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-01-0019

<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.