Chito Isonaga, center, reacts Thursday after being presented four medals by U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, left, while Mayor Derek S.K.Kawakami declares Aug. 29 as Chito Isonaga Day during a gathering at the Regency at Puakea in Puhi. Photo: Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island
Dennis Fujimoto, The Garden Island Newspaper
Lihue Kauai. “Oh, no,” the 103-year-old matriarch kept repeating as U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono placed four medals in Isonaga’s hands, pausing to describe each medal, and Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami declared Aug. 29 as Chito Isonaga Day in honor of her contribution, service and sacrifice to the country throughout her military career, and her long life.
Isonaga, who will turn 104 in October, was born in 1915 in Koloa to her parents, Tokuichi and Kazuyo Isonaga, immigrants from Japan. She attended Koloa School, Kauai High School, and Japanese-language school. Following her graduation from Kauai High School in 1933, Isonaga went to Japan and studied the Japanese language for six years, in Hiroshima.
Following her graduation from Hiroshima Jogakuin, a Christian women’s university, Isonaga returned to Kauai, where she started working for KTOH radio station, writing advertisements and news, and announcing music — all in Japanese. She also clerked at the Kauai Police Department, and was an interpreter at the courthouse.
It was during this time, Isonaga was called on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to interpret and translate documents.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Isonaga was in church when she learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This led her to join the effort by helping at the Emergency Service Committee’s Morale Division.
World War II started and Isonaga was recruited at the Office of Censorship in Honolulu to look for compromising passages in letters sent to Japanese internees on the mainland.
In 1944, Isonaga volunteered for the Women’s Army Corps, and was sent to Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., for basic training. Her military career took her to Washington, D.C., then to Military Intelligence Service Language School in Fort Snelling, Minn.
When the war ended in 1945, Isonaga was sent to Japan as part of the occupation forces. Gen. Douglas MacArthur discharged the WACs soon after her arrival in Japan, and Isonaga was given a choice to return or to stay as a civilian worker.
Isonaga chose to stay and help her family from Hiroshima, which had survived the atomic bomb. From the 1950s to the 1970s, Isonaga worked for the Central Intelligence Agency during its post-war effort, returning to Hawaii in 1975.
Hirono presented Isonaga with the Good Conduct Medal for three consecutive years of “honorable and faithful” service. The American Campaign Medal for service in the American Campaign Theater of Operations during World War II, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal is for service in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater between 1941 to 1945, and The World War II Victory Medal is for service between Dec. 7, 1941 and Dec. 31, 1946.
[EdNote. Reprint approved by Dennis Fujimoto of Garden Island Newspaper. Jeff Morita, who obtains French Legion d’Honneur nominations and requests US military personnel data as a public service, assisted by Mae, Chito’s niece, obtained Chito’s data and medals from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). Marking his request EXPEDITE due to Chito’s advanced age, NPRC acted promptly with replacement World War II military awards and decorations and also notified Hawaii US Senator Mazie Hirono, who made the presentation.]
Hawaii's Honouliuli Internment Camp held thousands of prisoners of war and hundreds of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. Photo: Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.
Courtesy of NPR Hawaii
Molly Solomon (March 16, 2015)
The Honouliuli internment camp, not far from Hawaii's Pearl Harbor, held as many as 4,000 prisoners during World War II, including hundreds of Japanese-Americans.
In February, President Obama named the location a national monument.
The camp became known by prisoners as "jigokudani," or "Hell's Valley," says Carole Hayashino, the president of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.
"There are many stories — families were visiting their family members interned, they would be blindfolded and they board a bus in downtown Honolulu," she says. "And then they would be driven into the gulch. They had no idea where they were going."
An old aqueduct cuts across the camp, which is now overgrown with weeds and brush.
Thick brush and overgrown trees now cover the 160 acres that were once Honouliuli. The site remained hidden from view for decades after the war. It was rediscovered in 2002 by volunteers at the Japanese Cultural Center, who traced an aqueduct in the background of an old photograph, Hayashino says.
An old aqueduct cuts across the camp, which is now overgrown with weeds and brush. Photo: Molly Solomon.
"The internees didn't talk about it, the pain was so deep," she says. "They didn't share their own camp experience with their families. We almost lost this history."
