This film follows 93yr old Jerry (Eiichi) Yamashita’s recounting of the family history to his son Patrick, around a campfire on their shellfish tidelands. Relying on Jerry’s memory and rare archival footage, we are taken on a journey spanning 3 generations, beginning with Jerry’s father Masahide’s immigration from Tokyo to Seattle in 1900. Arriving with nothing but the clothes on his back and an irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit, his many years of seemingly unending struggle, are revealed. Eventually, his talent for problem solving would play a pivotal role in saving the west coast shellfish farming industry from complete collapse in 1930, with a Japanese Oyster.
Just when things were beginning to look up for the Yamashita family, WWII intervened. All the years of hard work and sacrifice for America didn’t prevent them from being split up and shipped off to, two different internment camps. When the war ended the family returned to begin rebuilding their lives again from scratch. Masahide would eventually go on to be recognized as one of the founding fathers of the Pacific Northwest’s most important and largest shellfish farming institutions. Carrying on in his father’s footsteps, today son Jerry is considered an icon by his peers, beloved by all who know him for his generosity and always cheerful outlook, that belies all the injustice his family has experienced throughout their lives.
The Japanese Oyster, renamed the Pacific Oyster, is now considered the premiere oyster by top chiefs throughout North America and it is also serving as mother shell in a progressive program attempting to restore the depleted native Olympia Oyster populations.
This Japanese/American family’s story is an inspiring one, and at the same time, a cautionary tale of how a society can turn against its immigrants in challenging times. Indeed, had the young Masahide not come to America, the thriving Pacific Northwest shellfish industry might look very different today.
“Ebb and Flow”... is the finest documentary on the story of a Japanese-American family I have seen to date.
—David Yamaguchi, North American Post, Seattle
Ebb and Flow is truly a remarkable story represented through historical photos, father-son interviews, and PNW shellfish industry highlights. Watching Jerry Yhamashita slurp oysters on the beach, in a prominent Seattle restaurant, and hot off the grill is mouth watering. If the historical significance of his Japanese-American roots doesn't bring a tear to your eyes, the loving memories and appreciations shared by his fellow oyster growers certainly will.
—Debi Beagle, Frye Cove Farms
Few pioneers of the West Coast oyster industry remain with us today. Jerry Yamashita stands tall as a living legend who serves as a role model for today’s shellfish growers. Ebb and Flow eloquently tells the important story of the man, his family, and the significant role they played in the introduction of the
—Duane Fagergren, Calm Cove Oyster Co.
Ebb and Flow is an appropriate title for this film. The timing of moving forward…..falling back, while making forward progress gave a rhythm to the events unfolded on the screen. I, the child of immigrant parents, felt an immediate personal connection with this film. As the historical events spooled out through the conversation between Jerry Yamashita and his son Patrick; I felt a connection to my parents and their hardships. The intimate conversation between father and son was touching and provided teaching moments. The universal threads of family, commitment, work, disappointments, acceptance and perseverance were woven into a rich tapestry of human goodness, selflessness and strength. The film is about “making lemonade out of lemons”. It is an American immigrant story. It is a current story. In the present, immigrants who appear to be Middle Eastern or Mexican, experience uncertainty and fear, just like the Japanese, who were forced to move into the relocation camps in 1942. The film also honors the respectful stewardship of our earth and sea; to insure the survival of the oyster, symbolic of food we need for life.
Leaping Frog Films skillfully made this historic story relatable to many. I was engaged from the moment it started to its sensitive and memorable ending. A must see for all ages!!
“Ebb and Flow” is a story about the Yamashitas, a three-generation family, known and loved as pioneers in the Washington’s shellfish industry. Their story spans the early days of the industry, the decline of the native oyster, and the Yamashita family's instrumental role in introducing Pacific oyster culture. Throughout the decades, while growing their own oysters and clams and enduring various other challenges, the Yamashitas also contended with the struggles of maintaining healthy shellfish beds and keeping pollution at bay. This is a personal story steeped in the natural resources that define this place and framed by the big historic events of the last century, including the two world wars, and the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. Leaping Frog Films has created a beautiful, well researched, well told story that does honor to the Yamashita family and also gives us a glimpse of a larger community of people working together to hold onto healthy shellfish resources. Jerry Yamashita has been a shining light for many of us, and this film rightly shines a big light on his life’s story.”
—Betsy Peabody, Puget Sound Restoration Fund