Dakota Datebook

Minot’s Japanese-Americans in World War II

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


The Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, plunged the U.S. into World War II. Congress declared war on Japan the following day, December 8th.

On that same day, the Japanese-American residents of Minot placed an advertisement in the Minot Daily News to tell of their loyalty to the U.S., entitling it: “A Statement By the Japanese People Of Minot.” It read: “Japan has made a cowardly attack upon the United States. Her military leaders have plunged Japan into a conflict in which the inevitable end for her is a crushing and deserving defeat.

The United States is OUR HOME, OUR COUNTRY. She must and will end this war which was not of her choosing. Eagerly we await the opportunities to prove the sincerity of these words, and our loyalty to America. Count us in, we ask, in the task that lies ahead to smash forever the military machine which stabbed without warning.”

Despite this pledge, on the very next day, Tuesday, December 9th, U.S. Treasury Department agents, assisted by F.B.I. agents and local police, marched into two Japanese-owned restaurants in Minot, asked all customers to leave, and informed the two owners that the government was taking over the properties.

The owners, Roy Yanagita and Tom Toyama, also had their Minot bank accounts frozen by the Treasury Department. Both Yanagita and Toyama faced background investigations, but were allowed to re-open their restaurants on December 20th following an eleven-day shutdown.

On the evening before the re-opening, Tom Toyama bought another ad to tell his customers that he was truly thankful for their patronage and treatment he enjoyed from the people of Minot for the twenty-six years he had served them in his Café. “Everything I have in the world,” Toyama wrote, “is in Minot.” He gave heartfelt thanks to the hundreds who expressed sympathy for the recent closing, and he was grateful for the support he had been given in what he called the darkest moment of his life.

Another Japanese-American named Roy Kitigawa, born in Minot of Japanese parents and therefore an American citizen, and a 1939 Minot High graduate, showed his devotion to the country by enlisting in 1942. While serving in with the U.S. Army in France, Kitigawa was killed in action in November, 1944.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSU Moorhead.

Sources: Advertisement, “A Statement By The Japanese People of Minot,” Minot Daily News, December 8, 1941, p. 5.

Advertisement, “A Statement By Tom Toyama Of The U.S. Café,” Minot Daily News, December 19, 1941, p. 2.

“Two Minot Cafes Operated By Japanese Nationals Closed By F.B.I.,” Ward County Independent [Minot, ND], December 18, 1941, p. 1.

“Pfc. Roy Kitigawa, Minot, Dies in France,” Ward County Independent, November 16, 1944, p. 1.

“Freeze Bank Account of Minot Japanese,” Ward County Independent, December 11, 1941, p. 1.

“Japanese-Owned Cafes In Minot Are Reopened,” Bismarck Tribune, December 17, 1941, p. 1.

“U.S. Agents Seize Two Japanese Cafes,” Bismarck Tribune, December 10, 1941, p. (7?).

“To Keep Cafes Closed,” Bismarck Tribune, December 12, 1941, p. 1.

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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