Thank you for your patience as I walk my Shadow Path. There is a lot going on in terms of making the Shadow Paths Tour a success--it's just not really interesting blog material for the moment. But all this behind the scenes work will hopefully translate into more blog-able and social media-friendly developments in the very near future.
Friday, April 21, 2017
Happy Friday! I was digging through the archives and found this fun video of my band and me playing Dockside, Too in Morro Bay, CA. We were so blessed to have such an enthusiastic and adorable audience that evening.
Through all the leg work, research, booking and organizing, it's always inspiring to remember the joys of touring, playing and making music. 😄
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
I've been shut away for the past couple of days typing out the interviews I had with my grandparents. They were both wary when I asked to record their accounts of the camps, but it wasn't so much that they didn't want to talk to me about it. It boiled down to:
- They didn't think there was much to tell
- They didn't want their lives all over the internet.
Now, I can understand number 2, though I find it an interesting sentiment given how freely my generation posts to the internet, and I have been doing my best to share their stories in a respectable fashion without revealing too much... But number 1 almost made me laugh. There had to be something to tell.
Maybe it was just my profiteering songwriter side looking to strike a mine of gritty details that I could weave into songs, but I was convinced there was a lot to tell, so despite many reprisals of "My Story is Very Short" and "I Don't Have Much to Tell," I managed to get them to sit down with me and simply start talking.
At first, I got facts, figures, and generic information (though it's always good to hear these things from firsthand sources)--how things were organized, where they were sent, etc. Then we went wildly off course to discuss all the exciting adventures that were had after leaving camp (more on this later). And then, finally, once they were comfortable, they dove into their stories from camp.
They talked about how dusty their barracks got, how cold the winters were, how hot the summers were. They told me about the college-age men who would play football with a loaf of bread, of brains mixed into their scrambled eggs, of miraculously passing Geometry. They told me about chiggers, and puddles with snakes lurking in them, of cramped apartments and train rides with the shades pulled down, of the discrimination of strangers and the kindness of neighbors.
Listening back, it struck me how much their stories focused on the details and the actions of the people involved, and how very little they commented about how these events made them feel. In songwriting, we are taught to "show not tell", so in that sense they did indeed provide me with a songwriting goldmine...
But on a different level, emotional removal is an interesting thing to observe. I kept thinking about what would have happened if EO 9066 came out when I was twelve or fifteen (how old my grandparents were when they were relocated), or if it came out today. How would I respond? How would my contemporaries respond? And would we come out of the experience--if we weren't able to top it--saying that there wasn't much to tell? Would our stories today be as un-colored as my grandparents' stories?
I know that age plays a huge role in how my grandparents experienced camp, but I think I was expecting there to be more emotion. Anger, hurt, sorrow--something. And I'm not sure if that's the social climate right now shaping my expectations or if it's the social climate from the 1940's shaping their experience of the camps and/or their response to my questioning, or if it's some mixture of both that makes both sides seem puzzling to the other--me wondering why they don't have stronger emotions to express and them wondering why I'm asking about things that happened so far in the past.
...As I type this, I begin to realize why I personally never really felt emotionally connected to their stories of the camp...
...And so the project goes on...
Friday, April 14, 2017
Manzanar. Tulelake. Minidoka. Topaz. Heart Mountain. Granada. Rohwer. Jerome. Gila River. Poston.
I've been repeating the names like some twisted mantra to keep me focused on my mission. They were the first pieces of information I collected, some of them dusty but familiar to my ears and some completely new. I committed them to memory. I found them on the map. I traced the highways and invisible roads that connected them.
And from these concentration camp locations, I found the nearest big cities. And start imagining how the landscape changed while driving from one to the next, and who would be sitting at the bar in towns I had yet to learn existed, and how often we would need to stop for gas...
And let's not forget Crystal City. We can't forget Crystal City.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
This August, I will be hitting the road with my band and a videographer, and travel to each of the Japanese-American internment camp sites, playing shows along the way. The tour will take us from California all the way to Arkansas with multiple stops in the states we pass through. Needless to say, I'm super excited!
I'll post a video going into some of the details of the tour this Friday, so be sure to keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, check out this flashy Shadow Paths Tour Announcement Video! 😉
Friday, March 31, 2017
I think before the order came out that we all had to leave the west coast, more active Japanese leaders of the communities were being rounded up and sent to camps. They had special camps for those people. In fact, they were the first camps that they built to get all the leaders and anyone they thought was a spy or working for the Japanese government or whatever they were all being rounded up.
So the Buddhist church leaders, a big majority of them were rounded up. I’m not sure if the priests and ministers were being rounded up too or not, but they were one of the first to be rounded up and they were being sent to these camps. And the poor rest of the families they had to fend for themselves. And anybody that they thought were somehow involved with Japan, or sending money or handling finances and things [was also rounded up].
But still, before any of this all this all happened, people that was of army age they were all still being drafted at that time. My stepbrother was in the service, there were a lot of people in the service and a lot of them had a rough time. This fellow that ran a restaurant that we used to go eat, he was saying that when the president or someone came to visit the camp, they were all rounded up and kept away from the rest of the troops, and they were part of the military service.
