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Title: Tosh Yasutake Interview
Narrator: Tosh Yasutake
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: November 14, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-ytosh-01-0011

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TI: Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about, in addition to all the Minidoka people that you saw, this was probably your first exposure to a lot of the Hawaiians.

TY: Oh yeah. Right, yeah.

TI: Why don't you talk about that? Because here you're sort of put into this environment where you had essentially a different culture there.

TY: Very different culture. I think I mentioned before, the first time I went into camp, they were playing poker. They like to gamble a lot, the Hawaiian fellows. And they were gambling. And the cabin that we were assigned -- the barrack that we were, I was assigned to, they were all on the, about five of them, on the floor. I think they were playing poker or throwing dice. I can't remember. Anyway, they were gambling and I was watching them for a minute. I just walked into the barrack and with my duffel bag and everything, and I put it down and I was watching them, and a few minutes later one of the fellows turned to me. And he hadn't realized I just walked in, I guess, because he didn't look at me very closely. And he said, "We need some potato chips." And I said, "Yeah." And he said. "You go to PX. You go get come." And I said, "What?" And he looked at me he said, "You go get come." And I said, "You want me to go to the PX?" And he said, "Yeah." [Laughs] And he got very upset with me. And then one of mainland guys told me, "He wants you to go get some potato chips from the PX and bring it back" -- he had given me twenty dollars to do that. So I had to ask directions how to get there and I went there and got it and brought it back, but that was my first exposure to pidgin English.

TI: And what were you thinking when this all happened? What was your reaction?

TY: I'm thinking, well, I'm thinking, "God, what in the hell did he say? What did he want me to do?" [Laughs] And I hadn't been, I hadn't talked -- been exposed to any Hawaiians until then, so at that moment I wasn't thinking much of anything. I was just trying to figure out what he was saying. But since then, of course, pidgin English is a very interesting language to say the least. Some are very, speak very strong pidgin English and others didn't. Many of the kids that had been to university spoke fairly good English but some of the fellows that haven't been -- hadn't many more formal education than grammar school or high school, they spoke pidgin English, mostly.

TI: It sounds like it was kind of a rocky start with your first exposure to Hawaiian Japanese.

TY: Yeah. What was some of the other things he said? "I go stay go you go stay come." That means you go and I'll stay, I guess. [Laughs] And things like that were very confusing when you first, first heard it. And they were a lot more -- their personality a lot different, too. They're a lot more happy-go-lucky. And the mainland people seemed to be a little more serious, I think, than the Hawaiians.

TI: Well, were you able to become friends with a lot of the Hawaiians?

TY: Yeah, I got along pretty well with them. Well, the kind of a kid I was, I got along with almost anybody. But some of the cadres who were mostly mainland people and Hawaiian guys gave 'em a pretty bad time. In fact, one of the fellows here in Seattle was a medic, was a former medic, and I know him quite well, but he said that, I didn't realize it but he told me later that Hawaiian guys gave him a real bad time. In fact, they tried to gang up on him and most of the cadre people had real hard time with, from Hawaiian fellows because they didn't take being bossed around too much I guess, being told what to do and... any authoritarian type of thing, they really fought it pretty hard and they're a lot more, they want to be more independent, I guess.

TI: The cadres were the people who helped train. But they were, they weren't the --

TY: They were the -- see, the cadre was formed from most of the people who, lot of the fellows were inducted before the war. And they were in other places and when they formed 442 they brought 'em to Camp Shelby. And they were a little bit older, a little bit older Niseis.

TI: And generally higher rank, also?

TY: Yeah. They were sergeants and the top sergeants, first sergeants and staff sergeants. So they were our leaders, so to speak.

TI: And in your opinion, were they tough? Were they pretty tough?

TY: Well, our top, our first sergeant was very tough as I think I mentioned before. But the rest of 'em were okay. I got along okay with them. And I think they were a little bit older so I respected them a little more. But I guess the Hawaiians didn't. [Laughs]

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2002 Densho. All Rights Reserved.