Giving a Face to a Tragedy

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UW Tacoma is hosting a performance of the Broadway Center's Nihonjin Face, a 35-minute play recalling Japanese American internment during World War II.

(Photo above: A girl at Tacoma's Union Station prior to her family boarding a train headed for U.S.-ordered internment during World War II. Photo courtesy Tacoma Public Library, D12799-13.)

Today, happy families with cotton-candy-clad fingers swoop around on fairground rides. But 75 years ago the Puyallup Fairgrounds was surrounded with barbed wire and searchlights. The location, merely 10 road miles from the UW Tacoma campus, served as the “Puyallup Assembly Center,” a waystation for thousands of Japanese Americans sent to internment camps in the wake of the entrance of the United States into World War II.

Some of them came from Tacoma’s vibrant Japanese-American community concentrated between South 11th and 21st Streets on the hillside where UW Tacoma is located today. The memories and echoes of that time are all around us.

Scene from "Nihonjin Face." Photo courtesy Broadway Center for the Performing Arts.On Feb. 23, at 5 p.m. in William W. Philip Hall, UW Tacoma will bring to life the experiences of some of those Japanese American families from 1942 with an original play and a series of oral histories.

Nihonjin Face, a 35-minute play produced by the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts as part of its annual Civil Rights Legacy Tour, will challenge the audience to think about civil rights from a different angle by recalling the forced removal and incarceration of the Japanese American community. The play, whose title means “Japanese face,” shares the story of 10-year-old Tacoma resident Tomiko Hashimoto and her family as they experienced the relocation.

The play and an interactive conversation that follows challenge audiences to make connections between our history and our civic engagement of today.

Establishing the context for the play, UW Tacoma Professor Mary Hanneman will share highlights of an oral history project. She and Professor Lisa Hoffman coordinated interviews with 42 former students of the Japanese Language School formerly located on Tacoma Avenue. Like the characters in the play, these former students were children and teenagers at the time they were sent to the internment camps.

What: Nihonjin Face: the Civil Rights Legacy Tour
Who: Broadway Center for the Performing Arts
Where: William W. Philip Hall, UW Tacoma campus
When: February 23, 2017, 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Admission is free  |  More information

Nihonjin Face is presented as an installment of the UW Tacoma Discussion Series on Race and Equity. The presentation is made possible by the UW Tacoma Arts & Lecture Fund.

Sponsors of Nihonjin Face include:
Kip Tokuda Memorial Washington Civil Liberties Education Program
The Gottfried & Mary Fuchs Foundation
The Boeing Company
Wells Fargo
Humanities Washington
The Florence B. Kilworth Charitable Trust Foundation

Written by: 
John Burkhardt / February 17, 2017
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or