Takeshi Furumoto was born on October 20, 1944, in Tule Lake Segregation Camp during World War II. His father, Sam Kiyoto, came to America in 1921 as a 13-year-old, and his American-born mother grew up near Long Beach, California, where her parents grew cantaloupe. His father had a management position with the Oka Produce Company, and was building a comfortable life for his family when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II. On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt passed Executive Order 9066, giving Japanese Americans 10-days’ notice to report to assembly centers prior to being assigned to a internment camp. Takeshi’s family spent 6 months in the Santa Anita Assembly Center before being assigned to the Rohwer Internment Camp in Arkansas. In 1943, Japanese Americans had to answer “Loyalty Questions,” with those who answered “no” to two specific questions being reassigned to the Tule Lake Camp because they were considered the “most dangerous.” Those two questions were, “Would you willfully volunteer in the Armed Forces to defend our country,” and “Would you disavow the Emperor of Japan.” After the war ended, Takeshi’s family was deported to Japan and relocated to Hiroshima to be close to their extended family. It was always his father’s plan, however, to return to the United States to achieve a better life. Growing up in Japan, Takeshi’s first language was Japanese, but even so, they were viewed as outsiders by the native Japanese. His four older sisters all spoke Japanese with an accent and had difficulty making friends. In 1956, the family returned to the United States and settled in the Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles in what was predominantly a black, Hispanic, and Asian area. Takeshi struggled to learn English, but was ahead of his peers in science and math. After high school, he graduated from UCLA in December 1967 with a business degree, and then volunteered for the Army. He was selected for OCS and commissioned in 1969 as a Military Intelligence Officer. Deploying to Vietnam in February 1970, he served as an advisor for Team 43 near Cu Chi. After returning from Vietnam, he married Carolyn in 1972. He struggled with post traumatic stress during this period, having difficulty focusing on his job and being verbally abusive to his wife before finding success in a new career. In 1974, he was in the right place at the right time and launched Furumoto Realty. His business expanded as Japanese firms sought locations in northern New Jersey and southern New York. Now, he is active in a number of civic organizations and is constantly looking for ways to give back to his community.
In this interview, Takeshi Furumoto talks about his family history, his childhood in Japan and America, and serving in the U.S. Army. He shares his father’s story of coming to California and becoming successful in the produce industry. He describes his family’s life in the internment camps and his own experiences once they moved to Japan after the war. He reflects on returning to the United States and attending high school and college. He discusses his service in the Army and in Vietnam. He describes building his real estate business and dealing with Post Traumatic Stress along with the support his wife provided. He highlights the ways he gives back to his community with a focus on remembering how Japanese Americans suffered unjustly during World War II. Finally, he reflects on what his service means to him.