An axis for artistic and creative-types of the Asian persuasian… Redefining Otaku Culture.

Representatives from 91 nations attend ceremony on 71st anniversary of atomic bombing of Hiroshima

peacememorialceremony

Japan Times:

Hiroshima on Saturday marked the 71st anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing, with Mayor Kazumi Matsui calling on world leaders to do more to abolish nuclear weapons and to follow U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to the city in May with trips of their own.

At a memorial ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe echoed Matsui’s call and also urged young people to visit to observe the harrowing reality of the atomic bombing. Abe also reiterated Japan’s role in combating nuclear proliferation as the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons.

In the Peace Declaration read at the city’s annual memorial ceremony, Matsui urged the leaders of all nations to visit Hiroshima, which was devastated by an atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, and Nagasaki, which was obliterated by another atomic strike three days later by the United States, in order to “etch the reality of the atomic bombings in each (leader’s) heart.

Matsui then called on the world to “unify and manifest our passion in action” to proceed toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

 

A moment of silence was observed at 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima at an altitude of about 600 meters, killing an estimated 140,000 people by the end of 1945. A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9 that year, and Japan surrendered six days later, effectively ending the war.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized the importance of maintaining and enhancing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that binds its signatories not to pursue atomic weapons programs.

Abe also said he will maintain his efforts to create a world free of nuclear weapons by asking both nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states for cooperation, and by showing world leaders and young people the painful reality of radiation exposure.

During the ceremony, a message from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was also read out by a representative.

Today, the world needs the hibakusha spirit more than ever,” at a time when “global tensions are rising” and progress on nuclear disarmament is “hard to find,” the message said, adding that nuclear powers “have special responsibility to prevent another Hiroshima,”

Ban urged all nations to “find common ground through inclusive dialogue.”

The ceremony was attended by representatives from 91 nations, including recognized nuclear weapons states such as Britain, France, the United States and Russia. The European Union was also represented.

The number of hibakusha stood at 174,080 as of March, and their average age was just over 80 years old.

BBC Magazine: Three Western myths about Japan

Geisha eats a sushi roll

BBC- Magazine (by Dr. Christopher Harding):

National and racial stereotypes are often hard to dispel, but in the case of Japan, argues Dr Chris Harding of Edinburgh University, people in the West seem particularly determined to cling on to a set of long-established myths.

Landing in Japan for the first time 10 years ago, I couldn’t wait to get out of Narita Airport‘s dull beige arrivals area and into the real Japan.

Pretty soon, I felt sure, I would be lost in the intense verdant greens of paddy fields and forests, the steaming waters of natural hot springs. A sip of green tea would set me up for an afternoon of meditation in some old Buddhist temple tucked in among fragrant cedars. And then as night fell, a bullet train would zoom me into central Tokyo for a joyously baffled embrace of its Blade Runner futurism and crazy entertainments.

None of these fantasies survived a three-hour gridlocked bus ride into Tokyo, the motorway’s faceless concrete sidings occasionally dipping to allow views out across faceless concrete high-rises.

Rush-hour traffic in Tokyo

I drank sugary milk marketed as “ice coffee” with the Japanese acquaintance who’d come to meet me. We established that though his family was “technically Buddhist” he had no idea what that meant and he associated temples with school trips and dead people.

As we lapsed into silence, I considered asking Japan’s tourist board for my money back. I had been mis-sold Japan!

Later I realised they were just doing their job, generating tourist dollars with the material available to them – one extremely gullible young man, plus a century and a half of Western misrepresentations of Japan.

Here are three of the best misrepresentations – or worst, depending on your point of view.

1: Japan is inherently strange

“To find oneself suddenly in a world where everything is upon a smaller and daintier scale than with us – a world of lesser and seemingly kindlier beings, all smiling at you as if to wish you well – a world where all movement is slow and soft, and voices are hushed… this is surely the realisation, for imaginations nourished with English folklore, of the old dream of a World of Elves.”

That was the writer Lafcadio Hearn, 125 years ago. Across the century that followed, countless Westerners visited and worked in Japan. Japanese culture became readily available to us in literature and film. And yet despite all this, the keynote of the brilliant 1980s travelogue Clive James in Japan was a drily comic bewilderment at everything.

When he buys a snack on a bullet train, thinking that it might be a ham sandwich (while also noting that it looks like a pair of tights) it turns out to be a powerful-smelling dried squid – “dried and ironed” he speculates. Revolted, James stuffs the snack into the seat pocket and heads off for his next misadventure with the carriage’s on-board telephone.

