Monday, February 23, 2009

Day of Remembrance 2009 for Japanese Americans - 3

The 30th anniversary of the Day of Remembrance for Japanese Americans who were evicted from their homes and sent to American internment camps during World War II was held yesterday afternoon.

Over 200 people gathered to commemorate the fateful day of February 19, 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that allowed for the exclusion, eviction and imprisonment of about 120,000 Japanese American citizens and residents who were living in Hawaii state and the West Coast..see previous blogs

Hiroshi's father, the Rev Yoshiaki Fukuda, was picked up in San Jose on the very day that Pearl Harbor was bombed.

As a founder of the Konko Church of San Francisco and a leader of the Konko Church in America, he happened to be in San Jose that day. He and other leaders of the Japanese community were instantly rounded up and sent to a Department of Justice camp to be held under a strict regime.

Hiroshi, at eight months old, was soon afterwards sent with his mother and five brothers and sisters to an internment camp. Over the years the family were moved around several different camps, but spent the longest time in Crystal City, Texas. At one point, his father was briefly allowed to join them.

Towards the end of the war, two of Hiroshi's older brothers were allowed to leave their camp, but Hiroshi and the rest of the family remained until 1947, two years after the end of the war, because of the political activities of his father. Hiroshi was six-years-old when he left.

Crystal City was the last camp to close, which is where his father was at the end. The camp had a huge contingent of Peruvian Japanese, as well as Japanese from other Central and South American countries, Germans and Italians. His father worked in the camps as a political activist especially on behalf of the Peruvian Japanese on the issue of repatriation.

At the end of the war the Central and South American governments would not allow Japanese people back into their countries. More than 600 Peruvian Japanese went to live in Japan
but some resisted repatriation. Finally in 1947, the US government allowed them to remain in the country, Crystal City was closed and Hiroshi's father was released.

The history of the camp can be found, among many other places online, here:,_Texas
and the personal story of Rev Fukuda, written by Hiroshi's brother, Nobusuke, can be read here:

The family settled back in the city and his father wrote a book published in 1957, 'My Six Years of Internment
: An Issei's Struggle for Justice.

is listed along with many other fascinating-looking books on a Public Broadcasting Service website devoted to the 'Children of the Camps':

What reaction to the internment did his parents show within the family?

'They never expressed hatred against the government but I think they felt they had to be leaders and pick everyone up,' said Hiroshi.

Of his own generation, he said, 'I think we felt the school experience. We felt like onlookers in a way, that we were an enemy being released. It took a while to feel that we were completely an American.'

The Japanese community also had another problem among themselves after the war, and that was a feeling of mistrust and of being let down by the Japanese American Citizens League.

The JACL had cooperated with the government, providing information about its members.

'To this day I don't think they were strong enough,' said Hiroshi.

Frances was a teenager when her family exchanged their home for a horse stall. That was when they were taken to an assembly center at the then Tanforan Race Track in San Bruno, about ten miles south of San Francisco, where internees were housed in the stables.

She can't remember exactly how old she was, about 16 or 17 years, when she left home with her mother, father, brother and sister.

What she does remember is the short period of time they had to get ready as a family. People were taken to the camps at two-week intervals, and although she is not clear whether they had two weeks to prepare, or four or even six, she knows that it was very rapid.

Two weeks final notice at most. 'It was very unpleasant,' she said.

Of Tanforan, which is now a shopping mall with a Japanese garden, she said, 'They were starting to build barracks with bathrooms in the centre. They were called 'latrines' which none of us understood!'

Later she
was moved to Topaz in the Utah desert. 'Most people in San Francisco went to Topaz,' she said.

How did she cope with the abrupt change from home to internment?

'At 16, you take what it is. You shout and holler but you do nothing,' she replied.

I asked her about the conditions of the camp.

'They gave us food. My father was a cook in the mess hall,' she began, commenting
that perhaps she wasn't the best person to ask what people thought of the food!

'We were getting a lot of food that nobody liked, but it was food.' By that she meant the type of American food it was, not her father's cooking.

'Cottage cheese was one of the things nobody liked,' she said, but they also had fish which was more popular.

'They gave us a lot of eggs,' she also recalled. 'I don't remember if they gave us bacon. But they did give us breakfast, lunch and dinner. They did give us a lot of food.'

Yoshihiro, was born in a camp but apart from that time has lived in San Francisco all his life.

'It was very unjust,' he said of the internment, 'but it brought the community together because we were all forced to be together'.

'We shared the same common experience, which ironically meant something positive coming out of something terrible.'

In my next blog I meet writer Kiku Hori Funabiki

pics show: Yoshihiro; Hiroshi; the reception at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California

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