Friday, December 26, 2008

Mo Marumoto, a Washington Pioneer who Opened Government's Door to Pacific/Asian Americans

His name is well known in the U.S. but he possibly goes unrecognized in Japan. William H. Marumoto, better known as "Mo". His middle name is Hideo, but it was seldom used I guess. He had an unexpected massive heart attack and passed away in late November at the age of 73.

His funeral service was at the McLean Bible Church (MBC), Virginia. MBC is famous for its online Internet Campus which features live video services with music and message as well as an online community. I came to know the Internet Campus through my Toastmaster friend I met at the Washington Convention a few years ago. Sherrie is her name. She came from Taiwan and works at the National Institute of Health in Bethseda and holds a PhD. She is in the MBC Choir and I saw her singing at the MBC Cultural Diversity Celebration (CDC) program awhile ago.
MBC Diversity Culture
Celebration Choir

She wrote to me recently that she sang for Jean, one of the choir members, Mo Marumoto's wife (really a small world). She reported that it was a two hour Memorial Service. Elaine Caho, Secretary of Labor, as well as Norman Y. Mineta, former Secretary of Transportation, delivered their messages, mentioning how Mo welcomed them when they first arrived in Washington DC as young professionals.

Marumoto received more than 25 national professional awards for his work in higher education, fundraising, direct mail campaigns, events management, and publications. In June 2008, he was honored by President George W. Bush with the Lifetime President's Volunteer Service Award. His staff had estimated that he had contributed more than 40,000 volunteer hours to 35 local, regional and national non-profit organizations over a 50-year period. Mo sat on numerous boards and commissions, including the Board of Trustees of the Japanese American National Museum and Whittier College, of which he was a graduate.

He was very enthusiastic in doing promotions. He was also a member of the Wolf Trap Foundation of the Performing Arts, the Asian and American Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), and the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging. Marumoto is listed in Who's Who in America and Who's Who in Finance. He was named in the spring of 1996 by Avenue Asian Magazine as one of the 500 most influential Asian Americans in the country. He was also named by Asian Weekly as one of the most influential Asian Americans in Washington, D.C. He was the first Asian American to become a member of the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.

I found a couple of harsh and sour discrediting notes. First is his Watergate connections because he had an office next to E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, and he worked under H. R. Haldeman, John D. Erlichman and Charles Colson, all of whom did prison time for their roles in the Watergate cover-up scandal that rocked the nation and culminated with the resignation of a disgraced Nixon. Mo, too, was subpoenaed and grilled by the investigation committees but was not indicted. The other negative situation was the "Brown Mafia" charge against him. I'm sure he would relentlessly discard these charges, as he was so proud of his placement records of minorities in senior level government jobs. He attained some records that have never been broken since.

He was a Nisei, born in the Santa Ana area, and he and his family were herded with other Niseis during WWII into stables at the Santa Ana Race Track. He was later relocated by train under the eye of an armed FBI agent, to an internment camp in Gila Bend, AZ, where the family remained until the war ended. Mo wrote: "That was my first and most unforgettable experience with the Federal Government."

Mo graduated from Whittier College and was actively involved in alumini relations at Whittier for 10 years. He also worked in planning and development positions with UCLA and the California Institute of the Arts. Mo moved to D.C. in 1969 as assistant to the Secretary of the Development of Health, Education and Welfare, responsible for recruiting senior executives for the office of Education. In 1970, Mo was appointed a presidential aide responsible for filling cabinet and sub-cabinet positions.

The following is my favorite quote from Mo:

"One of the myths some folks have is an overestimation of their own worth. When you're Presidential Aides such as Jim Baker or Dick Darman, you may expect six-figures. But those folks are the exceptions. Out of 5000 political appointees, probably less than 2% get the six-figure salaries when they leave government."

