Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Floyd Shimomura Interview
Narrator: Floyd Shimomura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: March 11, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-466-11

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: This is actually a great segue into your connection at the JACL. Let's just touch upon this. You went to, after you graduated from Winters, or is it Victory High School or Winters High School?

FS: Well, Winters High School.

TI: Winters High School. You went to UC Davis and you majored in economics and Japanese. And I'm going to go over this faster because I want to get to the JACL. Then after that, you went to the UC Davis Law School, you were the editor of the Law Review, and you graduated in 1973.

FS: From law school.

TI: From law school.

FS: But one thing that you skipped over that I think is important is, during my junior year I went to Japan and studied on the UC Education Abroad program, and I studied Japanese language. And that was in the 1968/69 school year, that was the year that they had the big massive strikes, Japan student strikes. I don't know if you remember it.

TI: So in Japan they had massive strikes?

FS: Yeah, they did.

TI: It was such a turbulent time in the United States in 1968.

FS: Yeah, it was, and it was turbulent there, too. It was the year that the U.S.-Japan security treaty was going to come up for ratification, and both the right wing and the left wing opposed it for a little bit different reasons. Because the right wing wanted Japan to be independent.

TI: And maybe start their own military?

FS: Yeah, do their own military thing. And then the Communists, they don't like the United States because it's a capitalistic system, so it was a wild time there. But I really got to know Tokyo, and I watched Japanese television, and then I met my relatives then. And there's a picture there of our family, and my grandmother's sister went back to Japan, and so those are the two strands of our family now, my grandmother's side, which I'm a part of, and then her sister went back and that's the side that I visited. And the reason why I think it's relevant is that in the JACL period, besides redress, this whole U.S.-Japan issue was important.

TI: Right, I want to get into that, because that was kind of, there's a lot of U.S.-Japan trade friction happening during that time. We'll get there, but before we talk about JACL, I guess a basic question is, when did you finally start understanding what happened to the Japanese American community during World War II? This is something that you started studying like in high school or college, or when did you first learn about this?

FS: Well, when I was an undergraduate that was also the period when they were starting Asian American studies. And at Davis, Davis was one of the leading, earlier school. And the faculty didn't really recognize it as being a true academic subject at that time. And so they got the anthropology department, and they created this little thing, and so Asian American Studies was kind of put in there.

TI: In anthropology?

FS: In anthropology. And it had to do with community development and that type of thing. But anyway, there was a guy there named Isao Fujimoto, and he was very active, and he had some classes, but then he had a lot of, just little events where people would come in and show slides and pictures and talk. And when I was at that, one of the slides they showed was that picture of that city limit sign of Winters.

TI: Oh, the Winters.

FS: You know? And they showed that, and I was just so shocked, because at first I thought that sure looked like it said Winters on that sign, but maybe it was some other town, you're kind of half in denial. But then after it was over, I went over and looked at the slide again, and sure enough, that was Winters. And I thought, boy, that earlier period was pretty rough. And that's when I kind of, started looking into what really happened. And I think that's kind of when the awareness thing was starting to go up in my head. So that's, what, late '60s and the war in Vietnam was going on, and that's another reason I went to Japan during my junior year. I think it was kind of an identity thing and also there was just so much going on in the United States, the anti-war things, I just wanted to get out of that. Although I went to Tokyo and they had these big student strikes, so it was, if anything, it was a lot more brutal.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.