Clip of the Day: Life in Japanese America

Now, footage of the internment of Japanese Americans in camps in the Western United States is as hard to fathom as scraps of film footage can be to make out through the injuries of time.

The Japanese American National Museum is dedicated to preserving such memories, and others from the long residence in North America of people of Japanese descent. Located in Los Angeles, it has posted more than 300 rare home-movie clips as one section of its Discover Nikkei web site. Intended for educational, nonprofit uses, the Discover Nikkei trove reflects the varied lives of Japanese immigrant families, from the 1920s to the 1960s. Among the clips are 100 minutes of footage from the internment camps. The films, most in black and white, some in color, document Japanese Americans living in forced exclusion. They display everyday life of families and individuals – fishing, farming, worshiping, marrying, being buried…

As for the internment footage, it was taken during World War II at camps at Heart Mountain, Wyoming; Topaz, Utah; and Tule Lake, California. Among the items is 30 minutes of footage made in secret at the Topaz camp, and that was added to the National Film Registry in 1996.

The clips have been grouped into various collections, such as the Lloyd Evans Collection. The items include this five-minute segment depicting activities at Heart Mountain, and was filmed by Reverend Stanley T. Evans, who visited Rev. Donald Toriumi at the camp in 1945. The clip shows the camp’s Community Christian Church after Sunday services; parishioners including some in U.S. military uniform, outside the church; and a distant view of snow-covered Heart Mountain.

Credit: Lloyd Evans Collection, Gift of Reverend Stanley T. Evans, Japanese American National Museum. Preserved and made accessible in part by a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Categories: Shorts

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