parents than his own parents, who had only attended three to four years of elementary school. Yet despite the shortness of their formal education, his parents were literate in English and Japanese. During World War II, the Japanese Americans in Hawaii were impacted in a unique way. While the Japanese Americans of the Big Island were not incarcerated in camps, all residents had to abide by the US Government rules, which required that no lights be visible from houses at night. Ron’s writing, then, recollects his memory of a visit by officials who enforced this regulation. After the war, on February 12, 1950, Ron’s family – his parents and five children – moved to California to be near his mother’s aunt’s family in Florin. Settling in Elk Grove, they grew strawberries; he and his siblings all worked on the farm through high school and during college. Ron completed his PhD at the University of California, Davis, majoring in Plant Pathology. He is Professor Emeritus for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida (1969-2000).
Ruth Ichinaga was born on June 27, 1934, in Berkeley, California. Her parents owned a neighborhood grocery store in the middle of the block on Ward Street until the war began. After the war, she returned with her family to their Berkeley home. Sometime later, her parents were able to reopen the store. Ruth attended the Berkeley schools, received her degree in nursing from the University of California at San Francisco, and worked as a school nurse for the Oakland Public Schools for 25 years. Ruth was married to her husband, Norman, for fifty years, and together they raised three children. She also has three wonderful grandchildren. The year before she retired in 1996, she started playing the taiko. She finds it a great way to keep her mind and body active. She has also studied improvisational dance with Terry Sendgraff for the last fifteen years. In her 70s, Ruth started performing with Jill Togawa and the Purple Moon Dance Project, which she has found to be a very rewarding experience.
Shirley Kuramoto was eight years old when World War II broke out. She was incarcerated with her parents and her brother at Tanforan Assembly Center, Topaz Relocation Center, and later at the Tule Lake Segregation Center. Her family resettled in Menlo Park, California, where her parents started a nursery business and she eventually met her husband Sam. Making their home in San Jose, California, she and Sam have been married for 53 years and together have raised two children, Stuart and Susan. In 1979, Shirley earned her BA in Creative Arts from San Jose State University and, later, completed a Certificate in Gerontology there. Currently, she serves as a part-time docent for the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, where she has been inspired to learn more about her cultural heritage and explore her roots. She enriches herself through taiko drum lessons, memoir writing, and part-time work at the Nichi Bei Bussan Store. Shirley also enjoys volunteering at the Yu-Ai Kai Senior Day Care Center for whom she writes and directs westernized cultural plays. This life journey has led Shirley to the realization that she wants to leave her descendants a legacy. With her piece for the Collecting Nisei Stories project, she has begun the process of preserving her memories and history for future generations and is currently finishing a documentary of her recent pilgrimage to Tule Lake.
Sumiko Higaki was born in 1929 to Issei immigrants Joichi and Kikuyo Mizufune, fruit farmers at the time in Winters, California. Sumiko was the second of four girls, and the youngest, Midori, was born in 1943 in Gila River Relocation Camp in Arizona, where the family was incarcerated from 1942-1945. Sumi attended grammar schools in Winters and attended 3 years of high school in Canal High at Gila River, Arizona. After the family’s release in 1945, the family relocated to Tracy, California, and Sumi attended and graduated Tracy High School in 1946. When she was accepted to the St. Luke’s School of Nursing in San Francisco, she fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. She graduated in 1950 and worked at the Palo Alto Hospital as a surgical nurse. She married Shigeru Higaki in 1953, and she retired from her profession in 1955 when their daughter Marcia was born and two years later, son Jeffrey. As the children needed less hands-on care, Sumi helped in the family’s horticulture nursery–first in the greenhouses and later as personnel manager for the business. She and Shigeru have four grandchildren, (the delight of their lives!) and now enjoy retirement in Belmont, California.
Taeko Ishida Abramson was born on November 13, 1933, in San Francisco, California. The 2nd of 7 children, her father was a Buddhist priest and her mother a tea ceremony teacher. Taeko (Tae) grew up in San Francisco except for the duration of World War II and shortly thereafter, from 1942-1947. Tae and her family were incarcerated first in Tanforan, California, then in Topaz, Utah. Tae’s father was taken away by the FBI shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and placed in separate FBI “prisoner of war” camps until the family finally reunited in the FBI’s Department of Justice internment camp in Crystal City, Texas. Postwar times were financially difficult, and Tae, in high school, babysat, ironed, and cashier-wrapped at department stores, sometimes working after school, on Saturdays, summers, and even Christmas vacations. Tae attended Lowell, University of California at Berkeley, University of California at San Francisco, and later, the California School of Professional Psychology. Now a retired clinical psychologist, she worked at San Quentin State Prison for 7 years full time and 8 years part time. Her major interest is in lifelong learning, and she attends lectures and readings as well as takes courses in poetry, literature, and music. She sings with the San Francisco Choral Society, performing in three to four concerts per year. She and her husband Stan are both enjoying their retirement, going to the opera, symphony, theater, movies, and museums.
Yvonne Nimnicht is the daughter of a Kibei mother and Scandinavian father. She was four years old when her family moved to live in Japan. By the time she entered elementary school , her household spoke only Japanese. After ten years in Japan, she and her family returned to America, to Berkeley, California- at the height of the Vietnam War demonstrations -fluent in Japanese and speaking no English– Yvonne later married and raised three children. She now lives in Berkeley, California, and, over the past four years, has been a companion to four Nisei women in their nineties, who are beautiful, spunky, strong, and fearlessly independent with amazing life stories. Yvonne’s writing portrays the women and the memories they shared with her; often what they didn’t say or the manner in which they said it spoke to her even more than their words.