Shosuke Sasaki


Name Shosuke Sasaki
Born March 26 1912
Died November 1 2002
Birth Location Yamaguchi prefecture, Japan
Generational Identifier

Issei

Financial analyst and Seattle redress activist. Shosuke Sasaki (1912–2002) was one of the key members of the Seattle Evacuation Redress Committee (SERC), a group within the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) that pushed for individual monetary reparations.

Inmate and Statistician

Sasaki was born in Yamaguchi prefecture, Japan, and came to the United States in 1919 at age seven to join his father. The elder Sasaki had graduated from merchant marine school in Japan and spoke and wrote English fluently; he had jumped ship in Vancouver earlier and settled in eastern Washington state. Young Shosuke spent his first years in the U.S. in the town of Pomeroy where his family ran a restaurant and was the only Japanese family in the area. But after his father's sudden death five years later, he moved with his mother and sister to Seattle, where he helped his mother manage hotels and apartments and where he graduated from Broadway High School. He began to study engineering at the University of Washington, but illness and financial difficulties delayed his schooling. He eventually graduated, summa cum laude, with a degree in finance in 1939, but like many of his Nisei classmates was unable to find a suitable job.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was sent to Puyallup Assembly Center and on to Minidoka. As a young Issei who bridged the generations, he emerged as a leader of the anti-JACL population at the camps. At Minidoka, he worked on the irrigation ditch repair crew and in the fire department and also served for a time as secretary to the board of the camp's co-op. He left Minidoka in December of 1944, initially going to Philadelphia, before moving on to New York when he was unable to find a job. In New York, he was hired as a statistician by Standard & Poor's, a financial research company, where he would remain for over twenty years. While at S&P, he became the company's representative to to Newspaper Guild and played a key role in a 1952 guild resolution to urge newspapers to stop using the word "Jap" to refer to Japanese Americans.[1] Despite his reservations, he also joined the New York chapter of the JACL.

Feeling that he was not being promoted due to racial discrimination, he left S&P for A.L. Stamm, a New York brokerage house. He later moved to Denver where he was a portfolio manager for the Hamilton Fund. Just prior to moving, he married Yoriko Watanabe. A cancer survivor, her cancer returned in Denver and she passed away three years later. Sasaki subsequently retired and moved to Seattle, where his sister and her family lived in around 1970.

Redress Activist

Through his friend Mike Nakata, Sasaki met Henry Miyatake, a Boeing engineer who had a plan to pursue reparations for the wartime exclusion and incarceration. Having time and being in agreement with Miyatake about reparations, he become part of the core group that refined Miyatake's ideas in the Seattle Plan, the first concrete strategy for redress. Having done a good deal of writing and editing work at S&P, Sasaki became the main mouthpiece of SERC, authoring the press releases, letters to the editor, and editorials. He also was the author of the group's November 1975 paper, "An Appeal for Action to Obtain Redress for the World War II Evacuation and Imprisonment of Japanese Americans," which laid out the details of the Seattle Plan and which was sent to all JACL chapters. Sasaki was also one of the authors of H.R. 3387, the World War II Civil Liberties Violation Redress Act, introduced into Congress by Representative Mike Lowry on June 16, 1983. However without the support of Nikkei legislators or the JACL, the bill was killed in committee, while a bill that created a study commission passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law in 1980. In protest, Sasaki declined to take part in the hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in 1981.

His role in the Redress Movement was noted in Robert Sadamu Shimabukuro's Born in Seattle: The Campaign for Japanese American Redress published in 2001. He was also among those interviewed for the landmark 1999 film Rabbit in the Moon. He passed away in Seattle at age 90 on November 1, 2002.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Shimabukuro, Robert Sadamu. Born in Seattle: The Campaign for Japanese American Redress. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001.

Shosuke Sasaki Collection. Densho Digital Repository. http://ddr.densho.org/ddr/densho/274/.

Shosuke Sasaki Interviews, Densho. Interviewed by Chizu Omori and Emiko Omori, Seattle, September 28, 1992; interviewed by Frank Abe and Stephen Fugita, Seattle, May 18, 1997.

Footnotes

  1. Pacific Citizen, July 19, 1952, 1.