In an oral history interview collected by the cultural center, Harry Urata recalled the morning Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was a boarding school student at the time.
"I still remember that morning: 7:50 a.m., I was at dormitory. All of a sudden, music stop — Hawaiian music," he recalled. "Announcer came out again: 'This is war. Entire Hawaiian island under enemy attack.' "
Urata, who died in 2009, was born in the U.S. but educated in Japan. In the interview, he said FBI agents showed up at his civics class to take him to Honouliuli, where he was imprisoned for more than a year.
"How come I gotta stay inside here, although I am American citizen?" he recalled wondering. "We are there under suspicion. They just suspect us."
Unlike the internment camps on the mainland, the wartime incarceration of Japanese in Hawaii was done on a much smaller scale.
Those targeted were religious leaders, local business owners and people like Urata, who went to school in Japan
Removing that leadership had a huge impact, says Hayashino of the Japanese Cultural Center.
"You're leaving an entire community leaderless," she says. "It's selective, yet it's very strategic."
Creating a national monument at Honouliuli is a strategy of a different kind: keeping memory alive, says Paul DePrey of the National Park Service, which is creating a plan for Honouliuli.
"That's why we need to protect and preserve sites like this," he says, "because if we don't, it will be forgotten."
Story and audio segment can be found at:
https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/03/16/393284680/in-hawaii-a-wwii-internment-camp-named-national-monument (March 16, 2015)
Other NPR stories and audio segments on Honouliuli by Molly Solomon can be found at:
https://www.hawaiipublicradio.org/post/obama-declares-oahu-internment-camp-national-monument (February 18, 2015)
https://www.hawaiipublicradio.org/post/honouliuli-internment-camp-dedicated-national-monument#stream/0 (April 1, 2015)
[Ednote. The article was provided by Wade Ishimoto and Bill Dorman, VP, News Director, Hawaii Public Radio, approved reprint and offered the use of additional links.]
Part of the Imaoikiruhito Resonance Harmony singers. Photo:Embassy of Japan.
Washington, DC. A fifty-five member Japanese chorus group, Ima o Ikiru Hito Resonance Harmony, visited Washington, DC during the week of September 9, 2019 “to strengthen friendship with Americans, especially Japanese Americans.” During their brief stay, the group held two musical performances and smaller events including singing in the Union Station Grand Foyer and listening to three Japanese Americans discuss their experience during and after WW II. The programs were sponsored by the Embassy of Japan and arranged by Minister Kenichiro Mukai, Head of Chancery, and his wife, Midori. The visiting group was made up of residents from Tokyo, Kanagawa and Okinawa prefectures, Osaka and New York.
The Harmony group’s first event was at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Temple Visitors’ Center, located at Kensington, MD, on September 11 for the residents of the Washington, DC area. As JAVA President Gerald Yamada noted “the evening started on a note of friendship by the chorus group singing the Japanese national anthem in Japanese and then singing the US national anthem in English while the audience stood at attention.” Ryo Yanagitani, a world-renown classical pianist of the Ryuji Ueno Foundation, also performed at this event. Minister Kazutoshi Aikawa, the Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, officiated the event on behalf of Ambassador Shinsuke Sugiyama, who had an out-of-town commitment, expressed the goal of uniting people through music and dedicated the evening to “commemorate the 18th anniversary of 9/11.”
The second event was held during the afternoon of September 12 in the large, elegant reception hall of Ambassador’s Residence where the Harmony group listened to Japanese American speakers. Mary Murakami described her internment camp experience at Topaz internment center. Terry Shima, 442nd veteran, discussed the Nisei who served in combat in Europe and in combat intelligence assignments in the Asia Pacific region. Shirley Ann Higuchi, Chairman, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation (HMWF), discussed the Foundation’s goals and activities to preserve the story of unconstitutional imprisonment of Japanese Americans. Following the formal presentations, Minister Mukai, Moderator, inspired a lengthy Q and A session, a testimony of the visitors desire to learn about their diaspora counterparts. Noriko Sanefuji, museum specialist at Smithsonian American History Museum, served as the interpreter.
