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A Bitter Legacy (film)

Documentary film by Claudia Katayanagi that provides an overview of the Japanese American incarceration with a focus on resistance, in particular on the Moab and Leupp Isolation Centers and the events leading up to them. In addition to many interviews with scholars, former inmates, local residents (many of whom are Native American), and others, Katayanagi uses actors to reenact some key scenes in the story. She also uses Wendy Maruyama's Tag Project—an art installation consisting of thousands of tags similar to those attached to Japanese Americans and their possessions as they were being forcibly removed—as recurring motif between the eight chapters, from "Pre-War Days" to "Redress and Reparations."

Filmmaker Katayanagi, a Yonsei, has worked as a sound recordist or sound mixer for many films and TV shows. Though her father's family was incarcerated at Tanforan and Topaz and her mother's at Sacramento and Tule Lake , no one in the family talked about the incarceration, which was common among Japanese American families after the war. In reading about the incarceration, she was struck by the stories of Moab, Leupp, Cow Creek , and Tule Lake wondered why their stories were not better known. "When I started this film more than five years ago, I had no idea how relevant these issues of racial profiling, immigration restriction, cultural and religious incarceration would be today," she told journalist J.K. Yamamoto. [1]

A Bitter Legacy was funded in part by a 2012 Japanese American Confinement Sites grant of $290,000. [2]

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like Rabbit in the Moon (1999); Resistance at Tule Lake (2017); From a Silk Cocoon (2005)


  1. ; J.K. Yamamoto, "Film Focuses on Little-Known WWII Camps," Rafu Shimpo, Jan. 5, 2017, 1, 2, both accessed on Mar. 15, 2021.
  2. "Developing Innovations in Navajo Education, Inc. Supports New Documentary that Tells the Story of Arizona's Leupp Citizen Isolation Center," Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program newsletter, Spring 2017, p. 19, accessed on Mar. 15, 2021 at .
Media Details
Release Date 2016
Runtime 75 minutes
Director Claudia Katayanagi
Producer Claudia Katayanagi
Starring Norman Mineta (interviewee), Rosalyn Tonai (interviewee), Wayne Merrill Collins (interviewee), Jimi Yamaichi (interviewee), Eric L. Muller (interviewee), Roger Daniels (interviewee), Tetsuden Kashima (interviewee), Daniel Martinez (interviewee), Reiko Maruyama (interviewee), Toru Saito (interviewee), Natalie Katayanagi (interviewee), Herb Weatherwax (interviewee), Eileen Tamura (interviewee), Arthur Hansen (interviewee), Priscilla Ouchida (interviewee), Masako Miura (interviewee), Harry Ueno (interviewee), Jim Tanimoto (interviewee), Mori Tanimoto (interviewee), Tom Ikeda (interviewee), Taneyuki Dan Harada (interviewee), Melvin Peshlakai (interviewee), Ellen and Ralph McGee (interviewees), Fred and Ethel Paisano (interviewees), Joe and Flora Smith (interviewees), Robert McGee (interviewee), Tim Nelson (interviewee), Karen Korematsu (interviewee), Greg Robinson (interviewee), Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz (interviewee), Wendy Maruyama (interviewee), Donald Tamaki (interviewee)
Editing Stephen M. Simon
Studio Biosphere Productions
For More Information

For More Information

Official website:

Yamamoto, J.K. "Film Focuses on Little-Known WWII Camps." Rafu Shimpo , Jan. 5, 2017, 1, 2.