“Images: America’s Concentration Camps” Revisits the Horror of Japanese Internment


Learning Resources Center Deputy Director Sheryl Kunisaki holds “Lone Heart Mountain” by Estelle Ishigo. The book tells the story of his stepfather Kenji Kunisaki having to go to Heart Mountain, one of the West Coast concentration camps during World War II. The book is on display and can be borrowed from the library. (Anthony Lipari | The Union)

A young girl stands behind barbed wire.

Behind her, mountains lined with greenery fill the background.

In between, hundreds of people watched in all directions with watchtowers above them.

The girl in the artwork, titled “Segregated”, is Ruby Mochidome.

She was at Rohwer Concentration Camp as a result of executive policy promulgated by the Roosevelt administration which evacuated all persons deemed a national security threat to the West Coast further inland.

Executive Order 9066, signed on February 19, 1942, ordered that all people of Japanese ancestry be deported and placed in concentration camps.

Because of the close-up of Ruby Mochidome, mother of exhibit organizer Debra Mochidome, "Separate" by Alvin Takamori stands out in "Images: American concentration camps" exhibition at the Schauerman Library.  The exhibition will end on December 9.  (Anthony Lipari | The Union)
Because of the close-up of Ruby Mochidome, mother of exhibit organizer Debra Mochidome, Alvin Takamori’s “Segregated” stands out in the “Images: America’s Concentration Camps” exhibit at the Schauerman Library. The exhibition will end on December 9. (Anthony Lipari | The Union)

“Images: America’s Concentration Camps,” commemorates the 80th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066. The exhibit is currently open at the Schauerman Library and will end December 9.

Ruby’s daughter, Debra Mochidome is a middle school teacher and organizer of the exhibit. She said the impact of internment on Japanese-American citizens is important for people to understand and remember.

“It’s important for us to remember that this is, unfortunately, a part of American history that is really dark,” Mochidome said. “We have to be very vigilant… so that this kind of thing never happens again.”

The exhibit features art from many individuals, including pieces from Mochidome’s husband and retired California State University Dominguez Hills history professor Donald Hata. His late wife, Nadine Ishitani, previously served as the college’s vice president of academic affairs.

The exhibit also includes a library with novels about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Learning Resources Center deputy director Sheryl Kunisaki said her stepfather is in Estelle Ishigo’s “Lone Heart Mountain,” one of the books on display.

While reading "Lonely Heart Mountain" by Estelle Ishigo, Deputy Director of the Learning Resources Center Sheryl Kunisaki said Kenji Kunisaki, her stepfather, was featured in the book.  It is displayed with the "Images: American concentration camps" exhibition at the library.  The exhibition will end on December 9.  (Anthony Lipari | The Union)
Reading “Lone Heart Mountain” by Estelle Ishigo, deputy director of the Learning Resources Center, Sheryl Kunisaki said Kenji Kunisaki, her father-in-law, was featured in the book. It is on display with the “Images: America’s Concentration Camps” exhibition at the library. The exhibition will end on December 9. (Anthony Lipari | The Union)

Kunisaki’s stepfather, Kenji Kunisaki, was forced to leave for Heart Mountain, one of the American concentration camps. He wasn’t even allowed to bring his dog, so he had to put his faithful companion to sleep.

According to page five of ‘Lone Heart Mountain’: “They paid the bill, then took their trusty pet home and laid him in a small grave under a tree while Kenji watched with wide, dry eyes. with questions no one could answer.”

Kenji remembers a white woman at camp, who was with her husband. This lady was Estelle Ishigo.

Ishigo had no children, however, she invited them to her barracks for snacks. One of the snacks was “sembei”, a Japanese rice cracker.

“For some reason she had access to good snacks,” Kunisaki said.

Kunisaki said his favorite piece of art was Alvin Takamori’s “Remembering…To Stop History From Repeating Itself.” The artwork is about the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, an event filled with memorial services, speakers and cultural performances.

"Remember... To prevent history from repeating itself" by Alvin Takamori hangs to the right of the "Images: American concentration camps" exposure. "I was not forced to leave my home but my family members were all," said Director of Learning Resources Sheryl Kunisaki.  (Anthony Lipari | The Union)
Alvin Takamori’s ‘Remembering…To Keep History From Repeating Itself’ hangs to the right of the ‘Images: America’s Concentration Camps’ exhibit. “I wasn’t forced to leave my home, but my family members were all forced out,” said learning resources director Sheryl Kunisaki. (Anthony Lipari | The Union)

“I was not forced by our government to leave my home, but my family members were all,” Kunisaki said. “So I feel part of the collective responsibility to share with others what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II.”

The artwork features banners from the 10 West Coast concentration camps, including Manzanar and Heart Mountain. Hundreds of people gather to witness the pilgrimage and behind the audience are mountains that stretch beyond the clouds.

Outreach Librarian Camila Jenkin is the coordinator of exhibits like this at the library. She said her favorite part of the exhibit was not just the artwork, but the people she met who are featured in the exhibit.

“The people whose family members are pictured here were standing in our lobby,” Jenkin said. “It’s pretty wild.”

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