Preferred Citation: Taylor, Sandra C. Jewel of the Desert: Japanese American Internment at Topaz. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1993 1993.

Chapter Eight Nikkei Lives: The Impact of Internment

Chapter Eight
Nikkei Lives: The Impact of Internment

The official records of Topaz were the product of Caucasian thinking, even if they were often written by Nisei hands. The camp administrators were charged with running the camps according to the mandate given by the WRA. They viewed the residents as their responsibilities, in much the same way that the Bureau of Indian Affairs saw its charges. Many of the administrators had, in fact, come from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and WRA director Dillon S. Myer took over Indian Affairs shortly after the war. Their paternalism fostered a condition of dependency in many Japanese Americans very similar to that created in the native Americans.[1] Some administrators were sympathetic to the Nikkei's plight, and a few were overtly hostile; most were simply neutral. Their jobs were created and necessitated by the racism and politics of the war. The decision to intern the Japanese Americans was not theirs, but it never entered the minds of most officials to disagree with it. Everyone had to sacrifice in wartime, they believed, and they equated internment with food rationing and the draft. This attitude was held by some of the camp residents as well, who simply resigned themselves to the situation. Since the officials had ample opportunity to observe Nikkei who had come to hate the United States as a result of their confinement, they had no cause to doubt that some might be disloyal. The Caucasians sought to be efficient and to do their jobs as effectively as possible given the circumstances; George Ochikubo was quite perceptive in his observations about


them. For most of the administrators efficiency was enough, and the war's end was the long-awaited solution to everybody's problems. With the passage of time many, like Governor Earl Warren, have come to see relocation as a mistake. Others probably agree with John J. McCloy, who maintained until his death in 1991 that it was necessary and right.

The perceptions of the people whom they governed, the Japanese Americans, have also changed over the years. By the time the former evacuees returned to free America, whether to the East, the Midwest, or the West Coast, most desired only to pick up the broken pieces of their lives and start again. Although they did not intend to become the vaunted "model minority" so esteemed in later literature and now so controversial, they did want to avoid notice, escape racism and discrimination, and become good citizens, thereby proving to the country how loyal they always had been.[2] Memories of Tanforan and Topaz were suppressed, packed away like old kimonos in the attics of their minds. Thus, many in the third generation, the Sansei, grew up unaware of what their parents and grandparents had endured. And when they learned the story of the concentration camps, they could not comprehend why their ancestors had gone so blindly and silently to their incarceration. Why had they not fought back?

Public statements about relocation and concentration camp life during the first decade following the war were rare. In 1946 Miné Okubo published Citizen 13660 , an illustrated memoir of life in Tanforan and Topaz, but the reader discerns her attitude only through her sarcasm and the evocative sketches of her camp-mates. She concluded with a description of her departure in January 1944. Describing the final red tape, Okubo stated simply, "I was now free." Perhaps the most moving moment was the one that followed. She looked back at the crowd left at the gate, the very old and the very young: "Here I was, alone, with no family responsibilities, and yet fear had chained me to the camp. I thought, 'My God! How


do they expect those poor people to leave the one place they can call home.'"[3]

Standing on the ellipse south of the White House on July 15, 1946, President Harry S Truman awarded the Nisei 442d Regimental Combat Team its seventh presidential unit citation. He pointed out that these soldiers had "fought not only the enemy, but [also] prejudice—and they had won." On February 2, 1948, Truman made three references to the Nikkei in a speech on civil rights. Point 8 called for Hawaiian and Alaskan statehood (Hawaii was 40 percent Japanese American) and the dropping of racial bars to naturalization. Point 10 called for the rapid settlement of Nikkei evacuation claims. Congress enacted the Japanese American Claims Act, which Truman signed on July 2, 1948; it appropriated $38 million to settle all property losses incurred by Japanese Americans as a result of the evacuation.[4] The total amount was pegged for years at $400 million,[5] a figure with no basis in fact. The Claims Act was an inadequate approach to the question of compensation; some 26,568 claims were filed totaling $148 million, but the amount distributed was about $37 million.[6] Congress also limited claims to real and personal property and the petitioner had to document his or her losses; many, if they ever had documentation, had lost it in moving or discovered that it had been destroyed when their stored property was vandalized. By the time the act was passed, the Internal Revenue Service had destroyed the income tax returns for the prewar years, which would have been the most authoritative records on which to base claims. The few actual settlements were agonizingly slow as well, dragging on until 1965.[7] Few people who were evacuated appeared before general hearings or testified about their losses. Many of the most needy Issei died before their claims were even heard.

The way former evacuees remembered and reacted to the camps in interviews from 1987 to 1989 adds another dimension to the historical reconstruction of Japanese San Francisco, Tanforan, and


Topaz. By the late 1980s not only had most Japanese Americans rebuilt their lives, recovering a semblance of relative prosperity, but the civil rights movement of the 1960s had legitimized ethnic protest. The Sansei, who were not afraid or ashamed to speak out, championed the rights of their parents and grandparents. The Japanese American Citizens League, which had survived the war in considerable disrepute because of its support for and acquiescence in the military's demands for evacuating the West Coast, championed the cause of redress. Other groups, too, began to demand financial compensation of some kind—whether a "token" amount for all or the equivalent of actual losses on an individual basis—as well as an apology from the federal government, a statement that admitted Washington's mistake in interning the Japanese Americans. Remembering the past was not only legitimized; it became almost essential. Japanese Americans began to speak out, not only to protest what had been done to them but also to address a new audience of Americans, most of whom did not know their story at all. This new generation was prepared to accept relocation as a mistake, an unbelievable error that stemmed from racism. The shape that the apology should take, however, was much more controversial, even among Japanese Americans.

When camp survivors told me their stories, they were speaking in a time totally different from the war years. Both interviewer and interviewee operated from the presumption that what happened was wrong. Both accepted the necessity for some sort of redress, although Nikkei differed over what it should consist of. The survivors' memory was selective, and the passage of forty-five years affected what remained. Some things were magnified; many others were forgotten. The events of the years since the war also influenced recollections. For those whose subsequent lives were happy and successful, the camps were a brief unpleasantness that was perhaps not so very bad, even if unconstitutional. On the other hand, many who did not prosper traced all their troubles to the camp years. Of course, many who were in the camps have died. It was hard in 1990 to find an Issei who had remained in camp until October 31, 1945, for most of these people are no longer with us. And those who were young children remembered almost nothing of the pain that Tan-


foran and Topaz caused their parents. The effects on them during their formative years are even harder to assess.

Nonetheless, talking with even a few of the residents of Topaz added many dimensions to the written record. The Issei played an important role in the history of Topaz. The most elderly did not work; they had labored hard all their lives and most welcomed the opportunity to rest. Since they had recognized the peril the war created because of their lack of citizenship, many were grateful that nothing worse than internment befell them. They were not surprised when, at first, they could not participate in camp government, but before long they were the predominant element. Some chose to return to Japan at the earliest opportunity, believing that America held no promise for them or their families, while others recognized that it was the land of their children's hopes and remained. Many of them became American citizens in 1952, when the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act was passed. Their postwar economic situation was bleak: most had lost all they had accumulated in a half century in America, and they were too old to begin again. They were the real tragedies of the internment, and redress came too late to save them.

The younger Issei suffered too, but they could not sit back and rest in camp, and they found many ways to survive. Many of the women and some of the men provided care for others through religion, social welfare, or official positions such as block manager. George Gentoku Shimamoto was one who chose that path. Born in Wakayama Prefecture, Shimamoto came to the United States in 1918 when he was thirteen, making him, in the parlance of the day, a "young Issei." At Tanforan and Topaz he drew on his architectural background and carpentry skills and became resident chief of construction and planning, enabling him to make the camp more comfortable for the residents. He helped install plasterboard on the inner walls of the barracks and constructed an auditorium so the children and adults would have a place to congregate. Shimamoto served on the committee investigating the Wakasa killing and also


was in charge of the pipeline repair project, a truly thankless task. He helped recruit volunteers for the army, an assignment he supported because, although born an Issei, he considered himself a law-abiding resident and hoped that one day the Japanese would be permitted to participate in naturalization. When Shimamoto left Topaz in July 1944, he was pleased that the camp was self-sustaining. He went to New York City and entered a prominent architectural firm, where he worked for thirty-two years, retiring as senior partner and general manager. He had brought the organization from a 6-man office in 1944 to a leading firm with a staff of 125.[8]

George Gentoku Shimamoto lived his life in the United States, loved his adopted land, and became a citizen when, in 1952, he was at last eligible to do so. But like many other Japanese Americans, he did not believe that citizenship ruled out redress. When the United States put him behind barbed wire, it committed a wrong that should be acknowledged. Although monetary compensation was not necessary for his personal well-being, he said, "in the United States to correct the wrong,. . . [one] always makes a settlement in a monetary way. It is the American way of thinking or American way of doing it." Twenty thousand dollars was, he thought, far less than the value of the damages people had suffered, and he recognized that the sum would probably be paid so slowly that those eligible would keep diminishing in number. Shimamoto was not a bitter man; he accepted each new situation and strove to improve things for himself and those around him. Trying to bridge the gap between Issei and Caucasians, he retained his Japanese heritage yet was American in attitude long before he could be one legally.

