2024 Los Angeles DOR salutes WWII resisters

Tak Hoshizaki. photo by Japanese American National Museum and Tsuneo Takasugi

LOS ANGELES — The 2024 Day of Remembrance, held Feb. 17 at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, commemorated the signing of Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. That executive order authorized the U.S. military to forcibly remove all residents of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast and set into motion their incarceration into U.S. concentration camps during World War II.

This year’s theme, “Rooted in Resistance: Fighting for Justice During World War II,” reinforced the importance of standing up for justice in times of great moral crisis. From the draft resisters and the “No-No Boys” to those who protested through quiet hunger strikes or chanting crowds, resistance has taken many forms since World War II.

The 272 attendees at this year’s program heard testimony from those who remember and honor these stories — Diana Tsuchida, Kyoko Oda, Tak Hoshizaki and Soji Kashiwagi.

Tom Tsuchida, a Kibei born in Loomis, Calif. and reared in Japan, was living in San Francisco in April 1942 when he was rounded up and sent to Santa Anita, and then to Topaz (Central Utah), in October 1942 after he had resisted his incarceration. He had replied “no-no” to the so-called loyalty questionnaire, his granddaughter Diana Tsuchida said. Tsuchida was then sent to Leupp Isolation Center, Ariz., then to Tule Lake in Northern California.

Tatsuo Inouye kept a wartime journal about his incarceration experience, and based upon that journal, his daughter Kyoko Oda published the book entitled “Tule Lake Stockade Diary.” Inouye, a fourth-degree judo master, poet and businessman, and his wife Yuriko and their two daughters were incarcerated at the War Relocation Authority concentration camp at Poston, Ariz. and then were transferred to Topaz.

Her father “couldn’t stand having his family locked up,” and answered “no-no” to the government’s so-called loyalty questionnaire, Oda explained. He was then transferred to a higher security camp at Tule Lake Segregation Center, located near the Oregon border in Northern California for his resistance. Oda said that the “unapologetically Kibei” resister had testified in Japanese at the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians hearings. “My father never shied away from talking about the camps. He spoke without fear. He spoke up in Japanese. He was extraordinary,” Oda added. “We can no longer remain silent.”

Takashi (Tak) Hoshizaki, who was born in 1925 in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, was imprisoned at Heart Mountain in Wyoming. At that camp, he met resister Kiyoshi Okamoto and joined his Fair Play Committee, which resisted the imprisonment of the Japanese Americans and the military draft of Nisei while their community and families were incarcerated. He was one of the 63 Nisei who resisted, protested and were arrested, convicted and sentenced to three years at the federal penitentiary in McNeil Island, Wash. Hoshizaki was released in 1946 after two years, and completed his education at L.A. City College and the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1953, Hoshizaki received a draft notice and served two years as a medic in the U.S. Army.

Hiroshi Kashiwagi, a playwright, poet and actor who was labeled a troublemaker by authorities, wore a “weird” hat after the war as a “Nisei repellant” to keep other Nisei from asking him where he was incarcerated, and to avoid negative comments about being a “No-No” protester, according to his son Soji Kashiwagi, who wore his dad’s “weird” hat as he spoke.

“By standing up and protesting for civil rights, my dad doesn’t need the hat any more, and neither do I,” Kashiwagi stated. “My father wasn’t disloyal. He said ‘no’ because he had the right to do so.”

Late Activists Honored
The 2024 Day of Remembrance also posthumously honored Martha Nakagawa, Min Tonai and Alan Nishio, former community members who each fought for justice in his or her own way.
Minoru (Min) Tonai, who was imprisoned at Amache concentration camp in Colorado, was “passionate” in talking about the camps, according to his son, John Tonai. The late Nisei’s son learned from his father about the camps while growing up, and he recalled how angry his father was about his wartime incarceration. “He was devoted to educating people about the camps, and helped establish the Amache Historical Preservation Society.”

Min Tonai was active in the Japanese American community for years after the war, serving on the board of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo, being active in the Redress Movement and serving as president of the Terminal Islanders organization.

