Japanese culture exhibit educates students

Asain Exhbit 2 copy Courtney Tanner
(Brent Uberty) A display set up at the Marriott Library shows artifacts from Japanese internment camps in Utah.

(Brent Uberty) A display set up at the Marriott Library shows artifacts from Japanese internment camps in Utah.

Located on the fourth floor of the Marriott Library, is an exhibit that has been accumulating archives for over 20 years.

The exhibit, currently on display, shows the history of Japanese culture in Utah. During WWII, many Japanese Americans and immigrants were sent to internment camps because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This archive shows the culture with authentic artifacts of the time, including film reels, photographs, clothing, letters and journals of the people who lived during that time.

But Lorraine Crouse, curator for the exhibit, said many people don’t know about the internment camps that were located in southern Utah, although it’s an issue that hits close to home for her.

Crouse is a third generation Japanese American. Her father was sent to an internment camp even after he had been in America for more than 40 years. He had one week to get rid of his pets, homes and valuables before being sent to an unknown location.

These camps were located throughout the United States, including locations in Arkansas, Idaho, California and Wyoming. However, the most famous was in Topaz, Utah, just southwest of Provo. Those sent to the camps were told to bring toiletries, bedding and dishes.

When many arrived at the barracks, construction wasn’t finished, so they had to build some of the sections themselves. The barracks were also cramped, with little to no privacy and close quarters. After three years of living in these terrible camps, the war ended and those interned were able to go home.

The exhibit features a film reel done by an internment camp prisoner named Dan Tatsuno. He was not allowed to bring a camera when he arrived, but a friend helped him smuggle one in, and he was able to film the actual experience of his life at the camp.

He filmed everyday experiences like where he slept, ate, played and worked. But if it weren’t for Mitsugi Kasai, this wouldn’t have made it to the exhibit. He collected several artifacts, fighting to preserve the history an object can hold.

Kasai was a veteran and an activist who lived in Utah for more than 30 years. He advocated for the rights of Japanese Americans and their culture by accumulating many different archives to protect his roots. He collected photographs, diaries, letters and clothing currently in the exhibit.

Matt Weathered, a senior in philosophy, wants other students to be more aware of the hardships that happened in their own state.

“I think that there is a silence and lack of awareness regarding the stories of Japanese Americans in Utah,” Weathered said. “It’s important that people learn about incarceration or internment.”

He wants to help teach the next generation about this part of Utah’s history.

“It makes it more real to see the families affected by this and to not let certain things happen like this again,” he said.

c.cole@chronicle.utah.edu