Eji Suyama, 100th Bn/442nd RCT Draftees, No-Nos, Draft Resisters and Renunciants Archival Collection Endowment

UCLA Asian American Studies Center's Suyama Project aims to preserve the history of Japanese American resistance during World War II, including, but not limited to the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team draftees, Army and draft resisters, No-Nos, renunciants, and other Nikkei dissidents of World War II. The Suyama Project is made possible through the generous gift of an anonymous donor who wanted to honor and remember the legacy of resistance, broadly understood.

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November 13, 1943 - February 14, 1944

By Tatsuo Ryusei Inouye


Standing on the high desert of Tule Lake

Only the wind blows
The plaintive sounds of yesteryears

Once my father's shakuhachi
Sang songs of longing
To be on the other side of the barbed wire fence

Now the memories of the survivors remain as they talk story
While there is time
Soon even that will be gone

Only the wind song will remain to tell the story

- Tomiko Yabumoto

Tomiko Yabumoto, born in 1941, just before the start of
World War II, spent her early childhood in Tule Lake.


Of all the 10 War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps during World War II, Tule Lake is unique.

In July of 1943, the United States government converted Tule Lake from a WRA camp into a segregation center to imprison people of Japanese descent that the government branded as "disloyal" to the U.S.

To determine the alleged loyalty or disloyalty of a Japanese American, the U.S. government created a poorly-worded loyalty questionnaire. Respondents who gave unsatisfactory answers on this loyalty questionnaire were shipped to the Tule Lake Segregation Center until the Segregation Center became overcrowded and the government had to stop sending additional individuals.

Subsequent research, however, have shown that there had been a variety of reasons that a Japanese American ended up at the Tule Lake Segregation Center. Many of those reasons had little to do with issues of "loyalty" or "disloyalty" and had more to do with a desire to protest the government's discriminatory policies or to keep the family unit together or other related reasons.


Tatsuo Inouye was born in Laguna, California, in 1910 to Suekichi and Taka Miyahara Inouye, the third of four children. At the age of three, he and his parents returned to their ancestral home in Kumamoto, Japan, where Inouye received his education. He would become a Kibei, an American of Japanese descent who was educated in Japan.

He graduated from Uto Chugakko where he trained in judo, a martial art form literally translated as "the gentle way." Before he left Japan, he sought guidance from Mitsuru Toyama, a controversial right-wing political leader. He told Inouye to love the country of his birth as much as he loved Japan.

At the age of eighteen, Inouye returned to the U.S. through San Francisco on the Shunyo Maru in 1928. There, he was reunited with his older brother, Tokio, who was living in Los Angeles. After a short stint working with his brother in a bicycle shop in Boyle Heights, then delivering ice, Inouye became a judo instructor for the children of thirteen pioneer Japanese American families, living in Antelope Valley, just north of Los Angeles. At the same time, he started taking English language courses at the Lancaster Junior College. As a member of the Kodokan Nanka Judo Yudanshakai, he was among those who demonstrated judo at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. He held a fourth degree black belt during the war years.

Among Inouye's language school students was Yuriko Lili Sugimoto, a mischievous and independent American-born Nisei, (second generation) who often was sent home from Japanese language school for acting up in class. She was the fifth of the seven Sugimoto children. She had a gregarious and outgoing personality in contrast to Inouye, who was stoic and introspective but despite or perhaps because of their personality differences, they found themselves attracted to each other and married in 1934.

Shortly after they married, the couple did something almost unheard of at the time--they went on a six-month honeymoon to pay respects to the Inouye Family in Uto City, Kumamoto, then visited Toyama sensei. Pictures shows the couple traveled to Korea, then to China, where they took a picture walking on the Great Wall.

At the outbreak of World War II, the couple had two children. When the U.S. government issued orders to imprison people of Japanese descent living on the West Coast into U.S. style concentration camps, the Inouye family was shipped to the Colorado River (Poston) WRA camp in Arizona, along with Yuriko's family, the Sugimotos from Lancaster, California.

Before they left, the couple sold their store and a new refrigerator for $500 and rented out their home to a Mexican American family.