Children of the Camps

More than 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned behind barbed wire during World War II…
…over half were children.

“Until we can talk about the experience and make a connection with our grief and anger, we will each still be unconsciously trying to get out of our own personal camp. Our experience was unique, but it’s an example of the broader experience of racism, how it permeates lives, and how we each attempt to survive it. It’s about trauma and suffering, but it also is about our strength.”
– Dr. Satsuki Ina, PhD

The Children of the Camps documentary captures the experiences of six Americans of Japanese ancestry who were confined as innocent children to internment camps by the U.S. government during World War II. The film vividly portrays their personal journey to heal the deep wounds they suffered from this experience.

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Children of the Camps is a one-hour documentary that portrays the poignant stories of six Japanese Americans who were interned as children in US concentration camps during W.W.II. 

The film captures a three-day intensive group experience, during which the participants are guided by Dr. Satsuki Ina, a university professor and therapist, through a process that enables them to speak honestly about their experiences and the continuing impact of internment on their lives today.

Dr. Ina, who was born in the Tule Lake internment camp, has developed and conducted this workshop for more than ten years for other former child internees.

The workshop participants openly share their pain as they watched their parents endure, how their families were torn apart, and ultimately how they survived in a world that had accused and ostracized them at a young age simply because of the color of their skin.

Through the telling of their personal stories, we witness an unfolding of the long-held trauma of their early childhood experience. The once secret and darkly shrouded private suffering becomes clearer and better understood, thus clearing the way for self-acceptance and new possibilities.

More generally, the documentary sheds light on the deeply damaging personal impact of racism and offers an opportunity for viewers to understand the consequences of growing up as a scapegoated minority group member.

Woven through the program are Dr. Ina’s insights, historical photographs and film footage, and an overview narrated by award-winning poet and author Lawson Fusao Inada.
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Participants:

Marion Kanemoto was born in Seattle, WA. She was interned at Minidoka, Idaho. She was transported by ship to be exchanged for prisoners of war in Japan at the age of 14. She moved to Sacramento in 1970 where she worked as a school nurse for the Elk Grove School District. Retired in 1988, she began her work as a bilingual interviewer with the Florin Japanese American Citizen League’s Oral History Project. She received redress in 1996 after initially being denied due to her status in the prisoner of war exchange program.

Toru Saito was born in San Francisco’s Japantown. He was interned in Topaz, Utah, at the age of 4. He is a retired mental health care worker. He currently performs with his musical group called the Shanghai Bar Band, playing 30’s and 40’s music. He is married to Bessie Masuda and resides in Berkeley, California.

Bessie Masuda was born in Stockton,CA and raised in Lodi. She was interned in Crystal City, Texas, at the age of 12. She is currently an artist working in San Francisco, California, and is a mother and grandmother. She is married to Toru Saito and lives in Berkeley, California.

Howard Ikemoto was born in Sacramento, CA. He was interned in the Tule Lake camp in California at the age of 2. He has 2 daughters, Reiko and Amy, and lives near Santa Cruz with his lifelong partner, Julie Connell.

Ruth Okimoto was born in Japan and arrived in southern California with her family as Christian missionaries before the age of 1. She was interned in Poston, Arizona, at the age of 6. She recently earned her doctorate from the California School of Professional Psychology researching organizational psychology. Currently she is retired from corporate life and balancing her independent contract work with her art. Her drawings and paintings reflect the psychological and political impact of her life in camp. She lives with her husband in Berkeley, California.

Richard Tatsuo Nagaoka was born in camp at Rohwer, Arkansas. After the war he grew up on the family farm near Lodi. Today he is a self-employed grape doctor in the Napa Valley. He also designs lamps and functional art. His pieces appear in the Sundance and the Smith and Hawkins catalog. He has appeared on occasional television commercials and industrial print and video. He has renewed his connection with four generations as he is a father, a son and a grandfather.