Breaking The Silence

breaking the silenceBreaking the Silence, an oral history play which spans a century of Japanese American history, celebrates its 28th anniversary with several performances in Hiroshima. The play, which is presented in Readers’ Theater style, dramatizes the experiences of three generations of Japanese Americans – from immigration at the turn of the century, through incarceration during WW II, to the post-war years of activism and redress.

Nisei writer Nikki Nojima Louis, who as a child was imprisoned in Minidoka, Idaho, wrote the play in 1985 to help raise funds for Gordon Hirabayashi‘s resurrected, and ultimately successful, case against the US government which, under Executive Order 9066, forced the internment of more than 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans who lived along the West Coast of the US in 1942. The audience that attended its world premiere at the University of Washington in 1985 contributed more than $10,000 to the Hirabayashi defense fund and launched the play’s 28-year-old journey. Breaking the Silence presents authentic stories of Issei, Nisei and Sansei through oral histories, tanka poetry, dramatizations and music, including taiko drumming and Japanese flute.

80 year old cast member Herb Tsuchiya who was sent to an inernment camp with his family when he was 10 years old said to The North American Post

“We, the children of internment, are the last generation alive that experienced this injustice. Nikki and I are bridges between people, cultures and stories.”

On the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of August the play will be performed a total of four times. The play will be performed mainly by Japanese Americans, many of whom spent years during World War II in the internment camps. As a large proportion of Japanese immigrants to the USA originated from Hiroshima and surrounding prefectures, it is fitting that the theater company should come to Hiroshima for their first international performances. The timing of these performances was also chosen to coincide with The Art of Gaman, an exhibition of art made in the internment camps, currently showing at Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum. Another reason is to appeal, like the nuclear weapons appeal of August 6th, that such a mistake should not be repeated.

The play is being sponsored by the World Friendship Center, a peace promoting NGO in Hiroshima. These performances will be bilingual – a first for Breaking the Silence – with most spoken parts in English, but subtitles and summaries and some tanka poems produced in Japanese. Admission is free for performances on 1st and 2nd August, but donations towards costs will be gratefully received. There is an entry charge of ¥1000 yen for performance on the 3rd, which includes light refreshments and a mini-concert.



Paul Walsh

Paul arrived in Hiroshima "for a few months" back in 1996. He is the co-founder of and loves running in the mountains.