Shimamoto was fortunate, for he was educated and well employed. Many other Issei bachelors had worked in restaurants before the war. They returned to the kitchens or other unskilled jobs, and as they aged many lived in severe poverty. Some existed in 1989 on as little as twenty dollars a month, paying minimal rent for shabby hotel rooms. For them redress came too late.[9]

Two women, Faith Terasawa and Chitose Nishimura Manabe, exemplified the many women and men whose religious faith drew them to help others and gave them strength to endure the hardships


of camp. Although both these women were Christian, many devout Buddhists also reacted in this way. Faith Terasawa was a "young Issei" of forty-five when she entered Topaz. Her father was a retired Episcopal priest, and she assisted him in ministering to others, then continued his work after he died in camp. In 1987, when she was ninety years old, there were many things about internment she would never forget: the smell of the people who lived in horse stalls at Tanforan; the sight of her first meal at Topaz, a bowl of rice with a prune on top. Her allergies made it impossible for her to sleep on a straw mattress. Employed by the welfare division, her particular specialty became working with the mentally ill. She remembered clearly one young woman unhinged by the stresses of evacuation whom she and her supervisor visited. The woman opened the door and came at them with a butcher knife; they subdued her and took her to the state mental hospital at Provo. Terasawa also worked in the hospital, treating the tubercular patients that the young nurse's aides feared to approach. Faith lived up to her name: she believed that Christianity gave her the strength to do such work and remain healthy, and she did. She dealt well with the perpetual adversity of camp life. After the war, she returned to San Francisco with her family, who cared for her as she grew old.[10]

Chitose Manabe's devotion was given to God and her family. She was born in Sendai, the daughter of a wealthy merchant who died when she was very young. She attended a boarding school for girls run by American missionaries, learned to teach, and went to Tokyo to work. She married a Salvation Army worker converted in the United States who had returned to Japan to help with rescue work after the Tokyo earthquake of 1923. Mr. Manabe took his bride to the Oakland-Berkeley area, where the couple continued their religious work and raised five children. Both she and her husband worked, she as a domestic, her husband as a gardener, but after their children the center of their lives was their involvement with the Christian Layman's Movement. Topaz provided some relief from the heavy labor she had clone all her life, but she also worked for the welfare department, learned sewing, and studied English, something she had long wanted to do. Both Manabes continued their Christian work in camp, he teaching Bible study groups for


the Kibei, and she singing in the choir, an activity she remembered with fondness in 1990, when she was eighty-seven. Her attitude was both stoic and full of faith. About the horse stalls at Tanforan, she said, "War time can't be helped—everybody have some troubles.... We have to overcome." Religion gave her the strength to do that. The Manabes returned home to Berkeley, to put their house back in order and resume their prewar lives. Again they worked hard, this time to put their children through higher education. The Manabes became citizens in 1952.[11]

For Japanese Americans the years of internment were a benchmark, the pivotal experience of their lives. Even today Nisei ask any new acquaintance, "Where were you in camp?" In 1989 Kenji Fujii carried this preoccupation one step further. He did not ever refer to World War II: instead, he spoke of "before camp... and after camp." Camp name, barracks number, and room replaced the names of universities and dates of graduation that were reference points for non-Japanese friends. The WRA administration frowned on using the term camp, and especially concentration camp. Instead, the correct word was "center," as in "relocation center." Caucasian scholars and some Nikkei too, like Harry H. L. Kitano, have pointed out that relocation had its good side, dispersing the Nikkei population throughout the country and providing more opportunities than continued concentration in urban ghettos or rural slums in California would have done. However, as Harry's sister Chizu Iiyama has noted, in 1942 most Nisei were of high school age. "What high school population (including whites) would 'disperse' themselves throughout the country?" She said, "The end result did not justify the means." Internment was such a trauma, such a break with the past, that few Nikkei can consciously attribute any overall beneficial effect to it. One of the few who did, the well-known writer, politician, and educator S. I. Hayakawa, was not interned.

The Nisei are the generation of Japanese Americans for whom memories of camp are the strongest. As the Issei can be divided into


the "young" and the "old," so can the Nisei—although these are very fluid divisions with much overlap. The "old Nisei" were already out of school and beginning careers and families of their own when the war began; some were in their early thirties. They were the first leaders in camp, acting as block managers and council members until resettlement provided the impetus for many of them to return to the outside world, where some achieved a measure of success. The younger Nisei were the school-age generation. Many were high school students, but they included the very young.[12] Some small children and infants were Sansei. Some teenaged Nisei seemed to be completely traumatized by the camp experience, while others took it as an excuse to play. Many Nikkei suffered damage to their self-image since they had to accept the notion of an "inferiority" that put them behind barbed wire. As part of families with school-age children, many younger Nisei remained in camp for several years or the duration of the war. The older teenaged males were also caught up in the registration controversy, forced to decide first whether to volunteer and later whether to be drafted. Many young men escaped camp to go into the army, where they grew up in a hurry. Some made the army their home and their postwar career. Others had to readjust to postwar America, contending once again with prejudice as they struggled to find jobs, start families, and establish their identity on the West Coast, where the old Nihonmachis had disappeared but not the prejudice against them—at least not for a while. In short, any generalization produces many examples of the opposite. Camp had differing effects on different people. The experience scarred some people for life, while others, like the members of the Topaz High School Class of 1945, formed unbreakable bonds based on the good experiences so that now they can even laugh at the adversities. They have held a series of reunions as recently as 1990. An all-camp "last" Topaz reunion was held September 4-6, 1992, in Burlingame, California.

Tomoye Nozawe was born in San Francisco into a middle-class family, educated in the public schools, and graduated from the


University of California. She married Henri Takahashi, a graduate of Pomona. The evacuation to Tanforan was rough; she never forgot the mother of a friend who became ill from eating contaminated food and died of food poisoning because the guards would not let the ambulance leave the camp quickly enough to get her to the hospital.[13] Thinking Topaz would be better, the Takahashis volunteered to be part of the advance party leaving for camp. Tomoye and her husband Henri made the best of their new existence, founding and working on the Topaz Times ; they took especial pride in the ways they avoided censorship through clever words and phrases. She remembered with fondness the kind members of the administration who had fraternized with them and become their friends. Some, she recalled, were conscientious objectors to the war.[14] The Takahashis left camp on seasonal leave to work as laborers harvesting carrots. They had never done such work in their lives, but getting out of camp was both exciting and a brief escape from its routines. Tomoye's skills in Spanish helped her to communicate with their Mexican co-workers. She was shocked to see Indians, who worked alongside them, treated even worse than they were by the locals.[15] After the Takahashis had a baby, they remained in camp until the end of the war. Returning to San Francisco, Tomoye crossed the bay on a ferry and watched the skyline of the city she loved emerge from the fog; it was an image that she would treasure as much as she recalled the anger and pain of leaving. Perhaps for her the best revenge was to become economically successful, as she and her husband did, thus proving just how worthy of being San Franciscans they were.[16]

Nisei Dave Tatsuno voiced no outright condemnation of relocation, although he did oppose the discriminatory way that Japanese Americans were treated. Dave was a San Francisco small businessman, married with one child, when he and his family were evacuated in 1942. Fearing they faced immediate evacuation, the Tatsunos held an evacuation sale at the beginning of March and closed their store on April 7, but they waited another month before going to Tanforan. There his wife delivered a second child. As manager of the dry goods section of the cooperative he made three purchasing trips all over the nation. His story of smuggling a movie


camera into Topaz was recounted earlier. His film has been an invaluable document for the Japanese American community in the Bay Area and the nation.[17]

