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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Lawson Sakai - Part 3

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What are some vivid memories you have of basic training, being at Camp Shelby, and getting to know your fellow soldiers?

Camp Shelby is very interesting. I was assigned to E Company, infantry. Pretty much a foreign type of thing because most of us had been pretty sheltered at home. The boys in Hawaii lived very close together, and participated in sports and school and so forth. In the mainland we weren’t that close but we were living kind of a normal life like any other teenage kids. When you get into the army, all of ...

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Lawson Sakai - Part 2

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Can you describe what happened when your parents found the Colorado church and were able to avoid camp?

When the evacuation order came out, Governor Ralph Carr in Colorado made a statement saying, “If Governor Warren doesn’t want you in California, you are welcome to come to my state of Colorado.” And many Japanese did. But only those who could afford to go or who weren’t afraid. Here, most of them had never left their area of California. And to go to Colorado, you know, it was very difficult. Well in my parents case, being ...

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Lawson Sakai — Part 1

“We all knew, we are going to go battle. And we expect to win. But we never knew what immediate death was like until we hit the frontline on the first day.”

— Lawson Sakai

At a mere 21 years old in 1944, Lawson Sakai had seen and learned more about the stark realities of humanity, war, and loss than so many other people his age. After trying to enlist in the U.S. Navy in the wake of Pearl Harbor, he was denied the opportunity to serve his country due to the irrational, anti-Japanese fervor sweeping the West Coast. The ...

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Kazuki Hirose - Part 2

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So you’re in camp and there for a couple of years, and then the loyalty questionnaire is put forth to everybody. What do you remember about getting that questionnaire and seeing those two questions, 27 and 28? Can you talk about what you did?

They didn’t tell us about doing away with our citizenship or nothing. But they didn’t warn us. I don’t think there was any warning or nothing. But they had a big cafeteria or gym that we met in, the whole camp. That was all full. The people of draft ...

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Kazuki Hirose - Part 1

“There were six to car, that’s including the driver. But you know, the driver himself could’ve been overpowered. But they trusted us that much that they stopped to feed us lunch. We could have run away but they trusted us that much. ”

— Kazuki Hirose

A first time conversation with Kazuki Hirose has all the familiarity and warmth of talking to an old friend. His fond reflections of growing up in Silicon Valley’s beautiful farm country and the friends he would meet in camp—many of whom are now gone—permeate the stories he tells, revealing the blessing ...

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