This documentary focuses on a Women's Movement led by Yuri Kochiyama in World War II U.S. concentration camps to support soldiers.

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Renowned Civil Rights Activist
Yuri Kochiyama was a young woman in love named...
Mary Nakahara...

This film delves into Yuri's early years as a 20-year old newly "interned" Japanese American in the U.S. concentration camps, and the Women's Movement she led to support the Japanese American soldiers during World War II and boost morale. The documentary grew out of the play Bits of Paradise by Marlan Warren, which was based on The Crusaders Scrapbook archived in the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles (optioned by Warren for artistic educational purposes in 2001).

Bits of Paradise (L-R Linda Wang, Pisha Warden, Connie Kim and Chanelle Yang as Mary Nakahara, aka Yuri Kochiyama). Photo by Basile Kuo.

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Teaser Trailer.  [Lindsey Myers, Editor]


Unedited clip from our all-day interview with Yuri Kochiyama!

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Teen Crusader
Patricia Goto Takeshita Remembers Young Mary Nakahara:

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Audio Clip from Interview with Slide Show by Marlan Warren

What's this film about?

Producer/Director/Co-Editor: Marlan Warren
San Francisco Unit Producer: Chong Lee
Los Angeles Unit Producer: Tom Tsuji
Based on the play "Bits of Paradise" by Marlan Warren (Premiered at The Marsh Theatre, San Francisco 2008)
To donate or Crew: Contact Marlan at

When World War II interrupted the lives of Japanese Americans, and the U.S. incarcerated them in concentration camps with deplorable conditions, young Mary Nakahara (aka "Yuri Kochiyama") began a movement to boost morale of the Japanese American soldiers with letters and circulars that were filled with jokes, cartoons, poetry and reminders that they were not alone in their fight. She mobilized the girls and women of the camps, and called them "The Crusaders."

The finished film will blend interviews with the late Yuri Kochiyama and three of the original Crusaders with archival footage, original letters, spoken word, poetry, music, artwork and moments from the play Bits of Paradise to examine the making of an activist and the joy she imparted to all who knew her.

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BITS OF PARADISE places its footprint on the timeline of a
much needed theatrical examination of the Asian American journey.

- Asian Week

(L-R Marlan Warren, Yuri Kochiyama and Rinko Ishizaki) Photo by Victoria Yang, copyright protected

What did you do in the War, Mama: Kochiyama's Crusaders grew out of the play, Bits of Paradise by producer/director/playwright Marlan Warren which showcased at The Marsh Theatre in San Francisco in '08 with a multicultural cast of young actors who approached the material with deep sensitivity and enthusiasm.  The actors were ecstatic when Yuri Kochiyama graced opening night with her friend and fellow Crusader, Ruth Ishizaki, who compiled two Crusaders Scrapbooks at the end of World War II with her friend Rinko Shimasaki Enosaki (below).

ASIAN WEEK – November 29, 2008Posted in: Events

(L-R) Pisha Warden, Linda Wang, Chanelle Yang, Jean Franco, John Wilton, and Connie Kim.  Photo: Basile Kuo

Asian Week Review: New play based on Japanese American WWII internment letters

With the commemoration of the bombing of Pearl Harbor fast approaching, local playwright Marlan Warren’s Bits of Paradise arrives at an appropriate time. Based on letters written between Japanese American girls and women in the U.S. internment camps and Japanese American soldiers during World War II, Bits of Paradise is a 20-minute piece that is slated to be a full production one day.

A culmination of eight years of researching and gathering on the subject, Warren takes on a little-known factoid in the history of the war at home. In the play, a cast of seven takes the audience back in time to the nadir of Japanese American morale. A young internee by the name of Yuri Kochiyama (born Mary Nakahara) inspired her friends to start a letter-writing campaign to the Japanese American 442nd regimental combat team to raise the boys’ spirits. The group of letter writers became known as “The Crusaders” and the play, an ode to Kochiyama, comes to fruition onstage as actors read verbatim excerpts from these missives.

