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Japanese American Genealogy | Mother's side of family | Father's side of family | Parents | September 2005 Visit | February 2006 Visit | October 2007 Visit | July-August 2008 Visit | May 2009 Visit | May 2010 Visit | December 2010 Visit | December 2011 Visit | October 2013 Visit | October 2014 Visit | March/April 2015 Visit | February/March 2017 Visit | January 2018 Visit | October 2018 Visit | September 2019 Visit | New Generation | Internment


Japanese American Genealogy

Issei: A generation of Japanese who left Japan starting in the late 1800's to come to the United States. All of my grandparents are issei.
Nisei: Second generation of Japanese-Americans living in the United States; descendants of the Issei. Both of my parents are nisei.
Sansei: Third generation of Japanese-Americans living in the United States; descendants of the Nisei. I am a sansei.  

Mother's side of family

Grandma on mother's side of family

Mary Tomomi
My mother's mother was born in Japan on January 15, 1895.  She emigrated to the United States and gave birth to 9 children with her husband John Shinji.  Mary Tomomi passed away on July 5, 1977.
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Grandpa on mother's side of family, his brother, and his father

Grandpa on mother's side of family

John Shinji
My mother's father was born in Onjuku, Chiba-Ken, Japan on January 5, 1897.  He moved to the United States with his younger brother Riichi.  Brother Ichiji remained in Japan. In the first photo John Shinji appears on the left with Riichi on the right. Their father is in the middle.

John Shinji (second photo) worked in the farming industry in Sacramento, California growing walnuts, grapes, and strawberries.  He passed away on November 9, 1984.

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Mother's family in 1940

My mother's family, 1940
Shown left to right in front: Grandpa John Shinji, Aunt Kiyo, Uncle Steve, Uncle Don, Uncle Ronald, Uncle George, Aunt Kay, Uncle Pete, and Mom (Marian).
Shown left to right in back: Uncle David (being held) and Grandma Mary Tomomi.

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Mother's family in 1948

My mother's family, 1948
Now that we live in the digital age, photos are commonplace. But back in 1948, they were a thing to be cherished.
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Saki's mother's family all grown up

My mother's family, May 1986
See if you can pick out who's who from the 1940 picture above. From left to right and back to front are Uncle George, Aunt Kay, Uncle Steve, Mom (Marian), Uncle Ronald, Uncle Pete, Aunt Kiyo, Uncle Don, and Uncle David (on the far right).
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Cousin Paul and me in the treehouse

Treehouse at the farm
We grandkids spent some of our time on the farm in the treehouse which was built on one of the walnut trees near the house. In this photo (unknown date), I am standing with cousin Paul.
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Uncle Steve, December 1986

New Year's Eve 1986
I never became as good a gambler as Dad but I did manage to surpass him in Chess.  I don't know if he's winning here or not but one thing is certain...he's out to beat Cousin Scott (right).  Uncle Steve appears in the center.  He's thinking, "Go for broke!" Regrettably, Uncle Steve passed away on December 19, 2000.  An avid golfer, a World War II veteran of the 442nd Army Regiment, and a loving uncle, he is missed by all.
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My mother's siblings
This photo was taken on August 14, 1999. From left to right are Uncle Ronald, Aunt Kay, Uncle Steve, Uncle George, Uncle David, Aunt Kiyo, Mom, and Uncle Don.
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Mostly my mother's in-laws
This photo was also taken on August 14, 1999. From left to right are Uncle Ed, Leland, Cousin Jodi, Aunt Audrey, Aunt Shirley, Aunt Bonnie, Aunt Trudy, and Dad.
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Father's side of family

Grandma on father's side of family

Grandma on father's side of family

My father's mother was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1898.  She had 11 brothers, most of whom died in the war between Japan and China.  Sakuyo left Japan to live in Folsom, California with her husband (my grandfather, shown in second photo).  After a divorce, she married Mitsutaro Kawamoto. She passed away July 29, 1956.
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Grandpa on father's side of family

Grandpa on father's side of family

My father's father, was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1887.  He emigrated to Folsom, California with his wife and worked in the farming industry.  He passed away in 1953.
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Marian was born in 1934 in Sacramento, California.  She grew up on various farms in the west and mid-west.  She spent much of her life as a California state employee.  She enjoys spending time in the gym and ballroom dancing.

