Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Toshiro Izumi Interview
Narrator: Toshiro Izumi
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: March 2, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ftakayo-01-

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This morning we're talking with Tosh Izumi.

TI: Yes.

RP: And the interview is taking place at the West Los Angeles Japanese United Methodist Church at 1913 Purdue Street in West Los Angeles. The date of our interview is March 2, 2010. Our interviewer is Richard Potashin, our videographer is Kirk Peterson. And we'll be talking with Mr. Izumi about his experiences growing up on Terminal Island as well as his removal from Terminal Island and eventual relocation to the Tulare Assembly Center and the Gila River War Relocation Center.

TI: Yes.

RP: Our interview will be archived in the park's library. And, Tosh, do I have your permission to go ahead and record our interview?

TI: Oh, yes.

RP: And may...

TI: It won't be in detail I don't think because I've forgotten so much.

RP: Okay. May I refer to you as Tosh?

TI: Oh, yes.

RP: Okay. Thank you very much.

TI: That's they I'm known, as Tosh.

RP: Tosh, where were you born and what year?

TI: I was born in Villa Park in Orange County in the year 1918, May the 7th.

RP: And what was your given name at birth?

TI: That was my, that's the only name I've gone under, Toshiro.

RP: Toshiro?

TI: Yes.

RP: Okay. And I'd like to get to know your father a little more. Can you tell us where he came from in Japan?

TI: Yes. He was born in a small town in Wakayama prefecture, a small town called Koza, K-O-Z-A, which is a fishing village. And his family was engaged in, not in fishing itself, but in buying the fishes and sending it out to the different cities in Japan.

RP: Like a middle man.

TI: Yes.

RP: And your father's name?

TI: My father's name was Kuichi, spelling K-U-I-C-H-I. That's a family trend. The family is known as Izuku, Izumiku. Ku is nine and I was there after the war and I inquired at people in asking them where is the Izumikue mon? No one knew. But I said then also known as Izuku. Then they'd point out the house where my father used to live.

RP: Your father attended not a regular grammar school but kind of a special school called Terakoya?

TI: Yes, Terakoya. That's a school run by the Buddhist temple and I guess they learned just about same thing you would learn in a regular school except that at that time there were very few schools. And so if you want any education you went to the Buddhist temple and got your lessons there. It was, I believe, mostly writing and reading in Japanese language.

RP: Your father, did he come from a large or a small family?

TI: Well, it was a medium sized family I guess. And they all took after the family and they were involved in the fishing industry.

RP: Okay. Later your father was drafted into the Japanese army?

TI: Yes. Uh-huh. This was prior to the Russo-Japanese War. And I don't know how well he was, but he became a sergeant. And he was given one of the highest medal that's given to a Japanese soldier.

RP: Do you know the name of the medal?

TI: Yes, they call it Kinshi Kunsho.

RP: And what was it, what did it...

TI: Of course, it has different degree, you know, Kinshi Kunsho first, second, third, and so forth. You could save the country and yet being just a plain soldier. I think he got the, if I'm not mistaken, the eighth grade Kinshi Kunsho. If a general had served and done the same thing he would have been given the highest which would be the first degree.

RP: And then later on, you know, when he settled in the United States, his involvement in that war would be very significant to his life.

TI: Yes. He belonged to a group of former Japanese veterans. And being a... well, quite high as a sergeant, he was better known as -- sergeant is gunso -- and they never used his name. He was always referred as gunso, sergeant.

RP: So he worked for this firm dealing with fish in Japan?

TI: In Japan yes. That firm is still in place, yes.

RP: And what, you said that you visited your father's hometown or village, Koza...

TI: Koza, yes. I was there a year before the war broke out so it was 1940. And this was with a group of... I referred to you the other day as involving kendo. And the group of us were taken to Japan and we were involved not, not in any matches but we practiced different schools, different village kendo group in Japan and in Korea and we went to Manchuria too.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: So was your father the oldest son in the family or how did he rank?

TI: Oh no, no. I think he was about the youngest. It's a Japanese custom that the oldest son take over the family, and the others, why, they have to fend for themselves. So I don't know how he got to the States but after the war with Russia was over, he came over here and he had some friends too. And he was involved in farming which was not his occupation in Japan.

RP: Was he like most Issei who came to America, you know, wanted to make their fortune and then go back?

TI : Yes. That, I think that was their reason for coming here. But, it never worked out that easily.

RP: He couldn't come directly to America at that time according to what you told me. You said that he had to stop in Hawaii for a short time?

TI: Yes. I don't know what the reason was but he got off the boat, and if I'm not mistaken he was in Hawaii for several weeks. And he got aboard another ship and came to San Francisco. San Francisco had that big earthquake and he said days and days aboard the ship that they get up on the deck and look east and they could see this dark, well, he said dark cloud. But actually it's dark smoke arising from the San Francisco area. Uh-huh.

RP: So he couldn't dock in San Francisco?

TI: Oh, no, the ship was not able to dock in San Francisco. So I think he, they went to Oakland, if I'm not mistaken. And that's what he, that's what his step, first step into the U.S.

RP: You shared a story about his docking in Oakland. You said that there was a small fee that usually was paid to the customs agents and...

TI: Yes, I kind of overheard him talk about that one of those... I believe it was more than a fee. I think it was a bribe that they'd have to, you know, slip under to get off the ship easily.

RP: Did your father pay that?

TI: I believe he did. I don't know if he had any dollar with him but maybe.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: Did any other members of your father's family come to the United States?

TI: Well my, my mother came to the United States. But, she came here, I would say, as a bride.

RP: What was her, what was her name?

TI: Her name was, Yoshida is her family name. Yoshida, Fumi.

RP: Short for Fumiko?

TI: Yes, uh-huh. And she was I think born in Yokohama. So, it's not very close to Koza, you know. How they got together is something else again. There was a so-called go-between and, who introduced my father to her and they were married.

RP: Was she a "picture bride" then?

TI: I don't think she was a "picture bride." She may have been because this man maybe got them pictures of her and showed it to my father. That part I don't know.

RP: So did they meet in the United States?

TI: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: And they married here.

TI: Yes.

RP: Okay. And tell us a little bit about your mom. You said that she was a little more educated than your dad.

TI: Oh yes, uh-huh. Being from the large city, Yokohama, she went to, I believe a public school, and she was better educated than my father. But there was one thing though, my father was real good calligraphy, you know, using a brush. And he did some beautiful work with the brush, uh-huh, that my mother couldn't do.

RP: Did he pursue that art through his whole life or...

TI: No, not, it was more or less a hobby with him.

RP: And what would he calligraph?

TI: What was that?

RP: What would he calligraph? Would he calligraph a poem or a, a...

TI: Well, sometime, no, I don't think he did anything with poem but it would be two or three Chinese... what do they call it? Well...

RP: Kanji?

TI: Kanji, yes. You know, Japanese borrowed all that from the Chinese. And he'd write kanji and... which was real, real beautiful I thought at that time.

RP: Your mom also had a talent, a skill, a creative talent of sewing?

TI: Oh yes, uh-huh. I never knew where she learned how to sew but she was very, very talented. She made all the daughter's dresses, uh-huh. And when they were small, of course. And I don't know if she made any of my... she might have made some shirts for me. But, very talented, yes.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: So, where did your father first settle on coming to America?

TI: Well as far as I know he landed in San Francisco or in Oakland. And he may have had some friend here in the southland so I guess he just came south and met this man and started farming.

RP: And that was in the Villa Park?

TI: Villa Park area, yes.

RP: Orange County?

TI: Orange County.

RP: Uh-huh. And what type of farming did he do there?

TI: Well, I believe it was... well, it was all kind of farming. Vegetable farming and I believe the owner had fruits that had to be taken and brought to the market. He did all that.

RP: And then he, there was a major change in his business. He shifted from agriculture to fishing.

TI: Yes.

RP: And can you explain a little bit about...

TI: Uh-huh. I don't know how they were introduced, but I believe they must have been farming in that area too. There were three of them. And they got together and they bought a small boat. But they, the thing about it is none of the three had the intelligence or knowledge to take the boat out to the ocean and do any fishing. So they had to hire a Japanese man that was a fisherman from Japan.

RP: Do you remember his name?

TI: I think the last name was Takeuchi. But I forgot the first name.

RP: So your family moved from Orange County to Long Beach?

TI: Uh-huh, to Long Beach, yes. And it was close to the cannery that they unloaded the fish that they had caught during the day. Very, very good house if I can remember. It was a big house.

RP: Do you remember the name of your father's boat?

TI: No, I don't really remember.

RP: How about the two other guys that he went in on this boat with?

TI: Let's see, what was their name? If I hear their name I could say yes or no but I can't remember.

RP: So, about this time the fishing industry was really picking up.

TI: Yes, picking up.

RP: And so he wanted to jump in on this.

