Tina Takemoto
&
Jiro Onuma

Gentleman's Gaman:
A Gay Bachelor's Japanese American Internment Survival Kit
Mixed Media Installation
2009

This Survival Kit includes a tarpaper wallet and cigarette holder, “gaman-style” carved bird cufflinks and tie clip, a muscle man hanafuda card set and a homemade Earle Liederman “progressive exerciser” device.

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Tina Takemoto is a queer fourth-generation Japanese American artist, writer and professor living in San Francisco.

Artist's website: www.ttakemoto.com

Jiro Onuma was a Japanese man who immigrated to the U.S. in 1923. He lived as a dandyish gay bachelor in San Francisco.  During WWII in 1942, he was incarcerated in the Japanese American Internment Camp in Topaz, Utah. He was a collector of male physical culture magazines. He lived from 1904 to 1990.

I grew up hearing family stories about the Japanese American Internment Camps, but no one ever mentioned the gay and lesbian experience of imprisonment.

I try to imagine how Jiro Onuma survived the isolation, boredom, humiliation, and heteronormativity of internment as a dandyish gay bachelor obsessed with erotic male physical culture magazines. From Onuma’s archive, I discovered that he enrolled in Earle Liederman’s 12-week correspondence Physical Culture School program. Was Onuma receiving letters from Liederman and following this program in camp as a way to keep his queer imaginary alive?

Jiro Onuma is my gay Japanese American role model, queer accomplice, and friend. - Tina Takemoto

Tina was struck both by Jiro Onuma’s obsession with male physical culture images, which served as soft core pornography for gay men in the early to mid-twentieth century, and also by the scant clues to his deportation to the Japanese Internment camp in Topaz, Utah. She researched crafts and games practiced in the camps such as carving and the Flower game, as well as what materials might have been easily obtainable by internees. - E.G. Crichton


Play Portrait Animation
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