Kay was born in 1928 in Folsom, California.  He held many jobs including bus driver, florist, and locksmith but he spent most of his career as a groundskeeper.  Kay also served in the Army during the Korean War.  He enjoys spending time in the gym, gardening, and golfing.  He enjoys watching football, cheering for the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Dad with Tommy Kono, 1992

Dad with Tommy Kono, 1992
On the left is Tommy Kono:

1954 Mr. World
1955, 1957, and 1961 Mr. Universe
Holds 26 world records in weightlifting in 4 weight classes
Holds 7 Olympic records in weightlifting, 2 time Olympic champion
Holds 8 Pan American Games records, 3 time Pan American champion

This picture was taken in 1992 at the Tule Lake Relocation Camp reunion.  Tule Lake is a dried up lake to where many Japanese Americans were relocated during World War II.  This is where Dad and Tommy met.  For more information about Tommy Kono and Olympic lifting, check out "Weightlifting, Olympic Style" by Tommy Kono.
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Saki's parents, 1996

January 1, 1996
With both parents retired, they have plenty of time to relax and spend time together at home.
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Family in Sydney, Australia, November 29, 2002

November 29, 2002
Just enjoying a fine meal at the Waterfront Restaurant in Sydney, Australia.
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Mom at Mesa Verde National Park, May 22, 2002

May 22, 2002
Here we see Mom climbing out of a hole at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. This hole is actually a doorway for a cliff dwelling made by the now extinct Anasazi Indians.
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Dad at Dead Horse National Park viewing the Colorado River, May 20, 2002

May 20, 2002
If I didn't know better, I'd swear that a small picture of Dad was pasted on a postcard. Nope, this is the real thing. Isn't it amazing what the Colorado River can do if given a few million years? The result: Dead Horse National Park in Utah.

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Parents at Buddhist Church, June 2, 2007

June 2, 2007
My parents at the Sacramento Buddhist Church.

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September 2005 Visit

Parents at Smith Island on tour boat with crab pots behind, September 13, 2005

My parents visited me from the night of Saturday, September 10 to the morning of Saturday, September 17, 2005. They visit me every other year and I visit them every on years they do not visit me. This was their third visit. Having shown them many of the more popular tourist attractions close to home (i.e. Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Annapolis), I took them further away to see a different side of Maryland. At left is a photo of them at Smith Island with crab pots behind.
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Cheetah at National Zoo

Panda at National Zoo

National Zoo Day, Sunday, September 11
Sande drove us to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park (National Zoo) in Washington D.C. where we saw a multitude of different animals. While the cheetah was Sande's favorite, the panda bear seemed to attract the most attention.

Afterwards, we stopped for ice cream at York Castle, 9324 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910, phone: 301-589-1616.

We ended the day by grilling buffalo burgers for dinner.

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Private boat tour with Spider's Explorer with route 175 bridge behind

Looking west at the Mansion House Bed and Breakfast just outside of Snow Hill

Chincoteague Island Day, Monday, September 12
We started the day at the crack of dawn, driving for about 3.75 hours to Chincoteague Island on the eastern shore of Virginia. We ate lunch at Captain Fish's Restaurant on Main Street, south of the route 175 bridge and just north of the Coast Guard. Great food for a good price with a waterfront view.

Next, we toured the Refuge Waterfowl Museum. I bought lots of shells.

We ended the day at Chincoteague Island with a fantastic private pontoon boat tour with Spider's Explorer on 3801 Main Street, south of the route 175 bridge, between the Coast Guard and Anchor Inn, phone: 757-990-4242. Captain Spider Fleming of Spider's Explorer took us to see the ponies of Assateague Island and explained the island like only a native could. We toured Chincoteague Channel and Assateague Channel, then saw the Assateague Lighthouse. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly seeing a school of about 30 bottlenose dolphin just south of the route 175 bridge in the Chincoteague Channel. Swimming south just after high tide, they passed right by the boat, getting as close as 6 feet at times. The first photo on the left shows us on Spider's boat with the route 175 bridge behind. Shoulda worn my sunglasses.

Leaving Chincoteague Island, we drove about an hour to Snow Hill, Maryland. We stopped for dinner at the Lost Pelican on the east side of business route 113 just north of route 365 (near the McDonalds sign). Though it appears to be just a hole in the wall, they serve a good meal at a great price. Can't go wrong with the club sandwich.

We spent the evening at the Mansion House bed and breakfast just east of Snow Hill, overlooking the Chincoteague Bay. See second photo on left. Though it was a bed and breakfast, it often felt like we were staying in a museum since so much of the decor reflected the time period from which the house was built, 1835. Just before dusk, we went for a short walk along the Chincoteague Bay.

