Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Bill Nishimura Interview
Narrator: Bill Nishimura
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 2, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-nbill-01

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: Well, we'll get started here. And it's July 2, 2000. We're here at Klamath Falls, Oregon, with Bill Nishimura. I'm Alice Ito for the Densho Project, and videography, Steve Hamada and Ken Silverman. Thank you very much, Mr. Nishimura.

BN: You're welcome.

AI: And I wanted to start at the beginning and ask you when and where you were born.

BN: Well, I was born in Compton, California, and in 1920 -- June 21st of 1920. Yes.

AI: And where did you grow up?

BN: Well, I grew up mostly in this area. Well, my dad had a farm, so he moved, from Compton, he moved to El Segundo -- (south) of the Los Angeles International Airport -- and raised strawberries there. And then, oh, I think it was in 1929, he moved to Lawndale, there he start raising cauliflowers, green onions and dry onions, cabbages, lettuce, cucumbers, and we had some boysenberries. That was about it with our truck farming.

AI: Can you tell me your father's name and your mother's name?

BN: Was Tomio and Sada.

AI: And where did they come from in Japan?

BN: Oh, they come from Iwakuni, Japan. Iwakuni, Yamaguchi-ken.

AI: Can you tell me a little bit about your father and how it was that he came to America?

BN: Well, first, my dad came, landed in Seattle, and then he sort of moved down to southern California. And he was operating a pig farm in Riverside County. And he was, he told me that he was getting the garbage from the Los Angeles area. And then, I don't know how many years later, but he went to Japan to marry Sada Ito. And then he, I believe he sold his pig farm to somebody, and then he started anew as a farm on Palos Verdes Hills, as a dry farmer, dry-land farmer. Now, I don't know what he raised there, but after that, he moved to Compton. And there, well, first, my sister was born in the mountains, the Palos Verdes Hill, yes. And then moved to Compton -- and I was born there -- and then later on to El Segundo and later to Lawndale. And there, we, the war started, so we had to evacuate.

AI: Well, let's back up a little bit. Can you tell me a little bit about your high school days?

BN: High school days? I attended Leuzinger High School and graduated in 1939. And after that, I did not have any formal education. I did attend Japanese school. While I was in grammar school I used to attend every day. And then, during high school I attended Saturday schools.

AI: And in our earlier conversation, you were telling me that your father was very active in community activities.

BN: Yes, he was. He was involved with this Japanese, Gardena Valley Japanese Association. And this association had only one hired hand, and he was, he had to be a bilingual and took care of the, as a secretary-treasurer. And this association had a wide area, like covering Hawthorne, Torrance, and Narbonne and Dominguez Hills, and all of Compton, all those areas. And the Japanese, this association was very important to these Isseis, because Isseis spoke little or no English and they immigrated to U.S. at an early age, so they really didn't have a formal Japanese education either. So whenever a problem grew, comes up, they would come to the association and have it settled. So to me, I thought it was a very important organization. And once the war starts, this type of -- excuse me, I would like to go back a little bit.

AI: That's fine.

BN: This organization also entertained dignitaries from Japan. And then, like tankers docking periodically, the crews were entertained. And then every four years, the training ship would come, and they would entertain those midshipmens, too. And it was considered within the constitutional rights that nothing illegal was done. And once the war started, all these activities becomes subversive activity. So I feel my dad was interned because of this. He was interned at CC camp in Tujunga Canyon. That is a Civilian Conservation Corps camp.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AI: Let me back up a little bit...

BN: Yeah.

AI: ...and ask you, what did happen on the day Pearl Harbor was bombed? Do you recall what you were doing that day and how you heard about it?

BN: Yes. My ranch was right beside the Compton Boulevard, and it ran a long strip to the, from Prairie Avenue to, almost to the channel. And I was weeding the ditch right beside the flume that ran on the Compton Boulevard.

AI: And for people who don't know, what is a flume?