Dave Tatsuno, like Faith Terasawa and Chitose Manabe, was a devout Christian, and his religion gave him strength to endure the internment. He taught Sunday school, helped start a YMCA, became chairman of its board, and assisted in establishing a "Y" camp in the desert for children; he remained associated with the "Y" the rest of his life. Tatsuno was a leader of the JACL. He found internment much harder on the young Nisei than it was on him; they were bitter and saw only a bleak future ahead. Although he had lost his San Francisco store in 1942, he decided to open a new one in 1946 with the very limited capital left from the earlier liquidation. (He found it interesting that the younger Nisei later romanticized their experiences at class reunions; they sentimentalized the friendships they had made while forgetting the heartaches. He felt this tendency was especially true of the Class of 1945.) In 1944 Dave left the co-op to farm near Springville, Utah, with his brother-in-law. The brother-in-law and some friends had farmed near Provo the previous year, making $5,000 even though they had no agricultural experience. However, Tatsuno returned to camp because his wife was expecting another child. After his daughter's birth he taught public speaking and English in the high school. He enjoyed farming in Utah and found the Mormons sympathetic, but he also liked teaching.[18]

When the West Coast was reopened, Dave Tatsuno made an exploratory trip to San Francisco. He experienced no racist episodes, so he and his wife decided to return home as soon as they could. He concluded that "the people in camp really made the best of a very unfortunate situation and ... any other group of people under the same circumstance ... wouldn't have taken it as well as the Japanese Americans." Tatsuno accepted the JACL position that any protest in 1942 would have been futile and that the best thing to do was to go, but he also supported redress.[19]

Dave Tatsuno's optimistic outlook was matched by his neighbor Kenji Fujii. Fujii's father moved to the East Bay after he arrived in America at the turn of the century. Kenji, the only son among five


children, went into the family nursery business as soon as he finished high school. He helped put his four sisters through college, but feeling that someone should work in the nursery with his father, he did not attend college himself. Fujii remembered himself as "kind of a radical kid," involved with the Oakland Young Democrats and especially Ernie Iiyama. He opposed war during the 1930s because he had seen so much suffering around him during the Depression. When the evacuation came, Kenji leased the nursery and went first to Tanforan and then to Topaz, together with his mother and the three sisters still at home. In both camps he was a block manager. Kenji's father worked cleaning the washrooms (only because his son, the block manager, could not get anyone else to do it and block managers, as Hoffman noted, had to fill in when tasks went undone), and his mother labored in the kitchen. Selective service caused him problems; during the war his records were confused with someone of the same name who was in the ultranationalistic Black Dragon Society, so he was not called. Although he expected to be drafted after the war, again he was not. Fujii's opposition to the draft alienated him from the Young Democrats, who supported conscription. Kenji, a perfect candidate for resettlement, left Topaz early to work in a nursery in Michigan. After the war ended, he traveled around the country before returning to the family business in Hayward, which had been cared for by Caucasian friends during his absence.[20] Fujii concluded his reminiscences with the comment, "I do not find too many unpleasant things about the evacuation. I do not, because it is not in my character... basically I'm a positive person." Evacuation was an anomalous event in his life, a period of discord in what otherwise had been a good life and continued to be after the war. He took over the nursery from his father, married, and raised two sons who succeeded him in the business. He knew many others who were very disturbed about their internment; his friends Michiko Okamoto and Maya Aikawa certainly did not share his sentiments.[21]

The Kibei's experiences were different. Most of them were very hostile to the evacuation and internment, and many WRA admin-


istrators, especially Dillon Myer, considered them "trouble-makers and agitators" who caused "difficulty."[22] They had not been acculturated into the passivity and acquiescence of the Americanized Nisei, and they certainly did not accept the position of the JACL on internment. Since most had spent their formative years gaining an education in Japan, they seemed even more "Japanesy" than the Issei. Even though they had been born in the United States, many did not understand their native country, for they did not live there long before going to Japan and they did not have time to readjust upon their return. Many spoke English poorly, if at all, and they did not comprehend democracy. But it is a mistake to lump all Kibei together, for they too were diverse. Those who went to Japan in the 1930s and attended public schools when militarism was being taught were very different from those who went in the 1920s, when Japan's government was more democratic. Interviews with Karl Akiya and K. Morgan Yamanaka indicate that even this general division is insufficient to explain the Kibei phenomenon.

Akiya had received a militaristic education, which radicalized instead of converting him, so that he became anti-fascist, anti-war, and pro-democracy. Like many others, he left Japan because he opposed militarism. He made several trips back and forth but returned permanently to the United States in 1931 and renounced his Japanese citizenship after the Manchurian Incident in 1931. When his father's hotel went bankrupt, the bilingual Akiya went to work for the Sumitomo Bank.[23]

Karl Akiya then became a kind of missionary to the Nisei, warning them of the dangers of war between the United States and Japan and urging them to support America. He organized a Kibei association in San Francisco in 1940 and got the association integrated into the JACL; he was even trying to organize the Issei when Japan attacked the United States. Akiya became even more radical after Pearl Harbor; he protested both Japan's attack and America's actions against the Japanese Americans. He soon was offered a chance to aid the American cause: naval intelligence asked for his cooperation in finding subversives among the Issei. The navy asked him and his friend James Oki to remain on the West Coast during the war, but he refused. The idea of being the only two Japanese Americans not evacuated did not appeal to them. In his radical days


Akiya associated with Ernie Iiyama and the Young Democrats. He worked with the communist Karl Yoneda on the Japanese American newspaper Doho , where he was in charge of circulation. Yoneda and Akiya sent a telegram to President Roosevelt on behalf of their 150 readers and subscribers pledging cooperation in the war against the "vicious military fascists of Japan."[24] Akiya also helped Iiyama in the election for the council at Tanforan.

At Topaz Karl Akiya continued his efforts for democracy. He worked for adult education, pressuring the camp administration to allow courses to be taught in Japanese so that Issei and Kibei would not be excluded. He urged that the Topaz Times be bilingual. He also advocated and taught Americanization classes, which aroused controversy when people claimed that "communists" were teaching. But he wanted to serve his native land more directly, so when the army called for volunteers, he applied—not to fight, for he was over thirty years old, but to work in intelligence. Akiya went to Ann Arbor to the language school, where he became an instructor. This course of action, Akiya stated forty-five years later, was taken by many Issei who wanted to serve in the army but were too old for combat.[25]

Despite his patriotism, Karl Akiya was very conscious of his civil liberties and his rights as an American citizen, and he opposed their violation. He argued that it violated his right to free speech when his reading material was searched and he was denied the use of the Japanese language. Above all, he protested the evacuation because it was totally illegal as well as financially devastating. It had cost Japanese Americans as much as $2 billion, and he believed the U.S. government should compensate them for their loss. He went to New York after the war, where his family did not experience the racial discrimination they had found on the West Coast. Akiya testified before the Commission on Wartime Internment and Re-location; in 1987 he expressed his pleasure with the progress that the redress movement was making.[26]

Morgan Yamanaka was a very young child when his family sent him to Japan, and aside from teaching him to speak excellent Japanese, the militarist education had little effect. Born in San Francisco in 1925, he went to Japan when he was two, spent the


next five years there, and then returned to California. Because Yamanaka was so young, he was only technically a Kibei, but his family was split by the war. His eldest brother went to Japan during the war, the family held property there, and their overseas ties were strong. Morgan had an older brother and a younger sister who still resided in Japan in 1988. His Japanese years made him perhaps "more aware of the Japanese culture than many of my Nisei colleagues," but he was quickly Americanized when he returned. His parents were in domestic service and lived in Pacific Heights, a very exclusive area of the city. He and his brothers and sisters were the only Japanese students at Lowell High School, but their social life was spent in Japan Town, where they attended Japanese school, studied martial arts, and participated in the life of the Buddhist community.[27]