TI: Yeah, yes. And I guess it was more in his line anyway than to do farming.

RP: And then you, your family moved to Terminal Island, I guess he got a job with the...

TI: Yes, well, the fishing industry was gradually enlarging in Terminal Island. So they loaded all their property on this small boat and they came to Terminal Island and at that time I guess a house was already reserved for them.

RP: So you, everything was moved not by a truck or a van...

TI: Oh no, no.

RP: But you used a boat.

TI: Boat, yes.

RP: Also there was an incident that occurred during the time that your father was fishing with his own boat. Can you share that with us? Kind of a sort of tragic, not really tragic, but a incident that occurred off the coast?

TI: Yes. Now, I've forgotten exactly where it was but it must have been around Laguna Beach or in that area, if I'm not mistaken. It was a foggy day. And the captain miscalculated and they went aground. But fortunately nobody was injured. But the tragedy of all this is they got off the ship and I guess they must have left everything as is but when they came back, why, a lot of the equipment was stolen off the fishing boat. Just overnight maybe.

RP: So that's when your father decided to go fish for somebody else.

TI: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: What was it like growing up in Terminal Island?

TI: Terminal Island, oh, gee, that's a beautiful place and well, I say beautiful place. It's nothing there but it was beautiful place because your neighbors were all Japanese, Japanese family. And when you went to school -- there was an elementary school there -- teachers were real nice and I think the teachers had a hard time teaching us because we all spoke Japanese, even at school. And, but we somehow graduated, went to Dana Junior High School and from there to San Pedro High School.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: I'd like to talk a little bit more about the various social --

TI: Oh, uh-huh.

RP: -- committees that developed. Every, you know, a lot of folks talk about how close knit the community was.

TI: Uh-huh.

RP: It was kind of like, as one person described it, one large family.

TI: Yes. It was just like one large family. The, I don't know, there was incident... I shouldn't say incident but the fishermen would come home, loaded and they'd have some extra fish that they set aside and bring that home. And the first thing they do is they call their friends or relative, farming, you know, around San Pedro. And the farmers would come over to pick up their gift of the fish. And they'd bring box and boxes of the greens that they had harvested, more of less exchanging, you know, greens for the fish. And then what happened is naturally we'd get boxes and boxes of greens. We can't consume it all so we'd give it to our friends living around us. So it's just like a large family.

RP: You mentioned, you know, the schools you went to in Terminal Island. But there was one particular teacher that stuck out in your mind.

TI: Well, there were, they were all good teachers. The principal was named Wallenzer and she was a beautiful woman. And she led everything in school and I guess she knew the condition we were Japanese kids, not knowing the English language, and brought up with the Japanese language.

RP: Was she, she went on a trip to Japan.

TI: Yes. The, the people there in Terminal Island, they all chipped in I guess you would say, and they sent her to a trip to Japan. And I believe she enjoyed it because there were many students that, that were in Terminal Island but had gone to Japan with their family. And they all came to see her and she was well treated.

RP: And you went to Japanese language school on the island.

TI: Uh-huh, yes.

RP: And where was that?

TI: Well, the one I went to was sponsored by the Baptist church there, Japanese Baptist Church. And it was known as Seisho Gakuen. And well, we could speak Japanese quite well but reading and writing was something else. But we did do quite well thinking about it because when the war broke out many of us went into the army and we were in the army where we acted as the interpreters and translators. Yes, I did the same thing too. I went to, there was a military school in Monterey and at that time I think they were teaching Japanese and Russian, if I'm not mistaken. But I graduated, oh, in a very short time because I had the foundation for speaking and writing Japanese, learning that in Terminal Island.

RP: So when did you speak English on the island?

TI: Well...

RP: Or did you?

TI: We, it was mixed. We'd speak Japanese and mix it up with English. But, of course once we went to school it was all English.

RP: You said during recess when you spoke Japanese...

TI: Oh yeah, except recess and especially lunchtime, we'd all gather together and uh-huh...

RP: One of the characteristics of Terminal Island was that it was so isolated, you know, as a community and physically. Did you get a chance to go off the island at all when you were growing up? Did your dad take you anywhere or...

TI: Well, this is one thing. With all the people living on Terminal Island there were very few cars owned by the Japanese people. So if you wanted to get out of the island you had to get on the ferry and go to San Pedro and get on one of those red train or whatever they is that'll bring you to Little Tokyo here.

RP: Do you remember any of your visits to Little Tokyo?

TI: No, I don't think I ever rode on the red train. So, the only time I did come to Little Tokyo was some farmers would bring vegetables and if they had time, why they'd bring it to Little Tokyo to do a little visiting. But we were talking about the language. We went to Japanese school and it wasn't a very strict school but we did learn enough writing and the reading and the speaking that well, I'm just talking about myself, I was able to graduate from this school in Monterey, the language school run by the army in Monterey, in a very short time. And I was sent to Japan. I did quite a bit of translation work there. Reading newspaper and translating that into English and the newspapers, it's all printed in English. And it came from all over the world where the Japanese people had immigrated, they had their newspaper there. And these were all sent to the headquarters in, the army headquarters in Japan. And we'd have to translate all of that. Now I wasn't the only one. There were others doing the same thing. But shortly after that ran out, I was sent to Yokohama where they were having the war crimes trials. And I sat there as the interpreter and didn't do much, though. [Laughs]

RP: We'll talk about that in a little bit.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: But, just to get back to, back on the island again.

TI: Oh, okay.

RP: You were involved, as you said, with kendo.

TI: Yes.

RP: And how early do you remember taking up kendo?

TI: I must have been around ten or eleven I think when I started kendo. And the kendo teacher, the instructor, was my dentist, Dr. Fuji. And somehow I got into kendo and -- the tetan kendo -- for many, many years. In fact, I even gave up playing baseball as a kid. I did kendo.


TI: Yeah, I was more involved in kendo than any other sport.

RP: What was it about kendo that interested you so much?

TI: Well, gee, I can't say what it is. But, well, our instructor was real active and, well, I shouldn't say I got good, but I guess I was a little better than the others. So he'd take me to Long Beach where he was teaching kendo there, and he'd also take me over to... I can't remember... Dominguez Hills, he had a kendo class there. So I was quite, I guess, efficient, if I can say so myself. And of course when the war started I had to get rid of all that equipment.

RP: And how did you get rid of it?

TI: Oh, you know, in the community of Terminal Island there was a great big... well, I say big but it was a building that the cannery used to burn whatever they didn't need. Well, I went over there. The door was always open. So I'd open and I just threw my equipment in there and burned it up.

RP: Just after the war broke out?

TI: Yeah, after the war broke out. I figured, well, I don't want to be caught with any Japanese equipment, especially kendo equipment.

RP: Is there anything else that you burned besides the kendo equipment that you took...

TI: No, that was about it.

RP: In judo you're ranked according to belts of colors.

TI: Yes. Uh-huh.

RP: How does it work in kendo?

TI: Kendo, I don't know if they had any color. They were all the same. The equipment was all the same.

RP: You were talking about practicing at different locations with different groups of people. But eventually you also competed against other kendo associations?

TI: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: Throughout California?

TI: Yes. But you were given a rank, you know. And whenever there's a tournament or matches, that rank always came out. Like first degree or second degree or third degree rank. They call that dan. You know, first degree would be Shodan, and second would be Nidan, Sandan. I did kendo for a long, long time when Mori-sensei... did you hear about Mori-sensei? Mori-sensei was here, I shouldn't say worked, but I practiced under him and I helped him along. And I was given the rank of godan. Yeah, which, which was exceptionally high for, you know, people participating in kendo here in the United States.

RP: And who was Sensei Mori?

TI: Huh?

RP: Can you tell us who Sensei Mori was?

TI: Oh, Mori. Mori-sensei, he came from a, a Japanese family. Gee, I can't remember all this. The main family were publisher and they published various Japanese magazine. And... I can't even remember the magazine that was published. But the family was a big printer. And not being the member of the main family... he must have been a cousin of the main family except he took the name Mori. But he was an exceptionally strong person. And he came to United States... I can't say the date but he came here with the idea of learning the fencing here in United States. And I think he became a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club and learned fencing. But I don't think he ever participated. I think he wanted to be a fencer and go back to Japan and become a member in one of the Olympics there, you know. Because he was really fast.

RP: Tosh, did you have brothers and sisters?

TI: Yes.

RP: Can you give us their names?

TI: Oh, yes. My oldest sister name is Kaneko Nakanishi. She's a couple years than I am. And the next sister would be Satsuki Hamabata and the third sister would be Mary... gee, I can't even remember their name, Mary Tamura. And my, the youngest one would be my brother, Katsumi Izumi.

RP: You mentioned that your dad had a nickname. Do you remember some of the other nicknames of guys you hung out with in Terminal Island?

TI: Oh, nickname? Oh, I guess there were a lot of nickname but it just doesn't come to my mind what they were. Hmm. Can we skip that for a while?

