Saturday, June 18, marks the 16th year of the Manzanar Fishing Club seminar and walking tour leading to the creation of the acclaimed documentary “The Manzanar Fishing Club.”
In 2004, a single iconic photograph taken by famed portrait photographer Toyo Miyatake of a man known only as “Ishikawa the fisherman” at Manzanar piqued the fascination of cameraman Cory Shiozaki.
A lifetime goal of telling the story of Japanese American incarceration that his parents never did was set into motion by discovering this untold story that took place at Manzanar in1942.
Coinciding with the 2004 opening of the Manzanar National Historic Site Interpretive Center, Shiozaki was on his seasonal hiatus from sitcoms at Warner Bros. and became a licensed trout fishing guide at Crowley Lake and a summer resident in Bishop, Inyo County.
A unique opportunity unfolded with Shiozaki’s interest as a fishing guide and his yearning for the chance to tell the tragic story of the forced removal of 120,000 Japanese Americans and their families.
By 2006, Shiozaki had interviewed about a dozen Manzanar survivors who shared their creative experiences sneaking out of the camp to fish the surrounding waters, seeking solace and brief moments of the freedom that was taken away from them resulting from Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942.
Also in 206, Shiozaki became a docent at Manzanar and gave his first illustrated seminar inside the interpretive center’s theater followed by the first walking tour for visitors to key locations around the camp’s borders where incarcerees discreetly escaped the watchful eyes of armed military stationed in guard towers.
By 2012, with the help of childhood friend and writer Richard Imamura, “The Manzanar Fishing Club” had its theatrical release at selected theaters domestically, including AMC among others. In the same year in July, “The Manzanar Fishing Club” had a congressional screening on Capitol Hill and was awarded a Certificate of Congressional Recognition presented by Rep. Judy Chu.
Now celebrating its 10th year, the documentary continues to be viewed by fishing clubs, and community organizations as well as schools. Five years ago, annual presentations to 4th-grade classes began at Pat Nixon Elementary School in Cerritos.
In addition to screenings and walking tours, “The Manzanar Fishing Club” for the past six years has brought heightened awareness and visibility to Manzanar by sponsoring a Caltrans Adopt A Highway sign with its sign designation adjacent to the Manzanar National Historic Site along Highway 395. This new sign designation begins across the highway, east of where the stone guard shacks are located, going northbound and coming southbound at the alfalfa fields near Shepherds Creek. Twice a year volunteers pick up trash and debris adjacent to Manzanar.
Shiozaki says, “It’s just another way of being of service and bringing attention to Manzanar and the sacrifices made by Japanese Americans who endured their incarceration.”
This year, Shiozaki once again will be conducting his semi-annual illustrated talk and walking tour on Saturday, June 18, at 12 p.m. at Manzanar, 5001 Highway 395 in Independence. He will give a brief presentation in the West Theater. At 12:30 p.m., special guests Michael Nakamura (second unit director of photography) and Dylan Wakasa will join him for a guided driving and walking tour to key sites in Manzanar’s fishing history. Meet in the Visitor Center lobby. Bring water and wear sturdy shoes, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
On Sunday, June 19, volunteers will clean up the highway adjacent to Manzanar. Anyone interested in details about either of these programs and volunteering for the clean-up can contact Shiozaki by email at email@example.com.