Delphine Hirasuna's mother died in 2000, and while she was going through her mother's possessions in the family garage in Lodi, she found a wooden bird pin in a wooden box.
Hirasuna had never seen the pin, but she knew it uncovered a secret her parents kept from their children - they were in a Japanese internment camp during World War II.
"She never talked about the pin," Hirasuna told nearly 200 people at Monday's San Joaquin County Historical Society meeting. "It sent me on a journey. I didn't know how painful and revolutionary it was going to be."
Hirasuna, who grew up in Lodi but lived in San Francisco the past 40 years, searched for artifacts that came from Japanese internment camps and included them in a book she completed in 2005 - "The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese-American Internment Camps 1942-46."
Now many of the artifacts she collected - many of them from Lodi's Japanese population - are on display through Feb. 25 at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco.
As it turned out, the Japanese who were forced to live at internment camps created a lot of artwork from whatever materials were available where they lived. Much of the time, it was in remote desert areas.
Japanese bird pins were commonplace among Japanese at these camps, Hirasuna said. As she hunted for artwork by Japanese-Americans during the 1940s, she found many items from Lodi-area residents. One of them was some handmade scissors by Akira Oye, which she showed on a projector at Monday's historical society meeting.
She also found some drawings and photographs of the internment camp, but the people who lived there didn't want it known they were there, Hirasuna said.
"You never see the faces of the people," she said as she showed some photographs of the camps.
She put many of these artifacts in "The Art of Gaman," which is pronounced gáh-mon, which means "enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity."
Hirasuna gave historical society members a history of the internment camps, which she said began on Feb. 19, 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order to evacuate Japanese-Americans on the West Coast. The 1940 Census showed that 127,000 Japanese lived in the United States, with all but 7,000 living on the West Coast. Two-thirds of them were American citizens by birth, Hirasuna said.
They were given one week's notice to get rid of their possessions and report to camp. They were allowed to bring only their clothes, bedding and eating utensils. And these included anyone with as little as one-sixteenth Japanese blood, Hirasuna said.
"We had a tractor, and I think Dad gave it away," she said.
Daughter of the late Kyoko and Eddie Hirasuna, Delphine Hirasuna graduated from Lodi High School, where she took a world geography class from Art Raab. And it was her proud teacher who happened to be at Monday's historical society meeting to hear his former student talk about the internment camps.
The family farm is still in Lodi, and her mother was from the Sasakis, a prominent Lodi family.
"I have like 26 cousins who live in Lodi," Hirasuna said.
Hirasuna's parents, Kyoko and Eddie Hirasuna, never told her they spent almost four years at an internment camp in Arkansas, but now Japanese-Americans seem to be having a change of heart.
"People are getting into their 70s and 80s and saying, 'I don't want to go to my grave with this,' " Hirasuna said.
Delphine Hirasuna's exhibitFormer Lodi resident Delphine Hirasuna will exhibit artifacts from Japanese internment camps through Feb. 25 at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, 51 Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco.
The museum is between Market and Mission streets, and between Third and Fourth streets, a block from the Powell Street BART station. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. The museum is closed on Mondays and holidays.
Her book, "The Art of Gaman," is available for $35. It is published by Ten Speed Press in Berkeley.
Source: Delphine Hirasuna.
Japanese internment camp timelineFeb. 19, 1942: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed and executive order allowing military authorities to exclude anyone from anywhere without trial or hearings. The order set the stage for the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese-Americans.
March 18, 1942: Roosevelt signed an executive order establishing the War Relocation Authority.
Sept. 18, 1942: The first inmates arrived at Rohwer, Ark., where Lodi residents Kyoko and Eddie Hirasuna were assigned.
Jan. 2, 1945: Restrictions preventing resettlement on the west coast were removed, although many exceptions continue to exist. A few carefully screened Japanese-Americans had returned to the coast in late 1944.
July 2, 1948: President Harry Truman signed the Japanese-American Evacuation Claims Act, a measure to compensate Japanese-Americans for certain economic losses attributable to their forced evacuation.
Aug. 10, 1988: President Ronald Reagan signed a bill providing $20,000 to each surviving internee and a $1.25 billion education fund among other provisions.
First published: Tuesday, January 30, 2007