The family was assigned to be evacuated to the Santa Anita Assembly Center, a quite arbitrary decision that was made because the Yamanakas lived in a section of San Francisco that was evacuated before Tanforan was prepared. They were housed in horse stalls at Santa Anita, which was a much larger camp than Tanforan, holding about 18,000 people. Since Morgan was a senior about to graduate, he decided not to attend high school but went to work in the housing unit and then made camouflage. In October 1942 the family was transported to Topaz, their first trip outside California. Like many others, they found the dust storms unforgettable. Their first task was to make the barracks room comfortable and then to find something to occupy their time. In Topaz, as in Santa Anita, Morgan worked in the fire department. He was more qualified for service than most of the residents: having lived across from a fire station in San Francisco, he knew something about hoses and couplings. He eventually became the captain. During the entire time in camp he never fought a fire, making it, he said, a very good job.[28]

When the loyalty questionnaire was circulated, the Yamanakas let Morgan and his brother Al make their own decisions about it. Many factors influenced them because they had siblings in Japan, and the family's ties to the homeland were strong. Their education at Lowell High had taught them about American government and civil rights, but questions 27 and 28 were difficult, and the teenagers


were not clear about the implications of a negative answer. Morgan had turned eighteen the first week at Santa Anita and was classified 4C, and Al had volunteered and been rejected. Both answered "no-no." The act of rebellion cost them the right to remain in Topaz, and they compounded it by renouncing their American citizenship. This response meant expatriation to Japan—not what they had in mind at all. They did not think of themselves as anti-American when they replied as they did, but they were angered at what the United States had done to them.[29]

The result was segregation to Tule Lake for the entire family, for their parents opted to join them. Tule was far different from Topaz, much larger, much more turbulent, much more prisonlike because it was run by the army, not the WRA. Morgan was sent to the stockade when he joined a group protesting the death of an inmate. The contrast with Topaz could not have been greater, but despite the brutality of Tule, by 1945 Morgan and Al had decided they did not want to be sent to Japan. They asked that their renunciation and expatriation papers be voided. Ultimately, they were allowed to remain in the United States. Morgan looked upon the four years of evacuation and internment as a hiatus, "four years absence, essentially vegetation." Whatever else he might have done, at least his "mind probably would have been more active in those four years— which mine was not." All he had to read in the stockade was the Bible, which he read "forward and backward." Four years of vegetation and a pointless gap in his life, together with an anger he described as more like "being pissed off"—this was what he got from the internment. He resettled to Chicago and returned to San Francisco for his college education, which culminated in a master's degree in social work. He was first a practicing social worker and then a member of the faculty at San Francisco State University.[30]

The lives of Nisei women who had finished high school and received no further education were almost as hard as those of their mothers. Tsuyako "Sox" Kitashima had three brothers; they lived with their mother on a farm in Centerville, now called Fremont. They were


truck farmers, an occupation in which many Japanese Americans excelled precisely because they were willing to work long hours at stoop labor. The family all worked in the fields, planting and picking strawberries and vegetables. The announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor caught them off guard, for unlike city dwellers they had not contemplated such a possibility. From that day on they lived in fear, not knowing what would happen to them. When announcements were posted telling of the evacuation, they had to dispose of the farm equipment at a pittance. Theirs included an old horse, and "Sox" remembered how sad it was to send the beast to its death; "no one wanted an old horse." They considered leaving during the voluntary evacuation period and traveling to Colorado, "but not knowing our future, my brother did not want to take that risk."[31]

Instead they went to Tanforan to endure the indignities of a horse stall with no privacy and the terrible smell of manure. "Sox" did all the family's laundry, and she remembered rising at 4 A.M . to make sure she got hot water and a tub. Her mother suffered from arthritis, which the dampness of the stall made worse. "Sox" remembered the kindness of a Caucasian family from whom her father had leased land; these people did many favors for them, bringing linoleum for the floor to spare her arthritic mother and providing them with breakfast the day they left for Utah.[32]

Topaz, with its dust, was just as bad as Tanforan. The family partitioned their one room to create some privacy for "Sox" and her mother, and the brothers made furniture from scrap lumber. The women made jewelry from the tiny shells they dug up around the camp and unraveled onion sacks to crochet carrying cases and purses. The loyalty questionnaire split the family; the sons and their mother went to Tule Lake, since the men refused to sign "yes-yes" and their mother feared she would lose her only citizenship if she signed. "Sox" stayed with a married sister and her husband, and in August 1945 she too married, returning with her husband to San Francisco on September 20. Claud Pratt, for whom she worked in camp, had been kind to her, and he offered to help her gain civil service status if she would stay to type the final report on the camp closing, but she decided to leave with her husband.[33]


"Sox" Kitashima participated in most facets of camp life. She took a seasonal leave to work in the fields in Ogden, but she was allergic to ragweed and had to return to Topaz. She then worked as an assistant block manager and heard a variety of complaints, many of them about food. A number of people told her that the Caucasian staff was engaged in black marketeering, selling meat outside camp and leaving the residents with organ meat. Work, "Sox" said, was necessary to keep one's sanity. She recalled that going to Delta to shop for her block was a great treat, just to get away, but by the time she made all the purchases her neighbors wanted there was no time to shop for herself. In addition, the shopper had to put up with being searched on the way into town. Pratt took her and her husband into town once to go to the movies, and "Sox" reflected that she "stuck out like a sore thumb" among all the Caucasians. Pratt's goodness to her was something she remembered forty years later.[34] She has exchanged Christmas cards with him every year since she left Topaz, she recalled in 1993.

Tsuyako Kitashima's strong resentment of the internment propelled her into the redress movement in the 1980s. She worked for the National Coalition for Redress/Reparation, a group separate from the JACL effort. Certain parts of her experiences stuck in her mind. She remembered Tanforan as the worst because it was such a rude and unexpected violation of her civil liberties. It galled her to have Caucasians say that the internment was "for our own protection." The barbed wire at Topaz kept them in, not others out, she noted, for the guards had "guns pointed toward us." The guards were not too bright, she reflected as she thought about the killing of James Wakasa. One day as she was traveling to Delta, a military policeman stopped her truck and took roll. When he got to the line that said, "And one Caucasian," he waited for an answer from this Mr. Caucasian and said he would not leave until the unknown person said "Here!"

The younger Nisei reacted to Topaz in a number of ways. There were the junior high and high school students: Kiyo Ito and Mari


Eijima, Class of 1943; Harry Kitano, Shigeko Sugiyama, Michiko Okamoto, and Fumi Manabe, Class of 1944; Maya Nagata and Ryozo (Glenn) Kumekawa, Class of 1945; Bob Utsumi and Abu Keikoan, Class of 1946; and Don Nakahata, Lee Suyemoto, and Masako Tsuzuki, Class of 1947.[35] There were some special cases, too, such as one mixed couple of Japanese and Portuguese ancestry. The Issei father was picked up by the FBI; the mother chose to go with her two daughters to camp, for she had identified with Japanese culture since her marriage and did not want to leave her children.[36] And there were a number of young Nisei—including Bill Kochiyama, Tom Kawaguchi, Tad Hayashi, and John Hada—who said "yes-yes"; they joined the military, either voluntarily or, later, through the draft. These men were not expressing their approval of relocation. They, too, were born of immigrant parents who had toiled to build a new life for their families in the Bay Area and had lost most of their possessions in the evacuation. Tanforan and Topaz were as unpleasant to them as to the "no-nos." Their response resulted in part from their families' insistence that their children were American citizens who had a duty to their government and whose future would be in the United States.

John Hada is representative of these men. He was the only child of a San Francisco family. Educated in city schools, he was fifteen or sixteen when the evacuation was announced. In Tanforan the Hadas lived in a horse stall. John remembered the way people helped each other there instead of emphasizing their miserable conditions. "It was just like perhaps going on a trip to the outback," he recalled, thinking of the response of teenagers like himself, but he knew the situation was very difficult for older people. Since their neighbors had agreed to take care of their property, visited them in Tanforan with baskets of fruit, and kept in touch later by mail, the Hadas did not feel too cut off from their former home. Kindness was perhaps what Hada remembered most from the internment, exemplified by Caucasian friends who stood by his family and by Nikkei who helped one another. His reflections on the schools also demonstrate his positive outlook: "The teachers did a remarkable job with the limited resources that they did have." When he was asked to complete the loyalty questionnaire, he asked his father's


advice in answering questions 27 and 28. His father reminded him that he was an American, that he might have to die for his country, and that he could not afford to be bitter. Whatever problems the Hada family encountered John attributed to the death of his mother just before the internment and the death of his grandmother, who had raised him, in camp.[27] Hada remained in Topaz until the summer of 1945, when he resettled with an uncle in Cleveland and then joined the army, which became his career.

