Saturday, April 26, 2014

Cinematize "Dear Miss Breed"!

I remember there were comments on the Internet that said "let's make Dear Miss Breed' a movie like "99 Years of Love - Japanese Americans"! It sounds like a great idea. It could be a joint Japan-U.S. production. (I'm attaching one of the comments below, which is in Japanese). The '99 years of Love - Japanese Americans' was a five-episode TV drama (Episodes – 1: America; 2: Generations; 3: Concentration Camp; 4: Japanese American Regiment; and 5: Reunion) in 2010, produced by Tokyo Broadcasting Station (TBS) commemorating its 60th Anniversary. The mini-series won the Grand Prix Prize at the 2011 Tokyo Drama Awards. The locations used were Seattle, Washington, Los Angeles and Manzanar in California. Broadcast in Japan, reportedly 20 million Japanese tuned in and saw it evoking many emotions. That's one fifth of the population and from that, I assumed that most Japanese knew where Manzanar was, as the film shows the beauty of its wilderness, and the awesome snow covered Mt. Williamson mountain range.

Written by Sugako Hashida, who created her 'war and peace' chronicle, this love story depicts a story of a family of Japanese immigrants who moved to America 99 years ago. When World War II breaks out, the family encounters racism and segregation. The two daughters, who were sent back respectively to Hiroshima and Okinawa, experience the suffering from the Atomic Bomb and Okinawa disasters. The eldest son, Ichiro, joins the 442nd and is killed in Europe.

The last reunion scene takes place at Safeco Field ballpark where survivors including the brother, sister, and nephew (second son and daughter who was sent to Okinawa and their nephew, Ichiro's son) are reunited.

If made into a movie "Dear Miss Breed" would surely be a hit in both Japan and the U.S. I feel strongly that the day may come when an inspired Japanese American film student becomes motivated to make this happen, perhaps supported by a successful Japanese American business tycoon.

In fact, there was a daring attempt to dramatize 'Dear Miss Breed' in 2007. After receiving a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program through the California State Library, San Diego City Library asked the author, Joanne Oppenheim, to create a stage version. The resulting play was performed at the San Diego Lyceum Theater for two weeks in September 2007. It was produced by Andy Lowe, a playwright with the Asian Story Theater. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to see it but my San Diego friend reported that it was a great play worthy of the book, mixed with drama, humor and laughter. I obtained the script from Joanne and contacted several school drama departments, all in vain to date. I asked Joanne if there had been any further attempts at stage production in the U.S. but the answer was sadly no. I recently found a YouTube video excerpt of the play. Please enjoy.

Cinematize "Dear Miss Breed" comment:


クララ・ブリードさんの話を映画化してほしい。。 ブリードさんは南カリフォルニアのサン・ディエゴ市の若い図書館司書 でした。第二次大戦中、強制収容された日系二世、三世の子供たちに、 本をはじめ様々な物を贈り続けました。子供たちは手紙を書きブリード さんは返事を出し続けました。

TBSドラマ「99年の愛 Japanese Americans」でも、マンザナの 収容所の子どもたちが描かれていましたね。各地の収容所内で、日系人 たちは、自分たちで学校を作って子供たちに教育を続けさせました。 ブリードさんの本も、きっと、子どもたちをどんなに支えたことでしょう。

ブリードさんは、戦後も、図書館勤務を続け、館長になりました。 戦争中の勇気ある愛の行いについて、ご自分では何にもおっしゃらなか ったそうです。でもお葬式にはたくさんの日系人が参列したとか。

「親愛なるブリードさま」(柏書房)(今村亮・訳)は2008年に 日本で翻訳が出版されました。原作は“Dear Miss Breed”(ジョアンヌ・ オッペンハイム、2006年)です。

その本は、日本人とアメリカ人にとって、貴重な歴史資料であり、興味 深いドキュメンタリーであり、心温まるドラマがたくさん潜んでいます。 日米合作の映画になりえます。私のイチオシです。

※翻訳本の在庫が断裁処分されるそうです。惜しいです。 あなたの近くの図書館にあるかどうか、確かめてみてください。

Monday, April 21, 2014

Apology to My Japanese Readers

My article “Introducing Henry Fukuhara, the annual pilgrimage artist” (Painted My Way, Riosloggers, Dec 2013) was published in “Gunjo” magazine, a literary coterie magazine in Munakata, Fukuoka. Shortly afterwards, I was bombarded with questions asking me, "Where on earth is Manzanar?"

Among post-war Japanese, I thought “Manzanar” was a very well-known concentration camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. I've come to learn that with the exception of a few people, the majority of Japanese do not know where Manzanar is. None of the maps published in Japan show the name Manzanar in California. I wrote my article with the understanding that Japanese people knew about Manzanar. Wrong! I made a serious mistake. I was very careless not to have shown the geographic location of Manzanar. Here is my answer to those who inquired about its location. “Draw a triangle connecting San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and try to find the center of the triangle. That is roughly where Manzanar is located."

I detailed the route I took in 2008 to Manzanar in my blog in English. I wrote that I rented a car at the Los Angeles International Airport and headed north on 805 and swung east a bit to Route 14 toward Mojave. I stopped at Ridgecrest, population 50,000, where the Naval Air Weapon Center employs many people. I refueled and rested, then took Route 395 North to Lone Pine. It's a well known state highway that Americans take to go to the Mammoth Lake Ski Resort. Manzanar is located just before reaching Lone Pine. There’s nothing in Manzanar but the old high school auditorium that was turned into a memorial hall and a mess hall constructed a few years ago.

There’s no public transportation to go to Manzanar. The U.S. Government picked the site because of its remote location. They transported the evacuated Japanese-Americans by bus to live in the shabby barracks constructed in a hurry. The easiest way to visit Manzanar is to join the annual Fukuhara pilgrimage tour in the spring. Otherwise, you can ask a Japanese tourist agency to organize a special group caravan, but I would advise not during summer. If you think you can drive yourself and manage the language barrier, you can follow the way I traveled from LA. The total mileage is 500 kilometers. You could start either from San Francisco or Las Vegas, but you have to be careful where to refuel. You may be driving close to the Death Valley and there are no gas stations nearby.

A few days ago, I read a Los Angeles Times article entitled “Backtrack to a sad past for former internees” wherein a group of elderly Japanese Americans recalled the time 72 years ago when they lived in horse stalls at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Two photos were shown - one with the reunion team taking a tram tour, circling the track with cameras; the other, an old photo of two men stuffing hay into bags. I found a familiar name George “Horse” Yoshinaga, who was my favorite Rafu-Shimpo columnist. I see now why he used the strange “Horse” nickname. He wrote in the article, “I got my name here. They say it’s because I smelled like a horse.”