<Begin Segment 1>
LH: Okay. Today we're meeting with Frank Yamasaki at his home. Lori Hoshino is the interviewer and Steve Fugita is the second narrator and Matt Emery is the videographer today. [Ed. note: Stephen Fugita is the second interviewer.] Frank, I want to thank you for your willingness to participate with our study and the interview. If you don't mind if we start out with, I'd like to find out a little bit about your upbringing and your parents. Could you tell me a little bit about their personalities and their work?
FY: Well, my parent came from Hiroshima and there's a small island there called Nomijima, and my father came to this country in, I think it was 1898.
LH: Early on.
FY: Yeah, I think he came to Vancouver in Canada first and somehow slipped through the border and came to the United States. I couldn't get too much information from my father. He was a somewhat quiet person, and, but, so most of the information about Japan and my father and mother is from my mother.
LH: I see. Now, what was she like?
FY: She was very personable. She loved to read, so I think I would consider her as being addicted to reading. She tried even, everything possible to enjoy reading. She would even read the advertisement on packages or match covers or, in Japanese.
LH: So, she was, she was addicted to reading?
FY: Addicted to reading, yes.
LH: Did she read to you as a child?
FY: Well she would have, there would be children's book and that would come from Japan and these stories would be about the samurais or ghost stories and they would always end at a very crucial period, point, and so it would be continued on the next issue. So every month I would, used to look forward to looking for these books and then she would read it and then she would translate it so I could understand. Looking back to it, of course, it was very nice.
LH: And what sort of work did they do?
FY: Did I do or...
LH: What did your parents do?
FY: My father worked at a, several places, I think. At an early stage he worked in the coal mines. He may have even worked on the railroads, and farms, of course. Then in Seattle, he worked at a junk company. Alaska Junk Company.
LH: Oh, what did he do for the junk company?
FY: I'm not sure. I'm sure manual labor. He was a strong person so they probably had him carry heavy junks around. Later he worked for a burlap company. He was very fast in learning, whether it's installing electrical work or carpentry or even repairing the car. When something was wrong he would take it to the garage and then he would watch and the next time he would do it himself. I think most of the Issei were very adept at doing several things like this purely because of the economics... I think.
LH: Now, how did they meet and get married?
FY: You know, they say "picture bride," but they knew each other. They came from the same village. And ironically -- I'm kind of going to another area -- but my, my wife, Sadie, in the 1930s came. She visited Japan with her mother and she returned with my brother in the '30s. And this little child which I didn't know, turned out to be my wife, Sadie. It turns out also that her mother and my mother knew each other and also her father and my father came to America on the same ship.
LH: Sounds a little like fate.
FY: There's an interesting thing about -- coming over on the ship, my mother was never exposed to a Western-style pull chain toilet, so on the ship, her first experience was when she saw the bowl. Toilet bowl. She thought, "Could it be something to wash your feet in or wash your hand in?" And anyway, she was curious about that chain. It was, in the old days, they had the water tank up above the bowl, toilet bowl. And when she pulled the chain and the water started gushing down, she thought she broke it, so she would run off. Another thing she said that was interesting, the bathtub, the Japanese were used to taking bath in a furo, hot tub. So they would do their washing outside the tub and there'd be more than one person in there. And they'd wash outside, then they go and soak. Well, you can imagine what happened to the floor in that bathroom, and the captain, I guess, was angry to see what a mess there was there.
LH: So they had an interesting adjustment coming over to America.
FY: Oh, yes. And the one thing she said was getting off the boat, she said she was shocked as to how dirty the streets were. There were many horses that pulled the buggies and so they had a lot of horse dung all around the street and at the same time these streets were a boardwalk, rather than cement and on a rainy day of course very muddy. So the streets were not paved with gold. [Laughs]
<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 2>
LH: When did, when were you born?
FY: I was born in 1923 in Seattle in this area called Dearborn. It's interesting, where I was only three years old -- from what I heard -- I was three years old when we moved to South Park, which is the country. But the interesting thing, the people in the Dearborn area, they would say that's the Dearborn Bunch. And there would be others that would be the Main Street Bunch and Jackson Street Bunch. They're only a couple of blocks away, and yet it is surprising that each group stayed within their own area and if you're a couple of blocks away, they wouldn't know each other.
LH: Is that right?
FY: It's very interesting.
LH: So, did you have siblings?
FY: I beg your pardon?
LH: Did you have siblings, brothers and sisters?
FY: Did I?
FY: Yes, I had the elder sister, Yaiko, she had, she loved the name Dorothy. And Harry, he didn't like the name Harry because all the other Japanese had Japanese names so he, he had Mother call him Kazuo, Kaz. And Masao, and I was Hideo and I had a youngest one, George.
SF: Why do you think that your parents gave some of the kids English names and some of the kids Japanese names?
FY: I often wonder, too. Because most of the Isseis, at least my parents, were not educated and they come to a new country with very low exposure to other cultures. And someone must have told them, "Well, you're in America, so you better have, name your son Harry." [Laughs] But the, all his playmates, they were all, had Japanese names. So he preferred to be called Kaz, Kazuo and Kaz for short. Now with my brother Masao and myself, Hideo, it was in high school. All the while I was going to grammar school, whenever they came to my name, they would pronounce it Hidy-ho, Hedy-o. And I always, they always stalled when they came to my name, so I finally changed it to Frank and never had any problems. [Laughs] My brother changed his name to Bob or Robert and then, the Italians, when we moved out to South Park, there were many Italian truck farmers. And the fellows that we used to play with, one fellow's name was Miskino and the other fellow was Gurino and after the war and later on when we were all grown up, when I met them, I said, "Hi Miskino. Hi Gurino." And they said, "No, no. I'm Bob now, Robert now." And the other one was John. Changed his name to John. And I said, "I changed mine to Frank." [Laughs]
SF: Before you changed your name to Frank in high school, did you remember feeling you'd like to have an English name or a Japanese name? With different groups, was it different, or...?
FY: No, I didn't, I didn't feel... It's just that when the, when it became so awkward for the teacher to always, you know. And then it did become somewhat embarrassing at times. Whenever it came to my name I used to, I used to know that Yamasaki followed "W," and so when Jack White's name is called, I know what's going to happen next. There's going to be a stall there and, "Hedy-ho, Yama... Yama..." You know, Yamasaki. Oh, my gosh. So when I changed to Frank, she didn't say Yamasaki, she said Frank. [Laughs]
LH: It made life easier?
LH: Did it make life easier for you?
FY: Oh, certainly.
<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 3>
LH: Well, you said, you said that at the age of three that you moved to South Park?
FY: We moved to South Park and I was told by my brother that -- my older brother -- that we moved to South Park because apparently I was sickly and the doctor advised that we move out to the country.
LH: And how was growing up in South Park different from living in the city?
FY: In the city? Well, we had open airs, trees and in back of our house was kind of like a forest back there. Vegetables, fresh, acres of vegetables, any time you're hungry we'd go out and just pull a carrot out. And over to the left of the house, there was an orchard there, fruit trees, apples, pears, prunes. And to this day, I don't know who owned it. Just, people all went there. We never, looking back, no one seemed to hoard it. They just took what they wanted to eat and that's it, so there was plenty for everyone. There was a creek running in front of our house and we used to catch minnows with our handkerchiefs. It was a wonderful life. In contrast, in the city, most of the people that we knew, they had businesses. Whether it's hotel or grocery store, they would be living there. If it's a grocery store, they would live in the back and they, if they had several children, they'd have several bunks. So it was a very cramped quarters. Their activities, of course, were on the streets. There would be some lots. There was one area -- are you familiar with the Uwajimaya?
LH: Right, yes I am.
FY: Well, just south of there, close to the immigration station, there used to be a lot there and we used to call it "dugdale." A deep-set lot, very small and we used to play baseball there. And of course you can't, it's very small so you can't hit far, but nonetheless, it was a playground. Others living by the Seattle Buddhist Temple, there was a Collins Playfield, so they had an area there to play. So there were areas that people could play...
LH: Was your family farming out in South Park?
FY: No, no they... my father was still working for this factory. And later, when I grew up and didn't need any more care, my mother was working for Joe Desmond, too, part-time, doing farm work.
LH: I see. So at this time, you attended grade school. And what was the grade school that you went to?
FY: Well, the school was Concord. And at the Concord grammar school, it was located on a hilltop so that you could overlook the area of South Park. And one of my terrible experience I had was we, the kids were out to recess, and this friend of mine, Robert, was looking out the window and I was looking out the window and the teacher was there with me. And this Robert, an Italian, Italian, pointed to this big yellow house and he told the teacher, he said, "You see that big yellow house over there to the right?" He said, "That's where I live. And you see over to the left on the foot of the hill there, that shack? That's Hideo's place." That's my place, and I never thought about it as a shack. It's, these are the kind of experiences I guess we go through. We were all poor in that area, and it was home to me. And until someone pointed out it is a shack, and it was. After I grew up, I can recognize it was a shack.
LH: Is that the first time you can remember feeling, being put in a certain place?
FY: Yes. I'm sure there were more, but at that age, at that time, that was one of the heavy-bearing moments for me. But the, this type of discrimination in some way existed in the city, I think, more than in the country where we, I grew up. Because the Italians were immigrant, too. Their parents all spoke Italian and the, their children, equivalent to Nisei all spoke bilingual. They spoke a little Italian and their parents were not educated and we were all poor.
<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 4>
LH: In the area of South Park, there were a lot of Italian Americans living and growing up?
FY: Out in the farm area, yes. Most of the farm, in fact, all of the farms were owned by Italians and Joe Desmond, of course, was the largest farmer out there. And these were all truck farms. The Japanese, no, there wasn't a single Japanese that owned land. But I think that was because of the alien land act. I think you're more familiar with that, that than I. There was a restriction.
LH: Would you say that there were a lot of other Japanese Americans living in, in your vicinity, in your neighborhood?
FY: Well, I would say about eight or nine families. You know, which made it comfortable enough so that we were not alone. There was another area in South Park where there was a community, but it was about 2 or 3 miles away. Again, you know, traveling in those days, very few people had cars, so if we were to travel 4 or 5 miles, 6 miles, that seemed like it's a long, long way off.
SF: Since a lot of your buddies were Italian kids, how would you describe the relationship between the Japanese kids and the Italian kids or, or even the parents or the other families in the area since it was a mixed kind of neighborhood?
FY: Uh-huh. The Italians, of course, stayed among the Italian and they had their festivals. They were predominantly Catholics and the Catholic churches were always on top of a hill, so they would have their various church events and looking back, it was wonderful because the Italians that we knew, they all sang. And the kind of song they would sing would turn out to be operatic arias, or songs from musicals. And one would think later on when I grew up, some of the people I've met, they said that, "Gosh, you're really familiar with opera." I didn't know they were opera, I thought they were just folk songs. [Laughs] But I do, even now, I see, occasionally I'll see some of my old friends and we talk about the old days and there was a lot of singing. It was nice. The Japanese, of course, had their activities among themselves. And because my parents originally lived in the city, many of their close friends were still in the city, in Seattle. And so every Sunday, they would go to the Buddhist Temple and I think the summertime, the hours, I'm not sure, around seven o'clock, maybe, in the evening and then the service. And then in the winter, I think it was earlier, I can't remember. They, that was a regular routine, going to the Buddhist Temple on Sundays.
<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 5>
LH: Now, did your family try to maintain some Japanese traditions and activities?
FY: Well, the... only to be with the other groups. The temple would have their annual picnics or they would have shibais or they would have other activities, then they would attend. There are religious events, Bon Odori -- the street dance -- they would attend those festivals and there were many others.
LH: Can you describe some of the shibai?
FY: Well, unfortunately, I couldn't understand, so we would cut out and go to a movie or something else.
LH: Shibai was a form of Japanese theatrics that was performed.
FY: Yes, they would perform, I think, some of these traditional folk stories and they would have costumes. The samurais, they would have head gears, you know, the bald area, and they would have, women would have kimonos and they would have the samurai sword made out of wood, and of course, we still have some of these prop at the temple, and annually, during the Bon Odori, we would have these on display.
LH: If there was any heart of the community at that time, what do you think that would be?
FY: I think it varies. The young people, the Nisei, were primarily involved in sports. They had baseball, basketball and, of course, judo, kendo, a number of sports. I, living out in South Park, was not really involved in those activities because it was too far away. They did in the South Park community, they had some activity. But also, by the time I was in my teenage years, young teenage years, the Roosevelt administration instituted the, what they called the WPAs, which in turn had the artist, WPA artist group, and they had the field houses where they had instructors, both for male and female. This was great because after school we could go there and they would have activities, several activities, basketball and baseball and at the same time, maybe once a month, a WPA actors' guild, they would come down and perform. In fact, my first exposure to a musical, I don't know what you call it... a musical, opera, "Mikado," was by these performers.
