By RYOKO OHNISHI
RAFU STAFF WRITER
“Akemashite omodeto gozaimasu (Happy New Year)” — Nearly 150 Terminal Islanders gathered at the Elks Lodge in San Pedro to play and sing Japanese music this past Sunday to celebrate the 41st New Year’s party of the group.
During the annual luncheon, the retirement of president Yukio Tatsumi, 91, who had served for 27 years, was announced, and Min Tonai, 83, was appointed as the new president. In addition, a plan for establishing the Terminal Islanders Library to be housed in the Long Beach Japanese Cultural Center was revealed.
Tatsumi remarked to the group, “The pre-war community of Terminal Island as our furusato (hometown) still remains in the hearts of our yuura’s (yours) and miira’s (mine). The new president, Min, yoroshiku tanomimasu (please take care of the group).”
Upon the passing of the guard, Tonai said, “I will be the transition to pass on to the next-generation Islanders such as Sansei, Yonsei and Gosei to operate the group. I also want to bring more visitors to the Terminal Island Memorial Monument that was built during Yukio’s reign.”
Plaques of appreciation were given from the group and also from the Los Angeles Police Department to acknowledge Tatsumi’s contributions.
Tatsumi said to the Rafu, “Hotto shita (I am relieved). I am getting old, turning 92 this summer. It is my first time to visit the Elks Lodge, which is very nice. We can view Terminal Island, where I was born, from the ballroom. It was nice to let young people do the job. I look forward to coming to the picnic in June.”
Terminal Island is a man-made island located between San Pedro and the Port of Long Beach. It is about half the size of Los Angeles International Airport. Before World War II, the island was known as “East San Pedro” and was home to Japanese fishermen and cannery employees. Some 1,200 Issei and their families living on Terminal Island in 1920 and the population increased to 3,000 by the late 1930s. The majority of the Issei were immigrants from fishing villages in Wakayama, Shizuoka, and Mie prefectures.
However, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Islanders became the target of monitoring for “suspicious activities” by the U.S. authorities and media. Even the dry-fishing poles became alleged “secret communication devices and antennas,” according to Tatsumi.
The Islanders were forced to move out within 48 hours after Executive Order 9066 was issued in February 1942, and they were never able to come back to the island because it was bulldozed by the Navy. They were incarcerated in the Manzanar concentration camp.
After the war, many Islanders scattered throughout the Los Angeles area to find a place to live and work. They have shared many joys and sorrows over the years, and there was a wish to reunite. In 1971, the Islanders formed a group, and Bill Nakasaki became the first president; Tatsumi took over as the second president in 1985.
In 2002, the group built a memorial monument featuring two fishermen and a torii (gate) that symbolizes the community on the site near the former
FishHarbor. Tatsumi said, “When we had the idea of building a memorial, we were told to build it in San Pedro. I said, ‘no’ since it has to be at the location where our community exists. We insisted on building it on Terminal Island.”
The new treasurer of the group, Ken Nakagawa, a board member of the Long Beach Cultural Center, is Tatsumi’s son’s long-time schoolmate. Nakagawa leads the plan to establish the library in the center so that people can access various historical photos and documents through the Internet and on site.
The new officers of the group are: vice presidents — Charlie “Ohei” Hamasaki, Itsu Iwasaki, Susumu “Cabby” Iwasaki, Takashi Kushi, Asako Miki, and Manabu Takabe; secretary — June Miyamoto Donovan; treasurer — Ken Nakagawa; advisors — Yukio Tatsumi, Toshiro Izumi, Kaneko Nakanishi, Katsumi Ryono, and Kisaye Sato.