Densho Digital Repository
Seattle JACL Oral History Collection
Title: Stan Shikuma Interview
Narrator: Stan Shikuma
Interviewers: Ana Tanaka, Dr. Kyle Kinoshita
Date: February 11, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-sjacl-2-33

<Begin Segment 1>

KK: Good evening, everyone. We're here today to conduct a legacy project interview with Stan Shikuma, who's currently co-president of Seattle JACL and has been a member for quite a few years. And we have on this recording Ana Tanaka, who's a University of Washington intern, who's conducting the interview. And Evan Shigaya, who's a guest here, observing the interview and learning more about both the legacy project as well as JACL. So, after I get done with this introduction in half a second here, Ana is going to take over to fire questions at Stan. And this will be about an hour but it's not so much a grilling of Stan but more of a conversation in that way. So anyway, Ana, go ahead and take it away.

AT: Yeah. Hi Stan, it's nice to meet you.

SS: My pleasure, Ana.

AT: Thank you for being here. So I'm a junior at U-Dub, I'm one of the interns working with the JACL on this legacy project. And so I guess to start off, would you want to just start off telling a little background about yourself?

SS: Well, sure. So I was born... well okay, so I'm a Sansei, third-generation Japanese American. Both my parents, both sides of my family were put in the camps. They weren't married yet in World War II, when World War II came. So Dad's side of the family was in Watsonville, California, and they got taken away to Salinas fairgrounds first and then sent to the Poston concentration camp in Arizona. My mom's side of the family were living in Shelton, Washington, and they got taken directly to Tule Lake in California. So yeah, Grandpa Shikuma immigrated around the turn of the century. I think he came in the 1890s. And was a... started as a hired hand on farms and then became a sharecropper. And eventually after my uncle, oldest uncle was born, purchased some land under my uncle's name, since the Issei couldn't buy land. And other notable thing on my dad's side is Dad was the first in the family to go to college. He attended Stanford University in the '30s, so actually during the Depression. Majored in economics, was not able to get a job afterwards other than finally got a job as a clerk, kind of a clerking position in a company. He got married and had my older brother who was four when they got taken away to the camps.

My mom's side of the family ran a dry cleaning store or laundry in Shelton, Washington. And my mom is Kibei so when she was I think eight years old, they sent her back to Japan, her and my older Uncle Phil. And they stayed there for about ten years living with relatives in Hiroshima-ken, not in the city, but in one of the smaller islands in the same prefecture. So some of her school friends were affected by the bombing of Hiroshima. So when she came back at age eighteen, she had forgotten pretty much all of her English, so she worked as what they call the housegirl, basically a maid, house servant, for a family in Bellingham, who I believe the husband was the president of what is now Western Washington University. His wife was a painter. I don't know if she was a great painter, but she gave Mom a couple of paintings which I still have. She also painted ceramics, so like dishes. So I have a few of those as well.

So Mom got married to Dad after the war because Dad's first wife, Mary, died in childbirth. Sorry, this is kind of out of sequence. But, so after the war -- during the war, Dad got out of Poston and went to Chicago and lived on the south side. One of the stories he told me is that where they were living was in the south side of Chicago so it's the Black area of the city. And he said, "Yeah, so it was kind of strange because you would get on the subway, the train, going into downtown," where he had a job. He said when he got on the train, he was the only person who wasn't Black on the whole train. And when he got off downtown, he was the only person who wasn't white on the whole train. So once you cross from the south side to north side, it's like the whole racial complexion really, just totally changed. Because segregation was really strict back then.

Anyway, so after the war ended, he moved back to the West Coast, but Dad and Uncle Mack, who also had kids, went to a little town called Brogan, Oregon, in Eastern Washington. And Uncle Heek, who was the youngest and a 442 vet, went back to the hometown of Watsonville, California, with Grandpa and Grandma. And they never said it, but I think it was because they weren't sure if it was safe to go back to Watsonville. And so they sent Uncle Heek, who didn't have any kids yet, and Grandpa and Grandma, who their kids were all grown. And the two brothers who had little kids, they went out to Brogan, Oregon, which had a population of like two hundred. Anyway, so they were living there. Dad's first wife died in childbirth. There were some, some rumors that the doctor who was supposed to be taking care of her was drunk when he came into the hospital. And so there's underlying things of like, did they really care because maybe they didn't really care about Japanese patients. And so, my uncle, another uncle on my mom's side, was the pastor at the Christian church in Ontario, Oregon, and so he connected my father and my mother. They met, they got together, got married.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

SS: And so I was born in Brogan, Oregon, in 1953. And we eventually moved back to Watsonville in 1955. I was... I turned two, like, on the way. We stopped and stayed with my aunt in Florin, California, for a few months, and that's where I turned two. And then we moved into Watsonville. And that's where I grew up, went to high school, graduated. Worked down to... it was a strawberry farm, we also had raspberries and blackberries. So I worked on the farm through high school, actually, and a couple years in college, I would go back in the summer as well.