BN: Oh, flume is the, it's made out of wood, and then it's a box-like thing, and then get, we pass the water through there for irrigation. And the water drips so naturally there's a weed underneath, so I was cleaning the weed. And then all the car passes slowly, and then just staring at me. And I didn't realize anything at all. "Gee, what are they looking for, staring at me for?" It didn't dawn on me. At a evening hour, I turned my old radio on and found out that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. And at that time, it just dawned me, says, "Oh, no wonder they were looking at me."

AI: What was your reaction when you heard that news?

BN: I thought, "Oh-oh, something drastic happened." Before that time, the negotiation between Japan and America were being really, done at -- many higher-up officials were in Washington discussing about the thing. That, really, I didn't know really what it was about. But anyway, it was sort of either war or peace, yeah, in that line. So really, I didn't expect them to, you know, bomb Pearl Harbor at all 'cause I, U.S. is a large country. Well really, I didn't know how they would react, but the way they bombed the Pearl Harbor, that really startled me the power of Japan at that time. I didn't think they had that much of a power, coming across the Pacific and bombing Pearl Harbor, but they did so. And then...

AI: What kind of reaction did you get, then?

BN: Well, I really didn't... think much about it. I, it really, it just startled me only at that time. See, because this, Japan daily news, this Kashumainichi, they call in Japanese. Mr. Fujii, Sei Fujii, he just kept on saying that Japan and America will never fight. And if they do, they will both lose out. So I believed in him. I really didn't think they would fight, have a war. But when I heard about this Pearl Harbor, I was startled over their, the power of Japanese navy at that time.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AI: Now then, after Pearl Harbor was bombed as December continued on, what kind of, did you have any troubles in your community or were you treated in a negative way or did your business suffer at all?

BN: Well, actually, no, not in the business-wise. We had, I believe it was a 5-mile radius that we were able to travel, but beyond that, we had to have a special permit to travel, like peoples taking the produce to the market. They had to have a special permit for that.

AI: And now, your business, were you leasing the farming, the property, or did you own the farm?

BN: No. My dad was subleasing from one of the Japanese person, Nisei. Yes. And he, he never owned the land. Yeah. But the farming equipment and all the other things belonged to him.

AI: Now, some of the Issei who were very active in the community were arrested or picked up by the FBI right away after Pearl Harbor. What happened to your dad?

BN: Do you mean -- oh, he was sent to Tujunga Canyon, at...

AI: Right, right.

BN: ...CC camp.

AI: You mentioned that. Was that right after Pearl Harbor happened?

BN: Oh, right after Pearl Harbor.

AI: Or...

BN: Oh, he was concerned because he was a volunteer worker for the association, yes.

AI: Right.

BN: He had a definite fear that he might be interned, yes.

AI: And when was it that the FBI actually came?

BN: When?

AI: Approximately.

BN: Oh, it was during latter part of January or so, I believe it was. I really don't know.

AI: You weren't there at the time.

BN: Yes, my sister was there. And what she told me was they checked the, inside the house, and then they told her that it'll be a few hours, and he'll be back. And then it was three days later that we received a notice that he was held at the Tujunga Canyon CC Camp.

AI: Were you able to visit him there?

BN: Yes. I used to visit as much as we can, mother and sisters. But I don't know how many times -- about three, three, three or four times a week, I believe we visited him. And then when I did visited him, I'd see many familiar faces inside the fence -- [laughs] -- and I thought, "Oh, they're in the same boat as my dad." And then few weeks later, we received a notice that he was being transferred to Lordsburg, New Mexico. And then he stayed there for a while. And in the meantime, there was the period where "volunteer" evacuation was in progress. (Narr. note: I said "volunteer," but I should not have said it. Because we never volunteered to move anywhere. I moved because I knew I would be forced out of my farm. So this word "volunteer" is very deceiving.) And that, the cutoff line was, date was (March) the 30th, I believe. So...

AI: You mean the end of (March).

BN: Right, end of (March), right.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: And can you explain what that "voluntary evacuation" was about?

BN: Well, government wanted as many as, much as possible to go, evacuate on their own to some other state besides, some other states in inner portion, region, so that when they do that, they'll, they wouldn't have to be bothered with them at all. If they stay, they'll be evacuated, forced into the camp, and the government have to look after them forever until the war ends or, either they relocate to some other places. So they wanted to have these Japanese people go on their own and go elsewhere.