RP: Sure, yes.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: Your father, although he wasn't outwardly a leader, was very involved in community activities in Terminal Island. Even before that you shared a story about him in his village at Koza, helping people. Can you talk a little bit about his propensity to get involved in community?

TI: Uh-huh. He wasn't in Koza very long. But here in the States, because of his army ranking, he was looked up by most all the people that he came in contact with. So he served as the officer in, well, many of the organizations that he was involved in.

RP: Do you remember some of those organizations?

TI: Well, it would involve, as a parent of a student like myself, attending a Japanese school. He... I don't think he ever became president of these associations, but he, he was always involved in some ways.

RP: Was he part of a fisherman's union or association?

TI: Yes, uh-huh. They call it Gyo Gyo Kumiai, and yes. And I think he was an officer in that outfit.

RP: Being a veteran, was he also involved with a veterans association?

TI: Oh yes, uh-huh. He was the head of the veterans around the, well, just a small group, Terminal Island and maybe several in Long Beach and San Pedro area.

RP: And during that time you said that the veterans association had a very friendly relationship with the American Legion.

TI: Oh, yes, they did. What would be the... they'd have a parade, the American Legion would have a parade. They were all, and my father's group were always invited. They'd come all the way to maybe Los Angeles to march with the American Legion. So...

RP: Do you, did you attend any of those?

TI: No. I was too young so I just heard about it.

RP: Would they, would they march with the Japanese flag?

TI: I believe they'd march with the Japanese flag, but they never had any uniform. It was just everyday clothing maybe.

RP: That's still pretty ironic.

TI: Yes, uh-huh. They were always invited and they never said yes, I mean, they never said no. They always marched with the Americans whenever they were invited.

RP: He was also involved with the Japanese Association in, on Terminal Island.

TI: Oh yeah. Yeah, he was involved with Japanese Association, the Fisherman's Association.

RP: And you shared with me that he always kind of, sign of, was a calming influence whenever there was a problem or trouble that he seemed to be in the middle of it trying to...

TI: Yes, uh-huh. Yeah, for some reason they'd always call my father if there was any disagreement or trouble. And he was able to straighten those things out. Not because he was educated or... I think he relied more on his army status. [Laughs]

RP: He was involved with fishing for close to twenty years or so, but ironically he never took you out very often, did he?

TI: No, no. I don't think he liked fishing to begin with. And I was always envious of these kids that went fishing with their dad. So I'd try to get my father to take me fishing. And he took me out twice in all the time we were in Terminal Island. And I hate to say this but I get to go to the ship and there's a distinct smell in those fishing boat. And that'd get to me and I'd be sick before even leaving Terminal Island, I'd be laying on a bunk, lying down. So I never enjoyed fishing or fishing boats.

RP: And perhaps he didn't want you to follow in his footsteps either.

TI: No, definitely not.

RP: Do you have any memories of Brighton Beach?

TI: Yes, a little bit. Brighton Beach... there were, I think... since Terminal Island is a manmade island, we'd name it our self. There was the First Beach, Second Beach, and then Brighton Beach. And Brighton Beach was the one furthest from us and I don't think the others knew about the First Beach and the Second Beach. That's where we all had our fun, swimming and cooking wieners. [Laughs]

RP: Did you learn to swim out there too?

TI: Yeah. We'd do swimming there, uh-huh.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: You said that you gave up baseball for kendo. Baseball was kind of a real important part of sort of social life in Terminal Island.

TI: Yes, uh-huh, very, very so. Because I wasn't very good at it for one thing.

RP: How about your team?

TI: The Terminal Islander had a very, very good team. The highest group I think was one of the, I would say, the strongest here in California, among the Japanese teams.

RP: What were their names?

TI: Skippers, San Pedro Skippers. Very good name.

RP: And where was the field located on the island?

TI: Field, well, I showed you on the map. Field was close to the Baptist church, and like I said, it was a manmade island with all sand there that they had, the parents had to buy truck and truckload of dirt to make a playing field.

RP: And did you often go to watch games there?

TI: Oh yes, uh-huh. There was almost a game every weekend.

RP: I was reading about the team that, the fact that the fishermen actually kind of taxed themselves to create money to support the team.

TI: Well, I believe they did, yes. And they were all interested and they'd come watch the ballgame and as soon it was over, why, they'd all hastily go to their ship, go fishing. Yeah. Fishing was important but at the same time baseball, they couldn't get enough baseball.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: Do you recall, besides Japanese on Terminal Island, were there other ethnic groups that you recall living on the island and fishing?

TI: There were other fishermen yes, but they unloaded their fish at the various canneries and they took their boat across the channel and they had an area where they, where all the fishermen I guess, they kept their boats, not on Terminal Island, on the mainland of San Pedro. These were, I guess, Slavonian people, and the Italians, and... they were all good fishermen, too.

RP: And you had, you had a Russian family --

TI: Yes.

RP: -- that lived on the island.

TI: Yeah.

RP: Tell us about them.

TI: Well the Russian family, I guess you've heard of White Russians? These were Russians that believed in the king or whatever that was ruling Russia. When the rulers were disposed of, the Russian family couldn't stay in Russia anymore so they came to United States. And why they settled on Terminal Island I really don't know. But they were taught fishing and the kids played with all the Japanese kids that were on the island. They spoke Japanese too. In fact, it was a brother and a sister I think, they attended the Japanese school that I was going to.

RP: And girls, you mentioned the girls, would dress up in kimonos?

TI: Oh, yes, uh-huh. That was a tradition on Terminal Island. I think it was, was it May or in March? It was a Girl's Day and all the girls attending our school would dress in kimonos. And they were taught various dances, group dancing. And I guess they had a loudspeaker to play the music, and all these girls would dance. We'd have busloads of students from other schools, you know, come over and watch the girls dance. And I think I told you that I think there were two Russian girls living on Terminal Island. And these girls were loaned Japanese kimono and they'd dance along with their classmates.

RP: The name of the family I believe was the Kaserovs?

TI: Kaserov, I think. Yeah.

RP: What an interesting...

TI: We never found out whatever happened to them, you know.

RP: Right. When...

TI: When the war broke out.

RP: Right, and then their forty-eight hour order to...

TI: Yeah. That I think they had to leave Terminal Island, but they were never interned like we were.

RP: But we don't know where --

TI: No.

RP: -- they ever ended up.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: You just mentioned Girl's Day. Well, how about Boy's Day? Did you...

TI: Yeah, we had Boy's Day too.

RP: What was that like?

TI: Well Boy's Day they had -- well, these were all different classes you know -- they had a so-called track meet like, running events, and they eat, they had a kendo group there and judo group. Not to, not as a tournament but to show their, you know, ability or what they're doing. Yeah.

RP: Do you remember the carp being flown?

TI: Oh, yes. That came with the Boys Day, the carp, uh-huh.

RP: Was there any, you didn't get any special treatment from your mom or dad during that day?

TI: No, no. I don't know if you saw some of these old Japanese pictures of Terminal Island. Some family had a high post and they had carps you know. Carps only came with, like I say, boys. If they had boys they displayed this carp.

RP: So would there be, say if there was four boys in your family, you'd be flying four carps?

TI: Well, no, it didn't end with one for each kid. Maybe they'd have eight or ten carps up there.

RP: So it must have been quite a scene to see...

TI: Well, yes, uh-huh. Of course we all couldn't all have that, see. It was just certain families. If the family, if the father was, had the initiative to get the post.

RP: Tell us about where you lived on Terminal Island and what, how was the housing situation based upon... was it based upon the canneries, you know, where you lived?

TI: Yeah. The different canneries owned the blocks and blocks of houses. And if your father was on a boat fishing for this certain cannery, you were provided housing there. But, like I told you earlier, if your father went to a boat fishing for another cannery, why, you were asked to move out.

RP: Did that happen to your family?

TI: No, we never had that trouble.

RP: You stayed in the same house?

TI: My father and the group fished for Del Monte... I forgot what the original name of the cannery was. But they changed hands so many times that they just stayed put.


RP: This is a continuing interview with Tosh Izumi and this is tape two. And, Tosh, we were just discussing some of your experiences growing up on Terminal Island. You were involved with a lot of Japanese traditions. It was very kind of much like it might have been in Japan for you --

TI: Yes.

RP: -- if you had lived there. Did you celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving or any of those kind of more Americanized holidays?

TI: Yes, yes. We went to elementary school and we had some of that. We went to a Christian church, a Baptist church, and they had some of that so, uh-huh.

RP: And were, were your parents originally Buddhist?

TI: Yes. They were originally in... they died a Buddhist. Whereas religion didn't mean too much to them. When we had this Baptist church, why, they sent them self to the Baptist church and so I believe myself, I'm more Christian than I am a Buddhist. But I go to both if I'm invited to some doing in a Buddhist temple, I'd go.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: When you graduated from grammar school, then you had to go off the island to attend Dana Junior High School?

