Friday, February 4, 2011

Portrait: Tom Nishikawa

Tom Nishikawa was one year-old when his family moved to Hollister to purchase a farm. A few weeks later, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the U.S. declared war against Japan. This prevented Tom's family from completing the purchase of the farm. Five months later President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, and Tom's family was ordered to report to the Salinas Assembly Center. They were then incarcerated in the Poston Camp 1 in Arizona. Tom told me that Poston was divided into a family section, and a bachelors' section. Since Tom was a young boy looking for excitement, he would spend time in the bachelors' section, where the men taught him how to make an insect net and chase bugs.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)

Tom was only five years old when his family was released from Poston in 1945. They temporarily lived in the San Jose Buddist Church Betsuin, and Hunter's Point (South San Francisco) before settling in Gilroy, CA. Tom has some wonderful memories that he shared with me. Here are some audio interviews with Tom Nishikawa:

  • Tom describes how he would hang out in the bachelors' section of camp where the bachelors taught him how to collect insects. (LISTEN).
  • When Tom's dad was a cook at Poston, he would bring home rice that had burned against the pan. This is now sold as a treat called koge gohan  (LISTEN).
  • Tom talks about the art of Gaman, and how his dad would carve tiny, intricate birds from wood, which he collected from old produce boxes.  (LISTEN).
You can also read the TRANSCRIPT of the above interviews. 

1 comment:

  1. So interesting. I love to hear peoples stories.As a nurse I always tried to take time to listen to the old folk and their life experience.My husband's mother is Japanese,and he was born in Hiroshima in 1953.His father was serving as a radar operator In the RAAF during the Korean war.I want him to write his story!
    Anyhow great stuff I enjoyed reading and listening.Thanks.