Capital Region Cares Capital Region Cares 2017-2018 - Page 28

n Feature Before internment, Kobayashi’s father ran a dry clean- ing shop and a tailoring business. After the war, his father was unable to reopen his business due to the animosity in the community toward Japanese Americans. When he was older, Kobayashi served in the U.S. Army in Korea, and later earned a law degree from UC Berkeley. He says he is hopeful that constitutional infringements are harder to hide these days. “I am very pleased with how the exhibit tells the story of the pre-war and internment experiences,” Kobayashi says. “I know that the people who have seen the exhibit are very impressed and those who did not know of the incarceration are dumbfounded by what occurred.” Tsukamoto recently visited Hannah Kassis’ fourth grade class at Dudley Elementary School in Antelope, where she did a presentation on Japanese internment. When she goes into a classroom, Tsukamoto takes her personal story: Her presentation reflects on her pre-internment life in Florin — where she lived on 40 acres with her immediate family and paternal grandparents. Tsukamoto, a retired teacher and principal, says the process of connecting with students comes naturally. “This is one of the most valuable programs we have of- fered the students this year,” says Dudley teacher Robert Smith. “Mrs. Tsukamoto was able to share information in ways these young students really connected with. She used examples of people having to leave their pets, metaphors about bullying and other anecdotes that the students could connect with at their age.” Kassis says her class has been studying segregation and discrimination throughout the year and the presentation by someone who lived through this time period was “a great way for students to really develop opinions and feelings to- ward the subject,” she says. “The students were moved by the words she shared.” Even though she was young at the time, Tsukamoto can remember the day the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor. Her mother was the pianist at their local church, and she remembers her mother was playing when her father ran into the church service with the news. She remembers the pastor dimming the lights and lighting candles — he told the congregants that as long as they held faith in their God, there would never be total darkness. That faith would be tested in the upcoming years as her family was sent to what she describes as prison camps. In recent years, many people involved in the preservation of 28 CAPITAL REGION CARES 2017 | comstocksmag.com this period of American history, including Tsukamoto, have begun to use the word “incarceration” instead of “intern- ment.” They feel it more accurately reflects history, and Tsukamoto says she disagrees with the term “internment center,” as they were guarded with barbed wire and men in towers with firearms. “The parts that most struck our class was that they had to share a room with their families and leave their homes to be put in ‘prison’ when they hadn’t done anything wrong,” Kassis says of her students. “We talked for an hour after the presentation … Mrs. Tsukamoto told them to not ever let that happen to them. That was powerful.” In December 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government did not have the right to detain Japanese American citizens without due process. The last intern- ment camp closed in 1945. Tsukamoto’s late mother, Mary Tsukamoto, told her life story to author Elizabeth Pinkerton in the book We the People, A Story of Internment in America. She tells of her time in the camps, the process of adjusting to life after in- carceration and the struggle of getting the U.S. government to formally acknowledge its wrongdoing, a process known as redress. “We the People” highlights the challenges internees faced as they attempted to find work and encountered re- sistance and institutionalized racism. Members of the Tsu- kamoto family were denied daytime employment since some companies did not want customers to see Japanese American employees. Former internees often took posi- tions working at night. Upon the Tsukamotos’ eventual return to Florin, they were one of very few families able to go back to their original homes after incarceration. A close family friend paid their mortgage and tended their crops while they were interned. “My family was extremely fortunate,” Tsukamoto says. “We were some of the only roughly 15 percent of Japanese Americans in the greater Sacramento area who came back to their lives and land after the camps.” And, she adds, “My grandmother was, in fact, reunited with her garden at the farm house.” n Trish Moratto is a communications consultant who specializ- es in public relations, social media strategy, copywriting and journalism. She is an outdoor enthusiast and avid traveler, which has taken her to more than 40 countries. She is based among the pine G&VW2w&72fW