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-01-0029

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: So going back, so after Myer said no, your, talk about, so your father did what next? What was the next...

TA: Well, what he did is these like-minded people, they says, they wanted to pitch the idea of resegregation. "Let's, let's spread the word." And so that's what they did, is they quietly, secretly, without observation by inus, because they suspected inus, and they didn't want the inus to know what their activities were, because if they did, it would be reported. And so they quietly spoke to like-minded people, and started to gain support. And eventually, they got about 6,500 people to support the idea. They, also, they wanted to petition the higher authorities for resegregation. And so about April, they sent a, others prepared, and thirty others, they petitioned Cordell Hull, the Secretary of State, for resegregation and revival of the exchange, exchange program.

TI: And when you said 6,500, were these all signers of the petition? Is that...

TA: These were signers of the petition, yeah.

TI: Okay, so that's where that number came from. So...

TA: Yeah. Well, yeah, he brought it up ahead of time, but, I mean, they had about 6,500 supporters.

TI: Okay.

TA: And with this... at the first petition, they only had a few names, maybe about thirty people. That was the first petition that went to Cordell Hull, and then it was routed through Ickes, and down to Myers, down to Best, for Best to make a determination. So that was the first determination. And then based upon that routing, then Mr. Black, who was the assistant director, called in the, the people like my father and Matsuda and all that, the close alliance people, and says, "All right, why don't you make kind of like a study, and see who, how many people will support this idea?" And that's when they got the six thousand people, and then that's when a second petition went out with, with the 6,500 names. And that was also rejected.

TI: And in general, those 6,500 names, these were supporters, were they, were they the ones who would be in the, sort of the, the group? The like-minded people to go to Japan? Were these pretty much the signers, or were they from all sides...

TA: It was the, it was the community at large. The segregants, they circulated it. Of course, probably -- and I don't know this -- but probably they, they did it around the like-minded people, and eventually it just grew and grew and grew, and eventually they got 6,500 people to sign. And that became their strength, and then they figured they had enough clout, that now they could take those 6,000 people, re-submit this petition, and see if they could get it done.

TI: And so what happened then?

TA: Well, what happened is they didn't get an answer. They also submitted the same petition to De Amat, he was the Spanish Consul in San Francisco, with the same 6,000.

TI: Because the Spanish government was, on behalf of the Japanese government...

TA: Behalf of the Japanese and the United States, as the arbiter, and go-between. Neutral nation. And then they didn't receive any reply from Myers, they didn't reply from De Amat, so they sent another letter and petition, and what happened is that Myers then sent the letter addressing the community. In other words, it'll be addressed: Tule Lake Residents, and said that resegregation is not, not an option. And as a result of that, they, Black called these people in to explain, and adamantly, and with uncertain terms, that resegregation was not favorably considered. And so these people... and the, and the case was closed, no more action to be taken.

TI: But this was after, but this was again after Black said, "Go do this," and...

TA: Yeah. And see that, but what happened is that Black admonished them. Says, "You did the survey wrong. You didn't ask whether they wanted to move, re-segregate or not, you asked them that, that, 'Would you sign up, and show your loyalty and, and sign up for the next exchange ship to go to Japan.'" Just misrepresented...

TI: Oh, so Black felt that the wrong, or he said the wrong question was asked, essentially.

TA: Wrong questions were asked, and they went --

TI: Although the sentiment was probably very similar.

TA: Yeah, it was similar, but he felt that they did not follow the rules, and that what it was, was should have been a circulation to see how many people were willing to move.

TI: But again, it must have felt, to your father and the others, that here again, the administration let them down, didn't tell the truth. I mean, they kind of worked with them, and they did something, and then, again, they were sort of let down.

TA: Yeah. So, so evidently, it made it, made a final statement: "Case closed, no more. I don't want to discuss it anymore." And so they were, they were kind of disappointed.

TI: So, so then what happened? What was the next step?

TA: And they quietly went into the background, and with the strength of, of the support that they had, they continued the resegregation movement, but then what it is is that they started to think of the idea of creating a young men's organization for, to teach these people the Japanese culture, the language, to get the body and mind in the frame of going to Japan, to live in Japan. And that's when they came up with the idea of forming the Hokoku -- actually, the first one was Sokoku Kikoku Kenkyu Dan.

TI: Dan.

TA: Yeah, this is the, the research part of the, kenkyu means "to study," study Japan, and they, they got that, and they... actually, before that time, they continued soliciting support and they, they ended up with about ten thousand people that supported the idea of resegregation. And so with that, they figured that it's time for a formal organization that will, to put the idea into motion.

TI: Right. But again, having lost kind of the battle to re-segregate, they now used their energies to form these groups to get ready.

TA: To get ready, yeah.

TI: To go to Japan.

TA: Because it was the intention of my father and the, and the group, to get the Kibeis and Niseis ready to, to go to Japan.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.