"Dharma Road"

A Documentary Written, Directed, and Produced by June Inuzuka

Dharma Road Blog

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June 21, 2009: AN UNEXPECTED FIND!

Posted on June 21, 2009 at 12:51 AM Comments comments (0)


This past Tuesday, June 15, 2009, I left Denver to take Sam to Lander, Wyoming for a National Outdoor Leadership class. We had a great drive and Sam helped me film some footage for my documentary. After I left him in Wyoming, I drove on to Rock Springs to pick up some additional shots I wanted. I stopped at the Rock Springs park in the old part of town containing monuments to the Rock Springs miners. I noticed a little photography shop across the street with old photographs of Rock Springs in the window and decided to ask if the store had any photos of the old mining camps, miners, or Japanese. The woman who owned the shop didn't think she had any Japanese miners but after I told her the story of my great uncle, she asked me his name, wrote it down, and took it into the back room. Then she came back with a list of three photos from 1921 with the Yamazaki name noted. The photos were of the funeral of a young man killed in a mining accident!!! She said one photo entitled "Dead Jap" showed a man in a coffin! My family does not have any pictures of my great uncle and I was too excited for words. I paid for the photos and should recieve them in the mail in 10 days to 2 weeks!!


Posted on May 31, 2009 at 10:47 AM Comments comments (1)

Yesterday, I encountered one of those experiences that makes a documentary filmmaker want to cry and give up. A wonderful woman of 84 changed her mind and decided not to be interviewed because her sister convinced her that their lives were too insignificant to be recorded for posterity. "Besides," her sister told her, "it won't be factually accurate, it's just our childhoods, growing up in a small town. Tell her she should go and interview someone more noteworthy."

AAAK! as Cathy would say. I can't express how mad and frustrated this makes me. Those overbearing Nisei and their "Loss-of Face" syndrome! This woman has a great memory for detail and would describe what life was like in Rock Springs, Wyo from a child and woman's point-of-view, something usually left out of official history records. Why is it usually left out? because it didn't occur to most historians anyone would ever find the lives of women and children interesting or important, nevermind the Polish, Asian, or African Americans who made up an important part of the Old West. It never occured to me that another reason for their omission was the women themselves thought their lives unimportant.

However, it takes a Nisei to take this one step further and feel they might "lose face" because they are ashamed of their humble beginings or are just fearful of being ridiculed in some way. It is not permissible to draw attention to ourselves unless we can present a perfect "face" to society as lawyers or doctors or someone who has accomplished something important like being the first Japanese American to fly for NASA. The older generation of Nisei (those in their 80's and 90's) would probably have been perfectly happy to remain invisible in American society because if you're invisible, you can't be revealed as "wrong" or "foolish." Unfortunately World War II intensified these feelings and made merely existing as a Japanese American a source of disdain, hatred, and ridicule. However, as a community, I like to think we have gotten past that. What Sansei (those born in the 50's) understand is that the Japanese Americans during World War II did not do anything shameful. What was done to us was shameful.

I feel very proud of the way my community dealt with the indignity and humiliation of incarceration. I am forever grateful to those who felt the right thing to do was cooperate and volunteer for the draft even as everything was being taken from us. I cry when I think of the way young Japanese American men spilt their own blood and made the ultimate sacrifice while their families languished in internment camps in harsh and remote areas of the county. I also acknowlege my debt to those who felt betrayed, who refused to serve and protested or brought law suits. Both of these roads of action paved the way for the next generation to be able to hold up our heads and feel equal to anyone else in this country. The hearings held around the nation for people brave enough to come forward and tell their internment stories, their personal experiences, was the basis on which the Redress Act was passed and spurred President Ronald Reagan to eventually express an offcial apology to the Japanese American community. It also stands as a warning to future generations regarding the making of assumptions about groups of Americans who are born here but who are visibly associated with a particular ethnic group.

Which brings me back to those simple, personal stories. I did not find out about my own family stories of the Internment until I was in college as a history major. My parents and grandparents had never mentioned it because they felt it was a "shameful" thing of the past. Maybe because these stories were hidden from me and brought to light only by others who dared to tell them, that I feel a reverence for these stories that is a part of my very soul. I desperatly do not want these stories to die with a generation that was too stubborn or afraid to record them. It is also especially important and critical now as the Japanese American community stands on the brink of extinction. It angers me that so many Nisei would rather leave future generations with merely the highlights of a few outstanding individuals or statistics on how accomplished and educated the Japanese Americans were, how well they melted into the mainstream.

