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 [UPDATE: We’ve now heard from relatives of Nozawa and Kawakami].

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.

[UPDATE: Success!  Thanks to Yuriko Yamaki for providing the lead that led me to a conversation with Nozawa’s daughter. More on that when our book is published] From what we can tell, Jōji Nozawa 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.

[ANOTHER SUCCESS: Just off the phone with Iwao Kawakami’s niece in Albany, CA! Thanks to leads from author Ruth Sasaki and Benjamin on Twitter @iaacm]

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.

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.

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