Hiroshi Kashiwagi

Born in Sacramento in 1922, writer and actor Hiroshi Kashiwagi spent his early years in Loomis, California. He was incarcerated at Tule Lake Segregation Center during World War II where he was defined as a “disloyal” for refusing to answer the loyalty questions. He renounced his U.S. citizenship and later worked with the Tule Lake Defense Committee and Wayne M. Collins to restore his citizenship. Since 1975 he has been speaking publicly of his incarceration experience. His poem “A Meeting at Tule Lake,” written while on a pilgrimage in April 1975, established him as a seminal voice among Nikkei concentration camp survivors.

He earned his BA in Oriental Languages from UCLA in 1952, followed by an MLS from UC Berkeley in 1966. Kashiwagi has worked as editor, translator, interpreter, and English language secretary at Buddhist Churches of America Headquarters; he has also served as reference librarian at San Francisco Public Library with a specialty in literature and languages. His publications include Swimming in the American: A Memoir and Selected Writings, winner of American Book Award, 2005; Shoe Box Plays; Ocean Beach: Poems; and Starting from Loomis and Other Stories. Notable acting credits include the play The Wash, produced at the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco, and the films Hito Hata: Raise the Banner (1980, dir. Robert Nakamura), Black Rain (1989, dir. Ridley Scott), Rabbit in the Moon (1999, dir. Emiko Omori), and Infinity and Chashu Ramen (2013, dir. Kerwin Berk).

Updated December 2016. Author photo by Ben Arikawa.

 

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Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column

Location

For the column’s inaugural post, we wanted to begin with the theme of place, location, and community and to highlight two veteran poets—Hiroshi Kashiwagi, Nisei poet based in San Francisco since 1962, and Amy Uyematsu, Sansei poet and native Angeleno. We are excited to begin with two writers who dedicate much of their creative focus and livelihood to poetry and who have had an influence on so many. Cheers to what their poetry uncovers…

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Born in Sacramento in 1922, writer and actor Hiroshi Kashiwagi was incarcerated at Tule Lake Segregation Center during World War II. His publications include ...

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Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

My Opposition to the Registration

Background 

I will begin with a brief background of my life before camp as I feel it has some bearing on my reaction to the loyalty questionnaire or the so-called “Registration” order. My parents being aliens, foreigners, and outsiders, I remember that our life was quite marginalized. For example, my father’s store at the far end of town was always referred to as the “Jap store” by the people in town. Growing up, I constantly heard my father use the term “haiseki kurau”—become a victim of discrimination.

At school, we were not exactly segregated but as I’ve ...

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Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

Tule Lake - Part 2 of 2

Read Part 1 >>

I was having the time of my life, working a few hours a day as a dishwasher in the mess hall and devoting the rest of my time to what I loved—acting, reading, writing, and meeting people with similar interests. Camp life was great. But it all came to an abrupt end in February 1943 with the so-called “loyalty registration,” which was a joint order by the Army and the WRA to facilitate the Army in recruiting volunteers and the WRA in moving us out of camp. All male and female internees seventeen and older were ...

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Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

Tule Lake - Part 1 of 2

When we arrived at Tule Lake in the morning, we were greeted by a man who claimed to be our Block Manager. It was nice to have someone welcome us on our arrival at this desolate place near the northern border of California. “If you need anything just ask me,” he said. He provided us with mattresses and Army blankets; we unpacked and settled in.

After the miserable experience in Arboga, we were excited about the flush toilets in the latrines. In fact, we made a special trip to the latrine to check them out—two rows of porcelain toilets ...

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Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

Free Streets

It was in March of 1946, the morning after my brother, sister, and I came out of camp. We had been given $25 each and a free ride on the train. The train seemed better than the old milk train with the shade drawn that took us to Tule Lake in 1942. After being held until almost the closing of camp, we were finally released. I guess we were used to being confined, but camp was nearly deserted. We were beginning to wonder when, if ever, we would be given the notice to leave. Mother was already out and living ...

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