Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific University honorary degrees awarded

Almost 70 years late, 24 former students of Japanese ancestry people were recipients on an honorary degree at Azusa Pacific University on Saturday, December 18, 2010.  They were former students  attending  Pacific Bible College as it was called during World War II.   These former students  were forced to abandon their studies and  relocated into internment camps  in the remote areas of the interior states.   

Among the recipients, was the Reverend Paul M. Nagano, age 90, formerly from Poston camp 3 (block 327).



A new blog site now for obituaries of former Poston internees, located at:


Henry “Hank” Oyama

Henry “Hank” Oyama was born in Tucson on June 1, 1926. His father died 5 months before he was born. His mother, Mary, was born in Hawaii but grew up in Mexico. Her first language was Spanish. Oyama said his mother was a hard worker who had an indomitable spirit and always saw the bright side of things. Oyama grew up as a Mexican-American in a barrio in Tucson, and his knowledge of the Spanish language would play a major role in his life. Occasionally, someone who was not from the neighborhood would refer to him as a “Chino” - meaning Chinese.

The racial divide first came into focus for Oyama when he was in junior high. He had been invited to a home in Fort Lowell, and the home had a swimming pool. He had never been in such a palatial home, and he noticed a difference in the living conditions among communities, “depending upon whether you were Caucasian or others.”

But the division between races was put in starker contrast when he turned 15 years old and was hauled off with his family to a World War II internment camp near Poston, about a dozen miles southwest of Parker in La Paz County. 

It was May 1942, and the war was well underway. Oyama recalled that he, his sister and his mother were taken by a bus from Tucson to Phoenix, then to Mayer, an “assembly center,” and finally to Poston (camp I). 

During his 15 months of internment, Oyama attended school and learned the cooking trade. “The school was set up in one of the barracks, so you could have some classes there but your next class might be in another block, so you had to walk through the sand to get to the (next class),” he said. “As you know, summers get a little hot here, and it did in Poston.”

The food was “terrible,” he said. They arrived at the camp at night and were served a bowl of chili beans. It was windy, dusty, and there was sand everywhere, even on the beans. They were given a mattress ticking and were told fill it with straw. The makeshift mattresses were set on Army cots. They also were given Army blankets. But his mother never let her spirit get down while in the camp, Oyama said. “I think because she didn’t want us to become depressed,” he said. Oyama said he signed up for cooking school out of fear that food would run short, and, as he put it, “I could sneak some off for my mother and my sister.”

After internment, he and his mother moved to the Kansas City area. His sister stayed a little longer in the camp because she was engaged to one of the young men there.

Back to the barracks
In 1945, about two years after he had left the internment camp, Oyama joined the U.S. Army, where his superiors assumed he spoke Japanese and wanted to send him to the South Pacific as an interpreter. When he explained that he did not speak Japanese, they thought he was trying to buck the assignment. They sent him to the Military Intelligence Service-Language School. After four months, he earned a diploma. By then his superiors were convinced that he did not speak Japanese and instead was fluent in Spanish.  As a result, he was assigned to the Counter-Intelligence Service.

After his training, he was sent to the Panama Canal, where he worked as an undercover agent. As a spy, Oyama said he had his own apartment and his own car. He wore civilian clothes to blend in and carried a “snub-nosed .38.” His job was to make sure security was adequate in the Canal Zone. It also included surveillance, as well as protecting high-ranking officers who were passing through the Panama Canal. His undercover unit also conducted “loyalty checks” on personnel, an ironic situation for a Japanese-American forced into an internment camp due to his ethnic ancestry. 

Oyama later retired as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

After his military service, Oyama went back to Tucson, earned a bachelor’s degree in education and studied Spanish. He then began teaching American history and Spanish at local schools. Initially, he worked at Pueblo High School, where he and a group of educators pioneered the creation of a Spanish-language program to meet the education needs of Spanish-speaking students. He also helped conduct a survey in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico on the successes of bilingual-education programs. They produced a report called “The Invisible Minority,” which directly contributed to the creation of the federal Bilingual Education Act of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1968. 

Oyama left Pueblo High School in 1970, served as Pima Community College’s director of bilingual and international studies, and later became associate dean of that program in 1978. In 1989, he was appointed a vice-president at the college. He retired in 1991 and was named vice-president emeritus. 

In one of the greatest honors that could be bestowed on a teacher, a school was dedicated in his name - Oyama Elementary School - in 2003.

