Category Archives: Fair Play Committee

What to look for on opening night of “Allegiance”

actor
“Mike Masaoka” is made a character in a musical, as played by singer/actor Paolo Montalban. (Photo by Henry DiRocco)

Japanese Americans who’ve questioned just how the new musical Allegiance will portray the Japanese American experience will find out this Wednesday, Sept. 19, when the production is opened to the press.

Yes, the show will bring the story of the camps to a wider audience, and for many that alone appears to be  enough. Others will be watching to see where the evolving script finally lands in regard to its treatment of the Heart Mountain draft resisters, the soldiers of the 442, and the wartime Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). Among the things to watch for:

How will wartime JACL leader Mike Masaoka be portrayed?

No question it is remarkable to see the dark underside of loyalty, the community’s dirty laundry that was documented in Conscience and other works, brought into popular culture with this staging. However, even community members who recognize the failings of the wartime JACL and who were invited to workshop presentations of this show over the last two years reported their shock and dismay not only at seeing Mike Masaoka on stage, by name, but at seeing him caricatured as “sleazy,” a “scheming villain,” and the target of “character assassination.” Early versions of the plot unbelievably hinged on the opening of a safe in search of JACL records that would purportedly expose “Masaoka’s” plan for Nisei boys to die in combat, and thereby provide the proof needed to stop the drafting of Nisei from camp.

"Better Americans" production number
Springtime for Hitler? Masaoka and the wartime JACL get the all-singing, all-dancing treatment in the big production number, “Better Americans.” (Photo by Henry DiRocco)

Preview audiences have since reported that in the rewritten show the “Masaoka” character is less “sleazy,”in uniform for much of the show, and in one scene grieves for the death of his brother in combat. That didn’t stop the Japanese American Veterans Association from denouncing the production last week in an open letter. More rewrites are said to be taking place right up to the opening curtain on Wednesday. National JACL officials will reportedly be in the opening night audience.

How many sources can you identify?

Besides the obvious influence of Conscience on the framing of the story of Mike Masaoka and the JACL vs. the resisters, another source of inspiration lies in the screenplay for the 1976 NBC-TV movie, Farewell to Manzanar. Not the book by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James Houston,  but the screenplay by the Houston’s and director John Korty.

(Allegiance synopsis) “Sammy … finds friendship and companionship with a quaker nurse in camp, Hannah … Sammy tries to bring the camp together with a talent show and social, but the night is hijacked by Frankie, who uses the occasion to stir opposition to their incarceration. Sammy leaves the dance angry at his sister’s apparent co-option, and he is is beaten up by men who see him as Masaoka’s stooge.”

“Frankie” in the play is Frank Emi, leader of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee. Frank Emi never disrupted any events, and would have stopped anyone who tried. Where we have seen this scenario before is in the screenplay for Manzanar which invented three elements not in Jeanne’s book: a camp talent show that is disrupted by a fistfight over the loyalty oath, a mess hall meeting that is hijacked by torch-bearing agitators who use the occasion to stir opposition to their incarceration, and a wholly-invented romance between Jeanne’s Nisei brother and a white nurse in camp. Both the book and the screenplay shared a fourth element: the beating of a JACL leader inside camp — in the book it was the real Fred Tayama of Los Angeles, in the screenplay it was the fictional Frank Nishi. Nishi, incidentally, was played 36 years ago by a younger me.

The fantasy of a romance between a Nisei man and a white woman that starts in camp is evidently irresistible, with variations on the theme played out later in Come See The Paradise and Snow Falling on Cedars. As Roger Daniels points out to me, while interracial couples did exist in camp — Karl and Elaine Black Yoneda, Arthur and Estelle Ishigo — these were couples that had married before the war and went to camp together.

The resisters’ story is used, but how is it used?

The printed song list for the first preview includes an Act Two opening number titled “Resist.” Early drafts of the script have “Frankie,” the leader of the resistance, exhorting a group of young people beneath a banner that cries, “Resist.”  Shades of Les Miserables. As we noted last week, the draft resisters at Heart Mountain never rallied others in support or raised banners, and to show them rabble-rousing is a profound disservice to their memory. If this staging is retained on opening night, the musical will further cement the confusion between the resisters and the segregants and renunciants at Tule Lake, whose actions held their own integrity but which were simply different from the Heart Mountain group.

