Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mitsuye May Yamada - Joe Yasutake - Tosh Yasutake Interview
Narrators: Mitsuye May Yamada, Joe Yasutake, Tosh Yasutake
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Jeni Yamada (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 8 & 9, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-ymitsuye_g-01-0079

<Begin Segment 79>

AI: Oh, excuse me. Before going on to that point, the two of you then had to leave Lordsburg and leave on the train.

MY: Uh-huh, we went back, we went back to Minidoka.

AI: Go back to Minidoka, and as you were going back on that trip, anything that was going through your minds, or anything that you were discussing about --

MY: God, I don't remember anything about when we get back.

TY: I don't either.

MY: You remember --

TY: Isn't that weird?

AI: I think maybe earlier you were commenting about how you thought that your -- how your father had been during the visit, and you were commenting about --

MY: Yeah, we, probably we talked about how we felt about Dad, and how shocked I was, you know --

TY: Yeah, right. Yeah, we did have that discussion.

MY: -- for one thing. How shocked we were that, that his physical appearance had, you know. I think that was it. His physical appearance had changed so much, he's gotten years, he's aged years, his skin color --

TY: Yeah, he always had a very rosy cheek and very health, he looked very healthy, but...

MY: Yeah, he used to, remember somebody, he told, he told us somebody asked him, "How could you, why are you so healthy? You look so healthy." And he said, "Well, I went on a diet for about a year and a half one time and they" -- oh, "I went on a milk diet for a year and a half." [Laughs]

TY: And that lady was on the wagon, huh?

MY: And his friends said, "So when I didn't eat anything, drink anything except milk," and his friend asked him, "Well, how many, when was that?" And he said, "Well, that was about sixty years ago." [Laughs] When he was born. But he did. He looked, he was very round, and I don't think he had, it was a very healthy appearance, because he probably had high blood pressure. He was always very pink-cheeked and very, his very light skin. And so when -- and as I said, he had very dainty-looking hands and very, he was a very graceful person. And so then his appearance was so, I would not have recognized him if I saw him on the street.

TY: Yeah, yeah. That was --

MY: I don't think either of us would have recognized him until he started talking. And then, so we talked about how different he looked, but inside, he seemed to be the same. I mean he, the way he talked, he was the same. He was joking around, and, we really didn't learn very much. I said, "What are you eating?" Or, the kind of things you ask people. "What do you do every day?" and things like that. He just avoided those topics altogether. So we didn't really find out about what they do --

TY: We sure didn't yeah.

MY: -- what they did, except for the few senryu poems that I translated to put in my book, that Dad wrote about --

TY: Oh, the senryu? Yeah.

MY: The senryu poems that that wrote that -- and I think those were written when he was in, in camp.

TY: Do you have senryus that he, that you know of that he specifically wrote in camp?

MY: Yeah, those are the three, I think, that I had. I think he gave them to me.

TY: Oh, that's the one you have? Oh.

MY: Yeah. And they were, someone asked me, "Do you have the, a version of the Japanese?" And I never did, because he never gave them to me. He translated them himself, and thought that I -- since I don't read Japanese, that I wouldn't understand the Japanese.

TY: Oh, you have the English translations?

MY: So he gave me the English translation, yeah.

TY: Oh. You don't have the --

MY: So that's the --

TY: You don't have the original, then?

MY: No, no.

TY: It's not in that book?

MY: I don't know. It might be, well I'd never -- I don't think so, because I think if I, they were, I would have found them. But when he gave me the -- either he mailed it to me, or gave it to me. Because the version that I had in my notebook was in my hand, that Dad sent to me. And it was in English. But I think that probably, senryu, of course he would have written it originally in Japanese. And then I think if I had thought about it, I would have asked him, when he came back from camp, when he was released, to, "Do you still have the original copy of the thing?" but I just never thought to ask him. Of course, I wasn't even thinking about my own poetry at that time, either. But those were the poems -- but they were the only specifically relevant poems about his experience in camp that I know about. Otherwise he talked very little about his day-to-day life there, which we were really interested. "What do you do every day?" and so forth. He said, "Well, I write letters for these -- " and things like that, that were kind of lighthearted conversations, bantering.

<End Segment 79> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.