TI: Uh-huh, Dana Junior High School.

RP: That was in San Pedro?

TI: Yes.

RP: What was that like? Suddenly you were in another world.

TI: It certainly was, because to begin, with every day we'd have to take a ferry to cross the channel onto the mainland. And most of us walked from the ferry landing to Dana Junior High School, which was I think on Twelfth Street. It's quite a walk. And a lot of us as we got older, why, we got lazy and we'd ride the bus. And the bus I think cost us three cents.

RP: How about the ferry ride?

TI: Ferry I think was, well, we'd buy a whole booklet of tickets and I think it was about a nickel, each ticket I think was worth five cents.

RP: And what was it like going to school at the, at Dana Junior High?

TI: Dana Junior High School, we went to the, our elementary school, I think we went through sixth grade. So Dana we only went to seventh and eighth I believe, two years. But we got along real good with the mainlanders.

RP: And did you get involved in sports as a part of your junior high school or high school?

TI: No, I didn't participate in anything. The only sports I know about is when gym time when we played baseball or...

RP: Who did you like to pal around with, you know, growing up, on the island or off?

TI: This is I guess a little funny, but growing up from junior high school into high school, I associated more with students that came from Japan than my own American-born friends.

RP: Students from Japan.

TI: Yeah, these friends of mine that I associated, they were born here in the United States but they were raised in Japan and their Japanese was much stronger than their English naturally and, but I associated with them quite a bit.

RP: So some people refer to them as Kibei?

TI: Uh-huh, yes, Kibei.

RP: And you conversed with them pretty well 'cause you had a strong Japanese...

TI: Yes, uh-huh. And I believe that's the reason my Japanese was stronger than the average American-born Japanese. I found out that when I went the army language school. Yeah, I'd be skipping lots of grades. I'd go there originally with a group but maybe I'd graduate a year or two before ahead of them.

RP: How did the, how did the Kibei, in your eyes, interact with the Nisei, American, Japanese Americans who hadn't been to Japan? Can you talk about that relationship if you sensed any frictions or how did they get along?

TI: I believe they got along okay. But they tell me there was a friction. They had a tendency to stay together and we, being born here in the United States, why, we had the tendency to stay together too. So, I guess there was a little difference there. But somehow or another, because of my, I guess, strong Japanese learning at the Japanese language school, I spoke with them in Japanese and got along quite well.

RP: So you could kind of bridge both groups?

TI: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: You felt comfortable --

TI: Oh, yes.

RP: -- amongst both groups.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: One other holiday that I wanted to mention because it's so important in Japanese culture is New Year's.

TI: New Year's, uh-huh.

RP: And how do you remember that being celebrated when you were growing up?

TI: Well, New Year's the family made osushi and you know, a lot of goodies. And the elderly fathers, they all visited their friends' home. And they'd go to one home and they were always served sake in the small sakazuki. And I guess that was enough to get them drunk. But another tradition that they had was when they came to your house they always had a little money with them and they'd give money to each of the kids. So if enough family came, friend came to your home, you had a pocket full of coins at the end of the day.

RP: You did pretty well.

TI: Wealthy, yes.

RP: Kind of along those lines or, particularly in the 1930s you know when prohibition was in effect, people found ways to get alcohol or make it.

TI: Uh-huh.

RP: And I guess the fact that your father and, and other fathers who were fishermen on Terminal Island had a really, it was kind of a rough life out on the boats. But there would be that time during the full moon when they would be in port mending the nets but also kind of kicking up their heels a little bit too.

TI: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: What do you recall about that?

TI: Well, being the kid, things like that never bothered me much. But, yeah, we saw people staggering on the streets but I didn't think it was that bad.

RP: Did your dad make sake or your mom make sake?

TI: Yeah, uh-huh. They made, they had a home brew, uh-huh, sake. I think every family did. But, like I always tell my brothers and sisters, that it was only for their own consumption, you know. They weren't selling it or anything.

RP: What would happen though, during Prohibition, when the word got out that the feds were coming?

TI: Oh, yeah, I recall some time when, when that news got out, why, my mother would dump everything in the toilet and flush it. [Laughs] After all the work she had making sake, why, they had to dump it.

RP: We were just talking about how you obtained housing and how it was organized according to canneries. Can you share with us what that housing was like? What was your home like?

TI: Well, it was, if you can call it, nothing but a barrack. It had, well, walls and not like the barrack we had in camp. Those were, you can see the studs, you know. But these houses at least had walls, interior walls. But, well, one thing that's a little different was most of the houses had ofuro. And it was a square tub that they filled up with hot water. I think that that's the custom of the Japanese people. They'd undress, wash themselves outside, and then they'd get into the ofuro and they soaked themselves real well. And I believe that's one of the enjoyment they had.

RP: So every house had one of those?

TI: Yes, I believe they did, uh-huh. These were company-owned houses but they had the ofuro, uh-huh. And I hadn't seen the American-style tub, you know, until we left Terminal Island.

RP: So how many rooms did you have in your house?

TI: Well, this house of ours had a kitchen, bathroom, and I think about two bedrooms. But this is just half of a house. So the other half had the same amount.

RP: Oh, so there was another family?

TI: Yeah, another family.

RP: Right next to you?

TI: Uh-huh.

RP: And who was that family? Do you remember them?

TI: Pardon?

RP: Do you remember the family that lived next to you?

TI: No. We were there a long time so we had almost the whole house to ourselves. But I think the fishermen or the Japanese people on the whole enjoyed the furo. They just loved to soak them self in that hot, hot water.

RP: How about you?

TI: Yeah, I liked it too.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: So you went through junior high and then graduated to San Pedro High School?

TI: San Pedro High School, yes.

RP: And did you, were you working at all during the summers or did you...

TI: No, I didn't do any work. Well, I take that back. I did work on weekends. My next door neighbor, you mentioned Bunkichi Hayashi, he used to work on weekends too and he'd get me a job working in the fruit stand and those were long hours but just enough to make you happy that you had a little coin in your pocket.

RP: Where was the fruit stand?

TI: Huh?

RP: Where... was the fruit stand in Terminal Island?

TI: No, no, no. We'd have to go outside Terminal Island. There was a time when I worked in San Pedro. And I worked in Wilmington for a while. And I came to Los Angeles for a while too. Now, those were with friends like Bunkichi. He had a car too, you know, he'd take me out with him.

RP: What was he like? What kind of guy was he?

TI: Oh, he was, he was a big, well-built fellow just like his father. But I think he was liked by everyone as far as I know. Because, oh, he was easygoing and he did everything real well. He played high school football and, well, of course, he did kendo too. He was real good at kendo.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: After you graduated from San Pedro High School, I guess it was your father who bought a store?

TI: Uh-huh, yeah. It was owned by some other friend of my father. And this man, I guess, wanted to go back to Japan. And then he had a small store but it was doing okay. And he didn't want to just sell it to anybody. And since he was a friend of my father he thought we could take over and continue with the business.

RP: So you were, you began working in the store I guess with your mom?

TI: Yes, with my mom, uh-huh.

RP: And that was located on Terminal Way?

TI: On Terminal Way.

RP: Right. So, maybe, Tosh, you can talk a little bit about the business section of Terminal Island.

TI: Oh. Well...

RP: What did you have there?

TI: Pardon?

RP: What did you have available?

TI: Oh, well, we had a small meat counter and vegetable and canned goods. That was about it. Now, there were other stores that were much larger, well, they were much larger than ours. And they were there for a longer time so they had connection with the fishing boat owners. And they were supplying most of the food to the ship, for the fishing boat. And of course the families went there too to buy their food. And, I believe there were about six stores like that that catered to the fishing industry.

RP: Do you remember any of their names?

TI: Well, just the last name. There was, there was the OK Market. I forgot who owned it. There's Yamamoto, Murakami, and... there were others. Just slipped my mind.

RP: Did you have other, besides stores, other businesses in that district?

TI: No. No, that's all I did.

RP: Stores?

TI: Store.

RP: What else in the way of services were there for the Terminal Island community? In other words, did you have a doctor on the island?

TI: Oh yes. We had... see, in my mind, I can't name them but I think there were about three MDs and there must have been about same number of dentists and we had two drug stores, pharmacist-owned drug stores.

RP: So you were pretty well contained as far as services on the island?

TI: Uh-huh, yes. We got most of our things right there on the island. But there will be some sale on the mainland and the mothers would tell the kids, "On your way home, stop at a certain store and buy this and bring it home." [Laughs]

RP: While you were, let's see, you were born in 1918 so you were, you know, twenty... in the late '30s you were in your early twenties. How much did you keep up with events outside the Terminal Island community, specifically the world? And did you have any idea that Japan would ever end up in a war with the United States?