At the third major event held the evening of September 12 at the Residence, the Harmony group sang what Minister Mukai described as “songs of respect and gratitude for the Nikkei population." Department of State’s Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs David R. Stilwell, welcomed the Harmony singers to the nation’s capital and complimented them on their mission of goodwill. Representing the Nikkei community, David Inoue, Executive Director of JACL, expressed warm appreciation to Ambassador Sugiyama, Deputy Chief of Mission Aikawa, Minister and Mrs. Mukai, other government personnel, and leaders and members of the Nikkei organizations for strengthening the friendship between the government and people of Japan and the Nikkei people. Inoue also thanked the Ima o ikiru hito Resonance Harmony delegation for making the long trip, enduring typhoon, to accomplish their goal of bringing people together through music. He also thanked the Nikkei speakers for sharing their stories with the visitors at the event earlier that afternoon. Inoue ended his remarks with “now I join you all in looking forward to hearing the chorus bringing us all together with beautiful music.” In addition to Inoue and Yamada, other leaders of Nikkei organizations in the WDC area invited to this event were Laura Winthrop Abbot, Executive Vice President of the US - Japan Council; Larry Oda, Chairman of the Board of the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation; and Higuchi, Chair, HMWF.
[EdNote. Wade Ishimoto arranged for the printing of this article by Call of Duty, a publication of the US Army Museum, Fort Belvoir, VA.]
Kenneth Higashi in uniform, Fassbender Studios, Deadwood, SD, (ca.1948-52).
Kenneth Higashi receives prestigious medal for his service.
Reprinted ABC KOTA TV
RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA,TV)- The community gathered at Black Hills State University to honor 97-year-old life long Spearfish resident and World War ll Veteran Kenneth Higashi.
Honor, sacrifice, and hero were just a few of the words used to describe World War ll Veteran, Kenneth Higashi.
"Take this opportunity to properly recognize someone for all that he has done for our nation and the nation of France," says master of ceremonies, Gregory Dias.
Higashi was a member of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team who served in Europe during World War ll.
"Most highly decorated unit of all time in United States history. And he was being honored with a bunch of United States awards and Frances highest honor," says Dias.
Higashi received a dozen awards including such prestigious honors as the French Legion of honor and the Bronze Star Medal.
"It was really overwhelming and quite emotional," says a friend of Higashi, Lauren Harris.
Many describe him as an understated, quiet, and reserved individual, so to have a crowd of people honoring him was quite an experience.
"Sacrifices that he made, and his generation made for them for the ones that were to come without really making a big deal out of it," says Harris.
"There are honor and selflessness, and he was willing to put everything on the line," says Dias.
But the awards weren't the most crucial part for Higashi; it was making sure the younger generation learns from history.
"Some things happened to Kenneth and people like him that probably shouldn't have happened and those are lessons that we need to learn and not repeat," says Dias.
Video of award: https://www.kotatv.com/content/news/World-War-ll-veteran-honored-for-his-service--558048061.html
R- Kenneth Higashi holds his replica Congressional Gold Medal, a gift from Jeff Morita of Hawaii; L -Lauren R. Harris, author of a book for children based on Higashi's life, coming 2021 (2018). Courtesy of Lauren R. Harris.
Nevada City Filmmaker Produces Series on Incarceration of Japanese During World War II
Reprinted courtesy of The Union, Nevada County, CA
“We the People..,” a seven-part documentary series about the incarceration of the Japanese during World War II is now available online, free at https://wethepeopleseries.com.
Nevada City award-winning filmmaker Catherine Busch has recently completed “We the People …,” an educational documentary series about the incarceration of the Japanese during World War II and its relevance today.
Seven years in the making, the filmmaker says this project is by far her best and most powerful work.
Clearly a labor of love, Busch says the seven part series was designed as “thought- provoking educational material for classroom and small group discussion — for the purpose of inspiring people to become informed and politically involved in decision-making that effects our communities, and our country; for the opportunity for discussion between Americans with differing views.”
Sponsored by the California Museum, the series and accompanying photos are a part of the Sacramento museum’s “Time of Remembrance” student field trip presentation and tour. A recipient of a California Civil Liberties Grant, the recently-released project has already received national recognition, including Videographer Awards’ “award of distinction” for writing, a Hermes Gold Creative Award for creativity and a dotCOMM Award for web design.
