History, Japanese American

Gordon Hirabayashi

Gordon Hirabayashi (right) and Grace Uyehara at the Supreme Court. Photo by Doris Sato, 1987.

Gordon Hirabayashi (right) and Grayce Uyehara at the Supreme Court. Photo courtesy Doris Sato, 1987.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program honors the life and legacy of Gordon Hirabayashi, who passed away on January 2, 2012. Hirabayashi was a sociology professor, civil rights activist, and known for challenging the basis of Executive Order (EO) 9066, which had authorized the evacuation and imprisonment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II.  He was the petitioner in court case, Hirabayashi v. United States (1943).

Gordon Hirabayashi in 1942.

Gordon Hirabayashi, 1942.

While a student at the University of Washington,  Hirabayashi objected to EO 9066 by refusing to abide by a curfew imposed on Japanese Americans and refusing to enter a relocation camp.  The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the government’s argument that the restrictions were a military necessity. It took four decades for Hirabayashi to be vindicated, with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that the internment policy “had been based on political expediency, not on any risk to national security,” as The Associated Press wrote.

Hirabayashi’s story about U.S. civil rights history was featured in the landmark exhibition, A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution at the National Museum of American History.

Here is an interview from the exhibit:

“I was charged with uh, violation of uh, exclusion order. And then, subsequently I was given a count two, uh, curfew violation by my own admission. They said: ‘If you feel this way, what’d you do about the curfew?’ I said: ‘Well, uh what were you doing the last coupla’ nights, were you out after eight?’ And he says ‘Yeah.’ And I said: ‘Well, so was I.’ And he said: ‘Oh, then you violated the curfew.’ And he put me down. So those were the charges against me. The uh, instruction (I’m condensing this) but the instruction of the judge to the jury uh, as they were to leave was: ‘You can forget all that Constitutional discussion by the defense. The Western Defense Command order is: That all persons of Japanese ancestry both alien and non-alien must abide by these orders. You are to determine first of all whether he is of Japanese ancestry. If he is, did he abide by these orders?’ And, all of those questions were admitted by me.”

— Gordon Hirabayashi: Violation of Exclusion Order

Save the Date!

The Smithsonian Annual Day of Remembrance (DOR) is on February 18, 2012.  It will be at 2pm at the Warner Brothers Theater in the National Museum of American History.

Event, General APA, Japanese American

Congressional Gold Medal – Event Recaps

Nisei Veteran George Joe Sakato and Senator Dan Inouye

From left: Nisei Veteran and Medal of Honor recipient George Joe Sakato of Denver and Senator Dan Inouye at the Gala dinner on November 1, 2011 (Washington Hilton Hotel). Photo by Kris Ikejiri.

Congressional Gold Medal

Ceremony program and the Congressional Gold Medal

Related Links:

Members of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program attended events celebrating the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Japanese Americans who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service. Their Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., was donated to the National Museum of American History.

Here is our recap of key events: 

On the morning of November 2, more than 1,250 veterans and family representatives gathered at Emancipation Hall in the Capitol for the Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) Ceremony. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) gave the opening remarks followed by: Majority Leader of the United States Senate Harry Reid (D-NV); Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (KY); Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA); Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX); Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA); Senator John McCain (R-AZ); and Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) who also served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Inouye stated:

70 years ago we were enemy aliens, but today, this great Nation honors us in this special ceremony. We, gathered here this morning, are all proud Americans, and grateful to our nation for giving us the opportunity to serve our nation as loyal, patriotic citizens.

That evening in the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel, close to 2,500 people gathered for the gala dinner program featuring General Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, as the keynote speaker. Shinseki stated:

I know that today’s ceremony brings with it some deep and complex emotions for the Veterans here tonight. Those who survive war know that others, those who fought and died, whose stories are known only to God, never received their deserved recognitions. The Congressional Gold Medal corrects those oversights of history.

The Smithsonian is honored to host this symbol of honor, sacrifice, and freedom.  The Congressional Gold Medal will be on display in the near future.  Replicas of the Congressional Gold Medal are available for purchase from the U.S. Mint.

