Message from a Daughter

by Lily Ozaki Arasato

A daughter’s hope for lessons learned from the Japanese American internment experience.

This is a story of my family’s trying experiences during World War II. We share it with you, as it is a human story that illuminates another unseen and unreported hardship caused by wars.

I am the youngest of four children of my parents, Otokichi and Hideko Ozaki. We lived in peaceful ‘Amauulu plantation camp near Hilo on the Big Island of Hawai‘i.

On the evening of December 7, 1941, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, unbeknownst to us sleeping children, our father was unceremoniously arrested and imprisoned. He then expressed his thoughts in a short poem:

I bid farewell
To the faces of my sleeping children
As I am taken prisoner
Into the cold night rain.

We would not see him for over two long years.

I must confess that I was too young to remember the details of our experiences recorded in these pages, but the letters, poems, and memoirs stir my emotions as I recall bits and pieces of my early days. Indeed, my mother’s letters provided me with vivid pictures of my innocently growing up in concentration camps.

As I gained adulthood, my curiosity and interest in our internment experience intensified. I collected books and other writings concerning the internment of the Japanese during the war and made pilgrimages to Jerome and Tule Lake.

I am glad that we were able to settle back in our native Hawai‘i. With the help of relatives and friends, we enjoyed a normal family life in Hawai‘i. Our dad was able to utilize his talents in the media field and we children were able to get a good education.

During the war, the FBI concluded: “We do not see how this man [Ozaki] can ever become loyal to the United States of America, and we do not believe that his children will ever be brought up as Americans.” As it turned out, my brothers as adults were appointed to serve in positions of responsibility in the federal government: Earl served as head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspection Unit for Asia and resided in the U.S. Embassy Compound in Tokyo, and Carl served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

This is still a great country, and I am proud to be one of its citizens, but we must never again treat families in such a discriminatory, impersonal and dehumanizing manner. Hopefully, our past will make all of us better human beings.

Source:   Family Torn Apart: The Internment Story of the Otokichi Muin Ozaki Family, ed. Gail Honda.
Publication:  Honolulu: Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i, 2012
Page #:  IX-X  [from front matter]
Call No. in JCCH Resource Center:  H 940.5317 FAM

MLA citation:  Arasato, Lily Ozaki. "Message from a Daughter." Frontmatter. Family Torn Apart: The Internment Story of the Otokichi Muin Ozaki Family. Ed. Gail Honda. Honolulu: Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i, 2012. IX-X. The Untold Story: The Internment of Japanese Americans in Hawai‘i. Web. [date of access]