Can you imagine having the passion, drive, talent, and focus to labor not only weeks or months, but sometimes years (and often with nominal financial reward), to create something others can pick up, open, ignore, digest, savor, critique, enjoy, and experience in the form of a published book?

Through the course of selling books, I actually come across these types of people.  Yes, they are our authors and illustrators.  In my effort to promote these artists and introduce them to you, I attempt to arrange book signing events whenever possible.  

The following introductory profiles are just another way for you to get acquainted with the very artists who are behind the books we carry.  The profiles are provided by the artist and reprinted with his or her permission.


Aoki, Deb

Asakawa, Gil

Brown, Janet Mitsui

De Mente, Boye Lafayette

DeQueiroz, Chizuko Judy Sugita

Eimon, Mina Harada

Furutani, Dale

Goto, Scott

Hamamura, John

Hirahara, Naomi

Hirasuna, Delphine

Hoshino, Felicia

Ito, Toshiko Shoji

Ito, Willie

Jenks, Deneen

Kadohata, Cynthia

Kobayashi, M. Sally

Komatsu, Kaleigh

Komatsu, Kimberly

Kondo, Alan

Kono, Robert H.

Krasno, Rena

Kumata, Michelle Reiko

Matsueda, Tsukasa

Mio, Jeffery Scott

Miyake, Perry

Mochizuki, Ken

Myers, Tim

Nakagawa, Kerry Yo

Nascimbene, Yan

Noguchi, Rick

Sakai, Stan

Sato, Dale

Sato, Kiyo

Say, Allen

Seki, Sunny

Shigekawa, Marlene

Shinjo, Shelly

Smith, Icy

Stern, Joel

Tachibana, Judy

Takei, Barbara

Tamura, George T. 

Tanaka, Kenneth Kenshin

Tanegashima, Kaori

Terasaki, Stanley Todd

Turner, Pamela S.

Uchima, Ansho Mas

Usuki, Patricia Kanaya

Yabu, Shigeru

Yamada, Debbie Leung

Yamashita, Karen Tei

Yamauchi, Wakako

Yashima, Momo

Yoneda, Kathie Fong


DEB AOKI was born and grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii, thriving on a steady diet of Japanese manga (comic books), MTV and Spam (R) musubis (rice balls).  Since 1996, Deb Aoki's Bento Box comic strip has been featured weekly in Sunday Island Life section of The Honolulu Advertiser, Hawaii's largest daily newspaper. She has also illustrated the best-selling Hawaii children's books "Best Hawaiian Style Mother Goose Ever" and "Auntie Lulu's Zoo" with Hawaii author, Kevin Sullivan. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where they have halfway decent Hawaiian food.


GIL ASAKAWA (author of Being Japanese American) is a Sansei who lives in Arvada, Colorado, with his partner, Erin Yoshimura, and two cats.  He works in the news media and has written for newspapers, magazines, and Web sites.  He co-authored The Toy Book (Knopf, 1991) and has written a more-or-less weekly column called "Nikkei View" since 1998.

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Happened to spot Gil and Erin in front of the Japanese American National Museum-- one of the first in line for the Kogi truck!  (April, 2009)


JANET MITSUI BROWN  (author and illustrator of picture book Thanksgiving At Obaachan's)-  "When I was small, I was told that writing and illustrating were fields simply too competitive, too creative, too hard to break into.  When I got older I learned it was true.  But I also learned, if you have heart, and you follow your inner voice, and you persevere, and you work hard, it doesn't make any difference.  For you will be rewarded, and you will have an inner glow, and nothing else matters."


BOYE LAFAYETTE DE MENTE (author of Japanese Samurai Code:  Classic Strategies For Success) was born in 1928 and has been involved with Japan, Asia and Mexico since the late 1940s as a member of a U.S. intelligence agency, student, journalist, and editor.  He is the author of more than 50 books on Japan, Korea and China, including the first ever on the Japanese way of doing business:  "Japanese Etiquette & Ethics in Business (1959), and "How to Do Business With the Japanese" (1961).  His other pioneer series include business and cultural 'code word' books on the above countries.  His printed books are widely used in universities around the world.


CHIZUKO JUDY SUGITA DEQUEIROZ (artist and author of Camp Days 1942-1945) - "My childhood memories of Poston, Arizona, a World War II concentration camp, are depicted in Camp Days 1942-1945.  These memories have been with me all my life, etched in my mind like a motion picture.  The three and a half years that my family and I spent there occurred during an extremely impressionable period of my life.  My mother passed away shortly after I was born, and being motherless had a detrimental impact on my childhood in camp.

I was nine years old, the youngest of nine children, when our family was incarcerated by the U.S. military in May of 1942..." (from Foreword by the Artist in Camp Days 1942-1945)  

"On my first day of school after we left camp, my teacher stated that my name was too difficult to pronounce and asked if I would like an American name.  I said yes, thinking she would give me a name, but to my surprise she asked what I would like to be called.  Flustered, the first name I could think of was Judy.  Thus, Judy became my American name in 1945.

In 1953, I was crowned Nisei Week Queen in Los Angeles, where I met the future Emperor of Japan when he was the Crown Prince.

I received my B.A. and teaching credentials at Long Beach State University, and received my Masters in Art at California State University,  Dominguez Hills.  I subsequently taught in the Palos Verdes School District, where I became the Art Department Chair.

My husband Richard and I live in Irvine, California, happily playing tennis, practicing Tai Chi, and taking care of our wonderful grandchildren.  Together we have six children and nine grandchildren.  It's a wonderful life! 

I enjoy painting watercolors, and I exhibit my work locally and throughout the United States." (from the Epilogue:  After Camp in Camp Days 1942-1945)  

Ms. DeQueiroz's web site is


MINA HARADA EIMON (author and illustrator of picture book Why Cats Chase Mice) was born in Tokyo, Japan.  She spent part of her childhood and adolescence in Poland and Singapore.  She received her B.A. degrees in Visual Arts and Comparative Literature from Brown University and has also studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Prior to working as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer, Mina taught art to elementary school children.  During that time, she became interested in passing down folk traditions to the younger generation.

Mina, her husband, and their children currently live in Burlingame, California, with their cat who has yet to catch his first mouse.


DALE FURUTANI, author of mystery books Toyotomi Blades and Kill the Shogun, is the first Asian American to win mystery writing awards.  He has won the Anthony Award and the Macavity Award and he's also been nominated for the Agatha Award.  He has written books with both contemporary Japanese-American settings and historical samurai settings.  His books have appeared on several bestseller lists, including the Los Angeles Times and the Mystery Writers of America lists.  His work has been praised by Booklist, the Washington Post and numerous other publications.  Publisher's Weekly has called him "a master craftsman."  Dale currently lives and works in Tokyo, Japan.


SCOTT GOTO, author and illustrator of picture book The Perfect Sword, was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he currently resides.  After graduating from the University of Hawaii, Manoa with a Bachelor of Education Degree in Secondary Art Education, he attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in illustration, with honors.  Scott currently works as a freelance illustrator, fine artist and for the Mayor's Office of Culture and the Arts (MOCA) for the City and jCounty of Honolulu.

