Acts of injustice - Part two The 70th anniversary of the Japanese internment

May 5, 2012 In their own voices


Dusty and barren, this historical photo of one of the Japanese internment camps established in 1942 gives insight to the difficulties faced by over 100,000 west coast residents of Japanese ancestry who were relocated from their homes.

Most of the 700 individuals of Japanese ancestry who were relocated from Hood River on Feb. 13, 1942, have since passed on. Those who remain were young children at the time of the incarceration.

For our community, the opportunity to listen and learn from those times of hostility and ignorance can still be found through the living and recorded voices that remain.

Author, professor and historian Linda Tamura, whose parents and grandparents were on the Hood River train, provides some guidance from her own experience on how best to attend to this history lesson.

"I interviewed my grandmother (Asayo) Noji and learned her story and from that I put together the story of my whole family," said Tamura. The topic of the deportation and three-year internment were not subjects openly discussed within the family during Tamura's youth.

"My grandmother was reluctant to have anyone beyond the family read it. That helped me to understand Japanese culture much better, where group harmony is more important than the individual," Tamura said.

The cultural value of attaining and maintaining group harmony, known in Japanese as "wa," is seen as much more important than any single individual's experience - a concept in stark contrast to the American value of the primacy of the individual.

Tamura, who was raised in Hood River, sought to understand how that value played out in the specific experience of internment, racism and prejudice which was thrust upon her family and all of the Japanese-Americans within our community.

"My grandmother's reluctance was my incentive to interview more people," said Tamura. "I wanted to learn more and so I interviewed members of her generation."

Tamura's first book, "The Hood River Issei: An oral history of Japanese Settlers in Oregon's Hood River Valley," was the result of her first journey of inquiry - seeking the sometimes-reticent voices of those who came before. Tamura's work and family story poignantly sheds light on the experience of being a minority community in a country struggling with fear and racism.

Tamura's book however is not a story of struggles alone. It is also a story of adaptation, human frailties, resilience, success, courage and forgiveness. It is a true picture of both ordinary and exemplary lives and a story shared by any community that must face injustice.

In this second installment of our series on Japanese internment during World War II, we will reprint voices from that period in history that may provide insight into the struggles of one community - offering lessons for an entire nation.

Voices from that era are included in additional pages of this edition with selections from a series of letters sent between internees and Hood River native Nora Rumbaugh plus selected excerpts from news articles printed in The Hood River News.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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