Japanese Internment Camp Survivor Speaks at APU

by Nina Karim '10

An APU Ethnic Studies class, taught by Assistant Provost Pamela Christian, Ph.D., recently hosted World War II survivor, Toshiko Shoji Ito, on Monday, April 25. Ito wrote about her experience as a teenager in the Japanese Internment camps in her novel, Endure.

Ito spent one year at Camp Minnedoka in Hunt, Idaho in 1947, when she was 17 years old. She spoke to students about what life and work was like at the camp.

"You don't think about the politics as a teenager. You are in a camp, but you still need to eat, sleep, and you want to hang out with friends," said Ito.

Ito spent her time at the camp helping out with the camp newspaper and hospital, which she said was paid work. One of the hardest parts of being at camp, according to Ito, was being seen as second class citizens by everyone around them. Upon leaving camp, it took her more than 10 years to overcome the bitterness that had been brewing inside. She received her degree from Citrus College and became a hairdresser by trade while continuing work at Citrus as a professor of cosmetology.

Ito reminded students that although the experience was not a pleasant one, it helped to make her more aware of the discrimination of other ethnic groups. A verse that helped get her through the suppressed bitterness was Matthew 7:1, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged."

This December, at the winter commencement ceremonies, APU plans to honor students of Japanese-American descent who were unable to complete their degrees due to internment during World War II.