Friday, September 29, 2006

Iva Toguri, rest in peace

In Chicago, on Belmont, west of Clark Street, is Toguri Imports. This specialty store stocks a variety of Japanese goods, from Oragami paper to food, from Kimonos to inks and ink stones. I began shopping there in the 1980s while I was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and recall meeting Iva Toguri every time I entered the shop.

Iva was a short, grey haired woman. She was pleasant, but a little impatient with people who browsed without spending money. She helped me buy my ink stone, and ink block, helped me with my brushes, and the right paper. She assisted me with all kinds of papers, and told me to go down the street to Iko for the really exquisite Japanese papers.

Iva was also known as Tokyo Rose. She was born in Los Angeles on July 4; she was a graduate of UCLA; and she was a victim of the racism and circumstances that blackened America after Dec. 7, 1941. On the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Iva was in Japan visiting; she was stranded there, and forced by the Japanese to spew propoganda on a radio show. Iva was one of many Japanese American women used in this manner; all these women were collectively known as Tokyo Rose by the US Servicemen who listened to the broadcasts.

Convicted of treason in 1948, Iva spent 6 years in prison. Gerald Ford pardoned her in 1977. Iva died Tuesday in Chicago at the ripe old age of 90. Here is the obit in the New York Times. May she rest in peace.


Frederick said...

WOW. Wow! To have known a living piece of have known the person behind that...amazing.

Tina said...

I admit that knew what a "Tokyo Rose" was in terms of historical reference, but I knew nothing of the actual woman, her plight, and that she was even alive-- let alone that you knew her. To steal from Fred above: WOW.

The Fat Lady Sings said...

Oh my god, DJ - I knew her! I used to shop there when I lived in Chicago. It brought a little piece of Japan home for me. I had them craft a HAN for my husband as a gift. I never knew she was Tokyo Rose! Good heavens! Life is certainly interesting. People touch our lives and we know next to nothing about them. Thanks. I would have gone through life never knowing who she really was.

One interesting note. When I was a kid there was a Tokyo Rose who lived in the Bay Area of California. I know this - because a big stink was made about it - forcing the poor woman to move. Was it your Tokyo Rose – or one of the many copies? Did she ever talk about that to you? If she did share excerpts from her life - please write about them. I would so love to know the truth about what went on - both during the war and after.

robin andrea said...

Such an interesting story. I didn't know that there was more than one "Tokyo Rose." Now I'd like to know if the other women were in a similar situation as Iva, or if she was the only one who came back to the states and was tried and convicted in a stunning miscarriage of justice.

karena said...

Unbelievable. What freaks me out more is that you and Fat Lady both shopped in the same store in Chicago where you met Tokyo Rose.

DivaJood said...

Fred, the funny thing is that when I started shopping there, I didn't know she was Tokyo Rose. She never discussed it with anyone; she was, at least with me, a shop-keeper.

Tina, it's funny: the obit talks about how Tokyo Rose is a buzz word for people over 50; but for people in their 30s, the reaction is "Who?"

TFLS, she never talked about it with me. She never talked about it with anyone, as far as I know. She talked about inks with me, and made me buy a "beginner" ink block. It is freaky that you and I both shopped there, truly!

Robin Andrea, I don't know about the other women - Iva really got a very raw deal, and Gerald Ford did the right think in his pardon of her, although her conviction should have been overturned. There would be articles about her in the Chicago Tribune periodically but she herself was so unassuming.

Karena, yep. It's freaky.

But finally, I want to say that we as a nation have always had a schism. From our stance in the Nuremburg Trials, when we actually stood for justice, to our rounding up of Japanese Americans and putting them into internment camps - we are an odd nation.

glenda said...

i heard NPR do a story on her the other day. They said she was visiting Japan when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and got stuck there...they said there was more than one tokyo Rose, but she was the one who was prosecuted because she was an American. And the government hired witnesses against her to lie, ho later admitted they had lied.
Our crazy government has been wonky for some time, it seems.

Yoga Korunta said...

I heard the NPR story, too. How many readers are aware that the US had blockaded Japan? This was in attempt to control expansionism. The history teachers who forgot to mention this told you a george.

DivaJood said...

Glenda, thanks - I wasn't sure if Iva was the only one who was prosecuted or not. But yes, she was stuck in Japan when the Japanese attacked; and she was forced into the radio broadcasts. Wonky sums the government up quite well.

Yoga, that's a great term: telling a George.

Pete's Blog said...


Amazing what a small world it is sometimes.

Was she very quiet about her past or did she talk openly to you?


DivaJood said...

Pete, it is a small world, no kidding. She was very quiet about her past - I shopped there for a long time before I knew anything about it.

Helen Wheels said...

wow - I lived near there for years and never went in!! Stupid me... obviously.... what an incredible story, and what an amazingly interesting life she led.

oldwhitelady said...

Thank you for sharing parts of her story with us. I had heard the name, "Tokyo Rose," but had not realized there were more than one.

enigma4ever said...

thanks for blogging on her...a true lady..
I love the phrase above- told you a "George"....( I think we have been told way too many georges at this point...)