Scott has experience working in the children's publishing market, having illustrated picture and text books for companies such as Walker & Company, Charlesbridge, Harcourt Brace, Houghton Mifflin, Publications International, Watermark, The University of Redlands, California and Hampton Brown.  He also has experience in the advertising and editorial fields with his work being published in magazines such as Highlights, Guitar Player, Realms of Fantasy, Hana Hou, HMSA, Pacific Business News and Malamalama.  Some of his advertising clients have included Hilo Hattie's, Star Markets, Ala Moana Shopping Center, Tesoro Hawaii, Trex Entertainment and Gentry Pacific.

When not working on his art, Scott enjoys his other passion of listening to and collecting all kinds of music and playing his guitar.  He also finds time to embrace his super geekiness by creating costumes and being an active member of the 501st Legion of Stormtroopers, the world's largest STAR WARS costuming club.  Scott is also an avid practitioner of Tai Chi Chuan, relying on and enjoying it's many health benefits to help keep him centered and sane in the crazy world of art!


JOHN HAMAMURA, author of Color of the Sea, was born in Minnesota in the final year of World War II.  His mother's family was interned at Rohwer in southern Arkansas.  His father was an instructor at Camp Savage and Fort Snelling, where Japanese American GIs were trained as translators for the Pacific theater.  His father's hometown was Hiroshima.  Hamamura's grandmother and aunt survived the atomic bomb.  Hamamura lived and went to school in a US military housing camp near Tokyo.  He spent summer vacations at his grandmother's house.  It was not until many years later that he learned the significance of its location, two and half miles from Ground Zero.  Hamamura's debut novel, Color of the Sea, grew out of an exploration of his family history.

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John signing at Fresno Betsuin Craft Show 2008


NAOMI HIRAHARA, born and raised in Southern California, is a writer and editor of books on the Japanese American experience.  Her books include mysteries and nonfiction.  

Her first novel, Summer of the Big Bachi (Bantam, Delta Trade Paperback), was included in Publishers Weekly's list of best books of 2004, as well as best mystery lists of the Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle.  It has been nominated for a Macavity Award for best first novel.  The second in the series, Gasa-Gasa Girl, was released in April 2005 and was on the Southern California Booksellers' Association bestseller list for two weeks.  The third in the series, Snakeskin Shamisen, will be published in April 2006.  

In the nonfiction genre, Naomi has written Green Makers: Japanese American Gardeners in Southern California; An American Son: The Story of George Aratani, Founder of Mikasa and Kenwood; Distinguished Asian American Business Leaders; and A Scent of Flowers: Southern California Flower Market and Its Multicultural Community, 1912-2004.  She has also co-written A Taste of Strawberries: The Independent Journey of Nisei Farmer Manabi Hirasaki and Silent Scars of Healing Hands: Oral Histories of Japanese American Doctors in World War II Detention Camps.  She also operates a “legacy press,” Midori Books, which produces publications for families and organizations.

She previously worked as an editor and reporter of The Rafu Shimpo, a bilingual Japanese American daily newspaper in Los Angeles.  Naomi and her husband reside in Southern California. (updated 9/05)


DELPHINE HIRASUNA, (author of The Art of  Gaman:  Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946) is the co-author of several books, including Long May She Wave and the  Flavors of Japan cookbook.  Her essays on the Japanese American relocation camps have been published in high school textbooks.  Delphine is the principal of Hirasuna Editorial, founded in 1985 to provide editorial supervision and copywriting services to corporations, graphic design firms and advertising agencies throughout the U.S.  She is also the editor of the much-acclaimed @Issue:  Journal of Business and Design.  She is known for the feature columns she wrote for the Hokubei Mainichi and Rafu Shimpo over a span of twenty-five years.  Her family was interned in Jerome and Rohwer, Arkansas, and her father served in Italy with the 442nd RCT.  Delphine lives in the San Francisco Bay area. 


FELICIA HOSHINO (illustrator of A Place Where Sunflowers Grow) was born in San Francisco, California.  While in college, she enrolled in as many art classes as she could find, from figure drawing and ceramics to illustration and graphic design.  Upon deciding to make art her career, she continued her education at California College of the Arts where she earned a BFA in illustration.  Felicia's prize-winning illustrations can now be seen in the children's magazines Cricket, Cicada and Ladybug and in children's books such as Surprise Moon and Finding the Golden Ruler.  Her most recent books, Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin and A Place Where Sunflowers Grow, were both accepted into the Society of Illustrator's The Original Art, a juried exhibition "Celebrating the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration."

"It was as if, with every drawing she created, Mari found another question to ask and the courage to ask it."  These words express Felicia's own transformation as illustrator of A Place Where Sunflowers Grow.  The more she learned, the more compelled she felt to ask questions, not only for research purposes, but to gain knowledge about her family's history both before, during and after the war.  She hopes that the book will help inspire young readers to learn about their own family history, Japanese American or not, and possibly connect with family members of different generations.

Felicia currently lives in her native San Francisco with her husband Yoshi and son Sora.  For more information, please visit her website

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TOSHIKO SHOJI ITO (author of novel Endure) - After leaving Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho, Toshiko Shoji Ito went to Toledo, Ohio, for a short period and finally settled in Chicago, Illinois.  In 1948, Toshiko met and married David Ito, a veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Unit, Co. G, and also received her hair dresser license immediately after.   In 1956, Toshiko and David moved to El Monte, California, with their two sons and welcomed their daughter soon after.  Toshiko began her career as a cosmetology instructor at Citrus College in 1973.  She received her bachelor of Vocation Education in 1977 and a Master of Public Administration in 1986.  Toshiko retired from teaching in 1991.


WILLIE ITO (illustrator of Hello Maggie!) - A native San Franciscan, Willie spent his war years in Topaz, Utah.  During this period in camp, his interest in cartooning flourished.  Upon his return after the war, he continued his studies in art.  He graduated from San Francisco City College and went to Los Angeles to study at Chouinard  Art Institute.  Willie initially worked for the Walt Disney Studios; and later for Warner Bros. Cartoons, Bob Clampett Prods., Hanna Barbera, and Sanrio.  Willie returned to Walt Disney as Director of International Creative overseeing young Disney artists world- wide.  After a 45-year career in the animation industry, he retired and is now pursuing children's book illustrating.  Willie and his wife Rosemary have 3 sons, a daughter, and 5 grandchildren.

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Willie signing Hello Maggie with a sketch for delighted customers at LA Times Festival of Books, 2009.

DENEEN JENKS NOGUCHI (co-author of picture book Flowers From Mariko) received her MFA in creative writing from Arizona State University.  Flowers From Mariko is her first publication.


CYNTHIA KADOHATA (author of young adult novel Weedflower and Kira-Kira, recipient of the 2005 John Newbery Medal) writes:

I was born in Chicago in 1956.  I lived there briefly and then moved to Georgia, then to Arkansas, then to Holland, Michigan (home of LifeSavers candy), and then back to Chicago.  After I was grown up I lived other places, but those towns and cities where I lived as a child are where I was formed.

One of the events that influenced me most in my life was when I was a little girl and my mother gave me a Scientific American article about peer pressure.  The article described an experiment where twelve people would sit around a table and look at a blackboard.  A researcher would draw two lines on the blackboard, one longer than the other.  Then the researcher would go around the table asking everybody which line was longer.  Eleven of the people correctly believed that the researchers were studying peer pressure.  The twelfth person-- the test subject -- believed that the researchers were testing vision.  

