This is most likely a story you will not read. But it is not being written for you. I am writing it for myself. I never want to forget, and writing it down will help me remember.
Many years ago I worked in a casino. While there, I met, was befriended by, and learned much from a man I hope to always remember. He was about 15 years older than I am, and has since left this mortal world. Now I look back and can honestly say he was like an older brother to me—a young man struggling with adulthood before I was really ready to become an adult, although I already had a very good start on it.
Yosh was born in California. His parents had come to the United States several years before, each from different areas of Japan. They met, bought land, established a farm, and started a family. They were proud to be Americans, and raised their children to be the same.
At the age of four, Yosh and his family were forced from their home and confined to a concentration camp. They had done no wrong. They just didn’t look like their neighbors, and fear was running deep in the early 40’s.
There are several groups of people in this country that know what the Japanese-Americans from the World War II era went through. The Native Americans—subjugated, forced from their land, and nearly exterminated, not allowed to vote until 1924. The Africans—brought to America in chains and forced into slavery, their only crime being that they were of a different color, and each generation producing more (non)citizens of this great nation. Our brown brothers from the south—deported because of fear they will take over, and half of the deportees have been citizens of this country. The Chinese who came to America to help build a railroad, and after it was completed only to be forced to live in squalor and then treated less than an animal.
I think you get the picture.
Yosh did not live at Manzanar, but when I visited I got the impression that the other nine internment centers were the same as what I saw in the Owens Valley. The weather was probably the only difference between them.
Yosh’s family never returned to the land they once owned. They were forced to sell it at a rate much less than what it was worth. They then had to use what little money they had to live in the fine establishment built just for them, and their kind.
Yosh and I worked graveyard shift (0200-1000) as two members of a four member team in the high limit pit as craps dealers. The man taught me much about customer service, and how to treat people. His outlook on life was one of the best I have ever come in contact with. He went above and beyond in all aspects of helping a guest maximize their gaming experience, and Yosh demanded the same from every other dealer working “his” table. Day in and day out Yosh took what life had dealt him and played his hand better than anyone I’ve ever met.
Every day, except December 7th. On that day Yosh was a different man. For four straight years I sat with Yosh after work and drank beer on “Pearl Harbor Day.” He drank not to celebrate, but to commemorate—to honor those that suffered silently for something they had no hand in. You see, on the day that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor the lives of 120,000 Japanese-Americans changed forever. Yosh believed that that act alone killed his father. The man died a slow death, but it was the bombing at Pearl Harbor, the subsequent confinement, and the losing of his land and everything he had worked for that shortened his life.
Yosh may have been young when he was confined with the rest of his family, but he remembered. December 7th was about the only time Yosh would talk of life in the camp. Some of his stories were funny, some of them sad, but all of them very real.
Good night, Mrs. Jackson, wherever you are.