From the Beaches of Hawaii to the Handy Writers Colony Part 1

Uploaded by englishEIU on 29.07.2010

♪ [music playing-- no dialogue] ♪♪.
(Dr. Dana Ringuette). Well, welcome everyone.
Can you hear me in the back?
Yes, good, good, good.
Alright, well, welcome to the inaugural James Jones Symposium.
This event is sponsored by the College of Arts and Humantities,
the English Department, and the History Department.
It is underwritten by the James Jones chair,
in World War II studies, which was established in cooperation
with and an endowment from the James Jones Literary Society.
This will be an annual fall event, so, we're particurally
honored to have as our featured speakers, for our first event
this year, Jon Shirota and Barbara Shirota.
But, let me add too, a couple of things.
One is, as that is part of the symposium today, there will be a
staged reading of Jon Shirota's play, "The Last Retreat."
This evening at 7:30, in EIU's Village Theater, which is on
18th Street here in Charleston.
We would love to have you join us there, that should be fun.
And, I want to thank Mr. John Oertling, Chair of Theatre Arts,
for generously taking the time to direct this play,
along with his students in his senior seminar.
Also, in the back, we have books that Ray Elliot
from Tales Press, has been kind enough to bring.
They are not for sale.
That is, if you want one, take one.
This is writing from the Handy Colony.
Usually, I am saying, yeah, buy the books in the back.
But, today, I am saying they are available for your enjoyment.
Writings from the Handy Colony is edited by Helen Pow,
Don Sacwriter, and George Hendrick.
So, one of Mr. Shirota's plays is in it.
What we thought we would do is have Barbara Shirota
speak first, and then a Q and A, and then have
Jon Shirota speak, and then a Q and A after that.
So, let me introduce Barbara Shirota.
Barbara Shirota was born and raised in the United States.
Her parents were born and raised in Hiroshma, Japan.
In 1942, when she was in fourth grade, Barbara and thousands
of Japanesse on the west coast were, as she puts it
so directly, "herded", into assembly centers
in internment camps.
Barbara and her family were incarcerated at the Santa Anita
race track, where they lived in horse stables.
After three months, Barbara and thousands of other Japannesse
internees were, again, herded into trains and shipped up
Heart Mountain, Wyoming.
After nearly three years of incarceration, Barbara's father
managed to find a job in Utah, and the family settled there.
Barbara was finally able to resume her education,
and she eventually received a Bachelor's of Science
and a Master's of Arts in education.
In 1992, Jon Shirota was lucky enough to meet Barbara,
and then lucky enough to marry her.
They recently have celebrated their 15th wedding aniversary.
Today, she will speak about her experiences
in the internment camps.
Please welcome Barbara Shirota.
[audience applause].
(Barbara Shirota). Thank you.
Not long ago, my grandaughter Alyssa, who is 11 years old,
was eyeing an old framed photo sitting on a shelf.
It was a photo of a family, and she kept looking at it,
trying to recognize someone.
"Grandma", she finally said, "who are these people?"
"They all look so young, and their clothing
is so out of fashion."
"That picture is over 65 years old", I told Alyssa.
"It was taken in front of our living quarters
in an internment camp."
"Are those people our relatives," she asked.
"They are your great grandpa and great grandma," I said, "and the
five young children, are me, and your aunts and uncles."
"I was the same as you are now, and your aunts and uncles
were two to eight years old."
"What were you doing in that camp, grandma," Alyssa asked.
"Yes," I thought, "what was I doing in that camp?"
"Was it like a Girl Scout Camp," she asked.
"No, Alyssa," I said, "that was not like a Girl Scout camp."
How could I explain to an 11 year-old what had happened
to us Japanese on the west coast in 1942?
Someday, of course, she will understand.
She will also understand and learn more about
her great grandfather and great grandmother,
that pioneering spirit, their values,
their willingness to sacrifice, so that their children,
and their children's children, will one day enjoy
and appreciate the wonderful opportunities in America.
My father, Alyssa's great grandfather,
was born in Hiroshima, Japan.
He came to America when he was 14 years old.
He worked in a dairy farm in Seattle, Washington
milking cows.
After several years, he returned home to Japan.
Then, realizing, America offered him better opportunities,
he came back to Seattle.
Mama met papa through a bishackonene,
which is a matchmaker.
Mama was born in Seattle and was sent to Hiroshima, to live with
her maternal grandparents when she was two years old.
Times were hard in Seattle.
Her parents were having difficulty
raising their children.
It would be better for her, to be brought up by
her grandparents in Japan.
Mama retured to America when she was 18 years old.
She became a Japanese school teacher, and she taught
in Fresno, in central California.
When the bishockonene proposed the match marriage,
she and her parents accepted.
Papa became a salesman for a Japaneese import company,
hoping to one day open a chop suey restaurant in Los Angeles.
When that day finally came, he and mama already had
five children.
I was the eldest, a typical American girl.
I enjoyed going to school and playing with my friends
of various races.
In the afternoons, I attended Japanese language school.
This would enable me to learn basic Japanese, and be able
to communicate with my parents and grandparents.
Mama and papa always encouraged us to do well in school.
It was proper education, they always said, the gates will be
opened for great opprotunities in this promise land.
Papa finally opened his chop suey restaurant.
It was Deceber 7, 1941, not an aspicious day.
Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii that morning.
As it turned out, papa would have to close his restaurant
in a few days.
One day, he would would receive 10 cents to a dollar
on his investment.
Most of us did not know where Hawaii was,
much less Pearl Harbor.
We soon learned that Hawaii was a chain of islands,
anchored to the bottom of the sea.
Next day, December 8, President Delano Roosevelt made his
historical and resounding speech to Congress and the nation.
"Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy,
the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately
attacked by the Navy and Air Force of the Empire of Japan."
At school, my non-Japanese friends were no longer
my friends.
I was a spy, a saboteur, I had directed the Japanese airplanes
to Pearl Harbor.
Japanese school was, of course, closed and many buissness with
Japanese names were quickly changed to American names.
Niepong Store to Victory Store.
Imperial Theater to American Theater.
Surise Resturant to Sun, Stars, and Stripes Restaurant.
Japanese boys were taunted and threatened.
"Dirty slant-eyed jap", they all yelled, "go back to where
you came from."
Up until now, America has spent a century learning to hate
and fear the Japanese.
After Pearl Harbor, they lashed out at the only available enemy.
Radio commentators and newspaper demanded that all
Japanese-Americans be evacuated from the Pacific Coast.
They feared emanate invasion and were convinced that
Japanese-Americans would assist as fifth columnists and spies.