And then there were some [that were] educated in Japan, came here, drafted, but then [they weren't] fluent in English—[they] could speak English and understand it, but [they weren't] raised over here—so [they were] discharged from the service. See there are some like that, but others they kept in the service. You don’t know what their reasons are.
And then, when we were in camp, I know we were there more than a year, the government came out with a questionnaire for all the residents—whether you were going to be loyal to the US or not. It was a yes or no question. So, a big majority said yes, they were going to be not loyal to Japan, but loyal to the US. All the people that said no, they were being kept at Tulelake, and the people that said yes were all being shipped out of Tulelake. [Grandma] was sent to Arkansas, I was sent to Utah, others went to these other camps in different places. That’s what happened at the end.
But then…while I was still was in Tulelake, the Army had sent Japanese recruiters, serviceman recruiters for the language school. They came to the camps and each block, I think they visit each block, and gave a pitch for volunteering for the language school. And anybody that donated--they had all these agitators that were against the US [that] were really ostracizing.
That was the beginning of trying to recruit people for the US Army Language School. That’s what they found was important, that they had these interpreters. There was a lot that volunteered. And there were others that were already in the military services. If they were fluent in Japanese, they were transferred to the language school. That was it for people at camp.
(An excerpt from my first interview with my grandpa, January 14, 2017)
1. I should do more research into who was rounded up first and where they were sent. I have found some sources that have said that the community leaders were sent to Crystal City, but I still have to do the real research.
2. Can you imagine how easy it would be to see who is sending money to whom and trace people's relations and actions nowadays given the internet and social media?
3. If you don't trust your soldiers, why keep them enlisted? Also, the hypocrisy! We've decided that you're no longer considered a citizen and we don't trust you, but please work for us? I understand why people who volunteered to help the US Army Language School were given a hard time.
4. On the other hand, that is some strong loyalty if despite being branded essentially a criminal you want to help the people who are imprisoning you. I can empathize with that attitude...
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
I had a blast opening for Poeina and The Letters Home this weekend! Thank you to everyone who came out and to The Cinema Bar for having us. It's always a pleasure. (Also, it was the first time I ever played a show with my hair in a beehive...Thank you Omar of The Letters Home for capturing it in action!)
Stay tuned for more updates and show dates!
Friday, March 24, 2017
Fear not, Crystal City. You are not forgotten, even though your name isn’t listed on most lists of Japanese American internment camps, even though I didn’t know you were a place I should visit until I found you mentioned once in a display at the Japanese American National Museum, and even though I had to pass you by on this trip to Texas despite planning on passing through your borders. I have added you to my tour and adjusted the route to make sure I see you and whatever remnants of your history you have to offer.
It makes me wonder what else I’m not aware of because it was never written down.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
A GIANT thank you to Austin! I had such a great time experiencing Texas and my first SXSW. It was definitely slightly overwhelming—so much music, so many people, so many miles to travel—but through the entire adventure, everyone was welcoming and kind, and the barbecue was incredible, and we had a fun showcase.
Shout-out to Vinyl Cuts. Thank you for putting together such a beautiful event for us! Can’t wait to come back next year.
And of course, shout-out to AndromiDen Recordings for getting myself and MetronOhm out to SXSW!
Until next time, Texas, thanks for the memories!
Friday, March 10, 2017
Family trees. I wasn't sure how much I wanted to get into them. Focusing on four people's experiences--my grandparents' experiences--seemed like enough for one tour without giving much thought to all their siblings and cousins. But, my dad's parents have already passed on, so I have to hear their stories in other ways. And since my aunt so kindly sent over their family trees, why not start there and get a sense of their connections and rough outlines of their lives?
I wasn't entirely sure what insights I would gain from looking at their trees--I certainly wasn't expecting it to be an emotional experience--but as I looked at all the names (and sometimes pictures!) and all the connections, I was overwhelmed with the sense that I have no idea who my family is. All of these people, descended from the same two people, producing all of these other people, and I could recognize maybe twenty of them. I guess that's what happens when people have lots of children...
And then, there was the feeling of awe seeing the dates that my grandparents were born, and the dates that their parents were born, and the dates that their parents were born. And the locations! I never knew that one of my great grandfathers was born in Hiroshima, or that my great great grandmother died while imprisoned at Amache, or that my family has history in Hollister and Santa Rosa. I'll have to figure out how to add these places to my tour!
I never knew how much my grandma looked like her mother, or that my brother inherited my great great grandfather's cheekbones. It was like discovering parts of me that had been covered in thick layers of dust, or buried in the ground long ago. I could almost feel the ancient past running through my veins. I wondered who else I was connected to. I wondered how far back I could trace, who were these people whose blood I shared? What were they like? Were they musical? What view did they see when they walked out their front door?
And then there was a sense of deep sorrow and a longing to hug my grandparents again, tell them that I love them and ask them for their stories in person.