BUENA PARK — Terminal Islanders Kenji Yamamoto, 95 (front row, left), and Hideko, 92, their son Tim (back row, right) and his wife Tomoko (left) posed for the camera along with Min Tonai, president of the Terminal Islanders Club, at the group’s annual picnic held on June 9 at George Bellis Park in Buena Park.
The couple married in the Manzanar Relocation Center in 1943. Hideko lived in Block 31 and Kenji in Block 9. Looking back before the war, Hideko recalls that Kenji was selling groceries from a truck for Murakami Shoten on Terminal Island. One day, he drove by and gave Hideko a large peach.
“It was right after I came back from Japan in 1940,” she said. “My hometown was Nagahama, Ehime (Prefecture) and I went to Matsuyama Women’s High School. I was Kenji’s elementary classmate, Akitoshi Nakamura’s sister, and probably Kenji wanted to be nice to me.
“Kenji was smiling and joking around. His big eyes were impressive. I thought how Nisei, American men are so akarui (cheerful) in contrast to Japanese men. Because the time that I spent my adolescent days, Japan was already in wartime and the mood was so kurai (dark).”
On the picnic site, more than 200 members including Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, and Gosei Terminal Islanders gathered and celebrated their heritage.
Tonai announced that Yukio Tatsumi, a past president who served the group for more than 30 years, was to be awarded a commendation by Consul General of Japan Jun Niimi on June 10. Unfortunately, Tatsumi’s wife passed away recently and the family was not able to attend the summer gathering this time.