Congressional Gold Medal White House Briefing

Click for more photos

Honorees attending the Congressional Gold Medal Celebration were invited to the White House for a briefing on November 3, 2011, at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Eisenhower served as commander of the Allied forces in Europe during WWII, thus the venue was especially fitting for this occasion. Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program  and Japanese American Citizens League staff joined in recognizing the Japanese American Army veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion, and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) of the United States Army for their distinguished service during WWII.

These veterans received the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Congress on November 2, 2011. The Congressional Gold Medal represents the highest expression of national appreciation for their sacrifice in combat and for battling racial prejudices against Japanese Americans during imprisonment. Their victory abroad was a victory at home because their legacy has continued to touch future generations of Japanese Americans.

Invited speakers included:
Shin Inouye, Director, Specialty Media
David Mineta, Deputy Director, Demand Reduction
Danielle Gray, Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
Chris Lu, Cabinet Secretary, Assistant to the President
Ronald Sagudan, Program Analyst, Center for Minority Veterans
Earl S. Newsome III, Deputy Director, Center for Minority Veterans

While the Congressional Gold Medal recipients never asked for this recognition, it has been long overdue. The valiant service of these men stands as a punctuation point in history.

Recaps provided by Noriko Sanefuji, Curatorial Assistant, National Museum of American History and Krista Aniel, Program Assistant, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program.

History, Japanese American

Congressional Gold Medal Award Comes to the Smithsonian

President Obama and guests after signing S.1055

President Obama and guests after signing S.1055*. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

Congressional Gold Medal Awarded to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service to come to the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program honors the soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and members of the Military Intelligence Service for their dedicated service during World War II.

Congressional Gold Medal

Congressional Gold Medal, photo from the U.S. Mint

On November 2, 2011, members of these units will receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award, in a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Congress.  The 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service were the units of predominantly Japanese Americans, and some Korean and Hawaiian Americans, who would serve with great courage, distinction, and sacrifice.

The Congressional Gold Medal will be donated to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and tour across the country.  Display schedule to be announced in the near future.

*S.1055 – A bill to grant the congressional gold medal, collectively, to the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, United States Army, in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II.

Related Links:

History, Intern Update, Japanese American

Picture Bride Toku Shimomura

Written by Stephanie Chang, Summer 2011 intern.

There are several perks to being an intern at the Smithsonian Institution.  With a wave of my purple badge, I am able to breeze on by the long lines at the museums, receive discounts at various Smithsonian food courts and even get free tickets to the Smithsonian IMAX.   But I must say, perhaps the best perk of all has to be the opportunities I get to work with prolific Asian American scholars and notable members of the APA community. Roger Shimomura, a ground-breaking artist to be featured in next month’s Smithsonian exhibit, Portraiture Now: Asian American Portraits of Encounter at the National Portrait Gallery, was one such member that I had the pleasure to collaborate with.

Toku Shimomura

Toku Shimomura

Professor Shimomura has created a wide range of, as stated by his biography on his website, “paintings, prints, and theatre pieces [that] address sociopolitical issues of ethnicity.”1  Much of his art, which convey his experience being Japanese American, is said to have been inspired by several sources.  One source that I found particularly interesting was his grandmother.  Shimomura’s grandmother, Toku Shimomura, was a picture bride.  Picture brides, an entity that most Americans know nothing about, were some of the first Japanese and Korean women in America.  These women were arranged into marriages by the sole exchange of pictures. They would arrive in America as complete strangers to their husband, customs, and the land.  It was an undoubtedly terrifying experiencing for all the brides. However, with a bit of luck, some of these brides were able to rise to the occasion and become strong women in charge of their families, and even in some cases, communities.

Picture Brides and Shimomura's Grandmother on the bottom-right.

Picture Brides and Toku (bottom-right)

Toku Shimomura’s tale is filled with courage, hard work, and a bit of good fortune.  It began in a Tokyo silk factory where Toku and her future brother-in-law, Sabe, both worked.  Sabe found her suitable for his brother in America, and proposed a picture marriage.  She accepted.  In 1920, Toku arrived in Seattle. There, she met her husband for the first time.  Similar to most picture brides’ sentiments at the time, Toku felt disappointed with who met her at the harbor. However, as Roger stresses, his grandmother eventually overcame her initial dissatisfaction and soon fell in love with her arranged spouse.  With the love and support she received from her husband, Toku was able to earn a midwifery license and begin her own private practice.