When I graduated from high school, I went to Stanford. There I've got my first intro to Asian American Studies initially through a subscription to Gidra that my older sister gave me, and that got me interested in it. There weren't really any classes in Asian American Studies. I did take a Chicano Studies class, Chicano lit class, and a Sociology of Black Community that was taught and also took a seminar on Eastern European Jews Pre-World War II. So I learned about Shtetls and Pogroms that were carried out in Eastern Europe, what that, more like Yiddish culture was like. So I got exposure to a lot of multicultural things. My senior year, I lived in the Asian American theme house at Stanford. And one of our projects was to organize the first Asian American Studies course on Stanford campus. It was a student initiative. It was kind of like a continuing ed type course or student organized course. You take it for one credit pass/fail. And we recruited Edison Uno from San Francisco to come down and teach it.

And then after I graduated, I moved to Boston because I wanted to see the East Coast, lived there for not quite two years, worked in a research lab, and then came back to the West Coast in fall of... let's see, I graduated at Stanford in 1976. So I came back in the fall of '78 to go to school at UC Berkeley, and got involved in the Asian student union. And kind of became more radicalized or more of an activist through Asian student union work. So we would drive over to San Francisco, and like, gentrification was going on and they were starting to redevelop areas. Meaning developers would come in and they would tear down old buildings where Issei and elderly Nisei lived, and put up something new that that they could sell for a higher price. So we would do these things where we would blockade buildings when they tried to evict people. And then we would support labor strikes, so we'd go join picket lines. And on campus, we would organize dances to raise funds for Chol Soo Lee, who was a Korean guy who had been convicted of murder, we were trying to get him released or get a new trial.

There was also the reinstatement of the draft so we were part of a multicultural coalition on campus to oppose draft registration. And that's where I took my first pilgrimage to Tule Lake and I've been involved with the Tule Lake pilgrimage ever since. So since 1970... it must have been 79. So yeah, 1979 was my first Tule Lake pilgrimage, and I've been on every pilgrimage to Tule Lake since then.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

SS: So in '81, I got to Seattle. And two weeks after I arrived, they had the CWRIC, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, held their hearings in Seattle in late August of '81. So I went there and attended all sessions of that. I eventually got into the nursing program at UW and my wife was in a graduate program at UW. So we started a new student, Asian student organization. We helped start the Students Against Apartheid, and eventually got the University of Washington to divest from Apartheid South Africa. And also got involved in Nuclear Free Pacific Movement, trying to keep nukes out of, U.S. nuclear weapons out of the Pacific. And got involved in redress. So I got a part time job working for the Pacific Northwest District of JACL to work on redress. So that's where I met Kyle's mom, Cherry Kinoshita, kind of the backbone and brains behind the redress effort locally but statewide and also nationally. She was a real moving force, as well as a number of other people, Chuck Kato and Karen Seriguchi, was the director of the district office. So, yeah. And so that's how I got to Seattle. [Laughs]

AT: And so you said in 1981, you came to Seattle and what brought you exactly to Seattle?

SS: I was kind of tagging along with my wife. She had been accepted at a graduate program. We both graduated from UC Berkeley. She got her bachelor's, I got my master's. And I didn't have any plans after that, but she had applied and gotten accepted to the School of Ed at UW for a graduate program. So I came along with her.

AT: Cool, that's really cool. Well, thank you for all that information. So I guess once you got to Seattle, and how did you get... so you got involved with JACL in Seattle when you first got here? Is that right?

