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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Grace Izuhara

“I remember my father saying how angry he was and that he would never again vote. And he never did."

— Grace Izuhara

Grace Izuhara’s family was one of the “lucky” few that escaped imprisonment in the camps during WWII, heading east to Utah to work on sugar beet farms, a vital wartime staple. “Lucky,” because despite their independence, anti-Japanese fervor still ran high in their new town of Clearfield, resulting in a few traumatic events that Grace can still picture. She remembers seeing “Hunting Licenses for Japs” signs hung in store windows. When her brother needed urgent medical attention ...

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Sherman Kishi - Part 2

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After you were in training, you were aware that it was leading up to the occupation of Japan? 

Yes, we expected that all along. The first thing was we got shipped out of San Francisco in July of 1945 and we were sent to the Philippines. They had ATIS–Allied Translation and Interpreter Section–part of the U.S. army and we were stationed close to Manila. We were there about the end of July and of course the atom bomb was dropped in the middle of August. So in September they sent us right into Japan ...

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Sherman Kishi - Part 1

"After they gave us the redress, it just really relieved all of us who had been in the camp. Because camp was sort of a feeling of shame, that you had to be in a place like that. So we didn’t talk about it.”

— Sherman Kishi

Down a tucked away country road in Livingston, California sits a ranch-style house, welcoming guests with a driveway full of poppies. Adjacent to this house lies lush farmland filled with almond trees and fields of sweet potatoes. This land, and its 230 acres, belong to the Kishi family, who have looked over it ...

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Kazuo Yamaguchi

Luckily for us growing up in New York City, there was very little discrimination. And my dad became friends with the top godfather of the Italian mafia. I must’ve thought I was part Italian.

— Kazuo Yamaguchi

To hear Kaz Yamaguchi speak is to hear the voice of a born and bred New Yorker, complete with the “go to hell” attitude. At 92 years old and still living on the East Coast, Kaz calls himself an oddity, one of the very few Niseis drafted from New York into the Military Intelligence Service during WWII.

And how did his family get ...

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Isamu Noguchi - Part 3

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Did he choose Poston due to it being on an American Indian reservation? 

I think it happened to be under Collier’s jurisdiction and I think he had been through Arizona previously. I don’t think he had too much say.

If he couldn’t get out, why was that? 

Because I think once you’re entered into the system, your file becomes part of the pile and it’s just the bureaucracy of the whole situation. And also, you’re immediately a suspicious element within the camp.

So during his time there he’s contacted by ...

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