After the war, life of Robert Shiomi back in Portland was American dream itself.
South Vista Avenue, East of Washington park where Robert restarted his practice as well as his home, was restricted area and blacks and Asians (usually called “Orientals” in the covenants) were prohibited to live there, except as servants. Details is unknown how Robert managed to buy his house in that area, but it is told that it was historical event that broke one of Portland’s long-standing racial barriers.* The house still stands in Portland, and from photos from real estate web page, there is a big cherry blossom tree in back yard, probably transported from Japan, symbolizing Robert’s nostalgia. Tour bus stopped at the yard during its bloom (photo1)
photo1 Cherry blossom in back yard
Robert’s daughters, Susan and Carol went to Catlin gables school known with liberal educational policy. In year book it is interesting to see Susan, though feature is Japanese, her expression shows open and natural American girl(Photo2). Carol went to Stafford University and now works in IT related company in Los Altos, off California with her husband.
photo2 1958 yearbook of Catlin Gables School (Second left of front line is Susan)
Incidentally, Catlin gables school is alma mater of Sadako Ogata, former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and current president of JICA(Japan International Cooperation Agency).She went to Catlin Hillside school, now Catlin Gables school between 5 -8, when her father Toyoichi Nakamura was general consulate of Porland from 1932- 1935. Robert said that he was friends with Mr. Nakamura, and he must have been charmed by Sadako since he put his daughters in same school as young Sadako and recommended Seishin University to his niece (Mother of Nishimura) in Tokyo. Sadako must have been wise girl indeed. Robert narrated that he “took care of Sadako” until his late years, but the truth remains unknown.
Robert has strong belongings to his Alma Mater, Oregon university and he wore white carnation and green”O” proudly on his collar and drove his car Packard 1949 model to Eugene, for football game with his family. (photo 3)
Photo3 Packard 1949 model(From Wikipedia Packard)
Later the family moved their house to South West Parkplace nearby. They dismantled a mansion of a baron and made it their home. Their daughter Carol provided her wedding photo at their home. (Photo 4) Ken McClain, grandson of Soseki Natsume who was their family friends and attended their wedding recalls that “lots of attendants and long virgin road that stretched from fountain in the garden to living room looked like a church or huge banquet”.
Photo 4 Carol’s wedding celemony
Robert used lots of his spare time in gardening and was often mistaken as a gardener.
*“Robert Shiomi” Isaac Laquedem Blog 9th May 2004
**Address is 1111 SW Vista Avenue, and they moved to 2370 SW Park Place. The two houses can be browsed in multiple real estate site and google map.
In 1930 Robert Shiomi graduated medical department of University of Oregon, and started intern in NY with rosy future. However, the world was moving towards world war, starting from Manchurian Incident in 1931, resulting the Sino‐Japanese war in 1937. May 23rd 1941, when relationship between Japan and America could not get better, Robert sponsored Dr. Shiomi scholarship and announced it in local paper Oregonian (Photo1) under name of Portland chapter of the Japanese American Citizens league (JACL) in which he was president of.
“It will sponsor two $100 tuition scholarships, one to be given at Oregon State college and one at the University of Oregon.”
“”For the benefit of any student, of whatever racial background”
“One requirement is that a student, to be selected, must have shown an effort to promote friendship between American citizens of the two races”
The winner of the scholarship that closed its application in 10th June remains unknown, but despite Robert’s effort for peace using his own purse, as history shows, Pacific War broke out 8th Dec of the same year.
Under slogan of “Remember Pearl Harbor”, boycott of Japanese American became fierce and in Feb 1942 president Roosebelt issued an executive order and Japanese incarceration begun.
Oregonian of 23rd May of the same year reports that Robert Shiomi took charge of the hospital at Portland Pacific internment reception center, one of the 16 reception centers opened at the time. 5 photos below shows Dormitory for single male (right below), cafeteria and newspaper reporter, (Left below), Hospital within the center (right above), Robert Shiomi (upper center) Kate Smith, popular singer at the time, campaigning wartime bonds (upper left)(Photo2)
According to Japan internment record, on 9th September 1942, Robert was transferred to Minidoka internment camp in Ohio state along with his wife Ruby (Sachiko) and their 6 months baby daughter Susan, then on 26th January 1943 to Manzanar Internment camp (photo 3, 4) Further on 5th May 1943 Robert was transferred to Chicago alone and on 6th June of the same year Ruby and Susan was transferred to Denver, Colorado.
Not much is known why they were transferred to different location and Robert hardly talked about his time in the camp. Photo is left of Manzanar internment camp in archive which shows Robert treating young boy.* In the archive lots of smiling photos of Japanese in the camp is left but one can only wonder how hard it must have been to be taken in with single suitcase and leave his/her life on hands of US military.
Records of Japan internment camp of Minidoka. Internment number, name, birthday, sex, family number, marriage state, internment date, left date etc. is recorded.
*Robert Shiomi treating young boy at Manzanar camp.