<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 6>
SF: You kind of mentioned some Japanese activities like the shibai and other cultural things and then you also talked about a lot of American things, baseball and sports and all that. Do you recall at that time, when you were growing up, did your parents or did any community people sort of suggest that, "Well, we should be more Japanese or we should be more American." Was there a kind of pressure either way, or didn't seem to be any and people just kind of lived their lives?
FY: Yes. I think... I shouldn't generalize, I speak for myself. My sister, my eldest sister, she went through lots and lots of restriction. She would curl her hair and my dad would be very angry. She would have some very limited makeup and he would be angry, and call her a prostitute. And it was bad. And she loved dancing and I can remember as a child, she had me step on her toe and then we would dance. And she... this is a hard subject for me. Because I was only three years old, but she... in writing my biography all this come up and all of a sudden there was a tremendous recall. She, she used to sing a lot and she loved art. In fact, by herself in her teenage state, she was going to Cornish Art School. How she ever got around to that... because I know our folks couldn't afford it. She was sent to Japan because she was being too, considered too rowdy. She had to be disciplined so she would be more like how the Japanese should be. Yes, so there was a lot of that type of thing and I'm sure that existed with others, too. The reason I got -- I'm sorry for getting emotional -- is she died there. And I had to be the one that read the telegram that said she died, and my mother was next to me.
LH: That must have been hard.
FY: And then years later, my mother regretted that all her life. You know that she sees TV, she sees young girls curling their hair and, you know, it was a, it was just a backward, feudalistic type of culture that existed. So you know... so as a result, the rest of us, at least I got a great deal of benefit. They let me be quite free and they didn't question what I did or how I felt, or...
<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 7>
LH: When you interacted with the Italian Americans and made friendships, did you also interact with other ethnic groups?
FY: Well, I think my experience there was primarily with the Park Board. I used to turn out for basketball, tracks and other events. And they would have also events like camping, going to Camp Denny and then I would be the only Asian there, all the others would be Caucasians and yes, in that respect, the New Dealism was great. Things just start coming, popping up that I'd never experienced before.
LH: Do you feel that that allowed you to make friendships beyond just the Japanese American community, then?
FY: Oh yes. Yes. Just being with the Park Board, playing basketball, we went to areas that we would never had gone to. West Seattle, Green Lake... at that time Green Lake was considered far north. Even in the Collin Playfield in the International area. Rainier, Rainier the playhouse, field there that still exists.
LH: Now were there ever any problems with you being the only Asian amongst a group of other mixed-, mixed-race kids?
FY: Well, I've had some horrendous experience, or shocking experience. I would forget that, you know, there are moments that you forget that we are racially different. And there was a time where Tony's parents had a stall at the Public Market and we would go there after some activities. And then there was one day that Tony and Vito and another fellow, it was hot, said, "Hey, let's go swimming. The pool is right up here." Crystal Pool and we looked, at, it cost a dime so I said, "Hey, that's a great idea." So here we go, we, it was only a couple of blocks from the market, so we went there and they paid and I'm in line and when they came to me, they said no. They just, they didn't say, they just waved their hands and said, "Out." And it just caught me by surprise. And the others, they were shocked. They didn't know, they couldn't understand, but I understood right away what it was about. And they, they start arguing with them, with the clerk there, or the cashier and at the same I was already halfway down the block. That was...
LH: Can you tell me what was going through your head at the time?
FY: Just, just shock. It's just kind of a bitter... like, like being slapped. You're in a state of shock. I know there is discrimination, but we anticipate it, so we either... I don't know if you've heard the expression, "gentlemen's agreement," so there are places that we, we understood we don't go, so there's no encounter like that. The...
SF: I'd like to follow up a little bit on that "gentlemen's agreement" idea. Where did you feel you couldn't go? Like certain restaurants or...
FY: Oh, of course, yeah. You know, there's, even thinking back, if we were to go just downtown area, whether it's, by Bon Marche or Frederick's, or in that area, we would talk to each other, say, "Hey, let's go," or we wouldn't go alone. We would find friends or others to go together. And that makes me think about after the war, I could recall when before the war, the population -- at least I didn't notice -- there was not a very large black, Afro-American population. But after the war there was a tremendous increase. And I could recall the blacks coming into the same area where we hesitated at once, one time, and they would come in a group. And at first, I used to think think, "God, that's a threatening feeling," to see people come in a group, but then I began to think, "This is exactly what we did." It was a fear. At least, I think the fear isn't as intense now as it was before, at least in Seattle, at least in certain areas. [Laughs]
SF: So when you went places with some of your Italian friends, you would not go to certain places that you would go with your Nihonjin friends or Japanese friends?
FY: Yeah, when the, of course, weekends or other days, we would go to the Nihonmachi, that's the Japanese town. The Italians would have their Italian areas and in those days, if you go to another city, the first thing you do, you look for the Japanese community, Nihonmachi, it was standard. And of course the Chinese were -- among the Asian -- were the most discriminated in the early '30s, so as a result, the Chinatown has grown, and there are many generation of Chinese that still spoke very little English because of the tremendous discrimination they encountered. In Seattle, I think, if you're familiar, there was even a race riot. So all these things even when I was growing up, I was so politically naive, I really didn't understand. You know, we grew up almost feeling as if this was normal.
LH: Now Frank, you mentioned about going to Nihonmachi with your friends. Did you ever take your Italian friends to Nihonmachi?
FY: No, no, I haven't. [Laughs] It's strange, that's interesting, why I didn't, I don't know.
LH: Do you think that there might have been some discrimination from Japanese towards the greater community in some way?
FY: When you say "greater community"...
LH: Other non-Japanese.
FY: Non-Japanese. I don't know. I... the, of course, there was tremendous anger; they had a derogatory name for white.
LH: What was that?
FY: There's an expression called keto. That was used as a... I guess you might call it equivalent to a white calling a Japanese, "Jap."
LH: Can you give me an example of when somebody might use that word?
FY: Well usually, well, they almost always used that word keto. There was a hatred toward the white. And it was almost like the Japanese that I had met and known were very prejudiced even with Chinese and other ethnic groups. They used to be, I haven't seen it because we lived out in South Park, but there would be gangs of Chinese fighting gangs of Nisei. And there were discrimination among... and I don't know whether this is a reprisal. You get kicked and so you justify it by kicking others. Or, I don't know.
SF: So there were these fights between the Niseis and Chinese kids. Were there fights between Japanese kids and white kids?
FY: No, when it comes to white kids, it was a little different. Because, no, usually Japanese avoid... because there is a big fear there. And earlier you asked about if I ever invite the Italians as a kid, no. And they had, they didn't invite me either. The social events they had at the Catholic Church in South Park, where they would have a bandstand and yes, then the whole community was invited there. There was no, it was predominantly Italian, of course, but it was very good. They would sing all these songs and they have their musician there on the stage, and a bandstand, I should say, and they have wine. Of course I was too young to drink wine. I didn't appreciate it like I do now. [Laughs]
SF: Did, like when you got to high school age, people must have, like Italian kids must have been attracted to the Japanese kids, I mean, in terms of like girl-boy relationships and visa versa, but was that the case that people used to say, "Oh, she's really cute," or something like that?
FY: Again, my personal experience, Japanese generally dated Japanese. The interracial type or ethnic group type of relationship was very, very limited. The, same with Italians, and I'm sure the Germans, the same thing. There was a strong tie among each ethnic group.
SF: So you'd have never thought of dating an Italian girl or something like that.
FY: No, it just, it just doesn't exist. I would look at some and they looked pretty, but it just didn't... or at least I didn't. I was a late bloomer. It wasn't until my high school junior and senior that I started to date Nisei girls. And even at that, I went to Cleveland High School, and at Cleveland High School there weren't that many Japanese girls, but you go to Broadway, they used to have a lot of dances there. They used to call it the "G.R.," I think Girl Reserves or something like that. Oh, I would make a point to go and then they had other activities in the cities where they had their own band. They had a group called the Mikado and they, of course, played, everybody, all the musicians in those days played Glenn Miller. And there were several places where they used to have dances.
<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 8>
LH: Now, how old were you at this point, about sixteen, seventeen?
FY: It was seventeen.
LH: How did you get around? Did you drive a car?
FY: No, but somebody else would have a car and we could double up. By, usually it's the father's car and the son could borrow it. We had a car, but my older brother always borrowed it. [Laughs]
LH: Can you recall learning how to drive?
FY: Yeah. I guess... of course, when nobody is in the car, behind the wheel there, I was pretending like I'm driving. And then when my dad would be going to town, he would let me sit on his lap at time and just steer the car and that's more or less how... we never, couldn't afford taking driver's lessons, I mean, take driving instruction. Also, there would be some real jalopies. I think they're called Model-T's where you crank the engine to start it and we would every so often -- and to this day, I'm not sure who owned it -- we used to take that out. [Laughs] When I say we, the older, bigger guys would do it and of course, the little kids would be tagging around.
LH: Speaking of some of these rites of passage, did you...
FY: I'm sorry, I didn't...
LH: Oh, speaking of some of these rites of passage, learning how to drive or beginning to date, did you also try maybe some of the other things like smoking, drinking? Can you describe your...
FY: Oh, that was standard, yeah, when our family, when our father would have their friends, they have a party, and they smoking, and they had a little butts, and we'd get those butts, and cut it and then we roll them into little cigarettes, smoke. I, living out in the country, we would have ofuro, ofuro is a hot tub, and, in heating the water -- we would heat the water from the outside, there'd be a area to burn trash or whatever you could burn, newspapers and wood -- and there I almost, I almost died once. I would roll newspaper up and tried smoking that. [Laughs] And then, also, there was a weed that we used to call, call it Indian tobacco. And you let that dry up, and you can, we used to get corncobs and dig that out, and then you'd make a pipe out of that. And so there was a lot of that type of thing, smoking. And drinking, we would sneak drinking from the party they would have, they would have sake, and, of course, we'd try the sake. I guess we... again, I shouldn't generalize. Maybe I was more of the rowdy ones. [Laughs]
<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 9>
LH: Can we take you to the time just prior to the war, and you had moved from South Park to, now where did you move to?
FY: We moved to First and Cedar, and my mother and I, my mother negotiated everything and we bought a, rather, leased a hotel. And it was fifty-six units -- rooms, rather -- and because my brothers were not around, I, I more or less had to run it because my parents couldn't speak English.
LH: Now, where were your brothers?
FY: Well, one was in California, and the other was going to school and he just didn't have time, he was going to the UW and so...
LH: Now, what kind of hotel was this?
FY: It was a regular, I guess you'd call it a sleeping room and then combination housekeeping. Housekeeping would, they would have a little burner. Sleeping room was just the bed. And then there was a communal toilet and bathroom, which was out in the hall. In New York, I guess you would call it a cold-water flat.
LH: Now was this primarily catering to Japanese and the Japanese community?
FY: No. No, most of the tenants were Caucasians. This was not in the Japanese community area, this is -- right now if you, the area called Belltown -- it was just north of there. That building's been gone since, and they have a large, tall building there now.
LH: Can you describe that area for me? At that time.
FY: Oh, at that time Belltown was a, an area were they had a lot of prostitute. And, in fact, some of the prostitutes were very kind to me. Because I used to deliver paper and what I do, whenever there might be some interesting news, I'd buy -- after my delivery, I would also buy extras. And I can't remember whether I paid two cents for each sheet, then I can sell it for a nickel, so I made three cents profit. So I get an armload of newspapers and then I walk up to First Avenue, there in Belltown, and I holler out, "Extra, extra." And then they'll rap on the window, and pretty soon they're all -- actually, there may not be nothing in the news, but I'd walk in the street hollering, "Extra." And then when I'd go to the room and I see this heavy door that shocks me, and then that slide opens up, you know that little slot there, there'd be a whorehouse there. But they were nice. They always gave me a nickel tip, you know, they'd give me a dime.
<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 10>
SF: You mentioned that your parents didn't speak much English. Did they send you to Japanese school?
FY: In South Park, I'm sure there must have been a, there was a Japanese, yes, there was a "tip" school or Japanese school in South Park, which was again, maybe a couple of miles away, so I didn't go.
LH: Now, why was it called a "tip" school?
