Chizu Iiyama and Jimi Yamaichi Visit Japanese American History Class

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Front row (l to r)
Marissa Simon, Sayo Guillaume, Cindy Guan, Kay Kim, Vivian Cheng, Michelle Loo, Yuki Matsumoto

Back row (l to r)
Khoa Dao, Justin Yoo, Wendy Steiner, Ben Porter, Jeffrey Chow, Emi Nishikawa, Brett Kamita

On September 20, two eminent community elders, Mrs. Chizu Kitano Iiyama and Mr. Jimi Yamaichi, spoke about their wartime experiences, as well as their work for economic, political, and social justice on a variety of fronts, especially within Asian American communities. They were guests in Dr. Lisa Hirai Tsuchitani’s Japanese American history class.

A long-time Bay Area civil rights activist, Mrs. Iiyama was a senior at UC Berkeley when war erupted between the U.S. and Japan on December 7, 1941. She received her diploma while living in a horse stall at the Santa Anita Assembly Center. She served as Assistant Director of the Education and Recreation Department while at Santa Anita, and as a social worker at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah. Mrs. Iiyama has been active with a number of organizations over the years as an educator and a leader, including the Early Childhood Education Program at Contra Costa College, the Richmond and El Cerrito Human Relations Committees, the National Japanese American Historical Society, the National Coalition for Redress and Reparations, and the Japanese American Citizens League.

Mr. Yamaichi grew up on his family-owned farm in San Jose during the Great Depression. With the signing of Executive Order 9066, he and his family were forcibly removed from their home to the Pomona Assembly Center and then to the concentration camps at Heart Mountain in Wyoming and at Tule Lake in California. Angered that he and others were deprived of their constitutional rights and that his older brother suffered great indignities while serving as a soldier in the US military, he became a draft resister during this time. After the war, Mr. Yamaichi would continue his struggles against civil rights violations, eventually becoming the first Asian American to be allowed to join a local union. He also has served on a variety of boards and committees in San Jose’s Japantown, including the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, the San Jose-Okayama Sister City Organization, and the Yu Ai Kai Japanese American Community Senior Service Center. He has played a significant role in leading the effort to restore the Tule Lake Relocation Center as well.