(Allegiance synopsis) “Kei and Frankie lead the resistance to the draft at Heart Mountain … even while Hannah seeks to protect and hide Frankie and Kei from the authorities in camp …. Kei and Frankie are finally caught and arrested.”

The Fair Play Committee did not have to hide from the Nazi’s. This was not The Dairy of Anne Frank. Frank Emi and the others conducted their business openly and in public. They posted fliers, held meetings, and collected dues. When the first group of 63 resisters were arrested for draft evasion, the FBI simply looked up their barrack number in the camp registry and knocked on their doors, at dawn. When the first group was convicted, the FBI came back for the leaders on a conspiracy charge. Guntaro Kubora had his bags packed and was waiting for them. In our DVD, Frank Emi tells how the FBI came to his door and read him the charges, and how he even challenged their right to search his barrack without a search warrant.

Old Globe Playbill coverNone of these questions is likely to be asked by the first-night reviewers from Variety, Broadway World, or the San Diego Union-Tribune, but they should be. One writer who at least mentions the Masaoka controversy is Karen Wada in a feature in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times: “Some who viewed earlier versions were upset with certain aspects, including the depiction of Mike Masaoka.”

Musicals are escapist by nature and attention will focus on the interpersonal melodrama, music, and performances, with much said about the educational intentions of the book and the legitimacy conferred by the participation of Tule Lake survivor George Takei. On a personal level, our congratulations go to George for realizing his dream of a legacy project to spread the word about the camps. As mentioned in the Times and  his interview in the  Old Globe’s Playbill program, George’s father was a “no-no” segregant. As one preview audience member wondered aloud:

“George’s lines at the end are ‘You betrayed us. You betrayed your brother. These were my brothers that died.’  Who knows — he may be the driver of the anti-Masaoka themes, wanting people to understand his family’s side of the story.  He may somehow see his family as victims of Mike Masaoka.”

Resisters at heart of new musical

Allegiance photoLike it or not, the history and legacy of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee is being dramatized and will be kicked around in the media for weeks and months to come. The vehicle for the uproar is a new musical with Broadway aspirations that appropriates the story of the resisters and puts them on stage against the Japanese American Citizens League and the real-life Mike Masaoka.

That’s the story first revealed to a national television audience by Conscience and the Constitution, and it informs the framework of Allegiance. Several years ago the songwriter and co-producer contacted us to ask for a copy of our film for a theater workshop. We obliged by sending a VHS tape, and heard nothing more until recently.

At Resisters.com we will always appreciate George Takei for his two decades of support for the Heart Mountain resisters — from his volunteering to read the part of Frank Emi at our first resisters homecoming / readers theater event in San Jose in 1992 (sadly but understandably losing him to a paying film gig), to his later lending his voice talents to our film to read the manifesto of Frank Emi and an editorial from James Omura. With his massive following and two-million Facebook friends, George is emerging as our lead advocate for getting mention of the resisters into the mass culture, as evidenced by this NPR interview over the Labor Day weekend where he expresses his admiration for the resisters and what he correctly characterizes as their “courageous and principled stand.”

While audiences may only remember the performances, musical arrangements and stagecraft, and whatever the intentions of the creative team, the risk of staging this material is that even as Japanese Americans appreciate this history being exposed to a wider audience, there are many ways for them to take offense at the way this one is told:

