Sons and daughters of Japanese Americans incarcerated at the Tule Lake Segregation center during World War II will share what it was like for their parents and family members to be stigmatized as “disloyals” and branded as “troublemakers” at a special workshop panel to be held at the JACL National Convention on Saturday, July 22, from 10:45 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum, First and Central in Little Tokyo.
Moderated by Richard Katsuda, the panel will feature Yukio Kawaratani, Kyoko Oda, Soji Kashiwagi and Martha Nakagawa, who will not only talk about what happened to those at Tule Lake, but also how the subsequent negative treatment and enduring stigma from members of their own community affected their families and the generations that followed for over 80 years.
Two infamous, government-issued “loyalty questions” imposed upon Japanese Americans imprisoned in concentration camps in 1943 caused chaos and tension in all the camps, and created a split between those who answered the questions “Yes-Yes” and those who answered “No-No.”
Those who answered “Yes-Yes” were deemed good, loyal, patriotic Americans, while those who answered “No-No” were harshly branded as “disloyals” and “no-good troublemakers.” Tule Lake became a segregated camp for No-Nos, and it became known as the camp for the “bad Japanese Americans.”
“Sadly, it’s a split that has lasted to this day,” said Katsuda. “Many of the younger JACL members don’t know about this split, and what happened to those at Tule Lake. The purpose of our panel is to educate them and the community about what really happened — and how this yet to be resolved split still needs to be addressed in order for us to move forward as a community.
“Tule Lake was a very complicated and nuanced environment with oppressive pressures imposed upon the people by the government. Ugly rumors about Tule Lake being a factory for pro-Japan fanatics created a narrative that wasn’t representative of the majority of those who saw the ‘No-No’ answer as the only way they could protest the unjust way they were being treated.”
The late Nisei poet, actor and activist Hiroshi Kashiwagi was one of those who answered “No-No” and lived with the consequences of being a “No-No Boy” for the rest of his life.
“He was a loyal American,” said Soji Kashiwagi, his son. “His position was this: ‘Why was I, an American citizen, thrown in prison without cause, without due process? Why were they questioning my loyalty? If they restored my status as a rightful citizen, let me go free, out of this prison, I would do anything required of me.’”
When his rights were not restored and he, his family and community was kept in camp, Hiroshi Kashiwagi and other Nisei like him answered “No-No” to the questions out of anger and protest.
“It was their right as Americans to protest,” said Soji Kashiwagi.
Stories like this from the featured speakers will shed a new light on Tule Lake, said Katsuda. “After all these years, It’s time we tell the truth about Tule Lake.”
Those interested in attending the Tule Lake panel can register and purchase a $10 Community Day Pass by going to http://JACL.org/convention or view the Whova App to check out the other convention workshops and activities on Friday, July 21, and Saturday, July 22.