FY: Well, I'm not sure, but I, I, in the old days, there was an expression that I think many gamblers used to use, and they'd say, "I got a hot tip," or, "What's the latest tip?" Meaning, what's the latest information. So often wonder, I never really got, investigated that, and often, I'm assuming that that's where it probably started.
LH: When you were a child, Japanese was your first language, wasn't it?
FY: Yes, of course, yes.
LH: And so when you went to the Japanese school it felt comfortable and then...
FY: I didn't go to Japanese school.
LH: Oh, I thought you said... I'm sorry, I'm sorry. So when you went to school, you were speaking Japanese and then when you entered all of a sudden, they're teaching you English.
LH: Now how, how did you make that adjustment?
FY: There was lots of adjustment, that I'm sure many, many Niseis have to make. Even now I have difficulty enunciating words properly. I grew up going to the grocery store and saying 'bata,' for butter. 'Eggesu,' 'meato,' I thought that's what it was supposed to be. 'Salada,' for salad, and -- [laughs] -- and at some school function where they may have -- not a formal but a semi- banquet of some sort -- I wouldn't know which spoon to use or which... and there used to be stories about how we would joke, we'd go to restaurant, and we order chicken and then they'll come with a clear soup. We'll try it, and said, "This is terrible, it's cold and it has no taste." And we didn't know that this was supposed to be a finger bowl. [Laughs] So there were, these, there were many, many adjustments that many Nisei have made.
SF: Do you remember, when you were using these words, like the word for, Nisei word for butter and so forth, did that produce kind of a self-consciousness in folks in those days?
FY: At that time no, it just... the clerk would stand there looking, and trying to figure out what we were trying to say, but I think at the same time, there were many foreigners in those days. Italians, they pronounced in a funny way, too. This is another story, but going back, before I was born, when my mother and father were on Dearborn Street, living there, my father working and the friend suggested that they start a hotel and Mother could run it. My mother could run it. And of course in those days they just have very few money, but at the same time, you borrow from all your friends and start the business. They instructed Mother to, whenever a customer comes, just show the book and tell them, "Shine, shine here." It means sign here. So the customer, with a -- heavy big guy with a beard, he'd go and he'll speak in some foreign language and he put an "X" there. See, so there she was saying some of the experience... another experience she had was one time the customer come down and gave her a bunch of old clothes, and she, Japanese, no matter what, you say thank you and show your appreciation. But after he left, she said the least they could have done is washed it, it was so dirty. So anyway, she put it away, and three or four days later this guy come down and ask for his clothes and she thought, "Oh my God, he wants his clothes back." So then we got it and returned it to him, it was still under the counter. And the guy was real angry because it was still dirty. She found out that she was supposed to send it out to the laundry. [Laughs]
LH: So it sounds as though the language difference created a lot of interesting and almost humorous situations.
FY: It did. The, the period there where it wasn't only the Asian that were immigrants. There were whites that were immigrants. So language was tolerable, much more than when I grew up where I've been insulted where somebody said, "Why don't you speak English?" because I'm not pronouncing the words correctly.
SF: You mentioned that your mom was supposed to run this hotel. And how would you -- what were gender relationships like in those days between the Issei fathers and the Issei mothers?
FY: I think it must have been the same as it was in Japan. YThe male dominance, the women's subservient state. They were to listen and not speak. I think that was pretty similar with the Italians and others, too. When I was growing up, I seen one case where this Italian family, the husband was chasing his wife all over the field. [Laughs] So this type of male chauvinism existed among, at least among the poor peasants, uneducated peasants. I think that's primarily why most of the immigrants came to America, looking for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 11>
LH: So Frank, it sounds like you were helping to run the hotel, you were selling newspapers and -- did you continue your schooling then?
FY: Oh yes, of course.
FY: Again, things like that, it seems like gee, you're doing a lot of work, but most Niseis were doing the same thing. So, kind of like, "What's new?" Our parents worked hard, we say "hard" now, but at that time it was just normal.
LH: Uh-huh. Did you go to high school at this point then?
FY: Yes, I was going to Queen Anne. And of course, that's leading up to the war and I was again, very active. I used to turn out for football, and then I, when I started turning out for football I quit the paper delivery, but then still the chores at the hotel. And, of course, at the temple, in the community they were building this new temple and one Sunday we went to volunteer and we wheelbarrowed sawdust into the gym, gymnasium and they laid that sawdust under the flooring for some reason. And coming home I could... after I came home and changed my clothes, I went to see a neighbor right across the street. And I was playing my harmonica as I was going up the stairs and then I hear, he came out and says, "War." He said, "Japan bombed Pearl Harbor." And I thought, "He's kidding." I never even heard of Pearl Harbor, so I went up and gee, they were all standing up, everybody was standing around the radio, and now it became real.
LH: How did you feel at that time?
FY: I know, I keep thinking, how do one react to it? It just, all of a sudden you're just calling up others, "You hear about this?" And there's no other ways of communicating. There was no real community to coordinate anything like this. And so, we're just calling friends. And the next day, of course, the war is declared, the President. And then the day after, gradually, as you walk the street, there are anger shown. And so gradually we hesitate going out, and again, most of the communication is by telephone, calling each other, "Hey, what's going on," because we didn't know what to do. And then gradually the media would get more and more involved, and come out with the, inciting this "hate Jap" type of campaign. And in school, gradually I could, terrible, the friends I know as I walk toward the locker, they would find excuse to walk in some other direction, because they don't want to be embarrassed. And later on, as it got more and more severe, it was just like I had some kind of virus. They just, people would just... people who knew me would just go off and others would just give me a dirty look. It was...
LH: Were you one of the few Japanese at Queen Anne High School?
FY: Very few Japanese there, yes.
LH: Was it an intimidating --
FY: We had a student body of maybe 2,300 or 2,400 and maybe there was only a dozen Japanese, so you know. I used to go to school with Hank. His parent had a grocery store and we get to school and I don't see him until we're ready to leave. They just had two lunch hours and two assemblies because of the facility was limited and the student body was large.
LH: Were there ever any incidents that you were aware of, of intimidation or discrimination at your high school?
FY: In high school, no, it was just silent discrimination if you are... oh yes, you feel it, they don't have to say anything. They didn't, a good friend of mine, they just wanted to avoid, so they'd find ways to avoid seeing me. If they see me come down the hall, they would turn around and go the other direction, anything to avoid. And gradually, you get to the point where I didn't, I stopped going to school. But primarily, there were things we had to do around the apartment. Then they started coming out and saying that we might, this might happen, that might happen. My parents would have friends come over and then they would have their conversation and they'd be in front of the shrine, reciting their nenbutsu in front of the obutsudan and they used to feel that this might be the end. You know, and I still young yet and I said, "Mom, no. This is America. That's not going to happen." We're taught that kind of thing.
LH: So your family... okay...
FY: Thank you, I just can't... [Cries]
LH: You're doing great. You really are doing great. You're giving us a lot of information.
FY: You know, people say, "Bitter?" Yes, I'm bitter. I'm still bitter. It's wrong. And the thing I'm bitter is, if the country can't learn from that wrong they done, then that kind of thing is still continuing. That's what I'm angry about. We all make mistakes, but if we don't adjust that... we don't, you know, the kind of discrimination that still exists among the young blacks -- I'm using "blacks," it's Afro-American now, isn't it -- the people with AIDS, the kind of discrimination they go through. It just, you find a whole array of people. It's wrong, it's wrong.
LH: It's important, what you're doing. It's important.
<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 12>
LH: Well Frank, you were telling us a little bit about the time right after you heard about Pearl Harbor. And now what, I understand that there were some restrictions about travel and where Nisei and Issei could go within the city.
FY: I'm not that familiar with the area where we can travel, but they had a curfew so that we had to be indoors or back at home within certain hours. And, of course, Japanese are very obedient so that wasn't much problem. We all abided by the command. The... lots of pain, there was a lot of pain there. But there wasn't that much time to reflect, because there was such a short time. We had to get rid of our business. We had to take care of all of our financial affairs. It goes on and on, and with such limited time. And they allowed, I think it was just two suitcases, so what do you do with all your household goods?
LH: What happened to your hotel business?
FY: We sold it. To give you an example, the two families that had grocery stores, one just outright sold the store for around $400. That's including inventory, cash registers, big freezers and it goes on and on and on. It was worth ten, hundred times more. I don't mean -- considerably more. Hank, he decided he's just going to go out and take his groceries to other grocery store, and sell it for less than wholesale and hopefully he'll get something and he did, his cash registers, and freezers and things of that sort. He did get two or three times more than what the other family did. But even at that, it was still... $800, $900 or $1,000. In our case, we were lucky. There was a fisherman that was one of the tenants, and he just happened to come back from Alaska, and he bought our apartment for $500 or the hotel for $500. Can you imagine? And all our goods... we used to have a sort of an assistant manager, Ed Meyer. And we had one of the rooms, we stored all our personal belongings and furnitures and household good into that room. And with the understanding that we are entitled to get it back. And, of course, the manager wasn't there anymore. Nothing was there. We lost everything.
LH: How much time did you have to settle the affairs of your family?
FY: Well, I thought it was only about a week or so, or a couple of weeks at the most. And at the same time, there is lots of rumors, there's no one guiding us. They said, "Well, just buy things. You can't bring any money with you," so we would go out and buy things that we would never consider buying, like I bought ring and wristwatches and I even bought a portable radio and things of that sort with my, I had some money saved. The, my mother, she figured she had a good hiding place, so she put some money in her shoe. [Laughs] Others made money belt, I think, and they put some money there.
LH: And you said that you were allowed to take two suitcases.
FY: If I remember that, I thought that was it, two suitcases were the maximum limit. Others had, later, going to the assembly center in Puyallup I noticed that others had duffel bags and other things, so we were very naive. We could have -- well, there's lots of things we could have done. This is all hindsight, but this is where like Gordon Hirabayashi, he was well-informed and more knowledgeable about things of this sort, so he stood on his civil rights, which we didn't know anything about. In fact, many Japanese frowned on Gordon Hirabayashi for making some rumble there. You know, the traditional, Japanese tradition was don't make any noise, just be quiet and do what you're supposed to do. That was a very traditional type of belief among the, at least, Japanese I grew up with.
<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 13>
LH: Well, before you go on, what were you saying? You were starting to say something, you forgot to...
FY: Yeah, I forgot now, what, what were we talking about?
LH: You were talking about Gordon Hirabayashi.
FY: Oh, yeah.
LH: Did you want to get it on tape? Because we can continue that.
FY: Well, let me think about... most of us, most of my friends' family were... are you on now?
ME: Oh, yeah.
FY: Oh, okay. We were pretty naive about civil rights or our, our right as citizens, particularly us Nisei. We were very naive about this type of legal rights. And when Gordon Hirabayashi stood on his right, I even heard some Japanese Issei make comment that he shouldn't be making all this rumble. It's not good. He should be quiet and we should do as we're told. And this was more or less the philosophy of the Isseis and even the Niseis at that time. So I, we looked for suitcase, cases. And of course, we took the best clothes we have.
And on the day of the evacuation, we were to meet on first -- I can't remember when, I think it was around April 24th, I'm not sure -- we went to, I think it was Western and around Stewart Street. There was a bus waiting there and they had military people in uniform and it was kind of ironical that when we got there, they were, we were just a few blocks away, so we just walked there and carried a suitcase -- and it was almost like going out to a picnic. Everybody was dressed in their Sunday best. After all, either you wear your clothes or you throw it away. So they had their very best clothes on, and of course, all of a sudden you're seeing all your friends and all your neighbors. You just don't -- so everybody greeting each other and there was even laughter, and here we're on the way to be incarcerated. On the bus, I can recall, even now when I turn the portable on, the first song that came on was Dinah Shore singing "Skylark." That was a very popular song in those days.
LH: So do you think the mood at the, during the bus ride was full of anxiety or more of a light atmosphere?
FY: It was... no, far from being light, but there was anxiety. And I think, again I speak for myself as a teenager, there was girls around, so I started conversation with girls, "Where are you from?" "Where do you live," etceteras. That type of conversation and we were all familiar with Puyallup because they would have their annual Puyallup Fair. I don't recall... we went into Area A. That was the first area that was open for the internees. And I can't remember whether it was, because there was so many occasion when the, the ground would be very muddy, but if I recall, it was slightly muddy that day. And of course, we were all in street shoes. So after we, we settled in the camp, of course, we all resorted to the, not the Sears-Roebuck but they call it the "Monkey Ward," Montgomery Ward catalog, and everybody started to order high ankle shoe... work shoes. I'd like to say, they called this assembly center "Camp Harmony." It was very ironical. [Laughs]
LH: How did it get that name, "Camp Harmony"?