Toku Shimomura with her grandson, Roger.

Toku Shimomura with her grandson, Roger.

Toku’s business boomed—she eventually delivered over 1,000 babies, including her own grandson, Roger—granting her economic power and status as the household breadwinner.  Toku was heavily involved in the Japanese Methodist Church as a member of the choir. She even held the distinction as the first Japanese woman to acquire a driver’s license in the United States. Toku took advantage of the opportunities available to her and was able to assert her strength as a woman. Her neighborhood looked upon her with respect and admiration. Mrs. Shimomura, a “matriarchal figure in a quiet way”, as Roger reminisces, eventually ascended to the role as a leader of the community.  With her passing in 1968, she left a lasting legacy in her hometown, the APA community, and, of course, as the artist’s own personal inspiration.

While Toku’s story is certainly atypical of most picture brides (and women for that matter) at the time, it is a wonderful testament of female empowerment within the APA community.  Many of Professor Shimomura’s artistic renderings reflect her strength and elegance, and are an incredibly noble and honest tribute to his grandmother’s memory.

Artwork by Roger Shimomura (1980): "Diary: December 12, 1941." Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Related Links

You can see his pieces live at the National Portrait Gallery from August 12, 2011 through October 14, 2012.  We hope to see you there!

Photos courtesy Roger Shimomura.

Collection, Hawaiian, History, Japanese American

Got Documents?

Birth Certificate from Hawaii

Birth Certificate from Hawaii

APA Collections Update from Noriko Sanefuji:

I recently had an opportunity to meet Maureen Kuwano Hinkle, who kept her parents’ documents from the early 1900’s!  Among the documents was a birth certificate.   Her father, Douglas Tsuneo Kuwano, was born in Puunene, Maui, Territory of Hawai`i in 1906. Douglas’ father was a laborer like many other Japanese immigrants in the sugarcane fields of Maui for most of his life, and his mother made clothes for plantation workers.

In the fall of 1926, Douglas enrolled at the University of Colorado where he majored in electrical engineering and graduated with honors in 1930.  He also met his future wife Daisy Sasaki his junior year, and they got married in June of 1930. The depression deprived Douglas of an anticipated position at Westinghouse in Pennsylvania, so the newlyweds went back to Hawai`i.

Douglas’ birth certificate is five pages long, including not only a photo, but a witness statement by his father’s friend. I wonder if this is the long birth certificate that President Obama was also questioned for?  On the other hand, Daisy, who was born in Colorado in 1909, had a much different birth certificate. It is only one page, without a photo, and was not filed until 1927.  It is interesting to note that there is a section on “Legitimate” status and what they listed under “color” might be surprising.

Maureen also donated some travel documents, passport, and her parent’s wedding certificate.

Birth Certificate from Colorado

Birth Certificate from Colorado

Certificate of Marriage

Certificate of Marriage

All documents donated by Maureen Kuwano Hinkle
Source: Meeting with Maureen Kuwano Hinkle

History, Japanese American

Cherry Blossoms at the Nation’s Capital

Cherry blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial photo by Michael Foley (Flickr).Above: Cherry blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial, photo by Michael Foley (Flickr).

Spring in D.C. is traditionally marked by the blooming of the cherry trees that line the Tidal Basin and the Cherry Blossom Festival that marks the occasion. Beyond their aesthetic appeal, the cherry trees represent a long relationship with the government of Japan dating back to the original gift of 2000 trees from the City of Tokyo in 1910. Unfortunately those 2,000 trees arrived diseased and had to be burned to prevent the spread of the insects. However, private donors and the First Lady Helen Taft continued to support the planting of cherry trees in DC. Dr Jukichi Takamine, who had funded the original gift, again put up money for the purchase of the trees (the company he founded, Daiichi Sankyo is still a sponsor today). Taken from a variety of cherry trees lining the Arakawa River in Tokyo, 3,020 cuttings (or “scions”) arrived for planting in 1912.

