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https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/interviews/clips/576/

Trick in developing the film

What they did was they didn’t know anything about the internment experience. I mean they were so ignorant, they wanted Toshiro Mifune in there and so forth. And they said, “Oh well, do those people speak English?” You know, it was that kind of ignorance. And they wanted, of course, a White lead. They wanted Louis Frizel to be the lead and that’s why we had to put Gretchen in there. She was great, but we had to have a White woman in there, so that story was made up, that love story, you know.

Some of the things we had to do in order to get it even past the first round. But what John did is – he’s so smart – he showed them one script and then we worked on another script. And they didn’t know the difference. So we really patted down those other leads.


California concentration camps discrimination Farewell to Manzanar (film) (book) interpersonal relations Manzanar concentration camp movies racism United States World War II camps

Date: December 27, 2005

Location: California, US

Interviewer: John Esaki

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

Interviewee Bio

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, co-author of the acclaimed Farewell to Manzanar, was born in 1934 in Inglewood, California. The youngest of ten children, she spent her early childhood in Southern California until 1942 when she and her family were incarcerated at the World War II concentration camp at Manzanar, California.

In 1945, the family returned to Southern California where they lived until 1952 when they moved to San Jose, California. Houston was the first in her family to earn a college degree. She met James D. Houston while attending San Jose State University. They married in 1957 and have three children.

In 1971, a nephew who had been born at Manzanar asked Houston to tell him about what the camp had been like because his parents refused to talk about it. She broke down as she began to tell him, so she decided instead to write about the experience for him and their family. Together with her husband, Houston wrote Farewell to Manzanar. Published in 1972, the book is based on what her family went through before, during, and after the war. It has become a part of many school curricula to teach students about the Japanese American experience during WWII. It was made into a made-for-television movie in 1976 that won a Humanitas Prize and was nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Writing in a Drama.

Since Farewell to Manzanar, Houston has continued to write both with her husband and on her own. In 2003, her first novel, The Legend of Fire Horse Woman was published. She also provides lectures in both university and community settings. In 2006, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston received the Award of Excellence for her contributions to society from the Japanese American National Museum. (November 25, 2006)

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

Past ties to present situation in Middle East

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

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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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Barbara Kawakami
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Barbara Kawakami

Okinawan discrimination

An expert researcher and scholar on Japanese immigrant clothing.

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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

The day Pearl Harbor was bombed

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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

Idealism before war, being red, white and blue

(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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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

Rounding up Issei and Nikkei

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.

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Wakako Nakamura Yamauchi
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Wakako Nakamura Yamauchi

Her experience as a Japanese-American schoolchild in Oceanside, California, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor

(1924-2018) Artist and playwright.

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Wally Kaname Yonamine
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Wally Kaname Yonamine

His parents' experience with Japanese resistance toward intermarriage with Okinawans

(b.1925) Nisei of Okinawan descent. Had a 38-year career in Japan as a baseball player, coach, scout, and manager.

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Roy H. Matsumoto
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Roy H. Matsumoto

Treatment of Kibei after return to United States

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

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