The eleven who were in on the experiment would sometimes give the wrong answer when asked which line was longer.   Most of the time, the twelfth person would give in to peer pressure and say the wrong line was longer.  The amazing thing was that the twelfth person, when asked later, said he truly thought the wrong line was longer.  The peer pressure had actually changed what the twelfth person saw with his own eyes. 

But once in a while there would be a person who could stand up to the peer pressure.  He would not let the others influence what he saw with his own eyes.  People like this were in the minority.

My mother showed me this article because she wanted me to be like those people who knew what they saw with their own eyes.  Sometimes this would be a lonely road, but the correct one.  I have not always been successful at staying on this road, but I have tried.


MASUMI SALLY KOBAYASHI (author of Creating the Sapporo Snow Festival Sculptures) - "Years ago when I worked at the Chicago "Daily News," a Chicago area psychic who visited our office predicted that in a year from that time, I would be "leading a completely different life."  She was right.  Nothing could be more different from life in Chicago than living in Sapporo, Japan.  My husband Jungo is a Sapporo native.

Journalism will always be a part of who I am and in Sapporo I have kept my fingers on the keyboard contributing free lance articles to newspapers and magazines and writing a column for the largest newspaper in Hokkaido which ran over seven years.  Because I was born in Minidoka Camp, when President Reagan signed the redress bill to give Japanese Americans compensation for their camp internment, this newspaper asked me to write a series of articles about my family's camp experience.  My first book was "Welcome to Hokkaido:  English Conversation for Homestay."  It is a book of sentences for easy English conversation which families who host a guest from abroad can use to explain Hokkaido culture and customs.

I wrote "Creating the Sapporo Snow Festival Sculptures," because it always fascinated me how so much effort was put into the snow sculptures which were quickly destroyed in just a few hours the day after the festival ended.  I wanted to research and tell the behind the scenes story--the planning, the building, the people, the resources.  While I first envisioned the book to be a multicultural children's book, it has taken on another life--a souvenir book bought by visitors and by local residents who give them as gifts to friends and family abroad.  It's rewarding to see my book travel the world introducing a major Sapporo event that is loved by its citizens.

My husband and I have raised a son and two daughters and we look forward to becoming grandparents for the first time next March."  Ms. Kobayashi's web site is at


KALEIGH KOMATSU (co-author of picture book In America's Shadow) is a graduate of the University of Southern California where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and History.  She works at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles where she has co-curated and managed numerous exhibitions.  Kaleigh, along with her sister Kimberly, co-authored In America’s Shadow, a book that was in the making for over four years, and is the culmination of the two young authors’ lifelong dream to share the important story of Japanese Americans with future generations.  When she is not writing, Kaleigh enjoys traveling, playing piano, and spending time with her twelve cats and two dogs.


KIMBERLY KOMATSU (co-author of picture book In America's Shadow) was born and raised in Los Angeles, California where she spent many hours of her childhood writing stories on her great uncle Harry’s old, yet treasured, 1948 Royal typewriter.  She attended the University of Southern California where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, was named an Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow, and graduated magna cum laude.


ALAN T. KONDO, CFP, CLU, (author of The Path to Antei:  A Japanese American Guide to Financial Success) is a specialist in retirement and estate planning.  He is a columnist for the Rafu Shimpo and KaMai Forum with his series on financial planning, and regularly speaks to the public and professional groups on topics such as retirement distribution planning, estate planning, investment strategy and long term care.  He is a member of the Financial Planning Association, and serves on the Board of Directors of Visual Communications / Asian American Studies Central.  He continues to give his time and talent generously to community groups which have included Keiro Senior Healthcare, National Coalition for Redress & Reparations, and Little Tokyo Service Center.

He and his wife Ruth have been active in many charitable, educational and community organizations in California for over 25 years.

He is a Registered Representative with Transamerica Financial Advisors, and is a Registered Investment Advisor.


ROBERT H. KONO, author of The Last Fox, is a former internee of the U.S. concentration camps, a novelist and short story writer who lives with his wife in Eugene, Oregon.  Keeping alive a lifelong desire, he began writing in 1996 after retirement and has produced four novels and a collection of short stories to date.  Many more works are in store.


RENA KRASNO (author of picture book Floating Lanterns and Golden Shrines:  Celebrating Japanese Festivals) is a simultaneous interpreter and author of books both for adults and children.  She was born of Russian parents in Shanghai, China, where she spent her youth.  She later lived for lengthy periods of time in Israel, Japan, Korea, Germany and the Philippines.  Her home is now in California.

Krasno has written a number of well received books for adults [Strangers Always:  A Jewish Family in Wartime Shanghai (1992); That Last Glorious Summer 1939, Shanghai-Japan (2001)] and for children [The Banana Also Has a Heart:  Filipino Folk Tales (1978); Kneeling Carabao and Dancing Giants:  Celebrating Filipino Festivals (1997); Floating Lanterns and Golden Shrines:  Celebrating Japanese Festivals (2000)].


MICHELLE REIKO KUMATA (illustrator of picture book Flowers From Mariko) - "I have worked at The Seattle Times for 7 years as a designer and illustrator.  I have a BFA degree in illustration from the School of Visual Arts.  My previous design and illustration experience includes work for community newspapers and freelance for local publications and organizations.  Before the Times, I worked for several years as an exhibit coordinator at Wing Luke Asian Museum.

In many ways I try to give people of color a voice in my illustrations. I began my career with an illustration of Vincent Chin for Seattle’s International Examiner. That first illustration helped me understand not only the role of community newspapers, but also my role as part of the ‘voice’ for the community.  Through experiences like this, I’ve learned the importance of my own identity in my work."


TSUKASA MATSUEDA (author of Issei, The Shadow Generation), an avid educator, taught for 33 years at Sequoia Union High School in Redwood City, California.  Selected as a Fullbright Exchange Teacher to Japan, he taught for two years at the University of Niigata and the attached Junior High School in Niigata City, Japan.  He later taught Japanese American Ethnic Studies classes at Stanford University and San Jose State University.  He holds a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. from the San Francisco State University, and Ed.D. from the University of Massachusetts.

Born in Stockton and raised in San Mateo, California, Matsueda was incarcerated when he was 16 years old at the Stockton Assembly Center and concentration camps in Rowher, Arkansas and Tule Lake, California, during World War II.  After his release, he was drafted into Military Service and served in the 525th Military Intelligence Unit.

When he retired from teaching, Matsueda served as a case manager for the Japanese speaking clientele of Yu-Ai-Kai, the Japanese American Community Senior Service in San Jose for over ten years.  He now enjoys retirement with his wife of 50 years, June, in Palo Alto, California.  He has a son, Bob, daughter-in-law Ranko, grandson Ken; and a daughter Julie, son-in-law Jon and grandchildren Mika and Lee.


DR. JEFFERY SCOTT MIO (author of picture book, The Rice Bowl) is a clinical psychologist and a professor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.  He is the director of the psychology master's program.  Jeff is a published author on a range of topics in psychology, including multicultural psychology.

Jeff heard the essence of this Asian folk tale when he was a young boy.  The underlying themes (wisdom of elders, respectfulness, unconditional love, family values, and indirect communication) made a lasting impression upon him.  He authored this story because he wanted to share its messages with others.

The creation of this book itself was a family affair.  It was beautifully illustrated by Jeff's mother, Ruby Tamiko Mio and edited and formatted for publication by Jeff's sister, Marlene Yamada.