Maybe I shouldn’t gripe. This was light entertainment, after all. But whereas most travel documentaries try to offer a portrait of a place, helping viewers or listeners get to know it, when it came to the Japanese the underlying message was: “It can’t be done! They’re completely inscrutable!”

Why? One reason may be that in a world where true strangeness and surprise have become rare and precious commodities, we have to find them somewhere. Financial Times journalist David Pilling quotes a friend who said Japan was the most alien place she’d been that had good plumbing.

At the same time, Japan offers us a mirror in which to look at ourselves. We say “Japan is…“, but we’re really asking a question: “Are we…?” The Japanese are dainty, kindly, soft – are we coarse and hard-hearted? Japan is hobbled by a group mentality that trumps individualism – how free are we…?

2. The Japanese are dangerous

1942: Japanese soldiers celebrate after capturing an American gun emplacement in the Bataan province of the Philippines

Atrocities committed during World War Two gave the Japanese military a powerful reputation for cruelty. But a notion has long bubbled away in the West that the Japanese as a people are inherently unpredictable and dangerous – the famous gentility masking something menacing. This goes back at least as far as the 1850s, when British travellers and diplomats saw Japanese tolerance of their presence in the country morph into sporadic attacks against Westerners and their Japanese assistants. They linked the violence to the particular outlook of the samurai class, and the association stuck.

Some of these early ideas about the samurai were in part Japanese creations – fantasies concocted for a Western readership willing to pay good money for exotic tales of violence and sex. World War Two gave the legend another twist: the chivalrous, highly ethical elements of this samurai fantasy were lost, and what remained was the unthinking loyalty, the refusal to surrender, the indifference towards death – and others’ lives.

You can hear the results of all this in Alan Whicker’s nervous postwar musings on karate.

3. Japanese women are submissive

Japan has been seen as the land that feminism forgot. Both Japanese and Western commentators have tended to see the geisha girl as the ideal of Japanese womanhood – attractive and subtle, subservient to men, but clever enough to be good company. Then there was the influential American anthropologist of the 1940s, Ruth Benedict, who heard that Japanese girls were given just enough education so they could put their husbands’ books back the right way up once they’d finished dusting them. By the 1960s, for Western men unsure what to make of the rise of women’s liberation movements, all of this appeared deeply attractive.

Japanese women even received the ultimate British seal of approval in 1967, as Mie Hama became Bond-girl “Kissy Suzuki” in You Only Live Twice. Given the low-down on domestic arrangements in Japan by his male host – women are inferior to men, they’re happy with that, and they live to serve – Bond gives his blessing: “I think I’ll retire here…”

And if you think that nothing of this sort could possibly go on in the early 21st Century, then you haven’t been paying attention to Japanese pop culture, and the success of Japanese pop behemoth AKB-48.

Japanese all girl band AKB-48 arrive at the 22nd Golden Melody Awards in Taipei on June 18, 2011

Yes, 48 young girls (in the original line-up, though the group has since expanded), forbidden from having boyfriends and content instead to smile and dance around in bikinis or mock military uniforms or really whatever a paying public of – critics would argue – socially inadequate young and middle-aged men want to see.

All in all, this particular myth about Japan is simply worth too much to too many people – Western men mourning the passing of the patriarchy, Western feminists looking for sisters to save in Asia, corporate Japan chasing the under-deodorised male dollar (or Yen) – for it to be revised any time soon. It’s the perfect example of how diverse interests come together over time to create misrepresentations with a surprisingly long shelf life.

Jump back in time with this super high-quality video of Tokyo taken right after WWII

RocketNews 24 (by Scott Wilson):

This month marks the 70th anniversary of end of World War II. There’s a lot to remember from that time period, much of it horrific, some of it humorous, and some of it downright amazing. But perhaps the most powerful images from that time are just of ordinary people getting on with their regular lives.

And now, thanks to a Belgian DJ, we can catch of glimpse into the life of ordinary Japanese people in the years right after WWII. The background video to one of his songs is an absolutely beautifully recorded film of daily life in Tokyo. And this video is not your typical 1940s quality; it looks like it could have been recorded today!

So prepare to take a walk down the street of 1940s Tokyo and see how different, and similar, it is to now.

The DJ who created the music and posted the video goes by the name Boogie Belgique. Even though the video was posted over three years ago to YouTube, it is now suddenly being widely shared as people try to pinpoint exactly when in history the footage was shot.

