Remembrance by niece Midori Tanaka

Noboru Taguma, Rev. Tomoyoshi Tanaka, Midori Tanaka

Noboru Taguma Remembrance Speech

By Midori Tanaka, niece

April 9, 2011

Noboru-ojisan, I still cannot believe that you have passed away.  You have always been by my side, joking and laughing; I thought I could always rely on you.

When it was decided that I would be getting married and coming to America, my mother was very worried about letting her daughter go to such a faraway place. You gave her strength by saying with a nudge, “It’s alright, let her come.”  Since then, you have always been my emotional support.  Whether it be happy or sad moments, you have always treated me with warmth.  Even though my parents were far away, I never felt lonely since I was able to receive an abundance of strength and love from you, along with the Taguma cousins.

For the almost 31 years since I arrived in America, you have rarely missed our monthly service at our church.  You drove every month from Sacramento to San Francisco, then to Hayward bringing your whole family.  Each time you came, even if you had a brand new car, you would fill up your entire trunk with fruits and vegetables.  It was so heavy that the front of the car would rise up because of the weight.  You would bring more than enough so that we could share it with people in the San Francisco area.  Sakae-obachan would often tell me how you enjoyed talking to and being thanked by many San Franciscans when they saw you at the Mission Headquarters in LA.

When my oldest son was still a small child and didn’t have any siblings, I remember the Taguma family would visit and play with him.  And when it was time for you all to go home, he would cry and say that he wanted to go home with you all, regardless of the fact that I was holding him in my arms.  It made me feel very warm and appreciative knowing that although his real grandparents lived far away; he still had his Ojichan and Obachan and the whole Taguma family nearby who truly loved him.  This is something I will never forget.

After your stroke stopped you from driving, we took the liberty of picking you up for monthly service.  You would always say, “We don’t need to go anymore, we don’t need to go anymore,” saying that it should be left for the young people to do.  However, when the day came to leave for church, Obachan would say that you would be ready one to two hours before the set time and wander in and out of the house waiting to be picked up.  Hearing this story made me very thankful and warmed my heart.

Even last month’s service which ended up being your last, you were the same as usual being at the core of laughter.  When it was around the time for you to leave, you again said, “We don’t need to go anymore.  It must be hard for Shiori to pick up and send us home.”  But I told you that I can’t hear anything that you are saying and that Shiori will just go and put you in the car so you have to come.  Everyone laughed and agreed, and that was the end of it.  We all said our goodbyes and that we would see each other next month.  I never imagined that day would be the last time I would see you.

Throughout all these years, I have never seen you in an unpleasant mood, which allowed me to rely on you without worry.  It touched my heart deeply.  It has become very lonely without you, but I am encouraged knowing that I still have Sakae-obachan, who you have been one in body and soul with all these years.  I hope to respect and care for her to uphold “oyakoukou (filial piety),” which is something that you always talked about.

Ojichan, thank you very very much for helping me all these years and also keeping the promise you made to my mother.

I hope to meet you again even after rebirth and be able to properly thank you.  I truly thank you very much.

(translated by Sara Shiori Tanaka)

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Eulogy of Noboru Taguma by Andy Noguchi

Noboru Taguma Eulogy

By Andy Noguchi

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I offer my deepest condolences to the Taguma family and thank you for allowing me to share a few thoughts about Mr. Taguma for myself, my wife Twila, and daughter Annie.  He did so much with his life and we are truly grateful.

Noboru Taguma helped change Japanese American history for generations to come. He brought people in the community together. He enriched people’s lives, including mine and my family’s.

Mr. Taguma’s character, his conviction, and his courage, helped write a new, proud, and honest narrative for our community. As he grew up as a farm boy to immigrant parents in West Sacramento, the lessons of hard work, family, community, and what America should be were etched in his character.

When the government unfairly locked him up, his parents and his 6 brothers and sisters at the Amache concentration camp, he firmly believed that the American dream and his convictions had been betrayed.

When our government asked him to forget about this grave injustice, he courageously protested by refusing to the draft until his family’s rights were restored.  He and 300 other young men, mostly farm boys like himself, bravely stood up against the overwhelming might of the U.S. government, police, courts, and even much of the Japanese American community.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this. Mr. Taguma told me the story about when he was just 8 years old on his family’s farm. His father Iwakichi was driving with young Noboru to visit friends on New Year’s Day. Being a social type, Iwakichi couldn’t turn down his friends’ generous offers of hot sake and respecting the traditional New Year’s toasts. He probably had a few too many adult beverages.

