Editor’s Note: The 2021-22 Katari program, held this year during the January 15-16, 2022 weekend, is usually held in early November at the Manzanar National Historic Site. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it had to be moved to an online format for the second consecutive year.
Despite the loss of the extremely important placed-based learning component of the program, by all accounts, it seems that we were able to deliver an effective and meaningful educational program for our students. Each of them will be reflecting on their Katari experiences, which we will share here on our web site over the coming weeks.
While I was only able to attend one of the two days of Katari, the program taught me about parts of the Japanese American Incarceration history that I had never even heard of.
I was born in Tokyo, Japan, as a second generation Japanese American, because my family had already immigrated to the United States. I was born into a family that had little to no connection to Japanese American History.
It was during my middle and high school years when I became very involved in the Japanese American community. I joined my local Buddhist temple, began attending Japanese school at my community center, and began to work as a camp counselor for Kizuna during the summer. Prior to that, I only knew about the existence of Japanese American Incarceration. Nevertheless, I only had a surface-level understanding of the subject. But through these organizations, I began to learn about this history.
Kizuna was my biggest educator in terms of Japanese American Incarceration. The Kizuna summer camp program was about teaching the children about the Japanese American experience, which is intrinsically linked to the incarceration. In a way, I had to learn about Japanese American History because I was tasked with teaching it.
During the program, we also took a field trip to Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo and the Go For Broke museum. In total, I think I went to Little Tokyo about five times, going through the tour with the kids. By continually visiting, I deepened my understanding of the incarceration of Japanese Americans.
The next step in broadening my understanding of life in the camps was this year’s Katari program. Through Katari, I learned about the troubles faced after camp, and the struggle of those who were orphaned by the camps. These were things that I never thought of.
When we discussed life post-incarceration, the oral history that made the biggest impact on me was the story of the woman who was on welfare, but never told her children. This hit me especially hard because both of my parents come from low-income upbringings, but worked very hard so that my sister and I grew up comfortably. I know that my parents did not have to go to such lengths, but they still worked so that we wouldn’t know what they were going through.
The Children’s Village segment of the program was also very impactful to me. It was so sad because the children had to go through the struggle of being orphans, along with being incarcerated. When I was first learning about the camps, I always thought that many of the incarcerees were able to push through because they were with their families. But the orphans had no such support system.
This year’s Katari program reinvigorated me to try harder to inform others about the Japanese American Incarceration camps and their historical significance. At the end of the program especially, the discussion we had about the connection between the struggles of Japanese Americans and Black Americans made me realize the responsibility that we carry.
I also used the energy that I got from Katari to improve my Day of Remembrance program (at UCR). As a result, I made sure to have my speakers talk about the connection to Black Lives Matter, and what students can do to start making a difference.
I am so happy that I attended what I could of Katari this year. It allowed me to expand my own knowledge as well as better equip myself to inform others.
Hale Chiba, 20, is in his second year at the University of California, Riverside, where he is majoring in Mathematics, with a focus on Environmental Science. The San Fernando Valley native currently serves as the Culture Chair for the UCR Nikkei Student Union, and on the 2022 Manzanar At Dusk Organizing Committee.
LEAD PHOTO: Hale Chiba. Photo courtesy of Hale Chiba.
The views expressed in this story are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.
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