Memories to Light: Meet the Tachibanas

Gavin Tachibana remembers his family and the times they spent together, through watching old home movies. CAAM's Memories to Light program archives Asian American home movies.

It’s been two years since we started the Memories to Light project in an effort to preserve and celebrate Asian American home movies and an Asian American history. Memories to Light is now home to over 14 hours of footage from 17 different families, covering a period from the early 1930s to as recent as 1998. The archive also consists of many different ethnicities—Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Filipino, and Thai to name a few—and take place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Switzerland, India, and Hawaii. In our ongoing cultivation of an archive of Asian American home movies, we are always finding, digitizing, cataloguing, and publishing footage from new families. One of these new families includes the Tachibanas, and we’ve been working with them to create their own space in the Memories to Light collection.

The footage, donated by Gavin Tachibana, is a collection of Super 8 films from 1976 to 1983. Gavin, as a toddler and as a young child, is featured with his parents Mason and Florence. Gavin’s grandfather, Masao, and other family members also make an appearance. Locations include Gavin’s childhood home and Wilson Park in Torrance, CA, and Windward Mall in Kaneohe, Oahu. There is also footage of a Tahitian dance performance at the Polynesian Cultural Center and a dolphin show at Sea Life Park, both in Kaneohe.

Gavin first contacted us after following a link to the Memories to Light page at He then told us that he had 25 reels of Super 8 film, and he asked us what footage we would like to include in our collection. We chose to focus on the reels that had footage of Hawaii, and on Gavin’s early foray into basketball and baseball.

After digitizing the footage, we watched everything. We invited Gavin to come in and view the footage with us. We typically ask the donor or the donor’s families to view the footage with us and help us identify any people, places, or times that are featured in the home movies.

We sat down with Gavin to talk about the footage and his memories of growing up in Torrance, CA, and visiting his mother’s family in Kaneohe. This was the first time that Gavin could recall seeing the footage. Find out some surprising memories that the home movies sparked, and what Gavin has to say.

Every summer, Gavin would go to Kaneohe to visit his mother’s family. His mom, Florence, and her siblings Lillian and Edgar, would reconnect in the summers to go swimming and visit with each other and their father and stepmother. They would visit Kailua Beach, Sea Life Park, Windward Mall, and Lillian and Edgar’s homes. This was also an opportunity for Gavin to spend time with his grandfather, Masao. In the following video, Gavin speaks about his relationship with his grandfather.

“To see [my grandfather] like this, when I’m this young, and he’s walking around and able to carry me—I just don’t have any memory of that. And to see it is just really striking.” 

Masao Torigoe, Gavin’s grandfather, was born on Dec. 23, 1900 in Hilo, Hawaii.

“He put himself through college in Illinoishe got an engineering degree there. And then he came back to Hawaii, and he held a variety of jobs, from being a baker to being a policeman. It was rural Hawaii, on the big island, so I guess he could do that and hold different jobs. His wife, who was the mother of my mom and her two siblings, passed away when they were children. Then he remarried later, so that’s the grandma that I know. I don’t know that I see her in any of these movies so I wonder about that. He was big on education so he sent all of his three kids to the Midwest for college. So my mom was in Iowa for college, which was pretty rare for an Asian American at that time. [My parents] met in Los Angeles, so after she graduated she came to California. That’s where [my dad]’s from, in Los Angeles.” – Gavin Tachibana

“It’s just interesting, because my kids will have so much digital footage of their interaction with my parents, and on an ongoing basis they’ll have these memories. So it’s unusual to think that something from 35 years ago could just go out of my mind if I don’t see it or think about it. And then I can just come back and see it like this. I think it’s a totally different experience than my kids will have.”

If you or your family would like to digitize and archive your home movies, please fill out an application form. Questions? Email us at: We’re always looking for more films to add to the archive.

– Jasmine Lee Ehrhardt