Executive Order 9066: The Story of Yoshiko Araki
On June 2, 1921, Yoshiko Araki was born in Ventura California. Her parents raised her and her four younger siblings in California. Things changed dramatically for Yoshiko and her family when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. When the Executive Order 9066 came out in 1942 by President Roosevelt, stating that people of Japanese descent, including American citizens, would be incarcerated in isolated camps, herself along with her siblings and mother were sent to a Japanese Internment camp in Gila River in Arizona. Her father was taken to another camp because he was considered a “troublemaker” because he was not a citizen.
Yoshiko was 21 years old when she entered the camp. “Seems like a dream,” she says. She recalls it being a hot, dusty desert and the wind blowing in under the cracks of the barracks where they were forced to live. Herself along with a friend were writers for the camp newspaper and said they would compete to find the best stories to cover.
Yoshiko loved to dance and lucky for her, the camp held a lot of dances to keep them entertained. That is where she met, Kaname, who also loved to dance. Little did they know at that time they would one day be husband and wife.
If they found a job east of the Mississippi River, they were allowed to leave the camp. After two years of living at the camp, Yoshiko found a job in Detroit as a secretary at Winkelman’s Apparel. The rest of her family remained at the camp until December of 1944 when they were unofficially rescinded. However, all camps were not fully closed until the end of 1946. When her family went back to California, they threw a big party in their shed!
Back in Detroit, her best friend at the time reintroduced her to a boy, Kaname. Yoshiko and Kaname married in 1945 at Central Methodist Church in Detroit. They had two children, Pam and Terry, and raised them in Detroit. When Pam was born, they were renting a house but decided to purchase a piece of property and build their dream home. Being an avid sportsman, Kaname looked for a house on the water and in August of 1958 they moved to 10 Mile and Jefferson.
Yoshiko and Kaname kept busy in their adult lives. Her husband went to Wayne State and played intramural basketball. He worked at a Dental Lab and went to school to become a Certified Dental Technician. He was one of the earliest to be certified in the state of Michigan in the 50’s and opened his own business. Once Kaname opened his business, she would do all the bookwork for him. She also loved to cook, write poetry, paint, and make purses. She still has purses that are over 50 years old!
Kaname passed away in 1995.
In 2021, the Detroit Historical Museum featured an exhibit called “Exiled To Motown” which explored how the Japanese Americans made it to Motown. Yoshiko’s family loaned documents and material items to them including documents of her parents’ passports and immigration papers. Since they were only able to take to the camps what they could carry in a suitcase, they built furniture there which is still in their family and was displayed at the exhibit. “There is a lot of history we keep at home,” her son Terry said.
Yoshiko is looking forward to celebrating her 102nd birthday with her friends at American House Lakeshore this June!
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