Did any of the Japanese get their homes and/or businesses back?

Let’s say Mr Kobayashi and I have been neighbors for over 20 years here in southern California. Then FDR decides to throw out the US Constitution and toss American born Mr. Kobayashi and his family in jail for the crime of having the same appearance as our wartime enemy, Japan.

I go over to him and tell him to give me the key to his house (or business) and that I’ll take care of it until sanity returns to the country.

Could I be arrested for aiding the enemy if I did this?

Any records of whites doing this for their Japanese American neighbors and actually giving the property back after the war?

Anecdotal story. There were multiple Japanese American families where I grew up in bumfuck northern California. The Hosakawa family I remember. They lost everything when sent to the camps, and then returned back to the same bumfuck little farming community where they lost everything and started over from scratch. Figured it was better to return to a place they knew, and could make a living in, and start over with nothing.

No good Samaritan story from Colusa California I’m afraid.

Boy, that was a weekend I won’t forget.

The American Friends Service Committee and one miss Clara Breed were among those to speak out for interned Japanese. While not arrested, they didn’t win any popularity contests.


If your neighbor had in fact been accused, tried and found guilty of being a spy, I would assume the government would not take kindly to your actions.

It seems no Japanese Americans were convicted of espionage in WW2.



This is a most excellent question but I doubt we will ever get a definitive answer of the financial losses sustained by interned Japanese-Americans, nor of the restitution they were able to obtain.

Interestingly, the US Government anticipated some of these issues and, at least on paper, made some provision for the detainee’s property.

The quotation below comes from this link http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist10/relocbook.html which is from a US government handbook “Relocation of Japanese-Americans” dated 1943:

It would be really interesting to see how well this worked in practice. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 did, among other things, offer the former internees a formal apology “on the behalf of the American people” and the means to obtain a one-time $20,000 “redress payment” for their troubles.

For the most part, the Japanese turned their property over to the US government. My father and my uncle are quoted in the Seattle Times warning of whites trying to buy up stuff at 10 cents on the dollar (mostly inventory). They recommended turning everything over to the government. Real estate was turned over to the government.

The real problem came after the evacuation order was recended. Due to the housing shortage, we had a heck of a time getting back into the family home. My father tells us that in January 45 he ‘sneaked’ back to Seattle with his friend to scout out the situation. The manager of the hotel wouldn’t let them in, even though his buddy owned the place. Had to sleep in a broom closet in the basement.

After the war there were 23,00o claims totaling $131 million brought against the government for losses due to the evacuation. (per wikipedia).

I haven’t read it, but this novel addresses some of these issues. My wife read it and liked it.


I’ve heard two stories from people I know, good and bad.

The bad one was a guy I used to work with. His parents and grandparents were moved into the camps, and left their property in care of a neighbor-- who promptly sold/stole it. I can’t recall the details, but they were left with nothing and had to start over. (I also remember him pausing the story to point out that his family had come over during the gold rush and had been here longer than the neighbors)

The good one was a friend of mine’s family. They had a young Japanese American guy working for them at their vineyard. When his family was sent to the camps, they said “You can store your stuff here, and there will be a job waiting for you when you get back.” IIRC they had like three households worth of stuff in the barn for the whole duration of the war-- and when the camps were emptied, he went back to work for them. (And he’s still there, 85 years old, living in a small house on their property, growing the most immensely delicious tomatoes you’ve ever eaten). No one got in any trouble for the storage of stuff that I heard of.

If anyone here feels comfortable sharing their personal stories, I’d be very interested in reading them.

I recall reading something That in Canada, most “evacuees” were not allowed back to British Columbia coastal areas until several years after the war. The initial wartime ban was used to enforce a form of apartheid for quite a while after the war, to keep communities pure of any evil enemy taint. (hint: sarcasm)

Their property was confiscated by the government, who then proceeded to sell it (to local whites) for 10 cents on the dollar. Returning Canadians got nothing back. It’s not like the government was keeping it in trust until they could reclaim it. To be fair, some items like fishing boats you could not just tie up and leave there for 5 or 6 years no maintenance and expect them to be worth anything; and spending money and scarce manpower to look after “Japanese” property was not high on the government list.