  • The JACL — Where our documentary lets Masaoka’s words and deeds speak for themselves, the musical puts Mike on stage as a living person, by name, and that’s a different animal. The emotional arc of the stage play sets up Mike as the villain of the piece. In early drafts, and in a YouTube video, “Mike Masaoka” is portrayed as a “scheming vaudevillian,” to use the words in the video caption.For all his rhetoric and bluster, Mike didn’t create the camps, or the draft, nor did he have the authority to stop the drafting of young men into the 442. The government did. JACLers are up in arms, though the organization so far has been silent.
  • The veterans — With the show appearing to champion those who resisted over those who enlisted or complied with the draft in camp, the stage was set for pushback. The first shot was fired by Charles Kobayashi and others in Sacramento in a letter reacting to a community preview: “The dialogue in Allegiance where Sam Omura tells his father he wished he had never volunteered for the 442nd needs to be removed. It is demeaning and disrespectful of the Nisei veterans.” Another of Kobayashi’s complaints however is easily dismissed: artists have no obligation to “uplift the race,” as it were.
  • The resisters — I can only wonder what Frank Emi would say if he were still alive. The show in earlier drafts had the lead resister, called by the diminuitive “Frankie,” exhorting crowds in camp to resist, under a banner that proclaims “Resist!” Frank would tell you that is a conflation with the washo-washo cries at the Tule Lake Segregation Center. The draft resisters at Heart Mountain never publicly rallied or raised banners. That would have invited sure arrest, and confusing their methods with those of the Tule Lake no-no’s and renunciants was precisely the thing that Frank Emi insisted the group avoid. It’s not just a technicality.The Fair Play Committee was organized around a principle to which they hoped to attract support. Frank Emi made it clear they would not pressure anyone to join the Fair Play Committee or to resist the draft, in order to avoid a federal conspiracy or sedition charge. They studiously limited their activities to offering legal advice to those who asked for it, quietly posting fliers throughout camp, and holding public meetings in the mess hall. To show them rallying under a banner alters the fundamental nature of the Fair Play Committee’s stand. It feeds into the stereotype of “agitators” and “troublemakers” that has dogged the FPC for 70 years.

Murmuring about the content of Allegiance has simmered all summer, based on a series of community previews, clips on YouTube,  and a glimpse of an early version of the script, as reported last month by J.K. Yamamoto in the Rafu Shimpo.

The murmuring finally burst into the open today with release of this from the president of the Japanese American Veterans Association (you can download a PDF of the letter here).

Open Letter about “Allegiance”

The play “Allegiance” is scheduled to open in San Diego, CA, on September 19th.  The producers of the play have received criticism about a pre-opening version of the play and they may make some changes before opening.  However, we understand that they do not intend to change the play’s characterization of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Mike Masaoka, who was National JACL Secretary at the time Executive Order 9066 was issued, and the Nisei soldiers.  Thus, in our opinion, the play’s plot is objectionable in that it misleads the American public and is a disservice to the Japanese American community.  The comments in this letter are based on a review of a pre-opening version of the play.

The play tells how two groups showed their loyalty to the United States during World War II.  In telling their stories, the play pits those who volunteered to serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team against the”resisters” (aka “No-No boys” and draft resisters).  The play also implies that JACL and Masaoka colluded with the government in shaping various governmental policies.  These policies related to the forced evacuation of persons of Japanese ancestry, Question 27 and Question 28 in the loyalty questionnaire, segregation of “resisters” in Tule Lake WRA camp, and misleading Japanese Americans into volunteering for military service.

First, the play gives the false impression to the American public that the evacuation and unjust imprisonment of persons of Japanese ancestry would not have happened but for the aid provided by JACL and Mike Masaoka.  In reality, JACL and Masaoka had no ability to influence Executive Order 9066, which authorized the Army to evacuate persons of Japanese ancestry from the western United States.  They should be applauded for their efforts to minimize the pain and harshness of the Executive Order’s implementation during a time of war hysteria and within a culture of hostile and deceitful governmental officials.

Moreover, the play makes no mention of the actions of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who signed Executive Order 9066, and LTG John DeWitt, who implemented Executive Order 9066.  These actions were later found to be the result of “prejudice, war hysteria, and lack of political leadership.”

Rather, the play would mislead the American public by attributing
unsubstantiated actions to Japanese American leaders who were attempting to bring reason to absolute chaos confronting the community.  The play appears to be pandering to the American public with the implicit message: “We don’t blame the government for what happened to us during World War II.  JACL and Masaoka did this to us.”

What happened to persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II was overt racial profiling. The lesson learned from that experience is that we must guard against racially motivated governmental policies.  This play, “Allegiance,” only serves to dilute or confuse the lesson that the American public should take away from the sacrifices and suffering of those who bore the unjust effects of Executive Order 9066.

Furthermore, there is no question that there was an angry division in 1943 within the Japanese American community between those who volunteered to serve and “resisters” on the matter of loyalty.  The play attempts to make the case that the “resisters” made the right choice and that those who volunteered were deceived by Masaoka and made the wrong choice.  By fueling this controversy, the play attempts to re-open old wounds and does a disservice to both groups.

