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Skateboarding at Manzanar

Giant Robot once went to Manzanar concentration camp, ‘cause that’s probably one of the more closest ones that we could drive to that kind of has some structural element of what was there, so we went and wrote an article about it. We tried to look at it from a different point of view, because, I always read about it, but you never read about like what’s exactly there, so we actually went there.  

And we actually took our skateboards, and we have big wheels on our skateboards, they were made for dirt, so we figured that place was all dirt, so we decided, hey I know there’s hills and stuff, so we decided to try to skateboard around that area just for fun, and by doing that though, we actually explored a lot and found that there’s this great reservoir where you can skateboard in. We actually looked closely at the cement and realized that like the Japanese Americans that actually made that, actually wrote their names, you know, there’s some Japanese American names etched into that cement probably by twigs and rocks or something.

We just thought that that was really interesting that you would never read about, that you just realize that it kind of humanizes the place more, that it wasn’t just this barren landscape. There’s actually like these weird elements of culture that still remains, and I think that’s kind of interesting. That’s what I thought was the coolest part that I’ve never heard of.

Yeah, so when I go to places like that, I always look for things that aren’t necessarily written about, or historical, but stuff that makes me laugh a little, that you know, these guys were just kids there, you know, the people there were just kids, they were just like me, so that’s something I would have done, is etch my name somebody (laughs), with some other people, I mean they never thought that anyone was going to see it, but no, I saw it, just so they know, you know, but I saw it. It’s important, yeah.


California concentration camps Giant Robot imprisonment incarceration Manzanar concentration camp United States World War II camps

Date: November 27, 2005

Location: California, US

Interviewer: John Esaki and Janice Tanaka

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

Interviewee Bio

Eric Nakamura is co-founder and publisher of Giant Robot magazine. He is a Sansei (third generation Japanese American) from Los Angeles, California who grew up in a typical Japanese American household. He attended Japanese school on Saturdays where he learned the basic traditions of Japanese culture. It also played a large role in his identification as Japanese American.

After graduating from University of California at Los Angeles in East Asian Studies, Nakamura worked at Larry Flynt Publications. While working there, he had an idea for publishing a magazine focused on Asian pop culture in the U.S. In 1994, Nakamura and co-founder Martin Wong photocopied and stapled the first edition of Giant Robot. What began as a zine with a distribution of 240 copies has grown into a full-fledged magazine with an increasingly international fan base.

Nakamura has built on the success of Giant Robot with stores in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco selling imported art goods from Japan. The stores exhibit artwork from local up-and-coming artists. There’s also a restaurant called gr/eats.

In addition to his work with Giant Robot, Nakamura also made a film called Sunsets and is involved in other projects. For his creative cultural contributions in the United States, he was honored the Award of Excellence by the Japanese American National Museum in 2006. (October 26, 2006)

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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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

Didn't have rights that whites had

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.

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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

Californians didn't know about evacuation

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.

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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

Conditions of assembly centers

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.

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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

Visit to assembly centers by E. Stanley Jones

(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

Arrest of father

(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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Archie Miyatake
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Archie Miyatake

His father describes the importance of photographing camp life

(1924-2016) Photographer and businessman.

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Yukio Takeshita
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Yukio Takeshita

Involvement in JACL

(b.1935) American born Japanese. Retired businessman.

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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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Roy H. Matsumoto
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Roy H. Matsumoto

Finding work in the assembly center

(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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Peggie Nishimura Bain
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Peggie Nishimura Bain

Evacuation

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

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