I read Mo's interview in an Japanese article by the Japan Commerce Association of Washington DC (JCAW) in April this year. He lamented that most Japanese Americans prefer professional jobs such as doctors, lawyers and engineers, and avoid entering politics. He was of the opinion that more Pacific Asian Americans need to show dedicated interest in becoming politicians in the near future, in view of the increasing trends such as 30-40% of UC graduates belong to ethnic groups. Mo has said that the population of Pacific Asian groups is almost 17 million, which is approximately 4-5% of the U.S. population. Yet politically, they were well under-represented - almost one one-hundreth of one percent.

He gave advice to Japanese businessmen coming to Washington and major U.S. municipal cities which stated:
  1. Voluntarily get involved in any non-profit organizations, hopefully in major roles, and show resolute leadership.
  2. Promote Pacific Asian Americans to key and executive positions of the subsidiary company
  3. Think philanthropy as a mission of corporate existence in the local community.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Japanese Brazilians

Professor Morimo of Chuo University wrote to me that he ordered my translation of the book Dear Miss Breed for his multicultural education class. I appreciated the endorsement. He published a book in June this year titled, The Theory and Practice of the Studies of Japanese Immigration from Publisher Akashi Shoten.

Professor Morimo also suggested I send a copy to Kokei Uehara, President of the Brazilian Society of Japanese Culture. I followed his advice. A few days ago, I received a photograph of President Uehara holding the book I sent and felt very honored.

According to a book written by Yasunori Maruyama, Professor Emeritus of Komazawa University, The Strength of the Japanese Brazilians over 100 years (2008), the life of President Uehara is the embodiment of the Japanese immigrant saga. He left Okinawa when he was 9 years old, accompanied by his uncle and families on board the vessel Santos, in order to join his elder brothers who immigrated four years earlier. Kokei was the youngest of 8 children. (They had not seen their parents because of the war and their father died in Okinawa during the war.) His brothers had cotton and coffee farms in the City of Olympia, 500 kilometers from Sao Paulo.

While engaged in farming to help his brothers, Kokei was sent to school. Kokei excelled in school, conquering the language handicap. Medicine was his preference, but his brothers who had supported him, suggested "pursue engineering or back to the farms." Thus he chose fluid mechanics at Sao Paulo University and had a chance to work with a French research team. It was recommended that he study at the Sorbonne University. After graduating, he designed dams, including the Itaipu dam over the Parana River. He was sent to UNESCO as a Brazilian representative from 1976 to 1979. He taught at Sao Paulo University for many years. He was chosen as the most popular professor in the engineering department for 13 consecutive years.

He served as the chairman of the Japanese Immigration Centennial celebration of the Japanese immigrants to Brazil. When His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Naruhito visited Sao Paulo, President Uehara served as the guide to the Prince. He visited Tokyo in April this year and gave a talk at Hotel Okura. Ryukyu Shimpo reported that he said he would construct the Japan-Brazil Composite Center as the place most young men would like to take their lovers and where people can learn the Japanese culture from making Miso soup to enjoying the Noh Play. The center will be a twin-tower building of 20 floors, with a total space of 93,600 square meters, costing 70 million dollars. This project, however, is reportedly held in abeyance at the moment.

The Japanese immigrants totaled 250,000, combining 180,000 in pre-war days and 70,000 in post war days. Currently, Japanese-Brazilians total one and half million in Brazil.


In 2000, I had a chance to tour the Itaipu dam. The dam's structures stretch almost 9 kilometers and reach a height of more than 200 meters. The generating capacity is 12,600 megawatts - enough to supply both a quarter of Brazil's electricity needs and 90% of Paraguay. The reservoir is twice the size of Biwa Lake of Japan. It's a wonder of the modern world. I bought a Itaipu cap to wear on the day of the visit, and went around by an Itaipu courtesy bus. I remember the tour-guide emphasized their care for the environment and caution they exercised in protecting nature as is. There was a place where I straddled the border between Brazil and Paraguay.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Japanese Canadians

The 2008 Toastmaster International Convention was held in Calgary, Canada. I made plans to attend the convention early this year. My plan included a trip to Vancouver to visit Nikkei Place, Burnaby, on the way to Calgary, and donate a copy of my translation of Dear Miss Breed book. Nichola Ogiwara at Nikkei Place responded that she could arrange an opportunity for me to give a talk that day if I so wished. I answered that would be a terrific idea.

