Hiroshi Kashiwagi

Born in Sacramento in 1922, writer and actor Hiroshi Kashiwagi spent his early years in Loomis, California. He was incarcerated at Tule Lake Segregation Center during World War II where he was defined as a “disloyal” for refusing to answer the loyalty questions. He renounced his U.S. citizenship and later worked with the Tule Lake Defense Committee and Wayne M. Collins to restore his citizenship. Since 1975 he has been speaking publicly of his incarceration experience. His poem “A Meeting at Tule Lake,” written while on a pilgrimage in April 1975, established him as a seminal voice among Nikkei concentration camp survivors.

He earned his BA in Oriental Languages from UCLA in 1952, followed by an MLS from UC Berkeley in 1966. Kashiwagi has worked as editor, translator, interpreter, and English language secretary at Buddhist Churches of America Headquarters; he has also served as reference librarian at San Francisco Public Library with a specialty in literature and languages. His publications include Swimming in the American: A Memoir and Selected Writings, winner of American Book Award, 2005; Shoe Box Plays; Ocean Beach: Poems; and Starting from Loomis and Other Stories. Notable acting credits include the play The Wash, produced at the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco, and the films Hito Hata: Raise the Banner (1980, dir. Robert Nakamura), Black Rain (1989, dir. Ridley Scott), Rabbit in the Moon (1999, dir. Emiko Omori), and Infinity and Chashu Ramen (2013, dir. Kerwin Berk).

Updated December 2016. Author photo by Ben Arikawa.

 

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Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

A Trip to Cedarville

It was near the closing of camp, when restrictions were being relaxed a bit, that I heard from our neighbor George about Mr. Crane, the Camp Reports Officer, taking a small group to entertain some high school students at Cedarville. Cedarville is in Modoc County, about 120 miles from Tule Lake.

George and a few of his musician friends were going and he asked me if I would be interested in joining them. My first thought was “I don’t sing or play an instrument, what could I do?” George said they wanted someone to provide some comic relief and ...

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Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

Radio Station KOBY in Medford, Oregon

Daytime we could get only two radio stations—small town stations in Medford and Klamath Falls, Oregon that played incessantly.

the women dug the lakebed
and turned up seashells
long dormant in the sand
sorted and cleaned
painted and shellacked
they became ornamental things
trinkets and necklaces
made in captivity
   this is Radio Station KOBY in Medford, Oregon

we took pieces of 2 x 4
whittled and carved them
mine were unremarkable
but old Yoshimoto-san
always did women
a shelf lined with them
severe and woodbound
more Egyptian than Japanese
all frontal and nude
   this is Radio Station KOBY in ...

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Speaking Up! Democracy, Justice, Dignity

The Block Manager’s Canary

I knew three block managers in camp—actually, four, as I was one myself. Though I don’t consider myself a regular block manager, since I served only a few months toward the end of camp when there was little administrative work. But recently a former resident of my block unnerved me by announcing to one and all, “He was our Block Manager!”

I didn’t know how to take that. A block manager was indeed an important functionary in the block. He was the administrative head of 250 to 300 persons; he was responsible for the smooth operation of ...

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A Visit to The White House

It was a windfall event, unexpected and surreal, especially the jaw-dropping reaction of the people.

“You mean The White House?”

“Yes.”

“You’re kidding me?”

“No.”

And we showed the invitation from The President and Mrs. Obama to An Evening of Poetry at The White House on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at six thirty o’clock.

On Monday evening we were met at the airport by Dr. Raymond Murakami, a prominent dentist to Washington, D.C. power brokers, politicians, and celebrities such as the late actress Elizabeth Taylor. Retired after a 50-year career, Ray has been an active leader of ...

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