There was Iva Ikuko Toguri D’Aquino, aka “Tokyo Rose”, who was convicted of treason, but later pardoned.

Also many of the “no no boys” were sent to prison, but I think mostly for draft related convictions.

Sakuma Brothers Farms in Skagit Valley was preserved for them by the neighboring farmers, and they returned to valley after internment in California.
What a truly horrifying time in our history.

My family surrendered their property, a farm in Fresno, CA, (and my father was 4th generation; his father had served in WWI…as a laborer, not as a soldier, I’m not so sure it was possible for him to enlist as a soldier) but thats because it was impractical to maintain 3000 acres while being in an internment camp. My father got out as soon as he enlisted in the army and my uncles got out the following year when they were drafted.

Anyway, many interned Japanese-Americans kept their property though the war by having friends and neighbors maintain it during the war. This was more true of small businesses and urban housing rather than farms. It was dependent on the circumstances, if you had a non-Japanese family you felt you could trust, etc. If you simply had a home and a mortgage, you of course wouldn’t be able to pay it, so you normally sold it. If your home happened to be, say in San Diego, then maybe you could find someone to rent it out to the explosion of Naval personnel in the area.

George Takei, Sulu on Star Trek, was interned at age 4, along with his family. No mention here as to what became of their property:


Wikipedia on Japanese-Canadians:

Not to mention:

Apparently, according to one article I recall reading, declassified documents suggested the federal government did not really believe there was any threat or reason to worry about Canadian citizens of Japanese origin and were not keen to set up prison camps; but agreed to inter them to satisfy the demand from provincial officials, who were operating more on prejudice, greed, and a desire to prevent riots against the Japanese.

For some reason I’m thinking of a scene from “All in the Family” when the cops catch the neighbor “creeping around” or some such and Archie says “that aint no black guy thats my neighbor”

I asked my aunt about what happened to their properties. Their side of the family was reasonably well off. I’m going with the story that their wealth was made during prohibition by making bathtub sake and literally laundering the money through a laundry.

My aunt mentioned that non-citizens (Issei or first generation Japanese) were not allowed to own property, but my eldest aunts were adults in 1939 so the house was probably in their name as they were Nisei (second generation) Japanese American citizens. This meant that most Japanese were renters because most Nisei were fairly young.

My aunt said "We had built a house on Idaho St. in San Mateo about 1939 (?). Both the house and laundry was placed in the hands of a lawyer as our proxy owner, but not in good condition upon our return. "

She also mentioned that there was a large warehouse in Los Angeles where many Japanese Americans stored their belongings. Unfortunately, the warehouse was mysteriously burglarized during the war :mad:.

My mother never was in an interment camp.

She was born in the US, as was her father, but her father’s employer had the brilliant foresight to transfer him to Japan in 1936 to build up their business there (30 years too early I guess) so that was about 4th grade for her, by 8th grade she was yanked out of school to work in a ball bearing plant. After the war she was a translator for the Marines, and because she was a US citizen, they repatriated her to the US. Her older brother never moved there because my grandparents felt he was too old to learn Japanese and adapt so he lived with relatives in Philadelphia.

While my father took an “understanding” view based on the times in regards to internment, my mother (who really had a worse experience working in a war factory during the bombings) became very irritated when people were dismissive of the internment in the US. She never said so to the people who were dismissive of it, but she always said to us (me) “It was not Japan, it was not Nazi Germany, it was not France, this was in the United States of America!”

If you will pardon the hijack, I know of at least one Jewish owned business (the publisher Springer-Verlag) that was given over to a pure Aryan in the 30s and, at the end of the war, the German owner handed it back to the original owner. The last Springer left the company around 2000 and the company has been shit to deal with ever since. They are a major publisher of mathematics.