FY: I don't know. To this day, I don't know. Its, I don't know whether the WRA that instill that name or whether some internees just called it... maybe they were being facetious.
SF: When you drove up to "Camp Harmony," what did the place look like? I mean, what did you see?
FY: Well, the area we went into, Area A, I was familiar with because that was kitty corner from the entrance of the fairground and that was a parking lot. It was still a parking lot, only they built these barracks in there and a barbed wire fence. They had two towers there and I think they stood up about 30 feet high or so, with a guard up there. And they had another guard on the opposite end, the entrance with a set machine gun, a machine gun sitting on the ground. And it was... they acted... things had gone by so fast, from being assigned barracks and then getting the mattresses filled with straw. The women, of course, these partitions between each room was very poor, the lumber was very poor. There would be gap there, so they would find means of getting newspaper or things to patch, stuff into the crack. Above, the partition I think ran around 6, 7 feet high. Seven feet high, and then it is open on top where the gable came down and of course you can hear everyone. Somebody letting a fart on end, you could hear all the way across. [Laughs] The entrance, of course, was just like going into a chicken coop. These were just structure that was really put up on a temporary basis.
LH: So this is where everybody slept and this was their basic living quarters?
FY: Yes, yes.
LH: Where did everybody eat?
FY: Well then they had on one end, they had mess, mess halls. In Area A, I think they had two. I think they had Mess Hall One and Mess Hall Two. And then they divided the barracks. Barrack number whatever, maybe 5 to 7, or 3 to 4, would go to their respective mess hall. And, of course, Area D, the fairground, that was the largest area. And all around the grandstand, and also the large structure they have now where they display the animals or produce. They had sort of a simulated barrack or a partition within those huge compounds. And then, well, going back to Area (A), and then they had Area B and Area C, which were similar to Area A.
<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 14>
LH: How do you think the Issei felt about their lack of freedom? How did they adjust to this, to "Camp Harmony" life?
FY: You know, at that time, it's hard to say. Again, I speak, I'm talking about this from a teenage perspective. I'm sure, in the evening when they're alone, they must have had a lot of reflection as to what is life, what's...? Some have lost a lot more than others financially and what they lost was very difficult because they worked so hard. They scrimped and they saved their money. And yes, I think many of them had desires of someday they would go back to their own village again and see their relatives and friends. So there it is, everything was just topsy-turvy, you might say.
LH: And for you, how did you cope with the loss of the freedom?
FY: Well, see, when you say freedom... when you say you lose your freedom. I lost my freedom when I was out there and trying to go into the swimming pool. I lost my freedom when this kid said, "There's that shack that guy lives in." That was part of what I grew up with. We can, I guess, go into that word "freedom" in multiple way. The, being incarcerated like that for me, it was a big picnic because I seen so many pretty girls and I never seen so many Japanese in my life. They had all these activities that went on. Even at "Camp Harmony," they had all kinds of sports, dancing, several activities.
LH: Can you describe some of those activities for me?
FY: Well, dancing, of course, we would get the tables that are in there and we would...
LH: Where was "there"?
FY: This Area A in "Camp Harmony." We would put those aside, and get some soap and put on the floor. And the thing, to this day, I often wondered where did they get the PA system for the music. I don't know. I had a portable radio, but you know... the, and if you have a larger dance group coming, then we would take these tables outside. But the activities, of course, were mainly in the mess halls. We would find ways of sneaking into other areas. And the Area D was the most interesting, because that used to be and that still is the fairground, so they would have these concession areas like these spook houses and haunted houses. So we would, they would be boarded up, but we would find ways of going in there. And especially with girls, it was fun teasing the girls... [Laughs] There was a...
<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 15>
FY: During that period was there an experience I had that was very revealing to me. In that, one day a messenger came and said that there was someone who wanted to see me, not a Japanese, someone from the outside. And so I was curious, and I'm thinking gee, could it be Norm Peterson, could it be Tony, could it be...? So I go, and here it is, my teacher. And I thought, God, my relationship with that teacher wasn't that...
LH: Where was this teacher from?
FY: From Queen Anne High School. And I, we shook hand and kind of walked. And he is still quiet, and he says, "Is there someplace we can sit and talk?" And I said, "Yeah." And I'd been up on the grandstand then with some date, girls before, there's, on the fairground, the grandstand still exists. So we went up there, and all of a sudden I just feel that the atmosphere has changed. All of the sudden I had a perspective view of the whole camp area and I never dreamed the rows of barrack that was there. It was a kind of shocking view. Because in the other area there's no, we're all ground level, and all of a sudden you get up in this grandstand and you look and you see all the rows and rows of barracks. They were built in this area where they would have the horse racing and all that. And this guy, the teacher said, he was telling me about his experience during World War I. And he's German and his father was interned. And so he went through a similar experience, and he said that it was a dirty rotten shame that this kind of thing had happened. And for the first time I really felt the impact of what was going on. It made quite an impression on me. Just prior to then I was a happy-go-lucky, carefree teenager.
LH: So this man had made a special trip just to see you.
FY: Yes. He had heard it, too. For years he carried that pain, and so maybe that's what he had to tell me, too. It was true. It was bad.
LH: So you felt that perhaps others outside of the camp felt some sympathy for your situation, is that...
FY: I didn't, no, I never gave it that kind of a thought. It's just that... yes, there was a whole chapter, different chapter in my life at that time. Seeing this whole thing in a totally different perspective. I was still ignorant, of course. I didn't know anything about what the Constitution said or...
LH: You're doing well.
<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 16>
LH: So your family was in Area A.
LH: And you mentioned prior to this interview that your brother had measles.
FY: Oh, yes, yes. Prior, just prior to being transferred to Minidoka, my brother became ill and they found that it was measles, so my mother and my youngest brother had to be quarantined. Since my mother cannot speak English, so I stayed with her. So the three of us were taken to Area D, which was already evacuated. And we were put into this huge compound, these huge structure that housed the evacuees before, with these smaller barracks that were built inside, within, a partition. And it was a frightening experience because it was huge, no lights. The only illumination was from the both end of the structure that was open like a large barn.
LH: Now why weren't there any lights?
FY: The power had apparently been taken off because the people were all evacuated. And possibly the hospital itself had, did not have any accommodation. So here we were. And the next day, one of the nurse brought a candle, but I'm not certain what an impact it must have had on my younger brother.
LH: How old was he at the time?
FY: I think at that time he must have been three or four, maybe in that area. In writing my personal biography, consistently I get to that period and I can't remember. There is kind of a black-out. So, I often wondered if there was something that could have happened that was very unpleasant.
LH: And where was the rest of your family at this point?
FY: They were, they went ahead. They were evacuated to Minidoka and from, I can't remember whether it was a week gone by and then we were also evacuated to Minidoka. But there is a whole period of total blank out, black-out there. I don't, I can't recall what happened. How we got to Minidoka, I would assume that we rode a train and all that, there is a lot of assumption, but I don't recall. Not one little experience there.
<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 17>
SF: Going back just a little tiny bit, in terms of, like all those activities that you had, like the dances and things of that sort, how was that organized, who set those things up? How did they come about?
FY: Yeah, it's... each mess hall would have a staff of waitress, waitresses and dishwashers. And I worked in Mess Hall Two and there was a whole group of us, in fact, John Okada who wrote that book, "No-No," [Ed. note: Narrator is referring to No-No Boy by John Okada] was even with us. We were all friends and we would more or less say, "Hey, let's have a dance." We'd talk to the girls and the waitress, so you've got about twelve waitresses and even more boys, so you already have a group to dance and then others would come. But again, it just makes me... how did they get the PA system? Who brought the records? So there was lots of things they say we can't do, and yet it was there, available.
LH: Now were you able to associate with the same friends that you had in Seattle? Did you have the same friends in Puyallup, at "Camp Harmony"?
FY: No. Some were located to -- I don't know why. Let's see, where... isn't that strange? No, as we did our work, we were assigned, our friendship developed among ourselves, among the fellows we worked with. And then when we'd go back to our barrack, there is another group there, sort of... and I don't mean to generalize, because I think I was a, kind of a semi-loner or... I used to... I was interested in women, girls, and activities and sports. So, I was kind of, went on my own a lot. Except we would, after -- in-between washing dishes, like you have your breakfast and then you have to come back for your lunch -- in between there, we would play poker and there was the regular like John and Pete and Mutt, all these interesting names. [Laughs] We had regular poker sessions.
SF: What kind of person was John Okada, since you mentioned that. What kind of a guy was he?
FY: Well, he's quiet. He looked very studious with his glasses and playing poker, he was very analytical. So in poker, you watch for whatever trait, and I used to watch for a certain trait he has, which means that he has a pretty good hand or, and things of that sort. He was generally quiet, not as outgoing as most of the people. Because even when we were singing, I don't recall his voice as much as others. He loved poker; he was a chain smoker.
SF: Then you two were, kind of, good buddies?
FY: Well, not necessarily buddies, because I was, I loved people. And I loved all people, so I'm moving around to people that interest me. There was one in Minidoka, there was one fellow... we stayed friends for a long time even after the war. He enjoyed playing chess and so I enjoyed playing chess. So we become good chess partners. And this is jumping ahead, but there is a period where we'd play chess and I'd make a move and he would look at it. And then I offer him a cigarette. We were both chain smoker, too. And then, somehow, something happened where he wouldn't move and every time he looks down, then I look down at the board, too, thinking he must really plan something. So we get up, look at each other and he'll smile and I'll smile, and I'll look down again and I'll say, "Hey, Roy, it's your move." And he would smile and anyway, we went back and forth like that and I didn't know that he couldn't hear. So, before, he was reading my lips all this time. This is why he pays so, he looked at me whenever I used to talk. So it was about twenty minutes before he was, made a move. [Laughs] But aside from his chess playing which I was interested. Also, I learned some Nihongo, Japanese, from the Isseis to where I was interested in the game called go, G-O. So I used to play a lot of that, so my friendship would vary.
LH: So you were friends, did you become friends with some of the Issei?
FY: Oh yeah. Sure. I used to know... in fact, some of the kids, they'll say... well even my son-in-law, Tom's father. I used to play go with him; this was after the war. They had a hotel right across the street from the Japanese go club, across on Jackson Street, years ago. And so yes, I met a lot of Isseis.
<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 18>
LH: If we could move to the period where you were going to Minidoka, and you said that you had a blank period that it's difficult to recall, but what made the biggest impression on you when you got to Minidoka?
FY: It was very, very dusty. The dust was powdery fine and if I recall, it was about 3 or 4 inches deep. So you just, every time you take a step, you would just have a puff of smoke -- I mean, of dust -- and if you have even the slightest breeze... wow, you're in, like a fog. And when you go to the mess hall to eat, of course, when you chew the food, you can... you can feel the grit of the sand. And it's amazing, even that, you get used to it. I gradually got used to the mixture of sand and food. [Laughs] It was terrible. The camp was really not ready yet. The water, even they had water tanks along the side of the road where you go, very heavily chlorinated water for drinking.
SF: So right before you were gonna go to Minidoka, did you anticipate it as a positive event or a negative event when you were moving from "Camp Harmony" to Minidoka? Was that seen as more hassles or a good thing?
FY: That's the area, that's the area I kind of blanked out. I don't recall at all. I'm sure there must have been some apprehension. But, total blank there. I try to recall several times, but I don't know why.
LH: Now, your family was all reunited at Minidoka.
FY: At Minidoka, yes. We were in Block 41.
LH: What were your living quarters like at Minidoka?
FY: Well, it was, at least it was a lot more substantial than over at the assembly center; but it was still a minimal area. I would say roughly 12 x 15 or so in size, and, or maybe 20 and then the... this was a long barrack that was partitioned off to... terrible memory, five or six units. And in each unit there would be a family. And each unit would have one large pot belly stove, cast iron stove. And the beds I think were more substantial, they were metal bed or rather bunk, or what would you call these, they were collapsible bed. And my father and mother, they combined the three beds with George together so that all three of them could sleep in one area, and I had a bed and my brother had one. So there were five of us in this little room.
LH: And it was one open space?
FY: One open space where you would have a pot belly stove in one corner and the beds around the perimeter, and one entrance and a table in the center.
LH: So, could you hear other people in the adjoining --
FY: No, this was much more substantial. The partition, I think, went all the way to the top, but, of course, you can still, the walls are not insulated so you can hear, but not like before where it was absolutely big cracks on the partitions and knotholes and then above would be open. So, it was much more substantial.
