Visiting Manzanar With Dad - Apr. 28th, 2012
By Ellen Nagamine
Several weeks ago, after seeing the Manzanar Fishing Club movie, my sister was inspired to take our father on a road trip to Manzanar. Every year there is a gathering there to celebrate another anniversary commemorating the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
It is a very long drive out to Manzanar from Los Angeles. I had been out to Mojave, but it is way past that, and near a place called Lone Pine. Miles and miles before Manzanar, it is mostly desert, very dry, flat, with cactus and Joshua trees littering the landscape surrounded by beautiful majestic mountains. The day we visited, we had perfect weather, and the dust and wind my father had anticipated never surfaced.
As we neared the area, my father recognized it immediately by the mountains. My sister was dumbfounded our father could remember, as the last time he’d visited was more than 30 years ago. He replied, “Of course I know we are here. I lived here for three years, and looked at those same mountains all the time.”
At the Manzanar pilgrimage/anniversary, surprisingly many people from all cultures gathered to visit the museum, listen to speakers, and tour the area where hundreds of barracks stood, and where thousands of Japanese Americans were interned. Mainly, everyone was there to remember the lessons of history. Coincidentally we bumped into the producer and writer of The Manzanar Fishing Club documentary. Our father had a chance to talk to them one-on-one of his experiences in Manzanar fishing beyond the barbed wire. As a result, again, dad’s photos appeared on Facebook at the Manzanar Fishing Club site.
On our way to and from Manzanar, we heard of many brief recollections of my father’s time there as a 15-year old. As we walked through the barracks, our father spoke of how his family arrived in Manzanar by train from downtown Los Angeles. How the mattresses were made of straw, and there was little to no privacy with several families living within one barrack structure. He told us about meeting Ansel Adams, through Toyo Miyatake (photographer), and thinking Adams was just some ‘hakujeen’ (Caucasian) guy taking pictures. When we asked dad questions, he often used terms like ‘shoganai’ (it can’t be helped), and that the family just had to ‘gambaru’ (persevere) with the circumstances at the time.
As we walked through one of the barracks, dad sat on one of the beds. He sat there for a while, probably remembering what it was like to be a 15 year old boy uprooted from his teen existence in Los Angeles. As a few mid-western tourists strolled through the barrack, he looked up at them and smiled and said, “It wasn’t this comfortable back then.” This was followed by telling my sister, “Hey, let’s go home now, before we hit traffic.”
Our visit to Manzanar is one I will fondly cherish, as I know more about it now, and how it is a part of my family’s history. We hope to visit again next year.
I highly recommend visiting the Manzanar National Historical site. You can find more information online at: http://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm
The Manzanar Fishing Club - March, 2012
By Georgene Nagamine Salisbury
About a month ago, I had an opportunity to see the film The Manzanar Fishing Club. The title had the name Manzanar in it, so I wanted to see the film because my father and his family were interned at Manzanar during the 1940’s. The documentary included archival footage interspersed with present-day reinactments. I enjoyed the film and sat through the credits, when I saw a familiar name . . . my father’s. He was listed in the credits as one of the Manzanar fisherman.
There was another showing of the documentary the following day, so I contacted my father and asked him if he would be interested in seeing the film. I assured him that it was a short film and that he would be out of the theatre in an hour. To my surprise, he said, “Okay.” (The last time he had been to a movie theatre, as I recall, was when he took me to see Mary Poppins. I don’t remember the decade.)
Luckily, I had purchased the tickets online. When we arrived at the theatre, the movie was sold out. On this day, the director was there to introduce the film and also to answer questions after the film. We watched the documentary, and I was surprised at how many people my father remembered from his “camp” days. After the documentary was over, the director introduced a couple of people in the audience who were in the film--and then he asked if there was anyone else in the audience who was interned at Manzanar. I raised my hand and pointed to my father, and I said that he was listed in the credits as one of the fishermen. My father then got up and started walking to the front, but instead of walking to the director, he walked to a member of the audience who was in the film and gave him a giant hug. That member of the audience happened to be his best friend in Manzanar, who he had not seen in over thirty years. There were photographers there to record the event, and a photo appeared in the Rafu Shimpo. The director later told me that he made a lot of women well up in tears.
After the film was over, we stepped into the corridor of the theatre and my 84-year-old father became a minor celebrity. People wanted to shake his hand and take him out to lunch.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of Manzanar, and this documentary inspired me to visit, with my father, the place where he once fished.