Both choices were difficult and had permanent life-altering consequences. In hindsight, both groups should recognize that there was more than one way to show one’s loyalty.  Neither choice was the right one or the wrong one. Today, we should celebrate both groups for following their convictions rather than fueling this hostility by continuing to pit these two groups against each other.

Finally, the play uses fictional characters except for Mike Masaoka. The play assaults his good name and reputation by alleging his direct involvement in shaping the government’s controversial policies.  Let us hope that the play’s producers and investors can substantiate their apparent character assassination of Masaoka.  We will leave it to Mike Masaoka & Associates, a consulting firm that continues to do business in Washington, DC, to raise any challenges related to possibly malicious damage to its business reputation caused by “Allegiance.”

Sincerely,

Gerald Yamada
JAVA President

A couple of things are worth nothing about this letter. It signals we’re in for another round of confusing the resisters at Heart Mountain with the no-no’s at Tule Lake. The resisters were not “angrily divided” against the boys who served; they always said they made their choice and the volunteers made theirs. The resisters always recognized there was more than one way to show one’s loyalty; it was the veterans groups and JACL that took 60 or 70 years to come around. What’s notable is the degree to which the two letters above acknowledge the civil disobedience as a legitimate response.

Yamada’s challenge that the producers document their characterization of Masaoka was evidently anticipated by their reposting on their site of Mike’s 1942 and 1943 memoes to the WRA, the color scans of which were downloaded uncredited from our site, Resisters.com, along with several photos of Mike and the HTML code that William Hohri created for us for posting of the uncensored Lim Report. Having said that, and to show how many conflicting interests are at play, we do appreciate the link to our PBS. org site and to the DVD ordering page and hope they remain.

Previews for the show began last Friday. Opening night is Wednesday, September 19, and the all-important trade reviews will come in soon after that. More as this story develops.

“Top 5 Unsung Heroes In Japanese American History”

Blogger and filmmaker Koji Steven Sakai at the 8Asians.com site has singled out one of the surviving members of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee for his list of unsung heroes. Yosh would be the first to say he’s not a hero, but he does fit under Koji’s criteria of “doing the right thing” at the right time:

Yosh Kuromiya
Much of thYosh Kuromiyae narrative of Japanese American World War II experience has focused on the bravery of the young Japanese American soldiers in the 442nd. Kuromiya’s story strays far from that narrative. At the age of 19, he made the principled decision against fighting for a country that had incarcerated him and his family based only on their ethnic background. He faced not only prison time (he was sentenced to three years) but he was also ostracized both from within the community and from society at large.

A new look for Resisters.com

You’ll notice a new look and feel for Resisters.com. Call it Resisters.com 2.0. You can now post your own comments on these pages, as well as subscribe to email news updates about the resisters in real time.

Use the subscription form in the right sidebar, or the RSS link, and share posts on your Facebook page. The feed fulfills a long-ago request by Kenji Taguma that we have a means of quickly sharing news about the resisters. It’s not quite the magazine of Asian American literary and cultural criticism that Frank Chin insists we must have, but it’s the best I can manage for now.

I promise the posts will be newsworthy and will continue to uncover discoveries about the largest resistance to the WW2 incarceration of Japanese Americans. After 70 years interest in the camps has never been stronger. The difference is that over the past decade, with our film and now the new DVD, the paradigm for that history has widened to include the camp resistance and the JACL collaboration as part of our basic common knowledge alongside the 442, the MIS, and others.

Please leave a comment below to let us know how you like the new site, which uses the sturdier WordPress platform rather than the hand-coded site that we held together with Dreamweaver.

If there is page from the old Resisters.com site you miss and would like to see restored, leave a comment and we will repost it. We’ll soon be adding videos and links to new research, along with catching up with old news updates, reviews, and anything else you’d like to see or hear.

Top 10 Iconic Japanese American Photos

Wyoming courtroom Koji Steven Sakai on the 8Asians.com blog places the courtroom photo of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee number five on his list of the “Top 10 Iconic Japanese American Photos” of all time, ahead of the 442 and behind another local icon, the photo of Fumiko Hayashida holding her daughter Natalie while being evicted from their home on Bainbridge Island.

Kenji Taguma’s remembrance for Mits Koshiyama

Kenji Taguma of the Nichi Bei Times captures what was special about Mits Koshiyama:

It is with deep sadness that I report the death of Heart Mountain Nisei draft resister Mits Koshiyama, who passed away on Friday, Feb. 6, at 4 p.m. in his home in Mountain View. He was 84.