A remarkably restored 1971 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ43

Originally started as a clone to the infamous Jeep construction during the Second World War, the Toyota Land Cruiser 4 x 4 went on to garner a reputation for being one of the industry’s toughest off-road vehicles. Having experienced many aesthetic and technological changes the Toyota Land Cruiser FJ43 forms part of the company’s better known vintage series and has since gained notable footing in the realm of collectible automotive products over the last twenty plus years.

Restored by The FJ Company, the FJ43 features an extended wheelbase, 3878cc OHV inline 6-cylinder engine and a pale blue color palette fitting to the dated aesthetic of its predecessors. Completed with a contrasting full-leather interior, detachable canvas canopy and chrome fittings, the 1971 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ43 is scheduled to be auctioned on August 14 with an expected price tag of between $80,000 and $100,000 USD – more information can be found directly at the Bonhams auction site.

Photos of life in a Japanese Internment camp, taken by Ansel Adams

00218vBusiness Insider:

While America celebrates Victory over Japan Day on September 2, let’s not forget the suffering of about 110,000 Japanese Americans who were forced to live in internment camps.

Even at the time, this policy was opposed by many Americans, including renowned photographer Ansel Adams, who in the summer of 1943 made his first visit to Manzanar War Relocation Camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Invited by the warden, Adams sought to document the living conditions of the camp’s inhabitants.

His photos were published in a book titled “Born Free And Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans” in 1944, with an accompanying exhibition at MoMA.

In 1965, when he donated the images to the Library of Congress, Adams shared some thoughts on the project:

“The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair (sic) by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment,” he said.

At the outset of World War II, the American government feared subversive actions by Japanese American citizens and began moving them to relocation camps.

At the outset of World War II, the American government feared subversive actions by Japanese American citizens and began moving them to relocation camps.

Manzanar was one of 10 sites where about 110,000 Japanese Americans were forced to live.

Manzanar was one of 10 sites where about 110,000 Japanese Americans were forced to live.

It was an abandoned agricultural settlement that was repurposed as a relocation center.

It was an abandoned agricultural settlement that was repurposed as a relocation center.

10,000 people would be housed at Manzanar.

10,000 people would be housed at Manzanar.

Adams' works showed the humanity of people living at the camps. Here, Ryie Yoshizawa, center, teaches a class on dressmaking.

Adams’ works showed the humanity of people living at the camps.

Here, Ryie Yoshizawa, center, teaches a class on dressmaking.

Here, from left to right: Louise Tami Nakamura, holding the hand of Mrs. Naguchi, and Joyce Yuki Nakamura.

Here, from left to right: Louise Tami Nakamura, holding the hand of Mrs. Naguchi, and Joyce Yuki Nakamura.

In many instances, Adams took portraits of the people whose daily lives he photographed, like this one of the same little girl, Joyce Yuki Nakamura.

In many instances, Adams took portraits of the people whose daily lives he photographed, like this one of the same little girl, Joyce Yuki Nakamura.

This one is labeled only in the collection as "Mrs. Kay Kageyama."This one is labeled only in the collection as “Mrs. Kay Kageyama.”

 Richard Kobayashi was a farmer.

Richard Kobayashi was a farmer.

Images of the fields at Manzanar are beautiful.

Images of the fields at Manzanar are beautiful.

There's a sense of community in the midst of hardship.

There’s a sense of community in the midst of hardship.

Here, Tsutomu Fuhunago lifts a produce crate.

Here, Tsutomu Fuhunago lifts a produce crate.

Here, a mechanic repairs a broken down tractor while the driver looks on.

Here, a mechanic repairs a broken down tractor while the driver looks on.

The camp was largely self-sufficient, keeping livestock too.

The camp was largely self-sufficient, keeping livestock too.

Here, Mori Nakashima scatters chicken feed in front of a chicken coop.

Here, Mori Nakashima scatters chicken feed in front of a chicken coop.

Adams also captured the recreational time at the camp, like in this image of Dennis Shimizu lying on his bed reading.

Adams also captured the recreational time at the camp, like in this image of Dennis Shimizu lying on his bed reading.

Or these women playing volleyball.

Or these women playing volleyball.

Here, a group of girls perform morning calisthenics.

Here, a group of girls perform morning calisthenics.

Men play American football on a dusty field.

Men play American football on a dusty field.

