Tessaku was the name of a short-lived magazine published at the Tule Lake concentration camp during World War II. It also means “barbed wire.” This series brings to light stories of the Japanese American internment, illuminating those that haven’t been told with intimate and honest conversation. Tessaku brings the consequences of racial hysteria to the foreground, as we enter into a cultural and political era where lessons of the past must be remembered.

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Lily Yuri Tsurumaki - Part 5

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And then you had another marriage. How did that happen?

Oh, with Ted. He was born and raised in Japan but my office Japan Airlines was in downtown L.A., on Sixth street. I needed brochures to put into the rack for the people to pick up to entice them on tours. So I went to Japan Travel Bureau one day, I said I’ll pick it up during my lunch hour. So I went to the office. And here was this man, you know, I’ve always talked to him by telephone. And he had the ...

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Lily Yuri Tsurumaki - Part 4

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And did your mother work in camp?

You know, she was doing embroidery here before they went to camp. Oh, this is when we’re leaving Heart Mountain. There was a Mr. Kinushita. Being it’s a desert area there’s a lot of Jasper rocks and dinosaur bones sometimes. And Mr. Kinushita started a rock group so they can go outside the campground and look around the desert area for rocks.

Adina: Oh, is that how they got started in all that?

Yeah. So Mr. Kinushita made arrangements and Grandpa was right away into this thing ...

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Lily Yuri Tsurumaki - Part 3

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And how was the relationship between your parents? Did they have a good marriage?

I think so but my father was much older than she, but they were introduced by a family friend in Japan but because he never came after her she said it was embarrassing. They were sort of like betrothed. That’s why she says she’s going to go to America herself. So she came on the boat by herself.

Yes. Were they still corresponding though?

I think so. I can’t figure it out how she would have known where to go ...

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Lily Yuri Tsurumaki - Part 2

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Oh wow what a beautiful picture. So this is like the office?

That was our Japan Airlines office and I was taking care of the PBX board at the time. And as a senior in high school, they called us a certain name for those who were in the top category and we had to do service, and I had to do the switchboards early in the morning before the regular operator came in so that’s why I learned how to use a switch board at John Marshall high school.

Are you fluent in Japanese? Do ...

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Lily Yuri Tsurumaki - Part 1

“One day, a classmate saw my name is Lily Oki and she was surprised she says, ‘You know I asked my mother, you disappeared you didn’t come back to class to school.’ And someone remembered me all those years? I thought my gosh, it was touching but she said I guess no one talked about it.”

— Lily Yuri Tsurumaki

I would not have met Lily had it not been for the wonders of social media. Her granddaughter, Adina Mori-Holt, who works for the Little Tokyo Service Center in Los Angeles on the forthcoming Terasaki Budokan, reached out to me ...

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