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Looking west on Pawpaw Creek from Bayside Road

Sign at Ewell, Smith Island

Reading Spider on Smith Island

Crisfield Day, Tuesday, September 13
After a good night's sleep, I awoke early and went for a walk at dawn near Pawpaw Creek, shown at the first photo at left. A little later, Mom joined me on the pier and we saw several needle fish which look much like small gar. Later, we were all served breakfast by Carol and George, owners of the Mansion House.

We drove about an hour to Crisfield, Maryland where we walked through the downtown area then went for a boat tour with Smith Island Cruises to Ewell, Smith Island, which lies 13 miles west of Crisfield.

On Smith Island we ate at the Bayside Inn and learned what a peeler is. The island is known for having roots in the crabbing industry. As shown in the second photo at left, there is some tension between the crabbers and some of the environmentalists.

We stopped at the Smith Island Center and toured their museum.

Touring Ewell on foot, we found a Writing Spider (Argiope aurantia) at the Middleton House, now operated as an interpretive center and headquarters for the Martin National Wildlife Refuge by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service. I've never seen a spider in the wild as large as the Writing Spider. It was about 4 inches from tip to tip. See third photo at left.

After returning to Crisfield, we drove about 2.25 hours to Saint Michaels, Maryland where we checked into the Bay Cottage bed and breakfast which overlooks Long Haul Creek just off the Miles River, north of the downtown area. We stayed in the Twilight Suite which is in a building that was once a hunting lodge.

We ended the day with dinner at Saint Michaels Crab and Steak House at the Saint Michaels Marina.

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Kay, Jackie, Bob, and Marian in front of the Bay Cottage bed and breakfast

Parents at the Hooper Strait Lighthouse at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in Saint Michaels

Saint Michaels Day, Wednesday, September 14
We began the day with a quick drive to Tilghman Island.

Next, we ate a Bay Cottage breakfast and engaged in conversation with other guests and its owners, Bob and Jackie. I suppose what I like most about staying at a bed and breakfast is being able to talk to the owners about the local area, restaurants at which to dine, sites to visit, and most importantly, places from which I can launch a kayak. The first photo at left, shows (from left to right), Kay (Dad), Jackie, Marian (Mom), and Bob.

We then spent much of the day at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. This began with a tour of the Miles River on the excursion boat Patriot. It rained for about a half hour but we were able to stay dry under the tarp roof.

Next, we ate at the Crab Claw Restaurant next to the museum grounds. The 3 of us split their seafood sampler which was sufficient for us all. That was our first time tasting a soft shell crab. Very strange to us Californians.

We finished our day at the museum walking through each building and climbing up the Hooper Strait Lighthouse (see second photo at left). I was shocked to learn that a 60 watt light bulb could be seen for 12 miles due to the way the light is focused through various prisms. Mom learned what a shipjack is. It is a boat with a single wooden mast, a large triangular main sail, and a smaller sail at the front. It was used for oyster dredging since the late 1800s.

After driving for about 1.5 hours, we were back in Arbutus. I grilled sausages for dinner and we called it a night.

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At the entrance of the Flag House and Star-Spangled Banner Museum

In front of the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse

Baltimore Day, Thursday, September 15
Most of the day was spent in Little Italy and the east side of the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Hence, most of the day's activities were within walking distance of each other. Though it rained a bit in the morning on the way there, we managed to stay dry during our visit.

We began our day by eating lunch at Amiccis in Little Italy, Baltimore.

Then, we visited The Flag House and Star-Spangled Banner Museum. We received an awesome private tour from Eric, a member of the Young Sierrans. The first photo at left shows us at the entrance, in front of a flag the same size as the one flown at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.

Next, we went to the Baltimore Civil War Museum.

Afterwards, we headed to the Baltimore Public Works Museum.

Then, we toured the Baltimore Maritime Museum where we went into the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, the oldest screw pile lighthouse in Maryland, built in 1856. See second photo at left. We then boarded the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Taney.

We ended our day in Baltimore with a fine meal at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Definitely some of the best steak in Baltimore.

Upon returning to Arbutus, we stopped for ice cream at Edy's Grand Ice Cream at 3710 Commerce Drive, Arbutus, Maryland 21227, phone: 410-242-4203.
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At the Baltimore Museum of Industry

Medieval Times Day, Friday, September 16
This was the last full day of my parents' visit so I wanted to make it special. Sande helped by taking the day off and joining us.