My talk on Joanne Oppenheim's Dear Miss Breed and what motivated me to translate the book was to start at 2:00 PM on Saturday August 8, 2008. My son-in-law Raymond took a few days off to accompany me from Kirkland, Washington to Vancouver, Canada. We thought we had enough time to arrive and refresh ourselves before the meeting. Was I wrong!

It took over an hour to cross the Canadian border! There was a long line of cars ahead of us and only three gates were open. It was almost like the Mexican border on weekends. Then I was instructed to go inside customs to get my passport stamped.

Nichola was already up on the second floor, probably explaining the "no show" of the scheduled speaker. Her face showed much relief the moment she saw me racing in.

I had to jump start my talk to the audience of about a dozen Caucasians as well as Japanese Canadians, evenly split. I'm glad we made it and I feel my speech was well received.

Nichola was kind enough to give me a guided tour of Nikkei Place after my talk. She also gave me a book about Japanese Canadian concentration camps during World War II.

About 22,000 Japanese Canadians were sent to the British Columbia interior, 100 miles or 160 kilometers away from the coastline, where a dozen concentration camps were located. About ten percent of them were sent to Tashme Camp, the famous of them all, located 14 miles east of Hope. The name "Tashme" came from three Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) security commissioners, TAlor, SHirras and MEad.

The book mentions a small, beautiful Japanese friendship garden that was built in Tashme in the summer of 1991 dedicated to all the Japanese Canadians encamped there. My son-in-law and I were originally planning to stay in Hope but later changed plans and had to leave for Golden. If I knew about the garden prior to the visit, we surely would have taken the time to visit and see the garden.

I might add that I bought and watched a White Pine Pictures film WATARI DORI: A Bird of Passage produced by Linda Ohama. The story is about the reunion of Irene Tsuyuki, a camp school child, and Winifred Awmack, her school teacher, 50 years after the war. It is another beautiful story that parallels the experience of Miss Clara Breed. I can donate this film to a Japanese library upon request (first come first serve).

Friday, August 29, 2008

Manzanar Pilgrims

"As I came to understand what Manzanar had meant, it gradually filled me with shame for being a person guilty of something enormous enough to deserve that kind of treatment. In order to please my accusers, I tried, for the first few years after our release, to become someone acceptable. I both succeeded and failed. By the age of seventeen I knew that making it, in terms I had tried to adopt, was not only unlikely, but false and empty. .... It took me another twenty years
to accumulate the confidence to deal with what the equivalent experience would have to be for me."
- from Farewell to Manzanar (Ten Thousand Voices) by Jeanne Wakamatsu Houston and James D. Houston

I rented a car in Los Angeles in the summer of 2008 and traveled for two days to Manzanar where more than 10,000 Japanese Americans were interned during WWII. About 250 miles, or 405 kilometers, one way to get there. Drove the familiar Cal 14 Highway that I took to see Cal State flower poppies some years ago. Passed Lancaster and Mojave and I stayed at Ridgecrest overnight to take it easy. Mojave is the gateway to Death Valley. Right after Mojave, I stopped the car to photograph the Red Rock Canyon cliffs, with colorful layers of pink, red and brown, which I took as a welcome sign. Ridgecrest has many hotels and gas stations as my American son-in-law told me before my departure. I asked the hotel clerk, as I checked in, about the town population. 20,000 was her answer. She said that more than 10,000 people work at the Naval Weapons Test Center in China Lake. The temperature read 97 degrees F (36 degrees C) at 4:00 PM.