John Hada was a very patriotic man who valued the good experiences of camp, did not dwell on the bad, and was proud of his military career. He served in two Pacific wars. Nonetheless, he felt that the experience of internment was not one he would wish on anyone else: "Perhaps when I go to my eternal reward I would forgive those that did this to me. I would hope so." He did not consider this an attitude of bitterness, just of realism; despite it, he served his country well and had a full and productive life.[38]

Bob Utsumi also went to school in Topaz, was a graduate of the Class of 1945, briefly tried college, and entered the U.S. Air Force after his return to California. He too made the military his career and harbored no bitterness for the internment, even though he did not consider it just. He was more critical of the schools and the treatment of his family than John Hada, but he valued his service to his country and was not full of resentment over the camp experience.[39]

Utsumi's story differed from his classmate's in several respects. His grandparents on both sides were pioneers in the East Bay who had run nurseries, and he was one of the few Sansei in camp. Both his grandparents and his parents suffered considerable losses when they left their property. His paternal grandfather was a dentist. His maternal grandparents' nurseries were badly damaged, and his father, who was a professional photographer—an unusual occupation for a Nisei—had to surrender his cameras because they were considered contraband. Able to regain some of them in Topaz, he became the official camp photographer. Most of what Utsumi remembered of Topaz was the terrible education he felt he received there. He lost an entire year of high school because of the way camp schooling was organized. Bob enrolled in the University


of California at Berkeley but dropped out and joined the U.S. Air Force Aviation Cadet program. Since the air force had not admitted many Japanese Americans during the war, Utsumi was particularly proud to have made his career as an officer and a pilot in that service. In 1988 he was the oldest surviving Japanese American jet pilot.[40]

Tom Kawaguchi came from San Francisco, where his parents managed an apartment house. He had attended junior college for several years but dropped out to work when his father had a stroke. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, he reacted in anger. "They can't win," he said of the Japanese; he had no particular liking for the country since the Japanese nationals at Mitsubishi, where he worked, discriminated against Nisei like him. Tom was employed by the JACL after Mitsubishi fired him. Despite his feelings about Japan, he was angered when the notices about the evacuation appeared, for he was, after all, an American citizen. Because Tom's father was an invalid, Tom, his mother, and his brother, along with his two sisters and their husbands, had to make the arrangements for evacuating the family.[41] Like many others, they sold most of their possessions at a loss and stored the rest within a private home; nearly everything was gone when they returned.

Life in Tanforan was terrible. Since the family was large, they were assigned a barracks room rather than a horse stall, but they were still cramped. The assembly center left Tom Kawaguchi with many memories—the inedible food, the allergies from sleeping on a straw mattress, the people who cried during the first few days.

The Kawaguchis were one of the first families to arrive at Topaz, which was even more depressing and harder on someone who suffered from allergies than Tanforan had been. They were assigned two rooms, which they partitioned further with blankets and sheets, but privacy was still nonexistent. Tom's mother told him not to forget what was happening, because he was an American citizen and should not suffer such indignities. He remembered well. Tom did improve the family's quarters; he made furniture for the rooms from scrap lumber he stole. He left camp for brief periods of seasonal work, but primarily he worked for the education department and later the cooperative as a cost accountant. Tom helped


start a Boy Scout troop and other activities for the children, for he felt it very important to keep them busy.[42]

Although life at Topaz was bleak, everything was relatively harmonious until the loyalty questionnaire split the camp apart. Tom and his brother decided to volunteer, for they believed in America and felt that military service would clearly establish their loyalty; however, only Tom passed the physical. Feelings were so tense between the opponents and the supporters of registration that Tom left camp quietly, telling people he was relocating to New York, because he wanted to spare his family any trouble. Tom joined the 442d Regiment, an act that gave him great pride in later life. The close bonds forged by combat and the awareness of their tremendous military achievements not only gave these men a common identity but also reinforced their sense of patriotism. Tom Kawaguchi believed that the best way to fight injustice was to take positive action. Each person, he felt, paid a price: those who protested or refused the draft, those who were repatriated to Japan, and those who chose to go to war. There was no easy path. Tom served in the military for twenty years, first in the infantry and then as a finance and accounting officer. He retired as a major.[43]

Reflecting on his experiences, Tom Kawaguchi stressed that the government was wrong, that "all they did was take a bunch of innocent people and make prisoners of them," and that it had to apologize. Military service helped give many Nisei a positive image of themselves despite the damaging effects of relocation, and for that reason he felt it was good. After retiring from the military, Kawaguchi became involved in the JACL-sponsored redress movement, feeling that the story of relocation had to be told again and again so that it would never be repeated. He founded a historical society (Go for Broke, later the National Japanese American Historical Society) to preserve the history of the roles played by Japanese Americans during World War II. As a result, he became involved in the preparation of an exhibit on internment and the role of Japanese Americans in the military during World War II, which opened at the National Museum of American History (the Smithsonian Institution) in 1988 as part of the bicentennial celebration of the U.S. Constitution.[44]


Bill Kochiyama also believed the military was a positive experience in his life. He had been raised as a half-orphan in an orphanage in New York City after his mother's early death. He came to California for an education but instead was interned. Kochiyama was unfamiliar with prejudice, having come from New York, where he was only one of many minorities; in fact, growing up in a series of orphanages, he thought of himself as white like the other children. He had difficulty interacting with Japanese Americans; he did not speak Japanese and did not know the culture. He was surprised when he could not get a job in the Bay Area; the racism of the West Coast was alien to his experience. A Japanese American employment agency finally placed him in an all-Nikkei laundry in Oakland, but that establishment closed immediately after Pearl Harbor. Frantic, he then tried to enlist but was refused because of his race. Forced into an assembly center whose entryway was guarded by soldiers with bayonets, Kochiyama reacted violently, daring them to shoot him. His behavior was not typical for a Nisei. Cocky and aggressive, Bill talked and acted much as the average New Yorker, without the passiveness of a Japanese American. He just could not understand what was happening to him. Bill Kochiyama was not the only misfit in Tanforan, for he recalled seeing a white man there who was only one-sixteenth Japanese, but he certainly felt alone.[45]

Topaz intensified Kochiyama's sense of isolation. He was one of only six Nisei bachelors, who all lived together. He got a job working in Provo on a seasonal leave, picking and packing fruit, and there he became acquainted with a Mormon family, who treated him well. Back in camp he was employed in housing. By the time the loyalty questionnaire was issued, Kochiyama's anger had cooled off; he said later, "When the opportunity came to volunteer, I became a flag waver. I didn't know better."[46] He signed up, returned to New York, where he was reunited with his father, and was inducted there. Trained for almost a year at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, he visited the nearby internment center at Jerome, Arkansas, to meet other Japanese Americans. There he met and became engaged to his future wife, Mary. He served with the 442d Regimental Combat Team in Italy and France.[47]


Kochiyama was not angry in 1988, but he was highly critical of the internment. Tanforan was his first introduction to a concentration camp, and Topaz, he said sarcastically, was "really a mind blower ... the jewel of the desert." Living conditions were probably not so hard on him as on others because he was used to institutional life, but he felt that there was no excuse for them. In his testimony before the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in 1981, Kochiyama spoke in favor of a redress of $50,000 for interned Japanese Americans as well as the Aleuts, whose civil rights were also violated, and he advocated establishing a community trust for the Nikkei. He called for the reversal of the Supreme Court decisions in the Korematsu, Hirabayashi , and Yasui cases and he urged that the American public be educated about the "flagrant injustices perpetrated by the government ... that such crimes should never, never be permitted to happen again."[48]

The choices for young Nisei women were more limited, for it was not culturally sanctioned for them to go out on their own. Women left for the armed forces, too, although not in any such numbers as the men. Some entered higher education, like Chizu Kitano, or even left for secondary education, like Mari Eijima. Some left to work, like Miné Okubo or Fumi Manabe, who went to Saint Louis with her sister Grace (later, Grace Hattori) at the age of fourteen.[49] The Manabe girls cooked, cleaned, ironed, and babysat for three hours each day for room and board while they attended school. Some were imprisoned elsewhere en route to Japan, like Kiyo Ito. And some, like "Sox" Kitashima, Michiko Okamoto, Grace Fujimoto, and Maya Nagata, remained in Topaz nearly to the end.

