My involvement with Nisei legacy tours came about rather accidentally…
How it started
I started guiding battlefield tours with small groups in 2007. Initially, my focus was on the First World War and over the years covered nearly all of the 400 miles of the Western Front: from the North Sea coast to the Ypres Salient in Belgium, to Vimy Ridge (where Issei soldiers joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force), the Somme, Champagne, Meuse-Argonne, Verdun and St Mihiel Salient in France.
Guests would often be tracing family history and customising each trip to the specific regiment or unit made each tour different as well as very personal.
Easing into WW2
I was less keen on Second World War tours… the result of being born and raised in Belgium. While I’m sure that the curriculum has changed in the intervening years, growing up in Belgium meant that for your entire school career – from grade school through senior high – history lessons were all about Hitler and Nazi Germany.
This resulted in a firm dislike for all things World War II, but luckily, I have come to terms with it over the years!
Preferring small groups over large groups means I only occasionally take on the latter and they have to come with a pretty good story… I lived in Hawaii in the early 1990’s and I remembered the story of the Nisei soldiers. We can all agree that stories can hardly get better than this!
Nisei Legacy Tours
The first of my Nisei legacy tours came in 2014 with the 70th Anniversary Tour to France. With 2 coaches, the trip had its challenges, but all went well. My next assignment was to put together a 12-day Study tour to Italy in 2015 with 5 guests. We followed the 100th Battalion from the Gustav Line by Montecassino on their advance to Rome while also exploring their connection with the First Special Service Force. From there, we continued along the 100th/442nd RCT’s Rome-to-Arno Campaign and the breaking of the Gothic Line.
As an anniversary year, 2019 was rather busy, with 2 groups attending commemorations in France and 2 groups touring Italy. The 75th Anniversary Tour of France saw 2 large coaches for the extended version of the trip. This tour started in the south of France with the retracing of the “Champagne Campaign”. A third coach joined for the portion in and around the Vosges.
Both the 75th Anniversary Tour of Italy – expanding the previous itinerary beyond Montecassino to Venafro and Cerasuolo – and the Rome to the Gothic Line Tour carried 18 relatives and friends of the Nisei soldiers who fought here.
The year concluded with a 50-man strong delegation to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the rescue of the Lost Battalion in France.
The 2020 pandemic halted all travel and with that, my activities as battlefield guide for a while. Tours that were due to take relatives and friends on a Po Valley Campaign Tour and a Vosges: Battle of Bruyeres and Lost Battalion Tour were moved to a future date.
Not all the lockdown time was wasted though. I finally got around to building this website! I also took advantage of every relaxation in the travel restrictions to come to Italy and France to do research. An ongoing search for ever more interesting places and people to add to future tours.
The 2022 season has finally brought back some normalcy. Not only have the postponed tours taken place, Nisei Legacy Tours is now fully operational with multiple departures scheduled.
Looking ahead is quite exciting. With increased awareness of our dedicated tours among the Nisei families, the number of tours available will keep increasing. More itineraries will be added, as well as customised trips.
Our long-term goal is to not only passively present the presence of the Nisei soldiers in Europe, but ensure the preservation of their legacy here by getting younger generations involved in an active way through restoration projects, internships and exchanges.
In addition to the tours, my bond with the Nisei became stronger year on year at the annual FFNV (Friends and Families of the Nisei Veterans) reunion in Las Vegas.
What People Say
I am confident in speaking for everyone that this tour went beyond our expectations!Jan Sakoda
Vivian and I were very impressed with the organization of the tour and the great attention to detail. Thank you much for all your hard work to put together a meaningful 100th Bn Tour.Nolan Higa
We experienced so many emotions. Please thank Nora as well. She did an unbelievable and outstanding job considering there were 3 bus loads. Wow!Candace Watase