My visit to Heart Mountain


Midori Mori (right) and her father, Aki, smile for one of many selfies taken together this summer.

By Midori Mori

Growing up as an Asian American, Asian culture always surrounded me. In my school, at the grocery store, even in my own room.  But as I got older I started to realize the negativity against my ethnicity, such as in 2nd grade, when a kid in my class made the classic “squinty eyes” and called me a chink (though I didn’t know what that meant at the time). But until I visited Heart Mountain, I never understood the true meaning of racist hatred.

Heart Mountain was a Japanese internment camp in northwest Wyoming. As many people may know, back in World War II all the Japanese Americans on the West Coast were imprisoned in 10 camps where there was no sign of civilization anywhere. And back in this time period the Japanese Americans were put in a rough spot. After all, the very country they descended from bombed an important naval base: Pearl Harbor..

Yet when these citizens proved loyalty to America, no mercy or justice was put in consideration. The very government that they believed in turned their backs on rightful citizens. The Japanese Americans were sent away and they did not complain about it. While camp residents were considered amazing optimists, this left them ignorant to what was really happening. Yes, they physically knew that they had been deceived and taken to a prison but still the Japanese American citizens remained silent. Even after the war ended they shunned the topic and denied that their imprisonment ever happened.

Being of Japanese heritage, people occasionally ask me whether I would’ve done differently. But in truth I can’t say that I would have done so. Compared to what they had to endure I am living in this golden era where Asians are mostly treated well. Sure, there is the occasional lapse, but if I complain about the injustice today it seems sort of selfish. The Japanese Americans didn’t have that luxury of acceptance. At least I have that much to be appreciative of. The living style mentally was tougher. The limited number of Asians probably made some citizens apprehensive since they couldn’t connect with Caucasian people. This made it hard for them to stand up for their rights as Americans when they were imprisoned.

I guess I’m saying that I accept their actions but that doesn’t necessarily mean I would’ve handled it the same way. I probably wouldn’t complain either because while it may be the right thing to do, it does not always make it the most easy thing to do. Except unlike the prisoners of the time I wouldn’t have shunned the topic after the war ended. I feel it’s important to remember an event no matter how painful as long as you don’t become bitter. Becoming bitter will only make you more miserable. Learning from it would accomplish more good in the world.

The main thing I would like readers to take away is something my Judo instructor told me: There are enough fighters in the world. If you truly wish to change the world you must be a peacemaker. This applies to what F.D.R decided to do with the Japanese (putting them in prison camps) and what I feel the Japanese should do about this painful topic. As long as you wish to change the world, remembering the wrongs becomes just as important as remembering the rights.

Related reading:  Aki Mori, American internment in the shadow of Yellowstone


“I am 12 years old and about to enter seventh grade,” Midori says. ” I was born premature, so at first glance I might appear small.  But that has only made me try harder to prove others wrong.  I love judo, politics, and conditioning.”

Editor’s note: Last year, we had a 9-year-old become the first under-18 contributor to Voices of August. With that precedent in mind and a proud father, Aki Mori, serving as middleman, I invited Midori to be part of VOA 2016. So glad to add her perspective.

Tomorrow: Gil Rubio, Fate and destiny


5 thoughts on “My visit to Heart Mountain

  1. Midori thank you to you and your dad for sharing the impact of your trip to Minadoka and especially your philosophy about changing the world. We all can learn from you and your judo instructor. You are already a thoughtful citizen and an effective writer. Keep it up. We must all remember to “give peace a chance”.

  2. Thanks for familiarizing me with Heart Mountain. I don’t like this history, but I agree we need to remember the wrongs with the rights to have us traveling the right paths. Continue to be a trailblazer, Midori.

  3. Midori – first, you are just 12 years old? How does one so young gain such wisdom? Thank you for sharing your insights along with you Dad’s. Your judo instructor is wise. We need many, many more peacekeepers in our small world. Humans find fighting seems to come much easier than peace. When I was growing up we had a slogan (during the Vietnam War) – make love, not war. I think this means the same as make peace, not war. I don’t think I will still be alive when you run for president, but I sure hope my family’s offspring vote for you!

  4. Your wisdom and insight is a breath of fresh air. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future (and certainly anticipate your launch into a political career – Lord knows we need good leadership).

  5. “I feel it’s important to remember an event no matter how painful as long as you don’t become bitter. Becoming bitter will only make you more miserable. Learning from it would accomplish more good in the world.” Wow, I had to go back and make sure I read it right – you are 12 not 21 or even 51 for that matter! You’ve got a nugget of wisdom already that will serve you well in life – to not let your mind control you.
    So glad that you have a sport you enjoy – always good when you want to practice mindfulness. I think that’s the way to peace, to quiet the mind, be the gentle observer that you see me to be, and then. from that place, take whatever action is needed.

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