LABOR OF LOVE
Busch took on this massive project alone, including operating the camera, conducting interviews, accessing archival footage and photos, researching, editing and selecting music. But it’s all been worth it, she said, especially given the current fear-driven, divisive political landscape that hasn’t reared its head so powerfully since World War II. Determined to see the project through to its completion, she never stopped seeking grants and donations until the final cut.
Among Busch’s biggest champions throughout the arduous filmmaking process was Scott Lay, Nevada County Superintendent of Schools.
This fall, not only is Lay distributing the teachers’ guide for “We the People” to all principals in the county, he’s also spreading the word to other superintendents and colleagues in the greater foothills region. But the series’ reach goes far beyond the foothills — in the short time since its release it has already been confirmed for use in Catholic schools throughout San Jose, Sacramento and Fresno.
“When Catherine came to me with the idea, I wanted to help in any way I could,” said Lay. “As a former history teacher, learning about Japanese internment is critical. We need to learn from the past so we don’t make mistakes like this in the future. I love the way the series is broken up into 15-minute snippets with discussion guides for each segment. I was thrilled when I heard the series was ready for release. Catherine is an amazing woman.”
Part 1, “Uprooted,” documents the shocking upheaval of families who were forced to evacuate the West Coast, leaving their jobs, schools and businesses, regardless of citizenship. Due to President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, these families were scattered among 10 guarded “internment” camps located in Idaho, inland California, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and Arkansas.
Part 2, “Incarceration Camps” tells the story of life inside the camps, including powerful first-hand accounts of abhorrent and cramped conditions, such as the Santa Anita Racetrack, where more than 8,500 Japanese Americans lived in converted horse stalls.
Part 3, “Go For Broke,” is the motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an Army unit made up of Japanese Americans from the mainland U.S. and Hawaii. As Nisei (second-generation Japanese Americans) and American-born sons of Japanese immigrants, these soldiers were said to be fighting two wars — the war against the Germans in Europe and the war against racial prejudice at home.
Part 4, “The Return Home,” chronicles the anxiety, fear and uncertainty faced by Japanese-American families who feared they would be treated as enemies once they left the camps. Many faced economic devastation due to losing their businesses or farms. An estimated 85 percent of families originally from the Sacramento region did not return to their homes.
Part 5, “People Who Helped,” tells the stories of individuals, organizations and congregations that helped the incarcerated, including neighbors who operated businesses until the owners were released, Quakers who helped Japanese-American college students finish their education and a couple who relocated 1,000 people out of the camps.
Part 6, “Racism and Redress,” is based on the report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, a federal commission established in 1980 to review facts surrounding Executive Order 9066 and its impact on American citizens. Its conclusions, submitted in 1983, were deemed, “Personal Justice Denied,” a unanimous report that became the basis for the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted wartime survivors a public apology, individual reparations of $20,000 and a public education fund.
Part 7, the final chapter, is probably the segment dearest to Busch’s heart, as it examines a topic which she says has key relevance in today’s searing political climate. “Could This Happen Again?” encourages national dialogue on this unmistakably dark chapter in U.S. history and asks authors, lawmakers, academics and everyday citizens whether we have truly learned from a profound and blatant misinterpretation and/or disregard of the U.S. Constitution.
“This has been a true labor of love for Catherine — she was so dedicated to this project,” said Amanda Meeker, executive director of the California Museum. “Sadly, some of the subjects who were interviewed have passed away, but their experiences will live on and teach others. It’s been over 75 years since this happened, but these first-person accounts are so relevant to what’s going on today. Catherine has done a beautiful job of making those connections. We hope teachers will use this series — it’s a lesson that everyone of us can make a difference. It’s wonderful to see this series finished after all these years.”
The U.S. government’s incarceration of Japanese American families from 1942 to 1945 is a deeply disturbing wound that lingers in the psyche of many Americans of the west.
But Busch, who grew up in Pennsylvania, was 40 years old when she first learned that an estimated 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry — most of whom lived near the Pacific coast — were forced into relocation camps in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“I laughed when I first heard about it — because I didn’t believe it,” said Busch. “Then I was horrified when I realized that many people back east didn’t even know about this important chapter in our history. It wasn’t taught in our schools then.”