SS: No, it was a few years later. I got involved with taiko almost as soon as I got here. [Laughs] So I've also been playing taiko since 1981. I got involved with the International Examiner, the community newspaper, first. I started writing about... well, I donated photos that I took out the commission hearings. I wrote articles about anti-Marcos movement in the Philippines as well as nuclear-free and independent Pacific issues. I also covered the Gordon Hirabayashi coram nobis trial that was held in the courthouse downtown Seattle. And I also... back then it was called the International District summer festival, I think now it's called Dragon Fest. Back then it was a really small thing like basically was Hing Hay Park and maybe one street got blocked off. Now it's like, block off like five streets up and down or five blocks up and down. But I was the coordinator for that for two years. And played taiko. Probably it was '85 that I was hired by JACL, maybe. No, I was still in school, so it must have been, like, '84. '83 or '84, I started working like ten hours a week. I probably put in more than that, but I only got paid for ten hours a week. So yeah, so '83 or '84 is when I got actually involved with JACL. My dad had been a JACL member. So I... when I was little I remember every once in a while a bunch of guys, because they were always all just the guys, would come over and they'd have a JACL meeting. And me and my sister had to stay in our bedrooms while they were meeting.

AT: That's really cool. So you already had some, I guess maybe inside knowledge about what JACL was before you joined yourself? Or eavesdropped maybe? [Laughs]

SS: A little bit.

AT: Ok cool.

SS: Yeah, a little bit.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AT: Yeah. So you talked about taiko. So what first got you into taiko in the first place?

SS: Well, I'd been aware of taiko, particularly when I was at Berkeley, because we would always, when we had events or rallies, we would try to get one of the taiko groups to come and play. And when we went out in the community, like in San Francisco or San Jose, because there was San Francisco Taiko Dojo and San Jose Taiko, we would always stick around and watch taiko. So I always loved it, but it never occurred to me that maybe I could play until I got to Seattle. And then when I first got to Seattle, I was staying with the friend of a friend, like I didn't even really know him. But my wife, who was finishing summer school, so she couldn't come up yet -- so I was sent ahead to try to find a place to live. So I stayed with someone that she knew, earlier days in UC Berkeley. And his roommate was one of the founders of Seattle Taiko Group, and we kind of hit it off. So then he said, "Hey, we're going to do a workshop, taiko workshop, try to recruit some new people, you want to come?" So I went and basically love at first sight or first hit. It was just really fun, really exciting. So, after a month or two, they asked if I wanted to join, so I did. So I think officially, I joined the taiko group in either October or November of '81.

AT: So cool. So this is a very, I guess, broad question, but to you, what does taiko mean to you, then? I mean, it's something that you were, you said it was love at first hit? [Laughs]� So what do you think? How does that... how has that influenced kind of, I guess, what you've done after that? Or I guess just in general?

SS: Yeah, well, so for me, taiko has a number of things that pull me towards it. So one is just the sheer joy of playing, just the physicality. That it's a combination of what we like to say is taiko is a synthesis of rhythm, movement, and spirit. So the rhythm is what you play, the musical aspect, the movement is the choreography, and the kata, the form. So some things in common with like martial arts or sports, where you get to move around and use your whole body. And then the spirit part can be taken a couple of different ways. One is, the more secular version is, it's that the energy that you put into it, and one of our sayings is that the energy you put into the drum will determine the energy that you get out of the drum. So, no energy in, no energy out kind of like the "garbage in, garbage out" terminology, except with a drum. And so there's that part. So there's a lot of just physical joy in hitting a drum and moving around. I think the other, as I've played longer, I think, the more spiritual side of the spirit equation is... goes beyond the physicality and the feeling of joy, but also like, some of our teachers have told us that -- and also a lot of Native American folks we run into -- is that drums are spiritual things themselves, that a drum is, comes from wood, so the trees, it comes from the skin that you put on it from animals, it comes from the tacks and the metal rings that you put on it, so from the earth, and that all of these things have spirits or karma. And when you put them all together in a drum, then you as the player are the missing element. And when you strike the drum, you're giving voice to all these spirits that went into the making of the drum. Earth, plants, animals. And so it's kind of like you're enabling those voices to come out, those spirits to come out. And so it's a big responsibility. It's not just... it should not be taken lightly.

And Kenny Endo, one of our teachers, has told us that, but he also said that anytime you go out and play in public, there's going to be someone in the audience who it's the first time they've ever heard taiko. And however you play is what they're gonna think taiko is. And for someone in the audience, it will be the last time they ever hear taiko played, and that will be their lasting impression that they take away. So he said, if you're going to be a taiko performer, taiko artist, you really need to take it seriously. And, yeah, it's good to have fun, that's a necessary part of it, but it's not something you should take for granted or belittle or ever think that what you do on stage or what you do in performance is not important, or it doesn't matter. And then, the other thing is one of our... the guys who, Mark Miyoshi, who makes drums, is a very spiritual guy. And he takes it very seriously when he makes drums. And he also has a lot of Native American friends, so they always go out and bless the drum before he sells it. But like he would tell us, that spiritual part of it, and that... that really what you're trying to do is become one with, what we call become one with the drum, where you and the drum are communicating and you're no longer two separate entities, but you become one thing in process. And when you can achieve that, that's kind of like being in the zone for sports athletes. That you don't, you don't have to think about it. It just kind of flows naturally.

