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-01-0037

<Begin Segment 37>

JA: So, anyway, next thing I know, here, I no longer was working with the Bureau of Rec. because they were ready to fold up, everything was finished. So I was right close to the school so I thought well, I'm going to get a job as a school teacher high, in math. So I went to school to teach, trig, higher algebra, so forth, and I was there. And about the day I got in, I checked in a lot of equipment, athletic equipment -- this is at high school. Up to that time, they had one steel shot-put, one discus -- you could have that for a hundred years and it'll never wear out. So I told the boys, "Hey, we got bunch of footballs, basketballs, etcetera, why don't you come in and check it out?" And when I went in the next day, the Monday, open up the locker, it's gone, there's nothing there. So I talked to the person in charge of the student teachers. I said, "Ross" -- his name was Ross -- I said, "Where's all that stuff that I checked in? I told the boys to come in and get that and I don't see it." And he tells me, "You didn't see anything. You didn't check anything." And here I'm saying, "You mean to tell me I'm lying?" And now all of that now starts to come forward again. And here he stole a lot of that. Yeah. And so he and I got into it. [Interruption] He's telling me I didn't see it. I said, "I saw it, I checked it in. Now where did it go? Who's got it?" And I'm pressing him. So he doesn't, he and I got into it. So he takes it to the principal of the school. You know, he carries it up, "This guy, he's saying things that he shouldn't." Anyway, the whole thing was somebody stole it and I'm trying to find out. So it went all the way up to the principal and he didn't help a bit. And about that time, Min Yasui had talked to Clarence Arai. So one day I get a...

AH: Identify Clarence Arai, would you?

JA: Clarence Arai was the ex-JACL president and he was kind of a powerhouse at camp. So anyway, by that time, I said I had already applied for repatriation. So he tells me, "So you're not going into the army?" And I don't know who told him but Min Yasui is the only one I told him and what I was going to do. And if I had gone out to talk to the people of which they thought I was going to do, put the monkey on the government's back, no military obligation, I would have ruined what they were trying to do, to reactivate the selective service. And my other thing was, how can you change your status back and forth, alien one time, then you're 1-A citizen, back to alien, back to alien? You know, citizenship is nothing like that you can monkey around with without no cause or due process, and that's why I want to make sure. Am I an alien? Am I a citizen? So I had to go through the third party, which was the Spanish Embassy. And I said, "I am an alien, am I an alien? If so, I want to repatriate," so they accepted me. This is embassy, not anybody.

AH: So this Clarence Arai... last time I was here you showed me a document. And you must have at least met him once before the war because he was the lawyer who signed your last will and testament before you went to camp.

JA: That's right. So he knew what I had done in camp, but yet by this time, he didn't, I don't think he remembered me, and when I offered my service to the army after. And I also at that time I said, "I'm bilingual, we should have a bilingual force in the army because if you're going to be fighting Japanese, you're going to have to have bilingual." So I even went to that point. But anyway, getting back to Min Yasui, he must have reported that to Clarence, and Clarence called me out of school room and I thought I got called -- I didn't know he called me -- the principal called me. So we went to this kind of a conference room and what do you know, gee, there's Clarence Arai and five Caucasians. And they told me to sit down and they want to talk to me. So one of the first things they say, "What's this I hear that you're going to fight the draft?" And I said, "I didn't come here to talk to you. I thought this whole thing was about who stole the athletic equipment," and they start press me. They said if the newspaper around the area found out that here is a person that's attempting to fight the draft, gee, what will happen to us? Now the camp people, Stafford and all, all they're thinking about is we never had demonstration, we never had any trouble, and we had the biggest number of volunteers. So they're trying to protect their position.

AH: Image.

JA: Image. And to me, I'm not there to protect their image. And I tried to tell them that certain equipment, athletic equipment was stolen. I want to know and they wouldn't listen to me, so, and they got kind of threatening. So I just got up and said, "The hell with you guys" -- bang.

AH: So you walked out on them?

JA: Oh yeah, I walked out, I wanted to know who stole the athletic equipment. To date, I don't know. But anyway, Clarence Arai was there, and he said, "Hey, what do you mean, repatriating?" I said, "I'm an alien, therefore when I applied for repatriation, Spanish embassy accepted me, so that's it, I'm an alien." And I said, "What are you? You're an alien also, so what are you telling me that I'm not an alien." So anyway, we got started on that. Then, later on, several weeks later, he called me personally to his office and we went around in circles about repatriation, expatriation. I said I did... he said, "You mean expatriation." I said, "No, I mean repatriation." And I said, "You understand what that means, I understand, and I repatriated to prove a point that I was accepted as an alien by a third country and I have the letter to prove." And he kept saying, "No, you can't do that, no you can't do that." I said, "I did it." And I said, "You're an alien, don't tell me you're not 4-C alien, don't tell me that, because you are." And, of course, it didn't resolve anything. He got mad at me and that was about it.

AH: Didn't he say to you that once we've had this reinstitution of the draft by Stimson and everything, that therefore I'm an American citizen, that validates my American citizenship, so I would have to expatriate. Didn't he tell you -- wasn't that his logic?

JA: No, he just said, "You can't... you expatriate, you don't repatriate."

AH: Yeah. but what I mean is wouldn't he say...

JA: No, he didn't tell me anything.

AH: He didn't try to logic with you, then?

JA: No, only thing is I was an alien and that was it. And I even told him, "You're an alien also. What do you mean that I can't repatriate?"

AH: You're getting to know him a little bit there under this sort of context. What'd you think of him?

JA: I don't think much about him.

AH: I mean, at that time you didn't...

JA: By that time, no, I didn't think much about... see, because that first time when he made out my will, I went to him because he was the only person and my father sponsored him going to university. Therefore, my father had something to do with his being able to finish school.

AH: Did he try to bring your father into this situation when you went to talk to him or not?

JA: No.

AH: And you, of course, didn't either. Right?

[JA nods]

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.