Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | history
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Today is the 100th anniversary of the Wuchang Uprising in China, which occurred on October 10, 1911. The date is celebrated annually as Double Ten Day in the Republic of China as the event that marked the end of dynastic rule and the close of the Qing Dynasty. That's the Republic of China, not the People's Republic of China, or...

Really? During Monday night's Tea Party debate among the Republican presidential candidates, Michele Bachmann noted that U.S. immigration law was just fine until the mid-1960s when Congress made it possible for Asians to enter the country after decades of being excluded. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 finally opened the door to people like my mom's family for the...

It’s not often that Denver receives visitors at the highest levels of the foreign diplomatic corps, but the 25th anniversary of the start of the Colorado-Yamagata Sister State relationship brought Ichiro Fujisaki, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United State of America, to the Brown Palace on August 6. Fujisaki gave a keynote speech during a luncheon hosted...

[caption id="attachment_3686" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="The Japanese Gardens as it currently looks at the Denver Botanic Gardens"]Denver Botanic Gardens' current Japanese Garden[/caption] Many Japanese Americans – especially older JAs – will be familiar with the name Bill Hosokawa. He wrote a column, “From the Frying Pan,” which was a running commentary on Japanese America that ran in the Pacific Citizen, the national newspaper of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), a civil rights organization, for decades. In 1969 he published the first comprehensive history of Japanese Americans, “Nisei: The Quiet Americans,” that included information about internment. In 1982 he published “JACL: The Quest for Justice,” a history of JACL. He also published a collection of “Frying Pan” columns with added observations in 1998. His final book, published in 2005, was “Colorado's Japanese Americans: From 1886 to the Present,” which most Japanese Americans across the country probably aren’t familiar with, but was well-received here in Colorado. Even at age 90, when he wrote the book, he was an agile wordsmith and a witty and straightforward storyteller, a gift that served him well in his long career as a journalist. He died two years later, in 2007. bill hosokawa-denver press club 2005I was interviewed for an obituary in the LA Times when Bill died, and the reporter couldn’t understand how important “Nisei” was to a JA kid in northern Virginia in the early ’70s, where my family lived when I first read Bill’s landmark book. Being in a multicultural place like California with Asian faces everywhere you look, a book about the history of Japanese Americans may seem unremarkable. The Times’ obit even pointed out that to the emerging third-generation activists who were radicalized and beginning to actively seek their identity, “Nisei” seemed tame and even reinforced stereotypes of the meek, accommodating model minority. But to me, a kid in a northern Virginia suburb with no Asian friends — a banana if there ever was one — “Nisei” was like an electric jolt of identity. The radicalism came later; the first step for me was realizing that there were other people like me with an Asian face and Japanese values, but American heart and spirit. Colorado is more like Virginia when it comes to Asian population and JA identity. I’m much more a part of an Asian American community now, but it’s a small and disparate one. So having a historical giant like Bill Hosokawa in the area was like having a lighthouse in a fog. Bill Hosokawa was well-known nationally as one of the foundations of the Japanese American community’s national history. He’s also remembered in Colorado, and not just by Japanese Americans. His legacy looms large in Denver and throughout his adopted state for his work as a writer and editor, and a diplomat who built lasting bridges with Japan. He was, as he quite accurately used to quip, “The most famous Japanese American in Japan.” And Colorado, too.

Too many people don't know who Vincent Chin was. He's the young Chinese American man who was brutally killed in 1982 in a hate crime by out-of-work Detroit autoworkers who blamed the Japanese auto industry for their woes. After getting into a fight with Chin, who was celebrating his upcoming wedding, in a strip club, two men beat him with a baseball bat on June 15. He died four days later of his injuries. His last words before slipping into a coma were, "It's not fair." That sad and terrible attack in a very real sense was the spark that led to the modern Asian American Pacific Islander movement.

Drama in the Delta screen shot Japanese Americans know about internment. My wife Erin's parents, grandparents and great-grandparents on both sides were rounded up from Sacramento County, Calif. and eventually imprisoned at Rohwer, one of two concentration camps in Arkansas built during World War II to house Japanese Americans out of fear and racial hysteria. There were 10 in all, including Camp Amache in desolate southeastern Colorado. (Note: There's been a gradual move towards the use of the term "concentration camps" because that's the term the U.S. government used for them when they weren't using euphemisms like "assembly center" or "relocation center.") For many older Japanese Americans, the first thing they ask of each other when they meet other JAs is, "what camp was your family in?" and they're not talking about summer camp.