Shikata ga nai

Duration: 15 minutes
Instrumentation: Baritone, Tenor & Piano
Year: 2022


  Shikata ga nai is a chamber opera in five scenes that chronicles the real-life if a Japanese-American man named Jimmy Doi and his journey through the internment camps to his eventual reunification with his father.   The libretto was written by Marcus Yi in partnership with the Japan-American Society of Georgia for the Atlanta Opera’s 96-Hour Project, 2022.

  Jimmy Doi was born in California in 1925.  He and his four older siblings were Nisei, first generation Americans born to parents who emigrated from Japan and ran a tomato farm in Oxnar, California.  When Doi’s parents decided to return to Japan in 1939, he chose to stay in the United States because he spoke only English and did not want to leave his high school.  Despite being a popular student and athlete, Doi was shinned by his fellow students after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. 

  After President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which forced the deportation of Japanese Americans to internment camps, Doi had to report to an assembly center in Tulare, California.  From there, he was transported to Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona along with thousands of other Japanese Americans.  In 1944, Doi was drafted and became part of the U.S. Army’s infamous 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a regiment made up of Japanese American soldiers, and served in France and Italy. 

  After his discharge, Doi reenlisted in order to visit his parents who were living near Hiroshima, Japan, and had survived the first atomic bomb.  In 1949, Doi joined his brother, who had moved to Georgia to work in the poultry industry.  Jimmy is alive to this day. 


  The opera tracks his journey from his early days in the tomato farm to his eventual reunification with his father in Hiroshima.  Scene 1 begins by introducing the father and Jimmy, and focuses in on the words Shikata Ga Nai (Japanese for “It cannot be helped”.)  From there, the opera takes the form of a series of letters from Jimmy to his father in which he recounts his entry into the internment camp (Scene 2), his training in Camp Blanding Florida (Scene 3), a death of a close friend and the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima (Scene 4), and finally his return to Japan and finding his father alive (Scene 5).   

Performance History

  • June 20, 2022, The Atlanta Opera
    Tenor: Jeong Min Huh
    Baritone: Andre Chiang
    Piano: Erika Tazawa
    Direction: Ricardo Aponte
    Morehouse College, GA Atlanta


Full performance available via the Atlanta Opera 96-Hour Project: Stories that Resonate!


Full Score PDF – $35 CAD
Payable via Paypal. Score sent within 48 hours of purchase.

Score Samples

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