By Nancy Oda at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello
The Tuna Canyon traveling exhibit has been on the road for one year now and on its way to the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center where it will stay for three months. Why is it so Important worthy of many hours of each day? At first, it was learning the facts.and putting the exhibit together in a sequential, historically accurate, and comprehensive story with an amazing team. Thousands of people have seen it at the seven venues. Then, unwittingly, some have been shocked that their own jichan’s (grandfather) name was on the Honor Roll. Others came because they wondered about what happened about a loved one and wanted to confirm a hunch. It has become an awakening that is growing.
Thank you to the 2015 National Park Service Japanese American Confinement Sites grant and our community for funding “Only the Oaks Remain, A Traveling Exhibit.” With a sense of urgency, the new 2017 Legacy Project was written by June Berk and Dr. Russell Endo to interview twenty five more descendants. It is also a 2-1 marching NPSJAC grant.
On October 8, 2017, the Grateful Crane Ensemble embraced the Legacy Project and brought Tuna Canyon to life at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello. If you were there, you were one of the lucky ones to see how the hearts of descendants, music, and words from the diaries, letters, and poems cosmically merged to create the show. For them, it was personal. Even if you knew nothing before, even if you were not s child of the camps, you understood the tragedy right away.
The room at the Quiet Cannon was dark like nightfall on December 7. You were drawn back in time and could visualize the terror and fear that the women and children felt at the time. Knock, knock! It felt like nails scratching on a chalkboard sending chills down your neck. Many remembered that and have written to tell me how they have buried the pain they experienced.
The songs were a blend of “Furusato,” ”Kono Sachi Ari,” “Moonlight Serenade,” “I’ll Remember You,” and virtuoso violinist, Sun Hee Park’s poignant ‘Summer.” You could hear a pin drop it was so quiet. “Grandpa Hino” and Tomoe Tana’s tanka poems described the day to day suffering. The cast was inspired from the first note of the violin, the keyboard, or the vocals. Period costumes included religious artifacts from RInban Briones and Reverend Kodama. The GCE knew that they had a room full of descendants and didn’t want to disappoint but seemed surprised with the roaring standing ovation and bouquet of red roses.
We needed to have a question and answer period to decompress from the emotional experience. People wanted to talk but is was already a long day with additional fundraising activities. Thank you to Rafu subscribers, and dedicated community organizations,, the funding goals were met.
Kanji Sahara said, ‘I know that the Issei (first generation)will want us to support the Muslin Community today. The best way to show that we have learned the lesson is that we will not allow this to happen to another immigrant community. Never again!”
The Tuna Canyon Detention Station was a Southern California World War II Department of Justice Detainment Center for Japanese, Germans, and Italian immigrants, and later, Japanese taken from eighteen Latin American countries. This is the. project of Dr. Lloyd Hitt and the late Paul Tsuneishi from the Little Landers Historical Society. The Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, was formed in 2013 as a Historic Cultural Monument whose goal is to build a permanent educational memorial. www.tunacanyon.org
Grateful Crane Ensemble find family on the Honor Roll
Pictured: Scott Nagatani, grandson of Kichigoro Yoshimura
Darrell Kunitomo, grandson of Shiro Fujioka
Shigehisa Takei is the grandfather of John Nishiio