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-01-0034

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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.