I started at 7:30AM the following day as I was told I would have more than an hour drive. I aimed to finish my visit before it got hotter. Highway 395 leads to Mammoth Lake, the ski resort. It's a scenic back road with snow covered Sierra Nevada ranges. Sequoia National Park on the the other side of the ranges. Slowed down as I entered the town of Lone Pine, 10 miles south of Manzanar. While wondering where the exit might be, the sign "turn left here for Manzanar" suddenly appeared. It was a two way road. I yielded to cars from the opposite side. A dusty and bumpy road finally led to Manzanar. The sentry stands on both sides, and you face an awesome Mount Williamson in the back. I thought I was the first to arrive there but there were a few visitors waiting already ahead of me.

Manzanar is in the Owen Valley. In 1872, a severe earthquake buried Owen Lake. However, the snow-fed streams form Owen River and the local people cultivated apples. Manzanar means apple orchard. The City of Los Angeles with an increasing population, sought sources of water and built a long aqueduct from Owen. The orchards disappeared in the 1930s. The Manzanar internees siphoned water from the aqueduct and cultivated vegetable farms.

Manzanar possessed many photographs of the Japanese incarceration as compared with other detention camps and I wondered why. At one time, cameras were forbidden as they were considered to be a spy act. The chivalry of the great Sierra Club photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984), as well as the arduous camera-manship of Toyo Miyatake, and others succeeded in getting the ban removed.

In the summer of 1943, Adams received a visit from Ralph Merritt, an old Sierra Club friend, and then the Director of the Manzanar War Relocation Camp, in his Yosemite home. Ralph was concerned with the sudden arrival of 10,000 interned Japanese Americans and the impact on the community and the environment. He wanted Adams to monitor the impact but said: "I cannot pay you a cent, but I can put you up and feed you, plus gas for transportation." Adams took the job and visited Manzanar. Not just once. Four times! I saw Adam's photos titled Owen Valley produced before the war started. I figured the valley was one of his favorite places.

"My first impression of Manzanar" he wrote in his autobiography, "was of a dry plain on which appeared a flat rectangular layout of shacks, ringed with towering mountains. The shacks created a mood that was not relieved by the entrance gate and its military guards. ... However, the interiors of the shacks, most softened with flowers and inimitable taste of the Japanese for simple decoration, revealed not only the family living spaces but all manner of small enterprises: a printing press that issued the Manzanar Free Press, music and art studios, a library, several churches, a clinic hospital, business offices, and so on... I was profoundly affected by Manzanar."

The photographic essay and book Born Free and Equal by Ansel, awed as a photographer with God's eye was published in late 1944. However, it did not draw the expected attention to the chaos of war. It is only very recently that the book back in print attracted renewed enthusiastic attention.

Jeanne Wakamatsu Houston, the author of Farewell to Manzanar, was eight years old when interned directly from Los Angeles, and left the camp at the age of ten. Her scars, however, remained quite a long time, as I quoted above. Her father, who owned a fishing boat in Los Angeles, had been arrested and sent to the Federal North Dakota prison in suspicion of providing oil to the Japanese submarine that attacked a beach near Los Angeles. When his suspicion was cleared, he was sent to Manzanar to join his family.

Jeanne returned to Manzanar, accompanied by her family, in l972 from Santa Cruz where she and her husband taught at the University of California. She showed her sharp observation as an internist rather than a casual visitor. The barbed wire surrounded the housing area of 550 acres (2,250,000 square kilometers), but the original camp which included farm and cattle feeding land, was ten times that size. She spotted a white obelisk gleaming in the distance and marking a subtle line where the plain begins gradually to slope upward into the alluvial fan that becomes the base of the mountains. She visualized the ruins of a variety of gardens handmade; everywhere designated as firebreaks, which impressed Ansel Adams. She heard ghostly voices of the deceased in the wind. She even remembered the insistence of her father to leave "in style". He went to the town of Lone Pine and brought back a salvaged blue Nash four-door with two flat tires. He honked and cruised around to show off. Jeanne wrote that the car sounded like a boxer working out on a flabby punching bag.

