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”. http://www2.sacurrent.com/news/story.asp?id=70668

New names of Obie Nisei

From combing through the Alumni Directory up to 1960, I seem to find new names of Oberlin Nisei (grads and non-grads) every time.

Today I stumbled upon:

  • Esther Matsu Kinoshita (Mrs. William Ujifusa), college & con, 1943-4, 1947 Nongrad
  • Lily Yuriko Fukuhara, college & con, 1944-5, 1948 Nongrad (information unknown)
  • Mr. Renso Enkoji, college, 1944-6, 1948 Nongrad (California)
  • Michiko Matsushima (Mrs. Thomas T. Fujimoto), 1944-46, 1948 Nongrad (Cleveland)
  • June Kimura, college, ’44-5, 1948 Nongrad  (http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/mercurynews/obituary.aspx?n=june-kimura&pid=106312036#fbLoggedOut)
  • Saburo Kawahara, conservatory, ’46-8, 1950 Nongrad, “Gate Mills, O, Chagrin Valley Hunt Club”
  • Teruko Akagi, conservatory, 1945 Graduate, violinist, Chicago area
  • June Kitazawa, (Mrs. C. E. Barr), college,1946
  • May Kitazawa, (Mrs. David E. Arbegast), college, 1945 (I’d originally found her in the ’45 Oberlin Hi-O-Hi yearbook, and while looking her up in the Alphabetical Index of the Alum Registry was surprised to see her listed under a “June” Kitazawa. They are sisters.)
  • Arthur Shuntetsu Kodama, college, 1941-4, 1945 Nongrad. I first saw “Arthur” as the cryptic “A. Kodama” in a group photo in the ’45 yearbook. However, his photo and full name had not been listed within any of the four classes, unless I missed it. After attending for so long I wonder what prevented him from graduating from Oberlin.
  • Ray Masaaki Egashira, college, conservatory, 1945-6, 1949 Nongrad. I had seen a “Ray Egashira”‘s freshman year picture in the 1946 yearbook and was puzzled when I could find no other traces of him in any of the other books.

You’ll notice that most of these people did not graduate from Oberlin. In most of these cases, students were only temporarily studying at Oberlin after being forcibly “evacuated” (for their “own safety”) from their academic institutions on the West Coast. Oberlin President Wilkins corresponded with many West Coast schools and offered to take in the displaced Nisei. While some graduated from Oberlin, others were able to go back and obtain degrees from their former schools.

After two weeks of being overwhelmed by this task, I’m finally beginning to settle into a routine. My nonsensical spreadsheet is also beginning to really fill-in and shape up. By now I have about 32 names.