Tessaku

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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James Tanaka - Part 2

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Did you get the sense that for whatever reason, Minidoka’s security felt more relaxed than the other camps?

In my diggings I found the April 7th meeting of DeWitt, Eisenhower, and the ten Western governors in Salt Lake City. And on page four it says ‘distinction between internment and evacuation.’ It spelled out clearly the difference between the two. And then, poor Mr. Eisenhower had a problem with sleeping because knowing American citizens were locked up behind barbed wire and armed guards, he couldn’t sleep at night. So in June, he turned the duties over ...

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James Tanaka - Part 1

"The guard tower had a heavy duty machine gun. Of course no one was standing directly behind it but it looked in. Later as an adult I learned another reason they locked us up was for our protection. If somebody's going to hurt us, shouldn't it be pointing out?"

- James Tanaka

As a longtime docent at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, James Tanaka is a wealth of knowledge. He knows government documents, dates and WWII particulars by heart, and he carries a binder full of sheet protectors filled with his family’s documents and obscure ...

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Mitsuki Mikki Tsuchida - Part 3

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Can you tell me about the picture of you and your friend looking at the fire?

My friend and I could see the fire on the opposite side of the camp. It was the auditorium where they used to show movies. We could see the flames and the smoke just billowing in that direction, and of course hear the sirens in the distance. So we were watching and we could see the design of the camp. The man was the from the same block and taking pictures and he said, “Stand just like that.” And we were ...

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Mitsuki Mikki Tsuchida - Part 2

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What about the day you left for the assembly center?

All I remember was waiting at the train station on one side of a line. There were all these ruddy face Caucasians, all just looked red to me. All I remember is that these guys were holding guns. They weren’t pointing them, but what were we going to do? They didn’t even have to carry it. After that I noticed the difference. Why are we standing over here with name tags? They weren’t abusing us but it was still cruel, of course. Herding us ...

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Mitsuki Mikki Tsuchida - Part 1

“Army trucks would pull up and someone would shout down, ‘How many in your family?’ And they would just throw the toilet paper and you had to go pick it up. And that lack of human dignity, it just went on and on.”

— Mitsuki Mikki Tsuchida

When I first started asking my dad about vivid camp memories, my dad would tell me how the alkaline sandstorms used to force the kids to run and hide, or that the piercing stench of the Santa Anita horse stables has never left him. He used to talk about taking a shower under the ...

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