A Tale of A Struggle Between Two Cultures
by Bonnie Tom
    The fifth of seven siblings, Edna "Fudge" Sato lived a carefree, happy life on Enterprise Stock Farm, located in present day Long Beach. Her parents were Japanese immigrants who wanted a better life for themselves and their children. The biggest change in her life occurred when the farm was shut down and her family moved into the city. In the country, all interactions were among Japanese. But when she got to the city, she met people outside of the Japanese culture.
    As a child, Fudge had the best of two worlds. She never felt she was different from other kids, she was able to participate in activities from both cultures. Her parents enrolled her in Japanese school, so she could learn her native language, and she participated in kendo, a Japanese martial art. She also took jazz, ballet, tap and piano lessons. Her parents were very liberal and allowed their children to attend the Buddhist temple and the Christian church. The children selected their own religion when they were mature enough to make a decision.
    The day after Pearl Harbor, Fudge's father was sent to a concentration camp. It was assumed that since he was a Japanese immigrant, he was sympathetic to the Japanese government. In a day, Fudge and her family had gone from living very comfortably to living in almost destitution. I was shocked and saddened by this. I could not imagine having to deal with the removal of my father from my everyday life. Her father had signed over power of attorney of their restaurants to a Russian man, who the family never saw again. Later, they discovered that this same man become a millionaire from their restaurant business. Most people would have been angry at losing such a fortune, but Fudge's father said he did not measure success upon the amount of material wealth a man has, what mattered the most was the life that one lives and the friends he/she has. After hearing the story of Fudge's father, I have come to realize that money is not everything. Her father was able to live a full and happy life without the money and never had any regrets.
    Everything that was under her father's name was seized, including their bank accounts. The only available cash they had was their mother's checking account. Everyone pitched in to make money for the family. Fudge and her younger siblings strung painted macaroni to make costume jewelry to help her family stay afloat. The children had been essentially expelled from school because of their nationality. Fudge recalls being called racial slurs. I found it sad that the government took their anger on the Japanese government on these innocent children. They were being deprived of an education because of a simple thing as their nationality. I cannot believe children were taught these awful racial slurs, they were robbed of their innocence at such a young age.
    After surviving a few months by selling valuable items such as their car and Fudge's brand new piano, her family was told they were being relocated and they had a few days to settle their business affairs. Fudge remembers packing away their expensive silverware, their Japanese tea sets, dolls and other valuables and storing and locking them in their basement. The family was instructed to gather at the Santa Anita Assembly Center with only one suitcase per person. I was disgusted to learn that this Santa Anita Assembly Center is same Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia. I cannot believe these poor people were "relocated" to a racetrack. The living conditions of animals and humans are totally different, what kind of ignorant, insensitive people were making these decisions?
    While Fudge was staying at the Santa Anita Assembly Center, one of her neighbors came to visit her. This visitor was of African-American descent and while she was reaching out to hold Fudge's hand behind the bars, a Caucasian guard had yelled, "do not touch that child." Fudge clearly remembers this lady ranting and raving of the injustice behind the situation. It was horrible to think of people being locked away in a prison like environment just because they were of Japanese descent. I could not believe a government that claimed "life, liberty and equality for all" could be capable of such heinous acts. Since she was raised with African-American people, Fudge has always been sympathetic to their cause. In the area where she lived, the people were integrated but prejudice still existed. Some of Fudge's best friends were of African-American descent; she had always stood up for them and received much criticism for it. Fudge was touched by the kindness her neighbor had shown her. Upon her release from the concentration camp, she joined the NAACP. I admire Fudge for resisting the criticism and sticking firm in her beliefs and standing up for her friends.
    The Santa Anita Relocation Center was not the final stop for Fudge and her family. They were placed on trains and taken to a concentration camp in Colorado. At this time, Fudge was 13 years old. Fudge was fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends; the whole ordeal seemed like going away to camp for her. She was able to continue her education in a school within the camp. The camp was like a regular community, except for the fact that it was fenced in. Within the camp, there were 30 blocks with 10 barracks to a block. In the center of each block stood a mess hall, restrooms, a laundry room and the showers. I was amazed by how these courageous people were able to live in a confined space for as long as they did. I do not know how I would have dealt with the whole situation of being extracted from my home and placed in a totally different environment.
    During the war, Fudge's older brother served as an interpreter in the Japanese concentration camps. His knowledge of the Japanese language secured him a position in military intelligence, which is ironic because he was condemned for being Japanese. The whole situation was ironic because Fudge's father wanted his sons to volunteer for the army when they were old enough. Her father considered America his country and he wanted his sons to serve their country. I admire Fudge's brother for serving America, I would not have been willing to serve a country that was responsible for uprooting my family for no reason and placing in those wretched camps.
    Fudge believes that the Japanese-American people were easy scapegoats for the government. Even though she was Americanized, the traditions in the Japanese culture were so deeply rooted that they could not be eradicated by enculturation. People in the Japanese culture were always taught to be obedient and to endure. People during that time did not question authority, they just followed quietly and did not protest. If this had happened today, people would be riled up and protest at having their Constitutional rights taken away. This is true, what was accepted then is much different from what is accepted now. If such a thing occurred now, people would not take the situation lying down. They would be out demonstrating and protesting about the injustice of the situation. People would vocalize their opinions and would make sure that they were heard.
In conducting this interview, I was able to learn about a time in American history that is particularly dark. I could not believe that a country that stands up for equality of all people would be responsible for the segregation of foreign people. I am also planning a trip to the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo to learn more about the history of the Japanese in America. Fudge informed me that a picture of her family's hog farm is part of an exhibit in the museum. The positive outlook of Fudge's father left a lasting impression upon me. I only hope to live a life with at least half the optimism her father had.