Monday, February 15, 2010

Portrait: Joe Yasutaki

Joe Yasutaki was the third person who sat for a portrait for my Kioku project. I had met Joe one year earlier at one of the events sponsored by the Japanese-American Museum in San Jose. As vice-president of the museum, Joe saw me at many other events until I got to the point where I actually started taking formal portraits for this project.
(Photo by Andy Frazer)

Joe Yasutake was nine years old when Executive Order 9066 forced his family to leave their home in Seattle, WA. While they and hundreds of other Japanese-Americans were boarding the train for the assembly center in Puyallup, WA, a news photographer took a photograph of the crowds waiting to be moved out. Joe and his sister instinctively smiled for the photographer. Their photograph appeared in the Seattle newspaper with a caption pointing out how happy they appeared to be because they were being treated so well.

Joe was eventually interned in the Minidoka War Relocation Camp in Idaho, and the Crystal City camp in Texas. He is currently vice-president of the Japanese-American Museum in San Jose.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Portrait: Aturo Shibiyama

I recently photographed Arturo Shibayama. Art's story is unique because he didn't spend time in an internment camp; he didn't serve in the 442nd, and he wasn't in the Military Intelligence Service (all of the original criteria that I had originally set for the Kioku project). Art's story was a surprise to me when I was given the opportunity to photograph him. It's a story that most people in the United States didn't know existed.

Art was born in Peru to parents of Japanese descent. When he was 11 years old, he and his family were forcibly taken from their home in the city of Lima, loaded onto a U.S. Army transport ship and brought under armed guard to the U.S. for the purpose of hostage exchange. Art's family was held in the D.o.J. prison camp in Crystal City, TX. for over two years.

It turns out that the United States government had a secret agreement with the Peruvian government. The U.S. was supporting Peru's war against Ecuador in order to prevent the Nazis from threatening the Panama Canal from Ecuador's airfields. In exchange, Peru allowed the U.S. to kidnap their citizens of Japanese descent in order to use them for prisoner exchange with Japan. It sounds like something out of conspiracy theory. But it really happened. And it resulted in the forcible relocation of 2200 Latin Americans of Japanese descent.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)
And the story gets even more shocking. Even after being drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Art was unable to get American citizenship because he had not entered the U.S. legally.

Today, Art works with the Campaign for Justice to lobby the American government for proper acknowledgement and apology for illegally kidnapping and detaining 2200 Latin American nationals of Japanese descent in U.S. prison camps during WWII. 

You can read more about the plight of the Japanese-Latin Americans and the Campaign for Justice on the Tracked in America website.