His service will be held on Saturday, Feb. 14, 1 p.m. at the Wesley United Methodist Church, 566 North 5th Street in San Jose’s Japantown.

To me, Mits had always represented the emotional core of the resistance, particularly as it pertained to their coming out in the 1990s. He generously spoke at numerous panels, especially in Northern California, telling countless numbers of community members and students about the story of the principled resistance of young Nisei men during World War II.

He was brutally honest in his words, which he didn’t mince, and was unafraid to tell the truth. His voice at times trembled with anger at the treatment of resisters, by both veterans and the Japanese American Citizens League.

He was unapologetic in his telling of the truth, and in some ways, I think his conveyance of the resisters’ story of standing for constitutional principle helped to further validate — and perhaps gave courage to — other resisters to come out to tell their own stories. He was the public face of Nisei resisters in Northern California.

I first met Mits as the resisters story — and my whirlwind involvement in it — started to unfold in about 1992. I had helped put together the Nisei resisters portion of an exhibit on the Japanese American experience, an assignment given to me by my Asian American studies professor, Wayne Maeda — the curator of the landmark exhibit at the Sacramento History Museum. After the exhibit opened, and this new world of knowledge of my own father’s wartime resistance descended upon me, I put together a reunion of the Tucsonians, a name some resisters sentenced to the federal labor camp near Tucson gave themselves.

Granada (Amache) resister Joe Norikane, now deceased, had met Mits at a Tule Lake Pilgrimage, where Mits had spoke of his resistance. We contacted Mits about joining the reunion, and he and three other Heart Mountain resisters from the Bay Area — I believe they were George Nozawa, Tom Kawahara and Dave Kawamoto — joined us at Futami Restaurant in Sacramento. It was the beginning of a lasting camaraderie between the Heart Mountain and the Tucsonian resisters, who were mostly from the Granada camp. We went over to the exhibit after the fellowship, and the story ran in the Sacramento Bee.

Over the years, I’ve kind of served as his agent of sorts. Sometimes I was asked to “find a resister” to do this or that, or a resister for the mainstream press to interview, and Mits was naturally the first one to come to mind. I’ve also helped to place him on many panels, many of which that I had organized myself — a San Francisco Japantown screening of Frank Abe’s “Conscience and the Constitution,” a panel in conjunction with Eric Muller’s book “Free to Die for Their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II,” and a panel in conjunction with Professor Yukio Morita’s Japanese-language book on Nisei draft resistance. That latter panel, held on Nov. 3, 2007, was actually the last time I had seen Mits and his wife. He was slowing down, but still able to generously and unflinchingly share his story with others.

The first panel I had Mits sit on was actually the first of some two dozen programs I would organize as a student activist at California State University, Sacramento: a Nisei draft resisters forum featuring Mits, Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee leader Frank Emi, writer/historian Frank Chin, and my professor Wayne Maeda. Dr. Clifford Uyeda, a leading human rights activist and supporter of the resisters, attended and spoke from the audience, as did a sympathetic veteran from the Military Intelligence Service. That panel would have a lasting impact, it seems, as also in attendance was Andy Noguchi, a Sansei activist with the Florin JACL. A year later, Andy and I would work together as the Florin JACL honored the local resisters at their Time of Remembrance program, and in 2000 he would go on to spearhead a National JACL effort to finally recognize the principled stand of the resisters, seeking to atone for years of ostracism by JACL leaders. As he explained in the opening of the National JACL’s resisters reconciliation ceremony in 2002, it was that 1993 panel — where Mits shared his story of standing for constitutional rights — that first exposed Andy to the resisters’ story.

I remember one time when Mits was on a panel with former internees in Japantown, and one panelist recalled the pain and shame he endured during the war. In walking with Mits afterward, he was noticeably irritated. He said something to the extent of: “What was that guy crying about? We weren’t all victims!” Brute honesty.

Is was Mits’ honesty that was one of his greatest strengths, I believe. His ability to tell it like it is while clearly articulating his position — not in academic speak, but in laymen’s terms — made his story of resistance accessible. While a landscape gardener at San Jose’s Willow Glen High School in 1989, he was asked by students to write an article for the school newspaper, which was titled “Is the Constitution Just a Piece of Paper?” In it, he wrote: “I really want to blame my internment on racist ‘White America,’ but Japanese Americans were just as guilty. We just didn’t have the courage to fight racism and to fight for our constitutional rights.