SF: Did your mom and dad put up some temporary blankets or any way try to get some privacy?
FY: I know what you mean, others had. But you know, we were all boys in the family, and I noticed that in some of the family where they would have women, young girls or teenagers or older, they would have drapes running across that they would hang. The period, early stage where the area was undeveloped and very dusty and the toilet facility was still poor. It was bad, but one thing under that type, type of situation, food plays a big part and the cooks they had there were fantastic. Because there were so many Japanese running restaurant business, so every, every mess hall would have one or two or three professional cooks. And they would... oh, it was wonderful. The food was good.
Speaking about food, back in the assembly center, I think if you were to ask a great percentage of the evacuees that were taken to the Puyallup Assembly Center, if you mention the word "Vienna sausage," I think you would get a laugh from them. Because there was a period there where we had Vienna sausage for every single day, and it got so bad that some people had developed diarrhea. And what happened is one evening -- I didn't see it, but I heard about it -- there was a group that just happened to, simultaneously, they all went toward the toilet and the guard on the tower thought there was going to be a riot. [Laughs] I heard that he turned the light on and he swung around and there was a, as you go up the ladder to this platform, there's a hole there, and I understood he fell down. Fell through there. [Laughs] I don't know if anyone ever mentioned the type of toilet they had. They had a communal toilet.
LH: Now what does that mean?
FY: Well, of course the male and female are separate. But the toilets had adjoining seat. Back to back you might say, the opening. And they would be so far apart and at one end of the, all these holes -- they didn't have seats -- but it was holes cut into a large piece of plyboard or something. And on the one end, to flush the toilets, flush the thing through, they had a large trough that works on a counterbalance and as the water fills up the tank, the thing turns over and the water gushes through. Now, if you happened to sit, not look and sit down on a hole where somebody had a very hard defecation, the water hits that and the water would splash out. [Laughs] So, there were some very humorous moments.
LH: There really was a lack of privacy.
FY: Well, oh, yes. You know, that's where some people who, who were so -- and many Japanese are very secretive, of course... so some families who had certain, maybe a child that's deformed, I think they went through, must have gone through hell. Of course, it was nothing to be ashamed of. It's just that this was the Japanese community, they kept many things in secret. And so, when you're there now without any kind of privacy, I'm sure they suffered a lot. Either that or they'd gotten over that feeling of being shamed, which is stupid.
SF: Were there any facilities for these people who had special needs, like handicapped people or people who had kids who had mental problems, or...? How were those things handled?
FY: Yeah, that is another area where I was too stupid to be conscious of a thing like that. No, I don't know.
<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 19>
LH: Speaking about Minidoka, how did the Issei adjust to life in Minidoka?
FY: From what I've observed, I don't think the Issei have ever had as much leisure as they had there. My father even played shogi and go. And he got involved in a lot of crafting. They would find scraps of wood, pieces of crate that were being discarded and they would carve things. And I have, maybe I can show you next time, I have a shrine, butsudan that he made. And even to the point that hinges were made from pieces of that tin cups or cans, tin cans. The others who were more skillful had made beautiful things out of greasewood. They would make chessboards, they would make canes, they would go on and on and on. In many homes they would have dressers and other household goods that they would make. These were all handmade and beautifully done. My mother even learned how to sing, they call it shigin. It's a kind of a guttural type of singing. I'm not sure whether it's a folk singing or a semi-operatic type of singing, but she even went in to study singing. Which she never would have, and of course she loved to read, so there it is, she spent a great deal of time reading. So it's ironic that they had this type of leisure that they never had before.
LH: So because of the way that the camp was set up, where maybe the Issei didn't have as much responsibility, or work to do, they had a lot of free time. And did they have to still look after the kids and those household chores?
FY: I doubt it, because the meals were all served in the mess hall. The house or room that we were all staying in was very limited. [Laughs]
LH: What do you think happened to the family relationships then?
FY: Gee, I don't know. In our family, I didn't even see my brother, he was off playing with his friends and I was off with my, and Dad was off playing his go. Everyone sort of went on their own and they, they were able to do whatever they desired. And of course some of the Isseis were working. I'm sure a great number of them. People who used to make tofu and things, they would be, they would make tofu there. Others, who were farmers, would be working on the farm. And, of course, the restaurant people, the cooks, they would be in the mess hall and on and on. Some others... I noticed that they seemed to pick Issei who were pretty strong looking and especially with a mustache, which gave them a feeling of authority, they were security guards. These were in little sheds they would have along side of the road every so many blocks.
<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 20>
LH: So, when you were in camp, what occupied your time?
FY: Similar type of things. I used to work at, there was a publication there it Minidoka called the Minidoka Irrigator. And one of the things we sponsored was a "Sweetheart of Minidoka." So they need somebody who is not too important in publishing, to escort these princesses to different blocks so that others could see them and for the casting of the vote. So I was assigned. I didn't mind that at all. [Laughs]
LH: Tough duty. [Laughs]
FY: They had an orchestra called the Hawaiian Serenaders. In fact, I just saw Hiro Nishimoto. He is still alive. He organized it. And they used to play for dances, and they were so good that there is a town called Twin Falls, close to Minidoka, Minidoka, which was actually, Hunt. They called it Hunt, Idaho. And he played a, formed a western song on the radio there once a week. So that was... and they had harmonica bands. They had a tremendous amount of activities. And, of course, in sport they had judo, sumo. That's the first time I saw live sumo. They had boxing. They had, of course, basketball, football, just name it, they had just about all the sports.
LH: Were you involved in any of the sports?
FY: No, no, I was still interested in girls. [Laughs]
LH: This thing of girls keeps coming up.
FY: I loved dancing.
LH: Well, maybe we can follow on this theme. What was the situation, the dating situation in camp? I mean, you're inside a limited area that's surrounded by barbed wire. It doesn't seem like a very romantic location. How, what was the dating scene like?
FY: Eventually, of course, it could have been horrendous. But at this early stage -- speaking for myself -- I was being exposed to so many activities that I've not seen before; I've seen craftwork that was just fantastic. Games, these Japanese, oriental games that I had never been exposed to. It just goes on and on and on. I even performed with the Hawaii Serenades. I came out with a couple of solos on my harmonica. So there were these activities that we would never have been able to be involved in normally on the outside. There were people I worked with with the Minidoka Irrigator, they were reporters, I don't know where they would have worked before. There were a few, the top people that Jackson Sonoda used to edit the local Japanese North American Post or something like that, I can't remember. There was, oh, and there was one Hawaiian, how he got into the evacuation, I don't know, but he was with the Hawaiian Times or something like that. And he was considered a very good reporter, but that was in Hawaii again, where he had a very high position.
SF: When you were on the Irrigator, do you ever remember any pressure from the administration to write pro-WRA things, or there were arguments among the staff about whether you should cover some political event or something like that?
FY: Again, I was so naive. But yes, I used to hear, we had one editorial writer who's name was Dyke Miyagawa and he was good. He was intelligent and he used to write about certain issues, again, which was over my head. And I used to hear them talk about Bigelow, who was the camp-appointed... not editor, but what would you call it? He was assigned to oversee the publication. Yes, I used to hear them talk about he has censored or rejected certain views. So in retrospect, I'm sure, yeah, there was of course, certain restrictions.
LH: Do you feel that there was a sentiment in camp that you had to be as pro-American as possible?
FY: Not at that time, no. That came later.
LH: Later, oh, okay.
FY: Yes. And the... I've seen the mochi-pounding, the pounding of rice, in there in the camp. The one I've seen was held in the laundry room. And it was very -- how they got all these different equipment, I don't know, but there it was. And they would steam the rice, and they would pound it and make it into mochi. But while they were going that, they would have sort of a costume, hachimaki around the head, headband, and they would have happi coats and again, how they have these... and then they would have instrument. They would sing, and they would sing certain, I'm assuming, their songs that they grew up with, within their own province or areas. And it was colorful. In fact, after the war, after being married, we had, my wife and I, have carried on that tradition. And we gone on for years, years, years. And now Tom and Sara, my son-in-law and daughter, are carrying that on, too.
SF: I want to go back to one of your favorite topics, on girls. You're ain this very small tight space and there is a lot Issei around. What are they, I mean, was there any opportunity to act out any or were the Issei... or no one dared to do that kind of thing, and the Issei were there and people would gossip and that kind of stuff. What was the situation like?
FY: Again, I'm sure there must have been, but again, I wasn't in that type of circle or environment myself. I'm just... and at the same time, most of the friends I had were quite a bit older than I was. The interests I had apparently appealed to older people. Playing go with the Issei, Jackson Sonoda and I used to play go. He was the editor and he was about ten or fifteen years older and even some of the women were ten or fifteen years older. Yeah, I think, so I was in a little -- and they were all pretty independent type of people. So I don't... again, I'm sure that that existed.
<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 21>
LH: Earlier you had mentioned, during our previous visit, that there seemed to be a turning point at Minidoka for you.
FY: There was a period where... one day, in fact, I was walking around by the administration building, where the main gate is and a truckload of girls came in. And I thought -- and then there was a crowd of people after they got off the truck -- and I thought, "Wow, what's this commotion about?" So I got close and I knew one of the gals, so I went to ask her, "Hey Mas, what's going on?" "Oh, we were in the..." I can't remember the place, but, picking potatoes. And gee, they came back, and she earned six or eight dollars just that one day of work.
LH: What was a normal day's pay?
FY: Well in camp, I could be wrong, I think the wages, monthly salary was between $6 and $8 for unskilled workers and $14 to $16 or so for skilled doctors and people of that... so here's someone coming in making six or eight dollars in one day. So what happens is gradually others want to do the same. And then, that started sort of stampede where the fellows all went off to start going out to the sugar beet farms. And then, all of the sudden, there was a different atmosphere. There's that, it came right back to money has become the goal again of everyone. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, it just is a direction. And then others have relocated to other cities. Others have gone to back east and it's just a big disbursement. The government itself, they were happy to have the evacuee go out, because they need, like the farmers, they needed workers.
LH: Now, what was the requirement in order to leave?
FY: You know, I made out a form, but I don't remember. It got so that I felt like a dunce head for staying home. Even my mother would say, "What's wrong with you? All the others are going out and making money." So I finally decided I'll go. I went to Spokane because my brother was there and he was just graduating. He went ahead to go to Spokane from Seattle. I think it was from Seattle, because he only had a semester or so to finish his aeronautical degree at the UW. He finished it at Gonzaga.
LH: Now Spokane was outside the relocation zone?
FY: Yes. It was the, there was the zone there. So, I went to Spokane.
LH: What did you do there?
FY: Well, there was a friend, he says he got a job at a restaurant working, washing dishes on swing shift. And those, at that time, any kind of work would be okay because otherwise we can't make a living. And the idea there was we were working at a restaurant, you can get at least one meal free and you can bring some food home, too. So, I was working there and also, the condition, I said I was going to school, which I had in mind to go. So they had, I was working from eleven at night until seven in the morning and it makes it very difficult to go to sleep because it is daylight and it's nice and it feels good, so I don't know if I -- and then on weekends, of course, I'd find a date or something, up until the time I had to get to work at eleven. So I'm burning the day, twenty-four hours.
LH: So life was very busy for you.
<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 22>
FY: And because I had a class from seven to ten and I went to KBU, Kenman Business University. So aside from going to school and working, and staying awake, I did finally break down and got sick and there's lot of thing that leads up to it. But I didn't know the, I didn't know any doctors in Spokane. The only thing I looked for is I opened the directory and looked for a Japanese name. But there wasn't any Japanese doctors that I could find. So finally, I just point blank hit a spot and the name happened to be Frank Miller, Dr. Frank Miller. And I thought, well, Frank is all right. So I called up and I went and he says, "Come on down right now." And it was only about three or four blocks away, so I walked there. And you know how they tap and start checking. And finally he said, "Take your shirt off," and he's gonna take X-ray, and I just wanted a sleeping pill because this Japanese guy who had this pharmacy, drugstore, he wouldn't give me a sleeping pill. People don't know, but in those days, it was like asking for morphine or marijuana. He said, "You got to have a prescription." So anyway, I just went to the doctor to get a prescription and he takes, starts taking x-rays. And I thought, "Oh, no. This is going to cost me a bundle." So that was it. And when I'm ready to leave, he said, "Come back tomorrow." And I said, "Well, how about the sleeping pill? Can I, just so I can sleep good one night." He said, "You don't need any." Very abrupt... well anyway, so he said, "If you want it..." and he writes me a... so I get this prescription and I go down. Anyway, I decide to go to a movie and I slipped in a movie house and went to work, and next day I went back to see the doctor. And he had my x-ray on the chart and he says I got TB, tuberculosis. In those days, tuberculosis was somebody saying you've got terminal cancer. I think I blanked out almost. I can recall hearing a sound like a buzzing sound, and then I don't even remember how I left the office. I don't remember how I went down the elevator. Just when I went outside I heard this woman's voice, and it was the nurse there talking to me and she is explaining she is an ex-patient. And she had it much more serious. She had a rib removed and all this and that. And it brought me back to consciousness. So I ended up going to the sanitarium. And then, that's a whole new chapter of my life.
