This year marks ten years since Jimmy T. Murakami passed away and his intriguing life, career and place in Ireland’s entertainment and arts industry is one of tremendous significance, writes Ivor Casey
From a childhood interned with his family in an American concentration camp, to eventually becoming a world celebrated animator, to living his final days painting in his home in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Jimmy T. Murakami lived both a tumultuous and colourful life.
Known now as the “Father of Irish Animation”, this multi-talented and award winning Japanese-American helped instigate a whole new area of creativity in an Ireland yet to discover and expand its potential.
Jimmy was born on 5 June, 1933 in San Jose, California and was originally named Teruaki, which was his Japanese name. He was born into an agricultural background and was raised picking cucumbers on a farm in the sweltering Californian heat. Shortly after America entered World War II, in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii by Japanese forces, the Murakami family drove to Sacramento in California to be with other members of the extended family.
However, they were soon apprehended because of their Japanese ethnicity and were one of the first families to be unconstitutionally detained in a internment camp at Tule Lake War Relocation Centre in Northern California.
Jimmy, who was only nine years old at the time recalled being placed in shed-like rooms which were not so different to the sort used on farms for animals. While there, prisoners were instructed to choose a Western name, so he decided on “Jimmy” while his brother, Junichi, unbeknownst to him, picked “James”.
However, despite the Western name, he kept Teruaki as his middle name for the rest of his life.
During his time incarcerated in the camp Jimmy watched his sister die from leukaemia, an experience which would stay with him his entire life.
As an American citizen he was left deeply embittered for how his country had treated him and his family. Prior to this detention, Jimmy had been raised like any other American child reciting the pledge of allegiance to the American flag before class each day.
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own