COMMENTARY: Jim Hirabayashi, academic, actor, brother


Jim was active in the student strike at San Francisco State University.

He was instrumental in establishing the Ethnic Studies dept. and the Asian American Studies dept. at SFSU, precursors of similar departments at other universities throughout the country.

After the student strike, he with the late George Araki and the late Clifford Uyeda started the Center for Japanese American Studies in the community, a group that studied and promoted the history and culture of Japanese Americans. The Center was a venue for JA scholars and artists. It was responsible for the formation of the Japanese American National Library and the Center Players, a theater group that performed plays about Japanese Americans.

I was a beneficiary of Jim’s special interest in theater and acting. It was after Jim had acted in the Center’s production of my play “The Plums Can Wait” at Asilomar that the Center Players was started. This group would perform all of my works and inspire me to write new plays.

Jim found new interest in acting and was involved in numerous productions at the Asian American Theater Company. I remember acting with him in “And the Soul Shall Dance” by Wakako Yamauchi. We were also in a two-man play “High Tone” by the late Warren Kubota. We did another play together based on his anthropology paper. Jim asked me to write another piece for both of us but I regret that it didn’t materialize before old age caught up with both of us.

Jim was a good friend to me and my wife Sadako. He was an academic. He was an actor. We were brothers as Nisei.

Writer and poet Hiroshi Kashiwagi writes from San Francisco.

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