Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jim Akutsu Interview
Narrator: Jim Akutsu
Interviewer: Art Hansen
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 9 and 12, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-ajim-01-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

AH: And was your mother with you there at Puyallup? And your father was...

JA: Yes, my father -- no. He was picked up, sent to the immigration, from immigration he was sent to Missoula, to Bismarck, and to Shreveport, Louisiana, then to New Mexico, Lordsburg. And from there, he came back but he was gone from '41 right when the war got started, came back in I'd say about the time I got involved in the draft.

AH: So at Minidoka.

JA: Yes, he came back and I'll tell you one thing. We, I heard that he was coming in, so I took off and went up to the gate and waited, and I didn't see him. So I came back to my barrack and I kind of waited and I thought well, I'm warm again, so I think I'll go take another try. So as I got out to the street, there's a small man and stopped me and asked where the Akutsus lived. So I said, "At the end of the barrack." I didn't even recognize my father and he did not recognize me, either. Because I used to be about 110-115 pounds, but at that time I was only about 103. And both of us, we couldn't even recognize each other.

AH: Because father look like what, that was different?

JA: He was so frail, thin, and you know, I just couldn't recognize him. He was just very gawky and I suppose I looked the same. Because the last time we seen, saw each other was before the war and we didn't look that gawky.

AH: That kind of is a commentary on two things. The experiences that he went through in this odyssey that he made through these different Department of Justice camps and the like. And then it also speaks to what you went through at Puyallup and Minidoka for those two years before you guys got reunited. Why don't you first tell me more about your situation -- and I want to cover your dad's situation in some detail, too -- but here you are working in the kitchen, and yet what we're getting here is you're losing weight. [Laughs] What's happening? Is this stress or what?

JA: Well, it's stress. Yes, stress. Because, you know, we get some, we'd get letters from where he was, Shreveport or wherever, everything is blacked out and you can't figure out what was going on. And through people that were released from Shreveport or wherever, will come back will tell more my mother than to me, that he's not doing too well, he's very sickly, and health-wise he's not doing good. That worried my mother.

AH: Was your mother also going, undergoing a dramatic transformation in her? I mean, you saw her on a daily basis. If she had gone away and then come back two years later, would you have recognized her?

JA: Well, seeing her every day, I didn't see too much transformation. But while in camp I'm not there with her all the time, I'm doing my thing and whatever I was doing, she'd be sitting there in this small space in the barrack and she was kind of going over, going over, and she was kind of hurting herself. And every time somebody would come back and say, "Your husband this-or-that," she wasn't too, it didn't make her feel too good.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.