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Nisei Stories of Wartime Japan (film)

DVD cover. Courtesy of Mary McDonald
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Documentary film by Mary McDonald and Thomas McDonald Mazawa that tells the story of Nisei who were trapped in Japan during World War II based on interviews with ten such Nisei.

In the 1930s, tens of thousands of Nisei went to Japan for extended periods of time: children who accompanied parents intending to return to Japan for good, children sent to live with relatives for economic or educational reasons, and young adults who went on their own to pursue jobs or higher education. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, many of these Nisei were stuck in Japan, away from their families, with no ability to return to the U.S.

Nisei Stories of Wartime Japan tells the story of this group in more or less chronological fashion: their arrival in Japan (interviewees ranged in age of arrival from babies to young adults), their initial experiences as Nisei in Japan, the privations and dangers brought on by war and the difficult situations some found themselves in, their relatively privileged status during the U.S. occupation, and their eventual return to the U.S. Among the stories are those of Iwao Peter Sano, who was drafted into the Japanese army and ended up as a POW in the Soviet Union after the war; Harumi Befu, whose entire middle school was made to work in a munitions factory that was bombed almost daily; and the filmmakers' grandparents/in-laws (the filmmakers are a mother and son team), Shig and Chizuko Mazawa, who met and married in wartime Japan. The film consists almost entirely of the interviews, augmented with family photographs and film and images from newsreel and governmental sources. The filmmakers introduce various topics by using quotes from relevant books and reports.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

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Media Details
Release Date 2011
Runtime 76 minutes
Director Mary McDonald
Starring Ken Mazawa (interviewee), Taz Iwata (interviewee), Shin Sawamura (interviewee), Iwao Peter Sano (interviewee), Kazuko Hoida (interviewee), Tadashi Hoida (interviewee), Yoshio Shimogaki (interviewee), Mary Tomita (interviewee) Harumi Befu (interviewee), Chizuko Mazawa (interviewee), Shig Mazawa (interviewee)
Music Jon Familant
Cinematography Thomas McDonald Mazawa
Editing Thomas McDonald Mazawa