PERRY MIYAKE (author of novel 21st Century Manzanar) is the author of the plays What the Enemy Looks Like, Visitors from Nagasaki, Interracial Relations and Doughball.  Miyake has worked with East West Players (1980 Rockefeller Foundation Playwright-In-Residence, 2000 "Made In America" Award for body of work), Seattle Group Theater and the comedy group Cold Tofu.  A second-generation graduate of Venice High School, he still lives in his old neighborhood (Venice/Mar Vista/LA66) with his wife and dogs in Los Angeles.


KEN MOCHIZUKI (author of picture books Baseball Saved Us, Heroes, and Passage to Freedom, and young adult novel Beacon Hill Boys) - 

          "While growing up in Seattle , WA during the '60s, there weren't books about us.  Literature for young readers consisted of fairytales/folktales from Asia and "Five Chinese Brothers."  After graduating from the University of Washington , BA Communications, and after a few years as a professional actor in Los Angeles , I decided instead to become a writer.  Returning to Seattle during the early '80s, I committed myself to learning the craft of writing, becoming reporter/editor for Seattle's International Examiner and Northwest Nikkei .

Ten years of journalism helped immeasurably in learning how to write.  Determined to make a living as a writer, I also wrote for a variety of mediums:  public service announcements, video scripts, government reports.  I had never considered writing children's books, but in 1993, my first picture book, "Baseball Saved Us," was published, followed later by "Heroes," "Passage to Freedom:  the Sugihara Story,"  and a young adult novel, "Beacon Hill Boys."

One thing led to another:  a performance piece on the internment; technical advisor for the film version of "Snow Falling on Cedars"; presentations for the U.S. Army on the history of Asian/Pacific Americans in the U.S. military; a musical version of "Baseball Saved Us."

A writer writes the first work to be published, it's been said.  After that, one has to know why they write.  I have done presentations about my books around the country, mostly at schools.  I stress that I was born in Seattle , my parents were born there, that my grandparents are the ones from Japan .  Yet, I'll be asked by a student afterward:  "How long have you been in this country?"  On the positive side, a white middle school student said to me:  "We were assigned to do reports on 'heroes,' and I did mine on the 442nd."

I know why I write."

                                   * * * * *

Q&A WITH KEN MOCHIZUKI (posted 9/03)

The following are Ken Mochizuki's responses to questions from Mrs. McCauley's 6th grade class at Helmers Elementary School (Valencia CA) regarding Passage To Freedom:  The Sugihara Story:

1.      Do you know if Chiune Sugihara kept a diary?

I don't know about that, but I kind of doubt it since he was a very busy man.  His wife, Yukiko, might have since she wrote a book on her family's history called "Visas for Life."  I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in the life story of Chiune Sugihara and his family.  The Lithuania incident I focused on in "Passage to Freedom" is just a fraction of their entire World War II experience.

2.      Do you know if Chiune Sugihara's other children are still alive today?

Chiaki is still alive; Haruki died shortly after the family's return to Japan after the war.  Another brother born after World War II, Nobuki, lives and works in Belgium.

3.      How old is Hiroki Sugihara?

Hiroki Sugihara passed away in 2001 at age 65.

4.      Did you watch any films to get information also?

At the time I was writing this book, there were no films about Consul Sugihara and his family.  There are now.  There was a dramatic short film that focused on Consul Sugihara issuing the visas, and another documentary on Consul Sugihara.

5.      Have you ever talked to Hiroki Sugihara personally?

Yes, I first met him in 1995, when he came to Seattle and spoke at a synagogue about his father.  While researching and writing "Passage to Freedom," I interviewed Hiroki over the phone when he lived in San Francisco .  I talked to him at different times, and the total interviewing time amounted to about three hours.  I wanted to get the story more from his point of view.

6.      Have you written any other books related to World War II?

Yes, both my other picture books, "Baseball Saved Us" and "Heroes" take place during World War II, or the subject is related to that war.

7.      Have you met Chiune Sugihara before?

No, I never have.  Mr. Sugihara passed away in 1986.  I wish I had, for that would have been a huge honor.  I did meet a "Sugihara Survivor" in Houston, Texas.  She was three years old when Consul Sugihara issued her family the visa to leave Lithuania.  She showed me the actual visa; I held history in my hands!

8.      How long did you have to talk to Hiroki Sugihara to get the full story of "Passage to Freedom"?

As I answered in Question #5, I called Hiroki long distance from my home in Seattle, interviewing him three different times, which amounted to a total of about three hours.

9.      How long did it take you to write "Passage to Freedom"?

About three months, when usually I would take around six months to write a picture book story.  That means writing usually three major drafts of the story.  Even though "Passage to Freedom" is a lot longer and more complicated story than my other picture books, I had less to time to write it.  I had to get it done in less time if the book was to be published by a certain time.  You will be amazed at what you can do when there is a deadline!

10.  Were you in Japan when you wrote the book?

No, I have never been to the country of Japan.  I was born in Seattle, WA, as were my parents.  My grandparents were immigrants from Japan, and the first grandparent that came to America arrived in 1907.

11.  Who/what inspired you to become an author?

I have always liked stories in any form:  sitting around a campfire telling and listening to scary stories, reading them, seeing them told through movies or TV shows.  It wasn't until I was in my late 20's when I really wanted to become an author.  Why?  Because I wanted to tell the stories that weren't being told.

12.  Why did you decide to write "Passage to Freedom"?

The story of Consul Sugihara began to emerge in the American media when Hiroki and his mother Yukiko started touring their own photo exhibit on their family's story in 1994.  I read newspaper accounts of the story, and it was too good to pass up.  What Consul Sugihara did, and what the family experienced there in Lithuania, was better than any fiction anybody could make up.

13.  How long did it take you to gather all the information?

To research this story, I thought I would be spending long hours in libraries and archives, trying to piece the story together.  When I met Hiroki in 1995, he placed most of my research into my hands:  his mother's memoirs in the book "Visas for Life."  Hiroki published that book himself.  And what better source was there about the family's experience than a book written by a family member?  Reading that book, and a few others that existed about Consul Sugihara, plus interviewing Hiroki, took a total of around three months.

14.  What were your feelings while you were writing this book?

That's a good question that can be answered in a couple of words:  heavy responsibility!  When you are writing about people that actually lived, and the whole world is going to see what you wrote about others, accuracy is everything!  You have to do everything possible, check and re-check the facts, to make sure you are accurate.  Non-fiction is all about accuracy.

15.  How old was Mr. Sugihara when he died?

Born in 1900, Consul Sugihara was 86 years old when he died.

16.  What is your favorite book that you wrote?

I am often asked that question, and my answer is:  Do you have brothers or sisters?  What if you went up to your parents and asked, "Out of all of your children, who do you like the best?"  Your parents would probably respond that they love you all the same.  The same goes for my books—they are like my kids.  I gave birth to them, raised them, watched them grow and change, and then sent them out into the world.  I will admit, though, that I like certain aspects of my books.  I like "Baseball Saved Us" because it is very kinetic—lots of action moves the story along.  "Heroes" I like because, even though it is my shortest book in terms of amount of words, it contains the most themes.  I like "Passage to Freedom" because—and I think you will agree—it is an epic, with a cast of hundreds in a moment in history.  

