“Here” was written by Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma for “Joy and Heartache: Vashon’s 125-year Japanese American Legacy” at the Vashon Heritage Museum. Each of the five sections of the poem corresponds to the five sections of the exhibit:
I. Hope 1910-1920
Young, single laborers looking for a new life were quickly followed by “picture bride” families whose efforts created a vibrant community and a vital presence in Vashon’s community and economy.
II. Struggle 1920-1942
Vashon’s flourishing Japanese American farms became the backbone of the Vashon farming community during the 1920s and 1930s, despite Alien Land Laws and anti-immigrant legislation. Their organizations worked hard to build a positive presence in the larger Vashon community, through arts, good works and education.
III. Trauma 1942-1945
On May 16, 1942 Vashon Japanese were sent to the Pinedale Processing Center in California, then to Tule Lake Relocation Camp. When Tule Lake became a segregation camp for what were known as “No No’s”, most Vashon residents were “re-distributed” into seven of the ten American concentration camps, effectively destroying the Japanese community on Vashon.
IV. Resilience 1946-1960
Only about one-third of Vashon’s Japanese American evacuees, returned to the island to pick up their interrupted lives and careers. Many islanders welcomed their former neighbors, but some did not.
V. Identities 1960-Today
But things could never be the same. Their children, the Sansei, grew up during the decades of activism in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Today, Japanese Americans on Vashon are at every income strata with diverse occupations. Each with unique experiences, but sharing a cultural bond.
Learn more about the exhibit at vashonheritagemuseum.org.