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-01-0044

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AH: And three and a half... and what did you do in jail? I read somewhere where you actually had said that the time went pretty fast, which surprised me.

JA: Right, you know why, because I was studying -- well, whatever I did -- I went in there as a first thing, laundry worker, doing sheets or shirts or whatever. And to me, any dummy could do that, just running sheets through the big press. So I wanted to do something else so I went to ask if I could go into the dye works. So they said okay, fine. So I was able to go into the dye works and do all of the prison personnel's clothing. Whether it was silk, rayon or whatnot I could separate them and do the dye work very good. Then after I got that finished, I want to go into shoe repair and I did that, and once I finished getting that part, I want to go to the metal shop. So I went to metal shop. I had a little bit of foundry work at university in the first two years you had mechanical engineering something, you did machine shop -- so I went to the machine shop. Then I want to go from one part of the machine shop all the way and the last thing I was there, I was foundry, I was in charge of the foundry. And from there they had to have a typist who could type very good. And I was a good typist so I went into the prison administration where I'd do all of the pencil work that they did. I'd type it and make files.

AH: So you were busy and learning a lot of things, too. And when Min Yasui talked to you, you didn't mention this on tape, but you did in some other things that I've seen in interviews that you've given, where Min Yasui basically said, "You go into a prison, it's not going to be a picnic. You're gonna get beat up or even killed."

JA: That's right, yeah, he said that.

AH: So what was your experience when you got there?

JA: Well, so the whole thing was, if I go in the army, okay, I'm giving my life. So if I go to prison and this is what I selected, and if they take my life, hey, that's it... if I got killed.

AH: Most people said they didn't have incidents very much in prison at all, that the prisoners...

JA: No, same.

AH: Was your situation similar?

JA: Same, same. And they were more understanding than the Japanese Americans, JACL, WRA. They said yeah, if I was in the same position, the Caucasians say, "Hey, I'd do the same thing. Hell with the army." So they understood why we were there and no incidents whatsoever, unless, I can't recall any incident.

AH: What was your brother's experience in prison? What did he do? You were learning all these different skills and things, and he later becomes an architect. Right?

JA: Yes. And therefore he goes into that line, he follows it. After hours you had school so you could do whatever you want. And like me, I kept pushing for math, so I did further math, further math until beyond the math that the university requires. And I've got many books of problems that I worked out in math, I still have them. And my brother, he kept as a draftsman. And when he came out, he went to work with a architect firm because he was a very good draftsman.

<End Segment 44> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.