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Relocation Camps
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Hiroyo Kato

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Ms. Hiroyo Kato, a 91 year old first generation Japanese immigrant lives in Fuji Tower. She was born on March 3, 1908, in Wakayama prefecture, the third daughter of seven children. At the age of 13, her second oldest sister died of meningitis.

Kato's father had been working in America as a celery farmer for a while, but returned to Japan when she was born. At the age of three, Kato moved to Los Angeles in America with her mother.

After being in America for three years, Kato returned to Japan with her aunt while her parents remained. She attended a girl`s school until she returned to Los Angeles at the age of 16.

Kato spent much of her time looking after her sick mother. Her father died of gastroscirrhus. After that, her older sister came to Los Angeles.

To support the family, her older brother continued their father`s farming business. As for Kato, she married on August 31, 1932, the day of the Los Angeles Olympics. She and her husband moved to Stockton, where he worked with the farming industry.

America was in the Depression during that time, and a working man could receive only about 25 cents an hour. In 1935 Kato`s first son was born, and their second son was born in 1939. That year, Kato and her husband decided to buy a house.

However, Pearl Harbor was attacked just three weeks after they bought the house, and they were forced to sell it and move to a Relocation Camp. Their two children, ages three and seven, went with them to the former horse racing grounds.

From May to November, they lived in a small, one-entrance, roofless shack. They left here and were taken to Arkansas. Kato remembers stretching and walking around after the four day train ride. There she lived for two years.

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The Christmas of 1942 was extremely warm because of the warm front from the Gulf of Mexico. Yet three days later, a cold front from the Rocky Mountains brought a blizzard.

She finally left for Tule Lake under the premise of returning to Japan.

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The camp grounds were 3 miles across, and some second generation Japanese-American soldiers took her picture. Also, there was a school for Japanese in Tule Lake.

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However, Kato and her family were freed one year later, at which time they returned to Stockton.

Because they did not have a house, they had to rent an old house from an Italian immigrant. The family of four lived there for ten years. When Kato`s eldest son was 23, his father died.

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Kato started working as a housekeeper one year later. Her younger son died in a traffic accident at the age of 21. Kato changed her job after that, and worked as a tailor for 13 years. She retired at the age of 65 and was administered to a hospital because of heart problems.

In 1975, she moved to the newly completed Fuji Tower in Los Angeles.


Ms. Hiroyo Kato

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