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-02-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Let's move to December 7, 1941, and tell me that it probably wasn't a total surprise to you that they attacked Hawaii, given all the events, or -- explain to me to what happened to you on that day.

RT: On December 7th, we were out in the field, workin'. And my sister come out, and she said, "They said Japan attacked Pearl Harbor." And so in my mind, I immediately thought, "Well, it had to happen. There was no way it could be any other way." And the reason why I felt that way was, like I said before, if a cat chases a rat into a corner and the rat is gonna be squashed, he's gonna fight, fight like hell to save himself. And I think because of the discipline of the country in Japan, the people, I think that's the reason why it took the United States so damn long to conquer them. You know, it's, as far as I was concerned, if they told me that I would have to fight against Japan, I would have probably went, but my heart wouldn't be in it.

TI: Well, at the point where Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and then realized the United States was going to go to war, at that point, did you think that you would go into the military?

RT: No, I didn't even think about it, because I was still a young kid in high school. And I never even thought I'd get involved in this war, except for what we had to do at home, and...

JN: Tell what you guys, physically, had to do.

RT: Well, you take like with us now, the first orders that came out was, we were not to be more than 14 miles away from your home.

TI: This was immediately after Pearl Harbor?

RT: Immediately after Pearl Harbor. And that was not just Japanese citizens, it was all Japanese. And it was, you figure from where my dad farmed to Salinas was 15 miles. So they were saying, well, we couldn't go into Salinas, but we went anyhow. And you look at things that happened then, I think the handwriting was on the wall. I think the United States government knew what they were going to do with the Japanese already.

TI: In fact, what happened in many communities was that right after Pearl Harbor, the FBI reacted immediately.

RT: Oh, yes.

TI: They picked up people quite rapidly. What was it like in your area?

RT: Well, in our area, too, within Pearl Harbor the following day, they came and they went through the house complete. And one of the things, I was very aggravated, and I told the FBI where you can go, was, we figured that somethin' like this was going to happen. And we had already taken -- we had, naturally, we had, my father had Tenno-heika's picture up on the wall and all this. So all that was thrown away. We came home from the fields, and immediately, we started cleaning house. And because I had come back and I had binoculars and stuff like that made in Japan, we threw all that away.

And so the following day, the FBI come over and knocked on the door. And they just opened the door, knocked on it, opened the door and came in. Said, "We are from the FBI and we're gonna go through your house for contrabands." So they were going through everything. And you know, in them days, the Japanese all used to have this steamer trunk, and that's where they kept all their valuables. So right after Pearl Harbor, what we did was, we took my dad's uniform, and we put it right on top of the steam, in the top of the steamer trunk there. The FBI came in, made my dad open the steamer trunk, and they said, "What the hell's this?" Pulled out the uniform. And I was standin' right there. It aggravated the hell outta me. And so my dad said, "Oh, that's my uniform." They said, "This is an American uniform." So my dad said, "Well, I was in the American army. I went to France." "Oh, the American army never took Japs." And they threw the damn uniform on the floor, stepped all over it, walked through it and everything.

I saw that, and I thought to myself, "You know, these, this country, does not like Japanese. Does not like Orientals. Gotta be white." So I was very perturbed. In fact, there was times when -- well, see after this all happened, was within, I would say within two weeks that we got orders that we were to be put into assembly centers in Salinas Rodeo Grounds. Well, at that time, it used to go through my mind sometimes, when I was in the Salinas Rodeo Grounds, I used to think, "Goddamn, I wish Japan gets lucky and hits this country. I think I'd help 'em."

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.