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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Honoring the Last of the Heroes

It’s not often that one gets to shake hands with a Medal of Honor recipient, especially since there are only 78 in the country still living. I had that rare opportunity last week at the Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans (FFNV) Reunion in Las Vegas.

In 1953, Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura became the first living Japanese American to receive the coveted award. Before him, Sadao Munemori, who was killed in action, received the honor posthumously, and 20 other Nisei World War II veterans received their awards after them in 2000.

At the luncheon banquet, Miyamura, who had just celebrated ...

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Branded as Dishonorably Discharged: Uncovering the Story Behind the Disciplinary Barracks Boys

Most people, even avid followers of Japanese American history, might ask, “Who are the disciplinary barracks boys?” In the seventy years since the end of WWII, little has been written about this group of 21 soldiers who in 1944 faced military criminal trials, dishonorable discharge, and imprisonment in the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. After years of appeals and setbacks, a reversal was finally granted to 11 of them who pursued their cases all the way to the Pentagon. Known as the DB boys, they remained largely out of the public eye until 2012, when author/educator ...

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On a Quest to Find Barracks

I spent a month in Cody, Wyoming, on an unusual mission. I wanted to locate as many barracks as I could—buildings left behind when the Heart Mountain concentration camp closed and the last Japanese American family was ordered to leave in November 1945. I did so under the auspices of a grant from the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Sites program to update my book, Moving Walls: Preserving the Barracks of America’s Concentration Camps. Twenty years ago, I had written the book to chronicle the moving of an actual barracks from Wyoming to Los Angeles’ Japanese ...

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Thread of Life: Strength, Survival, and a Singer Sewing Machine

“Objects have the longest memories of all; beneath their stillness they are alive with the terrors they have witnessed.”
—Teju Cole, The New York Times Magazine

An immaculate 1930-ish Singer sewing machine—richly embellished with gold filigree detail, a solid wooden folding table, and an intricately curved cast iron stand—sits in the den of Flora Shinoda’s home in the Leimert Park area of Los Angeles. Its impeccable design and cherished care are reflected in the fact that the nearly octogenarian machine still works today. Wrapped around the body of the machine, there is a delicate handmade fabric collar ...

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Alan Nishio: One for All

The smiling gentleman being roasted at the sold-out event to raise money for the youth-empowering program, Kizuna, was hardly the young radical who thirty-five years ago could have been mistaken for the sword-carrying D’Artagnan in the battle for redress. In the spirit of the roast, Chris Aihara, one of his Musketeers from that bygone era, gleefully informed the audience that Alan Nishio possessed “superior powers, keen intellect, relative good looks, and better than average athletic ability,” but was still “deeply flawed.”

As the laughter subsided, it was clear that the man on stage would agree he was no swashbuckling ...

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