top of page

Updated: Oct 24, 2019

Hi my name is Shane Sato, I am photographer In Los Angeles, CA. As a kid growing up in a predominately Asian area I had no idea what prejudice or injustice was. My family never spoke of these things, even when I went to visit my relatives in Visalia, CA. This is where during WWII they were forced from their family farm into concentration camps at Poston II in Arizona.

When I was growing up, my mother never explained to me what “camp” was, she just said they had been there. I share the history of what the Issei and Nisei did to give us a life here in the United States, using photography to immortalize the heroic Nisei soldiers that fought to prove that the Japanese Americans were loyal citizens. However many others fought in different ways, some by enduring camp life like my mom, others fighting for justice. Many Nisei never mention the injustice they had to endure for my future in this country. I understand now why my family never spoke about “internment” but I feel its my duty to share these portraits and stories so it never happens again.

“The Go For Broke Spirit” has been over 20 years in the making. I have been photographing moving portraits of Nisei soldiers to create a one of a kind coffee table book. Poignant images of men who fought for America while America put their families and loved ones in prison. This hardcover book contains portraits of over 80 Japanese American WWII veterans. My book unveils the wide range of feelings the Japanese Americans must have experienced after the attack on Pearl Harbor. I tried to artistically captures these men’s emotions—expressively photographed in a way not many have seen.. The story of the Nisei is inspiring… and each portrait is accompanied by candid photos and a short story— a personal one, whenever possible. Without writing a history book, I “talks story” to share the lives of the Nisei to future generations so that their accomplishments and history are not forgotten. This portrait book is not just a glimpse into Japanese American history, but a triumphant story of American history.

Updated: Oct 24, 2019

My name is Hatsuko Mary Higuchi. I was born in Los Angeles 1939 on the eve of WWII. Executive Order 9066 destroyed my family’s life. We were sent to Poston, Arizona, a concentration camp on the Colorado River Indian Reservation. When we arrived we saw rows and rows of black tarred paper barracks surrounded by barred wires. Soldiers with guns. After the war ended, we returned with nothing except my parents determination to rebuild our lives.

Years later, I took my mother to Poston, came home and did a painting of guard towers and barrack and I asked her what she thought. Her expression turn to great sadness. She said in camp not a day went by was I wondering what would happen to my children. What will become of them.

Hatsuko Mary Higuchi paints a variety of themes such as landscapes, figures, and abstracts.  She uses watercolor, acrylic,  mixed media, collage, and calligraphy.  Her EO 9066 paintings depict faces with anonymous features or none at all, symbolizing the mass anonymity to which over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were reduced–denied due process and judged guilty solely by reason of their race.  Mary Higuchi’s haunting portraits are a warning that what happened to Japanese Americans is a precedent for similar actions against other groups, unless we remember the lessons of the past. 

E.O. 9066, Series 4. Watercolor, image 30" X 22"

E.O. 9066, Series 31. Woebegone. Watercolor on paper, 30"x22"

E.O. 9066, Series 31.  Woebegone.  I looked up "woebegone" in the dictionary and it means exhibiting woe, sorrow, or misery; also dismal, desolate.  This little girl, surrounded by luggage and her parents, looks lost, alone and uncertain about her future.  The little girl was painted from a photo of my mother when she was sent to Japan after she was orphaned at the age of three.

E.O. 9066, Series 28. Unfinished Business: Euphemisms. Acrylic and collage on canvas, 36"x 24"

E.O. 9066, Series 29.  Unfinished Business:  Hardship and Suffering, depicts the systematic destruction of the Nikkei family unit during the forced removal and incarceration.  Families lost most of their personal possessions as they were forced to remote areas, then released after the war to start a new life from scratch.  Parents lost control of the family.  The long hours of work to rebuild their lives after the war took a toll on male heads of households.  My father died at the age of 45, a few years after being released from the concentration camp.  Studies have shown that 40% of Nikkei males incarcerated during the war, died before they reached the age of 60.

Updated: Oct 24, 2019

I’ve heard the term ‘Spoiled Sansei’ and I have always been revolted by that notion. The hard work I’ve put into my career has always made me think that I wasn’t spoiled. Yet when I compare my freedom to chase dreams, as compared to my Nisei father, who was interned at Poston and grew up farming, my life has been filled with opportunity. I graduated from UCLA

and subsequently created, published, and co-edited a pop culture magazine called Giant Robot, and later opened shops (Giant Robot Store) in multiple cities and an art gallery (GR2). On the way, I studied photography, co-directed a feature film, designed t-shirts, and traveled. I’m guessing most internees wouldn’t have these chances to try as many projects as I have, and for that I’m thankful.

I’ve asked my father about growing up in Poston. He was younger, probably around ten and although he spent time there; like many internees, he seldom talks about it even when asked. Only recently did he tell me about the wood plank floors that had gaps in between which allowed the dirt and cold in. He also mentioned something about it being in the middle of the desert with nothing around. I’m unsure if he’ll ever speak in detail about his interned life, but I also realize that I don’t need to know everything. I’m happy with him as he is now and I have to hope he’s proud of the projects that I’ve been working on. 

This year, I’m hoping to take my parents to the Poston Pilgrimage. They are excited about the idea of being near a casino and I’m excited to see what he memories the location will bring up.

Eric Nakamura and his magazine Giant Robot has been one of the original forefronts of Asian & Asian American pop culture featuring talent from around the country. His store Giant Robot was established in 2001 on Sawtelle in Los Angeles features products from around the world. GR2 Gallery opened down the street two years later. He would work with and/or feature artists such as James Jean,Katsuya Terada, Luke Chueh, David Choe, Audrey Kawasaki, Deth P Sun, Kozyndan, Yoskay Yamamoto and more. Nakamura has put together multiple museum shows, including the Giant Robot Biennale at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo and the 2016 show Silent Wonderment: Exploring the World of Giant Robot at the Vincent Price Art Museum in Monterey Park. Today, Giant Robot and GR 2 are cornerstones of a bustling Sawtelle street scene on the Westside of L.A.

bottom of page