Teruto Nomura is ready to forget about the time he spent interned in a relocation camp during World War II, even though he lost almost everything he owned when he was told to pack his belongings and leave his home and the restaurant he had run for 10 years.
Nomura, 84, was one of 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were herded into 10 relocation camps at the height of the war. He and 60,000 survivors are waiting for long-promised reparations from the federal government.
Nomura and 15 to 20 other former internees live in Chula Vista at the Kiku Gardens retirement home, which caters mostly to Japanese-Americans--with Japanese-style food, Asian decorations and a library of Japanese and English books and magazines.
Despite the loss of his business after he and his wife were interned, Nomura said he would have been content without the reparations.
"Japanese are more or less influenced by Buddhism and various Chinese philosophies, so they take things the way they come and they just don't like to talk about it," said Nomura, who was fortunate enough to leave the relocation camps after only nine months. However, he was forced to go to the Midwest and not allowed to return home until the end of the war.
"It's passed, like a bad dream in the night," Nomura said.
The relocation camps, so called because their official intent was to move many Japanese-Americans from the West Coast, were established in the wake of hysteria over the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Many Americans suspected their Asian-American neighbors of being spies.
Last Tuesday, U.S. officials handed out the first apologies and reparation checks of $20,000 each that will go to the 60,000 survivors of the camps. The program will cost $1.5 billion over the next three years.
Some residents of Kiku Gardens are skeptical about receiving the reparations, saying they have heard such promises before.
"I know they are paying it to some, but if you don't get it in your hand, it doesn't matter," said Roy Tsuchida, who, at 66, probably won't receive his apology and reparation check until at least next year. The checks are being issued to the oldest survivors of the camps first.
Nomura was born in Sacramento in 1906, and shortly afterward his family took him to Japan for his education. He returned to the United States in 1924 and opened a restaurant in Seattle eight years later. Shortly after war with Japan broke out, Nomura and his wife (they later divorced) were taken to the Gila Relocation Center in Arizona.
"The camp was surrounded by barbed-wire fences, guards with machine guns were in towers around the place, and you couldn't leave the camp without special permission," he said.
But now it's over, and he'd like to put it behind him, Nomura said.
"The money isn't so important. If there is no money, there is no difference," said Nomura, who has no children to whom he could leave the money. "When you reach 80 or 90 years old, money is not so important. More important is the apology."
Even with the apology, some still struggle with their memories.
"An apology is a good thing, but it's hard to forget what our own government did to us," Yoshiko Kashima said.
"For me, it was the prime time of my life; I was uprooted and I lost everything," said Mas Honda, who was 24 when he began the first of four years at the relocation camp in Posten, Ariz. He now manages the Kiku Gardens.
Although the Japanese-American community struggled for more than a decade to get Congress to pass legislation approving the reparations, it was the younger generation that did the fighting, and not all of the older Japanese-Americans supported their efforts.
"We were accepted back into American society after the war, and rather than rock the boat, I wasn't too much in favor of" pursuing reparations, said Honda, 73.
But now that reparations are in the process of being paid, the first-generation immigrants, the \o7 issei, \f7 have come to appreciate the work conducted by the third generation, the \o7 sansei\f7 .
"Their philosophy is entirely different than the \o7 issei \f7 or older second generation who have had closer contact with Japan. The \o7 sansei \f7 have no contact or influence with Japan or they don't know the philosophy," said Nomura, himself a second-generation immigrant.
The younger generation involved in the reparations and redress movement also recognize the differences between their perspective and that of their parents and grandparents.
"I think it took the younger people who really understood the situation and felt that this really was an act of discrimination during the war, and they really thought they could right a wrong," said Marleen Kawahara, chairwoman of the redress effort of the San Diego chapter of the Japanese-American Citizens League.
"The \o7 sansei \f7 are a little more outspoken and a little more understanding of what's going on in their community," said Kawahara, a \o7 sansei\f7 who was born in a relocation camp in Rohwer, Ark.