AI: And so what did you decide to do?

BN: Pardon?

AI: And so what did you decide to do?

BN: Oh, at that time there's a rumor that east side of Highway 99 could be spared, perhaps we would not have to be evacuated. So I took a dry run to Visalia and made a verbal contract with the farmer there. And on the next-to-the-last day of this evacuation, I loaded my truck and headed for Visalia. And then, over there I stayed there for about five and a half month. And then on August the 7th, we left Visalia.

AI: So when you went to Visalia, that was you and your mother, and...?

BN: Right. That's all. Right, there's only two.

AI: And now, what was it, while you were in Visalia, what did you find out about the evacuation then?

BN: Oh, at that time, the government said they had their own storage place, so they were welcome to store their goods in the government warehouses. But I had to doubt the U.S. government. So I, the farmers said that they have a place for storage. So I decided to store my goods there. And I had nothing to do with the government. Then, when I was in the Poston relocation center, I heard that the storage place at the farm burnt down, so we had nothing to ourselves.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AI: Well, let me take you back to that day of August 7th, when you had to leave Visalia. What do you recall about that day, and did you leave by train, or how did you leave to go?

BN: We left by train on the 7th, and we arrived in Parker, Arizona, on the 8th, the following day. And then we were bussed in to Camp Three. And I remember, when I first got off the bus, I really sank in almost six inches in the ground. That is because that place was all bulldozed, mesquite trees were all bulldozed away and the ground was just powder. So whenever the wind comes up, oh, it was a mess. It was dusty... and then we were processed, and we were, we got our barracks. And then the mattress, we had to fill with (straw). And then the cot was used, the regular canvas cot was used as the bed. And the barracks were, had, oh, many knotholes and spaces in between woods where wind would whip up, dust. It was really a mess and dusty, yes.

AI: Now, were you doing anything in Poston as far as working or activities?

BN: Yes. First, I started as a cook, and then -- I don't know how long I did this cooking. And then later there was a opening in the fire department, so I went to fire department. And there, it was very good because I worked 24 hours straight, and then I had 48 hours free time, and that made me do fishing and, oh, many other things that I wanted to do. So actually, that part was really relaxing to me. So, talking about fishing, there was a man from next block, I believe it was. He's a bachelor, did a clever thing. He made a hut right beside the bank, then he had the, these tree branches, and made a post. Then he wrapped the, around the, these branches with the -- what do you call it, sagebrush? He made a hut. And then he made a bed with those branches, too, with four-legged bed. And then at nighttime, he'll burn these sagebrush and make it into a amber, and then he'll put the bed right on top of it. And then on top of the bed, he will put a blanket and cover the whole bed so that the heat wouldn't escape. And then he would sleep on the bed. And he said that heat kept way into the morning. So he said, "It was very comfortable." And during the daytime, he would fish, and he made a cage with the sagebrush. He wove the sagebrush with wire and stuck it into the bottom of the river. And what he fished, he would throw it in there. And then whenever he wants fish, he'll scoop it out of there and had a fresh fish every day or every meal, whatever. And once a week, he would go back to his block and bring back the groceries like bread or -- I believe he didn't even take bread. He always had rice. Anyway, everything, every other thing that's, that was being issued to him. So he took it back, and he would eat, sleep, and fish. He had a grand time. And he said he didn't think the evacuation could be this pleasant. He really had a ball there. Nothing to worry.

AI: Well, in addition to fishing, you mentioned that you had some other activities, too. Was there some school or classes?

BN: Oh, yes. I was attending this private school, which consisted about, oh, five or six students. And I was studying Japanese over there, writing and reading and speaking. (Narr. note: I was attending the Japanese language school in Poston. After this interview, my thoughts went back to the time when I was attending the Japanese school. The question came up, why would this teacher have this class when most of the Japanese school teachers were arrested by the FBI when the war broke out. Now I have the feeling that the instructor was an Army spy to test our Japanese language ability.) And somehow somebody told the army that I was bilingual. So I was called to the office, administration office I believe it was, and he asked me if I wanted to join the Military Intelligence School. I said, "No, I do not wish to." And that was it, and nothing happened at that time. But a little later, they asked me again, but I continued to refuse to go to MIS.

