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https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/interviews/clips/279/

Conditions of assembly centers

We were sent to an assembly center because the relocation camps, which we later called concentration camps, weren’t built. But, they use for assembly centers, they used—what d’you call it—racetracks and fairgrounds. And, I don’t know, there were about, I think they said about 16 of those places. And, well we were sent to Santa Anita, which is the largest—it had almost 20,000 there—and it’s a racetrack. And so, most of us were billeted in the horse stalls. And, I think at fairgrounds it was the same thing—they had horses, too, I guess. So, they stayed in, what d’you call, horse stalls, too. Lot of the Isseis started getting sick because of the horse manure, that, you know, you smell and you see there.


California imprisonment incarceration Santa Anita temporary detention center temporary detention centers United States World War II World War II camps

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)

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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Grayce Ritsu Kaneda Uyehara
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Grayce Ritsu Kaneda Uyehara

Importance of education in achieving redress for incarceration

(1919-2014) Activist for civil rights and redress for World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans.

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Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
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Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Impact of Pearl Harbor on her family

(b. 1934) Writer

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Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
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Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Initial impact on life at camp

(b. 1934) Writer

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Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
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Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

The birth of a novel through a conversation with her nephew

(b. 1934) Writer

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Roy H. Matsumoto
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Roy H. Matsumoto

Mixed emotions after declaration of war on Japan

(b.1913) Kibei from California who served in the MIS with Merrill’s Marauders during WWII.

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Roy H. Matsumoto
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Roy H. Matsumoto

Train ride to Jerome Relocation Center

(b.1913) Kibei from California who served in the MIS with Merrill’s Marauders during WWII.

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