TI: No. I never thought Japan would be that dumb, but it happened. We subscribed to the L.A. Times and this Japanese newspaper, Rafu Shimpo. So we had quite a good idea of what was going on.

RP: Did you have a radio too?

TI: Yeah, we had a radio, uh-huh. Shortly before the war, I wonder if we had television? No, I guess not. Yeah, we had radio.

RP: Now your father, having been a veteran in the Japanese army and some pretty strong connections, do you recall his feelings, if any, about what was happening between these two countries?

TI: No. He never spoke about things Japanese. And he's been in this country a long time that I don't think he knew what was really going on in Japan. Except what he read in the newspaper and they're not very concise or, you know, in their reporting.

RP: You, personally, were you affected by any acts of prejudice or discrimination based on your ancestry?

TI: Not that I know of.

RP: Before the war?

TI: No, before the war. Of course we were living right there in the Japanese community so there wasn't too much communication with the American people. Of course when we went to school our friends were Caucasian, but there was nothing that I can speak of.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: Tell us about your experiences on December 7, 1941.

KP: Can we, before we get there, you went to Japan with kendo?

TI: Yes.

KP: How did that come about?

TI: Well, the kendo teacher, he was a dentist, Dr. Fuji, and I guess he had contact with the kendo group in Japan. And it would have been real nice to go to Japan, you know, at that time. Because we were getting kind of strong and we didn't have too much opponents, huh?

KP: So what year was that?

TI: Well, around, I think we went to Japan 1940.

KP: And so when you arrived in Japan, what did you think? You'd heard about it but you'd never been there. What was that like?

TI: Well, I don't know. I wasn't too impressed. [Laughs] It's just another country. They spoke Japanese and naturally that's all they spoke, Japanese, but...

KP: And how were you accepted being an American-born?

TI: Oh, my relatives, they didn't know the difference. When I went to Koza, you know, we stayed there for a while and no...

KP: You said you had problems finding your relatives because of the name?

TI: No.

KP: Did you travel with a group of folks when you went to Japan?

TI: Yes. I think there must have been around fifteen, sixteen of us doing kendo. And of course the schedule was all set up for us so all we did was follow instructions, get ready to go to another city and that was it.

KP: And you also went to a couple other countries.

TI: Yes, we went to Korea and then we went to Manchuria.

KP: And what was that like?

TI: Well, it was no different from Japan.

KP: Do you remember...

TI: Of course the ones that we associated with in Korea, they were Japanese, you know, doing kendo there. And same thing in Manchuria.

RP: Just a follow up question to that. How, was there any differences in the kendo that you'd been taught versus the kendo that you saw in Japan, Manchuria, and Korea?

TI: In Japan? I didn't think there, there was any difference. No, I don't think there was any difference. Of course they were stronger than we were. They were more polished.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: What do you recall about December 7, 1941? Where were you? What were you doing?

TI: What was that date?

RP: December...

TI: Oh, December 7th? December 7th, '41... I guess I must have been at the store.

RP: Do you remember a football game you were attending that day?

TI: Football game? Was there a football game that day?

RP: Uh-huh.

TI: I don't recall.

RP: Well, you got, you shared this story about going out to a football game with a friend and you heard about the news during the game.

TI: Oh, yeah, yeah. We went to some semi-pro football game. I think this was in San Pedro. And we heard about the... uh-huh. And we couldn't, I had the car. We couldn't get on the car ferry to come back to Terminal Island. So we had to go, I think that's the Ford Bridge, all the way over there and get across. Or was it the other way around? We couldn't, they wouldn't let us on the Ford Bridge so we had to come to the ferry I guess. I guess that's what it was. Yeah, they had soldiers there. They wouldn't let anybody on, no cars. So we had to turn around and go to the ferry.

RP: And you had a bit of a difficult time trying to get back to the island with your vehicle.

TI: Yeah, but I guess that's common under that circumstances.

RP: So you came back, you finally got back on the island, I think you said, somewhere around midnight?

TI: Yeah.

RP: And you saw a few cars...

TI: Oh, I take it back. I got out, we came, I came back to San Pedro trying to get on the ferry but they wouldn't take me on the ferry. That's right. So I had to go park my car in a private garage and I thought the best thing for me to do was to go to the city hall, right there close to the ferry landing and when I got there I talked to a couple of I think they were FBI agents. And they escorted me from the city hall to the ferry landing. They put me aboard the ferry. I guess they must have talked to somebody that, "He's okay." So, I got, yeah, I got on the ferry and got home. It was about midnight. And walking home it was quiet and when I got close to my store I saw a couple of cars parked in front of the store, which is unusual because like I told you, very few of us owned a car. But there was this two cars I think there and when I got into my living quarters my father was puttin' an overcoat on. And it was the FBI agent picking him up. If I had been say five or ten minutes later, why, I would have missed him altogether.

RP: Did he have anything to say to you before they took him away?

TI: Well, he said, "This might be a long war so just take care of yourself." That was it.

RP: Can you remember your state of mind when you saw your dad?

TI: No, I didn't think too much about it. Just that he was leaving us. I never knew how long it'd be or what the condition would be after that, but he just said, "Well, it might be a long war, just take care of yourself." That was it.

RP: And why do you think the FBI picked him up?

TI: Well, like we were talking about previously, he was involved with a lot of different organizations on the island. And not as a officer but as a member, and they knew about his army status, you know, in Japan. So I think that was the main reason he was picked up.

RP: And then just shortly after that, most of the fishermen were also taken away.

TI: Oh yeah, uh-huh, yeah.

RP: Do you remember seeing people just taken away or just leaving?

TI: Yeah, I may have seen it, seen some people, but I just stuck close to home, you know, after that, and...

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: So how did life change for you in the time between December 7th and the time that you and the rest of the Terminal Islanders were sort of kicked off the island? What do you...

TI: Well, my store was locked up and we had a Caucasian fellow, I don't know what his status was but he was there to make sure that there was no business. And I think he had several other places he was assigned to because he makes the rounds and come to our place and go around several times a day. And, well, there wasn't any conversation between us. And that was it. But he'd let us get into the store, I think, a couple times during the day to get supplies for the family. So, well, of course the store wasn't open so a lot of the perishables, you know, we tried to take those out and consume it ourselves.

RP: So, did the store ever open again during that time?

TI: No, no it, it never opened.

RP: And that was the same case for all the stores?

TI: I believe so.

RP: Were you subject to a curfew as well?

TI: I believe there was a curfew but I can't remember. Well, there's no place we can go anyway and everything's locked up, and we didn't want to be seen wandering around at night so we just stayed home.

RP: Did you have any thoughts or ideas of about what might happen next?

TI: No. It never came to my mind. Well, we know the war was going on and that was bad but what's beyond the war we never thought, I never thought.

RP: Did the forty-eight hour notice that the navy gave all families on Terminal Island kind of catch you by surprise?

TI: Oh it certainly did. Yeah. I thought that was cruel though, in a way, because where can you go in forty-eight hours? A friend came over and asked me if I could contact some business that had truck, moving business. And I made several calls but they were all busy. They weren't taking anybody else. Naturally, with several hundred families there, there just wasn't any way the moving company could get involved. But we were fortunate that we had this friend in Venice. He owned a truck and he moved all our groceries out of the house but that was about it. The furniture and everything we just had to just leave behind. And we never found out what happened. Oh, did I tell you about the truck? I had a panel truck and I was the only one able to drive it in the family so naturally we got in my Oldsmobile I guess and took off but before -- I was gonna leave the truck there in front of the house -- but a gang of young guys came over and they wanted to know if they could buy the tire off of the truck. I said, "Sure." Somehow they removed the tires, four tires, and then shortly after that another group came and they said can they buy the truck itself. I said, "No, no tires." They said, "Well, we'll get it." So they brought four tires and I sold the body to them. Tires, I sell for ten dollars, four of 'em for ten dollars. And the body I sold for ten dollars. So I sold the whole truck for twenty dollars.

RP: And that was kind of indicative of some of the stories that we've heard about, you know, these junk men coming on the island and --

TI: Oh, yeah. I believe that.

RP: -- roaming around and...

TI: Yeah. So, I can't say I was ahead by twenty dollars but I would have abandoned the truck.

RP: What did you do with the Oldsmobile?

TI: I took the family in it and we went to Venice/Culver City area where our friend had rented a house for us. But I had to eventually get rid of the Oldsmobile when the evacuation order came out. I think I sold it for about a couple hundred dollars if I'm not mistaken. Some car dealers or secondhand dealers.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: Didn't you have a plan to voluntarily relocate but unfortunately it didn't work out?

TI: Yeah, uh-huh. We had planned to go inland but the man that was supposed to lead us, he was picked up by the FBI too. The owner of the nursery, he was supposed to.

RP: Do you remember his name?

TI: Yeah, Masuda was his name.

RP: Masudo?

TI: Masuda. The nursery was called the Venice Boulevard Nursery. And he had a real good business there because he was close to the, several movie theaters, movie MGM and they were his customers.

