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-01-0042

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TI: And so when you arrived in Japan, what was it like?

TA: Just like my Uncle Frank told me. I mean, funny thing, we were, when we were coming to Tokyo Bay, you could, it was a clear day, we saw Mt. Fuji. And jeez, everybody said, "Wow." And so that was fine, but as we were crossing, we see more and more ships, U.S. ships and Japanese ships and... and we see these repatriates, Japanese repatriates coming back, and they're coming back and they're all in ragged uniforms, just a pack on their back, and then we, we would, they anchored at the (Yokosuka) Bay, and then we got on an LST, we transferred over, and then we got to the relocation -- well, the repatriation center, which was run by the 1st Cavalry, and oh, talk about misery and dirtiness and all that, but for a while, we were elated because they fed us what we thought was red rice. And red rice is supposed to be good luck, special. But it was korian. It was korian, it was really some beans, hard beans. Everybody got diarrhea. Everybody, I mean, it was just terrible. But for a while, some of the Isseis thought, "Wow, maybe Japan won the war." But said, "Wait a minute. There's a guard over there. Those are guards, they're, they're 1st Cav. people." And, but anyhow, you see around you, all around you, just people, these families, the repatriate families huddled together. It's cold, no fire, no warmth, no food. The soldiers all defeated, like they had no hope. It was a dismal, dismal situation. And that's what we were confronted with when we first arrived in Japan. It was, in fact, worse than what Uncle Frank told us.

TI: What was the reaction of the Japanese when, when they found out about you coming from the United States? I mean, what was their --

TA: Oh, when we got back to Eguchi, to where...

TI: Yeah. What was, kind of reception did you get?

TA: The first contact that I had was my brother and I getting off the train, trying to catch a bus to Eguchi, because my father gave us directions. Says, "You, when you get to Kurume," said, "when you get to Kurume, you take a bus and go to Eguchi." And he says, "Ask for Akashi. Everybody will know." And we tried to ask for a bus, and nobody could understand us. And I said to myself, "Hey, Tosh, I don't think they understand us." He says, "Yeah, I thought I spoke Japanese." But, and then they gave a strange look because we were dressed differently. You know, our American clothes had color, and they'd wear old, wartime clothing, the womenfolks had that, what do they call it, the farmer's clothes, and the men had tattered clothing, whatnot. And here we had relatively new jackets, I think mine was red, checkerboard red. And so, wow, they looked, they thought I was, some of 'em said, "Keto." You know, keto, "white man." Yeah. They thought we were part of the occupation. And here we were repatriates, or, not expatriates, but here we were returning to Japan for the first time. Yeah, see, the two of us traveled alone because our family left first. We, we stayed behind to take care of the baggage, and they got on the first train.

TI: Okay, so they were there already, and you were bringing the baggage.

TA: They were there already, and we were trying to join up with 'em. And then we went to the village, and they're all looking at us very strangely. They knew we were outsiders, but they, they thought we were Americans. Not Japanese, Americans.

CO: Well, you were in a, in a sense.

TA: Well, yeah, that's, that's the way they treated, looked at us. Yeah. And because they were conquered or whatnot, I guess they couldn't say anything, maybe held, were reserved, but they didn't say anything. But, they looked at us, and then we went to the home, and -- to the family home, but the family home was not there, and we went to our uncle's place, and he wasn't there because under the tenant, absentee tenant, the house was turned over to the tenant, and then the tenant told us that the family went to Tokutaro's place up in the hills. So we walked up the hill, and people asked people walking by. Then pointing their fingers at us, and some of the girls giggling.

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.