James A. Hirabayashi

James Aikira Hirabayashi (1926-2012) had a distinguished thirty-year academic career at San Francisco State University which included the position of Dean of Undergraduate Studies and the Dean of Ethnic Studies. In the latter position, he is recognized for his pioneering leadership in establishing the nation's first School (now College) of Ethnic Studies. He has also held research and teaching positions at the University of Tokyo, Japan, and University of Zaria, Nigeria, Africa. Over the course of his career, Dr. Hirabayashi also provided guidance and direction to the Japanese American National Museum's educational and curatorial programs which included its collections, exhibitions, public education programs, film, and research.

Updated August 2018

war en

Behind Barbed Wire – Part 2

Read Part 1 >>

THE OUTBREAK OF WAR

I bid farewell
to the faces of my sleeping children
As I am taken prisoner
Into the cold night rain

— M. Ozaki1

In 1941 there were 158,000 people of Japanese ancestry living in Hawaii, 37 percent of the population. Ninety-four thousand lived in California, but they constituted only 1 percent of the population.2 There were 25,000 in the states of Washington and Oregon, with a total of 285,115 in the 1940 U.S. Census.3 On December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, 736 ...

Read more

war en

Behind Barbed Wire – Part 1

Editor’s Note:

The words and phrases used to describe Japanese American history vary considerably amongst scholars, government officials, and even those directly affected by Executive Order 9066: “relocations, “evacuation,” “incarceration,” “internment,” “concentration camp.” There is no general agreement about what is most accurate or fair. In 1994, a debate sparked around the issue of terminology when the Japanese American National Museum opened the exhibition, America’s Concentration Camps: Remembering the Japanese American Experience. When the exhibition traveled to Ellis Island, the American Jewish Committee, objected to the use of the term “concentration camps.” Some Holocaust survivors and their families ...

Read more

war en

Enduring Communities

Four Hirabayashi Cousins: A Question of Identity - Part 5 of 5

>> Part 4

Henry (Hank) Nobuo Hirabayashi

Hank Nobuo Hirabayashi was born in Seattle on April 29, 1923. His father, Hamao, appears in many early photographs taken during the first decade of the 1900s with his bachelor cousins and friends. He was one of the earliest to emigrate and urged his cousins to join him. The families were to maintain close relationships throughout the pre-war years. Beginning in a day job in a hotel in Tacoma, Hamao saved his money and eventually opened the Belltown Grocery in Seattle:

We were about a half-mile directly north of the Pike Place Market on ...

Read more

war en

Enduring Communities

Four Hirabayashi Cousins: A Question of Identity - Part 4 of 5

>> Part 3

Robert (Bob) Taro Mizukami

Bob Taro Mizukami was born in 1922 in Star Lake in the hills above Kent, Washington. His mother, Isami, was the youngest sister of Gordon’s father, Shungo, and attended the academy Kensei Gijuku, before emigrating to America. Gordon’s mother, Mitsu, served as an informal “go-between” in his parents’ betrothal. Raised during the Depression, it seemed to Bob that the family was moving almost once a year. The Mizukamis lived and farmed in Thomas right next to cousin Gordon’s farm before moving back to Renton. He and Gordon’s younger brother, Ed ...

Read more

war en

Enduring Communities

Four Hirabayashi Cousins: A Question of Identity - Part 3 of 5

>> Part 2

Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi

Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi’s father, Shungo, together with Grant’s father, Toshiharu, formed the core of the Thomas Mukyokai fellowship. Gordon was born in 1918 in Seattle, but his earliest memories are of living on the farm in Thomas, Washington, next door to his cousin Grant. The family moved to Seattle one winter to escape from the hard farm life, but returned to try farming again at the urging of the Mukyokai group. Gordon’s mother, Mitsu, was concerned over disciplinary problems because young Gordon was picking up bad habits on the streets of Seattle ...

Read more