Chizu Kitano came from a large family who lived in Chinatown, San Francisco. Her father immigrated to the United States around the turn of the century; her mother, a picture bride, came over somewhat later. The Kitanos were a close family that ultimately included five daughters and two sons. The parents were strong advocates of education, so Chizu, who earned good grades, went


to the University of California, where she was a student when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Mr. Kitano was arrested by the FBI, which singled him out because he was a community leader and had helped found a Japanese-language school in San Francisco. Chizu and her sisters ran the hotel until they were evacuated. Since their mother was distraught over the arrest of her husband and the evacuation itself, the children had to prepare the family's possessions for departure. Although some of her relatives went to Tanforan, Chizu was sent to Santa Anita, where she was put in charge of recreation in the schools. Although she wanted a scholarship so she could continue her education in the Midwest or the East, her mother would not hear of her going so far away. The family was reunited at Topaz.

Ernest Iiyama was born in Oakland. His father and mother ran a store in North Oakland until 1921, when the whole family went to Japan. Ernie graduated from high school in Japan and returned to Oakland about the time of the Manchurian Incident. The Iiyamas were evacuated to Topaz, where Ernie met Chizu. He was employed in the housing division, she in social welfare, but they met through camp politics. He was also the executive secretary for the community council. The loyalty controversy put both of them at odds with many of their associates. Ernie, although a Kibei, favored answering "yes-yes" to the controversial questions, and he urged others to express their loyalty by doing the same. Chizu also reacted strongly to the controversial questions, speaking out in one of the meetings and urging people to make up their own minds and not be intimidated by others. Since young women were not encouraged to speak in public, such temerity brought her family much criticism and hostility. The episode convinced her that she should leave camp, and soon after she was accepted for student relocation in Chicago. Ernie left Topaz at the same time to work. When Chizu departed, she was told not to speak Japanese to people, not to gather in groups of more than three, and not to call attention to herself in any way—strictures that still rankled forty-five years later. Any misbehavior could jeopardize the whole student leave program, she was warned. She and Ernie married in Chicago.


Camp made a lasting impression on the Iiyamas. In 1988 Chizu still remembered the absence of privacy, the lack of places to talk or resolve differences. Her sister had a young baby, and there was no place for the infant to crawl because the floors were always dusty. When the baby cried, she would awaken everyone in the barrack, and the next day people would ask if the child were ill. Washing diapers with a washboard was very hard, and warming the baby's milk was also a problem. Chizu and Ernie recalled the bootlegging of liquor and the endless rumors that kept people upset. Ernie had tried to reform a camp prostitute by including her in discussion groups held by the Young Democrats. Chizu said, "He tried to bring her into our group and she could care less. She was having her own happy times somewhere else.... You all tried to rehabilitate her and you had to give up. It was her work." The Iiyamas found the administrators they worked for caring people who tried to make their lives better: George LaFabreque stood out especially. Nonetheless, they found the internment unforgivable; the loss of freedom, the confinement behind barbed wire fences, and the revocation of their constitutional rights marked their lives.[50] They returned to the Bay Area some five years after the end of the war.

Midori Shimanouchi told a somewhat different story. Her father came to California from Japan on what was to be the first leg of a trip around the world before running for political office, but he liked the area so well that he stayed and sent for his wife and their first child two years later. The Shimanouchis acquired farmland, and the family grew. After Midori was born, they moved to Pasadena, where her father edited a newspaper. In 1932 the Shimanouchis moved north to San Francisco, where her father worked on another Japanese-language newspaper until he was incapacitated by a stroke. Midori was eighteen when they were evacuated to Tanforan. She remembered how a young man came to visit her there in the barracks; he lived in the horse stalls and "he just smelled like a horse. It was awful, really terrible.... We tried to socialize and pretend that it wasn't bad, but it was quite bad." The FBI wanted to imprison her father as a community leader, but


his physical infirmities were so disabling that the experience would have killed him. He died in camp in 1942.[51]

All the Shimanouchi children left camp on student relocation, one sister to Smith and the other to work for the American Friends Service Committee in Boston. Midori, who had attended the University of California for one semester before the evacuation, got a scholarship to Pace College in New York. Her brothers were in Japan. Her mother joined the daughters in the East, and they never returned to the West Coast. Midori married a man she met in Tanforan; they went to New Orleans, where neither she nor her husband associated with the few Japanese Americans who resided there. She recalled that it was almost as if they wanted to repress the ethnic chapter in their lives, the source of so much pain. They never talked about camp life, and when they divorced she lost one more link to the Nikkei community. It was only after she married again, outside the Japanese community, that she could begin to rediscover her heritage, and even then the process was slow. It was through her second marriage, to a man of Austrian descent, that Midori came to discover her own roots. After her return to New York she had worked for film magnate Michael Todd, and she stayed on with his organization after his death. She finally decided not to work since she did not need the money, but she was quickly at loose ends. Her husband advised her to look into community service, perhaps with Indochinese refugees, but when she learned of the many poor and aged Issei in the area, she decided to care for her own people instead. She founded JASSI, Japanese American Social Services, a New York service organization for the elderly, many of whom were single males who had been impoverished by the internment.[52] Her work has brought her much renown in the Nikkei community in New York.

Midori Shimanouchi Lederer discovered late in life how deeply she resented the internment. Her father had kept his family separate from the Japantowns wherever they lived because he felt his children were Americans and should be treated as such. Her friends were Caucasians, and when they visited her at Tanforan she felt like she was in prison. Midori considered herself a "survivor" who was


strengthened by the camp experience, but she did not like what it did to her. She was angered by the incarceration and recalled feeling strongly that the young men in Topaz should not volunteer for military service. Midori even stood in the doorway to a room where the enlistment pitch was to be given, telling them, "Don't sign up.... How can you sign up with all of us in camp?" Out of rage she supported the class action movement for redress led by William Hohri of Chicago (the National Council for Japanese American Redress), an angrier, less conciliatory approach than the one taken by the JACL.[53] Her work with JASSI provided her with a way to reconnect to the past and, to some degree, work out her anger. But she will never forget.

The Nisei students at Topaz High responded to the relocation in many different ways. Some, like Bob Utsumi, John Hada, and Shig Sugiyama, went into military service and made it a career. Sugiyama spent twenty years in the military and completed his B.A. degree at the University of California after retiring from the army. He earned a master's degree at California State University at Hayward and eventually, as the associate special counsel and inspector general of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, became one of the highest-ranking Japanese Americans in the civil service. Sugiyama was elected national president of the JACL in 1974, the year it adopted redress as a goal, but he personally never supported the concept. He also helped organize a Buddhist congregation in Washington, the Ekoji Buddhist Temple. His Buddhist faith, which became very strong as he organized the congregation in Washington, called on him to sacrifice, and redress and monetary compensation connoted a greed that made him uncomfortable. You could not put a price on the deprivation of a person's liberty, he thought, and the tendency of Americans to sue one another "at the drop of a hat" he found deplorable. Suing the federal government was even worse, he believed, for at the base of it all, the government was the people, all of them. Sugiyama thought that an educational program to teach the public about the evacuation and internment would help to


prevent such an outrage from recurring. The apology of President Gerald Ford and his repudiation of Executive Order 9066 in 1976 were enough for Sugiyama; he felt honored when Ford shook his hand at the signing ceremony. That was his personal apology.[54]

Kiyo Ito was not bitter either, despite her camp experiences and life in postwar Japan. Her father, Ryuzaburo Ito of Oakland, was arrested before the evacuation because he had worked for an insurance company with a large Japanese clientele; he also was active in the Japanese Association and other Japanese groups. Because Ito had received a college education in the United States, traveled all over the nation, and was a leader in his community, he was marked for FBI attention. The Bureau agents called on him many times after Pearl Harbor, even searching the house and carrying off his treasured college records for no apparent reason. After his arrest Kiyo, at sixteen the oldest of the three children, had to become the head of the family because her mother spoke little English. Her father was imprisoned in Burbank City Jail with common criminals, then held at Santa Fe with other alien internees, and later moved to Bismarck, North Dakota. He was never charged with anything.[55]

