Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tom Akashi Interview
Narrator: Tom Akashi
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Chizu Omori (secondary)
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 3, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-atom-01-0011

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: But going back to the "ABC" lists, because he was, because relatively shortly, the FBI did come visit.

CO: And they picked him up.

TI: And so why don't you tell --

TA: And not visit, they just forcibly came, picked him up, and took him away.

TI: Now, were you at home when this happened?

TA: No, I wasn't. No, I wasn't. My mother told me about it, but no, and they took him away, he was gone for a couple days, then he came back. And, of course, later on he told me some of the questions that they asked and what he, what his response were, but they released him.

TI: But before they released him, when they came to your house, took him away, what were you thinking, your mother thinking, what was it like at your house after they'd taken your father?

TA: Chaos and worry. Worried, because your, the head of the family is taken away from you for no reason at all. It came very quickly, very abruptly, knock on the door, "Is Sanae Akashi here?" Boom, gone. And no goodbye, no nothing. Just gone. And so we were worried and concerned about what, what's gonna happen.

TI: In Mount Eden, were there other men taken away, also?

TA: Not that I know of.

TI: So your father, as sort of that, that person who was one of the community leaders, they really targeted.

TA: They much, target him. I wasn't aware of, Sugino wasn't, the other people weren't, so I think they just targeted him because he was a community leader. And probably because of that, maybe that ship, the military ship, probably. And being an admiral, coming there with these sailors with starched white --

CO: Oh, real spit and polish. Yeah.

TA: Oh, spit and polish. Talk about spit and polish. And sitting firm like that, what you do, really militaristic, I'll tell you. But it was, it was something to see, really. And it really impressed a young kid, that here, row of sailors and admiral and they're sitting drinking sake with my father. Yeah.

TI: And this was more for a family visit, or is it for the school?

TA: I think he came to visit the family. I mean, visit my father. Prob-, but then it ended up as a, as a... what do you call it -- semi-official social kind of thing, because the leaders of the communities were there. And they had a big banquet for him, so I guess it was semi-official. I mean, after all, here's a naval admiral coming to visit a small town like Mount Eden. I mean, if they went to San Francisco or Oakland or someplace, that's something else. But coming to Mount Eden. [Laughs]

TI: Well, and that was because they were, they were friends.

TA: Oh, yeah. They went to school, they went to high school together.

TI: Did you see any affection between the two of them?

TA: Yes. Yeah, yeah, they're like long-lost buddies. Yeah, so they, another thing is they talked in the Saga-ben. At first, official Japanese language, you know. But then later on, boy, they starting to talk the Saga, Saga dialect, "Yoka batten," and all that. And so that was really, yeah, it was a real close, warm relationship. Yeah, I saw that and I was impressed. And then not only that, he invited us to go to the ship. And we got first-class service. I mean, we went to his cabin, we went to the deck and we went to a lot of places where the other people couldn't go. So it was real, real great experience.

TI: Well, it must have been exciting for you, as a thirteen-year-old, or twelve, thirteen, yeah.

TA: Oh, yeah. Of course. Of course. I mean, gee, VIP treatment on a ship? [Laughs] Yeah. The only largest thing I ever rode on before, on a ship was, was a little fishing boat. So it was very exciting, yeah.

TI: Well, that, it's ironic, because that, that friendship later on, again, was something that was held against him.

CO: Well, these were all noted, I know. I mean, my family did that, too, you know. But then, it's interesting that they let your father go after a couple of days or so.

TA: Yeah.

CO: I mean, that, why, I mean, does he have any idea why they let him go?

TA: Yeah. In fact, he, he gave a, jeez, a long, long talk on our way to Topaz. I, it seemed like he was just lettin' everything out. And at, while he was talking, at the end, I felt that, "Oh, boy, he's treating us as, as an adult, as an equal, because of the things he was telling us." But he says, yeah, he was picked up, went to Oakland, they interrogated him, and they asked him a number of questions such as how he felt about the war, what his feelings were, what the Isseis in the Japanese community would do. You know, it was all positive. He says, "The Isseis, they are honest, hard-working, law-abiding citizens." They, they did the farming. And he says, "Look, they're not gonna turn against America. They love America, they came to America, their children are American." He says, "The Isseis will, will stand behind their children. If they went to the army, they will pray for, for their return and support that effort." He says, "I don't think that there will be any problem between the, among the Isseis." He says, "The Niseis have been taught to be loyal to, to America." And he says, "I'm a Christian." He says, "I'm interested in my, my people, the community, and I'll do whatever necessary to help them out." Well, he must have told a good story, 'cause they let him go.

TI: Yeah, he must have, because I was actually surprised that they let him go. Because so many other men with, with fewer connections to Japan were, were detained.

CO: Yeah. I think he was lucky. Whoever heard his story was more lenient than --

TA: More lenient, or maybe they wanted to use him.

CO: That's possible.

TA: I don't know what, but anyhow --

CO: Probably a combination. [Laughs]

TA: And maybe because he was a Christian, I don't know. But he said that they released him and let him go. And boy, we were just elated. Wow, here he is back. But he never told us why. He just, he just says, "Well..."

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.