Densho Digital Archive
Twin Cities JACL Collection
Title: Judy Murakami Interview
Narrator: Judy Murakami
Interviewer: Carolyn Nayamatsu
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: October 13, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-mjudy-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

CN: Your father left the camp early. But tell me some things about why he was able to leave early.

JM: My father left the camp after about fourteen months, and that was because his older sister Ruth and her husband Earl Tanbara were living in St. Paul, Minnesota. As I understand it, you were allowed to apply for permission to leave a camp if you could prove that you had someplace to go. I'm not sure if you had to prove that you had an income or something, but you had to be able to prove that you would be able to make it in a new community, and it had to of course be away from the West Coast. So that's why my family never went back to Oregon or to the West Coast at all, was because they needed to, when they left the camp they knew that they were moving inland. And my father, in going through some of my mother's things, I found this book called the Evacuation of 1942. And in it -- my mother was very organized as was my father -- and there were all sorts of papers of letters that my father had requested be written for him. They are letters of reference and they're from all over. They're from Oregon State College, he's got a bunch of them from there, from the School of Science, and someone from the YWCA and the church. These were all from late December, 1942, and January and February or so of 1943. And the interesting thing with these letters is that they were, they have a kind of a theme through them, not only attesting to his character and the kind of person he was or his qualifications, but there always seems to be something about his loyalty. And there was always some reference to the fact that he was a person of Japanese ancestry. So for example, there is this one from the Dean of Science who was probably my father's professor of pharmacy from Oregon State, of December 30, 1942, in which he said, "I have known Mr. Howard Nomura very well since the fall of 1928. I had him in my classes for four years and since that time have kept in close contact with him while he was in business in Portland. I have always found him able, dependable and trustworthy. Moreover, from personal knowledge, I have no question concerning his loyalty to this country. On the basis of my intimate knowledge with him I do not hesitate to recommend him for any position in prescription work," which is in pharmacy. But it just seems kind of odd because nowadays when you ask for a letter of reference, you don't usually talk about a person's loyalty or what kind of a citizen they will have. And there are... another one just says, a sentence says, "He is a home-loving man with pride in his family and in his community. He has long been active in civic affairs." And he talks about being well-respected within the community.

And there's one that actually was very official looking, it comes from the state of Oregon, County of Multnomah which is where Portland is. And it's got number one, two, three four, all attesting to Howard Nomura has done all these different things. And it mentions the fact that my father was a troop leader, a Boy Scout troop leader, and that he is "quite proud of being a citizen of the United States and he has told me that subsequent to the date of his birth, his father and mother refused to enroll him with the Japanese consul in Oregon as a citizen of the Empire of Japan, and that he has always considered himself to be a citizen of the United States of America." Because at that time, people who were children of Issei, or children of Japanese-born citizens, were also considered Japanese citizens, but here he's kind attesting to the fact that he was never registered as such and that, "while he resided in the City of Portland his home was the typical, average American home and that his actions, demeanor and attitude have been typically American." This is an interesting comment, I think. That this person says that, "Subsequent to Pearl Harbor, he told me that he believed the Japanese would be moved from the state of Oregon and that while it was a shame, it was probably necessary under the circumstances." And, "of my own knowledge, I know that he has invested in United States Defense Savings Bonds and has purchased life insurance and was an asset to the community. I believe that he is a responsible individual and will do no act contrary to the best interests of the United States of America."

CN: Those are interesting aren't they?

JM: Yeah. He's always been a loyal citizen. It's kind of sad, actually, to realize that people have to have all these letters just because people are questioning you because you look different because you look Japanese.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2009 Densho and the Twin Cities JACL. All Rights Reserved.