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-01-0040

<Begin Segment 40>

TI: Well, I'm going to skip up to, so eventually you got to Portland. This is on December 28, 1945, and this is the day the ship, the USS Gordon is scheduled to leave Portland. You and your family are on the ship, and yet your father still isn't on there yet.

TA: Yes.

TI: And there's, I think in your book you talk about this scene where, where you see your father for the first time. Can you describe that for us? How you first saw your father.

TA: Well, you know, I was up there on the deck and I was thinking about a lot of things. And all of a sudden, the people started to go out towards the side, so being curious as I was, I went over there and looked, and here's a paddy wagon that came up, and it stopped. By then, we were ready to go. The, the... what they call the...

TI: The gangplank?

TA: Gangplank was up, the crew was in, we were all ready to go. But then at the last minute, this paddy wagon came in there and the gangplank, and then here's these (sixteen) people came out of there, and, and I says, "I wonder who these people are." Everybody said, "Who are they? Who are they?" And people started recognizing, they says, "Oh. That's Matsuda. That's Tachibana." They started saying, and I says, I looked, and the third person, they're coming up, was my father. And by coincidence, he looked up, and our eyes met, and I says, "God, that's..." I was relieved. I was, "Wow, he's back." Because we were worried. We didn't know, we were promised that he was gonna be on the ship, I went all over, frantically looking for him, and nobody knew. When he says, "Have you seen Akashi?" They, "No, no." None of them. The Santa Fe people, all these people said, "We haven't seen him." And so we were worried. My mother was certainly worried, and my, she told me that she went up and looked, the second shipment came in, the third shipment came in, and, and my father wasn't on it. Those shipments, the trade shipments that came in. So she was really, yeah, really... I don't know how you say it, but really heartbroken. And she had to tell the children that, and she, she said, "I, we're gonna have to go back to Japan alone. We don't even know where to go." She didn't know, she made one trip to Japan, she knew it was someplace in Saga, Eguchi, and that's about it. And so she was quite scared, she was telling us. She was all, you know, she was very, very worried. But then when, well, this is going further, but later on, I looked and whatnot, the ship started moving, and I knew he was on board, but I couldn't tell my mother because they separated us. The fourteen and under were, like Mits, they were on one side, and we were on the other side.

TI: So they separated the men on one side...

TA: The men on one side, the women and children on the other.

TI: And the women and children on the other side.

TA: And they would not let us communicate. They had a barrier, we were roped, and they had guards standing there, and we could not go to the other side. So the ship is leaving, my, probably my mother didn't know, I'm looking, but anyhow, I knew he was on board, and I felt, yes, but then all of a sudden I says, "Maybe it wasn't him." It, possibly it wasn't him. And so I started having some worry about was it really him, or was it not. So I had some concern.

TI: But then eventually you, you did see him on the ship?

TA: Yeah. Well, what happened was they had what they called the visiting hours, and we went out there and we didn't know where they were, but fortunately they were sitting on one of those hatch covers, and we met and...

TI: So this was your mom, you mother and your...

CO: No, his dad.

TA: My mother, Tosh and I...

TI: And your, the younger siblings.

TA: And the younger siblings, we were all there.

TI: Were all there, and you went to go meet them.

TA: Huh?

TI: And so you went to them?

TA: Yeah, Tosh and I.

TI: Okay.

TA: Tosh and I was, Tosh and I, we went there.

TI: And your father wasn't there yet, so it was just...

TA: No, we were there, and they says, "Did you see Father?" "No, I looked for him, couldn't find him." And it's sort of, "Oh, God," sort of, "Are we really going alone?" And it was a, it was really a terrifying feeling, because couldn't, could hardly speak the language, we'd never been there. It's going to the unknown. And it's the fear, the not knowing what's going to happen. And then all of a sudden out there, he says, "Kiyoshi, koko da." He says, "Hey, Kiyoshi, I'm over here." Oh, man, the relief. I mean, we stood there and hugged him and it was really good. It was, it was a heart-, I mean, experience that, and especially, you could see my mother. She... I'm sorry. [Cries] Doggone it. Sorry, sorry. Sorry. Anyhow, just seeing my mother's face. So happy. All her worries were over. It was great. Well, anyhow, that's what happened. I think we were all concerned about our mother and father, really. 'Cause my mother, she suffered so much. Not only that, we got to Japan... [pauses] yeah. I didn't ever think this would happen.

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.