By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent
Good Luck Soup has taken the oral history project into the 21st century.
The interactive documentary and website by filmmaker and Georgia Southern University Assistant Professor Matthew Hashiguchi allows viewers and readers to upload their own personal stories about the Japanese American and Japanese Canadian experience into any one of seven chapters on the site –off the boat, assimilation discrimination, concentration, migration, evolution, and tradition.
Inside each chapter, you’ll find audio, video and written first hand accounts of the Japanese American and Canadian experience.
“Our goal was to expand upon the experience through community storytelling,” said Hashiguchi to AsAmNews. “So often, the Japanese North American story and history is dominated by the internment camp experience. While that is important to preserve and much of our project addresses that experience, we wanted to reveal what happened before and after the internment camps and World War II… how has the Japanese North American experience changed?”
The concept is very similar to an oral history project in that it compiles stories from individuals who lived the history. The difference is it does so in a “contemporary, updated layout and presentation” that he says will be more appealing to younger generations and a broader audience.
“It’s a nonlinear experience where you (the viewer) has some form of control over how the story is experienced,” Hashiguchi explains. “By making Good Luck Soup Interactive a community storytelling project, we’re allowing the narrative and story to be shaped by the community as a whole, rather than a few people. And, that community narrative is vast and diverse.”
Hashiguchi has been collecting stories for the project for 18 months, and emphasizes that process will never stop. He will continue to accept submissions indefinitely . He’s been very happy with the response so far.
“I love the positive stories that come out of the camps. One person shared a story about how she was able to leave the internment camps and attend college through the help of two Methodist ministers. She never focused upon the negative and looked towards the positives of that difficult situation.”
Through the stories he’s received, Hashigushi has concluded that the Japanese American experience and identity is “fading away.” He believes the younger generation has assimilated into the mainstream and have lost their connections to their heritage unlike the way their parents and grandparents still connect to their culture.
Hashigushi’s upcoming film is a work in progress. While he says some of the elements of the website will become part of the film, he promises it will be quite different.
“It focuses on my struggle to accept and embrace my Asian identity through the relationship with my grandmother. So, it’s a bit of a personal journey to discover and accept my own heritage through my grandmother and other family members.”
The story of the film will be one Japanese American family’s struggle to assimilate into White and Black neighborhoods in the Midwest in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. The film will also be much broader in that it will incorporate not only the Japanese American experience, but the Asian American experience as well.
His goal is to debut the film at a festival sometime next year.