RP: And do you know where inland you were planning to go?

TI: Well, I think it was around Utah or one of the inland area. Because I don't think they were bothered, if I'm not mistaken. It was just on the West Coast that we were all removed.

RP: So what was that forty hour, forty-eight hours like for you on Terminal... the last forty-eight hours of your life on Terminal Island?

TI: Yeah, well, there wasn't much we could do because we contacted our friend and he said, yeah, he'd help us move out. But the truck would only carry the groceries that was in the house, in the store. And he got rid of those for us too.

RP: And how did you get rid of the food?

TI: Well, there were various... what would you call... I don't know what the name would be. Camp site, you know, Japanese laborers.

RP: Agricultural workers?

TI: Huh?

RP: Agricultural workers?

TI: Yes. They had a shack or whatever. And he went to those places and he got rid of the groceries for us.

RP: Do you remember any Caucasians, Quakers or other groups who came to the island during that time to help families out? Pack things up? Haul things away?

TI: No, I don't think I've heard of any. I personally haven't met any group like that. But there was some farmers, you know, that came with their big truck and they moved out some Japanese families, uh-huh. Yes, forty-eight hours isn't very long. If you had a place to go, you know, forty-eight hours would be just about right. But without any intentions of a certain area, forty-eight hours is just like being kicked out.

RP: So you settled in Venice?

TI: Venice for a while, yes. Until our friend Mr. Masuda got picked up by the FBI.

RP: Were there other families from Terminal Island that came with you to Venice?

TI: Yes, this was a large two story building. And there was three families in there.

RP: The other two families?

TI: Yes, the other two families and us.

RP: Their names?

TI: Gosh... one was Fujimi and I don't recall what the other one was. Fujimi and Asari or...

RP: So this plan fell through when Mr. Masuda was picked up. Then what happened?

TI: So, well, just about that time I got a notice from the... I don't know what the outfit but we got a, I got a notice saying that former Terminal Islanders were being taken to a camp together. So I went to this office and inquired if they'd take my sister and her family along too. But she being non-Terminal Island -- she was living here in Los Angeles -- they said no, they can't do it. So we figured well, why break up the family. So we'll just stay with my older sister and when the order come for her to move out we'll just go together. So that's why instead of going to Manzanar we went to Gila. We ended up in Gila.

RP: And where was your sister living at that time?

TI: I think she lived around 150 and Main, if I'm not mistaken.

RP: Downtown Los Angeles?

TI: Yes, uh-huh. They had a small grocery store there too. She, her husband and his brother, I guess, that they were in the business together.

RP: This was your older sister?

TI: Yes, my older sister.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: And, so you, what do you remember about the, the actual evacuation? The day, the time, the feeling, do you have any memories of that?

TI: No, all I can remember is that that's the government order and we have to get out. There's nothing we can do about it. And just take what we can take and the rest, we'll just have to throw away.

RP: And what do you remember taking with you?

TI: Well, what Mr. Masuda took out of the store was about all and what little we could put in my, in my sedan wasn't much. Just our beddings, you know, the beds and everything else is we left behind.

RP: And did you, you next were sent to the Tulare Assembly Center. And how did you travel there?

TI: We were given a certain date to be at, I forgot where the place was. So I think we hired a man with a truck and that's when they, all of us was transported there to board the train. And, yeah, we went to Tulare.

RP: Did you pick up the train at Union Station?

TI: No, I don't think it was the Union Station. I think it was just a... gosh, I can't even remember where it was but it's not a station, no. It's just a location I would say.

RP: And were there other people as well who were on that train?

TI: Oh yes, uh-huh. Yeah.

RP: A large group.

TI: A large group, uh-huh.

RP: And you had your two suitcases?

TI: Yeah. Yeah, we got to Tulare that night I guess. And I don't even remember how long we stayed in Tulare.

RP: And what was Tulare like for you?

TI: Oh, Tulare was, well... nothing, I don't know if they had the camp site for some other purpose but we were assigned a place there and I don't know whether it was a barbed wire fence around that place but we'd sit outside and the American people would just walk by next to our barrack.

RP: There were... you remember fences around the camp?

TI: I believe there must have been fences, yeah.

RP: You mentioned to me when we talked about Tulare Assembly Center, you said, "We were doing nothing, we had nothing to do."

TI: No, we didn't do anything and...

RP: You just sat around for six months?

TI: Yeah just, just sit around, uh-huh.

RP: Did you at any point in time during that six months feel bitter, angry at being an American citizen and being treated this way?

TI: No, it never came to my mind that as an American citizen we were being treated like that. We were, our folks were from Japan so we figured we were just "excess baggage."

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

RP: So the next move was Gila --

TI: Yes.

RP: -- Gila River. So you're going from growing up right on the water, right on the ocean and you find yourself in the middle of the Arizona desert...

TI: Desert, yeah.

RP: Tell us first what you recall, if anything, about your train trip there.

TI: Well, it was just a regular train trip. We were put aboard a train and I don't even know how we got there or what the route was, but they had buses waiting there. We boarded the bus and we were taken to the camp and assigned a room there.

RP: Do you recall, Tosh, which block you were in?

TI: In Gila? Yeah. Block 63. That, that's the only thing I remember, 63-3-D.

RP: Great.

TI: That's all I remember.

RP: That's, that's a... yeah, how do you ever forget that, you know?

TI: Is that right?

RP: How about Tulare? Do you remember the barrack you were assigned there too?

TI: No, I think, if I'm not mistaken, I think were in a horse stall for a while. And moved out and I don't remember.

RP: What did you have in your room in, in Gila? What do you remember about that room, that space?

TI: Well, it was quite a large room. And there was nothing there except so many bunks I guess. And the inside walls were not in place. And... we had a friend that was, he was doing some kind of purchasing deal and he'd ride this truck to the city and we got a hold of him and we asked him to buy a air conditioner to put on the window. And, you know, a lot of people did the same thing. I think the guy that's selling them made a lot of money because many of the... Gila was so hot and that was a lifesaver you know. We'd place the thing in the window and run a plastic pipe to wet the excelsior or that, you know...

RP: Swamp cooler?

TI: Huh?

RP: Like a swamp cooler?

TI: Yeah. And there was a fan to draw the cool air inside the house, inside the room.

RP: Did many people at Gila have that type of set up?

TI: Yeah, there were many of 'em that had that kind of setup. So, I don't know how much my mother paid for it but that was a lifesaver. But there was no board on the inside, so a lot of spaces between the outside board and Gila was known for its heat and wind. And we had a lot of hot days with sand coming through the boards, you know. What my mother did I thought was pretty smart, she was working in the mess hall and they'd get fruit to serve to the people in that block. So a lot of these apples were wrapped with a thin papers, each one was wrapped. She'd collect all that and bring it home, I mean, bring it to our barrack. And each night all of us would take that paper and stuff it in the cracks so there wouldn't be any wind coming through the cracks. That stopped the sand too.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

RP: This is tape three of a continuing interview with Tosh Izumi. And Tosh, we were discussing some of your experiences at the Gila River camp. First of all there were actually two camps at Gila River.

TI: Camps, yes.

RP: Butte and Canal. Which one were you in?

TI: I was I think in Canal. I think that's the larger of the two, if I'm not mistaken. And that's where the main offices were too for the, not for the workers, but the government workers.

RP: You talked about some of the conditions that you had to deal with there, the hot days --

TI: Yeah.

RP: -- the wind. And how did that experience affect the rest of your family, your mother and the rest of your siblings?

TI: You know, condition like that, you get used to it in a very short time. And I don't know. I didn't think too much about the wind, you know, after a short time. We'd have movies out in the open, and sometime we had wind but we sat through it.

RP: And so besides yourself and your mother, you had your older sister and her husband?

TI: Yes.

RP: And did they have any kids that they also...

TI: God, I don't know if they had one at that time or if this happened after, after we were released. But I had three sisters there and a brother, and myself and my mother.

RP: And your father, who had been picked up, did you ever find out where he ended up?

TI: No, I heard that he was in the, the camp... what's that one? Montana or out that way someplace? I'm not sure.

RP: One of the internment camps?

TI: Uh-huh.

RP: Maybe Fort Lincoln or...

TI: Yeah, I really don't know.

RP: Did you receive any letters from him during the time you were in Gila?

TI: I don't know if we did. And I left camp before he was released to the family so I hadn't seen him in about three or four years. I was in Detroit I guess when he was released.

RP: So did that necessitate you kind of stepping up and filling that role as kind of the head of the household?

TI: No, no. I just thought it was necessitated for, to go to work and you know...

RP: So what did you do at Gila for work?

TI: Gila, I worked in this store that we had in camp. I was kind of a assistant manager in this one store.

RP: That was perfect 'cause you had already had experience in running a store.

TI: Yeah, uh-huh, I guess that's the only reason they hired me.

