Interview with Shirley Ozu Iwatani

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Center for Oral History, Social Science Research Institute, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Shirley Ozu Iwatani, one of two children, was born in 1941, in Honolulu, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. Her paternal grandparents, immigrants from Hiroshima-ken, Japan, founded and operated the Ozu Hat Store in downtown Honolulu. Her father, Yoshihiko Ozu, a Hawai‘i-born nisei, was educated in Japan. He was in his third year at Keio University in Tokyo when he contracted TB. Following the recommendation of his doctor, he returned to the islands in 1929 to recuperate. For a decade, he worked as an educator. He taught at the Japanese High School in Honolulu and served as principal at Kahului Japanese-language School on Maui. In 1940, he returned to Honolulu to run Ozu Hat Store. He married in 1935. The Ozu family in 1941 included Yoshihiko, wife Chiyoko, son Elliot, and infant Shirley. On December 7, 1941, Yoshihiko Ozu was removed from his home and held at Sand Island Detention Center for a year. He was released from Sand Island but only to be sent with his family to the U.S. Mainland. The Ozus were interned at Jerome War Relocation Center, Arkansas and at Gila River War Relocation Center, Arizona for the duration of the war. Allowed to return to the islands at war’s end in 1945, Yoshihiko Ozu managed the hat store for several years. Later, he ran a Japanese-language school in Honolulu. He was an active member of Seicho-no-Ie. Shirley, although very young at the time of internment, still retains memories of Jerome and Gila River. She continues to compile and edit the writings of her father.
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