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Father's Influence

As a child, I was kind of frustrated that our daddy was away so much from us. He was block manager in both camps that we were in. Arkansas, Rohwer, Arkansas, was the first camp we were taken to. And from there, after the "loyalty questionnaire" came down, we were transferred to Tule Lake in northern California.

But in both camps, my father was always involved in what I thought was other people's business. In Rohwer, when it rained, it turned into a swamp. People had to make that three times a day trek to the mess hall. Old people, elderly people, had difficulty making that trek. Their feet would sink into the muck, and pulling their feet out of the muck became extremely laborious. Mothers with children had tremendous challenges getting their flock to the mess hall. And so the building of a board walk became a necessity. And I remember my father organizing people to build that. He was always in meetings or projects for the community.

As I grew up, I came to realize. After camp, my parents were busy getting back on our feet. But never the less, he was volunteering for community projects, community organizations on weekends. So that inculcated in us, I think, a sense of volunteerism. Little Tokyo worked on volunteerism.


Arkansas block managers British Columbia Burnaby California Canada communities concentration camps Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre Rohwer concentration camp Tule Lake concentration camp United States volunteerism World War II camps

Date: February 3, 2015

Location: California, US

Interviewer: John Esaki, Janice Tanaka

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

George Hosato Takei was born in Los Angeles in 1937 to an Issei father, Takekuma Norman Takei, and Nisei mother, Fumiko Emily Nakamura. He was only five years old when his family was rounded up along with 120,000 other Japanese Americans and sent to concentration camps by the U.S. government following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. 

He earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater at the University of California, Los Angeles and embarked on a career in theater, television, and film. In 1966 he was cast as U.S. Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu on the groundbreaking TV series Star Trek.

In addition to his acting career, Takei has been highly active in public and community service, including serving on the board of the Southern California Rapid Transit District and has been an active and generous member of the Japanese American National Museum Board of Trustees since its inception. 

Since coming out as gay in 2005, Takei has become an effective advocate for LGBT rights, speaking widely about his own experiences, holding public figures accountable for homophobic comments, and serving as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign. Takei has enjoyed a renewed wave of popularity in recent years thanks to the infectious humor and warmth of his Facebook page, which has over eight million followers. 

Updated May 2015

George Ariyoshi
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George Ariyoshi

Ethnic diversity

(b.1926) Democratic politician and three-term Governor of Hawai'i

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James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Christian gatherings in homes

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

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James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Not bringing shame to family

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

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James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Life in camp as teenager

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

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James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Role of the Japanese American National Museum

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

Hiding what happened in camp

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.

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Yuri Kochiyama
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Yuri Kochiyama

Camp as a positive thing

(1922–2014) Political and civil rights activist.

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Archie Miyatake
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Archie Miyatake

His father describes the importance of photographing camp life

(1924-2016) Photographer and businessman.

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Yukio Takeshita
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Yukio Takeshita

Involvement in JACL

(b.1935) American born Japanese. Retired businessman.

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Roy H. Matsumoto
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Roy H. Matsumoto

Train ride to Jerome Relocation Center

(b.1913) Kibei from California who served in the MIS with Merrill’s Marauders during WWII.

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Peggie Nishimura Bain
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Peggie Nishimura Bain

Learning American cooking

(b.1909) Nisei from Washington. Incarcerated at Tule Lake and Minidoka during WWII. Resettled in Chicago after WWII

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Richard Kosaki
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Richard Kosaki

442 soldiers visiting U.S. concentration camps

(b. 1924) Political scientist, educator, and administrator from Hawai`i

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Roger Shimomura
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Roger Shimomura

Japanese American community life

(b. 1939) Japanese American painter, printmaker & professor

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Roger Shimomura
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Roger Shimomura

Receiving a negative reaction from father upon asking about World War II experience

(b. 1939) Japanese American painter, printmaker & professor

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Frank Yamasaki
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Frank Yamasaki

Loss of happy-go-lucky adolescence in Puyallup Assembly Center

(b. 1923) Nisei from Washington. Resisted draft during WWII.

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