Takashi "Bud" Aoyama


Name Takashi "Bud" Aoyama
Born 1913
Died 1951
Birth Location Pacific Grove, CA
Generational Identifier

Nisei

War Relocation Authority darkroom specialist and photographer.[1]

Takashi Aoyama (1913–51), whose American nickname was "Bud," was a second generation Japanese American. His background in photography, and even if he had one, is unknown. He was born in Pacific Grove, California, in 1913, and his Issei parents hailed from Hiroshima Prefecture. Although Bud was living in San Francisco in 1942, he moved down to Los Angeles to join the rest of his immediate family after the U.S. entered the war. The Aoyamas wound up being confined in the WRA's Heart Mountain camp near Powell, Wyoming. There, Bud found employment in the camp hospital where he met and became friends with future WRA Photography Section (WRAPS) photographer Hikaru Iwasaki.

When Iwasaki was hired to work in the WRAPS office in Denver, Bud took over his job as the hospital radiologist, taking x-rays. When Iwasaki graduated from the darkroom to field photographer, Iwasaki recommended that Bud take his place. The WRAPS attempted to hire Bud in 1944, but because he was alleged to have answered "no" to question 27 about being willing to volunteer for the army and had also participated in a strike at the camp hospital in 1943, his hire was initially blocked by Civil Service Commission bureaucrats in Washington D.C. Bud answered these charges in a letter stating that he was the eldest son and needed to provide for his aging mother. Further, while he admitted participating in the hospital strike, he said it was over staff abuse by a Caucasian nurse, and he didn't want to cross his co-workers by refusing to participate. In the end, strings were pulled, (his employment records contain favorable letters from high-level WRA officials) and Bud's hire was eventually approved.

Although his primary assignment was as darkroom technician, Bud managed to take a number of photos that are included in the WRAPS corpus. There are some sixty photos of his online at the Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives (JARDA), some dated in 1943 before Bud was officially hired by WRAPS. His photographs are mostly related to the theme of Nisei men in the U.S. military service, and Japanese American resettlement. Bud resigned from the WRAPS in August 1945, when he opted to pursue employment in "private industry."

Not very much is known about "Bud" Takashi Aoyama, perhaps because his siblings were younger than him, and he died fairly quickly after the end of the war. Bud had apparently contracted tuberculosis as early as the 1930s, and by the late 1940s it had developed into a full blown case. By 1948, he entered the State Tuberculosis Sanitarium in Utah, where doctors attempted to treat him. Unfortunately, Aoyama passed away under medical care in Ogden in 1951 at the young age of 37. His family eventually brought his body back to California, and Bud is now buried in a marked grave in the Japanese cemetery in Colma, California, just south of San Francisco.

Authored by Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, University of California, Los Angeles

For More Information

Hirabayashi, Lane Ryo, with Kenichiro Shimada. Japanese American Resettlement Through the Lens: Hikaru Carl Iwasaki and the WRA's Photographic Section, 1943–1945. Photographs by Hikaru Carl Iwasaki. Foreword by Norman Y. Mineta. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2009.

Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives (JARDA), http://www.calisphere.universityofcalifornia.edu/jarda/.

Footnotes

  1. My primary source for this entry is Takashi Aoyama's official WRA employment records. I am also very grateful to Bud's nephew, Cal Aoyama, for his insights and information about Bud and the Aoyama family.