What will link the faces of our grandchildren or great-grandchildren who no longer bear any physical trace of their ancestry, to their Japanese heritage? The most valuable thing we can leave them are the personal stories of our families-- the real men and woman who had the courage or desperation to come to a place like Rock Springs, Wyoming to do hard, menial labor and yet found time to teach their children how to dress up in kimonos, organize Japanese language classes or perform Kabuki plays. But what about the child who did not have grandparents willing to tell them stories about living in a wooden building with no heat at night in a Wyoming Winter, about going to the communal ofuro (hot tub) or reading about Al Capone on her walls as a child because that was her wall paper? Wouldn't it be great to share these stories with her? The 84-year-old lady who refused to be interviewed told me the people who ended up staying in the United States were the poor ones, those who were unsuccessful at saving up enough money to go back to Japan. It wasn't a choice. Somehow, I always thought they had chosen to stay here. Boy, am I glad my grandparents were some of the unlucky ones!

"Grandma, if you can hear me, thank you for your simple, hard working life--a life that has sustained, strengthened, and inspired me."

May 23, 2009 George's CD Party

Posted on May 24, 2009 at 12:03 AM Comments comments (0)
Su Teatro- Denver                   George Inai                                                        George's mom-

If you drive from the Cherry Creek mall down York/Josephine way over by I-70, the neighborhood changes from "country club" to gritty machine warehouses and streets that run beside the railroad tracks or dead end at factories. Down 47th is a small theater called "Su Teatro." Su Teatro was founded in 1971 as a forum for Chicano Theater-- the perfect place for the CD debut party of George Inai, Denver hometown boy, who likes the gritty, live sound of western ballads with an hispanic flair. There is something inspiring about a Japanese American guy with slicked down hair, cowboy boots, and mariachi pants singing western ballads. Is this a great country or what?! With his cousin at the door, his sister manning the bar, and his mother selling sushi and homemade cookies in the lobby, it was a family affair. George's music is the kind you might like to listen to on a car trip- melodic, slow, and thoughtful. I'm thinking of using his song"Lonesome Highway" for background music during the road trip part of the documentary. His CD "This Foolish Music" is available by emailing him through his website listed in the Music Links section of this website.

April 26, 2009 Interview With Mr. Kuroda

Posted on May 6, 2009 at 4:07 PM Comments comments (0)
Three generations of Kuroda men      June and James filming interview

Mr. Kuroda is in his nineties and still has a great sense of humor and charm. He worked on both the railroads and mines in the 1940's. His family has lived in Colorado for three generations. I had two Denver School of the Arts students as assistants which came in really handy. Still having problems with the camera I use for playback. I may have to send it in to the Panasonic repair facility which may take several weeks. Not sure what I will do to continue my editing... I hate to use the DVX and wear out the heads...

I've been reviewing work by Asian American, Asian, Japanese American, Japanese playing American music and all kinds of blends and instrumentals. If you're reading this, take a look at my links page where I list Asian music/musicians  I am considering for use in the documentary.

March 27, 2009

Posted on March 28, 2009 at 4:42 PM Comments comments (0)

Went to hear Rachael Yamagata last night at the Larimer Lounge.  Great place.  Just the right of amount of grunge, an intimate venue.  Handed someone in her band a DVD with a copy of my Intro and a note that I wanted her to narrate the doc.  I hope she didn't lose or trash it.  Rachel:  if you're reading this, I'll pay expenses to Denver and take you out to a terriffic Japanese restaurant.

Later on March 23, 2009

Posted on March 23, 2009 at 7:48 PM Comments comments (0)

I am so thrilled!! Magdalen Hsu-Li has given me permission to use her song in the intro!! It is so perfect, I was prepared to be totally disappointed because i didn't think she would even respond to my request. What a gracious performer!  The forces of good are on the march!

March 23, 2009

Posted on March 23, 2009 at 1:51 AM Comments comments (0)

Well, I think I am finally getting the hang of this website thing. It's been a big pain in the butt but I'm glad I did it. I've sent emails to a few people with a link to this website. I'm going to try to plan some interviews for week after next... still need to log two tapes for editing... sigh. i really need a good voice actress to narrate. i can't stand my voice-Ugh! Rachel Yamagata is singing in Denver Friday. I'm going to her concert. My dream would be to have her agree to do the voice narration...



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