The play was a lesson in history for the actors as much as a means to broaden their horizons. “I feel a sense of pride and a sense of identity,” said Jean Franco who portrayed one of the soldiers. “I wouldn’t have known about this part of history if I hadn’t done this project.”

Fifteen-year-old Chanelle Yang, who gives a spirited performance as the young Kochiyama, expressed her honor of playing this role and was inspired by the fact that Kochiyama was in the audience on opening night. (Kochiyama transitioned from writing letters to becoming a crusader of a different type — as an icon in the socio-political activist movement and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2005.)

Not since Philip Kan Gotanda’s After the War (2007) has there been a production in The City depicting the Japanese American experience spawned by F.D.R.’s infamous Presidential Executive Order 9066, which required the internment of all continental Japanese Americans. Bits of Paradise places its footprint on the timeline of a much needed theatrical examination of the Asian American journey.

Bits of Paradise plays on December 1, 7:30 p.m. at The Marsh, 1062 Valencia Street (between 20th and 21st in the Mission District), San Francisco, $7 tickets at the door. No reservations. For more info, call 415-202-0108 or visit

Great occasions do not make heroines.
They simply unveil them to the eyes of men.

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Video: Ben Kim

The above video clip is from Bits of Paradise Opening Night at The Marsh Theatre in San Francisco Nov. '08

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Above clip shot and directed by Chong Lee.

"Bits of Paradise": 
 (L-R) Women: Pisha Warden, Connie Kim, Chanelle Yang, Linda Wang
Men: John Wilton, Wesley Cayabyab, Jean Franco (Photo by Basile Kuo)


Crusader Yuri Kochiyama

(L) Yuri Kochiyama at her 88th birthday bash with actor Jean Franco (R)

Crusader Patricia Goto Takeshita

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Crusader Ruth Ishizaki

In addition to interviews with Yuri Kochiyama, we were fortunate to be able to also interview original Crusaders Ruth Ishizaki, Patricia Goto Takeshita and Rinko Shimasaki Enosaki. Rinko and Ruth actually made the two Crusaders Scrapbooks at the end of the War.

Ruth consented to an all-day interview at the Japanese American Museum, San Jose (JAMS) in Jan. 2009. She was the first Crusader we interviewed, and showed great patience as we painstakingly pored over the "second" Crusaders Scrapbook that she had put together with Crusader Rinko when World War II ended. The first was sent to Yuri Kochiyama to pass on to the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), and the second...was kept at the bottom of Ruth's closet until 50 years later, she learned that the play "Bits of Paradise" was slated to open at The Marsh Theater in San Francisco, and she agreed to attend with her good friend Yuri, when we invited her.

Patricia Goto 

Patricia "Pat" Goto was 11 years old when she began sending penny postcards as a Crusader in Yuri Kochiyama's Sunday School Class at the Santa Anita Assembly Center (aka "concentration camp"). When we interviewed her, she read from the memoir she wrote in her 80s about her camp life and how deeply "Mary Nakahara" affected her for the rest of her life.

Pat Goto Takeshita

Pat Goto Takeshita (Videographer: Albert Vasquez)

Rinko Shimasaki Enosaki
Cinematographer: Emma Puente (On Vimeo)

This film includes stories of the Japanese American soldiers as well as the war resisters who transcended barbed wire with their soaring spirits.


On April 27, 2013, producer/writer Marlan Warren and a very talented crew--Stephon J. Litwinczuk, DP/Camera, and Richard J. Wilson, Sound--embarked on an all-day shoot at the Manzanar concentration camp memorial site, 240 miles north of Los Angeles.   

We were all very deeply moved by the experience.

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Video by Stephon J. Litwinczuk.


The icing on the cake were the interviews granted to us by amazing, strong women who made it their post-war mission to ensure the history of the "Japanese American incarceration" will not be forgotten, but remembered as a shameful episode of U.S. history that must never be repeated.

Our concept for this film is expanding to include the legacy of activism born in these concentration camps, and extended through the tireless efforts of Japanese American women who are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure this unjust incarceration of American citizens never happens again.

Stephon J. Litwinczuk, DP/Camera: Manzanar Shoot

Marlan Warren,
Aug 17, 2009, 9:28 PM