This film honors Yuri Kochiyama with her fellow women of the Japanese American Internment and the soldiers they loved.

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Summary: What did you do in the War?: Kochiyama's Crusaders
is a nonfiction short film that delves into future Human Rights Activist Yuri Kochiyama's early years as a 20-year old newly "interned" Japanese American in the U.S. concentration camps, and the Women's Letter-Writing Campaign ("The Crusaders") that she led to support the Japanese American soldiers during World War II and boost morale. This documentary grew out of the play Bits of Paradise by Marlan Warren, which adapted The Crusaders Scrapbook archived in the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. The film melds interviews with Yuri Kochiyama and three of the original Crusaders with historical footage, original letters, poetry, music, artwork and play excerpts to examine the making of an activist and honor the compassionate human being that Yuri was. Shooting began in 2008, and the film is currently fundraising for post-production costs. To donate or learn more, please contact Marlan at

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Teaser Trailer (Editor: Lindsey Myers)
Before she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize...
And before she held Malcolm X's head while he died...
Human Rights Activist Yuri Kochiyama was a young woman in love named "Mary Nakahara."

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Interview Excerpt: Yuri Kochiyama remembers WWII soldiers who died. [Unedited]

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Scene from Bits of Paradise: Kochiyama's Crusaders by Marlan Warren with Ariel Kayoko Labasan
Opening Monologue Adapted From The Diary of Hatsuye EgamiPerformance at Rogue Machine Theatre, Hollywood, California

The Crusaders:
Yuri Kochiyama (aka "Mary Nakahara") with Bits of Paradise actor, Jean Franco; Ruth Hirose Ishizaki; Rinko Shimasaki Enosaki;

Note: Ruth and Rinko made the original Crusaders Scrapbooks right after World War II ended.
Ruth Ishizaki consented to an all-day interview at the Japanese American Museum, San Jose (JAMsj) in Jan. 2009. She was the first Crusader we interviewed, and showed great patience as we painstakingly pored over the "second" Crus
aders Scrapbook that she had put together with Crusader Rinko when World War II ended. There were two scrapbooks. One ended up with Yuri Kochiyama who donated it to the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), and the other was kept at the bottom of Ruth's closet until 50 years later, when 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. Then she donated that scrapbook to JAMsj.

Crusader Patricia Goto Takeshita
   Patricia Goto Takeshita with cameraman Albert Vasquez

Patricia (Pat) Goto was 11 years old when she began sending penny postcards as a Crusader in Mary Nakahara'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.

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Interview Excerpt: Crusader Patricia Goto Takeshita remembers Mary Nakahara.  (Slide Show By Marlan Warren for YouTube)

Crusader Rinko Shimasaki Enosaki

Rinko Shimasaki Enosaki on her 90th birthday. [Photos by Emma Puente]

[For more details about both versions of Bits of Paradise, click on sidebar link.]

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

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

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.  Everyone was ecstatic when Yuri Kochiyama attended 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.

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

                                                                                                                                 BOTTOM (L-R): Marlan Warren, Yuri Kochiyama, Rinko Ishizaki) Photo: Victoria Yang

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

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Actor Jean Franco performing Soldier's Monologue for Yuri Kochiyama in her home.
[Director/Camera: Chong Lee]
Great occasions do not make heroines.
They simply unveil them to the eyes of men.

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Video: Ben Kim

This film includes stories of Japanese American soldiers and War Resisters, who transcended barbed wire with their soaring spirits.

"We Remember"

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.
 The Resistance against oppression and racism continues, and the Japanese Americans voice support for all oppressed races and cultures, and pushing back against the continued threat of concentration camps on U.S. soil.

All stills by Marlan Warren.

     DP/Camera: Stephon J. Litwinczuk & Sound: Richard J. Wilson

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                                                                            Marlan Warren reacts to the Manzanar cemetery.

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Interview with Camp Survivor Madlon Yamamoto Arai whose picture was taken by Ansel Adams at Manzanar.

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