But it could be a melancholy journey as well. Accompanying him will be his 75-year-old mother, Frances Kamikawa, who is returning to Colorado for the first time since being placed there in a World War II Japanese American relocation camp as a 9-year-old.
Derrick, his mom and twin brother, Darrell (a Sac Police Department captain), will make a three-hour drive Sunday to the Amache internment facility, where a museum, dirt-floor dorms and barbed-wire fences remind visitors of a dark time when Americans of Japanese descent were rounded up and forced into camps.
Fong, whose late father was Chinese American, doesn’t expect his mom to be very emotional about her return to Amache, where she lived for three years until the war ended.
She’s “pretty stoic,” he says.
But Fong isn’t so sure about his own emotions once he actually sees one of the 10 U.S. internment facilities that together held more than 100,000 Japanese Americans.
“I’ve read about the camps … but never thought I’d actually visit them,” he says.
The World War II relocations, he says, “changed the face of Japanese culture” in California, ripping apart neighborhoods, destroying businesses, separating families.
“This is the greatest country in the world,” says the 51-year-old CEO, who oversees the six-restaurant Mikuni chain. “But for that to happen, in modern-day history? It wasn’t too cool.”
By Bob Shallit
Published: Thursday, Sep. 25, 2008 | Page 1B