Friday, December 26, 2014

Korematsu celebrated at namesake school


Korematsu Elementary School students perform during a day of celebration. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

From page A8 | February 11, 2014 |

When the orders came for Japanese Americans along the West Coast to report for incarceration in internment camps in 1942, 23-year-old Fred Korematsu refused.

He went into hiding in Oakland, but eventually was found, arrested and convicted of defying the government’s order.

His case was ultimately appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — unsuccessfully, it turned out — and eventually Korematsu found himself in the place he sought to avoid: in an internment camp in Topaz, Utah.

There, he suffered for his actions, his daughter, Karen, told students and parents at Korematsu’s namesake school in Davis late last month.

He was vilified, she said.

“He was alone … he had brought shame to his own family,” she said. “He didn’t have friends. Even his brothers deserted him.”

Decades later, of course, he is a hero — celebrated in California on the Fred T. Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, and celebrated every year at Korematsu Elementary School in Davis. But at the time, he stood alone.

“There were very few people who spoke up,” said Marielle Tsukamoto, a former Elk Grove teacher and internment camp survivor. “Fred Korematsu was one of them and he was punished for it.”

Tsukamoto and Karen Korematsu were among those attending a celebration at Korematsu Elementary School that included songs, a book reading by Davis psychologist and author Loriene Honda — whose father, Lawrence, was interned at Manzanar — as well as panelists who answered students’ questions about the internment camps.

Honda, who had been honored earlier that day at the state Capitol, read from her book, “The Cat who Chose to Dream,” which tells of life in an internment camp from the perspective of a cat who snuck into a camp with his family in order to bear witness to history.

The story was based on an actual person, Ralph Lazo, who wasn’t even Japanese but chose to go to Manzanar to witness what was being done to his friends. But not all Americans felt the way Lazo did — that the incarceration of Japanese-Americans was wrong.

In fact, said former internee Mas Hatano, “The majority were happy to see us go.”

One Korematsu student asked how the internees felt about being betrayed by their own country.

Susan Kotarek, a former internee who has three grandchildren attending Korematsu, said many of them complied quietly because they wanted to prove they were good Americans.

Karen Korematsu — whose father did not comply — said, “There was no due process, no charges, no hearings and no day in court,” even though two-thirds of internees were American citizens.

“My father learned about the constitution in high school … and was dismayed the Supreme Court did not find it unconstitutional,” she added.

Another student asked what kept the internees from escaping.

A chain-link fence, several panelists replied.

One described seeing a man shot when he ventured too close to the fence. Another noted that half the internees were children not inclined to flee.

Asked what their best memories were of the camps, as well as the worst, most pointed to the friendships they made — with people they otherwise would never have met — as the best thing to come out of the experience.

But there was a lot of bad, the survivors said, including waking up every morning to the sight of barbed-wire fences.

Honda has said her father came out of the experience as “one of the most kind and gentle people I know.”

It was his story — as well as her work as a child psychologist in Davis working with children who have been neglected, abused or traumatized — that led her to write “The Cat Who Chose to Dream.”

The book features the artwork of Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani, who spent much of World War II at the Tule Lake internment camp, and features a special forward by actor George Takei, who also was imprisoned at Tule Lake.

Honda read aloud from the book during Korematsu’s celebration and will have upcoming book readings as well, including at The Avid Reader in May.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy



Anne Ternus-Bellamy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Exchange students bring the world to Davis

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Pastor has many plans for CA House

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Transit survey: 47 percent ride bikes to UCD campus

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Playing Santa

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Goats help recycle Christmas trees

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Davis Bike Club hears about British cycling tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Pick up a Davis map at Chamber office

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Sierra Club calendars on sale Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Special holiday gifts

    By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A3

    Woodland-Davis commute bus service expands

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Learn fruit tree tips at free class

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Explorit: Get a rise out of science

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4

    NAMI meeting offers family support

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Yoga, chanting intro offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8



    Blamed for her sister’s rage

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    How much for the calling birds?

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Steve Sack cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    Many ensured a successful parade

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Thanks for putting food on the table

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10



    Patterson is college football’s top coach

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Clippers get a win over Golden State

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Two more for the road for 9-1 Aggie men

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    NBA roundup: Heat beat Cavs in LeBron’s return to Miami

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery





    ‘Unbroken': A bit underwhelming

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    Folk musicians will jam on Jan. 2

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11



    Passat: Roomy, affordable sedan with German engineering

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery



    James J. Dunning Jr.

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Floyd W. Fenocchio

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4



    Comics: Friday, December 26, 2014 (set 2)

    By Creator | From Page: B7

    Comics: Thursday, December 26, 2014 (set 1)

    By Creator | From Page: A9