Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Yamasaki Interview I
Narrator: Frank Yamasaki
Interviewers: Lori Hoshino (primary), Stephen Fugita
Location: Lake Forest Park, Washington
Date: August 18, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-yfrank-01-0011

<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.

LH: Okay.

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.