Isao Kikuchi - born December 9, 1921 Los Angeles, CA; died August 31, 2017
graphic designer, illustrator, artist, sculptor
Isao was an aimless 19-year-old at the onset of World War II. Lured to the high desert of California by an offer of construction work at union wages, he found himself interned at the Manzanar relocation camp which would become home to his family and 10,000 other Japanese Americans evacuated from the West Coast under authority of Presidential Executive Order 9066. Isao recounted his time at Manzanar in an interview conducted by Richard Potashin as part of the Densho Digital Archive - Manzanar National Historical Site Collection. The interview is available here. A video recording of the interview (Kirk Peterson, videographer) is available on the Densho site.
After 12 months, Isao was allowed to leave Manzanar for Chicago where he was drafted into the army. As a member of the now famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Isao served with distinction and saw fierce fighting against German forces in France and in the Italian Alps.
At the conclusion of the war, Isao returned to Chicago and then to Los Angeles in 1950 with his new bride, Alice Ishii. Their child, Junie, was born in a year later.
After a successful career as a Graphic Designer, Isao called upon his wartime experiences to produce a number of hauntingly beautiful paintings and sculptures, many of which can be found on this website. Isao also illustrated children’s book on the subject of the Relocation experience, including Blue Jay in the Desert, Welcome Home Swallows, and The Spirit of Manzanar (written by his daughter, Junie). In the later books, the now elderly Kikuchi demonstrated his mastery of computer illustration. The Spirit of Manzanar is included in this website.