TIM MYERS (author of Tanuki's Gift; Basho and the Fox; and Basho and the River Stones) is a writer, songwriter, storyteller, and lecturer at Santa Clara University in the Bay Area.  Read aloud on NPR, his Basho and the Fox was a New York Times bestseller and Smithsonian Notable Children’s Book; his Tanuki’s Gift earned an excellent boxed review in the New York Times and is a Nick Jr. Magazine “Book of the Year” for 2003.  He has three new children’s books coming out (Candlewick, Wordsong), has published over 100 poems, won a poetry contest judged by John Updike, and has a chapbook coming out from Pecan Grove Press.  He also has articles in Media Ethics and New York State History, recently placed stories with The Indy Men’s, MacGuffin, ELF, and The Bryant Literary Review, won a prize in an international speculative-fiction contest, and has published much other fiction and non-fiction for adults and children.  Tim’s been a professional storyteller for over 20 years, and has stories from all around the world.  

KERRY YO NAKAGAWA, author / filmmaker / curator / historian, is the author of Through A Diamond:  100 Years of Japanese American Baseball.  

While coaching his son's little league all-star baseball squad in 1994, Kerry felt the need to preserve the historical and cultural aspects of baseball that has been part of his family for four generations.  

In 1996, he debuted the first historic exhibit on Japanese American Baseball History at the Fresno Art Museum.  His nonprofit Nisei Baseball Research Project has since brought exhibits to venues around the world including The National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum, Cooperstown, New York, the Japan Hall of Fame in Tokyo, Japan, and the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California.


YAN NASCIMBENE, illustrator of picture book Hachiko:  The True Story of a Loyal Dog, was born in Paris and is of French and Italian parentage.  He has illustrated more than 40 books as well as more than three hundred book covers.  His work has been widely exhibited in the United States, France, Japan, England, Switzerland, and Italy.  He is the recipient of many awards, including three Bologna International Graphic Awards and the Society of Illustrators' Silver Medal.  He lives with his family in San Francisco, California.


RICK NOGUCHI (co-author of picture book Flowers From Mariko) took his MFA in creative writing from Arizona State University.  His first collection of poems, The Wave He Caught, received the Pearl Editions Prize and was published by Pearl in 1994.  His collection The Ocean Inside Kenji Takezo won the Associated Writing Programs Award Series and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1996.  Flowers  From Mariko is his first children's book.  He served as the Public Programs Specialist and Grants Manager at the Japanese American National Museum and currently works as the Program Manager of the UCLA Extension Writers' Program.


STAN SAKAI was born in Kyoto, Japan, grew up in Hawaii, and now lives in California with his wife, Sharon, and children, Hannah and Matthew.  He received a Fine Arts degree from the University of Hawaii and furthered his studies at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.  

His creation, Usagi Yojimbo, first appeared in comics in 1984.  Since then, Usagi has been on television as a guest of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and has been made into toys, seen on clothing, and featured in a series of trade-paperback collections.  

In 1991, Stan created Space Usagi, a series about the adventures of a descendent of the original Usagi that dealt with samurai in a futuristic setting.  

Stan is also an award-winning letterer for his work on Sergio Aragones' Groo the Wanderer, the "Spider-Man" Sunday newspaper strips, and Usagi Yojimbo.

Stan is a recipient of a Parents' Choice Award, an Inkpot Award, and multiple EisnerAwards. 

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Stan gives us a rare glimpse of one of his original paintings at Pasadena Obon, 2008.


"ON TOUR"  WITH STAN - travel vicariously along with Stan and Sharon Sakai as guests of Madrid's Expocomics Convention... (posted 12/3/04)

Madrid 11/21/-29/04

Day 1:  In which we fly into Madrid

You know how when you go on a trip you hope that you won't run into problems or delays at the airports, but you kind of know you will?  Well, this time everything went smoothly, plane-wise that is.  Sharon and I got to LAX in plenty of time to catch our 9:30 am American Airlines flight to Chicago.  A stroll brought us to the Iberia Airlines gate, again with plenty of time to spare.  I even caught a wireless signal on my iBook and was able to send a few e-mails.  The flight was a smooth as can be expected, and we got into Madrid just in time to see the sunrise.  The plane parked in the middle of the field, and passengers were shuttled over to the terminal.  Passport Control took about 3 minutes, but our bags took 30--and ours were two of the first ones out on the conveyor belt.  Sharon and I were in Madrid as guests of Expocomics 2004.  This was the seventh of their annual comics festivals.  Organizers had invited us to arrive a few days early to enjoy the sights and tastes that Madrid had to offer.  The convention was originally scheduled for earlier in November, but because of a conflict with another Spanish con, the four-day Expocomic was moved to Thanksgiving week.  Guests relations coordinator, Miguel Angel Dominguez, met us right outside baggage claim.  We taxied to the Sieste Islas (Seven Islands) Hotel, near the city center.  It's a pleasant hotel, themed on the Canary Islands.  We had a wonderful view of old tiled roofs outside our window.  It was very much how Old Spain is featured in movies and books.  Miguel gave us a couple of hours to settle in and have breakfast, then took us on a walking tour of the city.  We had been to Madrid four years ago, and it was nice to return to many familiar places--Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace, Sabatini Gardens, the Cristobol Colon Monument, and others.  Tanya, Miguel's girlfriend, joined us at the hotel and we went off for a late lunch.  La Barraca's specialty is rice dishes.  We ordered the house paella (a seafood rice dish seasoned with saffron) and black rice (seasoned with squid and squid ink).  As readers know, food is one of the reasons I travel.  We did a bit more sightseeing until jetlag started getting the better of us, and we called it a day.  Before reaching the hotel though, Sharon and I stopped of at a corner grocery store and picked up a six pack of Bitter Kas, my favorite soft drink in the world and, as far as I know, is only sold in Spain.  When we returned to our room a nice fruit basket was waiting for us, compliments of the management.

Day 2: In which we go to Segovia and eat a pig

Sharon and I breakfasted at the hotel, then met with Miguel.  We metroed over to the Princeo Pio bus terminal where he saw us off to Segovia, a town 1 1/4 hours north of Madrid.  It was a beautiful day with cloudless skies, and temperatures in the low 50's.  Sharon and I first went to the Romanesque church of St Millan, built in the 12th century. Further along was the Roman Aqueduct, built in the first century without motar.  It is 95 feet tall, and carried water from more than 15 kilometers away, and was in operation up to the 19th century.  The aqueduct is the symbol of Segovia, and is very impressive.  We wandered through the city, avoiding the small Europeans cars that barreled down the narrow streets.  We went through churches, the reconverted prison that is now the library, past fountains, and statues, until we reached Castle Alcazar at the very end of town. The castle stands atop a sheer cliff, with a spectacular view of the countryside. We toured the castle, spending the most time on the battlements.  We backtracked a bit until we came to Segovia's Plaza Mayor, where we found an inviting restaurant and lunched on the specialties of the area--"sopa castellana" (soup with garlic, bread, and eggs), roast suckling pig ( I had the left hind leg), and "ponche segoviano" (liqueur-dipped custard filled cake frosted with marzipan).  Lunch was finished at 3:30, and it was time to head back to the bus terminal and Madrid.  We still had not fully acclimatized to the time change, so ate an early dinner at the hotel--9:30 is very early for a Spanish dinner.  Sharon had chicken and mushrooms, while I had the stuffed squid (it was stuffed with its own tentacles) over rice.  Very good. 