His father had Noboru drive him home. Here was a little 8 year old boy standing up to reach the steering wheel and controls with his father “relaxed” in the car. A policeman seeing a kid at the wheel pulled him over. The cop walked up to the window and asked:  “What are doing sonny boy?”  Eight-year-old Noboru’s reply? My name is NOT “sonny boy.” It’s Noboru Taguma!

Even at a very young age, Mr. Taguma was standing up (literally) and speaking up in the face of authority!  To all the Taguma grandchildren here, don’t follow this one example from ji-chan. You can follow his other examples.

Over the last 20 years, Mr. Taguma’s character, conviction, and courage continued – even when many others told him not to rock the boat. He didn’t have to speak out in his later years, just like he didn’t have to speak up in camp.  But he did!

My wife Twila and I first met Mr. Taguma in 1993 – 18 years ago at Sac State College.  We attended that first local forum on the Nisei Resisters organized by Kenji Taguma and moderated by Wayne Maeda.

In 1994, the local Florin JACL publicly honored Mr. Taguma and 5 other local resisters with the Daruma Civil Rights Award.  The plaque said “Recognizing your courage in challenging the internment of Japanese Americans.”

In the years leading up to the overwhelming vote for the National JACL Resisters Recognition Resolution in 2000, Mr. Taguma was very busy. He participated in numerous forums, interviews, and meetings to share the important stand for civil rights.

Finally in 2002, at the National Recognition Ceremony in S.F., Mr. Taguma and 17 other resister families bravely stepped forward to tell their story to millions of Americans through the media and seek understanding and reconciliation for the community.

Noboru Taguma inspired me, as well as a whole generation of 3rd and 4th generation Japanese Americans, about standing up for what’s right. In this era of post 9/11 suspicions, prejudice, and backlash against other unpopular Americans, this lesson is critical today.

When I think about the future of our community, I look to our young people and the role models they have. Our daughter Annie has grown up hearing of those like my late father, among the courageous Nisei veterans, who chose to serve in the Military Intelligence Service,  442nd , and 100th, fighting for American though their families were unfairly locked up. She has also grown up meeting many courageous Nisei resisters like Noboru Taguma, (Susumu Yenokida, Ken Yoshida, Yosh Kubo, and others) who chose to stand up for the Constitution and went to Federal prison. Annie values both choices.

Conviction, character, and courage?  Today, we need more people like Noboru Taguma.   He gave us so much and I thank the Taguma family for sharing him.  I am privileged to have known him.  Thank you.

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For more reading…

Ellen Levine’s 1995 book “A Fence Away From Freedom” features oral histories of Noboru Taguma and others such as activist Dr. Clifford Uyeda, Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee leader Frank Emi, Heart Mountain resisters Mits Koshiyama and Yosh Kuromiya, Granada concentration camp resister Joe Norikane and “Manzanar Martyr” Harry Ueno, among many others.

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Decades On, a Legacy Of War Still Haunts Japanese-Americans

Many Ex-Internees Shunned Nisei Who Fought Draft; Now, a Revisionist Push

‘Is That a Time to Resist?’


The Wall Street Journal, June 25, 1999

In 1944, as America’s war with Japan raged in the Pacific, Mits Koshiyama received his draft orders from Uncle Sam. Then, as now, he considered it his moral obligation not to answer the call. After all, he was languishing behind barbed wire, one of the roughly 110,000 Japanese-Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government as potential subversives.

“How could we have fought for democracy and freedom overseas when we were denied the very same rights by our own government?” Mr. Koshiyama says.


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Marcos Breton: UCLA student’s slurs gave new voice to old prejudice

Noboru Taguma and Hideo Takeuchi (Morris Weintraub / Bee file, 1999)

By Marcos Breton The Sacramento Bee
Published: Sunday, Mar. 20, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 1B

Slurs have a history, even if we forget them with the passage of time.

Then suddenly, there it is – ancient invective carried via modern technology. We witnessed it last week when a college student from the Sacramento area posted a video on YouTube that gave new voice to old prejudice.

