- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) - Forty-four years after she was born behind bars, Satsuki Ina visited an exhibition at the Smithsonian about the Japanese-American incarceration.

It was there, in an exhibition room across the country from her San Francisco Bay area home, that Ina came face-to-face with a man in a photograph on the wall. She recognized him instantly. It was her father, and the photo showed him in a prison camp in front of his jail cell.

It was the first time Ina had discovered the extent of her parents’ four-year incarceration.

“My parents never spoke about it,” Ina said of the incarceration of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry. “I had never really understood or known about what happened.”

Ina was born May 25, 1944, at the Tule Lake maximum-security segregation center, just south of the Oregon-California border.

It was the largest of 10 detention centers created by the U.S. government in 1942, holding nearly 19,000 inmates at its peak. The Tule Lake site was reserved for those who posed a security risk and were considered disloyal or disruptive to the other camps’ operations.

The only recollection Ina has of the camps is of leaving them on a train when she was small enough to put her hands on the arm rests and swing through the aisles.

A seemingly innocent memory - but Ina recalls a certain kind of freedom she felt that day.

“What I felt about that memory was it was not a jubilant time of being freed,” Ina recalled. “It was a time of great uncertainty.”

The uncertainty stemmed from the fact that her parents, Itaru and Shizuko Ina, had renounced their U.S. Citizenship in 1941, hoping their detachment would allow them to be sent to Japan. Now freed from the camps, they did not know what the world would look like four years and an entire war later.

And like many survivors of the camps, Ina’s parents made great efforts to assimilate back into American society. They kept their heads down. They did not ask for raises. And they rarely spoke about their experiences, so as not to pass along the trauma to their children. Instead, they strove to succeed.

But Ina said the pressures Japanese-Americans put on themselves in order to succeed in the post-war culture caused great anxieties that trickled down for generations.

“There is a significant amount of anxiety,” Ina said. “(They must) get a good job or a good education or stay out of trouble in order to survive, because they’ve been in this completely depressed lifestyle for up to five years. It creates this sort of global response to the world. Am I doing this right? Am I clean enough? Am I honest enough?”

Since that day in the museum, Ina has dedicated her life’s work to researching the Japanese incarceration and counseling generations of survivors, mainly Japanese-Americans, who have suffered trauma from their incarceration. She was a psychotherapist in Sacramento and Berkeley for 20 years, a professor emeritus at Cal State Sacramento, and has written, co-directed and produced two films about the incarceration.

Now, Ina is one of hundreds of Japanese-Americans who ventures back to the site of their incarceration in the desert highlands of Tule Lake every two years.

Though she is now retired from teaching, Ina’s work is not over. Every pilgrimage, she leads a symposium that invites survivors to discuss the impact of their wartime incarceration.

This weekend will be her 11th pilgrimage back to the place she was born.

“Many people get very triggered by what they’re hearing and it’s an emotional experience,” Ina said. “We want to give them time to talk about their emotions surfacing. There will be some people in their 90s, many in their 80s, and they will be mostly grieving about what their parents had to go through.”

Part of the pilgrimage is the visit to the site of the former Tule Lake segregation center.

Not much of the camp is left. Holes exist where the toilets once stood. The cemetery has since been mowed over, and it is not clear what happened to the bodies once buried there.

But the memories remain ingrained in the minds of the survivors.

For this reason, Ina said the Japanese-American community “feels very strongly” about preserving the Tule Lake camp site.

“It is a place where thousands of lives were destroyed and descendants and survivors return to honor and mourn the losses that their ancestors suffered,” Ina said. “The pilgrimage is this very intense and powerful journey and part of people’s healing.”

Hundreds of Japanese-Americans from a number of states will make the journey to Klamath Falls Friday, July 1, through Monday, July 4 for the program.


Information from: Herald and News, https://www.heraldandnews.com

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