Day 3: In which we drive to Toledo and visit a sword maker

Ten-thirty found us in the fog, driving south to Toledo.  Our driver was Raul, another member of the Expocomic staff.  He and Miguel were going to show us Toledo, but first we stopped at Marto, the premier swordcrafters in Europe.  They do not usually give tours of their facilities, but I was able to arrange one through David Scroggy at Dark Horse.  We arrived there promptly at 11:00 as requested.  A receptionist led us into a room stocked with arms and armor displayed elaborately on the walls and showcases.  There were historical weapons such as the sword of El Cid and the samurai daisho, weapons from movies like Conan and Lord of the Rings, from television shows such as Xena and Highlander, and from fantasy.  We were soon met by Ignacio Lopez-Chicheri who showed us another room of their gold jewelry and art crafts.  Then the owner, Senor Camacho, joined us and led us on a tour of the facility.  He showed us the entire process of crafting their excellent swords, from the smelting of steel ingots to the stamping, firing, grinding, polishing and etching of the blades.  Every sword is a labor-intensive process done by hand.  We also saw the making of armor, as craftsmen embossed breastplates by hand.  He showed us the making of some of the black and gold jewelry that Toledo is famed for.  We even got a preview of upcoming projects such as more Conan weaponry, and plans for the 400th anniversary of Cervantes' Don Quixote.  Our tour concluded back at the showroom.  When I first entered it, I had been impressed by the swords but now I appreciated the artistry and craft that went into each one.  I was invited to sign the guest book. Special guests were given a page to write his impressions and for a signature.  I signed (and drew) just a few pages after Jimmy Carter and the King of Spain.  As we were about to leave, we were all gifted smaller, boxed replicas of Conan's sword.  The fog was lifting as we continued on to Toledo, a walled city, basically built on a massive rock topped by a castle and cathedral.  We wandered streets barely wide enough for a car, much less both cars and pedestrians.  Cars would hurtle along, paying little heed to the people.  It was a wonder they could navigate through those narrow, maze-like streets.  There were many stores that sold the Marto blades we had just seen, but we resisted the temptation to start our armory.  I have been to many cathedrals but, even though this one was undergoing major refurbishing, the cathedral in Toledo is the most impressive I have ever seen.  After a lunch of paella and roast spring lamb, we went to the Jesuit church from whose towers can be seen a magnificent overview of the city.  It was getting dark, so we headed back to the car, picking up some Toledo marzipan along the way.  The traffic to Madrid was a commuter's nightmare that makes you glad if you live in LA.  Raul dropped us off at a metro station as it would be quicker for us to reach our hotel and for him to get back home.  We dined in the hotel on grilled asparagus and steak medallions with sweetened onions.

Day 4: In which the festival opens, and I meet the masters 

Miguel collected us at about 10, and we taxied over to the festival at Casa del Campo.  Thursday was the slow day, but there were already people buying tickets and waiting to go in.  Admission was 5E a day (about $6.50).  They had, in previous years, offered a four day membership.  However, very few people took advantage of it, and the paperwork was more than it was worth, so it was discontinued.  I finally met Emilio, the organizer of Expocomic.  The convention had commissioned me to do the Expocomic poster, the only restriction being that I include a bear and a strawberry tree-the symbol of Madrid.  The image that I had painted was everywhere--from the large vinyl banners, to metro posters, the program book cover, badges and events guide, even the signs for the restrooms. The convention had also printed up an 88 page Usagi drawing book, with sketches, pin-ups and little seen art of my rabbit samurai. Sharon and I checked out the exhibitions--20 years of Viboro, The Three Bernets, Neal Adams, and my own exhibit.  Expocomics had requested 40 of my pieces for a show, and they were nicely framed and exhibited.  The ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the festival took place at noon.  I was asked to cut the ribbon.  Soon after, I had my first one hour signing session, which, of course, stretched much longer.  Many of the guests were scheduled to arrive today, and they trickled in during the festival.  I met Jordi Bernet, one of the all time masters of black and white art.  Later, I was introduced to Alfonso Azpiri, a master of color.  Other guests included Jamie Delano and Paul Grist, both from England, Carlos Gimenez, Fernando Fernandez, Carlos Pacheco, and our good friend Pau from Mallorca.  Neal Adams would be arriving on Saturday morning.  We took a break from the festival at about three, and Miguel took us to a tapas bar for lunch.  Sharon and I did some sightseeing on our own, then metroed back to the convention center.  The Madrid metro system is very efficient, economical, and easy to navigate.  Because of the traffic it is often faster to metro than to go by taxi, if you don't mind the transfers.  A ten ride card is 5.35 euros (less than $7).  I had another two hour signing at 7 which lasted until closing at 9.  CNN news was there, but I was too busy to talk to them, and was not really inclined to do so.  Miguel turned out to be the reluctant spokesman for the festival, doing the many radio and television interviews.  Sometimes the interviews would have to be done on the run, so to speak--even by phone when we were at Marto the previous day.  Miguel, Tanya, Sharon, and I metroed back to the hotel.  They live about a 5 minute walk from it.  Sharon and I went out for dinner at a tapas restaurant Miguel suggested, just a few minutes walk--another excellent meal.  

Day 5: In which I'm on the radio, and I get a drawing 

We taxied to the festival at Casa de Campo with Paul Grist, Jamie Delano, and Miguel.  I had some interviews in the morning, then, according to my schedule, would be free until we went for lunch.  We found our friend Pau from Mallorca, whom we had not seen since France almost three years ago.  A staff asked if I would sign a few things for four people in wheelchairs who would be unable to queue up for my signing later.  I did those, then wandered the halls some more.  Another staffer came up and told me people had seen me signing, and now there was a line in the autograph area.  I signed for two hours, then it was off to the city center for lunch with Jamie, Paul, and Miguel.  After enjoying our tapas, we taxied to the radio station for a live interview.  It did not go well, a combination of the language and a promised thirty minute segment that was turned into almost two hours.  Back at the festival, I had another signing that was cut short because of the award ceremony, for which I was a presenter.  The statue, for which I don't think there is a name, was designed by Azpiri and were presented to the outstanding Spanish books and creators.  It is a heavy brass and marble statuette of a bear reading a book atop a strawberry tree.  I presented the award for the Best Graphic Novel.  We went to the festival dinner after the con ended for the day.  During the course of the evening I was approached by the chairman of the Granada festival, inviting me to their convention in March.  Unfortunately, I had to decline as I had already committed to one in Phoenix at about the same time.  It was an open invitation, so perhaps in 2006. Alfonso Azpiri presented me with his art book. Inside, with the inscription, was a beautiful watercolor painting of his character Lorna and my Usagi. To receive such a gift from one of the foremost artists in Europe left me speechless. He is a delightful man, my regret is that I could not speak Spanish to truly convey how much I admire his work.  

