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Japanese reenact internment: Documentary scenes filmed on Ebey’s Prairie

A film crew from Tokyo spends Monday afternoon filming a documentary on Ebey Road Farm. The documentary focuses on the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
A film crew from Tokyo spends Monday afternoon filming a documentary on Ebey Road Farm. The documentary focuses on the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

A film crew from Tokyo is taking advantage of the picturesque landscape of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve for a documentary that will be viewed in Japan.

The crew is filming a 10-hour mini-series titled “Japanese Americans,” which focuses on their internment during World War II. Thousands of families were rounded up by the U.S. government and housed in internment camps during the war.

The documentary will be broadcast by Tokyo Broadcasting System. A producer at the filming location declined to comment on the specifics of the program.

A caravan of trucks and vans blocked one lane of Cook Road near Coupeville Monday afternoon while the crew was filming actors dressed in clothing of the era, on land that’s part of Ebey Road Farm.

Island County Museum Director Rick Castellano couldn’t recall hearing about anyone living on Whidbey Island who was interned during World War II, although it happened throughout the surrounding area.

Wilbur Bishop, owner of the farm, said he gave permission to the Japanese company to film on his land.

Ebey Road Farm encompasses 600 acres that comprises the bulk of Ebey’s Prairie located south of Coupeville. The production crew had to be careful not to damage beet bulbs being grown for Alf Christensen Seed Company. Once the bulbs are harvested, barley will be planted.

By Tuesday, the army of actors, camera people, producers and support staff had already left the island. They are currently in Eastern Washington and Idaho. Mark Wygant, a freelance location manager hired by Tokyo Broadcasting System, said it will take six weeks to finish filming the project.

The film crew will also be traveling to California and Washington, D.C.

But they’re not done with Whidbey. Wygant said the crew will return in the middle of May to film more farm and water scenes in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

Wygant obtained the temporary use permit from Island County, which allowed for the filming to take place. A sheriff’s deputy was present Monday afternoon guiding curious onlookers through the filming area on Cook Road. Sheriff Mark Brown said the film company reimbursed the county for the cost of having a deputy direct traffic during the film shoot.

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