Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kanji Sahara Interview
Narrator: Kanji Sahara
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Torrance, California
Date: October 5, 2018
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-448-20

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 20>

BN: So how did you get involved with the Tuna Canyon group? Because you don't have a personal connection to that story, right?

KS: No. So then one day, I was in San Fernando Valley, so JACL had a quarterly there, and there were these two flyers. One flyer was from, about Tuna Canyon and they wanted people to go down to the L.A. city council to speak at the planning commission, heritage commission, some commission in the city hall. And the other flyer was from Huntington Beach, that they wanted people to come to speak at the city council meeting, or the city planning commission meeting. So that's how I got involved. So I went down there one day to the L.A. city hall, and I said my two minutes, and then afterwards, some of us that spoke, we went to Cross Street, and there's this little outdoor food market. So we sat down and had lunch there, and that's the first time I met Nancy Oda at that food market after the meeting. And the same thing with Huntington Beach, I drove down there to speak at the city planning commission hearing in the evening. But Huntington Beach is a long distance to drive. But they don't have Japanese speaking, they have a city council meeting but Japanese don't seem to want to show up.

BN: And then what did you do for the Tuna Canyon?

KS: Okay, so then before, I was making these display panels, and the display panel had to do with before EO9066, and after 9066 and stuff like that. And these display panels were made from trifolds, and I brought easels, and you open up the trifold, and when you open it up, becomes about two feet tall and four feet wide when you unfold it. And I made several trifolds about camp and stuff like that. And when they have DOR, then I would have the trifold up against the wall and stuff. And then I noticed that some people were stopping by, and they were taking photographs of every single text on the trifold, and they were really interested in what was on it. I said hey, this is important. People want to learn. So then I forgot how it was, but I said we should have a traveling exhibit. So first I made a PowerPoint presentation of all the display panels we should have, and from that presentation, they converted that into the JACS grant application form. And then from there, we sent it in, and we got the money. So then after we got the money, then we sort of had what we wanted to have on the panels because of the PowerPoint and stuff I made. But now, people at the Tuna Canyon, they pitched in. And this grant was a two-to-one grant, so it's $102,000, so we had to have $51,000 of labor in kind. So then I was the project director for this grant, so we asked people to write their part. And some people like Endo, the former Rafu editor?

BN: Helen.

KS: Yeah. Like her, if you ask her to write something, right away, within hours, she says, "Will do," and she'll start working on her job. But that's how we got the labor in kind, and that's how we got the text. And then we got a lot of photographs from the internet and stuff. And then we did the oral interviews, but oral interviews, my daughter did three, and then June Berk did about fifteen, twenty oral interviews.

BN: These are interviews with people whose fathers or families were at Tuna Canyon?

KS: Right. So then the thing about this Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition, is that the coalition, there were two groups of people. There were the neighborhood hakujin, and then the Japanese people. The neighborhood people, the main reason that they started out five, ten years ago, was to stop the owners of the golf course, the Verdugo Hills country club, from expanding and turning that into, like a residential development. So there were these group of people that were opposing the golf course becoming a residential development, and then there were these Japanese that wanted to have some sort of memorial for the Tuna Canyon detention station. So we became the coalition. So then the chairman was this guy named Lloyd Hitt, so he was working on this history of Tuna Canyon way before. And then the president was Nancy Oda, and I was the vice president. But we had a coalition that wanted to preserve the history of Tuna Canyon. So then right now we're trying to see how we could acquire land at that site, and if it would require land, and then depending on which land we could get, then we could have a museum, and then we could have an outdoor memorial. And the memorial that we're thinking about is that if we could have it for the individual concentration camp. Like at JANM, they have a museum, Common Grounds, but the camp is sort of like a generic camp. But if we could have, in our museum, each camp would have a specific area, so that the people could say, "This part here, or this side here is for my camp which was Amache," then I think you have identity between the people that's coming to see the museum of a particular camp. So we might go that route if we have the space and the money to do that. And then I also like to see an outdoor monument for the people that were incarcerated in these ten camps. So that'd be a huge project, building these outdoor monuments for these people.

BN: You've got years of work ahead of you.

KS: Yeah, so then it's got years of work, and the first step is to see who could acquire some land.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.