Topaz was a sad experience for the family. Since her mother worked in the mess hall, she could not be with the children at mealtimes, but she insisted the children eat together to preserve a bit of family unity. Kiyo graduated from Topaz High, which she remembered as a rigorous school with fierce competition because the Japanese American students were used to striving for excellence and now competed only with each other. Her father communicated by mail every week, urging her to continue studying even after graduation, which she did, taking all the business courses the school offered.[56]

Because Ryuzaburo Ito felt that he would never again be able to care for his family in America, he asked for repatriation. The entire family left Topaz in January 1945 for a family internment camp at Crystal City, Texas. Ito was now classified as a "potentially dangerous enemy alien." There Kiyo went to a highly accelerated school taught by Buddhist priests from Hawaii; she polished her Japanese and studied math, literature, poetry, science, history, and calligraphy, all taught in Japanese. In early December 1945 the


family traveled by train to Seattle and from there sailed to Japan on the SS Matsonia . Kiyo remembered the experience in Japan as "the most trying time of my life"; Japanese Americans were scarcely welcome in the devastated, poverty-stricken country, and the family first lived in a refugee camp. The Itos made their way to the Sendai region, where they had relatives. Kiyo and her father, both bilingual, eventually obtained jobs with the American occupation forces. Finally Kiyo made her way to Tokyo and took a position with IBM, for which she was well prepared by all the business courses she had taken at Topaz High. She soon returned to New York and was followed by her other siblings, but her parents remained in Japan, feeling that the relocation had destroyed their American lives. Kiyo was not bitter, but the disruptive moves, eight in all, created a sense of survivorship in her. Years later, as a mother, she was able to instill in her own children the ability to endure whatever came their way.[57]

Mari Eijima grew up in Berkeley, a liberal community where she had felt little overt discrimination, but within herself lay a strong inferiority complex. She was in high school there and thus entered Topaz High. After a year that included the registration controversy, she was anxious to leave camp. She got a unique opportunity to go east to school. One of her teachers, Joe Goodman, and his wife were Quakers with friends in Pennsylvania who wanted to support some interned Japanese American students and prepare them for college. They asked Mary McMillan, a teacher from Oakland who had taught in Japan before the war, whom she would recommend. The girls she suggested were Mari and another student, Lil Miyachi. Their parents agreed, so Mari and Lil went to school at Westtown, a Quaker institution in Pennsylvania. The Baileys, the family that sponsored them, encouraged Mari to go on to college. She tried the University of California briefly in 1945, but she did not like it and the Baileys were willing to take her back. She then attended nearby Guilford College, spending her vacations with the Bailey family. She recalled that college was a wonderful way to "shake" her Japanese identity, which at the time she found humiliating. But her inferiority complex persisted. She taught after college and then traveled in Europe with Caucasian friends, who persuaded her to


try to recover her Japanese identity. She began by working for a Japanese company, and soon she got a position with the Permanent Observer of Japan to the United Nations. She learned to love her Japanese heritage. Subsequently, she took a job with the Japan Society, which in 1987 she had held for twenty-eight years. Reflecting on her life, Mari Eijima remarked that many of her friends from Japan considered her more "Japanese" than they were. She had to agree with them, partly because her parents had raised her according to Meiji traditions, partly because she traveled frequently in Japan and had many friends there. The old feeling of inferiority went away when she was able to realize that Topaz had intensified her insecurities by making her feel second-rate. "After all, why was I in camp?" Her new-found pride in her Japanese heritage and her successful career bridging the two cultures enabled her to put such feelings behind her.[58]

In contrast, Masako Tsuzuki and her parents were New Yorkers who, like Bill Kochiyama, were caught in California by the war. The Tsuzukis had moved west to San Mateo to tend a dying grandmother. Life in California before the evacuation and their experiences at Tanforan and Topaz convinced them that they did not want to live in the West after the war, so the Tsuzukis returned to New York City. Masako entered high school there and remembered with great clarity an event that occurred soon afterward. She asked a teacher if she could leave the room to go to the "latrine" and was told, "We do not use such language here. We call it the restroom." To use "soldier-talk" was to identify oneself as a "loose woman." The sensitive teenager was mortified. Soon after, when she had to give a speech in class, she was horrified to hear a jumbled, half-Japanese jargon come out of her mouth. Camp had marked her in emotional and spiritual ways she did not expect.

In 1974 Masako, now called Kitty, compiled and edited The Japanese in America, 1842-1973 , and she was curator of an exhibit of art and artifacts from relocation camps for the gallery at Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, in the fall of 1989, both of which helped her put the experience in perspective.[59] The art she exhibited included paintings by her father, Byron Tsuzuki, brilliant expressions of beauty out of camp's bleakness. For Masako Tsuzuki, now


Nakagawa, the culmination of her search for roots came when she saw the Smithsonian exhibition "And Justice for All" and realized how her story and that of her people fit into the history of the Constitution and America itself. She was one of thousands of Nikkei who thronged to the exhibit, which opened September 1, 1987, at the Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. For many of them, the depiction of Japanese settlement and prewar life, the internment years, the exploits of the 442d, and the beginnings of the redress movement confirmed not only their ethnic heritage but their special role in American history.

Michiko Okamoto and Maya Nagata were both very scarred by the camp experience, and Okamoto eventually changed her name to Michi Kobi in an effort to create a new identity apart from her camp self. She was the first child of San Francisco radiologist Rikikazu Okamoto and his wife, born Ito Kobinata. When her father died in 1927, Michiko and her mother went to Japan for four years. When they returned to San Francisco Ito placed her daughter in an orphanage, studied English, and married a chef. She took Michiko from the orphanage when she was nine. When Ito lost her second husband, she worked as a hairdresser while Michiko went to school and participated in life in Nihonmachi. Pearl Harbor was a shock to them both, and so was the hostility with which Michiko was greeted by her Caucasian classmates and teachers. Suddenly it was not all right to be Japanese.[60]

The evacuation created more tensions between mother and daughter. During the voluntary phase Michiko was invited to move to Denver to live with a school friend, but her mother, hesitant and unsure, refused to make a decision until the day the program was canceled. The anger and shock of knowing they were going to the relocation center at Tanforan when freedom had been within their grasp made the traumatized Michiko temporarily blind, deaf, and partially paralyzed.[61] At Tanforan Michiko went to high school and also became a nurse's aide. Her anger against the government increased when she saw how it treated the ill and disabled, and her estrangement from her mother intensified in the close quarters they shared.[62]


The journey to Topaz was intimidating and exhausting, and settling into Block 36 was another shock. Forty-five years later, Michi Kobi still remembered the dust, the flat wasteland around the camp, and the guards. The people with whom they shared the block were hostile, too, seeing her mother as an "uppity Tokyo widow" with a fatherless child. Kobi described it as a "trap within a trap." Because she found even the Christian church in camp "aloof and lacking in conviction," she stayed away from what might have been a source of consolation and help. For her, Topaz High was an inferior school lacking the courses she needed for a medical career; the teachers were unqualified, and the facilities bleak. Even the camp newspaper annoyed her, for it seemed to avoid all controversy. Michiko and her mother became more estranged as time passed. She became friends with the older Nisei, the leftists in camp, a connection that later, during the McCarthy Era, hurt her dramatic career. However, their "yes-yes" posture antagonized her as it did her friend Kenji Fujii. When James Wakasa, who also lived in Block 36, was killed, Michiko was even more disturbed. Shortly afterward, her mother left camp for Chicago with a male friend, leaving her behind. She was, as she put it, "a fat, moody loner," who only was persuaded to put aside her fears and leave the security of Topaz by Oscar Hoffman, the community analyst.[63]

Having no desire to return to the West Coast with its deeply ingrained patterns of prejudice, Michiko made her way slowly across the country to New York, a deeply disturbed and angry young woman. It took seven years of psychotherapy to ease her self-destructive urges. She finally made her peace with Topaz by returning there alone in 1986, learning to appreciate the beauty of the desert, now a quiet and lonely place. She began slowly to recapture her memories in writing, as she relived the experience that changed her life.

