Japanese-Peruvians still angry over wartime internment in U.S. camps

by

Kyodo News

LIMA — As Peruvians of Japanese descent observe the 110th anniversary of their parents’ or grandparents’ immigration to the South American country this year, some do not hide their anger at World War II that forced them to live in an internment camp in the United States.

Augusto Kage, 78, wanted to become a doctor until the war shattered his dream. He remembers the police taking his father, Mantaro Kage, into custody in January 1942, a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The elder Kage was taken with nothing but the clothes he was wearing. Originally from Fukuoka Prefecture, he was running a restaurant in Piura, northern Peru.

His father’s restaurant went out of business, and Kage and his seven siblings stayed at the home of an acquaintance of their Peruvian mother. The war shut down the Japanese school, forcing Kage, then 11 and the eldest son in the family, to give up hopes of becoming a physician. He sold newspapers and juice on a street corner to earn money for the family.

His father and the rest of his family were placed in an internment camp in Crystal City, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexican border in October 1944. They returned to Peru in October 1946.

His father was 56 years old and had no job. Kage worked in a restaurant to send his brothers and sisters to school.

“I wanted to study,” said Kage, who now has a seafood restaurant in the city of El Callao, neighboring Lima. “I lost everything because of the war.”

Sisters Yuriko Tanaka, 77, and Miyoko Sakata, 73, of Lima, said about 2,500 Latin Americans of Japanese descent were interned behind barbed wire in the Crystal City facilities. More than 80 percent of them came from Peru, a U.S. ally in the war.

U.S. soldiers guarded the camp, which measured about 40 hectares, but the internees were allowed to manage their own self-governing council.

In an out-of-court settlement in 1998, the U.S. government apologized to Latin Americans of Japanese descent held in detention during the war and agreed to pay $5,000 per person.