nisei-projectGrowing up in a small town in Hawaii, I lived a carefree existence with no external reasons to believe I couldn’t achieve whatever I put my mind to. Only 30 years prior, life for a Japanese American citizen was a precarious existence. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I realized and appreciated what that WWII generation, in particular, the WWII Nisei, second generation Japanese American generation endured for me. 


My late father, Lawrence Yoji Hirokawa was an enlisted soldier in the US Army stationed in Hawai’i when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Larry was part of the 1,432 men who formed the segregated unit known as the 100th Infantry Battalion, Separate, not attached to a parent regiment. In September 1943, the 100th Battalion landed in Italy to fight in Europe. Almost a year later, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team made up of more Japanese American men from Hawai’i and from the mainland US Internment/Relocation camps joined the 100th Battalion to become the most highly decorated military unit of its size in all of American military history, suffering the greatest number of casualties. Larry lost his eye in battle at Monte Cassino and received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals.

In 2001, I premiered my Nisei ballet in Brooklyn as my tribute to these men and to bring exposure to the gross injustices endured by this generation of Japanese Americans. Soon after its premiere, the Nisei Project 2003 was founded with unparalleled support from my sister, Laurie Hamano. The grass roots project was a 3-week, Hawaiian Island performance tour of the ballet. The project honored and recognized over 200 WWII Nisei Veterans and other war veterans living on the islands. The ballet reached thousands of Islanders including over 2000 youths who through the project’s educational programming, experienced dance for the first time and learned about this history. 

The complete ballet was last performed in Brooklyn in 2004. 

It is time to bring this ballet back to the stage—a time to honor a WWII generation that is radically disappearing, and a time to rea

Plans to ready this story dance tribute for a new audience include new choreography for the opening and closing of the ballet and a revised musical score for live accompaniment. Craig Brann, Jazz Guitarist/Composer/Bandleader is the Nisei Project Musical Director and we are also excited to announce the involvement of multi-platinum singer/songwriter Harold Payne who wrote the song, “Quiet Heroes” in tribute to these Nisei Veterans. Meeting our production costs is the reason for this campaign. With your help we will be able to present this ballet at the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival, August 8-24, and affect another generation with this meaningful and poignant our current generation. History is a teacher if we only listen. Using dance to retell the Nisei history can provide a fresh and unique opportunity to be “heard” by this generation, provoking awareness of the social injustices that can easily happen again, and a means to inspire integrity, perseverance and honor in the face of trials.    

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