Maya Nagata Aikawa also had harsh memories of Topaz. She grew up in East Oakland in a comfortable home with her parents and two sisters. Her father died of a massive heart attack in early 1941, a tragedy that left the family to fend for itself when the evacuation came. Maya was fifteen when she, her mother, and her


sisters moved to the assembly center at Tanforan and then, six months later, to Topaz. She remembered the bleakness of the tar paper barracks. The Nagata family's room was never insulated, so the "winters were bitterly cold and the summers were ghastly hot." Dysentery was common, and the dust storms were so fierce that their legs bled. They all worked in the fields growing crops to feed the camp. High school, with its lack of enough accredited teachers, was a waste as far as she was concerned. As an example, she recalled that her older sister taught typewriting, although she was not certified. Maya left camp in her senior year, and when she entered school in Los Angeles it took a full year of schooling to get caught up enough to graduate. Of Topaz High, she said, "I don't remember a thing that I learned there. Also, I don't even remember who my teachers were."[64]

For Maya Nagata, Topaz was far worse than the family had anticipated. Their comfortable middle-class existence was shattered, replaced by an inhospitable unfree environment far from what they knew. The room they shared was crowded and uncomfortable. Her memories blurred the years together: the fields, the chaos of school, the squabbling youth gangs, and the riots (actually there were no outright riots at Topaz). For her the bickering between groups was real enough, "people picking on other people, ... about to start trouble." It seemed especially threatening to her family because they had no father or brother to stand up for them. The root cause of the disharmony, she felt, was the lack of privacy. "People would be fighting over very petty little things, because the confinement got to you, [to] all of us." They even fought over places in line in the washrooms and the latrine. Maya worked part-time in the canteen and her mother had a trust fund, so they were able to purchase some things to make life a little better, but there was not much one could do to remedy the basic situation.[65]

Medical and dental care were particular problems. Maya was in need of both. She had begun orthodontic care in Oakland, but there was no one to adjust her braces in camp, where dental care was restricted to toothaches. The shortage of dentists, which Oscar Hoffman commented on, affected the residents. Maya remembered standing in line from 4:00 A.M . on, because only twenty patients


could be treated in a day. Her teeth were filled by a dental assistant who left decay beneath the fillings; they all had to be extracted later. The medical situation was also difficult, again because the staff was too small. The physical plant was "very unsanitary and very understaffed." Because her mother suffered from what turned out to be an enlarged heart, they had to use the medical services often. Mrs. Nagata died after returning to California at the age of fifty-five, a victim of illness untreated in camp.[66]

The Nagata family left Topaz for Tule Lake when Maya's mother signed a petition requesting repatriation to Japan. Even before the war, her parents had intended to return to their homeland, because her father had become too ill to work. They were moved to Tule, but her mother then changed her mind about repatriating, so they returned, one at a time, to Los Angeles in early 1945. About a year later they resettled in their Oakland home.[67]

Relocation left Maya Nagata a bitter young woman, and this was still evident forty-five years later. The discrimination the family faced when they returned to California was doubly galling, given what they had been through. She blamed her mother's early death on camp and described the $20,000 compensation granted in the Congressional redress bill as "adding insult to injury." As a result of camp life she adopted many disturbing mannerisms; one of these was the need to push her way to the front of any line and demand immediate service. (Midori Lederer recalled that she too was unable to stand in lines.) Maya recognized that her behavior was "rude and obnoxious," especially embarrassing to her children, but she could not help herself; she had stood in too many lines where there was no option. Maya also felt that she was in some way "paying back this cook in Redding forty years later"; "this cook" had pulled out a sign saying "No Japs Allowed" just as she, hungry on the long trip back from Tule Lake, tried to enter his restaurant. In 1987 Maya wore her hair in a severe bun as a memorial to her mother and as a symbol of pride in her Japanese heritage. She claimed that she did not trust Caucasians, even though she grew up in a Caucasian area before the war and knew many white friends of her parents. What she believed the Japanese Americans needed most was the restoration of their dignity, the


most basic concept that camp deprived them of—a very Japanese thing.[68]

This narrative of the lives of some of Topaz's residents concludes with the story of Don Nakahata, a pre-teen in camp. In 1990 Nakahata was a dentist living in Mill Valley, California; when Pearl Harbor was bombed, he was twelve and living in San Francisco. His grandfather, an Episcopal minister, the Reverend Barnabas Hisayoshi Terasawa, was nearly eighty years old, and the nominal head of his family, which consisted of his mother Agnes, his father Shiro Yasuchika Nakahata, his aunt Faith Terasawa, a niece, his sister, and himself. His father was picked up by the FBI as a "dangerous alien" on December 8, 1941, because he worked part-time for the newspaper Shin Sekai (the predecessor to the Hokubei Mainichi ) and also for the Japanese Association. Forty-five years later Nakahata still remembered walking with his father down to the streetcar to see his father leave for the office of the Japanese Association in San Jose. The FBI picked him up later that day, and Don never saw him alive again. Only from others did the family piece together where he had been sent and what had happened to him; at the time they only knew he had been arrested. Information Don obtained many years later under the Freedom of Information Act indicated that the Immigration and Naturalization Service had conducted a hearing to determine if his father should be released from imprisonment into the WRA system, but the family was never informed of it.[69]

When the evacuation was announced in February 1942, the fatherless family was still seeking the reason for his arrest. Their landlady sold their furniture for them and brought them the proceeds at Tanforan. Nakahata recalled that they got literally "one cake," all she said she received for their goods, including a piano. Don could still recall the sense of insecurity he felt as their possessions were liquidated and they went to camp without his father. After that his memories became very sporadic. He remembered that


the family lived in the barracks at Tanforan and rode in a very old train to Utah.[70]

When they arrived at Topaz, many people helped them to get settled because his grandfather was an Episcopal clergyman from a very old Christian family in Japan. (His mother had been a Bible woman in Japan, reading the Bible to illiterate women to help convert them to Christianity.) People felt a great fondness for his grandfather since he had done so much for the Nikkei in San Francisco, and the Christian community helped the family throughout the years in camp. They moved into Block 26, at first into one room and then into two, with Don, his mother, and his sister by themselves. People built shelves and room dividers for them and a chest for Aunt Faith (which she still had in 1988). Don was assigned to bring in coal from the load dumped in the street out in front; he remembered people pushing each other aside to get some. Because he was small, people helped him to get his share, but in retrospect it seemed to be just another "dehumanizing experience" of camp.[71]

School was just another routine. The teachers came, he recalled, from among the internees, the surrounding towns, and the rest of the country. He remembered almost nothing of his classes, only that he "didn't make the cut" to get into a science class and so he took cooking. He did learn to make a lemon meringue pie, but he was behind academically when the family resettled. Nakahata worked on a poultry farm for a while, and then at the dental clinic (a result of his aunt's influence). He participated in the Protestant services, singing fundamentalist hymns that he as an Episcopalian had never heard before. He watched community movies, and he found arrowheads and trilobites in the soil.[72]

By the time the family resettled in Rochester, New York, they were fewer in number. Don's grandfather had died, and so—they learned—had his father. Aunt Faith and another aunt, Mrs. Nakamura, worked for the family that owned the Stromberg-Carlson radio company while Don went to high school in Rochester. The family returned to California because the university system there was inexpensive and Don could pursue his studies.[73]


What had happened to his father? On December 8, 1942, the "grapevine" brought news that he had been picked up and was at the immigration station. Don's mother and Aunt Faith gathered together some clothes and took a bundle down to him, but they were not allowed to give it to him personally. Before the war he had suffered a stroke, and they assumed he had a few more while in custody. They learned from other inmates who had been released from prison camps that he was in the hospital; his letters were censored and only a few actually reached them. They did not even know of his death until they received a telegram saying that they could claim his body; if they did not, it would be buried where he had died. Aunt Faith found someone to intercede and send them the body, which she and his mother claimed. The family never received a medical record, even though they filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act years later. The body was cremated in Delta. An uncle paid for an urn for the ashes, but when they received the box there was no urn, only some loose ashes in a wooden box.[74]


Chapter Eight Nikkei Lives: The Impact of Internment

Preferred Citation: Taylor, Sandra C. Jewel of the Desert: Japanese American Internment at Topaz. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1993 1993.