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-01-0024

<Begin Segment 24>

AH: Let me ask you this: last time we were talking and we were talking about where you were living and really you were saying you were living on the periphery of the Japanese American community, outside of it.

JA: Yes, that's later, but we're talking about right after the war.

AH: No, no, I'm talking about earlier. I mean, when you were growing up, your family, your father and your mother and you and your brother lived outside of the Japanese American community, and I was getting the sense that the community was not an important part of their sort of daily life. Now, is the thing that's changed by the time after the war, the fact of camp that now all of a sudden the community was together and it became more important and their opinions became more important to your mother?

JA: Well, maybe not as such. But when they... you, they may not come right to her face to say, "Hey, you're son's a coward, he's a traitor." But that goes on behind her and she was kind of isolated, and all the talk is still going on and that's the kind of thing that really hit her hard. And once when she was told by the parishioners, "Hey, we don't want you here," she says, "I've got no place to go," as though to say, hey this is it, this is the end.

AH: Now, how do you deal with that? Because somebody could look at this and say, well, "Jim Akutsu is walking around with a loaded gun within him because he feels this guilt because of the fact that his actions caused his mother to feel so much pain and everything, that ultimately she had to take her own life." So how do you, how do you...

JA: To me, from the very beginning I had, not an idea... but with E.O. 9066, FDR set a very dangerous precedent for all America, race, creed. Because if they, if he could do that to one group of, ethnic group, why can't he do that to, or as a precedent, why can't the same precedent be set to Irish, and why not the German, or Italian, or English, for no cause, no due process and that was, to me, number one, very important. Going into the army, like me I tried to get into National Guard, ROTC and few days after the war I took my physical, "Here, now take me." How far more can you go? And in 1943 I tried to get into Navy and the Seabees, and they still wouldn't take me. So I could go so far and I know I am loyal, I don't have to be told. And then like that 28 question, unqualified, pledge your unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and forswear your allegiance to Japan or any foreign party. I said no, why should I? I never did that, I'd be incriminating myself. Then right away I was thinking of redress and my friend's father being consul, acting consul for Spain, he was talking to me and, "You're going to have to test them. You've got to fight this thing because it's not just for you, it's for all Americans." To me, that was the priority number one. Getting into the army or navy or whatever, that came down the line.

AH: Let me take a second pass at this for a second, because what I'm asking you... is did -- 'cause what you're explaining to me is an intellectual logic that you did all of these things and everything, and you perceived this sort of higher truth and everything. But there are also emotional logics as well as intellectual logic. And the emotional logic oftentimes overwhelms the intellectual one. And so you may have all of this account for your behavior but your emotions can still tell you that, "Mom is gone in part because of what I did." Now, how do you reconcile these two? And let me try a hypothesis and see if it holds any water and you're not one that ever agrees with things -- [Laughs] -- that you don't really agree with so it's safe to play these kind of games with you and hypothesize. But my hypothesis would be that that your mother must have been very, very supportive of all of your actions, so that you didn't feel that you were letting her down but that you were sort of enacting her will. Is that right?

JA: Not her will, but it was my will, and my friend's father, who said, "You're going to have to challenge this."

AH: Right. I meant by "her will" was that you were enacting her will to have you act out your own needs, in other words, to give you...

JA: It was not she, it was I.

AH: Right. No, but I'm saying --

JA: And she was supporting what I was doing.

AH: Right. That's what I'm saying, in other words, the message that she's sending out to you is that you have to act on your own conscience and stuff.

JA: Yeah, that's right.

AH: And so you had the freedom to do that, that's what I was trying to say. Not that she was manipulating you, or coercing you, or pushing you into a decision that you didn't want to make.

JA: No, because before we even left Seattle, my friend's father said, "You gotta challenge this, you gotta challenge because this is a very dangerous precedent set by FDR and through E.O. 9066. So you've got to fight that." So at that time, I had nothing to do with talking to my mother or anything. We were trying to prepare to go to Puyallup and there was not too much talking. But once I got into camp, Puyallup, and then from Puyallup to Minidoka, I had enough time to think and all of that came to me, "Hey, this is your priority number one."

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.