LH: At that time it was highly contagious. Wasn't it thought of as being...
FY: No, I don't think so. I don't think it was highly contagious. It was just... I went sugar beet, and then I could've -- I, physically, I was just run down. From the understanding I have, since I had been in the sanitarium, all of us have this tubercular germ in us. And when we let our body go way down so that our resistance is not there, then we contract the disease.
LH: What is the, what was the treatment at the time?
FY: Well, it's interesting. My case wasn't that serious. I didn't need any operation. So they directed me to the ambulatory ward. And the ambulatory is a large ward where you have one side all open and they have a screen there to keep the insects out. But we were kept under shade all the time. And then it was interesting, years ago, they used to promote the fact that you get out in the sun, and get all that sun, and even in the wintertime you lay out in the snow and get the sun. Well, the sun ray was killing the patient. So sun is not good for a tubercular patient.
<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 23>
LH: So you were in Spokane, in the Spokane area in a sanitarium, and your folks were back in Minidoka.
LH: And so they found out the news about your tuberculosis. And were they able to send for you?
FY: No. I started to write to them. I learned, I learned, before that, I learned how to write a little bit of what they call katakana. And so I would use my Japanese and write katakana. And later on, there was a fellow named Mas Akiyama who was a good, still my friend in Spokane, he's a Spokanelite. And he used to be a tubercular patient and he used to teach me how to write the kanji. These are bigger characters. I used to write. I did pretty good corresponding with my mother and I would tell her about... and of course, that eased her a lot, knowing that I'm in the good care at a professional institution. She was, she was happy, I think.
LH: About how long were you in the institution?
FY: Well, I was there, I think, it was around about five, six months. And again, I was restless, young and I want to get home. So I asked the director if I can go home, as ironically, "home," you know -- the camp, and I would see my folks and all that. And at the same time, some of the people that visited me... this sounds interesting because every Sunday you have people from the church, "goody-good" people -- I don't mean to hold anything against them -- but they would come, Issei would come. And they come and see me and they're always crying and they'll say, "Oh, this poor" -- they speak Nihongo -- and they'll say, "This poor young guy. He is still young yet." And they would give me candies, or whatever it is they bring me, and flowers. And when they leave, I really felt bad, I felt sick. And so, after about the second or third time, I could see them coming to the entrance, so I run away to the toilet and stay in there. [Laughs] But it was a tradition. And I'm sure they are not really crying, it is just part of the... so, but one day, Gordy, Gordon Hirabayashi came. That was again, in conjunction with that time I mentioned about the schoolteacher that came, it made me conscious of a totally different area. And then when Gordon came, and he, I'm not sure if he, whether he was waiting for the trial at that time, but then he started explaining the situation and one to one leisurely. So all of a sudden I seen a whole new world open up. And yes, I just felt that he was right, I don't know why, except that he was absolutely right... the injustice that was done to us. So that was another big chapter in my life. So now, going back, yes, I wanted to go back home, but the doctor says, "If you just wait another month, you'll be through with your exercise." I was on exercise 9 and you had to get into exercise 10 before your release. But he says, "You've been pretty mature in taking care of yourself." There wasn't any bad report. There were a time I snuck out. [Laughs] But anyway, he says, "I'm going to let you go. But I can't let you go on an unconditional way. I have to let you go on a conditional pass."
LH: And the conditions were?
FY: Well, conditions that I have to come back and serve my time, you might say, or if I remain healthy. So anyway, I never did go back. I felt okay.
<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 24>
LH: So you made your way back to Minidoka and rejoined your family.
FY: Yeah, then I went back to Minidoka and saw the family and saw friends. And then, but prior to that -- now, I didn't know about this, my brother was telling me, he says, "You know, you're angry or something." I heard from what was going on in camp... rumble about show that you're American, prove that you're American, etcetera. And so I was angry, really angry. Why, why should we?
LH: So at the time that you were in the sanitarium, that questionnaire, the "loyalty questionnaire" had already come out in camp?
FY: No, no. That was later.
LH: Later, okay.
FY: That was after, after we had committed ourselves to resist what was going on. Went into camp and again, I'm not a speaker, I just, one-to-one with others, I said, "Gee, this is stupid. They kick us around and now you're going to have go and prove that you're an American?" To me it was just pure gut. I had no intellectual understanding of this or anything. And then at the same time, we had no legal advisor. None of us, we don't know, we just go on the pure gut.
LH: So when you say that you had to prove you were an American, what was it that prompted that?
FY: Well, this is where... again, now these were rumors that you must volunteer to prove that you're a good 100 percent American, that you're a loyal American.
FY: Volunteer to the U.S. army. Well... no way, from my feeling. It was, it was just totally wrong. Let us, take us back to Seattle, get our parents and get our hotel back, get us back into what we were. We were American. How come Tony, they were Italian, how come they weren't evacuated? How come the German friends I had, they weren't evacuated? And they had far more active political organization in America than the Japanese had. The Japanese, I don't recall ever sounding, being subversive-minded. And I think, later on, it proved there was absolutely no subversive act.
LH: So, when you're talking about the subject, were you talking with close personal friends or...?
FY: Other Nisei. Friends, close friends only.
LH: Did you feel free to talk to...
FY: We were, I was, we were really overwhelmed because they had speakers from other Japanese organization come, and they were good speakers, and they spoke along with the camp leaders to be there and the military would be there. And they would speak at the mess hall, and telling our obligation and this and that. But they didn't mention one word -- I've been to one of those and listened -- and I thought not one single word about the injustice about we being evacuated... not one. Well, there is something... a lot of circumstances made them what they are. But from my view, perspective, it was wrong.
FY: If you can write this down, I said my only purpose of this, is that we were unjustly put into this concentration camp -- I didn't say concentration -- to this camp, and if you will restore our lifestyle like before this evacuation, yes, I would be more than willing to serve in the armed services. If not, I will not. There was no... nothing to do with the alliance. I told them I was born and raised here, this is my country. But that court... this is where all this FBI, I found out what they are. They didn't care. They didn't care at all about the injustice, about the evacuation. At the trial, that's exactly what happened. They just wanted to know, "Did you or did you not report for induction?" So... and the judge will instruct the jury, "The preceding by the defendant is immaterial, irrelevant and incompetent," or something like that. Everything that's said. And our attorney, a court-appointed attorney, came out and said, "Here is the Constitution right here that the government wrong, we're not wrong." They didn't care, "Did you or did you not report for induction?" So we learned a lot. So then years and years later, you know, the law firm that my wife was involved in, this one asshole says, "You know, Frank you didn't have to answer that." And I said, we were kids. We don't know.
SF: Wouldn't the stronger legal principle be that you didn't report for the draft, so that would be a clearer thing than the questionnaire which was only applied to camp people, whereas the draft, quote, "draft law" was supposedly applicable to everybody and...
FY: Yeah, but you know, you don't see that at that time. I was completely ignorant of what a draft law or seal. I don't know what that means. It could have been a kitchen operation. It could have been anything. I was going on pure gut reaction. This is... I had my ass kicked and it hurts. That's all it is. You know, they can come out with anything else they want to say, but it just comes down to that. It was wrong that we were put in camp. And it is an insult to say, let's prove that you're an American by volunteering. That's an insult on top of insult. So when it gets down to the legal aspect of this or that or did you say this, or... so that area, I have to answer the same way. Because it doesn't, it doesn't make sense. And now, since then, sure it didn't make sense and it was legally wrong, too. See, this is what the attorney tells us later when... I didn't know anything about that kind of thing. So I'm just, could say that it was wrong, that was it, how that was answered. It was coerced or something. It didn't matter. The only one thing that mattered is that it was wrong that we were put in a concentration camp.
<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 25>
LH: Did you have a chance to discuss this with your parents, your decision? Did you discuss your decisions or your thinking with your parents in camp?
FY: Did I...?
LH: Did you discuss your thinking about, you know, the dilemma in camp about answering one way or another or reporting for induction?
FY: When I came back with my parents? Yes. I said, "This is ridiculous that we're called upon to prove that we're American." It was, you know, I have to say even though they had volunteers. You know, they agreed with me. It's just that their feeling was, well, what do you do? That's where the Japanese word "shikata ga nai" that means, well, you have to bear with it.
LH: So, do you think that there were quite a few others that believed the same as you, but just did not want to speak up?
FY: I, I personally feel, yes. I think most Niseis were intelligent. They weren't stupid. They know how they felt. I mean, at least to me, it sounds logical. You know when you're uprooted and put into... your whole family lifestyle is disrupted and then called a "Jap" then put into concentration camp. I don't know how else a person would feel, at least it's the way I feel.
LH: So, did you feel as though you were acting individually, or did you also have friends that, that also spoke up?
FY: Well, unfortunately I don't think any of us really spoke up. You mean on a soapbox and talked to the group.
LH: Did you feel able to speak openly to others in the camp?
FY: At first, of course, my feeling was this was an obvious opinion. I just felt that everybody, and I was going to get in there and just support it. Not to be the isolated vanguard of it. You know, I thought this was an overwhelming feeling. At least this was the feeling I had when I was there and when I left and when I came back even. It was wrong. It was wrong. And so, ironically, no, I was on the short end of the stick instead. Later. And it was, there was lots of, what do you call it? Drum beating. This promoting of, by outside source. And they were competent speakers and they spoke. And they kept insisting that we must prove that we are Americans. I felt I'll just have to show my citizenship and say that it is. I am an American.
LH: So did you feel that there were others supporting your point of view?
FY: Everyone I talked to. And these people, some of them were killed. Yes. I get emotional about it. Because there's many good friends, even now. And the few after the war and after we were released from McNeil Island, yes, there were a few reprisals and hate type of -- but very few. The people that were sort of inciting that would, with a group and they were the type of people that would do that with anything. They were that type. They would incite something and then get in the back of the others. One time I was sort of semi-mobbed.
LH: This was...
LH: When did this...
FY: After the war.
LH: After the war.
FY: After the release, yeah. And the fellow that I knew... one fellow I knew, he egged people on and he is the one that stood in the back and the others I didn't know. I seen their face, but they didn't know me that well and visa versa and they just made threatening remark. I have talked to a few other resisters and they had a similar experience. So as a result, and also you know, there was drum beating of patriotism and all that, so most of the resisters became very reticent about their experience.
LH: At the time in camp, did you feel that there was any threat to you?
FY: No, I didn't feel, none at all.
SF: How do you explain why you were able to follow through on your decision and so many other people who may have felt the same way you did?
FY: I think, I think majority felt more comfortable doing what... because generally, even before the war, people would say, "What are you going to do?" or "Where are you going to go?" And there was a kind of a numerical support you get. And people have a tendency to go in that line. Why I was different, I don't know. Part of my personality, I guess, from way back. But I think I mentioned earlier about my experience with Gordon and my experience with the teacher and those were all part of the feeling of how I felt.
LH: Aside from your own point of view, how did you feel about the people who chose to join the army?
FY: I didn't feel anything. I just... there is another Japanese word, "sho ga nai," it means, well, "So be it." So when the time comes where the FBI are gonna come and pick you up or the police going to come pick you up. That's another word "akirameru" that means, well, "What shall be, shall be."
FY: So from there on we were just, again, very obedient instead of running away or do this or that.
<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 26>
SF: When you decided to resist, what did you think would happen to you?
FY: I really didn't think. Looking back, I'm young. You know, it was kind of like Patrick Henry would say, "Give me liberty or give me death." Well, it was, you might say it was sort of martyrism. It was the type of schooling, you might say. We hear about historically, people doing things. And so I think that was -- it wasn't as intellectual as one would think. It was just: "It was wrong. To hell with it and I'm going to go all the way with it."
SF: When you found out that you were going to go on trial, did you think you were going to win?
FY: I didn't even think. As far as I thought, for sure we're going to tell 'em that we, our home was disrupted, we had to sell everything we had. But before... we all thought about being like Patrick Henry, we were going make a speech at the trial. I never experienced court before. I never experienced having a lawyer defend me before. And then by the time the other resisters starting coming back and they were pronounced guilty and they started telling us about what went on in court, we realized, oh, my gosh.