I've paddled the Baltimore Inner Harbor many times and during my trips, I've seen an area with an abstract looking metal sculpture on the southern side of the harbor. It turns out this art piece is part of the Baltimore Museum of Industry. After talking to some people, it sounded like a great place to visit. We arrived and began by touring the outside area. Near the sculpture, we found a Siamese kitten. Though Sande would have preferred to stay with the kitten, we entered the museum building and was given a most interesting private tour by Helen. See photo at left.

We drove about 15 minutes to Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant in Mount Vernon, Baltimore where we were served a most unique lunch. After lunch, we returned home and rested before the big evening.

The evening was spent at Arundel Mills Mall. First, we went to the Bass Pro Shop where we viewed the aquarium. Unfortunately, the live horseshoe crab was nowhere to be seen.

Next we dined at Medieval Times. Though Sande and I had been there in February, this was my parents' first time. They found it quite entertaining and well choreographed. I had actually seen it back around 1990 in Spain, before it ever came to the states. I suppose my favorite part was seeing the falcon perform. I was also impressed by how many plates and full pitchers our "wench," Katie, could carry. The event was a memorable one and a great way to end a fabulous visit.

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February 2006 Visit

For a trip report of my brief stop in California to see my parents, read February 2006 Visit.

October 2007 Visit

My parents visited me from the night of Wednesday, October 3, 2007 to the afternoon of Tuesday, October 9, 2007. This was their fourth visit. Having shown them many of the more popular tourist attractions in Maryland, I decided to get input from Norma. She gave me ideas of places to show them further away.

One great thing about having my parents visit is that it gives me a chance to do tourist things that I normally wouldn't do. I regret not having seen more of California when I lived there. I don't even know the location of many neighboring towns. But I bet if I had friends/family to entertain from other states, I would have learned much more about my home state.

This was an extra special visit because this would be the first time my parents would see my new townhouse, Norma, and her family.

Thursday, October 4
After making a pancake and sausage breakfast, I took them to Ladew Gardens. We got a tour of the Ladew home. It was nice but we expected to see more sculpted bushes than we saw. See first photo at left. Still, the gardens were nice (see second photo at left), and we saw an unusual seed pod (see third photo at left).

That evening, I grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.

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Friday, October 5
After introducing my parents to Norma, we headed out to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for the day. This would be a day of introduction to the Amish culture.

We did a tour with Zerve. It was very commercial but we did get to see some nice things and a few friendly farm animals. See first photo at left.

We passed through the town of Intercourse, which still seems funny in a juvenile sort of way.

Afterwards, we took a buggy ride through a covered bridge with AAA Buggy Rides. Then we saw a few more covered bridges on our own including one that passed over the Conestoga River. Notice Norma about to walk over this bridge in the second photo at left.

The four of us ate dinner at a catacomb restaurant called Bube's (pronounced "boobies", it isn't like Hooters). The place is a few floors underground in an old brewery. It was expensive but the food was good and the atmosphere was unique.

That evening, we slept at Hillshire Farms Bed and Breakfast. Very reasonable rates.

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Saturday, October 6
Breakfast at Hillshire was good, especially the dessert which was served first. I guess they didn't want us to get filled up with the main course.

We took a long drive to Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania to see the Frank Lloyd Wright houses: Kentuck Knob and Fallingwater. I used to wonder why others just didn't make copies of his homes but after seeing how he tailored the houses to the surrounding environment, I see why. I preferred the Fallingwater house just because it is built over water...unfortunately, not enough for kayaking. See photo at left.

That night, we stayed at Norma's parents' farm. Our parents hit it off well.

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Sunday, October 7
During breakfast on the farm, we saw several wild turkeys.

All of Norma's family, her in-laws, and my family took a train ride on the Potomac Eagle in West Virginia. Norma's family made a great picnic lunch that we ate on the train. I saw a few bald eagles, deer, and a turtle.

After the ride, we all stopped in at a Dairy Queen for dessert. See photo at left.

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Monday, Columbus Day, October 8
After breakfast, we took a walk on the farm. My parents still can't get over the size of it. Quite different from the west coast agricultural farms they grew up on. See first photo at left.

Norma took us to Swallow Falls State Park where we saw the highest falls in Maryland. It is probably one of the most scenic one mile walks one can take in Maryland. See second photo at left.

We were hoping to see some brilliant fall colors but we were a little too early.

On the way home, we visited Fort Frederick, which was rather mediocre.

Norma made a fine pasta and garlic bread dinner that night.

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Tuesday, October 9
Norma went back to work and I took my parents to the National Cryptologic Museum where we got a 90 minute guided tour. Nice place but be sure to bring a jacket since they keep the computer room pretty cold.