A small article in Oregonian reported that Robert Shiomi returned to Portland and started his practice on 25th May 1946, 9months after end of the war (Photo5).
S.W.Vista Avenue was high-end area in Portland and at that time, apart from servants, non-white race was restricted to work by law. It was a small article but was big event to tear down racism in Portland.
Robert graduated Failing Elementary School on 1920, then went to Benson High School(photo 1). His name was shown in several articles of OREGONIAN, local news paper.
<Radio club Mar 3, 1922>
Twelve new members were voted into the Radio club at the last meeting on March 7. They are: Floyd Robinson, Grenn Hoover, Darwin Marvin, Leslie Brennan, W. C. Stuart, Percy Yost, Ralph Peterson, Clyde Blomgren, Richard Oswad, Ed Bell, Robert Shiomi and Joseph Miller.
Their older members of the club have started a series of lectures on the theory of wireless telegraphy at the meetings. A question box has also been started. Rechard Settlerstrom and Willard Barzee are now constructing and setting up a receiving set. This set will be installed in the club room when it is completed. The club constitution is being revised by Murice Saelens, William Burke and John Smith.
Shows afford Amusements for pupils of citi high schools (The Sunday Oregonian 19,Mar. 1922)
<The Benson Tech Camera club Nov. 11, 1922>
The Benson Tech Camera club held their regular meeting after school on Friday, November 10 at which time they proceeded to select a suitable emblem in the way of a pin which would represent the club in the most satisfactory manner.
It was decided that the best design was that of an open miniature folding camera of kodak, upon which was emblazoned the letters T.C.C. Holden LeRoy was appointed to investigate merits of various photography magazines and make a report on the same at the next meeting.
The new dark room schedule has just been completed and is now being enforced. By this schedule each member is allotted a certain amount of time to use the dark room each week for he purpose of developing or printing his own or the club’s pictures.
A good portion of the meeting period was devoted to the talking over of the photography contest now in progress among the club members.
Robert Shiomi was appointed clean and straighten up the dark room
Multitude of affairs keep pupils of high schools busy (The Sunday Oregonian 19, Nov. 1922)
Joining Radio club and Camera club shows he was a curious boy.
He was an only Asian boy in both of Radio club and Camera club. He seems not to hesitate but enjoy his school days of good old age of America.（Photo 2）
Photo 2（Second right of Second front line seems to be Robert.)
After graduated high school, he attend to medical school of University of Oregon. Father Saichi seems to back to Japan, Carol, Robert’s daughter said he could afford his tuition by working as a houseboy. There are many students enjoying their college life in the yearbook of University of Oregon 1930, but he might have no time to spent like as club activities. He worked as intern in New York after graduate medical school. (Photo 3)
We can find Robert got BA of College of Literature, Science and the Arts and School of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine in The University of OREGON Bulletin 1930. Those may effect his contribution to the museum, orchestra, opera later.
Hajime Shiomi was born on 1st Oct 1904 (Meiji 37) to father Saishi from Sashima island and Mother Mann from Mihara. He had one sibling, bigger brother Ichiro, born on 1902.
10 years after his father Saishi migrated America, he got on a ship “Chicago-maru” departing from Yokohama to Seatle alone at age of 13 and after 19 days of voyage, entered America on 10th July 1918 (Taisho 7). He came out from an island without electricity and must have witnessed brick buildings of Seatle at the end of the voyage.
Photo 1 list of passengers of “Chicago-maru”.
Passengers from Hiroshima and Shiga stand out, but there are some variety, some from Shizuoka, Kagoshima and Miyagi.
Incidentally “Chicago-maru” was built in 1910 (Meiji 43). At that time it crossed between Hong Kong and Seatle Tacoma, via Kobe and Yokohama. Those must have been the time when immigrants from China were banned by government and marked steep drop while Japanese immigrants still increased despite its restriction. After 1920 its route changed to Brazil and it carried lots of immigrants to Brazil. After that, the ship became under requisition by military and sunk by American submarine off Taiwan in October 1943.*
Hajime used Robert as his English name and entered to Failing Elementary school. The school was founded by Josiah Failing, 4th major of Portland Oregon and was known for its prestige.** An article of Robert winning “the best letter or composition” contest on Memorial day, is posted on local paper Oregonian, 16th June, 9 months after his admission.(Photo2) Saichi, his father who dumped his son who does not even know ABC to local school must have given him a Spartan education, and Robert must have worked hard.
“Second(prize) to Robert Shiomi, a Japanese boy, 14 years old, who, when he entered the school last September could not read, write, speak or understand the English language”.
Last year graduation photo dated Jan 1920 was founded in an attic of house of Shiomi. (Photo3) There is one Asian boy with his mouth tight shut amongs 40 or so well dressed anglosaxon boys and girls. The photo must have been sent to his mother Mann, who was keeping house in Japan.
History of Chicagomaru(From DATA BASE) (from Imperial Japanese Navy
Building still stands today and is used as Portland Community College(PCC).
