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Nihonjin Face (play)

Creators: Janet Hayakawa, Tere Martínez


Short play for school audiences by Janet Hayakawa and Tere Martínez that juxtaposes the Japanese American incarceration with the Civil Rights Movement and anti-immigrant sentiment in the present.

Nihonjin Face moves between the war years and 2017 and traces parallel coming-of-age stories of a young Japanese American girl during the war years and her grandson in 2017. In the wartime scenes, Tomiko Hashimoto, who is ten as the war begins, her older brother Kiyo, and her Issei mother see their father/husband arrested and interned and are themselves forcibly removed from Tacoma and sent to a concentration camp. Tomiko is angry at their treatment despite her being an American citizen and is scarred by an incident in which a guard points a gun at her when she gets too close to the fence. The family eventually resettles in Chicago. In the 2017 scenes set in Tacoma, Washington, two teenage boys, R.J., who is African American, and Tommy, who is Japanese American, play video games while talking about being on the basketball team and procrastinating on their history project. Tommy's mother suggests they do the project on a civil rights march that their grandmothers participated in together in the 1960s. Through their conversations about the project, the racial dynamics at their school, and interview with Tommy's grandmother—the now 84 year old Tomiko—the boys come to see the historical parallels and wonder what they can do to insure that such a thing doesn't happen again.

The Broadway Center for the Performing Arts commissioned Hayakawa and Martínez to write and produce the play with the support of the Kip Tokuda Memorial Washington Civil Liberties Public Education Program. Designed to tour schools in Washington state to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 in 2017, Nihonjin Face was performed at 37 venues—26 of them schools—before 15,400 people.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho
Media Details
Writer Janet Hayakawa, Tere Martínez
Director Katie Lappier