Iwao and Hanaye Matsushita in Ken Burn’s “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea”

Iwao and Hanaye Matsushita were a loving Japanese husband and wife. Their favorite passtime? Hiking the beautiful Mt. Ranier National Park. To them, it was not just their home away from home, not just a towering reminder of great Mt. Fuji in the land of their birth. If home is where the heart is, both of their linked hearts resided at Mt. Ranier. The Matsushitas hiked there every weekend they could and lovingly documented their cherished adventures and memories in the park in journals, photographs, and even home videos. Iwao loved Mt. Ranier so much, he would fall asleep at nights with maps and pictures of the park on his pillow. Iwao worked for a Japanese company that had sent him to Seattle, and when the company closed down its Seattle office and wanted to relocate him back to Japan, he quit his job in order to stay near Mt. Ranier. Love of a country is tied intricately to love of the land of that country, and few Americans could rival Iwao and Hanaye’s love for the land of Mt. Ranier. Despite clearly having become Americans in heart and soul, the Matsushitas were denied U.S. citizenship, and then Pearl Harbor happened.

Iwao was a prominent member of the local Japanese community in Seattle and also, of course, one of the main organizers of regular hikes on Mt. Ranier. Being a community leader added to the fact that he worked for a Japanese Company, Mitsui and Company, meant that just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, FBI agents arrested and incarcerated him at the Fort Missoula Detention Camp in Montana operated by the INS. To make this true story even more tragic, Hanaye was interned at Minidoka, Idaho, separating the loving couple and tearing them away from their beloved Mt. Ranier. The two kept a pained correspondence for the two years they were separated, much of it Iwao writing to the sickly Hanaye, trying to cheer her up with descriptions and poetry of Mt. Ranier and their precious memories there.

Finally, on January 11, 1944, after steady and arduous letter writing by Iwao requesting to be reunited with his wife, the Iwao was tranferred to Minidoka, and the two spent the rest of the war time there. After the war and release from the camps, Iwao worked with the War Relocation Authority to help Japanese Americans readjust back to life in America after their lengthy internment. He became a student, teacher, and librarian at the University of Washington, where the letters and poems he and his wife had written are kept to today.

Watch Ken Burn’s “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” episode 5 for the full story of the Matsushitas.

Side note: In the video above, correct me if I’m wrong, but I hear Chinese music in the middle of the clip starting at 0:33. What? -_-

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About tinabot

Tinabot is a writer, teacher, and ninja. She and her students write and publish their work. Her debut teen kung fu romance novel The Legend of Phoenix Mountain is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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