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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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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Unraveling Family Mysteries: Paul Nakadate and the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee

It all began while doing research for a film on Stanley Hayami, the bright and promising young man killed in the final days of the war while serving in Italy as a member of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He was just 19, and his short, tumultuous life epitomized the tragedy of incarceration. His diary, letters, and drawings describing his boyhood at Heart Mountain and as an infantryman with the 442nd RCT comprise a prized collection at the Japanese American National Museum.

Although the film, A Flicker in Eternity, focused on Stanley and his immediate family, including his sister ...

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Emerging from the Shadow of a Hero: A Veteran’s Son Talks About His Own War Experience

As the sun peeked out on a slightly overcast summer’s day, a few WWII veterans gathered with a crowd of friends and families on the occasion of the 15th Anniversary of the Go For Broke Monument in the heart of Little Tokyo. Mostly in their 90s, the white-haired men carried canes and walked slowly. Seeming slightly weary from the attention they had been receiving from the Congressional Gold Medal, they’ve always been known to us as humble men who were heroes in a war that demanded their combat service while their families were imprisoned.

As 100th Infantry Battalion ...

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