Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collectiom
Title: Toshi Nagamori Ito Interview
Narrator: Toshi Nagamori Ito
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Laguna Woods, California
Date: November 9, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-itoshi-01-0022

<Begin Segment 22>

MN: And so you're, you are this Japanese American camp counselor in North Carolina in the middle of the war. And Mr. Patrick decides to have a Japan Day.

TI: Yes.

MN: And what was your reaction to this?

TI: I said, "Are you sure?" [Laughs] Since, you know... and he said, "I want you to teach them a song in Japanese, and a dance. He said, he asked me, "Do you know a dance?" And I said, "Yes." And so I taught them "Kutsu ga Naru," that song, and I made the motions for it. And so we had Japan Day and we sang the song and we did our dance, the group that I was to teach. And then he ordered a Japanese meal for us to have at lunchtime. And I went to the cook and the cook said, "The only thing I know how to cook is fried rice." I said, "That's fine, let's have fried rice." And then Mr. Pat said, "We must eat it with chopsticks?" I said, "Are you sure? Chopsticks are very hard to use." He says, "Yeah, I want chopsticks." So he went down to a pencil company in Asheville, yeah, and ordered a hundred pair of chopsticks made. Because we had about a hundred people, the staff included. So I tried to teach them how to use chopsticks, but the boys, especially the boys, they couldn't wait to learn to use them. So they usually took up the dish and just scooped it in with the chopsticks. [Laughs] It was fun.

MN: Do you know how this pencil company reacted when they got this order for chopsticks?

TI: I don't know, because Mr. Pat had it made. I didn't go with him.

MN: Did you ever ask Mr. Patrick why he decided to have a Japan Day?

TI: No, I didn't. I just asked him, "Are you sure?" [Laughs] Because I'm the "enemy," you know. Well, I think, "love your enemies, do good to those that harm you." I don't know. But he was really before his time, I think.

MN: And none of the parents complained?

TI: I never heard a complaint. Of course, I left after that one time. So I don't know what kind of reaction he got when the kids got home and told their parents, "I know a song in Japanese." [Laughs] I often wondered how they must have reacted. Even the camp counselors. And after I printed out the words and had it printed up, and even the camp counselors could sing it. And by the end of the camp period time, I could hear some of the camp counselors even singing it. And the kids would request singing it very often during our songfests.

MN: Would you mind singing it for us?

TI: Let's see if I remember. [Sings song] Let's see... it leaves me.

MN: That was very nice. Thank you. Now, while you were there, did you have any opportunity to share about what happened to Japanese Americans on the West Coast?

TI: Yes, I did. Lake Junaluska is the Methodist conference grounds. And so lots of the youth groups would come up to Lake Junaluska during the summer, and so Mr. Pat sent me down to talk to them and tell them about my incarceration. And they asked me to sing songs in Japanese, which surprised me. And so I did. And I was surprised that I got an encore, applause. So I had to sing two songs. [Laughs]

MN: What were the two songs that you sang?

TI: I sang "Sakura," And then I sang "Ano Machi, Kono Machi."


MN: Share with us the songs that you sang at this assembly?

TI: I sang "Sakura." [Sings]

MN: And they gave you a standing ovation?

TI: Yeah. [Laughs] It's kind of a sad melody, 'cause it's in minor key.

MN: So what did you do for your encore?

TI: I sang "Ano Machi, Kono Machi." I don't know if I remember all the words. I think I made a mistake in the "Sakura." Well, anyway... [Sings] Oh, dear. All right, I think I'd better pitch it lower. [Sings] No, it's too high. Oh, dear. Well...

MN: Okay, we get the idea. Okay. So after this, you returned back to National College.

TI: Right.

MN: And your sophomore year was, there was no, it was not eventful, you got through all the classes.

TI: Yeah.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.