Yamashita Family Archives

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This website is still being worked on to make it more user-friendly.
Thanks to the many relatives and other people who made this possible by culling together, transcribing, laboring, protecting and researching:

Martha "Marty" (Ono) Uyeki
Eugene Uyeki
Ann (Tamaki) Dion
Karen Tei Yamashita
Ken Yamashita
Susan (Kimiko Yamashita) Bowers
Kix Kitow
Hisaji Sakai
Jane Tomi Yamashita Boltz
Mary Jane Tomi Boltz
Lucy Asako Boltz
Jonah Stuart-Brundage
Sebastian Honnef
and Michael Jin.

The archive started with Karen Tei Yamashita looking through her grandmother Tomi's old photographs after Tomi had died. She collected all of them and kept them in one place. Kay Yamashita, her aunt, was a pack rat, and had saved all of her correspondences in boxes. When planning a move from Chicago to California, and packing up all of her boxes alone in her apartment, she collapsed. After her death, her papers were kept by members of the family. When John Yamashita died, he also left behind boxes and boxes of papers, his papers from college, files from when he organized hostels to resettle returning Japanese Americans in Oakland after the war. Later for some reason family members started handing Karen their materials. Keeping family archives is difficult. You need space and a certain amount of permanence to hold onto the documents and paraphanalia of previous lives and predecessors.

Karen Tei Yamashita began writing a book about her family and their stories, turning the accepted approach of family history on its head with many correspondences coalescing- correspondences with her scholarly colleages, a correspondence with a broader appeal to the rhythms and ripples of history, humanity and its inclinations towards morality, fable, memory and acts. By layering various correspondences she makes documents talk to each other, play like, and also allows herself a conversation with a family, some living and some passed.

This forthcoming book is accompanied by this website archive. While the items in the Yamashita Archive are soon to be processed by University of California Santa Cruz Special Collections, this website is to share the documents with family. Instead of leaving you in a maze of boxes of items, this website curates a conversation by selecting some pieces to tell a story. While most immigrant stories start with the point of arrival, this archive takes you back somewhat (with the help of Karen Tei Yamashita's soul searching research in the 1970s) to ancestry in Japan. The archive also takes your forward in time from the 1900s to the 1980s. (Exhibits on the 1980s are of course still in progress). What are the normal images of the Japanese American experience? Does this family deviate from that norm? The particularities of a single family set the stage for a different engagement with historical record, a narrow focal point whose details allow different experiences to be read against this one.