Take Eto's Story During and After World War II, Told by her Daughter
Updated: Jul 16
Below is a retelling of Take Eto's life during and after World War II. To learn more about her life before World War II, click here. On December 7, 1941, news spread that Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan. The next morning, Take Eto's husband was gone. A once strong woman, who wouldn't let anything bring her down, was no longer bustling in the morning, as she worried for her and her family's fate. She was terrified as she had no idea where her husband was. Yet even so, she stayed strong and let the children sleep, while she decided what to do next.
Mr. Tameji Eto (Photo Courtesy of History Center of San Luis Obispo County)
Early the next morning, Shibata's brother went to the Police Station, but to no avail about his whereabouts. Only her sister Mary found out that he was not allowed to speak Japanese any longer, and was to migrate South. However, the local press said Tameji Eto was arrested as he had been in secret meetings with Japanese spies. This was simply untrue, but racial injustice portrayed him this way, and his family could not do anything without risking their own lives.
A few weeks later, the family received a letter saying Mr. Eto was in jail in Santa Barbara, but they were only allowed to visit him for three minutes. When they arrived, Mr. Eto said he missed the fresh air and all he wanted were clothes and cigars, but when they returned the next time with those items, he had been moved yet again. This shows how miserable life was for the family and even when they just wanted to deliver some clothes, they were forced to bring those items home, and worry about what their father/husband's fate would be.
Indeed, times only got worse, for they caught word that Mr. Eto was going to be moved to a very cold area and needed warm clothes. They also found out that the train was going to pass by San Luis Obispo. With their newly found spirits high, they eagerly waited past midnight at the train station, but Mr. Eto never came. Later, they found out that his train took a different route.
The war times were so miserable for the Japanese that one day, the family received a letter from Mr. Eto, suggesting that they head back home to Japan. But Take Eto responded that no matter what, America was their home, and she was going to stay. As can be seen, no matter how bad things got, Take Eto restored hope in herself and her family, and believed coming to America was a choice she wouldn't want to take back.
Luckily, it was a good decision, for in 1944, Mr. Eto was allowed to reunite with his family. In 1945, the family was allowed to move back to Los Osos, where younger generations of the Eto family live today. But when they came home in 1945, the door hung off its hinges, and weeds basically covered the entire home; the family was forced to begin a new life from scratch again.
Though it seemed the Eto family had been through enough for a lifetime, in 1953, Tameji Eto came down with cancer. Fortunately, he had a successful operation and in December of that year, Mr. and Mrs. Eto's lifelong dream finally became a reality: they were citizens of the United States. Post World War II, the family was very involved publicly in restoring the relationship between Japan and the U.S. In 1959, Take Eto could not have been prouder of her husband for in Kyushu, Japan, a statue was built in his honor for his service in helping Japanese citizens in the U.S.
Likewise, that summer, Mr. and Mrs. Eto celebrated their 50th anniversary. Unfortunately, around the same time, her husband succumbed to cancer once more. One day, his tired body gave in, but Take Eto said she had no regrets, "I did everything in my power for him while he lived, and he knew that. That is all that matters" (Nakano). After his death, Take Eto picked up a hobby of flower arranging, and on her 88th birthday, her youngest daughter took her on a trip to Hawaii.
Take Eto and her ikebana (Flower Arragements) (Image source here)
Ultimately, Take Eto's story ends 96 years later, but she was a woman of strength and patience, a woman to be admired, and a woman who "asked for so little and gave so much" (Nakano).
Nakano, Mei T., and Grace Shibata. Japanese American Women: Three Generations, 1890-1990. Mina Press Pub., 1990. Pg. 77-95