AT: That's really cool. Yeah, I remember, I think, Gabrielle, who we interviewed the first time, I think she said that she took taiko lessons with you before, which is just something that... I was rewatching the interview, and I heard that and I was like, oh my gosh, we're gonna be interviewing him soon. So that was cool.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AT: So I guess on another note, going back to kind of like your activism within JACL and Seattle, I know that you've done a lot of work with Tsuru for Solidarity and Hiroshima for Hope and things like that, and I was just wondering if you can kind of touch on those things that you've done.

SS: Yeah, so okay, so with JACL specifically, I was pretty active during the redress movement. And then we won redress in '88. And then, so my, my job ended. [Laughs] Actually, I think it ended before we actually, the bill passed. Because I graduated, and I got my nursing degree, and so then I got a full time job at University of Washington. So that was in '86. So I probably stopped working at JACL in '85, so it must have been like '83 through '85 that I was working there. But I think in... so there's a little hiatus and then in, let's see, '91, the Tule Lake pilgrimage had been happening every year or two until '84. And then everyone who was organizing the Tule Lake pilgrimage got involved in redress. And so there wasn't anyone to organize it. So, there was a little hiatus and I think the next one happened after redress. So I think it was '91 when people started saying we really need to do a pilgrimage again. So in '91, they started up and I got more involved with the organizing of it. And that kind of became more of my center of attention. Also, I had kids by then, so that also took up a lot of time.

So I got back into JACL in 2011 when the Power of Words fight was going on. Mako Nakagawa, who's also a past president of JACL and was active in redress, getting redress for the young women at that time who were fired by the school district or forced to resign after Pearl Harbor. So she worked with the school board to get them redress in the '80s. Anyway, in 2010, she proposed a Power of Words resolution to JACL, basically arguing that we should get rid of all the euphemisms around camp, like evacuation and relocation and pioneer communities. It's kind of like, no, we weren't "evacuated," it wasn't like a tidal wave or an earthquake where you evacuate people for safety, it was kind of like forced removal at gunpoint. It wasn't a "relocation center," like, Boeing's going to move its headquarters to Chicago, we got to relocate all those staffpeople. No, it was kind of like, yeah, we're going to lock you up, send you to a concentration camp and keep you there for the duration of the war. So she had this idea that we really need to get rid of the euphemisms, that you can't really teach a true history, unless you use words that really reflect what the facts on the ground were. That she put it, "Words can be used to reveal the truth, or they can be used to hide the truth. And we've been using words that hide the truth for much too long, so we got to use words that really reveal the truth, express the truth." And it got a lot of pushback within JACL. And I think that was largely based on fear of upsetting people, that it would be controversial. And some people just being uncomfortable with rocking the boat. But Mako was relentless and so she kept pushing it and finally got it passed. And then someone wanted to, the next year, wanted to make a "correction," quote/unquote, that would water it down. And so she was fighting against that.

So in 2011, they had the National Convention in Bellevue. So Mako wanted to do a workshop on Power of Words and why it was so important and necessary. So she asked, pulled me in to organize the workshop, because she knew... because people in Tule Lake pilgrimage had been talking a lot about terminology because of the nature of Tule Lake being the segregation center, and people being called "disloyal" because they didn't answer "yes-yes" to the "loyalty questionnaire." And so terminology and what you call things and how you name things was really important within the Tule Lake Committee. And she knew that I was working with them, so she said, "Well, you'd be a good person to organize this workshop, because you have contacts with people who know about it and have been working on..." So that's how I got involved. So we actually formed a Power of Words committee, and there were like five of us that would meet like every two or three weeks, usually at the Panama Hotel or Bush Garden, and go over ideas of, "So how are we going to get this workshop off the ground?" And then after the convention, it was like, how are we going to get the Power of Words distributed and actually used? And so then, so then she says, "Well, I'm getting kind of older, so I'm going to retire and step off the board. So we need someone who knows Power of Words on the board, so you should do it." [Laughs] So Mako's not the kind of person you can say "no" to very easily. So I ended up joining the JACL Seattle board. And then she was also on the district council. And she was like, "Well, we really need a voice for Power of Words on the Pacific Northwest District Council, so you should be the Seattle rep." So again, couldn't say no. So I said, "Okay, I'll do that." And then she said, "Well, since I'm no longer on the district council, and you are, then I can't really be on the National Education Committee. But since you're on the district council now, you can be on the National Education Committee." So I got put on that, too. So it was really Mako that got me back, activated within JACL. And then it was Bill Tashima who got me interested or coerced into being president.