Exerpt from: http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2009/11/01/couple-broke-down-barriers-to-interracial-marriage/
When "Fun with Dick & Jane" Went out The Window

A Profile of Hank Oyama, The Son Of A Mexican-born, Spanish-speaking Japanese Woman and One Of The Leaders Of Bi-lingual Education In America.
By Keith Ray
It is ironic, but one of the fathers of federally funded modern-day bilingual education in America, which focuses on teaching Spanish-speaking students in their native language rather than English, is of Japanese ancestry.

Henry “Hank” Oyama, who can trace his lineage through his father back to Kumamotoken, Japan, is a man of many parts.
     Born in the border town of Nogales, Arizona, USA, he is the son of a Mexican-born, Spanish-speaking Japanese woman whose husband died while she was pregnant with Hank. As a teenager, Hank and his mother were interned during World War II, but Hank later served U. S. forces with distinction. Hank became an educator after the war and early in his career he had to fight another major battle, one that helped change American laws that forbade his marriage to a Caucasian woman.
     The soft-spoken Oyama, now 70, retired as a lieutenant colonel from the U. S. Air Force and as vice president of Pima Community College, one of the largest multi-campus community colleges in the country with five campuses. As a youngster, he grew up in the Hispanic barrios of Tucson, Arizona, where Spanish was his first language. His mother, whose parents emigrated from Japan through a circuitous route that included Hawaii, had settled in Mexico. So Oyama's mother spoke mainly Spanish with very little Japanese. "My father was of Japanese descent, and I suppose I would have learned Japanese, but he died when my mother was pregnant with me, so therefore I grew up speaking Spanish," said Oyama.
      He began to learn English only after beginning elementary school. It was while growing up that the White House issued an executive order requiring all persons of Japanese descent, citizens or non-citizens, to be evacuated to relocation centers throughout the country. There were 10 of these centers that housed some 120,000 Japanese Americans. Two were in Arizona. Hank's family, which included an older sister, were sent to one in Poston, Arizona. It housed 19,543 detainees between May 1942 and November 1945.
      Hank and his mother left the barracks-style housing 16 months later for employment at a hotel in the state of Missouri. Strangely, this was permissible as long as detainees didn’t go to areas from which Japanese Americans had been evacuated. Hank's sister had married in the camp and so stayed behind with her husband.
      Oyama then held a series of jobs until at age 18 he was inducted into the army. In typical bureaucratic fashion, the army sent him to a language school in Minnesota to become a Japanese language interpreter. Military officers refused to believe he could not speak Japanese. Ultimately, however, they recognized their error, as well as his ability to speak Spanish, and made use of his linguistic abilities in intelligence. Later, he was awarded a reserve commission and retired at age 60 from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel.
      After the war Oyama earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Arizona in Tucson and subsequently began teaching there. 
      It the age of 33 Oyama met and fell in love with a fellow teacher, Mary Ann Jordan, who accepted his proposal of marriage. Unfortunately, a law still on the books in 1959 forbade the marriage of a Caucasian, as Jordan was, to non-Caucasians. The lovers took their battle to court, lost round one, won round two, got married and eventually saw the archaic law stricken from the records. Their first child died of leukemia shortly after birth and the Oyamas adopted four other children.
      The second high school established in Tucson, Pueblo High School, was designed to address the needs of Mexican-American students in the southwest part of what was then a small city. Administrators chose as teachers those who had a strong interest and dedication to that goal. Oyama was one of those selected.
      At Pueblo, Oyama and two other teachers, Adalberto Guerrero and Maria Urquides, started a program that provided Spanish for native speakers so they could improve their linguistic ability to be used in more adult, professional work. Now, these kinds of classes are commonplace throughout America. But they were of ground breaking quality three decades ago.
      Oyama and the other two educators conducted a survey of education for Mexican-Americans in the Southwest and wrote a report called "The Invisible Minority." The plight of education for Mexican Americans at that time truly was invisible. People in other parts of the country didn’t even know Mexican Americans existed, much less understand the educational needs of this large population.
      So Oyama, Guerrero and Urquides held a national symposium on the topic. It drew wide attention and the attendance of national education officials, congressmen and senators. The gathering was so impressed that one participant, Senator Yarborough of Texas, went back to Washington and introduced legislation that became the Bilingual Act.
      Out went "Fun With Dick and Jane." In came books and materials bought from Mexico, Spain and Cuba. Oyama eventually left secondary schools for the local community college.
     He has received enough awards to literally fill a book, but he remains active in many civic organizations. He recently founded a Hispanic Scholarship Fund at Pima College. He believes that working with others through organizations, as he does, "prevents some racial tensions from becoming too great. This augurs for a safer, more American society that is willing to accept and understand others."
      Of racially mixed marriages in general, he says that it is the spouse of Anglo background "who makes more of a contribution toward erasing injustices than does the minority member. People feel more negative toward the Anglo or Caucasian rather than toward the minority member".
      Oyama has led a full, rewarding life, and he is well traveled. One place he hasn’t been?
You guessed it. Japan.

