Renso Enkoji- Oberlin Nisei ’45-6; Application Essay

The following is the transcription of an application essay to Oberlin’s College of Arts and Sciences. It was written in February of the year 1945 by Renso Enkoji, a Japanese American, as he was attending high school in an Idaho relocation camp. In this essay he demonstrates his love for sports and cooperation and documents how his life had been affected by living in the camp.:

Renso Enkoji photo

       Being born in the latter part of August in the year 1927 and in the City of Portland, Oregon, I was said ot have been an average and normal baby boy. Just how much of that is exaggerated, I don’t know. My parents doing various sorts of work had prevented me from attending the kindergarten by their moving from one place to another and then at the age of four I went to Japan for a visit of eight months. I enjoyed the whole excursion immensely and made many friends, but being so young as I was, I was not influenced and had kept my American traits.

By the time I was ready for grammar school my parents had settled down permanently and I was able to go through both grammar school and the first years of high school without any interruptions or hardships. Though my parents were not of the wealthy class, they had managed to keep all of us well clothed, well fed, and and had allowed us more than the average amount of luxuries.

Throughout my grammar school and high school career, I had a strong tendacy (tendency) to stay away from any sort of secret clubs or permanent group which can and does exclude others. I liked to see things done with everybody pitching in and nobody being left out. Therefore I found myself playing basketball and baseball in an inter-racial group. But I had also joined the Boy Scout troop which consisted of all Japanese American boys and had gotten along and advanced to the Life Scout rank and to the Senior Patrol Leader’s position.

At the age of fourteen we were evacuated from our home and after a brief stay in an assembly center in Portland, we were moved to this present camp in Idaho. Though this evacuation had caused a lot of disorder, physically and mentally, I don’t think anything could have matured me as it did. First of all, upon entering the camp  there wasn’t much in the way of recreation and my sister influenced me into reading all sorts of books. It was then that I first realized my thirst for knowledge and became very interested in books and joined several book clubs. Not wanting to let my mother with her measly “sixteen dollars a month,” pay for the books, I paid it through my monthly clothing allowance, which we were allowed. In the meantime I had gotten acquainted with such influential people as the priests and teachers. Through their helpful guidance I grew both spiritually and mentally. My physical status of being short remained very much the same, but I’m not sorry for that because being short makes me try to succeed in everything all the more and by feeling younger and being looked down as being young, it prevented me from falling into bad habits, such as smoking, drinking, and gambling, which offer much temptation in a camp of this sort.

During my Junior year in high school I got to know a group of office-holding and intellectual seniors and through their unselfishness, I learned to see things more intellectually and in order to keep up with them in conversation and in grades, I studied much harder, as well as being more observant of the world about me. When they left, I moved up to the place they vacated and became the student body president. Through this job I learned what responsibility meant, what it means to have patience, and a little more understandment of human nature. By the last one, I was discouraged more than once, but each time I was helped by Him in luck and in giving me the necessary faith to go on. Indeed, through that office, I found out that this world is not made up of bunch of cooperative and considerate people and having learned my lesson, I’ll won’t ever expect things like that again as I had. I seemed to have been one disillusioned kid.

My life plan is not very definite as yet. I have great many interests and as yet I cannot decide which. I am planning on taking a Liberal Arts course and decide on my Junior year as it is suggested.

                Renso Enkoji

Enkoji essay1 Enkoji essay2 Enkoji essay3

Other interesting information from his application:

He was very involved in high school:

•School Annual – Managing editor and class editor; debating club treasurer; Junior class play; Core class Pres., “Mardi Gras II” chairman, ASH Pres, College bound club VP, Science club Treasurer
He also received varsity letters for many sports: Baseball, basketball, football, tennis, swimming

What features or advantages at Oberlin most influenced you to attend?: The name of Oberlin College is known throughout the nation and abroad and I understand that is a friendly and a liberal school.

What person or persons (if any) most influenced you to want to attend Oberlin? : Mr. Calvin Ninomiya and Fr. Kitagawa.

After attending Oberlin from 1944-1946, Renso was inducted to the army. As he was not discharged from the Army, he did not graduate with his class from Oberlin. Therefore, his student file does not contain any information as to what he did after Oberlin. However, after snooping around on the internet, I found an article that makes me believe that it was during his time as a soldier that he met his wife Mabel. Here is a link to an interview with “Mabel Enkoji”.


4 thoughts on “Renso Enkoji- Oberlin Nisei ’45-6; Application Essay

  1. I enjoyed reading about Mabel and Renso. Thanks for sharing this link!! I,m interested in the history of Japanese in the US!

  2. I just read your entry about my grandfather while bored at work and I thoroughly appreciated the research you did! It’s interesting being able to read my grandfather’s essays and get a better understanding of how he lived as a youth. I respect and adore my grandfather Renso so much, and as my now last surviving grandparent, it’s heartwarming to find a bit of his history online. Thank you 🙂

    • Dear Stephanie,
      Hello, and thank you so much for your comment! I’m so happy to hear you, and I’m just sorry that all this tremendous, wonderful information has to share space on my personal blog! It was an informal project in the beginning but it would be nice if they had their own separate, special place on the internet. Someday I hope… Thank you again 🙂
      I often wished I could meet the people I was reading and writing about. Please send him my regards- I hope he doesn’t mind that I published this here on the internet! Also I’m sure Oberlin (and the Alumni network) would love to hear about how he’s done since Oberlin!

      • Yeah it would be great if we could, someday, put all these great stories on a public forum. Until then, I hope you don’t mind, but I shared your entry with my family and they are absolutely thrilled to read your research. This was such a golden find while I was off on a tangent trying to do some research on Minidoka; I plan on visiting the internment camp soon since I live in Idaho now. We all really appreciate your work and what was, at the beginning, an informational project!
        Renso is doing well and thriving in Whittier, California. His life after Oberlin is full of stories, love and laughter. I’m sure my mother and aunts have more details but in brief, from my point of view, he’s one of the greatest men I know.
        Again, thank you from my whole family. 🙂

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