By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Here is good news for fans of the University of Washington (UW)’s cherry trees: they will blossom next week, according to a UW news release. The iconic 31 cherry trees at the UW Quad, a gift from Japan in 1912, symbolized the friendship between the United States and Japan. If you pay attention, many more cherry trees were planted, extending to Drumheller Fountain. Those trees were the result of Tetsu Kashima’s leadership in 2014.
Kashima, professor emeritus of American Ethnic Studies, is the recipient of this year’s Order of the Rising Sun, Gold rays with Rosette, which was handed out on Mar. 9 at the Japanese Consul General’s residence.
He was recognized for “his contributions to the advancement of Japanese and Japanese Americans in the United States,” said Yoichiro Yamada, Consul General of Japan. The award was announced last November.
“Dr. Kashima has devoted his academic career to understanding Japanese American sociology and history in America,” said Yamada. “His pioneering work in Asian American Studies has been recognized both nationally and internationally, especially in the areas of Japanese American incarceration and internment during WWII, Japanese American values and interpersonal relations, and Japanese American religiosity.”
Kashima, an author, has published “Buddhism in America: The Social Organization of an Ethnic Religious Institution” and “Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment During World War II,” in addition to several journal articles.
Kashima has also taught in Japan, as a visiting professor at both Ryukoku University in Kyoto and Yamaguchi National University.
Born in California, Kashima, who received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California at San Diego, has been a UW professor since 1976. He was the Director of Asian American Studies until the program was combined with the African American Studies program and the Center for Chicano Studies, to form the Department of American Ethnic Studies in 1986.
At the UW, he has contributed to promoting reconciliation, justice, and recognition for those affected by the internment. From establishing the annual Day of Remembrance in 1997, to reflecting upon the signing of Executive Order 9066, to the Long Journey Home ceremony in 2008, Kashima was determined to recognize significant events that were long overdue.
In 2008, honorary degrees were bestowed upon 449 former Japanese American UW students who were unable to complete their studies as a result of their incarceration. Former UW President Mark Emmert presided. He said later at another occasion, “That was an excellent idea,” and regretted that the UW didn’t think of the idea sooner.
Kashima also helped to organize the 2014 celebration at the UW to commemorate the centennial of Japan’s gifting of cherry blossom trees.
According to Jeffrey M. Riedinger, vice provost for global affairs, Kashima worked quietly behind the scenes with the Consul General of Japan to further beautify the campus through a gift of 34 cherry trees. These new trees symbolize the continued relations between Japan and the United States, along with the 120-year history of Japanese and Japanese American students at the UW.
Kashima attributed the success of many of those projects to the Japanese American community. For instance, he pointed out that it was Diane Atachi who started the Cherry Blossom Tree Centennial Commemoration in 2013, but left UW later. Kashima continued the project.
Asked what he is most proud of among his list of accomplishments, Kashima said, “My honest response is to say that I cannot make such a ranking. All are memorable in different ways and all stand out with their distinctive, very positive attributes.”
“The most distinctive one, and one for which the credit belongs to the many, many persons from the UW and the Seattle Japanese American community would be the ‘UW Long Journey Home: UW Nikkei Students 1941-1942-2008 program.” On May 18, 2008, the UW conferred 449 honorary baccalaureate degrees to all Nisei men and women whose education was summarily terminated, and for which they were removed from the UW because of a World War II military order. The event was attended by over 100 former students, and their spouses, relatives, children, grandchildren, and well-wishers. All 449 Nisei became true Huskies and officially welcomed into the UW class of 2008. This redress of a WWII wrong was duplicated later at the University of California and the California State college systems, and the University of British Columbia. The UW Long Journey Home event received considerable national and international news coverage.
I still think the cherry trees will put UW on the global map for many generations to come.
Thank You, Kashima San.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.
Kashima’s acceptance speech (edited)
I recall that as 4-year-old Nisei, or American-born Japanese American, that I was sitting in Mr. Katayama’s lap while watching the Friday-night outdoors movie at the War Relocation Authority’s Topaz, UT, concentration camp in 1944 or 1945. I still smile when I recall this memory because Mrs. Katayama was sitting next to us and feeding me lots of candy.
The Katayamas’, along with most Issei, or 1st generation Japanese resident aliens, tried all they could to make life ‘regular’ for the young children in the center to protect us from the horrendous life-draining daily life that the adult Issei and older Nisei faced. After all, WE had been forced from our homes and sent to desolate areas and placed behind barb wire fences for an indeterminate time period without due process of law.
The Katayamas lost all their worldly goods, as did many other Issei. Their crime? They looked like the enemy — as did the NISEI. However, American citizens of German and Italian ancestry were not so treated even though we were at war with their ancestral homeland.
This forced removal and incarceration into primitive prisons without charge, trial, or adjudication was personally traumatic. That is, when I started teaching in 1974 at the University of California, Santa Barbara, invariably my Sansei, or 3rd generation Japanese American students, would ask me to talk more about the “camps” as we called them then.
When I asked these students why they didn’t ask their parents, they invariably replied that their parents would not talk about their camp experience except for the lousy food and weather. This was such a prevalent occurrence that I wrote a journal article in 1980 titled “Japanese American Internees Return, 1945-1955: Readjustment and Social Amnesia.”
How times have changed
First: Where once little was available about the World War II incarceration camps, except for a few academic tomes, now there are hundreds of books: stories, plays, poetry, memoirs, histories, social science analysis, and lots more. There is no longer a “social amnesia” about this American tragedy.
Second: Where once the government used euphemisms to hide the horror and cruelty of the incarceration with innocuous words, such as “evacuation,” “relocation,” and “assembly centers,” now the people are becoming accustomed to more accurate terms, such as “concentration camps,” “incarceration,” and “citizen isolation centers.”
Third: Once the centers holding pre-designated “trouble-some” aliens — comparatively fewer Japanese, German, and Italians — were never discussed or recognized. Now such centers, which are conceptually different from the incarceration camps and called internment camps were located in places, such as “Lordsburg, NM,” “Santa Fe, NM,” and “Seagoville, TX.” Here, Issei men and women and families were sequestered until the end of the war. However, at the “Crystal City, TX” internment camp, various internees were not released until 1947, or two years after the end of World War II.
These are but three change examples. Other significant actions include, of course, the Redress campaign, coupled with a token symbolic monetary payment, the 1988 Civil Liberties Act, the awarding of Presidential Medals of Freedom to Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu, and Minoru Yasui, and the 2011 Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Nisei soldiers who served in the European and the Pacific theater of war.
These significant changes were the end results of the work and dedication of many, many present day persons working to correct the World War II tragedy.
So now we come to today. My desire is to have my honor be given to all of you and to the University of Washington at all levels: from the Board of Regents, the UW President, Provosts, Deans, Chairpersons of Departments such as the Library, and especially to the American Ethnic Studies and all the University’s staff personnel for supporting our Asian American endeavors — with encouragement, advice, and assistance.
The University of Washington is a place with a large heart to match its very highly regarded academic and research reputation.
And I also believe that major credit must be given to all the Issei who suffered through the incarceration and internment experience, such as Mr. and Mrs. Katayama. Their display of courage and compassion was extraordinary during the catastrophic days of World War II.
I believe that their ability to withstand the hardships originated from their Meiji cultural values. These values were later transmitted to the Nisei generation to be resolute, resilient, and resourceful in meeting the incarceration camp experience and later life’s challenges.
Thus, I am proud of my Japanese heritage, and proud to be an American.”