Baton practice.

Baton practice.

This picture of women playing cards shows the different backgrounds and roles of the camp's inhabitants.

This picture of women playing cards shows the different backgrounds and roles of the camp’s inhabitants.

They were nurses, like Catherine Natsuko Yamaguchi.

They were nurses, like Catherine Natsuko Yamaguchi.

Mechanics, like Henry Hanawa.

Mechanics, like Henry Hanawa.

Sunday school teachers, like May Ichide.

Sunday school teachers, like May Ichide.

Photographers, like Toyo Miyatake.

Photographers, like Toyo Miyatake.

Soldiers, like Corporal Jimmy Shohara.

Soldiers, like Corporal Jimmy Shohara.

It's remarkable to think that people could serve in the military and still be interned.

It’s remarkable to think that people could serve in the military and still be interned.

But it was apparently a common occurrence.

But it was apparently a common occurrence.

For some, it had been the only life they ever knew.

For some, it had been the only life they ever knew.

The inscription reads "Monument for the Pacification of Spirits."

The inscription reads “Monument for the Pacification of Spirits.”

Vanishing Japan: Five things to see before they disappear completely

tanada

RocketNews 24:

Today we introduce you to five icons of Japan that you need to see now before these few vestiges are completely lost!

1. Sento–local public baths 銭湯

bath entrance

Up until WWII, most houses in Japanese cities were built without baths (even if you did have your own bath, you’d probably have to share it with your neighbors). Instead, local sento, (public baths) were located within walking distance in the neighborhood. People would change into their yukata or pajamas and head to perform their ablutions at the end of the day. With the day’s activities finished and nothing left to do but sleep, people spent a long time in the large, steaming-hot baths that soaked out all the stress of the day, both mental and physical. The size of the tubs and the socializing aspect would have been impossible to replicate at home even if you did have your own bath.

I also enjoyed this aspect of the public bath house when I first moved to Japan and lived in a small six-mat tatami room near the university. Over four years I got naked with my neighbors. The large bath hall with its high acoustic ceilings reverberated with ladies’ laughter that spilled out onto the evening streets as neighbors caught up with the day’s gossip. I learned to speak Japanese with a distinct echo.

But nowadays houses are all built with private baths, so the sento culture is dying out. Only the old lady who lives in that decrepit old house on the corner still goes to thesento–if there is one left in the neighborhood.

Japanese bathing rituals are still carried out at the onsen, where you’ll get a more modern, luxurious hot bath experience in natural hot spring water, but you’ll probably have to drive there, pay a lot more money for the privilege, and the socializing aspect will be almost non-existent. The onsen will also be much cleaner and beautiful because they are made to attract local tourists. Thus they will not have a mural of Mount Fuji hand-painted on the inside of the bath house wall, revealing faded colors and cracked lacquer paint. Nor will they have aging, coin-operated message chairs that look more like torture devices with the rollers sticking out to jab into your back. And they certainly won’t have hair dryer chairs that require a large glass globe be lowered over your head and a tornado-producing wind that hovers over your head while your locks stand up and whip around as if they’re inside a blender. Doesn’t the sento sound much more interesting than the onsen?!

Local sento are few and far between these days but you can still catch a part of this Japanese bathing history if you search the oldest neighborhoods of any city. Look for a chimney that looks more like a smoke stack coming out of the top of the building (remember Spirited Away?) or a noren curtain out the front with the ゆ mark on it, the symbol of a sento.

Or check out this website for locations by prefecture.

2. Ama Divers 海人

Mikimoto pearl divers

ama

While the above photo may look like surgeons ready to operate on a whale in its own aquatic environment, they’re actually ama pearl divers, a distinctly female Japanese profession. The ama divers have a two-thousand-year-old history and used to dive in fundoshi loin cloths while tethered to a wooden barrel that floated on the ocean’s surface. Nowadays they wear white outfits but still dive–sometimes as deep as 25 meters (82 ft)–with just a mask, unassisted by oxygen. They must be able to hold their breath for up to two minutes, and expel the air gradually as they resurface. While in the 1950s there were still some 17,000 ama divers in Japan, there are only around two thousand left, most penetrating the waters of Ishikawa and Mie prefectures. These days they retrieve abalone and other shellfish from the bottom and almost all of the divers are over 40 years old.