The only remaining building was the senior high school auditorium. In l972, the auditorium was the servicing station for Los Angeles City Power and Water. In 1992, this auditorium was turned into the National Park museum and Manzanar became the national historic site to symbolize ten detention camps. The objective was to tell the future generation the importance of preserving civil rights, not to repeat the same mistake.

Bob Lefsetz is a music critic and analyst who lives in Santa Monica. He writes the "Lefsetz Letters" on the net and has a large readership. In April 2008, he planned his birthday celebration in Mammoth and there he went with his wife and friends. But his plan was foiled. The ski slopes were rock solid ice, akin to skiing on a washboard. They decided to descend the mountains. After Bishop, between towering peaks and the desert, trying to see through the bugs embedded on the windshield, he remembered Manzanar and stopped the car. He had driven by Manzanar so many times without stopping. It was six o'clock and the place was to close in half an hour. "The ranger suggested that we either see exhibits or film. We chose film. It's the power of film. It took us to another time and place. They emigrated - built new lives - until the U.S. Government took it all away. Parents sold possessions for pennies on the dollar. Incarcerated to the California desert - blistering hot and bone-cold in winter - wind never stopped. All the toilets in a row, no dividers in between. With the war over, the prisoners were given a ticket wherever they decided and the princely sum of $25. Visited cemetery before driving out. How many lives ruined and lost for an unjust, ridiculous cause. No Japanese American was ever convicted. If this is the American dream, I want no part of it. Most Americans do not travel to Manzanar unless they are skiers." Lefsetz urged, "do visit Manzanar and study this history to prevent a similar tragedy in the future."

I saw on the net many responses from the readers including those of the Japanese Americans in question.

After the museum and driving around the camp, I spent some time praying in front of the memorial tower. Maybe 20 minutes or so. Cars came, stopped, some walked to the tower, retreated, and left. One of them asked me what is meant by the character on the stone. No English explanation. To console the spirit of the dead and pray for their eternal peace. I exchanged conversation with him. He said he came from the south, not too far away. Seems an American youth of sincerity. I gave my email address saying if you come up with anything about Manzanar, write to me. I said "I will promise to answer."

It was in 1963 that President Kennedy spoke to university students a few month before he was assassinated. "What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? .... Not the peace of the grave or the security of slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living and the kind of that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and to build a better life for their children - not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time. "

I heard the assassination news in Manhattan while working. "Impossible" was my cry and tears rolled down my face to the floor.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Part III: Translating Dear Miss Breed

I visited the Museum again in 2004 and the Miss Breed Corner was established with a large photo. I was told that the Joanne Oppenheim had started interviewing Breed's children. I decided to wait for Oppenheim's book to be published. I saw her book two years later and found it truly inspirational.

I was determined to translate Joanne Oppenheim's Dear Miss Breed into Japanese for the young Japanese readers so that they could learn about what transpired. I look forward to the day when the Japanese boys and girls acquire enough English language skills so they can fully appreciate the author's original text.

I wanted them to know when they are as young as Miss Breed's "children" were, that there was a remarkable librarian named Miss Breed who loved the young disciplined Japanese Americans and gave them strength and inspiration by tirelessly sending them books. These interned children were confined and isolated, sent away to remote concentration camps. A collection of letters written by Miss Breed's "children" would surely strike the hearts of the Japanese young readers.

I expressed my wish to be a translator both to the author and publisher as soon as Dear Miss Breed was published in April 2006. The publisher replied in June and stated that I had to go through a Japanese book underwriter/publisher. I had a number of such publishing houses in mind but I realized that they would immediately ask for a manuscript, which I didn't have. I know translation without any publisher endorsement was risky, but I felt such a strong commitment to do it anyway. There's a Japanese saying "Knowing what is right without participating in it betrays one's cowardice." I knew that there was a risk of not obtaining translation rights.

