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The Power of Irei


Nov. 27, 2022 - Nov. 1, 2023

A series of articles related to the Irei: The National Monument for the World War II Japanese American Incarceration, a three-part installation listing the names of more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry imprisoned in 75 U.S. detention camps. This series will honor those individuals that are listed by interviewing people personally connected to the incarceration and offer insights into the impact this project has made on their lives.


Stories from this series

Thumbnail for The Legacy of Resistance: Nimura/Kashiwagi Family at Ireichō
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The Legacy of Resistance: Nimura/Kashiwagi Family at Ireichō

Nov. 1, 2023 • Sharon Yamato

I feel I have paid many times over for the position I took at Tule Lake.Certainly, you don’t go around telling people you spent time at Tule Lake during the war.You try to push that back somewhere and not think about it.You try to block that part out of your life, but you have to live with it. —Hiroshi Kashiwagi, Swimming in the American Out of approximately 125,000 names of former detainees listed in Ireichō, more than 12,000 of them …

Thumbnail for Coming Home: My Family’s Journey to Ireichō
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Coming Home: My Family’s Journey to Ireichō

Aug. 15, 2023 • Sharon Yamato

And what we see is our life moving like that along the dark edges of everything, headlights sweeping the blackness, believing in a thousand fragile and unprovable things.Looking out for sorrow,slowing down for happiness. . . —Mary Oliver, “Coming Home” It was like coming home when 17 sisters, cousins, grandchildren, and spouses, some who had traveled from different parts of the globe, met on the day after a large family reunion—this time to honor living and dead family members by …

Thumbnail for A Humble Man: 442nd Veteran Hiroshi Kunimura Honored at Ireichō
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A Humble Man: 442nd Veteran Hiroshi Kunimura Honored at Ireichō

July 4, 2023 • Sharon Yamato

When Dennis Kunimura suggested to his father, 98-year-old former 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) artilleryman Hiroshi Kunimura, that they drive from their home in Ogden, Utah, to Los Angeles, to mark the names in Ireichō of family members held at both the Salinas Assembly Center and the Poston Concentration Camp, the elder Kunimura did not expect the overwhelming reception that awaited him. In fact, when the elderly soldier was welcomed by a three-man camera crew from Nippon TV, JANM executive …

Thumbnail for A Miraculous Family Gathering: Wasuke Hirota’s Mixed-Race Descendants Celebrate at Ireichō
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A Miraculous Family Gathering: Wasuke Hirota’s Mixed-Race Descendants Celebrate at Ireichō

May 17, 2023 • Sharon Yamato

The sound of joyful voices and poignant emotions echoed through JANM’s Aratani Hall when on April 27, 2023, some 50 family members of Hispanic, Native American, and Japanese descent gathered for the 150th birthday celebration of their Issei ancestor, Wasuke Hirota. Adults and children of all ages arrived from as nearby as Azusa, California, and as far away as Osaka, Japan, to pay their respects by stamping Ireichō, the sacred book in which the former detainee’s name was listed among …

Thumbnail for Living, Dying, and Passing It On—Alan Nishio Family at Ireichō
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Living, Dying, and Passing It On—Alan Nishio Family at Ireichō

March 28, 2023 • Sharon Yamato

As Los Angeles skies began to clear after the first spell of frigid March rain, a three-generation family gathering was being held to mark Ireichō, the book as monument to those incarcerated during WWII. Convening the intimate get-together was a familiar face in the Nikkei community, someone celebrated for his decades of selfless leadership and commitment to such causes as Asian American studies, redress and reparations, Little Tokyo preservation, LGBTQ rights, youth empowerment, and more. After relinquishing years of key …

Thumbnail for Remembering Them—Tsuchiya Family Honors Elders Through Ireichō
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Remembering Them—Tsuchiya Family Honors Elders Through Ireichō

Feb. 27, 2023 • Sharon Yamato

For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them. —Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer These words of two Jewish rabbis were recalled by two Japanese American brothers who decided to fly all the way from Minneapolis to Los Angeles for the sole purpose of marking their ancestors’ names in Ireichō, the sacred book that lists all those held in detention during WWII. The experience stirred up …

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Author in This Series

Sharon Yamato is a writer and filmmaker in Los Angeles who has produced and directed several films on the Japanese American incarceration, including Out of Infamy, A Flicker in Eternity, and Moving Walls, for which she wrote a book by the same title. She served as creative consultant on A Life in Pieces, an award-winning virtual reality project, and is currently working on a documentary on attorney and civil rights leader Wayne M. Collins. As a writer, she co-wrote Jive Bomber: A Sentimental Journey, a memoir of Japanese American National Museum founder Bruce T. Kaji, has written articles for the Los Angeles Times, and is currently a columnist for The Rafu Shimpo. She has served as a consultant for the Japanese American National Museum, Go For Broke National Education Center, and has conducted oral history interviews for Densho in Seattle. She graduated from UCLA with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English.

Updated March 2023

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