AI: What was your thinking at that time as far as why you didn't want to do that?

BN: Oh that's because I was bitter about this evacuation. My rights were taken away, and yet they wanted to have me serve in, for the country. So I said, "No. You give me my rights, and then we'll talk." So I, I was really bitter about this evacuation, yes.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AI: Well, now then, a little bit later that year in 1943, that's when the so-called "loyalty questionnaire" came out.

BN: Yes. That, it was a, really I thought it was a really a sudden thing, and I answered my twenty-seven, "no" and twenty-eight with a blank, and a "if" on there. "If, if my rights were restored," I would answer this number twenty-eight, but otherwise, I would not answer. And then, people who answered "no-no" were soon sent to Tule Lake, the segregation camp. And I was left behind. And then, I don't know how long it was after that -- they called me into the administration office and asked me if I was going, wanted to change my answer, my twenty-eight. So I said, "No, I'm gonna just leave it as it is." So now I'm gonna just answer it, "no." So my answer became "no-no." Then they sent me to Tule Lake, I believe it was in, early part, January of '4-, 1944.

AI: Now, in the meantime, what had happened to your father?

BN: Oh, my father was released from Santa Fe to Poston. Then my mother, we were separated from my, I was separated from my mother because she wanted to be with the grandchildren. And my dad and I went to Tule Lake.

AI: So your mother stayed in Poston...

BN: Right.

AI: ...with your sister, her husband and children.

BN: Right.

AI: You and your father went to Tule Lake?

BN: Yes.

AI: And now, what was, when you came to Tule Lake, what was your impression of the camp?

BN: Well, well, really I was sort of happy that I was together with my other friends that said "no-no." Yes, I was truly happy about that, yeah.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AI: And was there then some activities happening here at Tule Lake, as I understand, there were some incidents...

BN: Yes.

AI: ...that affected people.

BN: Uh-huh. I actually didn't see this, but I was there when it happened, and...

AI: And what was that?

BN: Oh, this construction materials is, is at the, the outer gate of the whole camp, as such. And whenever you wished to get the construction material, you had to go through the main gate, and there's a guard there. And when he was coming back with this crew and the material and he got into the camp, the guard ordered him to get off the truck. So he did. And then he was, with a bayonet pointed at his stomach, shoved him back toward the outer gate. He didn't want to leave the outer gate because once he stepped out of the gate, he would be, he could be suspected of trying to escape. So he resisted at that point. And this guard just shot him just point-blank into his stomach.

AI: Who was that who got shot?

BN: That was Mr. Okamoto, I believe it was, yes. And then I attended his funeral, and oh, it was such a huge funeral. And it was held in the open theater area. Yes.

AI: What were your feelings then and your feelings of your friends at that funeral?

BN: Well, we thought, we were really upset that the guard would do such a thing. And later on, we heard that this guard was fresh from the, fresh from the fighting in South Pacific. So what we did was we asked the administration to, administrator to never put a guard who has fought in the South Pacific.

AI: And that was because...?

BN: Because, that he was really, he fought against the Japanese, Japanese soldiers, so he naturally didn't like the Japanese, whether American Japanese or not. He didn't like the Japanese, period. So that was the danger of having a guard from the, soldier who fought at, in the Pacific, South Pacific.

AI: Now, then what happened then after that?

BN: Oh, after that? There was another incident. There's a canteen man, there was a rumor that the canteen manager was embezzling the funds. So, one time they had a carnival in Tule Lake, and he, he was there. And apparently, one man was really aft-, I don't know how many, but they, somebody was after him. And when he left the carnival and went to his block and he entered the latrine -- this is all supposition because nobody saw -- but they have declared that this person was a lefty because his, in the way the throat was slashed. But he was, the suspect was never caught.

AI: And what was the impact on the camp of that incident?

BN: Well, what I heard was that was coming to him.

AI: So there were some very negative feelings.