Source: http://www.urbanmozaik.com/2001.may1_htmls/may01_fea_oyama.html

Aftermath of Pearl Harbor

Japanese internment victims recall aftermath of Pearl Harbor attack
Dec 4, 2008
 By Michael Moore

Morgan Hill
Betsy Hatakeyama, 85, of Morgan Hill, and Marianne Ogawa, 86, of Gilroy have known each other since long before their families were forced from their childhood homes in Salinas and into internment camps set up by the U.S. government in 1942.

And they are still friends with three other Japanese-American women they grew up with in Silicon Valley, and who also experienced this exclusion firsthand.

"It's a bond of friendship that dates back to kindergarten," said Hatakeyama. "We were somehow connected, and as the years went by we got more and more connected."

The longtime friends still get together once a month.

Sunday is the 67th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the U.S. Naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, which killed more than 2,000 people and catalyzed American involvement in World War II.

The assault also led to the forced relocation of more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry from their homes, mostly on the West Coast.

"We were frightened (when we heard about the Pearl Harbor attack) because we didn't know how it was going to affect us," said Ogawa, who had been in college in Los Angeles for only a couple of months by December 1941.

She and Hatakeyama were born in northern California. They had recently graduated from Salinas High School when the attack happened.  Less than a year later they were forced into internment camps in Arizona. "They said it was for our own protection," said Hatakeyama. "The camps were fenced in with barbed wire, and there were sentry towers. The soldiers in the towers were pointing their guns at us. They treated us like enemies."

When President Franklin Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941, "a date that will live in infamy," he wasn't even alluding to this involuntary detention of thousands of American citizens he would soon authorize.

Roosevelt issued executive order 9066 early in 1942, giving the military broad powers to create domestic "exclusion zones" where no people of Japanese descent were allowed, even if they were American citizens. Virtually the entire state of California was classified as such a zone.

In 1988, Congress formally apologized for these actions, acknowledging the program was based on "race prejudice (and) hysteria."

Hatakeyama described how she, her parents, her three sisters and hundreds of other citizens and residents were gathered up and forced into an "assembly center" at the rodeo grounds in Salinas shortly after Roosevelt's order. "It was sad because the people could see their homes from the assembly center," Hatakeyama said.

Families were given five days to get rid of everything they owned except for the bedding and clothes they could carry in their arms, Hatakeyama said. Her parents had just bought a brand-new Dodge sedan they had "slaved" for, but had to sell cheaply.

From the assembly centers scattered throughout the state, detainees were sent to internment camps, or "concentration camps" as Hatakeyama called them, to the east. Hatakeyama recalled how in August 1942 everyone at the Salinas center boarded a "hot, uncomfortable" train.

"We didn't know where we were going," said Hatakeyama. "The shades were drawn, and MPs were patrolling the inside of the train."

She and her family ended up at a camp in Poston, Ariz. They were crammed into small shacks that were poorly constructed, with cracks in the walls that allowed the inside to fill with the desert's dust.

They spent about a year in internment. Upon their release, they were given a list of cities they could move to, none of which were in California. Hatakeyama went to Chicago, where the people were "very, very nice," and where she spent about a year.

Ogawa spent the same time period at another camp in Poston. She said the details are now hard to remember, but the relocation was "quite an experience." After her family was released from the internment camp, they went to St. Louis, Mo., for a couple of years, and then she came back to California to finish college.

By 1945, Hatakeyama was married and raising her family in Fresno. When her husband retired more than 30 years later they moved to Morgan Hill.

Hatakeyama, whose husband passed away about a year ago, still has a letter of apology from President George H. W. Bush and a $20,000 reparations check from the federal government framed and hanging on the wall in her house.

"I believed in the Constitution," she said. "We went to a red school house where we said the Pledge of Allegiance. We recited the preamble (to the Constitution). During wartime it meant nothing because the president could make his own rules."