That moment of realization was decades ago, but it was a turning point for Busch, who vowed to someday increase awareness about the shocking, racially-motivated incarceration of innocent American citizens. With ignorance of the past, she thought, comes the risk of repeating dangerous missteps in the future.
“I produced this in part because I wanted people of differing views to be able to talk about what happened to the Japanese and what’s happening now,” said Busch. “There do seem to be similar situations emerging along our southern borders. There are whiffs of this in the air.” To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com..
[EdNote."We the People" filmmaker Catherine Busch generously grants her permission to distribute series link to all interested. For schools and educators there is an Overview and Discussion Guide for each show and is on the website https://wethepeopleseries.com!}
75th Anniversary Tour Participants on Church Steps in Bruyères. Photo by David Nishitani
Compiled by Editor from contributions made by J. Morita, M. Nakagawa, M. Tanikawa and D. Nishitani.
Seventy-five years ago, the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team engaged in battles that etched the unit as one of the U.S. Army’s most decorated of its size. In commemoration of the battles, Dr. Brian Yamamoto of Fairbanks, Alaska organized a July 2019 French Battlefield tour to pay homage to fallen Nisei Soldiers and to celebrate the friendships forged between the French people and Japanese Americans in the most difficult of times. The tour had both an extended and abbreviated option. Those on the longer tour met in Nice and explored the French Maritime Alps before joining those on the short tour and visiting Bruyères, Biffontaine, Belmont, Laval-Sur-Vologne, Bois-de-Champ, and Fremifontaine. A JAVA donation was used to purchase wreaths presented at area monuments and historic sites.
The historic tour caught the eye of six JAVA members – Howard Hodges of Laurel, MD; Jeffery Morita of Mililani, Hawaii; Mark Nakagawa of Springfield, VA; David Nishitani of Corvallis, Oregon; Metta Tanikawa of Warrenton, VA and 442nd RCT Veteran Lawson Sakai of Morgan Hill, CA. JAVA members, like the other 130 participants, went in hopes of gaining a deeper connection to the WWII experience of their grandfathers, fathers, uncles, and friends, and in the case of Lawson Sakai, to retrace his own footsteps. JAVA members also went with the desire to foster the relationship between the Bruyères and Japanese American communities, brilliantly symbolized in one the trip’s highlights – the “Knot Sculpture” by 442nd RCT Veteran, former JAVA member and artist Shikichi Tajiri.
JAVA Members on the Tour: L-R Mark Nakagawa, Metta Tanikawa, Lawson Sakai, Howard Hodges, BR Jeff Morita. Photo by David Nishitani.
Jeff Morita saw the tour as a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream, a “pilgrimage, to walk the very grounds where my late Uncle Yoshio James Morita, F. Company /442nd, fought and was severely wounded by shrapnel a few days after the rescue of the lost ‘Texas’ battalion on November 2, 1944, near Grebefosse, France.” Another highlight for Morita was meeting Lawson Sakai. Morita noted that although “we have exchanged communique in the past” it was the first face-to-face meeting. For Jeff, the occasion had added significance, “my Aunt Fusako Morita in Gardena, California recalled going over to Lawson’s house — their family's were neighbors before the mass evacuation and incarcerations into the concentration camps.” Jeff and his wife Yoko made the meaningful trip together.
Yoko Morita and Jeff Morita at Menton. Photo by Anne Morita Shima.
