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By the Hands of a Working Man: A Japanese Background, a Mexican Childhood, an American Life (book)

Creators: Thomas K. Ito


Nisei landscape architect shares his life story, from his childhood in Mexico to his years working in Los Angeles-area nurseries to his wartime experiences in Manzanar and Illinois.

Thomas Ito (1919–2016) begins his memoir by recounting how his father ended up in Mexico, and his early years in Mexico, his early aspirations to become a violinist, and his eventual return to California. His father, Arthur Yoshimasa Oye, was born in 1881 in Japan, immigrated to the U.S. in 1902 via Seattle. He made his way to California, eventually marrying Fumiyo Ito, and becoming an adopted son of her family, in 1916. Arthur and Fumiyo had three sons and were living in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles when Arthur inherited a substantial amount of money and decided to establish a colony in Mexico. The family immigrated there, but when Fumiyo passed away in 1933, the rest of the family dispersed: Arthur returned to Japan, and in 1936, Tom returned to Los Angeles on his own.

Tom joined one of his other brothers working at a nursery operated by a Japanese immigrant, and had just begun thinking more seriously about establishing his own business when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He and his extended family were incarcerated at Manzanar , but he left in March 1943 for a job in Chicago growing vegetables through the American Friends Service Committee . He held several other positions in the Illinois area, and was inspired to become a landscape architect there. He stayed in Illinois until Spring 1946, when his brothers convinced him to return to Los Angeles. In the last part of his memoir, he recounts how he began his profession as an independent landscape architect in Los Angeles and concludes with his marriage to his wife, whom he had known for a while, in 1947.

Author Background

Tom Ito (1919-2016) was a landscape architect who worked primarily in Southern California. After he retired, he settled in Woodinville, Washington.

Authored by Emily Anderson

Might also like In Search of Hiroshi by Gene Oishi; Manzanar to Mount Whitney: The Life and Times of a Lost Hiker by Hank Umemoto; Memoirs of a Certain Nisei, 1916-1985 , Aru Nisei No Wadachi by Thomas Taro Higa

Media Details
Author Thomas K. Ito
Pages 151
Publication Date 2002
For More Information

For More Information

Thomas K. Ito Obituary, Woodinville [Washington] Weekly , Jan. 11, 2016.