Searching for families of these Issei writers

This is an appeal for anyone with leads on the families of Joji Nozawa, Kazuo Kawai, Hyakuissei Okamoto, Yoshio Abe, Iwao Kawakami, and other Issei writers whose work we plan to feature in a forthcoming anthology of camp literature.

blue cover of Tessaku magazine
A cover for Tessaku Magazine, in the collection of the Japanese American National Museum. Photo by Frank Abe.

Prof. Floyd Cheung and I have nearly completed the manuscript for The Literature of Japanese American Incarceration to be published by Penguin Classics in spring or fall 2024. The collection includes around 60 selections from Before Camp, The Camps, and After Camp.

Several of the selections in the first two sections are English translations of writing from the Issei that have been long-overlooked on the shelf, buried in the archives, or languished unread in the Japanese language. For the purpose of obtaining a permission to reprint, we are searching for leads on how we might contact any surviving relatives of the following writers:

Three contributors to Tessaku in 1947
Caption as translated by Andrew Way Leong: “Three contributors to Tessaku; from right, Nozawa, Kawai, and Fujita.; photo taken in Los Angeles 1947, courtesy of Masao Yamashiro.” This photo appears in the editor’s introduction to the Japanese republication of the entire run of Tessaku in a set entitled “Nikkei Amerika bungaku zasshi shūsei.”

Jōji Nozawa and Kazuo Kawai were contributors to Tessaku, the Japanese-language literary magazine published at Tule Lake when it was a segregation center from March 1944 to April 1945.

From what we can tell, Jōji Nozawa (1922-2008) was a Kibei born in Los Angeles and educated in Japan. He was incarcerated at Amache and segregated to Tule Lake. Kazuo Kawai (1921-1979) was born in Stockton and incarcerated at Poston before Tule Lake. He was just 23 when he published a serialized novel in Tessaku called Jidai, or These Times. under the pen name of Ryōji Hiei.

poem text
from “The Parents and other poems” by Iwao Kawakami, 1947. Courtesy of Greg Robinson.

Iwao Kawakami (1907-1976) was known as a journalist and the one-time husband of poet Toyo Suyemoto. He was confined at Topaz, where he edited the weekly Topaz Times. In 1947, he was sports editor and columnist for the newly-founded Nichi Bei Times. That year, he published a slim volume of poetry, The Parents and Other Poems, which includes a remarkable poem mourning the fatal shooting of 63-year-old James Wakasa, shot by a guard in a Topaz watchtower while walking his dog close to the barbed-wire fence.

In 1993, an apparent relative named Joe Kawakami granted permission for use of one of Iwao Kawakami’s writings, so we’d like to locate Joe as well if possible. Kawakami had two sons, who we are also trying to locate:

— A 91-year old son Bud Morimoto (born as Chikao Kawakami) who may still live in the San Diego area.

— An 81-year old son named Kay Kawakami born around 1942, perhaps in Topaz.

book cover
Cover for “The Man of Dual Nationality” by Yoshio Abe (Toho Publishing, 1971). Image courtesy of Minoru Kanda.

Yoshio Abe (1911-1980) is a long shot here. He was born in Portland, studied in Japan and returned to the US in time to be held at Santa Anita. He returned to Japan in 1960 where he wrote The Man of Dual Nationality (Toho Publishing, 1971), the first volume of which opens with a scene of a couple on lover’s lane at the Santa Anita Racetrack. He and his wife died by suicide in Japan in 1980 for reasons believed to related to either cancer or his rejection by the literary circle in Japan.

Little is known about Hyakuissei Okamoto, except that he wrote some solemn poems about “Several brethren arrested after martial law was declared at Tule Lake in November 1943” which were collected by Violet de Cristoforo in her anthology, May Sky: There Is Always Tomorrow.

[UPDATE: Thanks to Marsha Takeda-Morrison of Los Angeles for contacting us — the daughter of Bean Takeda!]
Rohwer Outpost column mastheadIn addition, we’d love to locate family for Nisei writer Bean Takeda aka James Takeda (1915-1987). Born in Los Angeles and incarcerated at Santa Anita and Rohwer, he was the pipe-smoking co-editor of the Rohwer Outpost newspaper and wrote its regular “Once Overs” column.

Any and all leads and suggestions for locating relatives of these writers are welcome in the Comments field below. Thanks.

