Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tsuguo "Ike" Ikeda Interview III
Narrator: Tsuguo "Ike" Ikeda
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 20, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-itsuguo-03-0007

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AI: Well, changing to another topic and another time, I wanted to ask you about your testifying with the commission on redress. This was the Congressional Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. And in 1981, that commission was holding hearings around the country on the internment, and they did have hearings here in Seattle. I was wondering if you would tell about that commission hearing and your part in it.

TI: I wondered how best to communicate my feelings about that experience, and I felt communicating by pictures would be most helpful. So I set up a series of overhead projector slides, and my presentation was that, a series of excerpts from different articles and pictures of the camps and the experience. And so I felt by having a different presentation, might be useful. So that's what I did.

AI: And while you were there during the hearings and listening to other people's testimony, what kind of reaction were you having yourself just to being in that situation?

TI: I was really surprised that people I thought I knew really had a rougher internment experience, or the way they were picked up and -- but they never talked about it, and I never talked about it with, with each other. And so that was the most dramatic understanding I got, was that many people with -- as individuals -- had different individual experiences that were rougher than for me. But they never complained about it. They were taught culturally not to. And this part of our cultural background experience is, "Never complain." It's just, would be shameful. So that legacy still hangs with even me and others. But in some ways, it also is a positive thing on, spin on that training, is that we could ganbaru, bear with it and handle ourselves in spite of the problems that face us in life. And that's a precious skill, a value that we learned from our parents and other Japanese elders, and I'm certainly thankful for that.

AI: Well, at the time that redress was being debated, people had a variety of opinions. And even within the Japanese American community, some people thought that actual monetary redress or financial redress was not a good idea, for many reasons. What was your opinion about this?

TI: Well, as an advocate on issue of racism in America, I felt we needed to speak out and demand certain rights that were denied us. And so I felt comfortable in speaking out and demanding this kind of recognition by the government, by the President of the United States. And I don't knock down other Niseis who felt opposite. They felt to complain about it openly and talk about it, they felt was not right, and based on our upbringing, that was correct. So on the one hand, I could appreciate other Niseis feeling, keep it under cover, don't speak out, create problems, was correct. And because of my Ike mentality, and (unique extremes I had.) I felt much more stronger the opposite direction. And so again, my unique series of background experience helped me to become more like a Caucasian in speaking out. This was the appropriate behavior.

AI: And also at that time, there was a lot of skepticism, I understand, that many people both in the Japanese American community and in the broader mainstream community really thought that there was no chance that Congress would ever approve of redress legislation. Do you recall how you thought at the time? Did you think there was really a chance it might happen?

TI: I didn't think we had a chance. But our Governor Evans at the time had connections nationally, and other prominent leaders like Mike Lowry, who submitted a special law for the Congress, which failed, but there were a few leaders like that that advocated, and along with the Japanese American community leadership, that made the difference. But I didn't speak out or take leadership role of being involved in that technical part, whereas a lot of Nisei, Sansei lawyers were able to use their talent to do it the correct way from a legal standpoint. And I think I told a story of that approval process. It was just amazing. But it took other skilled persons to do that, not me.

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