Tessaku

Tessaku was the name of a short-lived magazine published at the Tule Lake concentration camp during World War II. It also means “barbed wire.” This series brings to light stories of the Japanese American internment, illuminating those that haven’t been told with intimate and honest conversation. Tessaku brings the consequences of racial hysteria to the foreground, as we enter into a cultural and political era where lessons of the past must be remembered.

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Leland Inaba - Part 1

“I think the main thing is that they had themselves had nothing to do with the problem between the two countries. There’s nothing you can do to promote or diminish it. It’s out of your hands. It’s almost like God’s will. What can we do?”

— Leland Inaba

Leland Inaba grew up on a farm in Riverside, California, a city nestled in the larger Southern California area known as the Inland Empire. Before the war, it was humming with Japanese American presence and community, as Issei and Nisei farmers borrowed and bought land to cultivate various crops. Leland’s uncle was …

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Mary Iwami - Part 3

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What details do you remember from camp when the war ended?

When the war ended and Japan surrendered, Tule Lake was filled with sounds of wailing older folks, especially women sitting on the ground, crying and hitting the dirt. I can recall that sadness and felt very sorry for them. Because there were so many pro-Japanese people, I just could not think, because they’re older, how would they get along? In time the fathers were permitted to leave camp to look for jobs. I think they had information that helped them seek their choices. But I’m …

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Mary Iwami - Part 2

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When Pearl Harbor happened, do you remember that day?

What happened to me, I don’t recall that day at all. I think it was because we were on a farm, we didn’t even know it was being bombed, probably. But my father knew about it because the menfolk talked. But we didn’t talk about it and to me, it didn’t register anything. I didn’t know what war was or anything.

What do you recall about the government officials who came to talk to your father?

I remember they had badges and they just looked different. I …

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Mary Iwami - Part 1

“It was a struggle because once we got to the point where we could live in that little house that they built, everything was happy. And then this war happens, and they’re taken from their comfort.”

— Mary Iwami

Mary (Idemoto) Iwami remembers the day her parents’ life changed permanently and seemingly in an instant, disrupting their life as farmers in the agricultural sprawl of Salinas, California. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, FBI agents came to their home to warn Mary’s father to get rid of anything that could link them back to Japan or reveal their sympathies to …

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Yosh Uchida - Part 2

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So can you describe leaving for Arkansas? That’s where you did your basic training?

Right, right. Oh yeah. There were lots of Japanese, Japanese Americans that went to Camp Robinson in Little Rock, Arkansas. And we went by train across the country. And it took us about two or three days to get there. And it was very nerve-wracking. We pulled shades down and went across the country.

Really, they told you to do that?

Uh huh.

Oh my goodness. It was like the same thing as all the other Japanese who were sent–

Well the …

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california chicken farm coach concentration camps dentist farmers FBI JAMsj judo language Manzanar mary iwami olympics Poston Riverside salinas san jose sports tessaku tule lake veteran war World War II