AT: Wow. Is this... I happen to, like, right next to me, have the Power of Words handbook. I didn't even know I had this. My baachan gave this to me the other day, and I was like, "Oh, cool, yeah, I'll take it." Is that... I guess that's something that, I didn't know that was such like a movement. I didn't, I thought that was just something that someone came up with to write about.

SS: Yeah, it really took off. Because when Mako first started this, nobody was using terms like "incarceration," "concentration camp." JANM had done one exhibit in New York, where it said "America's concentration camps," and had gotten pushback. Actually, it wasn't even really, in the beginning, it wasn't the Jewish community. That was what the big fear is, that we would have had the Jewish community if we said concentration camp. But even in New York City, it wasn't the Jewish community that initially opposed it or objected to it. It was the national park superintendent. It was at Ellis Island and it was because they were concerned that the Jewish community would be upset. So then they said, "Oh, well, no, we can't have it called concentration camp, American concentration camps, because it would upset the Jewish community." And then they started calling up people in the Jewish community. So then we had to, JANM had to have a big conference with them and they eventually said it was okay to use the term. But even JANM had to think about whether to use it or not, and other Japanese American organizations. So it was a real struggle to get the resolution on Power of Words passed through the JACL National Council, and then to get the booklet printed up, and then to get it distributed, and then get people to actually use it. Because we're thinking we need to get it to media people. So like, when they report things that they say, so they stopped saying, oh yes, Japanese Americans were "evacuated" in 1942, sent to "relocation centers." And then also educators, higher ed, and K through 12, and in textbooks to get that change. So there's a lot that needed to be cleaned up.

SS: Yeah, I think my professor, I'm in a lot of Asian American Studies classes and one of my professors has used "internment camp" and so then everyone in class starts using that. And it just seems wrong now that I know that it's... that that's not even the right term to use. But yeah, definitely see the importance in the language. [Laughs]

SS: Yeah. The "internment" one is probably the most difficult one because it's... and it's partially our fault, I mean, the movement's fault. Because we started using "internment" as an alternative to "evacuation" and "relocation" back in the '60s and '70s. We started... because we didn't want to use those terms, so we started saying that, well, people were "interned." But we didn't really understand the legal definition. And people in the '60s and '70s didn't really know about the Department of Justice camps. Like even in Asian American Studies courses, either they didn't really know that Department of Justice camps existed or Army internment centers existed. Or it got like a one sentence thing like, oh yeah, there were, the Department of Justice also locked people up. So the distinction between internment of, which is the legal definition is that in times of war, you intern citizens of enemy nations. And that's what the DOJ camps were, because they only took Issei, citizens of Japan, an enemy nation, and locked them up. So those are correctly called internment camps. But if you're locking up your own citizens, you can't... you're not foreign nationals, you're not of an enemy nation. So it's incorrect to call it that. Because even the commission, Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, has got it wrong. So it was really after the '80s and the '90s, or even in the 2000s, before people really started making that distinction.

AT: I mean, even calling the Issei when they were rounded up, like they weren't allowed to gain citizenship, right? So like, they were forced into that sort of label anyway. So even that feels a little wrong to call them interned.

SS: Yeah.

AT: Yeah.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AT: For the other things that you've done around Seattle, and just in general, I know that you also worked on, more recently, Resolution Three, right?

SS: Yep.

AT: And so what was, I guess, the work that went on, to get that, kind of that ball rolling and things like that?