Alexandra Wallace, once of Fair Oaks and Bella Vista High School, covered a lot of ground in that three-minute video, in which she disparaged the parents and extended families of Asian students at UCLA. She complained about being unable to study at the university library while students with relatives in Japan called to check on family in the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake and tsunami there.

She mocked the way Asian people sound to her ears: “Ohhhh. Ching! Chong! Ling! Long! Ting! Tong!”

Read more:

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DRAFT RESISTER: Rights Violated, He Wouldn’t Fight

By Jeannie Wong

Sacramento Bee Staff Writer



In 1942, Noboru Taguma was ahead of his time.

While most people now condemn the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II, Taguma expressed his feelings loudly and clearly 50 years ago.

He resisted the draft. He was among only about 300 Japanese-Americans — all interned — who did so, saying that forced detention violated their constitutional rights.

It was an unpopular move, one that is still frowned upon by some in the Japanese-American community and is overlooked by most history books.

“I don’t care,” said Taguma, now 68 and living in West Sacramento. “I did it mainly for my parents, the other Issei (first-generation Japanese). What they were doing to them, to all of us, was wrong. I was going to fight, but in the courts.”

In a terse letter to the government, Taguma ticked off the reasons why he would not report: “I felt that refusal to cooperate with Selective Service was the most effective protest I could make against injustice suffered,” he wrote. “Had I not been deprived of these constitutional rights, I would have gladly accepted . . . military service.”

Taguma was to be joined by about 30 other young men – a handful of them from Yolo County – who also were interned in a camp at Amache, Colo. They were all to be imprisoned for their resistance.

In looking back, Taguma said he would not have done anything differently. “It was the prime of my life, but I’m still glad I did it,” he insisted.

Tales like Taguma’s and of a group of young draft resisters in Heart Mountain, Wyo., need to be heard if the true history of internment is to be learned, said Wayne Maeda, guest curator of a Sacramento exhibit on the Japanese-American experience.

Taguma agreed.

“The only thing I regret is that I could not help my folks,” he said. “They were poor from the beginning, and I was going to help them modernize their farm. I was young and strong. But then the war came, and I never had the chance.”


Noboru Taguma stands beside a scale model of a typical barracks in which Japanese-American families lived at the camps.

Bee/Skip Shuman

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Noboru Taguma, Nisei draft resister and longtime farmer, dies

Noboru Taguma cutting his home-grown gobo.

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Noboru Taguma, a longtime farmer and Nisei draft resister who took a principled stand during World War II, passed away peacefully at his home in West Sacramento, Calif. on March 11, 2011. He was 87.

A native of Broderick, Calif. who was born on April 3, 1923, he retired in the early 1990s after farming tomatoes for 45 years, mostly for Campbell’s Soup, around Clarksburg, Yolo County, Calif.

During World War II, he and his family of nine were uprooted from their home in Broderick (now part of West Sacramento) and forcibly relocated, first to the Merced Assembly Center — a converted fairgrounds where they spent four months — and then to the Granada (Amache) concentration camp in Colorado.

He was one of only 300 young Nisei to resist a military draft imposed behind barbed wire based upon constitutional principle — and one of just 36 such young men from the Granada concentration camp. He stated he would gladly fight for his country if his family was released from the wartime concentration camps and his citizenship rights were restored.

While awaiting trial, the young Nisei resisters from Granada were visited by two leaders from the Japanese American Citizens League — Min Yasui and Joe Grant Masaoka. While the young Nisei men were eager to meet with them, one by one they were told to go into the U.S. Army. Noboru Taguma and two other resisters who similarly voiced their anger — in his case, yelling at the two and then slamming the door — were then sent to solitary confinement in an apparent attempt to break their will.

Once shunned by so-called “community leaders” and subject to community ostracism, the resisters today are heralded for the civil rights stand they took.

After serving his sentence at a Tucson federal labor camp, he relocated to the town of Granada, Colo. to be near his family. Although he was barred from the camp, every night for about one month, he either walked or hitchhiked three miles to the Granada (Amache) concentration camp, timing the searchlights on the guard towers and sneaking into camp to be with his family. There, he would eat or watch movies, and leave when warned about the presence of military police. Again, at the risk of getting shot, he snuck back out of camp, trekking back to the town of Granada.

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