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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Digger Sasaki - Part 2

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[To Digger] I think it’d be interesting to talk about your first impression of Tule Lake and arriving. 

Digger Sasaki (DS): Being in Pinedale for three months, it gave me a little awareness of barracks and stuff. But Pinedale was so small in comparison. And the reason they sent us to Pinedale is Tule Lake wasn’t finished as far as building all the barracks. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t remember how we got to Tule Lake from Pinedale. I haven’t even thought about that, because that’s a long distance.

I ...

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Digger Sasaki - Part 1

“They had soldiers and jeeps with machine guns, you know, patrolling the camps. It was kind of exciting in a way.” 

-- Digger Sasaki

Digger Sasaki has a peculiar moniker, one that has fully replaced his given name and dates back to high school. “In high school, I played football. And you know when you practice, you have to push a sled to strengthen your legs. When people push, everybody says, “dig, dig, dig,” you know. And then one day the coach said to everybody, “Dick here is the smallest fella on the team but I think he’s the best ...

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Howard Yamamoto - Part 2

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Do you remember if there was any convincing that Mr. Wada needed to do with your family? 

No, that I have no idea. I just imagine what happened was he says, “Take me, too.”

To get back to the history, they were allowed to voluntarily leave California. And I think there something like 10,000 permits given out. Out of that 10,000 only few made it. Not many. Some of what I read is that they were turned away at the border. Some others put in for a permit with the intention of leaving but changed ...

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Howard Yamamoto - Part 1

“It was hard, it was hard on the parents. Was it hard on me? I don’t know, I don’t remember that much, the hardship. But the parents, my god. Could I do it? No. I couldn’t do it. I can’t imagine myself doing it.”

-- Howard Yamamoto

Out of the 110,000 Japanese/ Americans who were thrown in the internment camps, 130 escaped the stark reality of mess hall food, barbed wire and guard towers. Four year old Howard Yamamoto was one of them. And though he was lucky to stay out of camp, the experience of ...

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Bob Kaneko - Part 2

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So what happened in the camps? Your family voluntarily went.

Bob Kaneko (BK): Well they voluntarily went to Auburn. And they got rounded up. Actually my mother said that the area they were in called Ophir. In fact my sister’s birth certificate says “rural California.”

Cathy Kaneko (CK): His mom said the doctor didn’t make the birth so their friend’s wife delivered the baby and the doctor got their shortly afterward.


What were your parents doing before, when the war broke out? 

BK: They were working at the North Bay Cleaners on Vine Street ...

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