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Monday, April 24, 2000

Arizona Memorial
film is trimmed

A suspicious isle Japanese cane
worker in the film upset
Japanese Americans

By Lori Tighe


A suspicious Japanese sugar-cane cutter who glances at a moving boat in Pearl Harbor in the Arizona Memorial film shown to 1.4 million people a year has been cut himself.

Also cut was the narration accompanying the cane cutter: "General Short believed the great danger was not air attack, but saboteurs hidden amid Hawaii's large Japanese population."

The change of the historic film comes amid a growing cry from Japanese Americans for sensitivity in how they are portrayed during World War II.

Gov. Benjamin Cayetano and Japanese American leaders recently cautioned Disney film makers to be sensitive to any innuendos about the local Japanese community in the movie, "Pearl Harbor" now in production in Honolulu.

"Otherwise we will be picketing the theaters. There's no reason for it," said retired U.S. Army Col. Iwao Yokooji, a member of the famed 442nd.

Four brothers fought in Korea

After serving the United States in World War II, Yokooji and his three brothers also fought in Korea, where one of his brothers died.

"The real history: There were no acts of sabotage or espionage by Japanese Americans before, during, or after the war. The Arizona Memorial film perpetuated the myth that local Japanese were going to commit sabotage," Yokooji said.

"What if they portrayed a Spanish, German or Italian person that way?"

After 16 months searching for a solution, the National Park Service agreed to digitally erase the cane cutter and the accompanying narration. The newly edited film has been running for a month.

"We're quite happy with that," said James Tanabe of Waipahu, who began the momentum to fix the movie. "It made us feel very hopeful that if you made an effort, some things can be corrected. We feel quite good about it."

While the edited film didn't meet their original request for a disclaimer that no Japanese American sabotage occurred, it removed the offensive footage of implied disloyalty, Tanabe said.

He and his wife, Yoshie, more than a year ago saw the film shown to tourists before a boat ride brings them to the Arizona memorial on the water.

"The volunteers at the memorial said they've heard tourists say after viewing the film, "That's why they put the Japs in the camps,'" Tanabe said. "Because this film is shown to so many people and perpetuated through time, we felt this was something we had to do."

Disney took note from the governor and vowed to avoid stereotypes of Japanese Americans, said spokeswoman Gabriela Gutantag.

"Unequivocally yes, absolutely we're going to be sensitive to the Japanese-American community in Hawaii," Gutantag said.

Kathleen Billings, Arizona Memorial superintendent, said she is glad the Park Service made the change in its film, even though she received about a half-dozen complaints from people upset about it.

Most people favor the trim

"I'll probably receive more after this article is printed," she added.

But Billings said most people favored the change.

"It was a really good experience for us and the community to resolve a difference of perception," she said.

"It's our job to keep and tell America's history. America's history is interpreted many different ways. We learned from the people we serve."

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