Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Rudy Tokiwa Interview II
Narrator: Rudy Tokiwa
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Judy Niizawa (secondary)
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: July 2 & 3, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-trudy-02-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Let's start at the, at sort of the beginning. Why don't you tell us when you were born and where you were born. And we'll go from there, and we'll just start telling the story from the beginning.

RT: Well, I was born on July 7, 1925.

TI: Oh, your birthday's coming up pretty soon. [Laughs]

RT: Yeah. And it was in Coyote, California, just south of San Jose. Well, I guess they always used to tell me I was a real lucky person, because in them days, if you was born too early, you don't live. I happened to be one that lived. And so even my mom used to tell me that I was gonna be a very lucky person, because I was able to pull through it when everybody said, "No, he's not gonna make it. He was born too, too early."

TI: Oh, because you were premature?

RT: Yeah, I was premature, see. So... and see, because of this, one thing is, I've never spoke, we've never spoke of this before, because my dad wasn't one that wanted this story to get out too much. See, he was a World War I vet. And his reason for coming to the United States was he didn't like the way the government was doing things in Japan, when they had all these separate warlords and fightin' each other and everything. And so this was the reason why he came to America, thinking that he could start a new life. And he told me about working in homes as a houseboy and everything like this, and studying on the side and everything. But, so when World War I came about, he happened to be one of 'em, of the thousand or so that volunteered.

TI: A thousand or so Japanese?

RT: Yeah.

TI: Okay. So he had Issei who...?

RT: Isseis who actually volunteered, see.

TI: Okay.

RT: And he had, he told me stories about well, "Being that you're Japanese and you're an American, you gotta be proud of your generation. You gotta be proud of who you represent."

TI: Now I'm really, I'm sorry to say, ignorant of the first world war and the Isseis' participation. Did they serve in the a segregated unit?

RT: Oh, no, no, no. They were pushed into regular infantry units. And like he says, well, he talked to us about how when the whistle blew, you got outta the trench and you charged. And when they knocked you down, you came back, and what was left waited for another day. And I was, and this was one of the reason why where, I think, well, the Japanese people call it a Yamato damashi. You know what that is?

TI: No.

RT: That's being loyal to your country. And like he was saying, now, "Actually, you are Japanese." And the reason why you would say you are Japanese was, if you was Japanese, you was not allowed to go out and buy land. You couldn't, you couldn't farm anyplace for years after years, and none of this had happened. They were always segregated. So he always used to tell us, "You have to be proud of being a Japanese, and you gotta be able to fight that." So like in, when I was growing up, I used to always get in fights, because anybody call me a "Jap," he was lookin' at me for, to get in a fight. Because I was Japanese and I was proud of it. But I was a Japanese American as far as we were concerned, all the time.

TI: Describe the, kind of the neighborhood that you grew up in. Were there other Japanese, or was it mixed, or what was it like?

RT: Yeah we, there was, in our area, while we were kids, there was only two Japanese families in our area. And both families were farmers. And they, everybody was doing fairly well. We couldn't make big money, because of the fact you don't own the land, and you always sharecroppin' and everything. And so Dad always used to say, "You watch what you're doing and look at what you're doing. And in your future, that will build you up. Because you're proving to yourself what you can actually do." See, that was the way he looked at his life. And I've always felt real bad for him, because naturally, he volunteered thinkin' that eventually he'll be an American. And he never was. And when they actually offered him, see, 'cause they volunteered to become an American citizen. And about 50 percent of them got an American citizen. And he used to always tell us, "Well, they go down the list like that, and they see these odd names. And they find out, oh, these guys are Japs, skip it." And so he says, "I happen to be one of 'em that got skipped."

TI: Even though he was a World War I vet?

RT: Yeah.

TI: That didn't come into play. That didn't help.

RT: That had no help at all, see. But see now the sorriest part for him was, he couldn't go back to Japan under his own name, because he fought in the American army. And Japan naturally took his citizenship away.

TI: So he was a man, literally, without a country?

RT: Yeah. He was a man without a country.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.