Tractor on Strawberry Farm

Tractor on Strawberry Farm

Japanese commanders surrendered their swords to the Allies aboard the USS Missouri in a traditional ceremony September 2, 1945; nearly a month after the atom bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in southern Japan where most Island Nikkei families originated. Kay Nakao and her sisters and brother lost their grandmother in the Hiroshima devastation.

Since the European Axis powers had surrendered in May, with this Pacific ceremony, World War II officially ended. By that time, most exiled Nikkei had been released from confinement and allowed to return to the West Coast. Following the Endo case before the Supreme Court and with the end of war in sight, the government released the first Nikkei in January 1945.

Islanders Sam Nakao and Johnny Nakata visited Bainbridge Island in the spring to determine if it was a safe environment for their young families. Both were satisfied and brought their families homes, following the example set by Saichi and Yone Takemoto, who in April became the first Islanders to return.

Slideshow

Rebuilding Lives After War: A collection of artifacts and photos chronicling Bainbridge Island Nikkei after the end of WWII

At the close of the war the group of 276 Bainbridge Islanders of Japanese ancestry who were forced to leave the island in March 1942 were scattered across the country and world. One hundred twenty–three were in Minidoka, twenty–six in Manzanar, forty–four were serving in the armed forces in the states and abroad, and still others had left the camps to seek employment or education in areas outside of the exclusion zone. This close–knit Japanese farming community, like many others across the western states, had been drastically altered by exclusion and detention.

Many Island families did not return to Bainbridge because they had rented their homes and land and had nothing to return to. Others who had left the camps to move east during the war had started new lives and remained there. The Sakumas chose to settle in the nearby Burlington area where they felt the land was more farmable. The Kinos lost their strawberry farm when taxes could not be paid and thus could not return. The Kitayamas started a prosperous greenhouse business in California. Even though they did not return to Bainbridge Island, most remained in close contact with their Island friends and stayed abreast of news from "back home" for years to come.

Over half of the families did return to Bainbridge Island after the war and were successful in rebuilding their lives and businesses. All of them are grateful to the Woodwards and the role that the Review played in helping to create an accepting and peaceful atmosphere for them to come home to. Throughout the war the Woodwards printed columns with news of daily events that occurred in the lives of the Bainbridge Island Nikkei who, though forced to leave the island, still called it home. They were not forgotten while away. Also instrumental in promoting this welcoming environment was the Open Forum through which Islanders could express their feelings in letters to the editor. Letters in opposition to the return of the Japanese were printed but this just seemed to spur more letters in support of their return. Bainbridge Island did not have a corner on the market for this type of supportive sentiment, but the Review helped bring it to a public platform where the beliefs of individuals could be shared with the entire community. The Island Nikkei returned without fanfare but also without any resistance.

 

  • Home of Greenleaf Wholesale Florists, Inc. Over 35.5 acres of flower greenhouses, specializing in roses and carnations. Union City, CA. 1967. Following the war, Tsutomu and Isamu Kitayama moved to San Leandro, CA and started a greenhouse business. Years later their business grew to this operation.

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