In early 2007, Dr. Keiichi Ogawa (ex-President of Yokohama City University), paid his courtesy visit to the San Diego City Library, representing Yokohama City Library, since San Diego and Yokohama are sister cities. He happened to witness the 100th birthday celebration of Clara Breed, the Head Librarian, and he was presented Joanne Oppenheim's book by Anna Tatar, the current Library Director. He read the book upon his return to Japan and he introduced "Miss Breed" in the local Kanagawa newspaper. The paper stirred a lot of interest and many expressed ardent wishes to read it in Japanese. I was about half way finished with the translation when I found out about this interest. I redoubled my efforts with the help of compassionate friends like Mrs. Teiko Uemura (ex-Kumamoto Toastmaster, now Hachioji Toastmaster) and Mrs. Shida's group in Hino, Tokyo which was my home before I moved to Kitakyushu.

I had finished two-thirds of the book in August 2007. I sent the first third of the translated manuscript out in May / June 2007 as a sample to find a publisher. I sent it to several publishers without much luck. Then I saw a translation of Michael Moore's book published by Kashiwa. Encouraged, I sent Kashiwa a copy and they showed interest. By October, the full translation was completed and submitted. The first proofs arrived April. The next three months were spent mostly finishing the bibliography, indexing, more proofreading, translating Joanne's preface to the Japanese readers, ...etc. The book was finally released on June 25, 2008.

The publisher presented the translated book to Dr. Keiichi Ogawa, Director of Yokohama Central City Library.

His comments were:

"I am so pleased to see the accurate and faithful Japanese translation by Rio Imamura. I am refreshing the moment and my memory when I encountered the book two years ago. The book touched my heart. It was so moving and inspiring. Thank you for referring to my introduction of the book in the the local Kanagawa Newspaper. I am hoping that the younger generations will read the book from two perspectives. One is the absurdity of war, and the other is humanity, love for mankind. I hope this book will be read by many people. My hearty congratulations on the completion! Very well done!"


I wish to share the pleasure of getting the translated book published with my friends. I thought translating/publishing it into Japanese would be my way of thanking the Japanese American community for sharing the above Garden project, and for their support and cooperation in building and managing Minato Gakuen, the Saturday School for the Japanese expatriate children in the Sweetwater District. I have enjoyed the privilege of befriending many people in San Diego - Ben Sagawa, Liz and Joe Yamada, Saburo Muraoka, Moto Asakawa, Jack Hamaguchi, Don Estes, and Joyce and Bill Teague. It has been very rewarding and an honor to be involved in Clara Breed's legacy.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Part II: Clara Breed's "Children" and Letters

In l994, the year of my retirement, I returned to Japan with my wife, respecting my wife's preference to live in Japan. Our children and their families live in the U.S., so we have made it a point to visit the U.S. every year. On one such trip, I came across Clara Breed's obituary in the paper and discovered who she was (besides being a wonderful stenographer) and what she did during the war - her constant commitment to the Japanese American children during their internment through letters which she kept. Clara worked for the San Diego Library her entire life. She became Chief Librarian and at retirement was honored with various awards from the city. To my great surprise, the paper reported that many Japanese Americans attended her funeral service.

The story of Clara Breed and her students dates back to 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, and the beginning of World War II. Clara had met many Japanese American children at the library. She was in charge of handling books at the time. She noted that these Japanese Americans were diligent children with good manners. She liked them very much.

When these children were sent to the concentration camps, she asked them to write to her and she would send them books. The children thanked her for the books, adding notes about their lives in the camp and their hardships, problems, and anxieties about their future. Their letters were rather like an American version of the Diary of Anne Frank.

Clara answered every letter she received and tried to coordinate between the libraries close to the camp sites. She wrote to the State Department to reconsider the treatment of Japanese Americans in the camps. She tried hard to get visitation to the camp site to see "her" children. She was a person with an iron will who turned her ideas into action!

