The Hollywood Theater presents Hidden Legacy: Japanese Traditional Arts in the World War II Internment Camps on Sunday
Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942, many Japanese Americans who lived on the west coast were incarcerated in internment camps by the United States government under President Roosevelt.
The United States government designated most of California and Oregon as a military zone and forced Japanese people out of the zones and often out homes that they owned. The men were taken to internment camps and the women and children were taken to relocation centers in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, where they remained until the end of the war.
History books show that occupants lived in barracks style buildings, slept in bunk beds and ate at cafeteria style tables. But, little had been documented about day to day life in the camps and what occupants did to entertain themselves. What little had been written about the recreational activities focused mainly on occupants playing baseball and listening to American music.
On Sunday, November 30 at 2:00 PM, the Hollywood Theater will present the Portland debut of Hidden Legacy: Japanese Traditional Arts in the World War II Internment Camps.
The event addresses the manner in which Japanese people maintained their art and culture in the camps.
According to its website the documentary incorporates “historical footage and interviews from artists who were interned to tell the story of how traditional Japanese cultural arts were maintained at a time when the War Relocation Authority emphasized the importance of assimilation and Americanization.”
The film is a result of over twenty years of research by the film’s creative director Shirley Kazuyo Muramoto-Wong. She interviewed many survivors of the camps over the years and collected a great deal of film footage.
In addition to being a lesson in Japanese American history, the film also illustrates the length artist will go to, to fulfill their need to create. Artist in the camps used everything from pencils, gunny sacks old toothbrushes to make instruments, costumes and props for plays.
The film will be followed by a question and answer period and discussion with the documentarians. The discussion panel will include, Ms. Muramoto-Wong who has been a Koto performer for over fifty years and whose mother learned to play the koto at Topaz and Tule Lake camps. Ms. Muramoto-Wong has served as a Koto instructor at The University of California’s Berkley campus and in both public and private schools.
Also on the panel will be the filmmaker Joshua Fong, and film’s Project Manager Pauline L. Fong who has been a civil rights activist since the 1960’s. Ms. Fong was one of the first instructors at Berkley to teach a course in Asian American studies. She is currently a volunteer at the J-SEI which is an organization that serves the Japanese American population in San Francisco.
The event is sponsored by The Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center is Portland’s Japanese history museum in Portland. The center opened in 2004 and houses historical artifacts as well as a community center and a public library.
In 1980 President Jimmy Carter and congress appointed The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians which investigate and held hearings regarding the camps. Over seven hundred and fifty people testified and the committee concluded that a great injustice was done to Japanese. The hearings resulted in The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which granted $20,000 to each survivor of the camps.
Eliza Gale – PortlandMetroLive Contributor
Eliza Gale began her blogging career interviewing aspiring actors and industry professionals on a Los Angeles based website called Curvewire. She started www.elizagalesintervviews in 2012 and has interviewed over three hundred people about their jobs and businesses since then. She has contributed many interviews to 360drinks.com, which is a Portland based happy-hour website. She also writes for Examiner.com and AXS.com.