Toru Saito

Toru recounts his journey from San Francisco to Topaz, and the lasting impact of discrimination, exclusion and forced removal.

Video Timeline

00:00 – Introduction

00:18 – Clip 1
Describes hospital stay at four-years old, in San Francisco. Describes being removed from hospital and placed in a military vehicle with a white star. The vehicle drove Toru to the Tanforan Race Track, where Relocation begins. To this day, Toru has never returned to his original San Francisco home in Japantown.

03:30 – Clip 2
Describes being transferred to Topaz and camp life for kids. Playing marbles in the sand. Describes climbing in to a guard tower. Describes his sisters suffering from severe asthma, which forced a move within the camp, closer to the camp hospital. Toru learned that between Tanforan and Topaz, his father left.

06:31 – Clip 3
Describes 1st grade in camp and not knowing why he had to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Toru describes that later he felt resentful.

07:49 – Clip 4
Describes when war ended, he returned to temporary housing for shipyard workers in San Francisco. Japanese were not allowed to go back to Japantown. Discusses being dehumanized because of “rice balls” Japanese ate. Today, that has changed as Toru describes all of the Japanese products we use. Describes dream of always wanting to be blonde haired and blue-eyed.

12:29 – Clip 5
Describes Valentine’s Day in grammar school as the only Japanese kid in the classroom and how he still has painful memories and suffers depressions from those days.

14:10 – Clip 6
Describes his third grade experience of being called a “dirty Jap.” Describes being chased, and rocks thrown at him. Emphasis on no one standing up for him.

15:55 – Clip 7
Describes the importance of kindness and coming to appreciate friends in adulthood, while battling bitterness.

16:57 – Clip 8
Describes laughter being the best medicine and a means of support for getting him through the tough times. His mother is his role model and is currently 105 years old.

18:19 – Clip 9
Describes returning to Topaz in 1995  standing in front of his original barrack. He dug at the lower right hand corner of the porch and found 26 marbles he had left behind fifty years ago.

20:45 – Clip 10
Describes lack of holidays in camp. Toru doesn’t recall celebrating  birthday, Thanksgiving, or Christmas.

21:24 – Clip 11
Describes final morning at camp and departing Topaz on a school bus to Delta. There, Toru boarded a train to San Francisco.

24:05 – Clip 12
Describes return to Japantown, which was occupied by African Americans. With nowhere to go, Government set-up temporary housing at the shipyards. Describes how poor treatment of the Japanese affected their self-esteem.

27:27 – Clip 13
Describes message to students, emphasizing not to practice hatred.

29:30 – Clip 14
Describes his friends in camp (Arthur and Bobby). Describes camp reunions.

30:38 – Clip 15
Describes story of ashes to demonstrate life in camp and life outside of camp. Describes resentment for violation of rights.

33:39 – Clip 16
Describing resentment and turmoil within in the Japanese community.

35:46 – Clip 17
Describes book “Making Home from War,”, a collection of anthologies of 12 Japanese Americans and their life after camp, the struggles they faced, starting life over and searching for acceptance.

37:24 – Clip 18
Describes post-relocation struggles of Japanese Americans and emphasizes his own fears of violence and hatred.

40:12 – Clip 19
Describes most meaningful story in Making Home from War, Voice Lessons. Moral of story is “to be who you are”.

43:19 – Clip 20
Describes struggles to be accepted.

44:09 – Clip 21
Describes graduating high school as 1 of 5 Japanese American boys at El Cerrito High School. Describes social dances in Japanese Community. Describes the large number of Japanese who never married.

46:21 – Clip 22
Describes envy for White people. However, describes case at Berkeley mental institute. Moral – “We are all in the same boat with problems. What differentiates you from others is how you deal with those problems and find your inner peace”.

48:50 – Credits

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