Martha Nakagawa wrote extensively in various Nikkei publications about the Nisei draft resisters. Naomi Hirahara, her former editor at the Rafu Shimpo, eulogized her, stating, “You didn’t care who you pissed off … The draft resisters were reviled until you came along and told their story. Our biggest sorrow is that we want and need more of you.”

Alan Nishio, who was born at the Manzanar, Calif. concentration camp in Aug. 9, 1945, learned about the concentration camps when he started college, revealed his grandson, Evan Lockwood, who added that Nishio, an activist for reparations and civil rights, served as long-time chair of the National Coalition for Redress / Reparations. When Nishio was diagnosed with terminal cancer, his doctor gave him five years to live; but he lived another 17 years, his grandson revealed. “He was a dying man teaching us how to live … He loved hearing about people, and he gave lectures about the camps … He was the role model in my life.”

Lessons to be Learned
Kathy Masaoka of NCRR, commented to Nichi Bei News by e-mail that the 2024 Day of Remembrance “was an opportunity to constantly learn from our history and to take action …  It was focused on resistance. I really appreciated hearing a young woman speak about her Kibei grandfather’s act of resistance. I regret that we do not know more about them and how they were maligned by many because of their Japanese-ness, yet kept their integrity.”

Most people still don’t know much about the wartime imprisonment of Nikkei, Masaoka stated. But programs like DOR “at least give the younger people and others a chance to learn about the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans … As long as we live in a country that continues to use prisons as a way to control people, especially Brown and Black people, to maintain white supremacy, the effects of the camps continue … This country has not reckoned with the fact that racism is at its root and is imbedded in its institutions which justified the camps, and prevented people from owning land and thriving.”

This country has not acknowledged nor given reparations for the “tremendous wealth that was built on the labor and bodies of Black people and the stealing of the land and destruction of the Indigenous people,” she added. “Unfortunately, it is not in the best interests of those in control of the institutions to teach true histories or to promote real equality and respect for all people.”

Other groups of people–particularly non-whites, Muslims and immigrants — could be subjected to the same kind of extreme treatment in the future, she pointed out, “We have seen it happen, time and again, and will continue until we undo systemic racism.”

Need for Vigilance
Heart Mountain resister Hoshizaki stated in an e-mail to Nichi Bei News about the meaning of the Day of Remembrance: “It brings up the need to be vigilant and fight back the wrong-doings by government officials.”
Recalling his incarceration experience, Hoshizaki said he and other protesters “resisted by not going to physical exam for the military draft … We did not encounter any real problems while in camp. And I graduated high school in the first graduation at Heart Mountain.”

Reflecting on the lasting negative effect of the incarceration on the Japanese American community, Hoshizaki said, “For some families, the incarceration hit them hard. There were suicides, loss of family fortunes, and the loss of work … But I think in general, the Japanese Americans recovered and did well.”

The U.S. government, as well as the American public “have not learned the lessons from their mistreatment of Japanese Americans and other minorities,” Hoshizaki stated. “No, the government and its officials … seem not to read history. Younger Americans seem not as racist now as people were in 1942 … but the older ones still have their prejudices.”

Go For Broke National Education Center, Japanese American Citizens League—Pacific Southwest District, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo Service Center, Manzanar Committee, Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress, Nikkei Progressives, OCA—Greater Los Angeles and Progressive Asian Network for Action organized the 2024 Los Angeles Day of Remembrance.

One response to “2024 Los Angeles DOR salutes WWII resisters”

  1. R N Zinn Avatar
    R N Zinn

    There is a world of difference between a concentration camp and an internment camp. No desperate Japanese threw themselves onto electrified barbed wire to end their misery because there was no lethal fence installed. They were not worked or starved to death, used for medical experiments, summarily executed or sexually abused. And of course, no gas chambers followed by cremation.
    Was it wrong, of course as we have since learned and no fifth column.
    Wrong by any measure but incorrectly compared to the Nazi camps. I don’t believe they arrived in overcrowded freight cars with no food or water and deaths in those cars. Call them out for what they were but don’t invoke the horrors of a Nazi regime.

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