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Nikkei Pioneers in the Legal Field

The early pioneers—all they did was help the community lots of times with little or no money. People like [Sei] Fujii fighting unconstitutional laws. There were people like Frank Kasama. There were some Japanese American lawyers who were stuck in Japan. Maybe they went to take some college courses or whatever but somehow they were stuck in Japan when the war broke out. What did they do? They sat there and tried to help all these people who were stuck in Japan. People like Frank Kasama and a number of others. I think Jim Uyeda, he’s an attorney, his father was an early attorney; they helped these folks. Pretty much when Japanese Americans became attorneys, there was no place for them in the public sector and they either worked for the community or some of it they did pro bono. It's amazing history. There are fine ways to capture some of that, whether it’s the [John] Aisos or the Fujiis and the other folks. There were many people who did so many important things for the welfare of the individuals and the community.


communities law

Date: July 17, 2013

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Sean Hamamoto

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum; Japanese American Bar Association

Interviewee Bio

Rose Matsui Ochi was born in East Los Angeles, California on December 15, 1938. Following the outbreak of World War II, young Ms. Ochi’s family was rounded up to live in the horse stables of the Santa Anita racetracks before being railroaded to Rohwer, one of America’s concentration camps for Japanese Americans at the time. Upon release, her parents were subjected to deportation, but were rescued by civil rights lawyers. Her family’s tragic experience taught her about injustices and about the power to right wrongs.

In order to fight for rights and social justice, Ms. Ochi decided to go into law. After earning a B.A. from University of California, Los Angeles and M.S. from California State University, Los Angeles, she earned a J.D. from Loyola Law School. She began her career as a ‘Reggie’, a poverty lawyer, at U.S.C. Western Center on Law and Poverty and served as the co-counsel of record in Serrano v. Priest, the landmark educational law reform case. Ms. Ochi has since served on the state bar and Legal Services Commission, has worked as a Disciplinary Referee, and was the first AA Board of Trustees member for the LA County Bar Association.

Recently, she helped to rescue Tuna Canyon WWII Detention Camp by getting Council approval for Historic Designation. She passed away in December 2020. (December 2020)

*This is one of the main projects completed by The Nikkei Community Internship (NCI) Program intern each summer, which the Japanese American Bar Association and the Japanese American National Museum have co-hosted.

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George Ariyoshi

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James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Christian gatherings in homes

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

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James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Not bringing shame to family

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

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James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Role of the Japanese American National Museum

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

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Peggie Nishimura Bain
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Peggie Nishimura Bain

Learning American cooking

(b.1909) Nisei from Washington. Incarcerated at Tule Lake and Minidoka during WWII. Resettled in Chicago after WWII

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Roger Shimomura
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Roger Shimomura

Japanese American community life

(b. 1939) Japanese American painter, printmaker & professor

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Kimi Wakabayashi
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Kimi Wakabayashi

Her early life in Canada

(b.1912) Japanese Canadian Issei. Immigrated with husband to Canada in 1931

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George Azumano
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George Azumano

Downtown in Portland, Oregon

(b. 1918) Founder Azumano Travel

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Kip Fulbeck
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Kip Fulbeck

Lessons learned from The Hapa Project

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Alfredo Kato
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Alfredo Kato

Peru Shimpo for the Nikkei community (Spanish)

(b. 1937) Professional journalist

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Bill Hashizume
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Bill Hashizume

Japanese community in Mission

(b. 1922) Canadian Nisei who was unable to return to Canada from Japan until 1952

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PJ Hirabayashi
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PJ Hirabayashi

Taiko as self-expression

Co-founder and creative director of San Jose Taiko

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PJ Hirabayashi
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PJ Hirabayashi

A “principally-based” taiko group in England creating a global taiko community

Co-founder and creative director of San Jose Taiko

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Byron Glaser
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Byron Glaser

Growing up in a Japanese American community

Illustrator and designer

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Francis Y. Sogi
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Francis Y. Sogi

The Kona Island community

(1923-2011) Lawyer, MIS veteran, founder of Francis and Sarah Sogi Foundation

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