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the Amazing Women of the
Japanese American "Internment"
Unedited clip from our all-day interview with Yuri Kochiyama!
Teen Crusader Patricia Goto Takeshita Remembers Young Mary Nakahara:
What's this film about?
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.
much needed theatrical examination of the Asian American journey.
ASIAN WEEK – November 29, 2008Posted in: Events
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 themarsh.org/monday.
Crusader Yuri Kochiyama
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 Takeshita
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.
This film includes stories of the Japanese American soldiers as well as the war resisters who transcended barbed wire with their soaring spirits.
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