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-01-0020

<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.