Jeff Morita at the Private Yohei Sagami (E.Co/442) Memorial — the 1st AJA KIA in the Vosges. Photo by Yoko Morita
For LTC Mark Nakagawa, USA (Ret) whose father served in the MIS, treading the land where Japanese Americans proved their loyalty to the United States, was an opportunity he could not pass up. “I had visited many of the important WWII sites such as Normandy while stationed in Germany but had only read about 442nd exploits. Visiting such hallowed ground with similarly interested individuals added emotional intensity and meaning to the trip.” Nakagawa was particularly struck by the Fremifontaine stop, where a memorial marks the rescue of the Lost Battalion. Nakagawa recounted how moved he was by the townspeople’s involvement. “A local band played as the Mayor served as master-of-ceremonies – the whole town to this day appreciates the Japanese American Soldiers who lost their lives in the fight for freedom.” Nakagawa also shared that villagers told him they “adopted” or tended the gravesites of 442nd buried at Epinal, the American Cemetery in Lorraine. As a veteran, however, the highlight of the trip was bonding with villagers by participating in a battle reenactment complete with WWII jeeps. Nakagawa rode along side of villagers wearing WWII uniforms emblazoned with the 442nd torch as they made their way up the rugged mountain hills. He left France grateful for the sacrifices of men who paved the way for a more inclusive American society but also a new understanding of the gratitude of the French people for the freedom the Japanese Americans brought to their country.
After placing a wreath at the Biffontaine Memorial, Mark Nakagawa salutes the fallen while Metta Tanikawa stands in solemn respect. Photo by David Nishitani.
The hospitality of the French villagers and the landscape of the countryside were not new to MSG David Nishitani, US Army Reserves (Ret). It was his third visit to France. He had also participated in two 100th Bn/442nd RCT tours to Italy - one in 2015 and one earlier this year. The draw, he explained, “was to follow his father’s footsteps. He was a Chief Warrant Officer in Service Company and I wanted to see where exactly he was during the war.” He also wanted to rekindle friendships he made on prior trips to France and Italy with “people that appreciated what the Nisei soldiers did for people of these countries.” For instance, on “a previous trip to France I got to meet a cousin of a family that my dad got to know in the Nice area during the ‘Champagne Campaign.’ I also was led to some places that my dad had photographed in 1944 and now I have a color comparison of the same area. These events happened thanks to the people that showed their appreciation for what the Nisei Soldiers did for their country.”
While the July tour allowed Nishitani “to see even more places” it was not a “check the box” type of tour. At every stop, the emotion was palpable. Nishitani related he had a heart-rending conversation with “the son of Barney Hajiro, a Medal of Honor recipient and then watched him hike the mountain where his dad helped save the Texas Lost Battalion near Biffontaine.” Equally poignant was the sight of seeing brothers Ken and James Sato visit their uncle's grave for the first time during the visit to the Epinal American Cemetery. Nishitani told of another emotional day spent a day at L'Escarene where the 442nd soldiers had hosted a Christmas party for the children of the town. He remarked that "some of those children are still around. Repaying the Nisei’s kindness, the town hosted a luncheon for us and many of ‘children’ attended the commemorative program and parade.” The town of Sospel also showered the same kindness on the tour participants. The group visited a Sospel school where there is a plaque commemorating Larry Miura and Kenji Sugawara, two members of the 442nd who lost their lives there. After placing a wreath at the school, the tour group attended a lunch hosted by the town. Similarly, the town of Menton on the French coast, hosted a reception for the tour group after they visited and placed a wreath at a monument honoring the 100th /442nd. Charged with taking official tour photos, Nishitani returned home with memories stored on his camera and in his heart.
At the Epinal American Cemetery. David Nishitani on the far left followed by Jolynn and Stuart Hirai and Christophe Chipot. With 24 of his years in the Reserves as a photographer for Public Affairs, 104th Div (IT) USAR based out of Vancouver Barracks, Washington, it is not surprising Nishitani was named the official "Tour Photographer."
David Nishitani, Glenn Hajiro and David Ono after hiking up to site of Lost Battalion.
The only 442nd Veteran on the trip, Lawson Sakai considered it a privilege to make the journey in honor of his fallen comrades. The above photo captures Lawson overcome with the natural beauty of Vosges, "75 years ago this wasn't a nice place but it is now." Photo by David Nishitani.
Glenn Hajiro, son of Barney Hajiro (MofH recipient) and Lawson Sakai by a sign that they replaced for Barney Hijiro near the Lost Battalion monument. Photo by David Nishitani.