In Memoriam: Roger Daniels, the dean of incarceration camp history

We mourn the loss of the dean of Japanese American camp history. Roger Daniels passed away peacefully in Bellevue, Washington, on December 9, surrounded by family, a week after celebrating his 95th birthday.
Continue reading In Memoriam: Roger Daniels, the dean of incarceration camp history

Resisters, Redress and John Okada On Display at Wing Luke Museum

A belated post to catch up on the October 14 opening of the RESISTERS: A Legacy of Movement From the Japanese American Incarceration at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle. It’s certainly my kind of subject, so I’m grateful to Mikala Woodward and her team at the Wing for accepting some of my suggestions for display out of our discussions on the Citizens Advisory Committee. Some things pulled off my wall and bookshelf for this show, but keep reading to learn about one exceptional hidden gem in this exhibit.

Liz Cheney, a standing ovation, and a viral tweet

The returns are in, and as predicted, Rep. Liz Cheney was defeated in her Wyoming primary for standing up for the Constitution, democracy and the rule of law. But those are the values we share Liz Cheney arrivalwith her in light of the wartime incarceration, so for one brief, shining moment last month Liz Cheney was able to bask in a spontaneuous show of support from those of us attending the 2022 Heart Mountain Pilgrimage. Continue reading Liz Cheney, a standing ovation, and a viral tweet

REVIEW: “Interrogating the memoir of a resister”

book coverReview of BEYOND THE BETRAYAL: The Memoir of a World War II Japanese American Draft Resister of Conscience by Yoshito Kuromiya, edited by Arthur A. Hansen. University Press of Colorado. 234 pages. Hardcover, $34.95.

Reviewed by Frank Abe
Nichi Bei Weekly
July 21-August 3, 2022

Be sure to read the Endnotes to Yosh Kuromiya’s new posthumous memoir. They’re half the fun of reading this book.
Continue reading REVIEW: “Interrogating the memoir of a resister”

The difference between “no-no boys” and draft resisters

It’s common in books and articles to see the term “no-no boy” conflated with the Nisei draft resisters of WW2. These are two seperate and distinct groups. A quick primer:

text from loyalty questionnaireNo-no boys” were among the 12,000 from all ten camps who answered “no” or refused to answer the final two questions on a notoriously misleading government questionnaire in early 1943. This led to their removal from camp and transfer under an administrative process to a War Relocation Authority Segregation Center established as a kind of penal colony at Tule Lake.

courtroom photoDraft resisters were the roughly 315 young men from all ten camps who in general answered “yes” or a qualified “yes” to the questionnaire but who, a year later in 1944, refused to be drafted from inside an American concentration camp until their rights were first restored and their families freed to return home. All but 22 were criminally convicted in U.S. District Court of violating the Selective Service Act. The older men were sent to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas; the younger ones were sent to McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary south of Seattle.

text from loyalty questionnaire

What blurs this distinction is the title of John Okada’s 1957 novel. It’s titled No-No Boy but it’s clearly about a protagonist who refuses the draft at Minidoka and serves two years at McNeil Island before arriving on a bus back in Seattle at the start of the novel. Despite the book’s title, he’s a draft resister, not strictly speaking a “no-no boy.” However, the term is used in the novel and in conversation at the time as a dismissive slur for any kind of camp dissident.

Please keep these distinctions in mind when writing about this history.

New Educators Guide for “WE HEREBY REFUSE,” with online historical timeline

Educators Guide cover
Click on the image to open the new Educators Guide for WE HEREBY REFUSE

Just in time for the NCORE Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education this Friday in Portland, we are pleased to launch publication of the Educators Guide for We Hereby Refuse.

Produced for the Wing Luke Museum of Seattle, this free online guide is suitable for teachers in grades 6-12. Continue reading New Educators Guide for “WE HEREBY REFUSE,” with online historical timeline

Interview: “Betrayed”

Starting today and for the month of May you can watch director Rory Banyard’s new film on Minidoka, Betrayed:  Surviving an American Concentration Camp, on select local PBS stations and the PBS app.

Frank Abe in filmI want to thank Rory for calling me in to talk about the Munson Report, the wartime JACL, growing up Sansei, and other stuff.  Continue reading Interview: “Betrayed”

AKCHO Award for outstanding original research

Many thanks to AKCHO: The Association of King County Historical Organizations for honoring our book with the Virginia Marie Folkins Award for Outstanding Historical Publication. It’s our first juried award and it’s especially meaningful as the Folkens Award recognizes works that demonstrate “outstanding original research.”
Continue reading AKCHO Award for outstanding original research

The history and literature of Japanese American resistance to wartime incarceration

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