Hatsutaro Azumano came to the United States from Japan in 1902 as a teenager to pursue the American dream. In 1917 he married a recent immigrant from Japan, and in 1918 while living near Front Avenue and Main Street they had their first child, a boy whom they named Ichiro (a common Japanese first name for eldest sons). Ichiro's parents may have remained traditional even as they pursued business -- Hatsutaro Azumano became a salesman for Fuji Grocery and Produce a few years later and by 1930 had moved his family from the crowded Front Avenue lodging house to a private house on Williams Avenue -- but within a few years after his birth they had given their son the additional and very American name of George.
A young man with the good old American name of George, born in Portland, Oregon, who graduated from the University of Oregon in 1940 with a business degree, and who went into the United States Army in 1941, might be forgiven for thinking ill of his native country for imprisoning him with thousands of other Americans from 1942 to 1944 in the Minidoka camp simply because of where his parents had been born. If Mr. Azumano resented his war experience, he rarely talked about it.
Had he wanted to, Mr. Azumano, who died this morning at the age of 95, could have told of the time that the city of Portland prohibited its Japanese-American citizens from leaving their homes between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m., or of the other governmental restrictions on their lives before the trains left for the concentration camps. He might have told of being penned in the old livestock yards in Portland with the persistent smell of cow dung in the air while he and his family awaited the trains east to the camps. Instead, he mostly maintained a serene, and in his later years a stately, manner as he went about his business.
Or, more accurately, his businesses: in 1949 Mr. Azumano opened his own insurance agency, soon adding a travel agency, and grew both businesses over the 40 years that followed. He also invested his time and money in civic enterprises, establishing scholarships for needy students, serving on commissions, and doing other things to benefit Portland, in a quiet way. Eventually the awards and recognition followed: service as a trustee of Willamette University, the Order of the Rising Sun in 1982 from the Emperor of Japan, and many others.
Through his long and remarkable life, Mr. Azumano was proud to be an American. It says something about a man's character when he can raise a family, succeed in business, contribute to civic life, help educate the poor, and still be loyal to the government that denied him the rights of his neighbors. Portland will miss him.