Day 6: In which I give a presentation and we experience flamenco 

Sharon and I metroed over to the festival pavilion where I was scheduled to give a presentation at 11:00.  All the events were held within the hall, which made it convenient but a bit noisy at times.  After a break, I signed at a dealer's booth. Sharon and I metroed to the city center for a Chinese lunch, then went shopping in the Plaza del Sol area.  Then it was back to the convention center for a short meeting with Jaime, the editor-in-chief from Planeta, my Spanish publisher.  I did another one hour signing, which, as usual, ended 1 1/2 hours later than scheduled.  We met in the hotel lobby at 10 for dinner.  Spanish adult film star Celia Blanco was also staying in the hotel.  In a scene out of Walter Mitty, she came over, and asked if she could have her picture taken with me.  Of course, I obliged.  Our group, which included the Adam's, Jamie Delano, Paul Grist, and a young English writer named Daniel Hartwell, were taken by Miguel and Tanya out for a "tapas avalanche".  After our meal, we walked to a flamenco cafe where Paul, Jamie, Daniel, Sharon, and I stayed for the show.  It ended at about 1:30, then we walked back to the hotel.  The streets of Madrid were full of people and cars out on the Saturday night.  

Day 7: In which the festival closes

Sharon and I walked the Old City, then took the metro from Puerta Del Sol.  It was Sunday, and attendance was much lighter than the day before.  I had a signing at a dealer's booth which was kept strictly to one hour. The "parapara" competition was underway.  It is an anime-type event where fans would dance out choreographed moves to music.  Each movement is very specific, and audience members could be seen "chair dancing", mimicking exactly the performers onstage.  We lunched at a nearby restaurant with Neal Adams and his family, and translators Alex and Game'.  The karaoke contest was going on by the time we returned, but I had another interview.  Later, I did my final shopping in the exhibiters' hall before another signing.  This time, I was seated next to Alfonso Azpiri, and would pause occasionally to watch him paint quick watercolor sketches.  The festival closed, and Sharon and I were driven back to our hotel.  We met Miguel, Tanya, and the Adams' in the lobby at 10, and went out to dinner.  Though they had just arrived, Neal did not want to eat Spanish food.  We went Italian.  A walk back to our hotel, final good-byes, and up to our room to pack.  

Day 8: In which we return home

We met Miguel in the lobby at 8, and he escorted us in a cab to Barajas Airport.  Today was his and Tanya's second anniversary of their first date, but he would be spending the morning with us and the day with Neal and family.  Miguel works on offshore oil rigs, and would be leaving the next day to work for two weeks in the Netherlands.  However, we were glad he was with us.  There was some confusion at check-in.  We were flying American Airlines, but through Iberia Airlines, and so, in the wrong queue.  He also helped us with the VAT, getting a tax reimbursement for a figurine we had bought at a Llandro store in Madrid.  He could not accompany us any farther, so we said our good-byes.  The plane was delayed for an hour, so we had a light sushi meal.  Even with the delay though, we made our connection in Chicago with little effort.  The flight into LAX even arrived early.  Expocomic was a wonderful experience. The staff, especially Miguel, were very gracious, and treated their guests much better than we deserve.  Madrid is one of my top 3 favorite cities, so, of course, I'll take any excuse to return.  Next: France and Switzerland

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DALE SATO, third generation Japanese American oral historian born in Long Beach, raised in Gardena, and currently living in Torrance, California, is the author of Japanese Americans of the South Bay.  

Dale earned a B.S. degree in Occupational Therapy at San Jose State University, and a M.A. degree in Education at CSULA.  She lived in Japan for several years where she taught at Hokusei Gakuen University and Sapporo Gakuin University.  In 1997, she spent a year at UCLA Asian American Studies Center as an independent scholar.  This marked a return in her research interests to Japanese American history.  Dale says, "Documenting forgotten local history of Japanese American communities became a passion for me."  

Dale founded the Japanese American Historical Mapping Project ( which collected oral histories and mapped the pre-World War II farming communities on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.  She is also affiliated with a number of organizations including Southwest Oral History Association, Oral History Association, Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California, Torrance Historical Society and Museum, and South Bay JACL.  Dale recently received the City of Torrance 2009 Older Americans Award for Outstanding Service.  

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Dale enjoys conversing with customers at San Luis Obispo Obon, 2009.


KIYO SATO, the eldest child of a Japanese-American immigrant family, grew up before World War II with her eight brothers and sisters in Sacramento, California. There her parents established a thriving family farm on a few acres, producing some of the finest strawberries and table grapes in the region.

Home life in the Sato family was a pleasant mix of Japanese and American customs, which Kiyo describes at length in Kiyo's Story:  A Japanese-American Family's Quest for the American Dream (previously published as Dandelion Through the Crack). The family attended a local church, and Kiyo and her brothers and sisters went to school at a nearby one-room schoolhouse. Later, she attended Sacramento High School.

She was attending Sacramento Junior College when World War II broke out and brought with it the evacuation of all Japanese-Americans in 1942. In her book, Kiyo recalls the trauma of being forced to leave the family farm and ship out to a prison camp with little more than the clothes on their backs.

At the end of the war, after their release from the prison camp and then working a season as hired laborers in Colorado, Kiyo and her family returned to their farm in Sacramento to rebuild their home and their lives. Kiyo’s parents were able to keep their farm, but many Japanese-American families were not so fortunate and had to start over with nothing.

Kiyo then joined the United States Air Force, completing her college education in nursing and achieving the rank of captain. She eventually returned home from the service, married, and started her own family in Sacramento. Her four children grew up frequently visiting and working on their grandparents’ farm, a vital part of every Sato family member’s experience.

Kiyo belongs to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Nisei Post 8985. She and other post members give talks about their experiences during WWII and have put together an educational video and workbook for school children about the Japanese-American evacuation. The presentation, entitled "Lessons From Our Lifetime," received a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program in 1999. Kiyo has also been quoted in the Sacramento Bee and is part of the Japanese American Citizens League, Florin Oral History Project.

During her professional career as a public health nurse, Ms. Sato developed the innovative Blackbird Vision Screening System for detecting eye problems in young children. She continues to sell the Blackbird System, and lives in Sacramento, California.

Her poignant memoir of life growing up on her parents’ farm and the trauma of the wartime evacuation camps gives us a unique and touching portrait of an American immigrant family.

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Kiyo's visit to Katy Geissert Library in Torrance, California, August, 2009

ALLEN SAY is an award-winning children's book illustrator and author.  He has received many awards including the 1993 Caldecott Medal Award (most distinguished American picture book for children) for Grandfather's Journey.  

The following essay was written by Allen Say's daughter when she was 13 years old (reprinted with Allen Say's permission):


By Yuriko Say

I spend half of my life with my mother and the other half with my father.  My father lives with a twenty-pound cat named Tofu.  He calls me his favorite daughter.  I am an only child.

My father's apartment is quite different from any other person's living space.  Except for my room, there is no furniture.  He doesn't like sofas or any comfortable chairs, so he has only a drawing table, a desk, and his bed.  For three years he has resisted buying a stereo because he thinks it's ugly and will mess up his studio.

But Tofu has a scratching post and a cat bed, where he snores very loudly when he sleeps.  He follows my father around the house until my father says, "Stop giving me the evil eye!" and gives him food.  Tofu gets fed three times a day.

From my father's studio window, you can see a large part of San Francisco.  I like to watch the colors change in the bay when the sun is setting.  All the walls are white, and framed posters of my father's last three books hang side by side.  He spends a lot of time lying on the studio floor.  That's how he thinks, he says.  Then he does yoga.  He has a big kitchen, and on top of the refrigerator is an old clock he winds every week for good luck.  The last time the clock stopped, my father's car was towed and some other terrible things happened, so he has become very superstitious.  When he goes out of town, he hires someone to feed Tofu and wind the clock so it won't stop.

