Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Marion Tsutakawa Kanemoto Interview
Narrator: Marion Tsutakawa Kanemoto
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: SeaTac, Washington and Seattle, Washington
Date: August 3 & 4, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-kmarion-01-0039

<Begin Segment 39>

AI: Well, now, in the meantime, while all this is was happening, of course, one of the reasons your father was, had thought of returning to Japan in the first place was because your oldest brother, James, was there.

MK: Right.

AI: So, now after you arrived back in Japan, did you meet up with James? And how, how was he?

MK: Well, James was sent to the high school that my father attended in Fukuyama, 'cause it was a better school. And when he became seventeen, eighteen, he had to choose a college. Well, he did (to) a teacher's college. Well, as soon as he graduated he was drafted. And he was in uniform. I didn't see much of him. We didn't -- and I wasn't aware of where he was sent. Well, actually, I don't think the family did, either. But then, during this time, when I saw this red sky, apparently he was a new recruit, hardly having the basic training, the new recruits were sent to gather up all the atomic casualty and do a mass burial. And that was his job. So, not knowing, here we're looking at the sky and he was actually in another town, in Yamaguchi, from what I understand. And then as soon as this happened, (...) bunch of new recruits were sent (to Hiroshima) -- so he escaped the atomic bomb (...) but I'm sure he got a certain amount of radiation because we didn't know anything about the atomic bomb at that time. And his future father-in-law apparently did (die later as) he was right in the heart, so he did die of atomic radiation.

AI: And this, you found out about James and his work later?

MK: Much later. (...) So he wasn't even in this Japanese army long. Because after (...) Hiroshima (...) surrendered, well, these young men were all sent home.

AI: Well, in fact, speaking of the surrender, how did you hear about it? Do you recall?

MK: Well, there was a tennoheika speech.

AI: Did you happen to hear that on the radio?

MK: Yeah, we heard about that.

AI: Because as I understand it, it was a...

MK: A few days later.

AI: Yes, and the first time in history that here the Emperor was speaking on the radio --

MK: Right, right.

AI: -- was sort of a major historic thing.

MK: So, everything was sparse but we did have a radio and I think we did hear it. And it came, about a week after. I know it wasn't immediately after. But, but even as a child you knew it was inevitable. I mean, you know how the United States has such resource, great resources. They were just beginning. And here you knew that Japan was fighting a war with China, Manchuria for years and the way things were, the material goods, nothing was in the stores. So no one had to tell you how poorly off the Japanese people were.

AI: Well, what kind of reaction did you sense from the adults when the emperor made this historic announcement?

MK: I think some sense of relief because it, the war was touching everyone. And, how much longer could it go? Everybody, every family had to give up some loved one into the war effort. And some way or another, and then everyday life was being affected because everything was on ration, the basic food was on ration, so... I know the Americans had ration but not to the extent what Japan had. And we were still lucky because we lived in the country. My mother's mother lived in the city and we didn't... she didn't have a telephone, we didn't have a telephone. So we didn't know how she was faring.

AI: But being in the country, at least you still had some food.

MK: So long as we can grow, yeah. And we ate sweet, sweet potato stems, leaves and stems, made oshitashi out of them. But, and the rice, it was all, we never ate solid rice, it was all made into gruel. And for, even for lunch, that, that was hard. We had to carefully, I remember, I think we even carried in our knapsacks some rice gruel for lunch. So glad it's just nothing more than a memory now. [Laughs]

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.