Source: http://www.morganhilltimes.com/news/251469-japanese-internment-victims-recall-aftermath-of-pearl-harbor-attack

From 1981... Burden of Shame

The Burden of Shame
By Jane O'Reilly;David S. Jackson/Washington; Jeff Melvin/Los Angeles
Monday, Aug. 17, 1981

At last, amends for World War II internment camps? 

"When I heard rumors that all Japanese would be interned, I couldn't believe it. I kept saying that I was a loyal American citizen and that it just couldn't happen in a democracy." —Testimony of Mabel Ota

It did happen. In the months after Pearl Harbor, more than 110,000 "persons of Japanese ancestry" (those with 1/16th Japanese blood or more) were forcibly relocated from the West Coast to inland internment camps in desolate areas of Wyoming, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Arizona. Most were American citizens. One-third were resident aliens born in Japan and therefore, under the law of the time, ineligible for citizenship. No act of espionage or sabotage was attributed to a Japanese American during World War II. They were summarily imprisoned and their constitutional rights suspended solely because of their race. One thousand Aleut Indians were also interned, simply because of their "proximity to a war zone." 

Now, nearly 40 years later, the process of understanding what happened and making reparations has begun. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, created last year by Congress, is holding a summer-long series of public hearings. Last week in Los Angeles, the audience listened with hushed respect to stories almost too painful to remember, but too important to forget. 

The spring of 1942. They had little notice, perhaps a week. Given numbers and allowed to bring only what they could carry, they were herded into "assembly centers" at fairgrounds and race tracks stinking of manure and animals. Finally, they were transported to ten barely habitable camps for the duration of World War II. Mabel Ota, now 64, was sent to Poston, Ariz  (block 6-2-A). 

She would, after the war, become the first Asian school principal in Los Angeles, but would spend her life believing that the camp's poor diet and worse medical care caused her father's death, and her daughter to be brain-damaged at birth (in Poston).....

Strawberry Fields Forever

Strawberry Fields Forever
By Wendy Hinman

The history of the ripe, red fruit in Carlsbad is closely linked with one family.
...The story of Carlsbad’s strawberry fields really began in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Hiroshi Ukegawa (Poston block 22)  grew up in Orange County. His family were farmers and he graduated from Tustin High School. They were interned in Poston, Arizona with a family from Oceanside and Hiroshi moved there after the war. From the camp, Hiroshi enlisted in the 13th Airborne Paratroop Division. His son, Jimmy, one of the five Ukegawa children who run the business side of the family-owned Aviara Farms, says, “He told us he joined the paratroopers because it paid more.”

A little extra pay and a penchant for craps games helped Hiroshi save during the war years. While Hiroshi was jumping out of planes over farms across the pond, the future Mrs. U, Miwako, was in Japan. “I worked in a bank in Osaka during the war,” she says. “It was next to a factory so when the American bombers came over everything really shook.” Miwako’s father was a farmer, too; he had a pepper plantation in Borneo, Indonesia. Miwako was sent back to Japan from Indonesia when it was time for school and grew up with her grandmother and uncle.

After the war, Miwako came to Sacramento and earned her cosmetology license. An entrepreneur herself, she planned to learn how to perm hair, because it would be the next big thing in Japan. An excursion to L.A. and San Diego before her trip home changed those plans; she met Hiroshi. Both Miwako and Hiroshi’s families were originally from Wakayama, on the main island of Japan.

Married in 1956, they moved to Carlsbad in 1960. Hiroshi began growing strawberries in Oceanside and grew them for awhile on Stewart Mesa on Camp Pendleton before finding that perfect spot to lease in Carlsbad overlooking the lagoon. He started with strawberries because he wanted to keep his workers year round.  Tomatoes have always been the Ukegawas’ main crop, but strawberries kept the field hands working. At their peak the Ukegawas employed around 3,000 workers.

The Ukegawas do not whip their workers. They get accused of this every couple of years or so. Yes, there is a man in the field with a bullwhip. Jimmy says, “He’s a walking scarecrow.” Just like baseball is that odd sport where the defense has the ball, the strawberry is that odd fruit that carries its seed on the outside.   Starlings are the problem. “We put up the fake owls and in about a week the starlings are landing on them,” Jimmy says. They had a fake bird kite on a pole because it would blow in the wind. “A woman stopped her car in rush hour traffic on Cannon and came running across the field with a knife to ‘free the bird,’” Jimmy says. She needn’t worry about the bullwhip, either—they don’t whip the birds, but the crack of it and the constant movement keeps the starlings in the chapparal. “It’s works the best by far.”