LH: So each of you were tried individually?
FY: Some were, I think most of them were doubled up. I was doubled up with a fellow and we had one court-appointed attorney. Others, I think there might have been two or three, even more maybe. I don't know.
LH: And did you have the chance to speak before the judge?
FY: No, it became a, it became a farce. That's when I realized that they didn't care the least bit about whether there was injustice placed on us or whether we were uprooted from home, taken... all they were interested was, "Did you or did you not report for induction?" Our court-appointed lawyer even opened the Constitution and said, "Here, under this kind of situation, a person under duress or restraint" -- which we were in the camp -- "are not subject to military duty." Well, we didn't even care about that. I didn't -- we were just concerned one thing. We were unjustly incarcerated, you know. And that was it. And I didn't know a bag of beans about laws or what is pertinent or what is relevant. So when they came to those questionnaires, it doesn't mean nothing to me. Yes-yes, no-no, whatever. It was just the simple, simple thing that we... the country had done wrong to us. We're citizens. Why should they single out just the Japanese? Why not the Italians, why not the Germans? There had to be a racial implication there. [Interruption] Learned a lot. And it is certainly different from what a lay people would think.
LH: So it's unfortunate that maybe the naive person doesn't have as much of a chance to defend themselves.
FY: Not a chance in the world.
<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 27>
LH: If I could, could I go back a little earlier and clarify something that I'm a little confused about. Now, when you came back to the camp and you were supposed to report for the draft...
FY: That came, not, no. It wasn't immediate. I came back and I'm trying to recall this. I came back, saw my friends and my parents and there was some social things that I was involved in and I even had a girlfriend and things of that sort. And it was a smattering of this type of thing going on and no, I never thought I would become a martyr and gradually as things developed and my anger built up, I said, "No, this is wrong. We don't have to prove we're Americans."
LH: Were they trying to register you for the draft at that point?
FY: Now when you say, "who," they?
LH: The army.
FY: The Selective Service?
LH: Selective Service.
FY: I don't recall the, when the notice came. But apparently, when the notice did come, then, of course, I was involved. Prior to that I think was opposed to it.
LH: And they asked you to report for a physical?
FY: I can't remember. I'm assuming that's the case. It's funny. I didn't really pay attention to it. It's just I was so single-mindedly opposed to what they were trying to have us do to go out and prove that we're American, that the notice come... "So what," kind of an attitude. And then again, without any advice, you know. Some of them said, "Don't go at all." You know, "to hell with them, just tear up their notice," and then some others said, "No, no. Don't do that, you won't have a case. And you have to go at least for your physical so you've got a case to..." or something. And, of course, we don't know. We just going by pure rumors and whatnot.
LH: Well, I'm curious because if you had tuberculosis, would that have disqualified you for the draft?
FY: Yeah, well, there are times where I don't believe in martyrs anymore. [Laughs] Now there are times, yes, of course, I thought about, I would just go back to Spokane if I want to get out of it and since, since we're going to be a loser on this, nobody's gonna... I thought there'd be a whole slew of people in camp saying, "Bull crap. We're not going to take this." It just fizzled out. Nobody... but then from there it was give me liberty or give me death and I was just going to go straight through with it. I don't know whether you call it ego, stubbornness or what.
LH: So the principle seemed to be the driving force for you.
FY: Of course, yeah. The principle of the whole...
<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 28>
LH: So when you were -- moving back towards the trial, when the judge spoke to you and told you... okay, he pronounced his verdict. And what was the sentence?
FY: Isn't that funny? I can't even remember that. I think it was three and a half years. Or was it five years? Three and a half or five. Isn't that funny? I never even thought about that.
LH: Do you recall...
FY: I can certainly look it up, I'm sure. It was three and a half or five. And then and released after three and a half, they have what they call "good time," you accumulate if you don't get in trouble. And released on parole. I can look up that information for you. Offhand I can't remember.
LH: I've heard someone else mention it was about three years and $300. A fine of $300.
FY: Oh really?
LH: Right. Three years, three months and $300. I...
FY: I didn't have a nickel in my pocket. [Laughs]
LH: What did you, can you describe what you, what your reaction was when you heard the sentence?
FY: Well, there is a certain stage of shock. We're going through this experience that we had never, I had never experienced before. The first time I heard the clanking of the door, these iron doors when they close it and going into the cell in Twin Falls. It's almost like a nightmare. It was a nightmare.
LH: Can I ask you, did you have a chance to... after the trial, did you have a chance to say goodbye to your family at Minidoka?
FY: Yes. Because they told us when they were going to pick us up so we made a point to be out there to be picked up. [Laughs] So we were saying goodbye before, even to that.
LH: That must have been hard.
LH: That must have been hard. You mentioned that you had a girlfriend at the time.
FY: Well, I had dates and girlfriends, but we weren't steady or anything like that. My parents, Isseis were able to adjust to lots of things much better than Nisei. Again, akirameru and shikata ga nai and those words. These are safeguard type of expression, I would say. And...
LH: So from the time that you left, left the camp and said your farewells, what happened to you after that?
FY: We were picked up, and I can't remember who all of us were -- I have some written material I can look into -- and taken to Twin Falls, Idaho. They had a city jail there and we were put into a tank. A large cell where maybe they would occupy maybe twelve people and you go into the cell and you go, there's another compartment you go to and there is bunks in there. And it was filthy dirty and you could smell the urine and there were bugs all over, so being experienced in hotels, you know, the Japanese skid row hotels, we knew that the light would kind of ward off some of the bedbugs or whatever that's around, so the corridor light would shine in the entrance we came in so we would huddle around there and when the next batch of fellows came, they were shocked. Because they seen us all huddled around that. And then it gets dark inside, so they thought oh, my gosh, we're cramped into a solid small area and packed like sardines. [Laughs] I could see this guy, one guy's face. He turned pale white. He thought we were going to be stacked on top. See, none of us had this experience. This was all totally new. And it was pretty tough.
LH: Was this a temporary holding facility?
FY: Temporary holding and then we were sent to Gem County and they had a federal prison. And federal confinement is much better than local or state because you get money, budget. Now we were fed much nicer food and the place was clean and somehow they must have known about my record or something because they would let me go out into the sun.
LH: Only you?
FY: Yeah. And at first I thought, "Gee, how come they're taking me out?" And they let me go out. Gee, I even wandered around. They want me to get me out in the sun. They don't know that... they must have found out I had TB. Even when we went to McNeil, same situation. I had a real easy job and if I did -- one time at the McNeil big house, I came down with a cold and I couldn't shake it off, and so the hospital doctor recommended I do yard work, outside work. So again sun and then I'll try to find a closest tree and they had me out there for a couple of weeks to get my health back and then they know they want to feed me good food. So they'd assign me to officers mess hall as a waiter or a what to do you call it, the people who clear the table. And, of course, you eat good food there, real good food. Then I was assigned to education.
<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 29>
SF: When you guys were all kept together, what did you guys talk about, or what...
FY: Over at McNeil?
SF: Or right before the jail, like during the trial and some things of that sort.
FY: I don't recall talking much about the situation because we were all pretty much under the same situation. Our feeling was this is it. Piss on it. We're not going to... if they're going to kill us, they're going to kill us all the way, so there was a... well, I can't generalize -- sort of a martyrtism there, too. We were gonna be martyrs and we were gonna go all the way through with it. And the injustice, there was no point in talk about it. We know it was wrong that we were put in camp, concentration camp. It was only later than when our trial date was to be set. Then we said, what do we do? See and again, nobody knew anything.
LH: So was there any access to legal advice in the camp?
FY: None, zero, nothing. It's just that by rumors, somebody says, "We should do this," or somebody said that or, you know. This is totally new to me. I never been a courtroom. I mean, aside, as spectator, as a kid, I used to see what a trial was about at the Seattle City building, but never been involved in any kind of arrest or things of this sort. When they say, announced that we were to be given court-appointed lawyers, I didn't know what that meant.
LH: Do you feel that your lawyer did the best he could?
FY: I felt he did. I mean, again, his voice was strong. Again, I don't know what constitutes a good lawyer. He sounded like somebody we see in movies. He takes the book and slammed it down and made noise and says the so-and-so amendment says under the Constitution that we under duress or restraint or, you know. "Gee, he sounds pretty good." That's how naive I was at least. And I'm sure most of us are the same. When the jury... and we didn't, I don't recall ever saying one word and then when we finished, then the judge would instruct the jury and said, "The preceding testimony is immaterial, irrelevant and incompetent. The question is, did he or did he not report for induction?" That's all. Then the jury goes out. They go in the hallway, you could see them, they are smoking a cigarette. And when they finish their cigarette and they come and, "Guilty." The judge, I think this judge later became governor of, or formerly was the governor of Idaho. Governor Clark, Judge Clark at that time.
LH: When you were in McNeil and you had a chance to talk about the outcome -- here you were in prison -- was there time for regret?
FY: No. I don't think so. If there'd be any regret, it'd be considered way, way before, I should think. One fellow pleaded guilty only because according to his advisor, the lawyer said they're not -- you know, he knows what the score was -- he said, "It's not a question of whether you were evacuated. That has no relevance in this case. It is a case of either you have reported for induction or not." So he instructed him to plead guilty because you're going to get a couple years off. So he did follow the instruction and, you know, logically, he was correct. At least I found out that what we, the injustice that was applied to us was, had no relevance in the case. So he pleaded guilty and that poor guy, he suffered a lot.
LH: In what way?
FY: Because we were, all others were die-hard and say, oh, no. To us, pleading guilty was admitting they were wrong or something. Well, in his case, no, it wasn't an admission of wrong. It's just admitting that yes, he did not report for induction. So, I really felt sorry for the guy and in fact, in my biography, he's the only one I wrote about. Because it was very unusual.
LH: How was he treated differently from the rest of you?
FY: People all kept quiet. The silent treatment. No one intimidated him. This one guy kind of made some comment. But most people just kept quiet. And that silence is even more painful than being called some names. And I talked to him, too, since then. In fact, I just talked to him about a year ago. And more than once we talked and yeah, I felt sorry for him. The guy is a very intelligent fellow. If not one of the more intelligent in the group. That was the only major type of conflict, if you wanna call it conflict.
LH: So he suffered alone during the prison time.
FY: I think all the way, rough. Although, no, he was very popular, though. He was a good athlete. But... and I think most people forgotten about it. At that time, we were in a very stressful mood and it's almost like you've gotta kick somebody. Because the whole trial was a farce as far as I was concerned. It was a joke.
<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 30>
LH: Did you find that when you were in prison at McNeil that you were bonded together with the other resisters in a way?
FY: No. Again, we are assigned different work. Now in my case, possibly because of my health, right from the beginning I was assigned to censor board and I kept books and it was in what they called the civilian area, so the people were all civilian people. And then when I got ill, they had me outside and then they fed me well at the officer's mess hall and then they shifted me to education. I was secretary there. So you know, I'm sort of isolated from the others in a sense. Funny now, I just wondered what a lot of the others... you asked me this... isn't that strange? I don't really remember what... some worked in a cannery, later on when we were all sent to the farm, there were some working in the dairy and again, out on the farm, I worked for the, they were civilian, they had a civilian crew and an engineer building up what they call a coffer dam there and I was his assistant, you might say, secretary. And there was a great time I had. I was alone. I just had to go out and check and see how much clearing that was done every day and at times I get to move these equipment, so I get the chance to drive the tractors or these big ton, heavy trucks, dump trucks and things. You know, I grinded the gear a lot. [Laughs]
And then the others, who are delivering, they would stop by and they would bring over fruit from the cannery and this and that and I asked for vegetables and one time Mr. Davidson, the project director, he comes in. He's talking to this lieutenant who is in charge of the guard. The other guy is a engineer and he's talking to him and he says, "You know, it was a funny thing. I come into this" -- they have a little shed there -- "and it smells like something is rotten, you know." So he goes around and look and he says, "You know, I found this pot here with a whole bunch of cucumber and a rock on top." [Laughs] I heard that see, and I was making tsukemono for the gang. [Laughs] And then he says, "And then another day, I go to in back of the shed to take a leak and as a I take a leak, geez, there is a whole bunch of apples down there buried." [Laughs] So there was some crazy moments.