BN: Yes, right.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AI: Well, now at about that time there was also this new law that was made enabling citizens, American citizens to renounce their citizenship. Do you remember when you, or how did you hear about that? What did you find out about that?

BN: Yes. I believe the government really wanted to make sure of our position -- whether we wanted to be an American and stay here, or be a Japanese and go back to Japan. I think that was the feeling, I felt that way. So they decided to really make it black and white. So I feel they brought this up of renouncing the American citizenship. So we, we had, we really didn't have any choice. It was said that, "You join the army or you renounce your citizenship." So I decided to renounce my citizenship. And after I renounced the citizenship, all the members who also did the same thing, we formed a organization called Hoshidan. And what this organization did was train ourselves. So we got up at the sound of the bugle at 5 o'clock, and then we ran for one whole hour every day, I mean, every morning, rain, snow, or windstorm. Yes. And then this interior security was very much concerned about this activity, so they wanted to confiscate the bugles. So they would come when we were running, you know, come beside us and try to confiscate, but when they come too close to us, we would pass the bugle next to the runner, and they never found the bugle.

They thought this isn't going to work, so they decided to round up all the head members. So they did. And they sent them to Santa Fe, New Mexico. And we had to think out a way to continue this organization, so we decided to have a decoy at the top of the group. And the most, more intelligent person were at the background, leading us. And they tried another roundup and collected, got all these decoys -- [laughs] -- people who were decoys, and sent to Santa Fe. And I was one of the decoys there. [Laughs] And then, yet the organization went strong. They never faltered. And the government thought, oh, it's no use doing such a thing, so they decided to round up the whole member of the group, and they split them. And then one group went to Bismarck, North Dakota, and then one went to Santa Fe, New Mexico. And the one went to the Bismarck, they were together with the PO, German POWs. And we were together with the, the very first internees that were FBI-interned, with the, well, people from Hawaii, Mexico, Peru, and then Alaska, and they were all in together.

AI: In Santa Fe?

BN: In Santa Fe, right. And then people from Hawaii was, they were really intelligent people. So they operated a school like, oh, many, we had many schools in Santa Fe like drawing, physics, electricity, in shigin and shakuhachi and utai, and of course Japanese language. And then they had the pen shuji -- that's Japanese calligraphy, writing with the regular pen, not the brush. And so our time spent there was never idle. We always did something. And then our group head were to be transferred to some other camp. So we wanted to say, bid farewell, so we stood by the fence, and the border patrol ordered us to disperse and, "Go back to your barracks." But we didn't, we didn't obey their order. So what they did was they went into the other compound and got the tear gas canister and start throwing it at us. Unfortunately for them, the breeze was blowing towards them, so they had to quickly run for cover. And then at that time, we really raised a roar, which they didn't like. And when the smoke cleared, all the -- I believe there was about seven or eight border patrols swinging their clubs, and dashed into the compound, and start to, swinging at us and the melee started. And a few were injured, how badly I do not know. And then we were all sent to our barracks. And we had a sweatshirt with the insignia Hoshidan, and that, we had to cut out the Hoshidan portion, so we had a hole in our sweatshirt. And then after that, we were separated -- (They hastily made a stockade and had us in there for a while. Later they put us together with the older group.) And then we had the access to the outside, outside of the compound. But after this incident, we were never able to get out of the camp.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

BN: During the camp in Santa Fe -- it was all-male camp -- so really the younger boys were, really wanted to see the girls. [Laughs] Whenever anybody would see the girls -- sometime they'll come to visit somebody -- and we would just say, "Oh, what a lucky guy." And that was the atmosphere at that time with the younger people. And then we had the, not we, but there was a, equestrian trail near the camp, so whenever they start to climb the hill, we would set up a chair and just watch them pass by -- ladies, too, in their equestrian teams, see. So we, something, all that kind of a thing. But actually, the stay at Santa Fe was, we had, like I said, so many schools, I mean, so many things to learn, so it was really a, I think it wasn't, it was well-spent, the time well-spent at the center.

AI: Then, about how long did you, until when did you stay at Santa Fe?

BN: Oh, we stayed until a few months after the war. When I was there, the war ended.

