First To Go: Story Of The Kataoka Family

Year Released
Film Length(s)
21 mins
Remote video URL


In First To Go, a Japanese-American grandmother recounts her father's incarceration during World War II and the ramifications it had on her family. Weaving through her story, her grandson's experience, and archival footage, First To Go brings you an intimate, inspirational, and emotional story of the impact traumatic events can have across generations.

Featured review

Told with elegance and sensitivity, First To Go is a story of happiness in hardship and of joy in adversity. Both a beautiful family history and a compelling reminder of a past too easily seen in the present, First to Go will touch your heart and move you to action.
Joi Tribble
Shorts Programmer, Sidewalk Film Festival


A couple hours after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941, Ichiro Kataoka was the first San Francisco Japanese prisoner taken by the FBI from his hotel in Japantown. Through a series of unfortunate events, Ichiro would not reunite with his family until roughly three years later in Topaz, Utah after President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which forced all Japanese residing on the West Coast to relocate to desolate Internment Camps throughout the country. Their only crime was being of Japanese ancestry.

Decades later, this family's story is woven together through archival footage and documents, and intimate conversations with a grandmother, her grandson, and relatives. The film reveals what they endured, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, during this unjust and inhumane time in American history.

First To Go walks us through the strength, compassion, and resilience of the Japanese Americans, while showing that a family can find love and happiness in the even darkest of places.


This film is a must see. Not only does First To Go tell a story of a family's journey, love story, and power of community, it also tells a story of resilience and cultural awareness that those in the Japanese community faced during WW2 battling racial injustice. It moves you. Educates you. It's an experience that has lasting impact on those who watch.
Travis L. Robinson
Global Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging @ Spotify
Matsuno does a brilliant job at humanizing the issue of the injustice that was brought upon his extended family to make it relatable, which makes for a touching, entertaining, and educational experience for viewers of his film. I highly recommend.
Bret Kofford
University Professor @ San Diego State University
First To Go is a powerful film that should be required for all Americans.
Keith McDaniel
University Professor @ Carson-Newman, TN

Awards and Screenings

Certificate of Award of Excellence, City of San Francisco, 2017
Hollywood International Independent Documentary Award, Winner - Director
Sidewalk Film Festival, Best Short Documentary - Audience Award
Hollywood International Independent Documentary Award - Winner - Short
Hollywood International Independent Documentary Award - Winner - Story
Atlanta Docs-Fest, Semi-Finalist
Films of Remembrance, Official Selection
Sacramento Asian Pacific Film Festival, Official Selection
San Diego Asian Film Festival, Official Selection
Marina Del Rey, Official Selection
Impact Doc Awards, Award of Excellence
Phenomenal Film Fest, Official Selection
National Telly Award Winner. Bronze - Non-Broadcast
National Telly Award Winner. Bronze - Music
Alumnus of the Year, Lee University - Film and Communications Department, 2019

Director Commentary

When gathering information and filming my grandmother to document the process, she wrote in her legacy letter this sentence, “Just like my mother, I, too, have lived a life of Shiawase.” Shi-a-wase in Japanese means fortunate or happiness. To me, that's amazing to think about. Her mother, being kept away from her husband and family for roughly 3 years lived a life of happiness.

The incarceration of the Japanese Americans is something that’s glossed over in most U.S. history books that are taught in our educational system and it was rarely discussed within my own family. It wasn't until I read a printed copy from the San Francisco Examiner that my father has framed and hanging on the wall of his house that I began to dig deeper. The paper was published on December 8th, 1941 and the image is of my great grandfather handcuffed by the FBI that read "First S.F. Japanese Prisoner”. The story that I found on my family legacy is one that is touching, inspiring, and historical.

First To Go was initially made to capture my family's story and to pass it down for years to come. In some ways, it’s somewhat of a glorified home movie. I believe it’s what helps make it, not only educational, but relatable. What started as a family project turned into something that has opened doors to educate people and bring them together to have honest and open conversations about the injustices that were brought upon the Japanese and relate that to help promote racial equality and misconceptions about immigrants today.

Through its rawness and vulnerability, my hope is that it continues to help inspire others to take action and make change through meaningful dialogue about race and equality, while hopefully sparking others to look into capturing their own families story and legacy.

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Subtitles
  • Resources for Educators

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