Cherry Blossoms by Sandra Vuong

Although the planting was marked with a ceremony involving First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda (wife of the Japanese Ambassador), the first true Cherry Blossom Festival did not occur until 1935. Since that time, the gift has been reciprocated several times, as clippings from the DC cherry trees have been sent back to Japan to repair damage (from World War II and other incidents of flooding) to trees that line the Arakawa River. Starting in 1997, the United States National Arboretum has helped to take clippings from the original 1912 cherry trees in order to preserve their genetic heritage. From 2002-2006, 400 trees bred from those clipping were planted to preserve the integrity of the grove.

The cherry trees have also been a site of protest over the years. In 1938, women chained themselves to the trees to protest the building of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (which necessitated the cutting of some of the trees). The issue was resolved when the government promised to re-plant new trees. During World War II, four cherry trees were cut down on December 11th, in what was suspected to be a retaliatory protest against the Japanese following Pearl Harbor. The trees were renamed “Oriental” instead of “Japanese” for the duration of WWII in order to prevent further attacks.

The trees have become a central symbol of Washington DC and draw over a million tourists each year. There are dozens of events throughout the Festival that incorporate many local communities and groups. This year’s festival marks the 99th anniversary of the original planting and plans are already being developed for a centennial celebration next year.


1919 cherry blossoms at Potomac Park

Visitors take a stroll through Potomac Park to admire the cherry blossoms in 1919. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-hec-12001

Click here to read more about the history of the cherry blossoms on the National Museum of American History Blog, O Say Can You See?

Event, Film, Japanese American

Event Recap: 2011 Annual Day of Remembrance

DOR Panelists

DOR Panelists. From left: guest speaker Terry Shima (442nd RCT Veteran), film director Junichi Suzuki, and panel moderator Noriko Sanefuji. Photo by Sandra Vuong.

More than 200 people attended the screening of Junichi Suzuki’s film 442: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity at the Smithsonian Institution’s Annual Day of Remembrance on Saturday, February 19, 2011, at the Carmichael Auditorium, National Museum of American History. The program commemorated the 69th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that led to the imprisonment of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

Director Junichi Suzuki signing DVDs

Director Junichi Suzuki signing DVDs after the film screening. Photo by Jim McCallum.

As a freelance film director and producer from Japan, Junichi Suzuki provided a unique perspective on the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an Asian American unit composed mostly of Japanese Americans that became the most decorated U.S. Regiment of World War II. Through this significant film, Suzuki hopes to share the relatively unknown history and legacy of the 442nd to both Japanese and American audiences.

Terry Shima joined the panel discussion as a surviving 442nd veteran. After returning home from the war, Shima recounted the 442nd’s march down Constitution Avenue where they were received by President Harry S. Truman at the Ellipse. In his message to the troops on July 15, 1946, President Truman declared “you fought not only the enemy but you fought prejudice—and you have won.”1 Despite internment, the 442nd affirmed their loyalty to the U.S. by heroically fighting in combat and risking their lives.  Their victory abroad was a victory at home.

To find out more about this inspiring film, please visit www.442film.com

This public program was sponsored by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program, National Museum of American History, National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, Japanese American Citizens League, and the Japanese American Veterans Association.

“Japanese Americans In America’s Wars: A Chronology | Japanese American National Museum.” Home | Japanese American National Museum. Web. 04 Mar. 2011. <http://www.janm.org/nrc/resources/militarych/>.

History, Japanese American, This Month in History

This Month in History: Executive Order 9066 – February 19, 1942

Executive Order 9066

Courtesy of National Archives

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the establishment of “military areas… from which any or all persons may be excluded,” giving the Secretary of War the power to oversee the removal of such persons.1 This order decisively targeted the Japanese residents living on the West Coast from first generation immigrants to second and third generation Japanese Americans.

