2022-23 Katari Program: Being At Manzanar Made A Big Difference

Editor’s Note: Over the last few months, college students who participated in our annual Katari: Keeping Japanese American Stories Alive program will share their thoughts here on our web site about their experiences in the two-day, intensive, immersive, place-based learning experience about the unjust incarceration of Japanese/Japanese Americans during World War II, a partnership with the National Park Service staff at the Manzanar National Historic Site..

This year was my second Katari, but my first one in person. Since it was in person, it was a truly 4-D experience.

Last year, I wrote about my experience learning about the Japanese American Incarceration and the resulting “JA culture” as someone without deep familial ties to the experience. This year, I really felt how life must have been in the camps. Being in the space let me connect on a different level, and led to such an emotional response because I finally was able to feel the pain of those incarcerated rather than just hearing about it. Last year, I discussed how I never really thought about how all of the people interned had their own dreams, aspirations, jobs, and lives. I was further reminded by this by seeing where they lived.

Going into this Katari with the knowledge that I learned from my first really allowed me to focus on more deeper and specific parts of the program. For example, instead of learning about the content, I was able to think more about how it affected me. One of my favorite parts of the program was again the incarcerees’ acts of resistance. Since we covered that in our Manzanar At Dusk presentation last year, I was familiar with some of them. My favorite was the pond that was made outside of the mess hall. I thought that it was beautiful that everyone needed some outlet of expression and silent resistance. Even though it was one of the men, who tended to be stoic and strong, he used the construction of the pond as an outlet. In my eyes, it humanized him for me. It reminded me that, although he was a strong man, he still had feelings and needed some way to express them.

I found it so powerful when we went outside of the camp. We saw the reservoir where Tommy Miyaoka wrote “I LOVE MYSELF” that we discussed last year. I was so touched that he found a way to find some kind of silent resistance. This, I feel, can be taken into everyday life. Personally, I think about it every time my life gets hard. I can relieve any stress I accumulate through my outlets of expression. Though I may be put down, as long as I still have some hope, I still have not been defeated. Miyaoka’s words also reminded me to have pride in my identity. Even though he was in a country that essentially told him that Japanese were the enemy, he still loved himself. At a time where Asian hate crimes are still happening, it is important to still have pride in the culture that I come from, and to not back down from such adversity.

I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to attend Katari again this year. It was truly essential to supplement my experience last year. Last year, I was able to gain a baseline of knowledge, but this year, I was fully able to experience the things that I saw on my screen.

Hale Chiba, 21, is in his third 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 Vice President of the UCR Nikkei Student Union. He also serves on the 2023 Manzanar At Dusk Organizing Committee.

LEAD PHOTO: 2022-23 Katari students are shown here during a presentation at Childen’ Village, the orphanage at Manzanar, , November 13, 2022, at the Manzanar National Historic Site. Photo by Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee.

The views expressed in this story are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the Manzanar Committee.

The 2022-23 Katari program was funded, in part, by the George and Sakaye Aratani CARE Award from the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.

Katari Program Needs Your Support

Katari, which means, to “tell stories” in Japanese, is a self-sustaining educational project that is working to bridge the generation gap that has made it much more difficult for young Japanese Americans to teach others about the unjust incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans in American concentration camps, and other confinement sites, during World War II. Teaching others about this subject is absolutely critical given the current political climate.

We need your support to raise the funds necessary to defray the costs of lodging, meals, and transportation from the Los Angeles area to the Manzanar National Historic Site in California’s Eastern Sierra/Payahüünadü (Owens Valley). You can donate to our Katari program by sending a check to the Manzanar Committee, 1566 Curran Street, Los Angeles, California, 90026-2036. Please be sure to write “Katari” in the memo line on your check. Thank you!

The Manzanar Committee’s Official web site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may copy, distribute and/or transmit any story or audio content published on this site under the terms of this license, but only if proper attribution is indicated. The full name of the author and a link back to the original article on this site are required. Photographs, graphic images, and other content not specified are subject to additional restrictions. Additional information is available at: Manzanar Committee Official web site – Licensing and Copyright Information.

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