SS: Oh, yeah, that was another can of worms. So I guess, during the war, JACL nationally had adopted a policy of cooperation with the government. So, basically saying, so we're not going to oppose removal and incarceration. And we're going to cooperate with the government and like, once in the camps, it's like, we'll work with the administration. And so that was the policy and strategy of JACL during the war. And that didn't sit well with a lot of people. Also that JACL was a Nisei organization. The average age of Nisei was like, early twenties. The oldest Nisei were maybe in their thirties during 1942. And a lot of the Nisei, weren't even of voting age, they were still teenagers or something. So, so it also didn't sit well with the Issei generation, because it's like what are all these twenty or thirty year old kids doing, telling us what we should be doing or how we should be reacting? And then there were also people who wanted to protest or were really, really angry, even if they weren't sure what to do. So that ended up coming to a head with the "loyalty questionnaire" because... which was a totally bad idea by the government. But it also might have been a conscious effort. One, I think, on the one hand, I think it was ineptness by the government, because they wanted to have an easy, quick and easy way to say that Japanese are loyal, Japanese Americans are loyal. Because the rationale for taking everybody away is that we couldn't tell who was loyal or disloyal, and there wasn't time. So it was a military necessity to prevent any sabotage or espionage to just move everybody, which even if you think about it, is ridiculous. Like my brother was four years old, my grandparents were in their late fifties and didn't speak any English, or read any English, so it's kind of like, so they're gonna spy on enemy, the U.S. government.

Anyway so... but that that was the rationale given by the army, is that these people are just, it's too dangerous because we don't know who's loyal, who's not loyal, and so we've got to remove them all. So then the WRA wanted to get people out of the camps. It's pretty expensive to feed, house, clothe 120,000 people in cities that you literally build from scratch. So in some... in the WRA was a schizoid organization because there were some people who were really racist, and there were some people who were really liberal. And felt sorry for the Japanese Americans and said this isn't really right so we should do something to try to make things better. So you have this desire to get people out of the camps, either because they want to save money or because they think it was a bad idea to begin with, and we should do something. So they come up with this crazy idea to, "Okay, so let's give us a little questionnaire to determine loyalty." And their expectation was that 99 percent of the people would say, "Yes, I'm loyal," answer "yes-yes." Because the other thing with resettling the Japanese, to take them out of the camps and move somewhere else, like governors, and local officials, these places said, "These people are so dangerous, that you had to take them out of their homes and lock them in a camp in the middle of nowhere. And now you want to put them in our community? We don't want these dangerous people here. So... because they're probably gonna do sabotage or espionage or criminal activity." Kind of like what they're saying about people crossing the southern border now. And so the WRA felt like they had to provide proof that, "Well, we're only sending loyal people out there," and so that was another reason they wanted to do this "loyalty questionnaire." But to their surprise, like, about 16 percent of the people did not say "yes-yes." And that's 16 percent of the adult population people over the age of seventeen.

And then they got sent to the segregation center at Tule Lake, which was the absolute worst of the ten WRA camps, because they turned it into a maximum security prison, double defense, quadrupled the number of guard towers, quadrupled the number of army guards that were patrolling the perimeter. The administration was also really, really bad, very punitive. Had a prison mentality, prison warden mentality, for how to deal with people. So it was just a really bad situation. Then you take... in all the other camps, people were sent from a particular geographic area, so everyone from Seattle went to Minidoka. Everyone from the rest of Western Washington went to Tule Lake. San Francisco people got sent to Topaz. So there was at least some cohesion or sense of community in most of these camps. But then, at Tule Lake, you take everybody from all these other camps, the people who are the most angry, the most resentful, and, and the most outspoken, and then you stick them all in one camp. You have people from San Francisco and Seattle and L.A. and Sacramento and you stick them... who don't know each other. L.A. JAs were pretty different and Seattle JAs who were more urban were really different from people from the Central Valley, who were more farmers and stuff. So it's just, it was just a bad situation. Anyway, so they get stuck in Tule Lake. JACL takes a very bad view of them and says, "Well, these are the disloyal people." They agree with the government that these are the "disloyal" Japanese Americans and they should be segregated.

And then after the war, there's a lot of stigma attached to being a "no-no." Because if you look at the numbers, one in five Japanese Americans ended up going through Tule Lake before and after segregation. Because there were 12,000 people there before, they sent another 12,000 in at that time of segregation, removed six or 7000 of the original people out. So that's a total of 24,000 Japanese Americans who were in Tule Lake. And out of 120, so you're talking... one thousand. So you're talking about one out of five. And I used to tell people, like, if you go into a room full of Nisei and say, "Hey, guys, how many of you were Tule Lake?" you would never see one in five hands go up. Because there's so much stigma attached to it. People wouldn't want to admit it. And so there's all this bad blood because of that, that wartime experience. And so we got to Salt Lake City Convention, and there'd been suggestions or movements to... saying that JACL should apologize for some of the things that they did during and after the war. So the first one was with people who resisted the draft, like the Heart Mountain boys, are the most famous group. Eighty-one, I think, guys at Heart Mountain refused to register for the draft. And all of them said, "We're willing to serve in the army as soon as you release our families from camp, or as soon as you restore my civil rights, then I'm happy to serve in the army. But until you do that, no, I'm not gonna go fight." And they all got convicted, they all got sent to federal prison. And JACL, at the time supported that. Because they really wanted to, because they supported the formation of the 442nd and the MIS, because they felt like we really need to prove loyalty, and the best way to do that is on the battlefield. Because if you do it on the battlefield, then no one can deny it. And the 442 and the MIS had an amazing record and showed immense heroism. So there's no arguing with that. But they also kind of put down the people who resisted the draft. So in 2000, they issued an apology to those people who resisted the draft. And that was a big, controversial thing, actually, a lot of people ended up leaving JACL at that time. A lot of the, especially the ones who were vets, so that created kind of a rift.