Mikimoto Pearl company made the ama famous when they started using them to retrieve oysters so they could plant irritants into their mantle cavities to create pearls. The ama then returned the mollusks to the sea bottom. Mikimoto Pearl Island in Toba (Mie Prefecture) holds demonstrations for tourists. Although it is just a demonstration, at least you can still see the divers while they are extant.

3. Seto Inland Sea Islands 瀬戸内海/瀬戸内

▼Four-hundred-year-old bon dance, Shiraishi Island, Okayama Prefecture

bon dance

Out of approximately 700 islands in the Seto Inland Sea (also called the setonaikai or setouchi in Japanese), the largest is Shodoshima with a population of around 20,000. But the majority of the Inland Sea islets support traditional fishing communities of less than 500 citizens. With the decline of the fishing industry in the Inland Sea coupled with the push in education after the war, the islands are losing their populations to the cities that offer higher paying jobs and more modern lifestyles. The islands have been left with aging and stagnant populations. The government has attempted to make the islands more accessible by building bridges to connect them with the mainland. While bridges ensure the survival of these islands, the traditional lifestyles are disappearing due to the proximity of outside influences.

But what about the other islands? Those without bridges and that you still need a ferry to get to?

These islands, because they are still fairly isolated, still maintain their traditions. But with no focused plan to revive island economies, these communities are fading away.Ferry services are cut back (or stopped completely), and the few remaining families move to the mainland due to lack of services. Yet each of these islands has its own unique culture: folkloric traditions, bon festivals and Shinto rites. Each island that dies takes an entire set of unique cultural values with it.

It is still possible to see the traditional Japanese island way of life and experience 400-year-old ceremonies as the sole outsider (as well as the only foreigner!) present. In fact, a few tourist-friendly islands are hoping to survive by inviting sightseers, including foreigners, to come out and experience island life. Islands like Manabeshima (population of 230), Shiraishijima (pop. 556) and Kitagishima (pop. about 1,000) in the Kasaoka Island chain (Okayama) are island gems that are dropping out of sight fast and taking their ancient traditions with them. Naoshima (Okayama) and the lesser islands of Kagawa Prefecture are supported by the Benesse Art Site Naoshima and the Setouchi Triennial Art Festival (the next one is 2016) which offer the chance to see art against the background of traditional island scenery. So get out and see the Inland Sea islands before it’s too late!

4. Terraced Rice Fields 棚田

▼Terraced rice field, Mie Prefecture

tanada

Terraced rice fields are a scene reminiscent of South East Asia such as Bali or Vietnam, but before Japan’s industrial revolution in the ’60s, they could still be seen all over the country. At that time, rice was the main agricultural product and the grains were planted, cultivated and harvested by hand. With so many mountains, terraced paddies allowed rice to be grown on places that were otherwise considered unusable. The rice fields offered other benefits including maintaining biodiversity in the environment, holding back water during the rainy season to prevent landslides, and adding to the greenery and scenery around Japan. The industrial revolution not only lured people to the cities, but it also rendered the terraced rice paddies unfit for sowing since machinery could not easily reach or be used in such narrow, sometimes very steep, stacked fields.

While the tanada have been almost completely abandoned, there has been an effort to preserve some of them recently via government subsidies and non-governmental campaigns.

5. Tsukiji Fish Market 築地市場

tuna

Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, established in 1935, is the largest wholesale fish market in the world. It is here were a single Blue Fin Tuna sold for a record US$1.7 million. The market is also one of the top five sightseeing spots in Tokyo for Japanese tourists. But this icon is scheduled to be relocated to make more room for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. This has created great controversy, especially since the move has been delayed by two years already due to decontamination efforts of the new 40.7-hectare site, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay where previously a refinery was located. Recently, additional tainted ground was discovered leading to more time needed for clean-up safety measures. Although the new venue will be twice as big as the current 230,000 square meters (around 2.5 million square feet), many people will miss the old atmosphere and the quaint restaurants that have thrived around the current market for so many years, including Dai, Japan’s highest-ranked sushi restaurant. And while everyone understands the need to update and innovate, we all know that not all the charms of the past are necessarily transferred to the newer more futuristic establishments. Nor will all of the old restaurants be able to weather the move.

Current Location: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.

NEIGHBORHOOD (Japan) 2015 Spring/Summer Booze Panther Incense Chamber

George Takei to donate part of proceeds of his Broadway production “Allegiance” to Japanese American National Museum

AsAm News: 

Actor George Takei is working his social media magic for a good cause and for his legacy project.