RP: And so you were assistant manager and what were some of your duties at the store?

TI: Well, most of the duties was sales anyway. And there wasn't too much special duties.

RP: What did you sell in the store?

TI: Well we had foodstuff and we had some clothing and, oh, one of our important connection was Sears Roebuck and Company. Yeah, we had two, I think two girls sitting at the table taking orders for Sears.

RP: They were probably pretty busy weren't they?

TI: Yeah.

RP: Did you order anything from Sears?

TI: I don't think I did.

RP: So it was very much like a general store?

TI: Yes, general store. Yeah, I think they took one barrack and converted that into a store, so it was quite a large, large store.

RP: Yeah, how was your ice cream and soda supply?

TI: [Laughs] I don't know if we had any ice cream in that store. I can't remember. We might have had soda but...

RP: Did you also work at the camouflage net factory in Gila for a short time?

TI: Just a short time, yes. All they did was bring a net, fishing net and they gave a strip of material and we just put the material according to the one that they gave us, you know, we'd have to copy it I guess.

RP: Did you weave the nets... were they suspended up off the ground?

TI: No, it was on the ground and, yeah, and we'd weave, we'd tie one in and we'd weave it, tie the other end. Yeah, but I was there just for a short time though.

RP: And then you graduated to the store?

TI: Yeah.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

RP: What did you do for the social life there? Did you, you said you went to movies.

TI: Yeah, we had movies now and then and I don't know of anything else.

RP: How about dancing? Were you a dancer?

TI: I didn't dance so I don't know a thing about that.

RP: How about girls? Did you date at all?

TI: Well, you know, they were quite free but I just stuck with the fellows, yeah.

RP: Now, most of the Terminal Island community went to Manzanar.

TI: Manzanar, yes.

RP: Were there any other Terminal Islanders that ended up at Gila?

TI: There might have been, yes, but I can't recall who they were.

RP: So you kind of had to make some new friends didn't you?

TI: Oh, yeah.

RP: The store sounded like a good outlet for that.

TI: Yeah. But everybody made friends, especially living in the same block.

RP: Do you remember your block, particularly outside, do you remember gardens or other efforts to sort of improve the block?

TI: I don't remember anything like that. I think they, I think they tried to put in a swimming pool if I'm not mistaken.

RP: In your block?

TI: Yeah, but I don't think it succeeded. I never heard much of it but there was a talk you know.

RP: What do you remember about the food in your mess hall?

TI: Well, I thought the food was good. Food was good and it was ample. Yeah. At least they had a lot of rice. That's our main staple, huh.

RP: Did you ever see any fish at all there?

TI: I... no, I don't remember. They had some fish in the store that, you know, we ran, yeah. I don't know how they ever got those fishes but... I think it was once a week that they sold fish.

RP: Did you play any baseball at Gila?

TI: I tried. But I'm no good at it so it didn't last very long.

RP: Because, boy, Gila was a real, boy, they had some big names in the Japanese American baseball annals.

TI: Oh yeah, uh-huh, I think from what was that, Central California or around...

RP: Fresno or...

TI: Fresno, Guadalupe, yeah. I think Guadalupe had a good team there.

RP: Remember a guy by the name of Zen Omura?

TI: Zen Omura, yeah, he and his son. He had or two sons I think playing for him.

RP: A pretty nice baseball stadium from what I, what I've heard about that.

TI: Gosh, I don't recall how, how.... Zen Omura, he's from around, what, Fresno area, is he? Yeah, I think he was quite a, quite a baseball player. He was organizer I think.

RP: Now your big interest that, well, before your left Terminal Island, was kendo. Was there a, a continuation of kendo in Gila River?

TI: Yeah, they had kendo but that's the one thing you have to have equipment, and I didn't have anything so I just stayed away. You know, you need the armor to, for your body and most of all you need a bamboo sword and that's not easy to get. And it breaks often.

RP: You can't order that from the Sears and Roebuck catalog.

TI: No, I guess not.

RP: Yeah.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

RP: So, you said that you left camp to go to Detroit. Why did you choose Detroit?

TI: Well, I kind of thought... you know, there were more people going to Chicago and I thought some place aside from Chicago would be better. And I figured Detroit being a big automotive city, I might have a chance getting a job in some automotive company. I tried but it was no good. I did get a job with the city, city of Detroit.

RP: Doing what?

TI: Doing what... they assigned me to the, Detroit had electric, what do you call it, not a train but one or two...

KP: The elevators? No.

RP: Trolley?

TI: Trolley? Yeah. They had a trolley I guess they call it. One or two running on tracks there. And my job was to check the trolley wheel, and every morning I'd have to go up and down the area where the, where they have these trolleys parked and check the wheels on them and if it needed new wheels, I'd replace it. And...

RP: Do you remember how much you got paid?

TI: No, I don't remember. But it was just better than just sitting in the office I thought. And sometime I'd help the carpenters. The broken windows, we'd replace windows and things like that.

RP: And when you left Gila, did you go out with anybody or did you just go to Detroit by yourself?

TI: I went to Detroit just by myself.

RP: And did you, how did you deal with your housing situation when you got there? Did you...

TI: There was a house... I can't understand who ran it, but it was for people that left camp you know. And I stayed there for a while until I found my own room.

RP: So there were other people who were leaving camps --

TI: Camp, yeah.

RP: -- going to Detroit.

TI: Uh-huh, yeah. Yeah, that was real convenient.

RP: And you were out in the big, big world. From Terminal Island to Detroit.

TI: Yeah.

RP: So how did you feel about all that?

TI: Oh, I didn't mind it because workin' for the city and working for the railroad, you know, branch, I had a pass. I could go anywhere I'd want to, you know. I did travel quite a bit on the streetcars and buses. And that's a real pretty place too. I was surprised. It's right next to a river. And there's a, I think, park right in the center of the river.

RP: How were you accepted as a Japanese American in that community?

TI: I wouldn't say they had, they held anything against me. I was well accepted I think at work.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

RP: And did you hold any other jobs there before you were, before you went into the military?

TI: Not in Detroit, no. That was the only one job that I had. My, oh, what is that... my board caught up with me. Well, what do they call the...

KP: Draft board?

TI: Draft board, yeah. You know, I'd report every time I change of address I'd report. My draft board was in Wilmington. And they caught up with me and they said, "Well, you're gonna be drafted on a certain day in Detroit." So I said, I thought, well, if I'm gonna be drafted I'll volunteer. That's what I did.

RP: And where did you go from Detroit?

TI: Well, I went to, I think it was South Carolina someplace, camp there, had my basic training there. And I talked to my commanding officer. I said, "I am quite bilingual." I said if he could kind of look into it, see if I could go to Japan or some language school so I could go to Japan. And he did look into it. First thing I know I got a ticket to go to New Jersey, some outfit there. Then they sent me to Monterey, there was a language school there. I think it's still in existence isn't it? And...

RP: And you graduated there with flying colors.

TI: Yeah, I think I got it in about two or three months I was out.

RP: Now, had the war ended by then or...

TI: Yeah, the war had ended by then, uh-huh.

RP: And so you were on your way to Japan as part of the occupation forces.

TI: Yeah, right.

RP: And you shared your first experience with us, as part of MacArthur's, MacArthur's headquarters translating the newspapers.

TI: Uh-huh, yeah.

RP: And then you were assigned to some war criminals, war criminal trials.

TI: War criminal trials, yeah.

RP: Can you tell us a little bit more about that? I mean, I guess the war criminals were graded according to their...

TI: Yeah, you know, I could never understand why they were being tried to begin with. I don't know, I can't even remember what the crimes were. But we were assigned... there were others assigned at the trial too. There would be about four or five sittin' around a table and I'd be one of the translators there. And we didn't do any translating. There was a main translator that did all the translating but these Japanese soldiers, they all had a notebook and they're taking notes. I don't know why. But taking notes and writing this and that. And they'd come to some place where they couldn't understand what the translation was. So, they'd ask me and I'd tell 'em what the thing was. And that, that's my translation work there.

RP: That's how it worked.

TI: Uh-huh.

RP: And did they, did the prisoners ever speak to you personally?

TI: Oh, yeah, well, we sat around a table. But they were so busy taking notes. Very seldom that they spoke to me.

RP: Were they surprised to see Japanese Americans in uniform?

TI: No, I don't think they were surprised in any way. I think they were glad in a sense.

RP: When we talked a while back, this was probably over a year ago, you mentioned that one of the cases involved Japanese sailors who had bayoneted several Americans from a B-29 shot down near Okinawa. The other case involved professors and doctors who were trying to find a substitute for blood for transfusions and they took American prisoners were, and were experimenting with seawater as a substitute for blood.

TI: Yeah, maybe I did mention something like that. Yeah. But they had no supplies there and I believe they were not extensively but maybe one or two American soldiers were tested with seawater.