Aviara Farms sells for about 10 other growers. For more than eight years, the Ukegawa family has invited its customers to come pick their own strawberries. 

Source: http://www.carlsbadmagazine.com/Stories/strawberries.html

Early Guadalupe Cemetery Records

From: Early Guadalupe Cemetery records are unreliable and few
Shirley Contreras

Before World War II the ashes of many of the Japanese people were kept in the Buddhist Church. When the Japanese people returned from the internment camps and found that a law had been enacted prohibiting ashes to be so stored, the ashes of many of the deceased were moved to family burial plots, while others were placed into a common grave site. The grave site containing the ashes of about 30 people is covered with a cement slab showing the names of those interred within the site. However, at least two of those containers of ashes have been moved to family burial sites during the ensuing years.

A number of the headstones of the Japanese people show the dates of death as occurring during the World War II years, indicating that they died in one of the internment camps. 

Thanks to the help of Jack Morishima and Tets Furukawa, I learned that Kishie Minami, Kito Oishi and Ichiro Gilbert Miyake died in the Gila River Relocation camp, Mary Kinuyo Miyake died in the Poston Camp (block 13-11-D) , and Matagoro Sakamoto died in the Port Lincoln camp in Bismarck, North Dakota.


Calif State University Honors

By Tanya Ghahremani
Daily Titan Staff Writer
Published: March 17, 2010
In the spring of 1942, hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans were removed from their homes and forced into internment camps. Among those who faced this injustice, many were students who had to leave their studies.

The Nisei Diploma Project is a collaborative effort of all the current CSU campuses that had Japanese-American students who were removed and forced into internment camps during World War II. While Cal State Fullerton was not open at the time, six other CSU campuses were – Fresno, Pomona, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and San Luis Obispo.

Through the project, those removed and forced into internment camps will receive Honorary Bachelor of Humane Letters degrees.

According to the project’s Web site, the CSU system hopes to at least ease the pain of the incarceration the students faced, and welcome the students back into the CSU.

When Beverly DiDomenico heard about the project, she was overjoyed. Both of her parents were removed from their studies and placed in internment camps during the spring of 1942 and neither were able to complete their education later. “I know if the war hadn’t happened they would have finished school,” DiDomenico said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill calling for this project last summer. According to Colleen Bentley, who has been working on the project, the six campuses included began planning their ceremonies soon after and figuring out how to locate the students.

Unfortunately, many of the students who were removed from their studies are now deceased.
“Should we have done it years ago? Of course,” said Bentley. “It’s late, but it’s still a worthwhile program we put together.”

The internment of Japanese Americans began shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. It was during that time that approximately 110,000 Japanese-Americans on the United States West Coast were interned – all under the justification of ‘national security’.
“It was an injustice upon people,” Bentley said.

DiDomenico’s parents were each placed in different camps – her mother, Ellen Kuyama-Matsumoto, in Poston War Relocation Center (Block 329-8-B) , and her father, Shigeki Matsumoto, in Gila River War Relocation Center.

“When I was young, my relatives would get together and talk about camp – I didn’t know what they were talking about. I didn’t find out about the relocation camp until I was taking American history in high school,” DiDomenico said.

Her mother, now 88, didn’t tell DiDomenico much about the internment. “She really wouldn’t talk about it (when I asked),” DiDomenico said. “It was the worst time of her life.”

Joy Sato’s parents were both interned in 1942 as well. “They said that they felt safe there. They were all together.”

Having heard about the Nisei Diploma project, Sato says she feels very happy for her parents. “It would have meant more to my father, because he studied very hard and then the war broke out and he had to stop.” Though Sato’s father did attend a Quaker college in Philadelphia for some time later, he had to leave in order to tend to his family’s farm back west. “He continued his education, teaching himself.”

Her mother, Mariko Sato, and her father, Jyuichi Sato, both attended what is now San Diego State University at the time of the relocation.

Sato and DiDomenico both found out about the project through letters from their parents’ schools. Their parents are among the approximately 250 other Japanese-American students that the CSU campuses are trying to find, though Bentley is quick to point out that this is not an exact number.

“It’s as close as they can get,” she said, adding that it’s believed that, statewide, as many as 2,500 students were removed from their school during the internment. That number comes from studies done by other Japanese-American organizations.

The ceremonies for the degrees are officially in May, but the campuses are being flexible with the dates, accounting for the schedules of family members attending and the wishes of the families.

“The campuses are being incredibly thoughtful,” Bentley said.