Congresswoman Doris Matsui hugs University President Robert S. Nelsen during a ceremony recognizing the 25th anniversary of the Library's Japanese American Archival Collection on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)
By Dixie Reid
Congresswoman Doris Matsui was born in a World War II internment camp. Her parents were among the 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent who were sent to wartime relocation camps throughout the country, where they stayed until the war’s end.
It wasn’t until Matsui was in college that her parents told her about the experience.
“Many of us as Sansei (third generation) didn’t grow up with any sense of what really happened,” Matsui said during the 25th anniversary celebration of the University’s Japanese American Archival Collection (JAAC), on Oct. 3.
“When you look at the news of today, you cannot but see the parallels, and for me, that’s why I feel very strongly that it’s so important to share and teach each other about the Japanese American experience.”
Matsui presented the University with a Congressional Record proclamation noting the collection’s anniversary.
Sac State’s JAAC was created in 1994 with a gift of photographs, artifacts, and documents from Sacramento schoolteacher Mary Tsuroko Tsukamoto. She encouraged others in the local Japanese American community to donate their internment-related memorabilia to Sacramento State.
VFW Post 8985 gave its records, and the Florin Japanese American Citizens League donated oral histories. Many families offered photographs and artifacts.
“The JAAC is not the largest collection in the United States, but the depth and breadth of the collection is without equal,” said Julie Thomas, a librarian in Sacramento State’s Special Collections & University Archives, where the collection is held. “From Mary’s original deposit, researchers can now access original source material from more than 250 donors.”
Among the hundreds of people attending the celebration were community members – including Marielle Tsukamoto, Mary’s daughter – who have donated to the collection.
The celebration, called the “Japanese American Archival Collection: A Gift for the 21st Century,” included talks by Lawson Inada, Oregon’s former poet laureate; Mia Yamamoto, civil rights attorney and activist; and Mitchell Maki, executive director of the Go for Broke Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the legacy of Japanese American Nisei, or second-generation, World War II veterans.