Episode 3: Gardening as resilience at Manzanar

Full episode transcript available in our attempt to make this an accessible experience for all.

Confined behind barbed wire in their own country, nearly 120,000 Japanese were forced to adopt new ways of living to survive incarceration during World War II. One way they found solace was through building traditional Japanese gardens within the harsh concentration camp environment.

Host and producer Sarah Shimazaki, a person of Japanese ancestry, narrates her experience revisiting Manzanar for the 50th annual pilgrimage. She digs deep to learn how inmates asserted and emphasized their Japanese identity in the gardens, precisely when they were being confined for that very identity. 

Tune in to Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

This episode was co-produced by Resource Media’s summer intern, Marisa Orozco.

A note from host and producer Sarah Shimazaki, 8/23/2019: Stories have the power to challenge and change the way we see the world. As storytellers, we must commit to the responsibility of holding multiple truths at the same time and carefully embracing the complexity of the narratives we weave.

The Japanese in America were wrongly incarcerated during World War II. Yet at the same time, the Japanese committed serious, horrific atrocities across Asia. Both are true and neither justify the other.

In our most recent episode, we failed to name this complicated history. I want to take a moment to own the impact this had on our listeners, especially folks who identify as non-Japanese API. When referring to Japanese in America, we weren’t specific and frequently reverted to “the Japanese” as a blanket term. We brought up stereotypes about Japanese in America being seen as complacent and submissive, yet this only reflects the white gaze. Such perspectives don’t acknowledge how other folks—especially people who identify as Chinese, Korean and Filipinx to name a few—might view Japanese people. But most of all, our failure to name this history is an act of erasure that compounds the silence of the Japanese, who to this day continue denying the impact of colonization and genocide. This should have been addressed, especially because I clearly named that my ancestors lived in Japan during WWII and were not incarcerated in the U.S.

As someone who is Japanese-Filipinx-Chinese, I often think about the complexity of my identity, yet my blinders very clearly affected the making of this episode and the impact it had on others. I want to send my gratitude and appreciation to folks who already have or anyone willing to give generous feedback on how this episode and previous episodes landed. On top of all that, I'm eager for this to be a start to many discussions about the nuance and complexity of our identities, beyond “black and white.” As Asian-Pacific Islanders, there is a WORLD of diversity within that identity alone. Let’s end the silence and talk about it.

Featured Pilgrimage Speakers: Bruce Embrey, Dale Minami, Jim Matsuoka, Karen Korematsu, Kathy Jefferson Bancroft, Nihad Awad, traci kato-kiriyama

Featured Interviews: Adrian Florido, Arthur Ogami, Henry K. Fukuhara, Karen Ishizuka, Madelon Arai Yamamoto, Sue Kunitomi Embrey

  • Henry K. Fukuhara: Henry (1913-2010) was a prolific Japanese-American watercolorist, florist, and teacher. He is best known for his energetic, abstract paintings and his annual painting workshops at Manzanar.

  • Sue Kunitomi Embrey: Sue (1923-2006) wrote for the Manzanar Free Press while incarcerated, and she was a founding member of Nisei Progressives and the Manzanar Committee. The Manzanar Committee was founded by Warren Furutani, Victor Shibata, Sue Kunitomi Embrey, Jim Matsuoka, and others.

Credit to Densho, NPR's CodeSwitch, and C-Span


"Ride Out" by Audiobinger from http://freemusicarchive.org
License: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

"China Town" by Audiobinger from http://freemusicarchive.org
License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Music from the Pilgrimage:

UCLA Kyodo Taiko

Ken Koshio


Manzanar National Historic Site, Sarah Shimazaki

Research sources:

Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime by Kenneth I. Helphand

Densho Encyclopedia

Garden Management Plan: Gardens and Gardeners at Manzanar by Jeff Burton