So, when we did the apology resolution for Tule Lake resisters, that was also controversial. But I think less so because the population remembered and the membership had changed. A lot more younger people. People who were... who did not live through that experience, because the people who lived through it on both sides, if you're "yes-yes" or "no-no," that whole thing was traumatic, really, really traumatic and very intense emotionally. Even though the Nisei would always deny the emotional impact of it, the trauma of it, it's inevitable. So it was really hard because the feelings are so, so strong among the people who actually lived through it. And there were still some at the convention who were arguing that we shouldn't apologize, "because they were disloyal." [Laughs] And yeah, but we... I hadn't intended to do that, but an op-ed appeared in the Rafu Shimpo. And I think it got reprinted in the Pacific Citizen, JACL paper, about "It's time to apologize, for JACL to apologize to the 'no-nos.'" And then a committee got started up of people within JACL who agreed with that, and said, "Well, we should draft a resolution and present it." And so I kind of got pulled into that and eventually me and Haruka Rotabush from San Francisco kind of became the co-chairs or co-coordinators of that effort. And I ended up being the one who was kind of leading the floor fight at the national council to pass the resolution.

AT: Oh, that's, like just crazy how there's still pushback against that, like in recent years, because it just shows how traumatic that was during the war.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AT: And I know we're like at about an hour, and I don't want to, I want to respect your time, everyone's time. But I also don't want to skip over anything that's super important. And I know that there's a lot more that you have done as well as with the pilgrimage, and with Tule Lake and other things. And so, if there's anything specific that you want to talk about go right ahead.

SS: Oh, well, I guess the two other important things for JACL perspective is getting involved with From Hiroshima to Hope. Because one of the guys I met in redress, and within JACL was Ken Nakano, who was another Kibei, like my mom, who as a young person had been sent back to Japan. But he got stuck there during the war and came back after the war. But he was in Hiroshima so he was hibakusha, he was affected by the bombing. So he was actively involved in trying to get, like the medical teams from Japan to come to the Seattle area, because there were, at that time, there were a number of hibakusha living in the greater Seattle area. And so he was also instrumental and getting us involved in commemorating Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And so I got involved with that. Actually, when I was working with JACL in the mid-'80s, we did our first Hiroshima/Nagasaki memorial program with Mike Lowry as our keynote speaker. We did it at Blaine Methodist Church as a JACL sponsored event and with WPSR, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility. And, to our surprise, we got like four hundred JAs to come out to that program. So I've been involved with it in one way or another ever since. My taiko group plays at From Hiroshima to Hope every year. So that's how we got involved with kind of nuclear weapons and disarmament issues.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

And then the other thing is, more recent, is Tsuru for Solidarity. So the idea for Tsuru for Solidarity sort of started percolating at the Tule Lake pilgrimage in 2018. The "Muslim ban" had just been cleared by the Supreme Court that year and the zero tolerance policy, where ICE was intentionally separating kids from their family at the border, had just happened. And so everyone was really upset about that, because family separation in particular was like, yeah, we know what that's like, that's happened during World War II. And scapegoating of Muslims, yeah, we know about that too. [Laughs] Just like after Pearl Harbor, and even before Pearl Harbor, racial stereotypes. An in World War II, if you're a "Jap," you can't be trusted, and after 9/11, it's like, if you're Muslim, you can't be trusted. So we said, "Oh, yeah, we know what that's like." So we held our own little rally to protest the Muslim ban and zero tolerance policy, separation of families, incarceration of children. And then they did it at the Minidoka pilgrimage the week after that, and then other people started doing stuff around. So, in 2019 it was all kind of spontaneous all over the country.

