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The Crystal City Story: One Family's Experience with the World War II Japanese Internment Camps (book)

Creators: Tomo Izumi

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Book cover. Courtesy of Tomo Izumi
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Self-published memoir by Tomo Izumi about her family's internment in the Crystal City, Texas , internment camp and her life before and after the war in a small plantation town on the Big Island of Hawai'i.

The story begins on the eve of World War II when Izumi was eight years old. Her father, Rev. Kakusho Izumi, was a Buddhist minister of the temple in Papaaloa, on the northeastern facing coast of the Big Island. She was the fourth of what were then seven children, six of whom lived in Hawai'i, the eldest having been sent to Japan to be raised. Four more children would be born during and after the war. On the night of December 7, Rev. Izumi is arrested by the FBI and local police. The family is kept in the dark as to his whereabouts until they are allowed to visit him at Kilauea Military Camp in February 1942. In August, they are suddenly told that Rev. Izumi will be repatriated to Japan and are given the option to go with him. Packing up hurriedly in just two days, the rest of the family sail from Hilo to Honolulu, then to San Francisco. From there, they take a train to North Carolina where they are first held at the luxurious Grove Park Inn in Asheville for three months, then to the less posh Assembly Inn in Montreat for another three months. Finally, in May 1943, they are transferred to Crystal City, where they are reunited with Rev. Izumi after over a year.

The Izumi family's two-and-a-half year stay at Crystal City makes up the core of the book. Izumi recalls her family's living accommodations and daily life; her education in schools that were tasked with preparing children for life in Japan; and the many friends she made. At war's end, her parents disagree about whether to return to Hawai'i or go to Japan. They eventually decide to return to Hawai'i, leaving Crystal City in December 1945. Izumi writes of her family's struggles to make ends meet in the years after the war, as the family continues to grow. Due to the shortage of Buddhist ministers, her father takes charge of two other temples—Honohina and Ninole—as well as Papaaloa. With her mother busy with teaching Japanese school and helping her husband, Tomo and her older sister Junko take on most of the household chores. Due to attending a Japanese school at Crystal City, she and her siblings are also behind at school, and she ends up a year behind her classmates. She also writes about the April 1, 1946, tsunami that kills many students and teachers at Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School, which she attends. The family eventually moves to Honolulu in 1951, and she graduates from McKinley High School . She writes about later reunions of both Crystal City internees and of the Laupahoehoe class of 1952 and about her later life when she works as a medical secretary and translator for Japanese-speaking patients in the 1970s and 1980s.

Begun when she was 79 years old, Izumi wrote both English and and Japanese language versions of the book. The book also includes a preface by Nancy Rathbun Scott.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like The Little Exile by Jeanette S. Arakawa; Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp by Lily Yuriko Nakai Havey; Dandelion Through the Crack/Kiyo's Story by Kiyo Sato

Media Details
Author Tomo Izumi
Pages 126
Publication Date 2016