While the terrain of the Vosges region enjoyed the mantel of summer during the July trip, Metta Tanikawa, a history buff who had read extensively about the Japanese American units in WWII and who also served as part of the registration team for the 2012 Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony, knew the reality of the 100th/442nd was quite different. “The rescue of the Lost Battalion took place in the wet and cold of the fall, with Soldiers carrying fifty-pound packs as bombs exploded around them.” While Tanikawa had read accounts of the challenging landscape, hiking up the mountain paths brought home the reality in a new way. “The thickness of the forest and the steepness of the slope” cannot be grasped in a text. “Being there brought a new understanding of the difficulty of the task. Seeing the German foxholes on the ridges made me realize the close-range fighting the 100th/442nd was up against.” Tanikawa was also impressed with the villagers’ knowledge of WWII history. “History is multi-generational there. Stories of the Liberation of Bruyères are passed down from one generation to the next and also studied in school. Neither the occupation of the town from 1940-1944 nor the hard-won freedom by the Japanese American Veterans has been forgotten.” Tanikawa added that “even in broken English, teenagers and adults conveyed their appreciation…from one descendant to the next, there was an excitement about the shared story of freedom.”
JAVA members offered heartfelt thanks to Dr. Brian Yamamoto and his team of assistants for organizing the 75th Anniversary Tour in honor of the heroics of the Soldiers of the 100th/442nd RCT. Members also voiced appreciation for the 52nd Signal Battalion/US Army Garrison from Stuttgart, Germany who served as Color Guard, presenting the colors at ceremonies during the second half of the tour. Lastly, members all felt honored to accompany JAVA member Lawson Sakai on this special anniversary tour. Indeed, it was an unforgettable experience for all.
Tour highlights included:
• Exploring the French Maritime Alps where Nisei troops were stationed during “Champagne Campaign."
• Visiting Sospel and dedicating a wreath at a plaque honoring two Nisei KIA there.
• Spending day with the citizens of L’Escarene where Nisei troops held Christmas party for children in 1944.
• Visiting Menton where our Vets captured a German mini-sub.
• Participating in Bastille Day ceremonies in Bruyères and marching in the town parade.
• Visiting American Cemeteries at Lorraine and Epinal and placing leis and flags at 100th/442nd Veteran graves.
• Visiting the “Knot Sculpture” by sculptor Shikichi Tajiri,442nd RCT and former JAVA member.
• Placing a wreath at Yohei Sagami Monument in Laval. Yohei Sagami was the first soldier KIA in Vosges.
• Placing a wreath at Tomosu Hirahara Square. Hirahara was KIA and is buried at the Epinal Cemetery.
• Placing a wreath in a ceremony at the Lost Battalion Monument and viewing the new Monument to the 405th FS.
• Visiting Biffontaine and Fremifontaine.
• Attending ceremonies and placing wreaths at the 45th Infantry Division & 3rd Infantry Division monument.
• Visiting the Robert Booth Monument. Booth was KIA with 405th FS.
• Participating in a wreath-laying ceremony at Borne 6, the site that commemorates the rescue of the Lost Battalion.
52nd Signal Battalion/US Army Garrison from Stuttgart, Germany Serving as Color Guard with Mark Nakagawa. Nakagawa called the commands when the Color Guard presented colors at the various sites. Photo by David Nishitani.
L-R: Andy Fujimoto, MarkNakagawa, Kurt Osaki posing with a Samurai Armor at DCM Joseph Young'sresidence.
By Mark Nakagawa
I was fortunate to have been selected and participated in the U.S.-Japan Council’s (USJC) 2019 Japanese-American Leadership Delegation (JALD) visiting Tokyo and Kumamoto, Japan in March 2019. It was an experience of a lifetime that I only began to realize the enormity and impact of in the months following my return.
Our program began with an orientation in Los Angeles where I met nine other delegates from throughout the United States: Hawaii, California, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Michigan, Vermont, and WDC. We quickly bonded as a group and prepared for our trip.
Once in Japan, delegates were given access to top Japanese government and business leaders, including Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado, members of Prime Minister Abe’s Office, Foreign Minister Taro Kono, top ministry officials, National Diet members, prefectural and city leaders in Kumamoto, and leaders of the world’s largest and most successful corporations. The meetings and personal interaction deepened and strengthened the connection to my Japanese heritage. While I have always been intensely proud to be an American of Japanese heritage, JALD gave me a window to see and appreciate the mindsets of both worlds and the unique advantage of my background. As one of my fellow delegates insightfully remarked: “We are the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Japanese immigrants to America.” Indeed, the Japanese Americans on the trip represented various career paths and have been successful in blending the best characteristics of both countries. Like other delegates, I returned home inspired to help further the U.S. – Japan alliance - drawing on my unique understanding of American and Japanese culture and serving as a bridge between the two countries.