So in 2019, people were going out to Crystal City, and they found out that Dilley, which is one of the family detention centers, there were three at that time, specifically family detention centers, where they're locking up families that came across the border. That Dilley was like half an hour drive away from Crystal City. So they said, "Well, hell, we ought to go over there and protest," so they went over and protested. And then they found out that they're going to create another, specifically child imprisonment, detention center at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, later that summer, so they said, "Well, we got to go there and protest that." And so people showed up, including a number of what we call our survivors, the people who were actually in the camps, like Satsuki In is probably the most well-known, but like Paul Tomita locally was also in that group. They've all been really outspoken. So that's kind of energized us to, or for some of us, kind of shamed us. Said, okay, so there's these people who, now they're like eight, eighty-five years old, who are out there protesting injustice because of what happened to them as little kids. So what are we doing? We can't just sit on our ass and do nothing. So, yeah. So I've been working with La Resistencia and going out to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma to try to help shut it down and also to free people. Because conditions were bad there to begin with, but with COVID it's even worse. All those things that we know of and remember from the camps period, like separation of families, locking up kids, bad sanitation, bad food, inadequate health care. And we go through that list and every one of them you can check off at NWDC. And Paul says, "The names change, the colors change, but it's all the same old shit." So we're going back out there on February 19th for Day of Remembrance. We're going to stop at Puyallup where they locked people up for temporary detention in '42, and then we're going to drive over and hold another rally in front of the detention center, Northwest Detention Center, where they're still locking up people in 2022, and try to draw the connections. Eighty years on, we're still doing the same type of racial stereotyping and incarceration with no real justification. Other than, "We don't like your color and your race or where you came from."

AT: I work with the Nikkei Student Union here and we're planning on trying to recruit people to also join in on that effort on the 19th. Yeah.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

AT: Well, thank you. Is there anything else that you want to mention regarding, I don't know, maybe the pilgrimage, or really anything else that you think is important?

SS: Well, the Tule Lake pilgrimage, I think the important thing about that is two things. One is bringing out the stories of the "no-nos." Because, actually when we started the Tule Lake pilgrimage, we didn't even know the significance of Tule Lake. We thought it was basically just like any of the other WRA camps. And it wasn't 'til folks like Satsuki Ina and Hiroshi Shimizu, who were both at Tule Lake, Satsuki was born there, Hiroshi was, I think, three or four when he got sent there. They got involved in the late '90s, early 2000s. And then Barbara Takei, who's done a ton of research, and is probably the expert on Tule Lake history, got involved. And Jimmy Yamaichi, who was also at Tule Lake, and knew more than anybody about actual physical layout because he was a supervisor in the construction crew at Tule Lake. So that team of people, and a few others really pushed for, we need to recognize and uplift the story of the "no-nos" and tear away the stigma that surrounds it. So we purposely tried to dig out that history. And we've always done these what we call intergenerational discussion groups where we get small groups of people and, usually, in the beginning there were like four or five out of twelve were survivors who had been at Tule Lake. And then the rest were like younger people, or people outside the Japanese American community, and just have them talk about their experience and try to make it a safe space where they could talk and bring the stories out. Are you frozen?

KK: Maybe you can keep going though, because we're still recording.

SS: We're still recording. Okay, so that's one thing is that we started getting people to actually talk and stories came out. We purposely choose different themes like the jail, the stockade, renunciation, Hoshidan, as different topics to focus on. And that really, I think, brought out the history and we learned a lot more about the experience. And that kind of set the stage for like the... oh, she disappeared. That kind of set the stage for the Resolution Three, the apology to the "no-nos." Without that work, I don't think it would have happened. There's something else about Tule Lake, but now I forget what it was.

KK: Well, if you remember, because we also do a written summary as well, that it can always get to put in there, even afterward.


AT: Okay, I guess any final thoughts before we kind of close out the meeting?

SS: No, I'm glad that you are doing this because I think it is important to get stories recorded and put down because otherwise they get forgotten or lost.

AT: Yeah. I mean, I was just so excited to be able to interview you because I just... we did some research beforehand and so I knew that you were involved in, like, many different things from before as well as things were very recently such as like the Tsuru for Solidarity and work with JACL now. And so thank you again for meeting with us and talking about everything. And yeah, that's all I have to say. I don't know if, Kyle, if you have any final thoughts.

KK: No. I think you did a great job at bringing a lot of knowledge out, so I think this will be a great recording.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.