July 2017
From Executive Director Tom Ikeda

Dear Friends,

Summertime is when many Japanese Americans make pilgrimages to the World War II Japanese American concentration camps. These pilgrimages can be an individual trek to a former camp site, a shared journey with family members and friends, an experiential process with several hundred pilgrims over several days, or a one-day gathering with a couple of thousand participants. It is a time for learning, experiencing, and sharing about our Japanese American elders and the places that incarcerated them during World War II.

Last week, I was in Idaho to speak to a group of 320 pilgrims visiting the former Minidoka concentration site. This was the camp where both my parents, all four of my grandparents, and seven of my uncles and aunties were incarcerated. Similar to the other pilgrimages I have participated in over the past 20 years, I heard funny stories, and sad and frightening memories to give me a more nuanced understanding of the camp experience. For example, I heard a story of a local farmer who hired Japanese Americans to work his fields, and when his son unexpectedly borrowed the farmer’s shotgun, he assumed Japanese American workers took the gun and almost had Army soldiers shoot a carload of workers returning to camp.

I also felt the raw force of nature with triple digit temperatures and high winds. I asked several of the Nisei how they coped with the weather while living in uninsulated, tar-papered barracks. An 87-year-old Nisei, with a sparkle in her eyes, said she had air conditioning, smiled at my confused expression, and then laughed as she demonstrated this "air conditioning" by fanning herself with a piece of paper!

The pilgrimages are a personal and visceral way to commemorate and learn about the Japanese American incarceration. We owe a huge thanks to pilgrimage organizers—almost all volunteers—who plan and work hundreds of hours to keep the World War II incarceration story alive and real. Please say thank you the next time you see one of these organizers. They deserve our gratitude and our support!


Tom Ikeda

Summer Fund Drive 2017

A few times a year we ask for your contributions so that we can continue our work of preserving and sharing stories of Japanese American incarceration. We thank you for your generosity and your continued support.   

First-time donors' gifts will be matched up to $5,000 thanks to a grant from ArtsFund. 

>> Make a donation now.

2016 Annual Report

2016our 20th Anniversary was a year of celebrating milestones and making plans for the future. Take a look at our Annual Report for a full accounting of this busy year.

We want to extend another huge thanks to anyone who supported us in 2016 through a donation, by attending our gala dinner, our by volunteering your time. We truly could not do the work we do without you! 

>> View online.

Densho director Tom Ikeda spoke to reporters from KCTS9 about Japanese American immigration and incarceration: “The Japanese immigration story is really similar to other immigration stories in America. They came for a better life.” 

>> Watch and read more.

Though not permitted to take photos, artist Kango Takamura documented his wartime experience at Santa Fe and, later, Manzanar through expert sketches and watercolors. He depicted camp life with a keen and sometimes darkly humorous eye. Head over to our blog for more on the artist and the unique views of WWII incarceration captured in his work.

>> Read more. 

Oral History Spotlight 

During World War II, Jimi Yamaichi was incarcerated in the Tule Lake concentration camp, California. In this clip, he talks about how he felt when he attended the first Tule Lake pilgrimage in 1991.

>> Watch interview clip 

Access for All Initiative: 
Support King County Proposition 1

King County residents, the upcoming August primary ballot includes a proposition that would provide funding for arts, science, and heritage organizations to reach more students in King County. See what local newspapers are saying about the proposition here and here, or seek out your own information on the initiative. 
Please be sure to vote! Ballots must be mailed in by August 1st. 

Save the Date!

On November 18, 2017 we will host our first annual Densho Dinner from 5:00-8:30 at the Seattle Design Center. The event will feature a sushi & sake reception, a sit-down dinner, entertainment, and more. Stay tuned, more details and ticket information are forthcoming! 

Volunteers are critical to the work we do at Densho! We are currently looking for help with data entry as well as other special projects. Email volunteer@densho.org with questions. 

>>Learn more and apply

Reminder: Archives Migration

A reminder to all who use our archives that we have migrated all of our 900+ oral history videos to the Densho Digital Repository. Our old Archive page will be taken down at the end of the summer.

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