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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Shizuko Yamauchi - Part 1

“All I saw was cots and there were bales of hay or something, straw, that we were supposed to fill the mattress like, for our mattress. That I remember. We just took it, couldn’t be helped, you know. No point in complaining. ”

— Shizuko Yamauchi

In the spring of 2019, I was asked to conduct an oral history interview by the daughter of someone who had been in camp at Poston. It was a normal enough request, with one extraordinary fact: The woman I was to interview was 101 years old. At the time of Pearl Harbor Shizuko Yamauchi, then ...

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Rose Tsunekawa - Part 2

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Now when you started, it was 1942 by this point and the war between the U.S. and Japan was official. Did you experience any backlash being an American?

No, not too much. But I had to get used to the cold. The winters were really cold. And we didn’t have that kind of jackets or overcoats. Salinas was quite foggy and cool but not like the winters in Japan. And it was hard to buy anything around that time. Getting food was hard, too. Fortunately, my father was working at a farm but then each ...

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Rose Tsunekawa - Part 1

“I think that Nikkeis were quite lucky in that sense, because we always worked so hard and our parents always taught us never say or do anything that is troublesome or bothers other people — have good respect for people and manners.”

— Rose Tsunekawa

Along California’s Central Coast in the farming town of Salinas, Rose Tsunekawa grew up as the eldest daughter of an Issei father, Yasuichi Ito, and a Kibei mother, Kikuyo Yonemoto Ito. Despite the fact that her father was prohibited from owning land and the Depression years defined her childhood, photos of the Itos in the 1930s ...

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Santo Market Owners: Helen Santo

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Helen, could you introduce yourself with your full name, your birthday, and where you were born?

Helen Hiroko Kodama, now Santo. I was born October 26th, 1935. So I must have been seven when the war broke out. And I always thought I was born in Los Angeles but someone stole our box with all our birth certificates. And all the local ones you could get one in San Jose. But I was born down south, and I always thought it was Los Angeles and I found out that it was Norwalk. I knew ...

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Santo Market Owners: Earl Santo - Part 2

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So coming back to San Jose, you resettled back here?

Yes.

Was the reason because your parents were already familiar with it or did they just feel like it would be better to come back? Or do you know why they chose —

I think they were familiar with it and we had farm equipment that was being held by a very good family that helped us. It’s not that they didn’t use it, so they in turn benefited some, using the equipment.

But they held onto it for you.

Yes.

They were really good people ...

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