Growing up in one of Arizona’s Japanese American incarceration camps  |  

December 7, 2023

Dick Matsuishi’s childhood was disrupted when, at 4 years old, he was sent to the Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona in 1943, following President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. He spent three formative years there as a Japanese American citizen confined due to wartime fears and prejudice after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Matsuishi reflects on the experience, acknowledging the lack of political leadership that led to the unjust incarceration of thousands.

Despite the circumstances, his childhood in the camp was surprisingly joyful; as a child, he played with other kids regardless of their ethnicity, unaware of the gravity of the situation. His family upheld the Japanese principle of shikata ga nai, making the best of an uncontrollable situation.

After President Truman’s order allowed their release in 1946, Matsuishi returned to Southern California, eventually becoming a dentist. He found love, married, and built a life with a family. While some remain bitter, Matsuishi focuses on the positive, emphasizing the importance of not forgetting history but moving forward to prevent similar injustices. His story highlights resilience in the face of adversity and the strength to forge a fulfilling life despite the hardships of the past.

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