The order also stated:
“The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary… to accomplish the purpose of this order”.2

This action led to the construction of internment camps, displacing and disrupting the lives of over 100,000 Japanese Americans. While this order seems to be justified by military necessity and the threat of a Japanese invasion on the West coast, it must also be viewed in the context and history of anti-immigration and discrimination of Asian Pacific Americans in the U.S. dating back to the Exclusion Acts of the 1880s.

Executive Order 9066 faced several legal challenges of its constitutionality during its implementation and after the war. Most famously, it was challenged in the Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States, but also in the Hirabayashi and Endo court cases. The court did uphold the exclusion measures outlined in Executive Order 9066 but ruled against imprisonment of any citizen not proved to be disloyal in Ex parte Endo.3

On August 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the passage of the bill H.R. 442 by the 100th Congress.  Now known as the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the bill officially redressed and apologized for the injustices endured by Japanese Americans during World War II.

Although the civil rights climate has changed since 1942, this episode in American history holds great significance.   Today, in post-9/11 politics, Executive Order 9066 serves as a warning and reminder to protect and preserve the freedoms of all U.S. citizens, regardless of race or creed.

1 Exec. Order No. 9066, 3 C.F.R. 1092-1093 (1942). Print.
2 Exec. Order No. 9066, 3 C.F.R. 1092-1093 (1942). Print.
3 Robinson, Edward T. “The Japanese Internment Cases Revisited.” OAH Magazine of History 7.2 (2003). JSTOR. Web. 23 Jan. 2011. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/25163583>.

Event, Film, Japanese American, Lecture

2011 Annual Day of Remembrance at the Smithsonian

442: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity
Film Screening and Discussion with Director Junichi Suzuki

Saturday, February 19, 2011
Film Begins at 2PM 

Carmichael Auditorium
National Museum of American History
14th Street & Constitution Avenue, NW

This event is free and open to the public

To observe the 69th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt which led to the imprisonment of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program and the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, present the film 442: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity at the Smithsonian Institution. This film, directed by Junichi Suzuki, narrates the history and legacy of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, known as the most decorated US Regiment during WWII. In addition to the use of archival footage, the film includes interviews with several surviving veterans including United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye and George Sakato. Both veterans were recipients of the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration awarded by the U.S. government. A forum with the director, Junichi Suzuki, will follow the screening. 

Co-sponsors of the program include the Japanese American Citizens League, the Japanese American Veterans Association, and Southwest Airlines.

Director Junichi Suzuki

Director Junichi Suzuki

Auditorium info:
The Carmichael Auditorium is on the first floor of the National Museum of American History, near the museum entrance facing Constitution Avenue.

Charmichael Auditorium

Parking info:
Please click here to download a PDF for more details on where to park at the Smithsonian.

Metro ClosingsClosest Metro:
Smithsonian and Federal Triangle stations will be closed for the weekend.  Please use Metro Center or L’Enfant Plaza stations.

Metrorail Closings for Presidents Day Weekend:
Blue and Orange Lines – No train service between Metro Center and  L’Enfant Plaza.  Federal Triangle and Smithsonian stations will be closed from February 19 – 21.
Click here for more information

Event, Japanese American

The National Japanese American Memorial Foundation Celebrates 10th Anniversary

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the National Japanese American Memorial, the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation (NJAMF) honored Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, Japanese American veterans of the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), and the National Park Service at an awards gala held at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC on November 4, 2010.

Justice John Paul Stevens was presented with the Award for Constitutional Rights for his own code-breaking activities in the Pacific during his World War II service as a Navy cryptologist and for his later historic judicial work to combat discrimination and injustice.

On behalf of MIS veterans, Grant Ichikawa accepted the Award for Patriotism. During World War II, Ichikawa served with the Allied Translator and Interpreter Service (ATIS) in Australia and the Philippines and as part of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey office to assist with the post-Atomic bomb assessment of Hiroshima.

The National Park Service received The Chairman’s Award for its stewardship and partnership with the NJAMF for the care and promotion of the Memorial, their commitment to the sites of former internment camps, and for telling the stories of American history through the preservation of  national parks.

NJAMF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to education and public awareness about the Japanese American experience during World War II. Since 2000, NJAMF and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program have offered the joint public program, Day of Remembrance, to commemorate the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.