“But not all Japanese Americans acted in this manner,” he continued. “Some acted like Americans and fought for their rights. When the government tried to draft the internees into a segregated infantry unit, some had the courage to say that they wouldn’t serve without the return of their constitutional rights. They explained that they couldn’t fight for a free world when their families were interned in a concentration camp.

He was steadfastly critical of the past JACL leaders. “Our leaders branded these resisters as troublemakers and said that they were trying to ruin the ‘proper image’ of the Japanese Americans,” he wrote.

“The reason that I am writing this article is to awaken all minorities to the importance of the Constitution,” he warned. “You must fight for your rights when they are violated. Never, NEVER surrender your rights as citizens of the United States — like we did.”

Mits Koshiyama may have been a simple gardener, but he was also a true epitome of how ordinary people can do extraordinary things under times of duress. In the tradition of Rosa Parks, Mits Koshiyama stood steadfastly against injustice. And while at the time it may have been a lonely undertaking, rest assured, Mits, that your act of heroism will never be lost upon us. You have left us with a lesson that we will always cherish, a lesson that will help us to be continually vigilant, and a legacy that we can be proud of.

— Kenji Taguma

In memoriam: George Nozawa

George Nozawa (right)Sad news from Mountain View, California tonight. George Nozawa was a quiet, thoughtful man who provided a number of the newspaper clippings and primary documents that are seen in our film, including his own draft card! The photo from his collection shows George on the right with his good friend, FPC leader Frank Emi:

From Kenji Taguma of the Nichi Bei Times.

I am saddened to report that George Nozawa, said to be the unofficial historian of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, passed away on Monday, April 21.

Details are still somewhat sketchy, but he’s been in failing health recently. I’ve learned of his death through the Koshiyamas in San Jose, who were informed by George’s daughter (I believe that he also has one son).

George has played a central role in the camaraderie between the Amache (Granada) / Tucsonian resisters and Heart Mountain resisters over the years, during a time when the story of the principled stand of the resisters was rapidly coming to light in the 1990s. I remember inviting him to the two Tucsonian (resisters) reunions in Sacramento that I organized, and his compilation of articles of Amache resisters — and their arrests and trials — are still a fond piece of my collection. I am indebted to him for helping to reclaim a piece of history.

Over the years, he has meticulously clipped resister-related articles and has generously shared them with others, myself included.

Last year, my brother Mark and I visited George and his wife, taking along Professor Yukio Morita of Kanazawa University — whose comprehensive book on Nisei resisters [pdf, 3MB] helped to document for eternity the stories of George, my father and other resisters.

Since George lived about a couple of blocks from my brother in Mountain View, my dad would often visit George when at my brother’s, and share some cherished memories.

I will remember George as someone who was straight and narrow. I will truly miss George, another personal hero who may be gone, yet will not be forgotten.

We’re unsure about any services, but it might be good to check in the San Jose Mercury News in the next couple of days. I hear that George was a member of the Mountain View Buddhist Temple.

— Kenji

Kenji also sent an article in the San Bernardino County Sun about the latest performance of “A Community Divided” on April 23 by Frank Emi, Yosh Kuromiya, Paul Tsuneishi and Momo Yashima, with a great 9-picture photo gallery of the event.

“World, War, Watada” and the Heart Mountain resisters

Amerasia Journal has published a special “wartime edition” that refocuses attention on the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, through the lens of the ongoing case involving Lt. Ehren Watada. The issue is titled “World, War, Watada,” and features letters from Heart Mountain resister Mits Koshiyama and supporter Paul Tsuneishi, both of whom are featured in our film. According to the UCLA news release:

Koshiyama, a Heart Mountain World War II draft resister, ends his personal letter to Lt. Ehren Watada, as follows: “Do what your conscience tells you what to do. We got punished by a prejudiced court but in the end, we prevailed.”

Writer Frank Chin contributes “A Call to Resist,” his take on Watada and the World II resisters, which also appears on his blog. Chin asks:

Lt. Ehren Watada, a Hawaiian Japanese Chinese American, exercises the rights the resisters defended, and brings the questions the Nisei heard tossed about in the camp war years, back to the present day. Will Japanese Americans react any differently than they did on their 9/11, Dec. 7, 1941?

