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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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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Carrying the Torch: Wayne Collins Jr. on His Father’s Defense of the Renunciants

The inscription on the front page of Michi Nishiura Weglyn’s landmark book, Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps, reads: “Dedicated to Wayne M. Collins Who Did More to Correct a Democracy’s Mistake Than Any Other One Person.” At a time when people barely knew Colllins’ name, Nisei historian Weglyn called attention to the attorney responsible for almost singlehandedly fighting deportation and restoring citizenship to more than 5,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry who had renounced their U.S. citizenship. The tedious and time-consuming process that involved researching and filing some 10,000 individual ...

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The Happy Power of Obon

Obon season is a time when communities gather together to celebrate life and death through food and dance. Like the beat of the taiko drum, Obons gather energy through movement, and they move with joyful rhythms all their own. Warm summer days and nights give way to one or two Obon festivals every weekend from July through mid-August—with the list growing every year. Although it’s a Buddhist tradition that started in Japan, it has a particularly Japanese American flavor as celebrated in dozens of temples along the West Coast.

Originating in Buddhist lore as the Day of the ...

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What It Means to Go On a Camp Pilgrimage

pil•grim•age 

noun: pilgrimage; plural noun: pilgrimages

1. a pilgrim’s journey.

2. Synonyms: religious journey, religious expedition, haji, crusade, mission, “an annual pilgrimage to the Holy City”

3. a journey to a place associated with someone or something well known or respected “making a pilgrimage to the famous racing circuit”

4. life viewed as a journey “life’s pilgrimage”

The dictionary definition of pilgrimage refers to a journey taken for religious purpose, or at the very least to some place “respected.” Perhaps literature’s most famous pilgrimage is one that Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about in the 14th century ...

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