He launched an Indie Go Go campaign this weekend to support his Broadway production of Allegiance, the story of a Japanese American family ripped apart by the loyalty questions asked while they were incarcerated in World War II.

Takei’s goal is to raise $250,000 and in just two days, he’s already raised nearly $70,000.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 11.55.05 AM
Allegiance opens on Broadway with previews in October before its official opening on November 8 at the Longacre Theatre.

You can read George’s entire story of Allegiance, see a video which includes highlights from Allegiance’srecord breaking run at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego and give to the campaign at Indie Go Go.

The untold stories of WWII Japanese-American internment resisters

First reunion photo of draft resisters who had been imprisoned at the Federal Prison Camp in Tucson, Ariz., during World War II. (Jan 12, 1947)

NBC News (by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang):

Japanese-American World War II internees are often portrayed as meek and subservient, quietly going along with the U.S. government’s orders without question. But the new Suyama Project at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center is uncovering and gathering the untold stories of those who fought back and resisted internment, defying many historic portraits.

The project documents the resistance stories of the conscientious objectors, draft resisters, No-Nos, renunciants, legal challengers, and other “troublemakers” who had been previously silenced by the Japanese-American community.

The men from Tule Lake War Relocation Authority Camp Block 42 who had been illegally arrested at gun point in 1943 for refusing to register for the controversial loyalty questionnaire
The men from Tule Lake War Relocation Authority Camp Block 42 who had been illegally arrested at gun point in 1943 for refusing to register for the controversial loyalty questionnaire.
(Tule Lake War Relocation Authority Camp Block 42, 1943)

It also documents everyday acts of resistance such as “borrowing” wood from camp construction sites to make personal furniture, making moonshine in camp, and sneaking out past camp fences to go fishing.

At a recent Suyama event in San Francisco, brothers Mamoru “Mori” and James Tanimoto discussed being illegally rounded up from Tule Lake War Relocation Authority Camp Block 42 for refusing to register for the so-called loyalty questionnaire.

They were interrogated, rousted at night under bright lights, and made to hear the clicks of guards ominously loading their rifles as if ready to shoot, making the men believe they were going to be executed,” wrote documentary filmmaker Frank Abe about their presentation, “Then from the darkness a voice shouted no one was going to escape under his watch, and the men were returned to their barrack.”

Mamoru “Mori” and James Tanimoto were two of about 35 men from Tule Lake’s Block 42, who had been illegally arrested at gun point in 1943 for refusing to register for the controversial loyalty questionnaire.
Mamoru “Mori” and James Tanimoto were two of about 35 men from Tule Lake’s Block 42, who had been illegally arrested at gun point in 1943 for refusing to register for the controversial loyalty questionnaire.

Made possible by an anonymous donor, the Suyama project is named for Eji Suyama (1920-2009). A Nisei veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team who took part in the legendary rescue of the “Lost Battalion” of Texas.

After the war he publicly and controversially supported Japanese Americans who protested their incarceration as No-Nos, draft resisters, and renunciants.

A broadly understood notion of resistance represents a more complete picture of what happened during World War II and how resistance also formed an important dimension of the rights and freedom of Japanese Americans,” Director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center Professor David Yoo told NBC News. “Because these stories touch upon human rights, they are important for all peoples.”

In 1999, the former federal prison camp in Tucson was converted to a recreation site and named after Dr. Gordon Hirabayashi, the most well-known prisoner held there.
In 1999, the former federal prison camp in Tucson was converted to a recreation site and named after Dr. Gordon Hirabayashi, the most well-known prisoner held there. In 2001, a second ceremony was held to dedicate interpretive kiosks to educate visitors on the history of the site. (L-R) Roger Nasevama, Hopi conscientious objector; Ken Yoshida Topaz (Central Utah) draft resister; Dr. Gordon Hirabayashi, originally held there for violating the curfew and exclusion orders; Susumu Yenokida, Amache (Granada) draft resister; Harry Yoshikawa, “voluntary evacuee” draft resister; and Noboru Taguma, Amache (Granada) draft resister.

Lillian Nakano, civil rights activist and co-founder of Japanese American Redress and Reparations Movement dies

Rafu Shimpo: 

Lillian Reiko Nakano, a longtime civil rights activist and noted musician, died on Feb. 28 at Torrance Memorial Hospital. She was 86.

