Friends of Tomiko Ito had no idea what happened to their friend in 1942. All they knew was that the junior didn’t show up to class at her high school in Riverside, CA. Tomiko never missed a day in school and they were surprised.
Turns out Tomiko had been hauled off to an incarceration camp simply because she was Japanese.
Tomiko’s classmate Betty Harper Fussel has this memory after Pearl Harbor.
“We were suddenly terrified of the Japanese. We were being totally shaped by the movies — the crazy Kamikaze pilots. But we never associated them with American Japanese.”
The Press Enterprise with the help of some of Tomiko’s friends and a tip from the Mayor tracked down Tomiko to find out what happened to her since she disappeared from school that day.
Tomiko recalls being scared and lonely at the incarceration camp in Poston, AZ.
“You were American, but you weren’t American, either. And you certainly weren’t Japanese.”
The American Friends Service eventually offered Tomiko a scholarship to study back East. That was her ticket out of the incarceration camps. She ended up spending her senior year studying in Cambridge, MA.
That set off a long journey that eventually ended up at Harvard Medical School, where Tomiko was one of just seven women to enter in1949.
Eventually she would open up a medical practice that catered to Japanese families.
You can read about how her incredible journey and how she went from being incarcerated to studying at Harvard in the Press Enterprise,