It occurred to me one of Clara's children was most likely among the Officers of the Japanese Friendship Garden. It turned out that Liz Yamada, who was eight years old when World War II broke out, and her sister corresponded with Clara. Liz's family lived in the Santa Ana Horse Racing stables until they were relocated to Poston, Arizona. I called Liz Yamada to ask her about these letters and Liz said she had donated all of them to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

I also met Tetsuzo "Ted" Hirasaki, who was close to Clara through Liz. Ted, the eldest boy among the interned children, was 16 years old at the start of the War. Ted enlisted with the Nisei Troops directly from camp. Despite the bitter experience of internment, almost all Japanese living in America expressed a strong desire to prove their loyalty. Many Nisei - children born in the U.S. of Japanese parentage - enlisted in the armed forces, such as the infantry of the much decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team. In all, 8,000 Japanese joined the armed forces despite the loss of their civil liberties at home. The 442nd Combat Team received many citations for bravery in l944.

I visited Ted at his home right away. Ted was working at General Dynamics. He was a man of knowledge and quite a speaker. He had an extensive vocabulary. He was saddened at Clara's death. He said he owed her a great debt of gratitude for the many things she did and wanted to preserve her legacy. Ted and others helped collect and organize the Clara Breed letters and sent them to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

In the summer of 2002, I visited the newly built Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo located in downtown Los Angeles. I found Clara's photo in the Who' s Who information, together with sample of letters to Clara from the children in the camps. Visitors have access to typewritten letter files upon request. It probably took me more than an hour to review them all. It was a pretty thick file. I would like to share am excerpt.

"Dear Miss Breed,
Thank you for sending William Saroyan's Human Comedy. I'm glad you liked the doll I handmade for you......Two things I can't take in Poston. The sand storms and the heat! Many people here have rashes to treat....The other night I had a dream. I had permission to go back to San Diego. The moment I gout out at the station, I was in a candy store... You are standing behind me. I bought 5 pounds of chocolate... and U was asking you... Would it melt before I could go back to my house?"

The letters were in the process of being sorted and digitized. The librarian assured me that by my next return visit, I should see them online. It was probably around this time that Joanne Oppenheim found the letters and decided to write a book.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Part I: Meeting Clara Breed

I wrote in the translator's notes of the Japanese edition of Dear Miss Breed, that one of my motivations in working on this book was based on the fact that Clara Breed and I worked together one time on the Japanese Garden Project in Balboa Park in the 1980s.

A Japanese Tea Pavilion with garden was built in l915 for the Pan American California Exposition in Balboa Park. It was later demolished when the San Diego Zoo was constructed. The City of San Diego had promised 10 acres (about 4 hectares) inside Balboa Park to recreate it. Will Hippen, the San Diego-Yokohama Sister City Society and the Honorary Consul General, led the formation of the nonprofit organization called Japan-U.S. Friendship Garden Society, with the slogan "Rebuild the Garden". Corporate donors were recruited including companies such as Kyocera, Sony, Union Bank of California. Many local Japanese American citizens such as Joe and Elizabeth Yamada, Roy Muraoka, Moto Asakawa and others got involved as well. Sounds so easy and simple now but it was a tough job, beginning with fund raising campaigns and detailed plans which took decades to finalize. It was a huge project. More than 20 years have elapsed since it's completion. I can proudly say that San Diego now has one of the best Japanese gardens that can compete with any of the west coast Japanese gardens.

I came to know Clara Breed from the board meetings of Officers of the U.S.-Japan Friendship Garden Society. At that time I was on the Board of Directors along with Joe and Elizabeth Yamada. Clara had been called in occasionally to substitute as Secretary when the regular Secretary was unable to attend. Perhaps she was called in by Liz Yamada, who I later learned was one of the Breed children Clara had inspired and shared affection with during the Japanese American internment camp days of World War II. Clara was a graceful woman. I commended her on the quality of minutes she produced, all taken in shorthand. She smiled and thanked me.