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Impact of her father

He was very stern and stork, a typical Nisei man, didn’t talk about anything. I’ve learned about everything through my mom, but my images of him being shunned by the camp leadership, because of his advocacy for the Issei, I’ve always been most proud of that. Standing up for the people that were the most unpopular and who were deliberately being disempowered by the majority of the leadership in the camp was the only image that I would invoke at the worst times doing the kind of work I do thinking about where I came from and I think about him I think you know, it’s a life well lived. If it’s always in in in search of some noble objective that’s about the common good, then it’s always worth it. No matter what you lose in process. So I know that not everybody has looked at the camps the way I do but I do feel as though it’s a legacy that I’ve got to live up to and that I’ve gotta fight for the people who are being mistreated because of their race. That’s what I’ve been given and that’s what I’m gonna go with. That’s a legacy and it’s a way for it not to be wasted on me. That you know that I got this gift, in many ways, of a perspective that not everybody has. That White people will never have, that is so valuable despite the pain of it.


activism families fathers imprisonment incarceration social action World War II World War II camps

Date: July 14, 2020

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Matthew Saito

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

Interviewee Bio

Mia Yamamoto is a Sansei transgender attorney and civil rights activist. She was born in the Poston concentration camp in Arizona in 1943 where her parents were incarcerated. She joined the Army and served in the Vietnam War. Inspired by her father's courage to speak out against the unconstitutional incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, she attended the University of California Los Angeles's School of Law and has been a leader in the field of social justice, including working with the Japanese American Bar Association. (March 2021)

*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.

George Ariyoshi
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George Ariyoshi

Prom during the war

(b.1926) Democratic politician and three-term Governor of Hawai'i

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Jean Hayashi Ariyoshi
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Jean Hayashi Ariyoshi

Day Pearl Harbor was bombed

Former First Lady of Hawai'i

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Kazuo Funai
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Kazuo Funai

Japan vs. the United States (Japanese)

(1900-2005) Issei businessman

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Eric Nakamura
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Eric Nakamura

Skateboarding at Manzanar

Giant Robot co-founder and publisher

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James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Life in camp as teenager

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

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Robert Katayama
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Robert Katayama

Being ordered to keep a diary that was later confiscated, ostensibly by the FBI

Hawaiian Nisei who served in World War II with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

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Barbara Kawakami
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Barbara Kawakami

Bombing of Pearl Harbor

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.

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Barbara Kawakami
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Barbara Kawakami

Helping soldiers

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.

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Mas Kodani
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Mas Kodani

Fun at concentration camp

Senshin Buddhist Temple minister and co-founder of Kinnara Taiko.

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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

Father as prisoner of war in hospital

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.

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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

Patriotism versus loyalty

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.

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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

Postcards to Nisei soldiers

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.

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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

Hiding what happened in camp

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.

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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

Issei are hard-working

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.

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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

Camp as a positive thing

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.

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