The one thing he has plenty of is house rules.  You have to take off your shoes when you come in.  He won't allow anyone who wears a baseball cap into his house.  He says only baseball players should wear baseball caps and only the catchers should wear them backward.  Every time I go to stay at his house, he makes up a new rule.  "House rule number 579, no television programs with laugh tracks!" he will say.  But then he can never remember the numbers, so they change constantly.

The rule that he always enforces is the one that requires me to write a two-page essay anytime I want something.  He didn't speak English until he was sixteen, and he had a hard time learning to write it, so he wants me to become a good writer at an early age.  This ritual started when I asked him if I could have my ears pierced when I was nine.  He said it was barbaric and told me I couldn't do it until I was thirty-five.  But I kept asking him, and he finally said that if I wrote an essay and I could persuade him in writing why I wanted holes in my ears, maybe he would say okay.  I wrote my first essay for my father, and after one month of writing and rewriting, he finally gave me his permission.

Proper etiquette is another thing my father insists on.  I have to eat properly and speak correctly, or I get demerits.  He went to a military academy when he first came to America, and his superiors gave him lots of demerits.  But because he's never given me a demerit, I think it's just a threat.  If I ever got sunburned, he says he would court-martial me because that is what they do in the army.  He buys me a lot of sun block.

The first time he took me to a sushi bar, he said it was very rude to rub chopsticks together, and you never order more than one thing at a time.  Just as he said that, a couple sat down next to us and rubbed their chopsticks together and ordered five or six different pieces of sushi.  My father was very pleased.  He is right most of the time.

When I began this profile, I started to think about all the things I remember about my father.  After I put two thoughts on paper, I got stuck and couldn't think of anything more.  I went to my father and asked him what I should write about.  He thought for a moment and said, "If I were to die tomorrow, what would you remember about me?"  I went downstairs and thought about what he said.

My earliest memories are the stories he used to tell me.  When he read a book for me, he would always change the story, and we would laugh hysterically.  But my favorites were the stories he made up himself and drew pictures about while he talked.  I still have the drawings he did for me.  And I remember the little storage room where he used to work.  Until he moved to his new apartment, the little room was where he worked every day, as long as I can remember.

What I admire most about my father is that he always says exactly what he thinks.  When I was seven years old, I dragged my father into a Hello Kitty store.  After I had picked out the things I wanted, we walked up to the cash register.  The lady at the register rang up the purchases, and just as she was about to put them in a bag, my father said, "I really wish this place would burn to the ground."  The lady gave him a blank look.  I was very embarrassed.  But that's the way my father is.  He'll say anything to anyone.  I think a lot of people are afraid of my father because of his honesty.  Some of my friends are afraid of him, and some of them think he is very funny.  My father doesn't think he is funny.  But he is, most of the time.

My father has given me many things, but I think the most important gift I have received from him is respect.  Many adults treat young people in a special way.  They never tell us certain things that they think are too "adult."  My father tells me everything.  I can ask him anything, and he will give me a straight answer.  My father treats me as an adult, and he has been doing so for a long time.  Perhaps this is because it's the only way he knows how to deal with anybody.

He is my favorite father.


SUNNY SEKI is the author/illustrator of The Tale of the Lucky Cat.  This 2007 NAPPA award-winning story retells a famous Japanese folktale explaining the origin of the famous paw-waving cat.  Sunny earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in photography in Japan and studied illustration at Pasadena Art Center College of Design.  For the past 30 years he operated a portrait studio in Southern California, but now he writes and illustrates stories full time.  He also leads a Japanese poetry senryu group, and recently published Gardeners Pioneer Story - the history of Japanese gardeners in California as reflected in the senryu poetry of gardeners themselves.  Sunny lives in Los Angeles with his wife, nine children, and cat.


MARLENE SHIGEKAWA was born in Poston, Arizona, during the internment.  She is the author of Blue Jay in the Desert, a children's picture book based on her family's internment experience, and a sequel, Welcome Home Swallows.  She has also written Succeeding in High Tech:  A Guide to Building Your Career.

As a management consultant, she has worked to increase understanding of cultural diversity in organizations, and as a producer of technology-based education, she has developed content for web-based training in corporations.

A nationally known speaker, she has given book readings to schools and has made presentations to various professional organizations and universities including MIT and Harvard University.

She lives with her daughter and husband in Oakland, California.


SHELLY SHINJO (illustrator of picture book Ghosts For Breakfast) is half Japanese.  She grew up in San Diego and lived a long time in the LA area.  As a child she drew as all children do, and never stopped.  At 18, she decided children's books is something she really wanted to do.  She received a BFA with Honors from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA.  She illustrates children's magazines, textbooks and book covers.  Ghosts for Breakfast is her first picture book.  Shelly currently lives in Northern Arizona with her husband and two cats.


ICY SMITH is the author of The Lonely Queue:  The Forgotten History of the Courageous Chinese Americans in Los Angeles.  Her award-winning book has been favorably reviewed by numerous print, radio and television nationwide.  Smith has been featured as "Our Role Model" by KSCI-Channel 18 TV.  She frequently lectures on Chinese-American history at schools, libraries, museums, and organizations.  Smith is publisher of East West Discovery Press and also a corporate communications professional specializing in Asian-American markets.  She is a member of the California Readers, the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, the Organization of Chinese Americans, the Friends of Chinese American Museum, and the Asian Business Association of Orange County.


JOEL STERN (author of Jewish Holiday Origami and Animated Origami Faces) has enjoyed origami since his childhood.  A native of Omaha, Nebraska, he has conducted many origami workshops for all ages in camps, schools, community centers, and libraries.  Joel is the author of Animated Origami Faces, Jewish Holiday Origami, as well as Washington Pops!, a collection of do-it-yourself pop-up cards of famous buildings in Washington, D.C.  His origami and pop-up creations have been exhibited in the U.S., Japan, and Israel. Joel lives in Los Angeles with his wife Susan and their three children.  He can be reached via his website

JUDY TACHIBANA (co-author of Tule Lake Revisited) previously reported for the Metro section of The Sacramento Bee.  Her mother, Elsie (Kondo) Tachibana, and her family were interned at Tule Lake and later Minidoka.  Her father's family spent the war years at Manzanar.  Two of his siblings -- Kiyoshi Tachibana and Shigeko (Tachibana) Taketomo -- were incarcerated in Tule Lake after segregation.  In addition to visiting the two California internment camps in the early 1970s, the former Torrance Unified School District math teacher has driven to the remains at Topaz, Utah and Minidoka, Idaho.


BARBARA TAKEI (co-author of Tule Lake Revisited), a freelance writer focusing on civil rights topics, graduated with honors from Howard University in Washington, D.C.  During the 1980s, she and spouse, Yoshinori "Toso" Himel and their son Carl took family trips to visit internment camp sites at Tule Lake and Manzanar in California, and Rohwer and Jerome in Arkansas that led to an interest in developing a guide.  Her mother, Bette (Sakaye Sato) Takei, and her family, were interned at Tule Lake and Amache while her father spent the war years in Europe with the 522nd field artillery battalion that liberated Dachau.


GEORGE T. TAMURA (author of Reflections), born in Sacramento, CA, on November 27, 1927, attended Chouinard Art Institute and showed in numerous one-man shows in the Los Angeles area.  He wa