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-01-0027

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: Well, I mean, compared to Topaz, as people got into Tule Lake and here you have a lot of people coming from lots of different camps, some people that were, who were at Tule and stayed, how did that compare with Topaz in terms of how the interactions, how people got along with each other?

TA: Well, you know, Topaz, it came from a community, the San Francisco Bay Area, and it's part of Santa Clara and, you know, so as a result, it's a, it's a homogenous community. People knew each other. I had friends from the area, my father had a lot of friends from the area. So it was a different, the only time that there was any real turmoil was that, that questionnaire time. That's when it caused a lot of problem, because difference in philosophy. Not that they, as a community, they were, they were friendly, congenial to each other. Very little problems. Maybe some, but not a heck of a lot. There were some protests, there was agitators, because of the abuse of civil rights and things like that, but basically, I thought it was... from a, from a, my perspective, it seemed like -- but I heard a lot of talks about civil rights, constitutional rights and all that. I've, I've heard that. I've heard the -- not JACL member in particular, but the Niseis, the older Niseis, telling us about loyalty and be American. And so, yeah, it was alright.

TI: So, but Tule Lake was very different, because it wasn't a, as homogenous.

TA: Oh. Tule Lake was just, it was chaos. I mean, fights, arguments, brother against brothers, against friends. Just fistfights, you know. And a lot of name-calling, inu in particular. These are Japanese informing on Japanese. And my father didn't like that. And then, of course, it was a mixture. It was, a lot of people, they say that Tule Lake was for "no-nos." These are the "no-no boys." But when you look at it, it wasn't. It was just a mixture of people. You had the "yes-yes," like the "yes-yes" over eighteen, they went because their parents were going. You had the, of course, the "no-no," the ardent disloyals, and you had the "no-yes," they didn't want to fight, join the army for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is because of the, because when they wanted to volunteer, they couldn't. But they, they said, "No, I won't fight, because you guys didn't want me." They had that kind of feelings. You had, you had the "yes-yes" conditionals, with condition that, "Yeah, we'll do it, provided that you let my family out, you let them go out, and restore their property and things like that." And the, you had the Kibeis. Now, this is what really brought an argument for my father, is that at the very end, the authorities said Kibeis that were in Japan for over ten years, and educated, had formal education in Japan, had all or part of their relatives in Japan, and returned to the United States after 1936, were considered disloyal, and they segregated them.

TI: Just regardless of what they said in interviews, or what they wrote down, just that distinction of ten years...

TA: The distinction.

CO: Uh-huh. Yeah. Now, you know, 'cause I've done a close study of the questionnaire, the way they did it, like graded it and all that kind of thing, like selection of who was loyal, and they had the "white," "brown," and "black" categories.

TA: Yeah, this is true --

CO: But, but a lot of things could be held against you, and put you in that category, even though technically you were not a "no-no" or not all these other vague categories --

TA: True.

CO: -- and then anybody that a camp administrator wanted to get rid of, like a troublemaker for some reason, whatever, that they were just shipped off. And so it was a catch-all category for, for people they...

TI: Well, in addition to all the people who were transferred, you mentioned there were about six thousand who stayed.

TA: Yes.

TI: And within that group, I've interviewed people who were "yes-yes," from the whole family, and they just didn't want to move.

TA: They didn't want to move.

TI: They just, they just wanted to, to stay there, because they were comfortable at Tule Lake.

TA: They were comfortable, initially when Tule Lake was built, they had the bigger, bigger accommodations. And, you know, they weren't crowded, and they were, they had the best jobs, the best facilities, they had connections with the administration. For the first time, Niseis were recognized and given positions of authority. And so they didn't want to move. They says, "No way I'm gonna move again. I'm gonna stay right" -- and besides, they were in California, and they figured that California was close to their home. And when they, if they were ever released, they would be able to go to, to their home without a heck of a lot of traveling.

TI: So going back to your point, so Tule Lake was, was this very diverse mixture of, in terms of how they viewed the loyalty issue, staying in the United States, going to Japan. So there wasn't, by no means, it was homogeneous. It was very --

TA: It was, no, it was very heterogeneous community, and not only that, is that the percentage of what we call Kibeis. The Kibeis was, was four Kibeis to one Nisei, all right? And not only that, it's, fifty percent were minors. Fifty percent of the population was minors. So, you know, you take, you take that into account, and you have the Tuleans, where the old Tuleans were envied by the segregee that came in. So that caused a lot of turmoil, lot of problems. And not only that, because of the increase in population, there was food shortages, lack of employment, lack of housing. They had Kibeis, bachelors particularly, in rec. halls and they bunks, no more than maybe -- just walking, maybe, maybe a foot, foot-and-a-half apart. Just lined up.

TI: Wow.

TA: And, you know, and these, the Kibeis were mistreated. And so that's, so, you know, you had the work stoppage problems, you had the overturn of the trucks, you had all those problems.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.