AI: And how did you find out about it? What did you think when you first heard about that?

BN: Well, at that, right after the war was, war ended, the government said that we had the choice of option of either going to Japan or you can stay here. Now, that was unbelievable at that time because the government's always against us, and we, they didn't give us any chance at all. But now, the war ended, and then they would say that we had a choice of either going to Japan or, you know, "You may stay here." And they said, "The U.S. government isn't telling you to do anything. The decision is up to you." Now, the we, the repatriates, I mean, who were to be, who were to repatriate now had to think about this: "Now why is the government so, becoming so lenient to us after being so harsh up 'til now?" And we just thought it over, and then we thought, "Oh, Japan must have won because that's the only reason the U.S. became so lenient to us." So the people who went to Japan found out it was the opposite. And...

AI: Now, what about you, because...

BN: In my case...

AI: had been planning to go to Japan.

BN: Yes, right.

AI: You had a...

BN: I was one of the ones who thought Japan had won at that time, yes. But in my case, my dad was sick, so we had to wait until the hospital ship arrived. And this seems like it never did arrive. I don't know. And it took so, so many months, it was after that. So we decided to -- excuse me -- so many weeks after that. So, well, we decided to change our mind. So I was sent to Crystal City, Texas.

AI: About when was that that you went to Crystal City?

BN: Yeah, it was about, oh, perhaps couple of months after the war ended. And at, when I, when we got to Crystal City, we were together with the Peruvians, and the Germans, and later on, the group from the Tule Lake arrived into Crystal City. And then...

AI: And did your parents join you there?

BN: No, no.

AI: I mean your father?

BN: Oh, my father, yes. My father was together, he was discharged (from the hospital) later on, so he was together with me. And then, in the meantime, the Germans were being sent to Ellis Island to be deported to Germany. And Peruvian childrens were, didn't have anything to do, so the -- or excuse me -- no, before that, the Seabrook Farm needed a helper. So...

AI: In New Jersey?

BN: In New Jersey, right. Seabrook Farm, New Jersey. So three quarters of the population, that is excluding the Peruvians, though, went to Seabrook, New Jersey.

AI: And what about you?

BN: And I stayed behind. I stayed at the Crystal City, and I helped out as a typist for the camp manager. And then in the meantime, the leftover boys start teaching English and other subjects to these Peruvian children. Actually, the public school was not operating after the war. So since I was typing, Mr. Fukuda -- he's a konkokyo minister -- asked me if I would teach these Peruvian children the typing. So I said, "Sure." And then the families start to ordering the typewriter from Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward's. And I don't know how long I taught, but anyway, the leftover people taught English, like I said, and I taught typing. And then in the meantime, my release notice came in, and that was in 1947 of June. I left the camp in, at that time to Visalia again, and worked on the same farm for about three years. And then...

AI: Excuse me. Did your father leave, also?

BN: No, my father was still in the camp.

AI: At Crystal City?

BN: Yes, right, at Crystal City.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

AI: When you, your release came to leave Crystal City, what was in your mind then as far as what you were going to do? Were you still thinking about Japan?

BN: Oh, no, no, no.

AI: No. Once you were...

BN: After I...

AI: Crystal City...

BN: Yes. Once I changed my mind, that was all gone, yes. I didn't have no intention of going to Japan or, yes. And then when I got back to the farm, I worked for three years, and then moved to Gardena, where I'm still residing. And I bought my home through my sister's name because my citizenship wasn't restored at that time. But I am really thankful for the Civil Liberties Union for fighting all out for our rights.

AI: So you decided you did want to have your American citizenship restored?

BN: Right.

AI: And this ACLU assisted you.

BN: That's right. And then the Civil Liberties Union established that the government was wrong when they asked us if we wanted to renounce.

AI: About when was that, do you recall, when you found out that you had your citizenship restored?

BN: I believe it was in, around in 1952 or '53. Uh-huh.

AI: And what was your reaction to that?

BN: I was happy. Oh, really, I was really happy to become an American citizen again.

AI: So after all you have been through...

