Oral History Interview with Marion Kanemoto
Nisei female, born in Seattle, Washington on January 3, 1928 to an import-export business family. Japanese immigration to the United Sstates was closed in 1924 but Marion√Ø¬ø¬Ωs father was allowed entry that year as he was a treaty merchant and met financial assets criteria. His business property was bought under a Nisei relative√Ø¬ø¬Ωs name. When the family - three sons, Marion, parents - visited Japan in 1937, the eldest son was left there with grandparents. This showed intent that the family would return to Japan. On returning to Seattle, Marion√Ø¬ø¬Ωs father started a supermarket in addition to the import-export business. In 1942 her father was arrested by the FBI: he was a leader in the Japanese community, had business contacts with Japan and had a large amount of cash on his person. All his business assets were confiscated by the FBI. He was imprisoned in Missoula, Montana and Lordsburg, New Mexico, then was sent to Minidoka, Idaho. In the spring of 1942, Marion at age fifteen, her mother and two younger brothers were evacuated to Puyallup, Washington, then to Minidoka, Idaho where the family was reunited with father. He applied for repatriation to Japan under a prisoner of war exchange program agreed upon between Japan and the U.S. in 1942-1943. In October, 1943 they boarded a Swedish liner in New Jersey for an eighty-five day trip to Goa, India. The family enjoyed first-class accommodations in contrast to the Japanese ship that carried them from Goa to Japan. This ship was a precursor to what they would face in Japan: miserable living conditions and contaminated and rotten food. In Japan, Marion√Ø¬ø¬Ωs father built the family a shack near the main house of his family. She attended a girl√Ø¬ø¬Ωs school only sporadically due to ill health. In lieu of academics the girls sewed buttons on garments. During the U.S. occupation, Marion√Ø¬ø¬Ωs bilingual skills were often called upon by both school officials and U.S. military. Her father taught English and the brother who was left in Japan served in the Japanese military. With the help of relatives, Marian returned to Washington and worked part-time while attending adult night school for her high school diploma. From 1948 to 1951 she attended St. Mary√Ø¬ø¬Ωs Nursing School in Rochester, Minnesota where she met and married James Kanemoto. They lived in Okinawa from 1952 to 1959 where James worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They moved to Sacramento where Marion earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at California State University, Sacramento. She has held nursing positions in hospitals, clinics and was a school nurse for the Elk Grove School District until her retirement. Under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, Marion applied for redress but was denied as the law provided that persons relocated to Japan were ineligible for redress. The Office of Redress Administration denied 125 applicants on this basis. Marion received legal and public support from the Japanese American Citizens League, San Francisco Asian Law Caucus, and National Coalition for Redress and Reparation for reinterpretation. Subsequently, fourteen claimants who were children in 1943 filed a suit, Kanemoto v. Reno in 1992. Ultimately, the Department of Justice determined that the children were sent to Japan without valid consent, i.e., the parents made decisions to return to Japan, not the children. This meant that applicants formerly denied redress became eligible.
Ethnic Studies 110, California State University, Sacramento (CSUS); Tape 4: "Reinterview"
Transcript available at California State University, Sacramento University Library
4 Tapes of 4
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