After a quick drive through my old town, Elkridge, I shuttled my parents to the airport and bid them farewell.

Since they only visit me once every other year, I make a special effort to ensure their short time in Maryland is well spent. I think I succeeded.

Visits from 2008 and on

Subsequent visits have been blogged in their own individual web pages. Links to these pages appear at the top of this page.

New generation

Tyler Ken, 2002

Tyler Ken
The pressure is off me.  The family name will be carried on!  Tyler Ken was born on May 7, 2002 to Jeremy (half nephew) and Maria.  He weighed in at 7 pounds, 6.5 ounces.
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Parents with Tyler, July 7, 2002

July 7, 2002
Tyler Ken with Mom and Dad.
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Tyler at one year and three months of age

March 30, 2005
Tyler Ken at snack time.
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Shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1942, the United States government began rounding up people of Japanese ancestry for internment.  Thousands of loyal American citizens of Japanese ancestry were sent to relocation camps in desolate locations scattered throughout the western half of the country, only bringing what they could carry.  My father's family was sent to Tule Lake, California while his mother's family was sent to Poston, Arizona.  Two of my uncles chose to show their patriotism by volunteering for service in the United States Army.  Uncle Don served in the Military Intelligence Service while Uncle Steve served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team whose motto was "Go for Broke".


9/11 Message: Memories of Kiyo

It all started with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan.

Someone called me a Jap.

I stopped reading the newspapers. It was as if we Japanese Americans had dropped the bomb.

General Dewitt of the Western Defense Command said: "Once a Jap, always a Jap" which reverberated throughout the country.

A curfew went into effect from 8pm to 6am for anyone of Japanese ancestry.

To travel over 5 miles, we had to have a permit.

I remember the great sense of relief of driving my 1932 Studebaker onto our farm road after school each day.

Our Attorney General Earl Warren said that the fact that we had done nothing wrong so far means that something is being planned.

Three FBI agents searched our farmhouse from the attic to the garden for wires. They overturned mattresses, dumped out drawers and read my diary. They totally dismantled [brother] Steve's broken radio and then searched the outside of our house for wires. Steve had volunteered for the army after Pearl Harbor and was stationed at Camp Robinson (at the time).

Mr. Mizokami wasn't home so the agents went to Elk Grove High School, pulled his son out of class and demanded to know where his father was.

The outcry for concentration camps escalated.

We were scared. Many of my (Japanese American) friends quit school. Everyone stayed close to home.

Our neighbor hung himself after the FBI's harassment, sinking us deeper into fear and depression.

Then concentration camps were hastily built from here to Arkansas to intern 120,000 men, women, and children, 2/3 of them American citizens, with more than 1/16 so called 'Japanese Blood.' The others like my parents were forbidden by law to become naturalized (citizens). Sixty orphans from San Francisco and Los Angeles along with children in foster homes were also imprisoned.

On evacuation morning, I watched my wise father smuggle inside each of our ten bedrolls tools for survival--hammer, nails, saw, a roll of wire, bucket, a gallon jug, and even little bags of seeds. The last bedroll was a large canvas just in case shelter was necessary. We left with, as ordered, only what we could carry.

Until the very last minute, I kept hoping that President Roosevelt would realize that Executive Order 9066 was unconstitutional and send out a wire reversing his decision. When the old train started to move, my whole world collapsed and I couldn't stop crying. No one had come to our rescue; not even the churches, and the politicians were using us for their own political gains. My Caucasian classmates were no longer my friends, and now my own President was banishing me and I was a prisoner of my own country, stripped of my constitutional rights.

[After release] With the twenty five dollars and a one way ticket to any place in the United States, each internee started life all over again helping each other along the way.

Not one case of sabotage by Japanese Americans was recorded.

In 1990, I, and 65,000 Americans of Japanese descent still living received a letter of apology from President George Bush which restored our faith in our Democracy.

About his children, my Father used to say: "I only want nine good citizens." My five brothers and I served in the Army and the Air Force. We went on to college to study nursing, teaching, engineering, biochemistry, etc.

Did you know that during the Iran conflict in the 1980's a concentration camp was already built in Oakdale, Louisiana to intern all Iran-Americans?

Did you know that 2000 Arab-Americans are imprisoned without just cause as we speak?

Did you know that internment camps are again being mentioned?

As we memorialize those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, let us be vigilant to the rights of each citizen for it is this that makes our country great.

Want to know more?

To learn more about the Japanese American internment, check out
  • A More Perfect Union
  • Dandelion Through the Crack
  • Stories and Images of Japanese-American Internment