Japanese American Citizens League forum on “Gaman”

May 18, 2015 8:29 pm Published by Leave your thoughts



JACL Forum_Picture 2_17May15


I had the good fortune to be invited to a special function sponsored by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in Monterey on the 17th of May. To the left in the above photograph are the four panelists: Marie Mutsuki Mockett, yours truly, Luis Valdez, and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. To the right are David Yamada who did a superb job of moderating the forum and Carolyn McCombs, who chairs the Heritage Project of which this event was a part.

One definition of Gaman (a Japanese term with Buddhist origins) is “to endure the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.” The two topics addressed in this forum to which Gaman is applicable are the Japanese internment of World War II and the earthquake/tsunami disaster that hit Japan in 2011. Although different in nature, both tragedies called upon an inner strength for those involved to survive. For the 120,o00 of Japanese origin who were uprooted from their west-coast homes following Pearl Harbor, they endured the profound embarrassment, indignity, and pain of being herded into veritable prisons. Alternately, citizens in Japan were severely tested in 2011 by the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands, destroyed countless homes, and forced many to avoid the area damaged by the Fukushima nuclear melt-down.

Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s book, Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye, details the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster while simultaneously exploring the story of her family’s Buddhist temple and the roots of Gaman within the Buddhist religion. Luis Valdez’s family discovered that his family’s farm had been farmed by Japanese Americans prior to their uprooting by the internment; inspired by this experience, Valdez wrote a play called Valley of the Heart. Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston is famous for her book, Farewell to Manzanar, which is based upon her memories from the Manzanar internment camp in southern California.  

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This post was written by paulmarktag