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-01-0031

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: Well, in fact, right about that time, you joined the organization, also.

TA: Yeah. Yeah, my father --

TI: Although you were young for this, weren't you?

TA: I was, I was, you know, it was for, it was for fifteen and over -- no, sixteen and over. I was fifteen, but we knew, my father in his position just said, twisted arm and said, "Well, we need a junior membership." And so he spoke to, like Tsuha, I met Tsuha, who was --

TI: So was it your decision to join, or was it your father thinking that you should be part of this?

TA: He, my father figured would be a part of it, yeah.

TI: What, what did you think about joining the organization?

TA: Why not? I mean, he said, he told me what it was. Says, "Gonna prepare you to go to Japan." Right now, my mindset was, "I'm gonna go to Japan." So if this is going to be a part of it, okay, I'll be part of it. And, of course, my father's, so will I. I'm not gonna say no. So I, my brother Tosh and I, we joined, and we met Tsuha, and he, he gave us a hachimaki and all that, and he says, okay, and he shook our hand, and then told us to, to meet the block leader, and I met them, and formally accepted and told me to cut my hair bozu, which I reluctantly did, but I did.

TI: So bozu is just like shaving...

TA: Shaving my head, yeah.

TI: And so you would then have the headband...

TA: Headband --

TI: Hachimaki.

TA: -- and then a sweatshirt with this emblem. This emblem was the sweatshirt on.

TI: Okay, so that was your, essentially your uniform.

TA: That was our uniform.

TI: And so everyone in camp could see that you were part of this organization.

TA: That we were Kenkyu Seinen Dan member, yeah. And we did our drilling. You know, it was very peaceful, and really, if you're, like if you're a member of Boy Scouts, it's something kind of like that. Drilling and marching and running exercises, physical exercises, it was, it was kind of fun. There might be a political connotation, but still, it was fun. And I really enjoyed it. And then, there was a, they were going to form a bugle corps, and, of course, they ordered the bugles from Sears Roebuck, and they wanted selected members to become part of it, and I was selected. I was selected as one of the twenty and I, I learned how to play the bugle, and was head of the, the running group, and we marched and blew our bugles, and "Wasshoi, wasshoi." And there was a lot of camaraderie, it felt like I was Japanese. [Laughs] So it was, I thought it was, I didn't think nothing of it. I thought it was, personally, I thought it was great.

TI: And there was, I think there was one incident or one event where, I think, a large portion of the camp, like about ten thousand were all grouped together. I can't remember what --

TA: Oh, this was for Meiji Tenno's birthday. It was a great event. In fact, it was a huge event, and we just marched in groups.

TI: So this is the birthday of the emperor, that you --

TA: Yeah, Meiji Tenno, the Meiji Tenno. Meiji, Emperor Meiji, and we'd go there and we stood in line, they planned speeches and we bowed and shouted, "Banzai," Yeah. It's, it's extravagant. It's huge. Lot of people, lot of noise, and that's what we did.

TI: And how did that feel for you, as a, at this point you were fifteen, sixteen years old.

TA: For me, fifteen, sixteen years, yeah. You know, I'm part of the group. I've been accepted. So I thought it was... and my father is part of the leader of this, and by God, this is great.

CO: If you don't mind --

TA: I didn't have any reservation, for that matter.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.