And when we went out to the farm, of course, they were still part of the Heart Mountain people there. And there was some very sad, tragic... there was one fellow name Fred and it was his last day. He was the electrician there. Nice looking guy, good athlete. You know, tall. And his folks and his sweetheart was waiting for them across the channel there over in Steilacoom and at the last minute he was showing his new trainee how to, he went into the shed and I happened to be on a sick leave that day. And he went in to show him how to pull the switch and all that. And he didn't have to. He was already, all he had to do was leave. And the last minute, he went, and apparently there was a microscopic leak in the handle. And usually he used a stick to kick it down, but he was in a hurry. This was early in the morning, so there was moisture on the floor, cement floor [imitates sound of electric burst]. He died right there. They tried to revive him, very sad because you can imagine the shock, that instead of walking over there, he (went) across in a casket.
LH: Gosh, so close.
FY: That was, I think that was the biggest tragedy as far as the... nice guy, too.
SF: When you were at McNeil, did any people visit you?
SF: When you were in McNeil, did folks come and visit you?
FY: Yes, yes. My mother and my brother came twice. And it was very hard, when you're in an institution like that. It is similar to the camp. If you don't think about the outside, then you can tolerate that. Then when they come, you see them and then for days you think about it. You think about the outside and all that. There were times where college students, they're apparently taking sociology or penology or something, and they want to take tours and I'd be in education and they would come storming in and that was very hard, too. You see young girls. So it's ironical that you're there, it's better to just completely shut the outside off. So you put this in a different channel and...
LH: What did you look forward to? What got you through the prison time?
FY: I think just keeping busy. Always had something to read. Always one activity or another. Just keeping busy. We were allowed three letters a week. Being working in the censor so all the letters go through there. So I can write an extra one and they don't know. I posted the letters.
<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 31>
LH: Did you have any notions about how you would be treated when you were released? When you got back to your hometown?
FY: Yeah, I thought about it a lot. I used to hear... I'd get letters about my friends that got killed. Good friends, you know. Of course, my feeling was they should have done what I did. But they did what they had to do. And so, I came out and I just figured I got to pick up from there. And I was kept busy because the tragedy of this evacuation is not really when you're in there. It's when you're taken away from home, put in there, and then when you're thrown out. Well, my parents are old now. Where do they go to? No business. Start from nothing. They got no place to stay.
LH: So at the time you were in prison, they in the meantime were let out of Minidoka?
FY: Yes, they were let out but then it wasn't that long and they had a small flat, you know, that some friends by word of mouth, each one would find places for one another. Very small room and, but you know, again, gaman, and you start from there. And at the same time, other Japanese were in the same, similar situation. They were all having to start from scratch. And I know my dad, he went back to this factory where he was a foreman for years and years, and now this little boy that he trained, the boss' son is grown and he was the one managing it. And I remember one day when he came home, his face was just like a sheet, white as a sheet. The boss, apparently, things had changed during the wartime and they have a different manager and a different way of operation and I guess the boss said, "Yama, you stay home." He built the business for the company, you might say. And so when he was told to stay home, it just really killed him, you might say. And it's like a big fish in a small pond. He had certain respect being the, because a lot of these machine power workers were hired by him. They wanted Japanese employees, so then he worked, went to one of the semi-relative or close friend who had a restaurant and he went over there to wash dishes. I saw him. He died. He was hurt, his pride and everything else. So the pain of after the war is, I think, much more severe.
LH: What happened to your mother after that?
FY: My mother was taking care of George, because he was still a child.
LH: How old would, would he have been?
FY: At that time I think he was seven or eight maybe.
LH: Very young.
FY: Yeah. Maybe seven. Someplace in that area. And he came home one time and he said they still had the remnant of some of those wartime movies where "Japs"... and he was shocked. Yeah... war's no good.
LH: So you returned from McNeil and your dad was in the middle of switching jobs.
FY: No, he was just getting started. He was going for two or three days or a week at a time to work for places and he just felt like he just started work again.
<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 32>
LH: What was your plan when you got released from prison?
FY: Well, there was a person I met there who was at one time a very prominent Japanese. He's a Nisei, but he was evacuated because he happened to be president of a West Coast, a big corporation. We got to be good friends. I learned a lot from him during the yard period. Like I say, I did, I enjoy sports. I played a lot in high school, but we used to walk together and he'd tell me about lots of things. And it was interesting because it was a totally different area, about corporation, all the import/export and all that. And he kind of got fond of me and so he had in mind to have me... he's saying that oh, this situation with America and Japan would all go away, so they know something ahead. So he wanted to me to get some bookkeeping experience. And so, I mean, since I did study economics and I was working in a bookkeeping office then he wanted me to go to some other place and he wanted to meet some Japanese businessmen that were coming. I don't know if you're familiar with working for a Japanese company, you know, you're very subservient. The earliest one to go there, and the last one to leave, clean the place. If they have dinner, you (...) have a date, but you have to forget that and go have dinner to meet somebody. At the same time, I don't think my personality fit this atmosphere. And there was lots and lots of promises at that time. So, but, so I quit and they came over and talked to my parents that I'm making terrible mistake and then when I told my mother I wanted to be, "What are you going to do?" I saidm, well, I wanted to be an artist. "Artist?" she says, "My God, you're going to end up having long hair, and you won't be able to make a living." She was right about the long hair. [Laughs] So I worked as a houseboy on Queen Anne. Did dishwashing again, worked in drug stores and doing this and that while going to school.
LH: And this was art school?
FY: Art school. Yeah, I was interested in fine arts at first. And I realized that I couldn't make a living at it. [Laughs] They were right. So I went into commercial art.
<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 33>
LH: When you returned to, when you returned to Seattle, did you... how was your reception amongst the community?
FY: Well, I think I mentioned earlier, I had this, just one terrible encounter. I had no problem after that. Friends I knew, I met. I saw John, too, and we got along. Others, you know, friends I knew.
LH: Would you say that there --
FY: At the same time again, again, I'm very busy. I'm working here and going to school. So I don't, I'm not with the community you might say. I didn't belong to any group, and at the art school, I met more Caucasian who were very interesting people and so you get into a totally different area. There was a, lots and lots of social issues after the war that was very important that we become conscious of. You know, we hear about, we speak in terms of the minorities and racial discrimination, but you know there are discrimination. And women are discriminated. People with AIDS are discriminated. There were so many areas of discrimination that, you know, we should be conscious of all these. And if we believe in a healthy country, the more conscious we are and the more active we are in this, the healthier the country would be.
SF: To take you back, what was the one instance that you bumped into with the community after the war? What was that? Was that one time you had a problem when you came back? What was that, can you describe that?
FY: Yeah, it was in the International District and it was a bunch and it was late at night and they saw me and it was after the war. There was a tremendous amount of, tremendous amount of frustration for everybody. Not only we, the Nisei, the vets that came back. There was a terrible frustration that existed and I was drunk. They were drunk, everybody was drinking at late hours. So it was that type of encounter and there was no... I didn't get struck or anything. But it was intimidation, name-calling and things like that.
LH: And amongst these...
FY: And the fellow that instigated it, was, got way in the back.
LH: Amongst this group that was intimidating you, were some people that perhaps used to be --
FY: They were a vets group.
LH: -- used to be some of your friends?
FY: Just one of them.
LH: One of them.
FY: The others, I know. Among the Japanese community, one time or another you see one person or another. You may not socially, have any social intercourse, but you... so I'd seen half of 'em before.
SF: So did you feel that this would always be an issue with some people about what you did that somehow made you more careful or sensitive or reserved or anything like that?
FY: Well, I felt that we have to respect others as well as they should respect our views. Certainly they'd gone through a traumatic moment in their life and a lot of my good friends were killed. Kids I grew up with. I don't think... beating the drum for me was over before we were even, I was even put into the jail. My idea is that I assumed that the entire camp would muster together and say, "To hell with it. This is wrong." Well, when it didn't happen, that was it. The chapter ended. And after the war I was involved more with the other unjust act or things that was prevalent. So my activity with the community was very, very limited until later on I was involved at the Buddhist Temple and other things of that sort.
<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 34>
LH: So were you, did you have much contact, then, when you returned, with non-Japanese?
FY: Yes. I think, yes.
LH: And was it comfortable?
FY: Yes. Again, you know, I, I used to hate the whites, but later on I feel it's not a case of whites. You know, there are, women are discriminated, whites are discriminated. So we can't keep dividing ourselves up by saying this person is white or this person is tall or this person short. I think, I think we have to look at society as a whole and if we see a lot of pain some place, we should be compassionate. I can't think of any other way to explain that. We have these constitutional rights, and we -- but, you know, unless it's practiced, what good is it?
LH: In 1947, just a couple of years after the war ended, Truman granted a full pardon to all the resisters.
FY: I didn't even, I didn't even care. I didn't hear about it because, you know, to me, the... the whole issue was answered, right, before we were even, from the time we were convicted. It's no different from the reparation. That money that's sent to us, does that remedy everything that was done? Can you imagine the Jews saying, in Germany, saying, "Oh, they're going to give us $20,000 so now that's all right," what the Germans did to them. No. It's wrong, and it should never be done again. And it's the same with the evacuation of Japanese; it should never be done again. Or it shouldn't be only Japanese. It could be any other people.
SF: I think we talked -- we were just casually flinging the bull one time -- about how the Japanese sort of felt about themselves before the war, even though they were in a very segregated community and how they felt about themselves, how they interacted with whites after the war, even though now they could go more places, they could get jobs and all that. Somehow their perception of themselves had changed. I don't know. Could you give us your thoughts?
FY: One of the notable things was after the war, many Japanese, I think Issei and Nisei both, there was a period of denial. They refrained from starting up activities that were culturally Japanese. They even refrained from talking about eating Japanese food. I was very angry about that. Again, it was almost as if it was a shame to be Japanese, of Japanese heritage. But at the same time, the climate was such that there was no alternative. (Then) to be Americanism was the fad. And there was only one way you were supposed to be Americans and that is to salute the flag and recite the preamble and that constitutes being good Americans. I'm sure the Italians, the Italian community kind of broke up and they, you didn't hear so much about the big Italian picnics anymore and I'm sure the Germans did the same thing. It was a, I don't know what you call it, a natural reaction after the war where they were defeated and I don't know if that had anything to do with it. But yes, there was a period of Americanism. And if you speak against it, it's kind of like love it or leave it. These were some of the expressions that were used at one time. Well, I didn't quite believe that. So in the community, I'm sure I was considered quite a rebel. And as a result, too, my relationship with Caucasian was more frequent in a sense. I don't mean Caucasian in general, but Caucasian that were concerned about civil rights and civil liberties and things of that sort, many attorneys and friends I had.
LH: Given the reticence of Nisei to speak out, have you been able to speak with others about your experience openly?
FY: This was the first time I was able to. I have periodically when the occasion arose, but I found that most people are not interested in it. You know, if you were not working on this Densho Project, would you be interested? At the same time, I found even among my Caucasian friends, if someone was, mentions the McNeil Island present, it just sort of scares them. Say, "Oh, gosh, he's an ex-con." So I thought, well, what's the point? And besides, what am I going to solve? This is the first time I'm interviewed like this.
<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 35>
LH: Well, looking back then, you know, if you have a chance to talk to your grandkids about your experience, perhaps, what would you like, what would you like them to know?
FY: I think what we talked about a little earlier about having compassion. Being aware that injustice doesn't only happen to us, it happens to others. Being more conscious worldwide. If there is such a thing as being a citizen of the world, that's what I would like to be. I don't like to choose sides, and say, "Our team is the best." No, it shouldn't be, "My team is the best," but it should be "Our team." It should be all of us; we all should be concerned with humanity.
LH: Looking back at your life, the different experiences that you had, could you pick out maybe the most, oh, the worst effect and then perhaps maybe the best outcome?
FY: Gosh, no, I can't single out. There is so many. Offhand I can't single out, no.
LH: Might there be some positive outcomes of all the experiences that you've accumulated?
FY: At least my children. I think they, I feel very free and I have wonderful children and perhaps they can carry it on to their children. My wife and I have a very good understanding. I've been a lot of problem to her, but aside from domestic, I think we both share the feeling of humanity. The vastness of this world, it's no longer this little county here or there. It's no longer "your team" or "my team."
LH: Is there anything that you'd like to ask, that you would like to talk about that we haven't covered already?
FY: I would say it's a very interesting world that's coming about. This method of recording, what Matt is doing there so unbelievable and how that is transferred to the computer and this computer age is, is just... it's a phenomenon. And I wish, if there is any regret, yes, I wish I had fifty more years. [Laughs]
LH: Well, we want to thank you today for letting us talk with you. We really appreciate it. It's important to hear your story. Thank you.
FY: Thank you. This has been my pleasure.
<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.