BN: And yes, after that, government didn't do anything illegal to us, so I was all for the government, yes. Yes. After that, nothing bothered, the government not bothered me at all. I really, at that point, I start -- no, I take it back. When the government gave us a choice when we went, and at Santa Fe, that you could either repatriate or you could stay here. Gave us an option. At that time, I felt that, you know, government's going to be -- I mean, after all, the government weren't that cruel.

AI: And, now, what happened to your father?

BN: Oh, he was released, oh, about a month or so later, yes.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: Now, I want to jump forward quite a few years, many years later, then. In 1988, the government passed the redress -- Congress passed the redress bill.

BN: Yes.

AI: And in 1990, they started paying the redress and sending the apologies. Did you receive...?

BN: Yes, I received my $20,000 and the apology.

AI: What was your reaction?

BN: Oh, my reaction to that? Well, I was happy. However, $20,000 didn't go too far. Some people say, "Oh, $20,000, that's a lot of money." But actually it isn't when you consider when your farm equipments and everything were just being sold at the, in bottom, rock-bottom price, or just didn't sell it, just left it there. So actually, considering all those things, $20,000 wasn't much, yes.

AI: And now, some many years later still, you're here now at the Tule Lake Pilgrimage.

BN: Yes.

AI: What caused you to think about coming to this pilgrimage?

BN: Well, my primary reason, I wanted to see this Castle Rock. That was really, meant something to me, yes. And I have a silk painting that my Japanese school teacher gave me, because I made couple of picture frames for him. So that made me really, I mean, on this trip, when I saw that Castle Rock on the first glimpse, oh, my gosh. It just really made me so happy, and brought all the memory back. And then when I got off of the bus, I immediately touched the soil, felt the soil. Oh, my gosh. It was terrific, yes. Actually, I wanted to come to this reunion, but I didn't get the invitation. I don't know why, but I didn't get the invitation. And on this trip, I read in the Rafu Shimpo that the deadline was extended. So I immediately called Eiko (Sakuda), and she immediately came, and dashed to my home. And she said, "Ah, Bill," she says, "There's no time for mailing anything." Says, "I'll dash to your home." So she came to my home and everything was settled. And I'm really, really happy for, I mean, thankful for Eiko, for giving me this opportunity.

AI: You know, it's so interesting to me that when you were talking about being here in Tule Lake in the war years, it sounded very painful and difficult in some ways. And yet when you come back now, it felt good to be back. Can you say a little bit about that?

BN: Well, my citizenship is restored. That's the main thing that made me happy. And then to reminisce the past, of the turbulence or whatever you want, you may wish to call, and to look back and, "Would I take the same route again?" I thought to myself. And I told myself, "I would certainly do the same thing. I don't want to be the one that, that the government, I don't like, want the government to lead me into anything. I want my rights." So, at that time, I'll do the same thing over again. Yes.

AI: Well, are there any other thoughts you'd like to pass on to people, especially younger people?

BN: Yes. I was very happy to see so many younger generation on this trip. And I think this tradition should continue forever, because once you stop doing this type of thing, people forget the past. But when this is going on, hatred and other things will start to diminish. I wouldn't say completely, but it will take a turn and become less and less. And the people will start to understand one, each other. And I think this culture is very important. And nowadays, they are having so many exchange students, and that's a wonderful idea I feel, to learn the culture of other country. If most of the Americans knew the culture of Japan, I think this war wouldn't have happened. But they don't know, so one country will be greedy against the other or the vice versa, and that's what the war will start. That causes the war to start. So I feel that people starting to, exchange students, going back and, learning the other country's moral, and then they start to talk to your friends, and then the friend will talk to others, and I think it's gonna mushroom, you know, snowball, yes. I feel in that way. So this exchange program is another important thing to do, yes. I think it shouldn't be disbanded.

AI: Well, Mr. Nishimura, we thank you very much for your time and sharing your memories.

BN: Well, I thank you very much for interviewing me, but I hope I made myself clear on this evacuations and all that. I believe someone will disagree with me, and I understand that. It's their opinion, and I'm speaking for myself. So I wish everybody would understand that, I mean, take my opinion into their opinion and sort of balance it out. Thank you very much.

AI: Thank you.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.