I am eternally grateful to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the U.S.-Japan Council, The Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership, and many others, for a life-changing experience. The seeds to further cultivate the people-to-people relationship have been sowed. I look forward to the future as the seeds germinate and grow, nurtured by the environment created by JALD.
2019 Delegates at their orientation in Los Angeles
Originally Published by JALD
The Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) program provides the opportunity for a select group of Japanese American leaders from across the United States to travel to Japan to engage with Japanese leaders in the business, government, academic, nonprofit and cultural sectors. The trip also allows Japanese leaders to gain a greater understanding of multi-cultural America through the experiences of a diverse group of Japanese Americans. Upon their return, delegates collaborate with program alumni, the local consulates, the U.S.-Japan Council and local and national community organizations to continue strengthening ties between the U.S. and Japan.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), represented in the U.S. by the Embassy of Japan in Washington, DC and 17 consulate general offices, sponsors the program. The U.S.-Japan Council provides administration and support for the program. JALD began in 2000 and 217 delegates have participated to date.
JAVA Member Mark Nakagawa (second from left in FR) with other JALD Delegates
The ten delegates of the 2019 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) program returned home on March 9 after a full week of meetings, discussions and networking opportunities with Japanese leaders. With the aim to strengthen and diversify U.S.-Japan relations, the program builds people-to-people relationships with Japanese leaders from various sectors.
The group first visited Tokyo, where they met with Foreign Minister Taro Kono (a Friend of the Council) to discuss issues pertinent to the U.S.-Japan bilateral relationship. Minister Kono has spent time with every JALD class since the program’s inception in 2000. As in years past, he brought parliamentarians who are part of the Japan-U.S. Parliamentary Friendship League, and encouraged networking among Japanese and Japanese American leaders.
Delegate Bryce Suzuki with Foreign Minister Kono
The delegates also met with many other leaders in Tokyo, including MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) Minister Masahiko Shibayama; U.S. Ambassador to Japan William F. Hagerty; Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy Joseph M. Young; Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Kentaro Sonoura; and representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), Forum 21, and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP).
JAVA Vice President Mark Nakagawa (back row, center) with Kumamoto Governor Ikuo Kabashima (front row, fourth from left) and Vice Governor Taisuke Ono (back row, left)
In Kumamoto Prefecture, the delegates met with Governor Ikuo Kabashima of Kumamoto Prefecture and Mayor Kazufumi Onishi of Kumamoto City. They also participated in a symposium titled “Three Sectors, Three Approaches: Cities that Attract Youth,” co-sponsored by the Japan Foundation CGP, USJC and Kumamoto City, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Kumamoto Prefecture. Based upon their own experience in academia, civil society and the private sector, panelists discussed how to create cities that will continue to draw future generations. About 120 individuals attended the symposium, which concluded with a lively Q&A.
The JALD program is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and organized by USJC. Please see the US-Japan Council website for further details http://www.usjapancouncil.org/jald.
THE 2020 JAPANESE AMERICAN LEADERSHIP DELEGATION (JALD) APPLICATION IS NOW OPEN UNTIL SEPTEMBER 13, 2019!
The Embassy of Japan would like JAVA members and friends to know that the application for the 2020 Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) is now open to the public until September 13th, 2019.
The Embassy has uploaded the application information to their website and Twitter.
The Embassy is willing to recommend applicants from DC, MD, and VA. If you would like to recommend an individual to the Embassy, please email a brief introduction of the candidate by September 13 to Namiko Suzuki at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to recommend someone outside the Washington DC area, please contact the consulate general in charge of their respective state. A description of the JALD opportunity can be found on the US-Japan Council website http://www.usjapancouncil.org/jald.
For further information or questions please contact:
Namiko Suzuki 鈴木奈未子
Management & Coordination Section | Embassy of Japan
Tel: 202-238-6848 Cell: 202-531-9724