Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Toshio Inahara Interview
Narrator: Toshio Inahara
Interviewer: Dane Fujimoto
Date: February 3, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-itoshio-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

DF: How did your family avoid internment camps during the war?

TI: Well, as I mentioned, shortly after I was turned down to join the Air Force, I came into Portland daily to the federal office building and applied for a travel permit. And as I say, you had to have a point of destination that, where you could go to so that you would not be a ward of anybody or any government organization. And fortunately, they issued a few travel permits; otherwise, you couldn't move. So we were one of the very fortunate families that were able to pick up and move and be independent. Of course, Minidoka is not too far, you know, from Ontario, and we went to visit friends there quite often. And of course, we would take them fresh fruits which was a real treat for them.

DF: Were you asked often to show your permit to the authorities?

TI: No. No one ever checked on that. We had a permit, but no one ever checked on our legitimacy to travel. Although, I did have one event which we traveled without a permit, and this happened I think in January or February 1942. We had just moved into this new home in Hillsboro, and we had to have some furniture. And at the same time, the Iwasaki family had also built a home in Hillsboro. So Arthur Iwasaki and myself decided that we would go to Seattle to buy some furniture. So Art and I drove up to Seattle unannounced. I thought we'd go the back route, and, so we did get our furniture. And on the way back, I think we made a mistake. We stopped in Tenino which is off the main highway, and we went into a restaurant for lunch. And someone turned us in, and we were accosted by the local police. They questioned us quite extensively, and I thought surely we would end up in jail. But fortunately, we were able to come home, and that was you might say a narrow escape. I had another event that, where I did end up in jail. This was in Payette, Idaho. We had been, we had a farm established, and my brother was raising chickens for our own use of course, and he would get the chicks in the spring and raise them for the eggs and for the chicken itself. We also had, were raising pigs. And I happened to go over across the river to Idaho to Payette to some farm there to pick up a piglet. And I had the little pig on the back of the truck, and I was coming back through town of Payette. And all of a sudden, I was picked up by the police. And you know, I was going through a residential area and driving as I normally would, and he cited me for speeding and took me to the police station, and he wouldn't issue me a ticket. He decided that he was going to put me in jail. So I ended up in jail that night, and I had to call my brother to come over and get the truck and get the pig. Any rate, I spent the night in jail, so I have a criminal record.

DF: Will you describe visiting Minidoka?

TI: Yes. We had, of course, many friends over there from Portland, and we were quite surprised to see the facilities. Of course, you had to go through the gates to be checked out, they look through your car, see what you had. It was mainly food items. But of course, you couldn't stay there overnight. It was just a one day visit, and you would bring in fresh fruits and vegetables. And I don't know what else, but we would get together, maybe have a little meal, saw some of the facilities. We saw the kitchens that they, you know, they had, the dining areas. The stores that they had and the clinics and the little hospital. We also noticed the watchtowers that they had which were staffed with soldiers. The thing that really stays on my mind is that how muddy the road traveled was so, within the camp was so muddy, you could hardly walk around.

DF: So you were able to come and go to the camps and not be questioned?

TI: Yes. We were free to do that. We visited as often as we could.

DF: And who were you visiting?

TI: My college roommate, the Yoshitomis. Jack Yoshitomi was my college roommate, and Harry Fukuda who was there at the same year I was. Also, like Chuck Shimomura, I don't know if you know the family. He was an upper classman when I was going to the University of Oregon. We would, a group of us would always get together whenever my mother would send us a package, and she would send sushi and onigiri and things like that. We would have a get together and have a feast. I met, I remember meeting Sam Naito down there and George Azumano and Ise Inazuka. There were several others. I remember Hiroshi Shishido who was from Salem, he was there. We would, occasionally, we would go over to Corvallis to see people over there, the students.

DF: What do you know about Portland's Japantown or the Japantown in Tacoma? What happened after the war to the Japantown?

TI: Well you know, we lived out in the country. You know, Forest Grove and beyond is like thirty miles. Helvetia is like twenty-five miles. And you know, we seldom came to Portland, and it was a big event for us to come to the big city, and so I remember parts of the Japantown but not much in detail. I can remember once, one time we came in, there was a Japanese restaurant, and I think that was the first time I'd ever eaten in a Japanese restaurant, and I must have been about, I was a teenager then. I could remember going to a tailor shop in Japantown. This happened just the year that I entered the University of Oregon. My parents had thought that I need to have a suit in order to go to the university, so they had a tailor-made suit for me. I can recall it was oxford gray, double breasted, my first suit. But other than that, I don't remember too much about Japantown.


TI: I must say that I have had a wonderful life, and I had a satisfying career in my chosen field. But as I go through life more and more, I think about this particular idea. I've come to the conclusion that what one does with his life is perhaps satisfying to yourself, but the most important thing that you can do is to educate your children and leave a responsible citizen in this world, and this should be one's goal. What you accomplish in life really isn't that important. What you leave behind, I think, is the greater importance, and I have given this thought to my children. There is a saying that one generation stands upon the shoulder of the next to advance the cause of humanity, and I think this is the important accomplishment in a person's life.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.