Born on April 30, 1928 in Honolulu to Saburo and Shizuno (nee Nakamura) Sugita, who were also born in Hawaii, she grew up in Honolulu and had three sisters, Julia, Grace and Elizabeth, and a brother, Robert.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, her father was immediately arrested by the FBI and detained at the federal detention center on Sand Island in Hawaii for a year. Nakano and the rest of her family were then sent to the internment camp in Jerome, Ark. in 1943 and were moved to the camp at Heart Mountain, Wyo. in 1944. They were released in 1945 and returned to Honolulu..

She married Bert Nakano, a fellow Hawaii native who was interned at Jerome and Tule Lake during the war, in 1949. Soon after, the couple and members of their families moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul in Minnesota and then Chicago. In 1957, they had a son, Erich, their only child. They moved to Japan briefly in 1964 and then settled in Gardena. Bert died in 2003 at the age of 75. Lillian lived with her son from the mid-2000s until her passing. Lillian Nakano co-founded NCRR with her husband Bert in the early 80s.

I worked with Lillian closely for many years, first in the Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization on the issue of Little Tokyo redevelopment, then the redress movement through National Coalition for Redress and Reparations,” said Evelyn Yoshimura of the Little Tokyo Service Center. “She and her husband Bert were among the most active, most curious and open-minded Nisei I ever met. I watched her growing before my eyes as she began to assert herself and play a leadership role, weighing in on how to work with JACL, as well as always reminding us how important the grassroots community members were.”

Funeral service will be held on Saturday, March 14, at 5 p.m. at Gardena Buddhist Church, 1517 W. 166th St. (between Western and Normandie) in Gardena. A reception for guests will follow the service.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress (formerly National Coalition for Redress and Reparations), as her involvement with NCRR, especially during the campaign for redress, was a cherished memory for her. Send donations to: NCRR, 231 E. Third St., G-104, Los Angeles, CA 90013.

Lillian Nakano reading NCRR's statement in support of the Muslim community at a candlelight vigil shortly after 9/11, when Muslims and those perceived as Muslims were targets of hate crimes, including murder.

Lillian Nakano reading NCRR’s statement in support of the Muslim community at a candlelight vigil shortly after 9/11, when Muslims and those perceived as Muslims were targets of hate crimes, including murder

Community Advocate

After working many different jobs in Chicago and then in Gardena and the South Bay, Nakano became active with LTPRO (Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization) in the late 1970s, opposing the destruction of housing for redevelopment and advocating for greater community control.

In the early 1980s, she was a founding member along with her husband of NCRR, which consisted of the Los Angeles Community Coalition for Redress and Reparations and other community-based groups around the country. She was very active in the campaign to win redress for Japanese Americans who were deprived of their constitutional rights during World War II, urging Nisei her age to speak up about the camps and join the effort.

Her husband was the national spokesperson for NCRR for nine years and was active in other political campaigns, such as Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. She was always active along with him, though more in the background. In 1988, legislation providing individual payments and an apology was finally signed into law, successfully ending this historic campaign.

“Lillian always had a smile,” recalled Mike Murase of Little Tokyo Service Center, who was also active in the redress movement. “She was always willing to talk to people, to persuade and motivate them to stand up for ​what was right, and to offer support to those who needed it. She was enthusiastic and conscientious. She liked people and wanted to change society to be better for common people.”

Lillian Nakano and June Hibino at an information table during a redress-related event in the 1980s.

Lillian Nakano and June Hibino at an information table during a redress-related event in the 1980s

Evelyn Yoshimura of LTSC commented, “I worked with Lillian closely for many years, first in the Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization on the issue of Little Tokyo redevelopment, then the redress movement through National Coalition for Redress and Reparations. She and her husband Bert were among the most active, most curious and open-minded Nisei I ever met. I watched her growing before my eyes as she began to assert herself and play a leadership role, weighing in on how to work with JACL, as well as always reminding us how important the grassroots community members were.”

Longtime NCRR leader Kathy Masaoka remembered the 1981 hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, during which many former incarcerates spoke publicly about their experiences for the first time: “Lillian was a role model to many of us Sansei women who saw her speak up and be fearless. When the commissioners were not going to allow the Japanese speakers to read their testimonies, Lillian prompted Bert and others to assert their right to speak.”

Nakano expressed solidarity with Arab and Muslim Americans at a candlelight vigil in Little Tokyo on Sept. 28, 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks. Initiated by NCRR and co-sponsored by other community organizations, the vigil was attended by about 300 people and featured speakers from the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Council on American Islamic Relations.

