Sharon Yamato

Sharon Yamato is a writer and filmmaker in Los Angeles. She has produced and directed two documentary films, Out of Infamy: Michi Nishiura Weglyn, and A Flicker in Eternity. She also wrote Moving Walls: Preserving the Barracks of America’s Concentration Camps. She has written articles for the Los Angeles Times, and is currently a columnist for The Rafu Shimpo. She has served as a consultant for the Japanese American National Museum, Go For Broke National Education Center, and has conducted oral history interviews for Densho in Seattle.

Updated June 2014

identity en

Cultural Merging and Identity: A Fourth-Generation Okinawan Japanese Peruvian American Speaks Out

Michelle Yamashiro has been told she has little trouble expressing herself. The vibrant 28-year-old Nikkei is not sure whether her outspokenness comes from her Japanese Peruvian parents, who taught her to “think critically and to have an opinion,” or from her Okinawan grandparents, who wanted her to know and understand their tri-continental family history. Whatever the origin, the former interim director of the youth empowerment group, Kizuna, wants others to share her proud passion for learning about and sharing family history and culture—regardless of how diverse and turbulent the past might be.

Hers is a complex family history that’s not …

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business en

Scrumptiously Inventive Mochi In Fresno

I first learned about Fresno’s landmark mochi shop, Kogetsu-do, 16 years ago while doing research for the Japanese American National Museum’s Annual Dinner Gala. The event’s theme, “Honoring the Family,” paid tribute to more than 70 businesses run by families for three generations, many of them starting out as mom-and-pop operations that were still going strong after more than a century.

Most of the honorees were businesses that had managed to survive despite all odds, the biggest obstacle being sudden and prolonged interruption by the wartime incarceration. Four of them were well-known in their regional Nihonmachis for making and …

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culture en

Rediscovered Art at Heart Mountain

It’s no secret that Heart Mountain was the inspiration for many artists held in captivity at the incarceration center that bore its name. The lonely peak towering over the vast wasteland of Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin became a symbol of isolation, perseverance, and hope for many who lost their freedom while under its spell—a symbol that most likely roused a number of artists like Estelle Peck Ishigo, the celebrated Caucasian sketch artist and watercolorist known for having been voluntarily imprisoned with her Nisei husband. Ishigo used the peak for the title of her book, Lone Heart Mountain, while other artists, …

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culture en

On a Soul-Searching Journey with Kishi Bashi

Kishi Bashi at the Skirball Cultural Center on August 23, 2018.

Striding onto the Skirball Cultural Center’s Sunset Concert stage before a full house, Kishi Bashi (née Kaoru Ishibashi) picks up his violin and conducts the string players behind him with reserved but palpable authority. He expertly bows and strums the violin, confidently directs the accompanying strings, and opens up with a sweet sounding vocal that brings cheers from an audience that has clearly followed him from the release of his first solo album in 2014. In the tradition of rock bands like ELO (Electric Light Orchestra), he adds electronics …

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war en

Warehouse on the Corner of Gardena and Orchard*

At 94 years old, sprightly Ray Harbold has a twinkle in his eye as he sits in front of his treasured model train set while talking about playing golf up until only a few months ago. The years have slowed his faculties a bit, but there are still vestiges of the strong and agile man who ably ran the family business, Harbold Auto Electric, a Gardena, CA institution that was established just a few years after Ray was born. The business has since closed its doors, but the family still leases the property to a radiator shop that sits on …

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