RP: Now did you actually sit in on their trials as well?

TI: Well, these came up but not the seawater trial itself. What was that other one?

RP: The other one involved ...

TI: Oh, involved bayoneting, bayoneting a solider, yeah. And the main translation was if the Japanese that had taken these American prisoners, if they had used their gun and shot them, said, it wouldn't be any trial here. By using the bayonet on the prisoners was a crime. I think that that was the conclusion. You could shoot an enemy but you can't bayonet him. And even this was not done on their own. They were ordered to do it by their superior. So, it's hard.

RP: So the outcome of the, of that particular trial was that...

TI: They were given the death sentence. But I never heard whether the death sentence was... they were executed that way.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

RP: How long were you in Japan, Tosh?

TI: I think I was in Japan, gosh... more than a year. But those were the only, only two jobs I had, one translating and the other one war crimes trial.

RP: And can you share with us some of your impressions of postwar Japan?

TI: You mean Japan at that time? Oh, well, all I can say is I know they were talking behind our back, you know, about American soldiers this and that. But they'd never come out and tell us anything. So, I don't know what they felt especially of Japanese American translators, interpreters.

RP: How about the state of the...

KP: Can I... you'd been to Japan in 1940.

TI: Yes.

KP: And now you're back after the war.

TI: Yeah.

KP: Did the country look different? What was the difference between what you'd seen in '40 and what you saw in...

TI: Gosh, I... oh, I can't tell the difference, the way things were going. But they don't come out and say what they want to say like we do it here in the United States. I think they just keep their mouths shut.

RP: One of the struggles that Japanese people had after the war and during the occupation was just trying to find food and a black market existed. You, do you recall any of that?

TI: See, I'm not too familiar with the black market or anything like that. But, no, I can't say anything about black market because we never got in with the Japanese people. Even on the street they'd walk on one side and we'd walk on the other side. And what they felt about Japanese Americans being over there might have been something else but they never came out and told us.

RP: Did you get a chance to go down and visit Koza?

TI: Yes, uh-huh. Yeah.

RP: Had they'd been a, had that part of the country been affected by the war or the bombing that took place?

TI: No, I don't think there was any bombing around there, being in, being just a fishing village. But being on the ocean, I don't know. They may have had something. Not Koza itself but maybe some other close by cities.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

RP: You returned back to the United States and where did you first come to when you came back from Japan?

TI: Oh, from Japan? Where were we? Gosh, I can't remember. Yeah, I can't remember where I went to being discharged from the army.

RP: Did you return back to Terminal Island at all?

TI: Oh no, no. I'd been there several times but... I guess you've heard of the memorial monument we have there? I've been there several times. But aside from that I don't remember going to Terminal Island.

RP: After the war?

TI: After the war, yes.

RP: And did you hear what, what happened on the island?

TI: Well, yes, just briefly. I don't know who I talked to but I asked what happened to the houses that we had there. Evidently the navy destroyed everything and there's not a building standing there, as far as I know.

RP: And so what did you, what did you get involved in once you came back? Did you look for a trade or go to school or...

TI: What happened... gosh, I don't know. That's a long time ago. Well, I went to a trade school, yes. I was walking down the street one time and a Caucasian guy gave me a paper about tile-setting. And I thought, well, I thought I'd look into that and I did. I got a job right away.

RP: And you stayed in that business for a while.

TI: Oh, yeah. Uh-huh.

RP: Did you start your own business?

TI: No. I didn't have that kind of nerve but last year I think it was, I got a letter from the, my union saying that I'd been a member almost thirty years -- no, fifty years. So, yeah, so this is March isn't it? March, yeah, it's fifty, my fiftieth year with the union. So I said, well, are my dues still continuing? And she said no. I don't have to pay anymore dues.

RP: Well, great. So you're a lifetime member.

TI: Lifetime member.

RP: Wow. And where did you eventually settle? In the Los Angeles area?

TI: Yeah, uh-huh. I don't know how we ever found that house that we're living in right now. But that area at one time had a large Japanese population, the Crenshaw area. And, well, before the war I guess they did have a lot of Japanese living there. But after the war it was a big Japanese area. And, but what had happened was the kids go to high school. They graduate from high school, go to college. And they get a job not in this area but it'll be elsewhere, maybe San Diego, maybe in another state. And the parents would follow the kids so there's hardly any... well, just very little Japanese living there in the Crenshaw area now. We had a lot of Japanese stores, food store. But there's not a single food store there. So we'd have to come into downtown Los Angeles or go to Gardena.

RP: Tosh, I just wanted to return to your father for a moment. He eventually was released from the internment camp, went back to Gila. Did you see him again before you went overseas?

TI: Yes, I saw him... I think I saw him but I can't be positive.

RP: Did he ever...

TI: He, they left camp and they settled in... what is that place in... there's a large community right now.

RP: Outside of California?

TI: Yeah, outside California.

RP: Colorado?

TI: Colorado I think.

RP: They settled there?

TI: I think they did. And then the trend was to come to Los Angeles so they came to Los Angeles.

RP: Did you ever ask your father about what went, what happened to him at the camp, internment camp?

TI: No, he wouldn't say anything. Yeah, it wasn't that, well, just say terrible, you know. They weren't beat up or they weren't, you know, any such thing physically.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

RP: Then you grew up in a pretty vibrant community in Terminal Island which no longer existed after the war but then you and a number of other Islanders chose to remember that community by establishing an association and can you tell us, talk a little bit about getting people together to set up a community and a remembrance of Terminal Island?

TI: Yeah. Well, we had this Terminal Islanders, I guess you'd call it a club or a group and we'd meet once a year, or, no, I take it back. We'd meet twice a year, once in January for our January party and then second time would be in June. We have our Terminal Islanders picnic. And the turnout's real good. And I have about, I think I have between 450 and 500 names of people that had something to do with Terminal Island. And I'd mail them a membership request which is only ten dollars a year, you know. And well, most of 'em will send in their ten dollars but still we have some that are, just ignore us completely. But we have, we do have a turnout of about hundred and fifty during the New Year's party, and a much larger turnout for the picnic.

RP: What do you do during the picnic?

TI: Well, picnic, well, it's not much, not much we can do. We put up a stand and anybody that wanted to sing, why, they give them a chance to sing.

RP: And this organization's been going on for quite a while.

TI: Oh yes, uh-huh.

RP: Almost as long as you've been in the union.

TI: Not quite. I think, if I'm not mistaken, Yuki's been president for about thirty-five years. And we, we did have another president before him, so...

RP: And you're the vice president?

TI: Well, vice president in name only. But I collect money, the membership dues.

RP: And Terminal Island, you talk to people, do they know what you're talking about when you mention, "I grew up in Terminal Island"? Is there still people who really don't know where that is?

TI: Oh, we have some that don't care, yeah. And ones that do associate with us at picnic or New Year's party, why, they're strong Terminal Islanders. Of course, their children aren't Terminal Islanders anymore. They don't know what it was like in Terminal Island so they just stay away, which is a shame.

RP: And how would you, how do you remember Terminal Island?

TI: Terminal Island?

RP: You look back from the time that you spent there to now.

TI: Well, personally, I think Terminal Island was a real good place to live. And I kind of hope we had something like that even now. Yeah, it was real close and, you know, if you're a kid and say you're playing with your friend and if it's lunchtime or dinnertime, you were always invited to stay for, stay for meal. That's something that never happens nowadays.

RP: You're part of a family?

TI: Uh-huh.

RP: Other kids remember kind of a freedom that they had too to just wander about without parents worrying about where they were.

TI: Yeah, that's true, too.

RP: Is that something you experienced too?

TI: Yes.

RP: And what about the, what about your camp experience? How do you reflect on that? Do you see it differently now than you saw it when you were, when you were in the camp? Have your attitudes changed about the treatment that you received?

TI: Well, I don't know. I don't think I was treated badly in camp but it's just the idea that we were citizen and put into camp that's not, not very good. But aside from that, I have nothing against the camp. Maybe the government had to do it that way.

RP: One more question and that relates to after your father was picked up by the FBI You, he was held I think on the island for a while.

TI: He may have been. I think he may have been in the prison that they had there on the island. I'm not sure. But I know some people were there. He may have been sent to Los Angeles, some prison in Los Angeles. That I don't know either.

RP: Do you recall being hired to do some translation for some of those Isseis there?

TI: No, not at that time.

RP: Oh, okay.

TI: Not at that time.

RP: Was there any opportunity in Gila River to use your bilingual skills to help out a situation?

TI: In Gila? No, I can't think of any.

RP: Kirk, do you have any additional questions? Tosh, do you have any other stories that you don't feel we've gotten to that you want to...

TI: Oh, I don't know.

RP: Okay. Well, thank you very much.

TI: Well, don't thank me. I didn't have too much clear information to give you but --

RP: Well, we thank you.

TI: -- but that's the best of my ability.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.