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Kuromiya, Yoshito

Biography:


Yoshito “Yosh” Kuromiya was born on April 23, 1923, the fifth of six children born to Hisamitsu and Hana Tada Kuromiya, both Issei from Okayama-ken, Japan. Two of the Kuromiya children died as infants. Before the incarceration, the Kuromiya family lived in Monrovia, California, where Kuromiya’s father ran a successful produce stand business. Though the business might have been successful, the Kuromiya family faced racism and discrimination in Monrovia in the years leading up to their unjust removal and incarceration. Kuromiya remembered the family being evicted from their home because it was in the “white area” of town and being sent, along with other children of color, to Santa Fe Elementary rather than the school that was only a few blocks away but was reserved for white students.

Kuromiya worked part-time at his father’s fruit stand growing up, graduating from Monrovia-Arcadia-Duarte High in 1941. He had just begun classes at Pasadena Junior College as an art major when the United States entered World War II. The Kuromiya family was sent first to Pomona Assembly Center, arriving on May 14, 1942, and later to Heart Mountain, arriving on August 25, 1942. They lived in apartment 14-4-E. While at Heart Mountain, Kuromiya was part of the “Poster Shop Gang,” designing and printing posters at and for the camp. He also joined the Arts Students League, organized by Benji Okubo—his favorite subject to sketch was Heart Mountain itself. His older brother, Hiroshi, and his wife, Emiko, welcomed a son, Kiyoshi, in 1943, who would grow up to be a civil rights, gay rights, and AIDS activist. Kuromiya left Heart Mountain in the fall of 1943 for seasonal work on the railroad in Montana.

Kuromiya responded to the loyalty questionnaire in 1943 with a conditional Yes for Question 27—“Yes, if treated with equal rights as other Caucasian Americans”—and a Yes on Question 28. When the government reinstated the draft for Japanese Americans, Kuromiya began attending Fair Play Committee meetings. When he received his draft notice on March 16, 1944, Kuromiya was angry and decided to refuse to show up for his physical. He was arrested and imprisoned (again, elsewhere) with other draft resisters in Rawlins, before being transferred to the Cheyenne County Jail. While in jail, Kuromiya was one of the men interrogated by Joe Grant Masaoka and Minoru Yasui from the JACL.

Kuromiya was among the first round of 63 draft resisters who went to trial on June 12, 1944. After being found guilty of violating the Selective Service Act on June 26, 1944, Kuromiya was sentenced to three years in the federal prison at McNeil Island, Washington. While there, his girlfriend, also a Nisei, broke up with him via letter.

The rest of the Kuromiya family returned to Monrovia in 1946, where their landlord neighbor evicted the wartime tenants so the family could have a place to live. Hisamitsu worked as a gardener, one of the few employment options available to Issei men after the war. After his release from prison, Kuromiya joined his father as a gardener. After six years, Kuromiya decided to return to his studies, ultimately earning a degree at Cal Poly Pomona in landscape architect. After working in a few different LA area firms, he opened his own landscape architecture practice in 1968. Kuromiya and his wife, Irene, resided in Alhambra, California. Yoshito Kuromiya died in Alhambra, California, on July 24, 2018.

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