In a show of support, Japan’s Consul-General Jun Yamada has sent a letter backing the US stamp proposal that features the Japanese American World War II soldiers. “On behalf of the Japanese government, I would like to express my strong support for this proposal, “ Mr. Yamada stated in a June 15th letter to the Postmaster General, Megan Brennan. Click here to read the full letter.
This support is unusual due to the fact that the Nisei soldiers were Americans fighting against Japan during the war.
Mr. Yamada recounts in his letter that his recent visit to the Manzanar incarceration center during the April pilgrimage to the site, and his talks with former incarcerees and Nisei veterans, had an impact on him. “They shared inspiring firsthand accounts of the hardships, trials, and triumphs that they and their families experienced during World War II and its aftermath,” he explained. “Japanese Americans’ World War II stories remain relevant as they provide us with important insight on current affairs. I believe that issuing a commemorative postage stamp would be a wonderful way of sharing this history with a wider audience and inspiring a new generation of Americans to learn more.”
The eleven-year grassroots campaign for the stamp, called Stamp Our Story, has struggled against the bureaucracy of the Postal Service stamp selection process. Three California Nisei women who endured World War II incarceration, Fusa Takahashi of Granite Bay, Aiko O. King of Camarillo, and Chiz Ohira of Gardena, sparked the nationwide effort. They are pushing hard this year that a stamp might be issued in 2017, during the 75th anniversary of the start of the incarceration camps.
The USPS has no obligation to respond to proposals, and often does so on its own timeline, which can take many years. The stamp selection body, called the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, consists of 15 members who are all appointed internally by the Postmaster General. They meet quarterly behind closed doors, and are restricted from discussing stamp selection with the public. Minutes of the meetings are not public. Despite the obstacles and lengthy process, activists continue to seek letters of support from public officials. On May 23rd, California’s Governor Jerry Brown sent a letter of support, joining 36 members of Congress so far this year.
“We are extremely pleased that Consul-General Yamada has stated his support on behalf of the Japanese government,” said Wayne Osako, co-chair of Stamp Our Story. “His voice shows the Postmaster General that this stamp subject matters not only to the Japanese American community, but also to the greater American public, and even internationally, in Japan.”