Sharon Yamato

Sharon Yamato is a writer and filmmaker in Los Angeles. She has produced and directed two documentary films, Out of Infamy: Michi Nishiura Weglyn, and A Flicker in Eternity. She also wrote Moving Walls: Preserving the Barracks of America’s Concentration Camps. She has written articles for the Los Angeles Times, and is currently a columnist for The Rafu Shimpo. She has served as a consultant for the Japanese American National Museum, Go For Broke National Education Center, and has conducted oral history interviews for Densho in Seattle.

Updated June 2014

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Stranger in a Strange Land: A Sansei’s First Trip to Japan

I’d never felt a passionate connection to the country of my ancestors. I blamed it on the war: postwar America saw Issei and Nisei trying to get over being labeled the “enemy,” and we Sansei children were faced with a curious dilemma in many ways initiated by our parents—how much did we identify with our grandparents’ Japanese culture and how much did we mold ourselves into assimilated Americans?

With Japan still reeling from its stereotypical image as an “inscrutable” and alien country, those of us trying to resettle and adapt to post-camp life in America were anxious to ...

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Nanka Nikkei Voices

Kawana’s Kamaboko Kingdom

One thing was clear to businessman Frank Kawana when he took over his father’s Little Tokyo kamaboko business in 1955: people were not clamoring for fishcake. Quite the opposite—once a Japanese American staple, kamaboko sales were declining in the U.S. Like his father Otoichi Kawana, Frank somehow could not abandon what he secretly hated as a “smelly business.” At his mother Kume’s pleading, he reluctantly joined the family enterprise. While working to keep the company alive, he did something few people in this country have managed to do: he discovered and sold a revolutionary new product ...

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Through the Fire: One Soldier’s Story

With the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony held last week honoring the 100th Infantry, 442nd RCT and MIS in Washington, D.C., it seems appropriate to take a moment to pause and remember all those who are not here to share in the celebration. Besides the many that have died in the years since the war, I am specifically referring to those killed in action. It has been rightly said that those brave men who risked their lives fighting for the country that imprisoned their families brought back honor to all Japanese Americans. Numbers are hard to come by, but it ...

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A Historic Time for Our Community: Celebrating The Congressional Gold Medal

On a rainy Washington DC day in July 1946, President Harry S. Truman presented the Presidential Unit Citation to members of the segregated 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team with the words, “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice, and you have won.”  Now more than 65 years later, in a ceremony on November 2, 2011, Congress will award its highest civilian honor to these same brave men by granting the Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service. With the awarding of this honor ...

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Getting to Know Michi Nishiura Weglyn

Like it was yesterday, I remember the first time I picked up and started to read Michi Nishiura Weglyn’s Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps. My now-faded, coffee-stained, first-edition William Morrow copy is dated 1976, so I must have gotten it shortly after it came out. After reading the first several chapters that gave a moment-by-moment description of the events leading up to the decision to incarcerate and Roosevelt’s EO 9066, I was dumbfounded. Never before had I read such a thorough, detailed account of why American citizens of Japanese descent were rounded ...

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