Discover Nikkei

Didn't have rights that whites had

We didn’t have all the rights that caucasians had, and it was because of racism. And, of course, when December 7th happened, it was also hysteria, and Americans also looked at December 7th from a very economic point of view. I mean, Japan had been working the land. I mean, she was given only the worst kind of desert land and she made it fertile. And so, other farmers—caucasians—it would be to their advantage if the Japanese were thrown out, and they could work the land. Uh so, I think on what are the civil rights we lost: I think, well, we never had all the civil rights. Uh, and I think, that’s how come, too, that there came to be a group called the “No No Boys.” Because, they felt it was more important to fight for civil rights, than to fight the enemy. I think a lot of Japanese felt they weren’t treated like a real American.

Date: June 16, 2003

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Karen Ishizuka, Akira Boch

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum.

Interviewee Bio

Yuri Kochiyama (nee Mary Nakahara) was born in the southern California community of San Pedro in 1922. She was “provincial, religious, and apolitical” until Japan’s December 7, 1941, bombing of the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawai`i led to the government’s mass incarceration of virtually all Japanese Americans. Her wartime detainment in two concentration camps in the segregated American South prompted her to see the parallels between the treatment of the Nikkei and African Americans.

After the war she married Bill Kochiyama, a veteran of a segregated Japanese American battalion, and lived in New York City. In 1960, the Kochiyamas moved their family into low-cost housing in the African American district of Harlem. Her political involvement there changed her life, especially after her 1963 meeting with Black Nationalist revolutionary Malcolm X, who was assassinated two years later. She has since had a long history of activism: for black liberation and Japanese American redress and against the Vietnam War, imperialism everywhere, and the imprisonment of people for combating injustice.  

She passed away on June 1, 2014, at age 93.  (June 2014)


Prom during the war

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

Yuzawa,George Katsumi

Neighbors' sympathy after Pearl Harbor

(1915 - 2011) Nisei florist who resettled in New York City after WW II. Active in Japanese American civil rights movement

Ariyoshi,Jean Hayashi

Day Pearl Harbor was bombed

Former First Lady of Hawai'i


Japan vs. the United States (Japanese)

(1900-2005) Issei businessman


Interest in Japanese migration studies (Japanese)

Tsuda College President, researcher of Nikkei history


Japanese Canadians get the right to vote in 1949

(b. 1928) Doctor. Former Chair of the Japanese Canadian Redress Foundation.


Skateboarding at Manzanar

Giant Robot co-founder and publisher


Life in camp as teenager

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


Memories of my infancy: Japanese 1, Japanese 2… (Spanish)

(b. 1932-2016) Peruvian painter


Mistreating the Japanese community (Spanish)

(b. 1932-2016) Peruvian painter


Prejudice in Japanese school (Spanish)

(b. 1932-2016) Peruvian painter


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.


Bombing of Pearl Harbor

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.


Helping soldiers

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.


Fun at concentration camp

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