There’s also an interview with filmmaker Curtis Choy and the making of “Watada, Resister.” Thanks to editor Russell C. Leong for referencing our film in his introductory editorial, “Is Resistance Your Real Name?,” and bringing some of you to this site.

Book: “American Nikkei Nisei Draft Resistance,” by Prof. Yukio Morita

book coverI paid a visit in August to Mits Koshiyama in San Jose and he was just in receipt of a new book published in Japan about the Nisei draft resisters, America Nikkei Nisei no Chohei Kihi (American Nikkei Nisei Draft Resistance). The author is Professor Yukio Morita.

Mit’s wife translated the cover blurb for me as reading something like: “They were called into the army, but they refused to go!” and on the obi strip: “Voices of the Nikkei who lost their property taken by the government!”

Prof. Morita includes the Guntaro Kubota translation into Japanese of a Fair Play Committee bulletin that is briefly glimpsed in Conscience, along with photos of Mits’ family, Frank Emi, George Nozawa, and a Hawaiian draft resister who wanted to renounce his citizenship.

Kenji Taguma, English Edition Editor of the Nichi Bei Times, wrote a story, “New Book Brings Little-Known Story of Nisei Resistance to Japanese Readers,” and is moderating a book talk with Prof. Morita  (who will be speaking in Japanese) and Nisei draft resisters Ken Yoshida and Mits Koshiyama. Kenji’s personal note tells the story:

This 600+ page book, published by Sairyusha Publishing Co. in Tokyo, is the first original Japanese language book solely dedicated to Nisei draft resistance. The back cover has an image of Frank Emi, and there are historical and contemporary photos interspersed throughout.

Professor Morita started interviewing Nisei resisters about five years ago, and the book includes results of interviews with folks like Frank Emi, Mits Koshiyama, George Nozawa, Jim Akutsu, Poston resisters, and the “Tucsconians” — resisters who were sentenced to the same federal labor camp as Gordon Hirabayashi. This latter group included my father Noboru, Joe Norikane and Susumu Yenokida of Granada (Amache), and Ken Yoshida (Topaz or Central Utah). There’s also a chapter on James Omura. I believe that this is the first book to include Granada and other resisters since Ellen Levine’s A Fence Away From Freedom.

As the son of a Nisei resister, I’m forever grateful to those of you who have helped to bring out this story. Frank Abe’s Conscience and the Constitution, Chizu Omori’s Rabbit in the Moon, and Eric Muller’s Free to Die For Their Country brought the story out to a wide audience. Hopefully, Prof. Morita’s book will bring the story to a new audience, in Japan and to Japanese-speakers here in America.

As you can imagine, his actual paying audience must be rather limited, and the small press probably has no marketing capabilities here. So, if you have any access to any library with a Japanese-language collection, I’m sure it would be appreciated if they are encouraged to purchase a copy. The book costs 7,200 yen, which is about $61 today. I actually have about 15 copies here that the publisher sent on Prof. Morita’s behalf, which Prof. Morita plans to sell at the event. If anyone can make the book event on Nov. 3, I can look into trying to set up some type of meal gathering.

More on “Watada, Resister”

Here’s the link to Lisa Chung’s July 7 column in the San Jose Mercury-News, “War resister’s predecessors stand with him” in which she quotes from Curtis Choy’s film of the phone call from Frank Emi and Yosh Kuromiya to Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq:

Besides the usual list of anti-war celebrities and politicians in Watada’s corner, what impresses me most are the members of the Heart Mountain draft resisters. They know all about taking an unpopular stand on principle. These are people like Mits Koshiyama in San Jose, Frank Emi and Yoshi Kuromiya in Los Angeles, and others. They know the personal cost can still resonate and sting, even after 60 years …

Writer Frank Chin sent me a DVD recording of a phone meeting between Watada and Emi, Kuromiya and Paul Tsuneishi, a World War II veteran. Koshiyama, 83, was going to take part until health issues intervened. The elders offered their analyses and support. Kuromiya told the young officer that he might very well go to prison, but it could be the beginning of something new. He has the character for leadership and a role to play.

See Curtis Choy’s “Watada, Resister.”