“I feel so badly for the Middle Eastern peoples of all communities who are now the targets of this same kind of hatred and violence as a result of the tragic events,” Nakano said. “Sixty years ago, we heard very little from our government leaders and the general public to caution against this.”

Shamisen Master

Music was always another important part of her life. She began learning shamisen and other classical arts at age 8 in Hawaii. After her studies were interrupted by the camps, she resumed her studies and in 1955 received her master’s certificate (natori) and her professional name, Kineya Fukuju, from Master Kineya Shofuku. She taught shamisen and did some performances in Chicago, but didn’t do much teaching or performing when she moved to Gardena, where she focused her attention on raising her son and working.

After the redress victory, she began collaborating with her nephew, the late jazz pianist and composer Glenn Horiuchi (1955-2000). This allowed her to grow as an artist and provided an opportunity to continue the tradition of shamisen music in alternative formats.

In addition to being an activist, Lillian Nakano was a talented shamisen player.

In addition to being an activist, Lillian Nakano was a talented shamisen player

She was a guest soloist in the premieres of Horiuchi’s “Poston Sonata” and “Little Tokyo Suite.” This began a series of tours throughout the U.S., Mexico, Canada and beyond, including performances at the Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle, the Western Front Jazz Festival in Vancouver, and the Berlin Jazz Festival.

Other performances included music for Purple Moon Dance Project’s “Floating Lanterns” in San Francisco in 1994, with Katada Kai in 1998, with Horiuchi and William Roper at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and a Grand Performances Summer Concert in Downtown Los Angeles in 1998.

Nakano worked with the Children’s Theater Company of Minneapolis in 1998 with taiko master Kenny Endo; at the Skirball Cultural Center with composer/choreographer Nobuko Miyamoto; and as part of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange’s “Hallelujah” performance in 2001. She also had numerous concerts with Tom Kurai of the Los Angeles Taiko Center.

“I performed many times with Lillian, who was a master nagauta shamisen artist, from about 1995 to 2007,” said Kurai. “We performed traditional nagauta, ensemble music for kabuki as well as contemporary music. Much of the contemporary music was written by Lillian’s nephew, the late Glenn Horiuchi. Along with her shamisen students in the Sanmi Ensemble, we collaborated with jazz musicians Francis Wong and William Roper. We performed at Japan America Theatre, Japanese American National Museum, John Anson Ford Amphitheater, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz and many other venues.

“Although Lillian was a master of shamisen, receiving her certified natori from Japan, being Japanese American, she was not afraid of improvising in order to broaden the music into a more contemporary setting. I learned so much about traditional music from Lillian as well as how to improvise my taiko playing. Lillian was comfortable with both worlds and could easily move between the old and new forms of music.

“Through my association with Lillian, I gained not only a firm foundation in music, but just knowing her as a friend, I learned more about humanity and the importance of social action. Lillian’s loss is not only a loss for the music community but a big loss for the entire Japanese American community as well.”

Nakano was the recipient of numerous grants to support her preservation of the shamisen art form from such institutions as the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and the California Arts Commission, and was honored with a Master Musician Fellowship by the Durfee Foundation in 2001.

Bay Area-based jazz pianist, composer and bandleader Jon Jang commented, “What is quite remarkable about Lillian Nakano is that she not only represents one of the major Asian American women revolutionary activists of the 20th century and beyond, along with Yuri Kochiyama and Grace Lee Boggs; Lillian also nurtured a younger generation of activists and infused them with the blood and the struggle of the music because Lillian was a master of the shamisen, a three-string Japanese lute, who was not allowed to perform the instrument at Jerome internment camp in a similar way black people were denied the use of drum during slavery.

“Some of these younger activists were her son Erich, who has been a longtime activist leader and played piano, as well as her late nephew Glenn Horiuchi, who was also an activist as well as a brilliant composer, pianist and shamisen performer.”

Nakano slowed her activity and retired from the late 1990s into the 2000s to help raise her two grandchildren. She later took great joy watching their basketball games and seeing them grow up.

“She was a dedicated and devoted mother and loving wife; she and Bert helped raise their grandchildren from the time they were born and supported them as they grew into young adults,” her family said in a statement. “She was an activist and fighter for civil rights and social justice. She was a friend, mentor and role model to many in the community.

“Although outwardly gentle, and one who did not seek the limelight, she had wellspring of strength and determination that enabled her to truly make a difference in the lives of family and friends around her, and the community.”