Saichi Shiomi, father of Robert Hajime Shiomi was born in Sashima village Ochi-county Ehime prefecture, (now Kamijima-cho) in 1881(Meiji year 14). According to family registration, Saichi inherited his family estate at age of 6, so his farther Saikichi must have passed away at an early age. His mother Hana, woman as she was, brought up her sons, Saichi and Jinsaku. She lived out her natural life at age 91. Stone pagoda to celebrate her 88th birthday still remains at Yahata shrine. Saichi married a girl called Mann Yamada from Mihara city Mitsugi-cho at age of 23. According to the island’s old villager, Saichi fell in love with Mann who came to sell fish in Sashima.
On 2nd October 1907, Saichi left his wife and children and immigrated to America via Mexico. He was 26, his wife Mann 24, his elder son Ichiro 6 and his younger son Hajime 3 at that time. （New evidence shows a possibility that Saichi’s first emigration was when he was 16. Still under search)
Since Islands of Seto Inland Sea is close to Hiroshima, so called “prefecture of immigrants” it was not uncommon for islanders to immigrate at that time. In 1900, annual immigrants from Japan to mainland America reached over 100,000 producing conflicts and American government has started to restrict immigration. So it was already difficult to immigrate directly to West coast in 1907. Many immigrants aimed America via Canada or Mexico and Saichi seem to have followed the route. Where in Mexico port he landed is not known but immigration card was found in archive in America showing that he entered El Paso, Texas (Photo 1) and got on a train to Vancouver. At that time, there were some Sashima villagers migrating to Steveston,*1 a town outskirt of Vancouver, famous for its Salmon can industry. So he may have parted with his fellow townsman on his way.
The reason why he landed on Portland where there is not many Japanese is unknown but on address page in diary of his brother Jinsaku dated 1917 states “Brother c/o Panama Hotel No.52 N.4th St. Portland Oregon U.S.A” So this must have been where he stayed. Speaking of the hotel, Panama hotel in Seattle is famous but it seems that its affiliated hotel have existed in Portland.*2
Japanese immigrants in Portland was often engaged in railway construction or farming, but his registration card dated 12 Sept 1918 shows that he is a labor of Press Steel Box and later in National Census in 1920 showed that he is a “Laborer” in “Machinery shop”. Does that mean that he stepped up his career as he learned English?
Saichi welcomed his second son Hajime to America in 1918(Taisho 7), and he himself returned Japan in 1920s after more than 10 years of migration. Old villagers recollects that after his return he seemed to have decided that he have worked lifetime worth in America and spent his time reading and did not work at all. English novels found in barn of Shiomi House may have been his. It was surprising to find so many old English hard covers in an old barn of an old house in such a remote island.
Saichi died in 20th Jan 1971 (Showa 46) at age of 90. “I myself have met him with my great grandfather at age 3,” recollects Nobuko Nishimura, lady of House of Shiomi.”I only have vague recollection of an old man with Kimono sitting at edge of veranda.
Reference book:”Story of Steveson – Japanese in the World” Kazuko Tsurumi chuokoron-shinsha 1962.
Additionally, life of Japanese American in Vancouver at the time has been cinematized in “The Vancouver Asahi”.(director Yuya Ishii)
Used to be regular hotel for single Japanese male worker at that time, and there was Japanese style bathhouse “Ashidateyu” in the basement. The hotel still holds appearance at the time and runs cafe on 1F. The hotel has been named as national treasure by National Trust.
Reference book: “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.” written by Jamie Ford, translated by Ippei Maeda, published by Shueisha Inc. 2011, a best seller selling over 1.1million and was awarded best “Adult Fiction” book at the 2010 Asian/Pacific American Awards for Literature.
Panama hotel in Portland is predicted to have had similar lodging. Local newspaper “Morning Oregonian” holds classified ad by Mr. Tsugawa presumably Japanese American who asks for farm to rent 50 to 150 acres land fit for Potatoes. (Photo 4) He must have been working as a day laborer while looking for his own farm. Panama hotel may have been contact point for such people. Life of Mr. Tsugawa is also interesting.
Between late Meiji period and World WarⅡ hundreds of thousands of Japanese immigrated abroad. Hiroshima prefecture is famous for being origin of the immigrants, but it was not uncommon for people of Sashima to migrate to Canada and America.
Robert-Hajime-Shiomi, born in house of Shiomi in 1904, was first generation of Japanese American who immigrated to America at age of 13 and became physician.
After experiencing anti-immigrant movement before the war and Japanese Internment during the war, he may have become determined never to repeat such history, and did not spare effort to support Japanese student and other cultural program through his life.
Now only few people are left who knows about Robert, but in a today’s globalized world which is troubled by regional conflict, his life is worth reviewing.
Following article is an introduction of his life. Please enjoy the story with our hostel , House of Shiomi.
From The Oregonian (news paper) on May 2nd, 1942
“Dr, Robert Shiomi, physician, will have charge of the hospital at the Pacific International reception center for Japanese being evacuated”
Photo on Left: Dr.Robert Shiomi
Photo on Right:hospital