Marion Kanemoto

Marion Kanemoto grew up in Seattle, Washington. The outbreak of WWII and the signing of Executive Order 9066 brought Marion and her family’s comfortable life to an end. Marion witnessed her father’s removal from their home by the FBI. Eventually, the fatherless Tsutakawa family was transported and confined in the Minidoka internment camp in Idaho. While confined, the family came to a fateful decision that, with one son already in Japan and their money and family business gone, they should repatriate to Japan.

Once in Japan, there was no denying that life in war torn Japan was not going to be easy. Through determination and Marion’s continuing sense that she was an American heart and soul, she was able to return to the United States. Marion graduated from nursing school and spent her career working as a dedicated school nurse. She married Jim Kanemoto. Together Jim and Marion had four children, all of whom have university degrees.

Video Timeline

Note: To listen to a specific clip, move the slider on the video to the designated clip time listed below.

00:00 – Introduction

00:18 – Clip 1
Marion describes the thoroughness of the FBI “sweep” of their Seattle home. At age 14, she watched the men searching everywhere, including cutting into the sofa to check for hidden items and confiscating pictures and then ripping them up, of lumber yard, and the shipyard. She also watched as they took her father away, giving no reasons.

03:56  – Clip 2
Her father was sent to the federal prison in Missoula. From there, he was sent to New Mexico. Some of the letters her family received from her father were blacked out or cut apart, with only a few words were left.

06:15 – Clip 3
She explains, that in a way, she became the head of the household. She had to sell her piano – for $15 – and push it up the street. Piece by piece, they sold their belongings – for a minimal price. Those were very chaotic times.

07:49 – Clip 4
Her family was trapped in many ways! She explains the fine print of the “Alien Property Custodian,” a government office charged with confiscating and even selling the property of suspected enemies. The government took everything that was owned by her father’s business – and even took the insurance policies he had purchased for her brother’s and her education.

09:01 – Clip 5
Describes the train trip to Minidoka. The MP’s told them to pull down the shades on the train. Coming from Seattle, green and beautiful, to and Idaho, dry, flat, and barren, it was quite a contrast.This was a very unwelcome place. Yet were “all in the same boat”.

10:39 – Clip 6
Recalls the family meeting in which they discussed the lack of captured soldiers to exchange for U.S. prisoners of war. The government was putting a lot of pressure on Japanese people to trade to volunteer for the trade. Her father suggested they go back to Japan. He was worried about the older brother who was in school in Japan, and who was old enough to join the Japanese army. Her father didn’t want him to become a Kamikaze pilot. So it was decided they all had to accompany their parents back to Japan.

13:45 – Clip 7
They were sent to New Jersey and departed from their on a cruise ship. The accommodations were quite nice.

15:13 – Clip 8
Describes the exchange process when the cruise shipped arrived in India. She immediately noted the differences between the American ship and the Japanese ship (“very crude, rustic”). From the accommodations to the worm-infested food, they knew this was an indication that conditions were bad in Japan.

19:11 – Clip 9
In Japan, Marion was sent to an all girls school. Some students befriended her; some did not. “Inside my heart, I felt American.” Material resources were gone, people selling wedding rings for the metal. She got very sick with pleurisy and her mother bought an egg on the black market, and begged for Marion to tell her how she wanted the egg cooked. “A mother’s love.”

21:00 – Clip 10
Describes how she worked for the US government and how she received her passport back to the United States.

24:20 – Clip 11
Talks about the Asian Law Caucus, which assisted her with the application to apply for redress, and how she and her son wrote the letters and won their case.

Video production provided by the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium – http://www.secctv.org

Photo Gallery

Primary source images to accompany Marion Kanemoto’s story. Images provided by Marion Kanemoto – Elk Grove Unified School District

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