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

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: Okay, today is August 3, 2003 and we're here at the SeaTac Doubletree Hotel during the Minidoka reunion. And Marion Tsutakawa Kanemoto is here. I'm Alice Ito with Densho and Dana Hoshide, also from Densho, is doing videography. So, Marion, thanks very much for coming and taking your time to be interviewed today.

MK: Thank you for inviting me.

AI: Well, as I had mentioned earlier, we wanted to start with your family background to -- because you have quite an interesting family story, starting with the beginnings of family members coming to the U.S. So, could you tell a little bit about the Tsutakawa family and how, how they came from Japan to the U.S.?

MK: Okay, it starts, I think, from about the early, very early 1900s. My father is the sixth son in the family. So he was the last of the boys to come, one-by-one. Out of the six boys, five of them had come to the United States. And so, we have quite a connection with the Seattle area.

AI: What were the Tsutakawas doing in Japan? What was their family livelihood?

MK: Oh, okay. Well, Grandfather (Kiichi) was the master of the tea ceremony, Ikenobo School and Tea. And he was a landowner, (...) from what I have heard. And they have even said that as far as you can see, (...) it all belonged to the Tsutakawas. Well, this is, to me, it sounds like a fantasy. But grandfather had a big, large family and (...) his flower instructions didn't bring in enough income so he did sell the land bit by bit. And by the time it came down to my father's generation, it wasn't very much.

AI: And so, then the oldest son in the family first came to the United States?

MK: Right. And I can't say exactly when. But my father, being the sixth son, (...) the year that he came (...) was 1921. And...

AI: So, what was it that, what was it that the first son did after coming to the United States?

MK: Okay, he apparently joined an export/import company. And when (...) the partner and he separated (circa 1942), the partner took the money and my Uncle Shozo continued on with the business. And that's when, as far as I can remember, the Uncle Jin, who's (...) the fifth son, came and then my father came in 1921. And that's the part that, (...) that's about all I know. Beyond that I really don't know the details.

AI: Where in Japan did the family come from?

MK: Okay, (...) both my parents (came) from Okayama-ken, but actually not the city proper because they were landowners. This is called the Ibara, (and) currently, Ibara area which (...) runs right alongside Hiroshima-ken.

AI: So, in those days, it was quite a countryside?

MK: Right. It was... I'm sure it was. [Laughs]

AI: Well, tell me a little bit about what the business was, the export/import business. What type of goods did they trade in?

MK: Okay, what my uncle did, I don't really remember, but from what I understand and the pictures that were left, it was primarily exporting of lumber, and then, at the store, when I was in my early teens I remember there were the Japanese food items and chinaware. And, of course, a lot of it included the California rice, well, being they were... this is not importing from Japan, but then, they did bring in a lot of California rice for the Northwest Japanese. And they called it the export/import company. I saw a lot of umeboshi and rakkyo and things like that, senbeis. [Laughs]

AI: Right. Well, and when your father came, let's see, you said about 1921?

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: Did he immediately get involved in the family business, do you know?

MK: Oh, he came directly to help out with the business.

AI: And that was here in Seattle?

MK: Here in Seattle, right, uh-huh.

AI: Right.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2gt;

AI: Well, now then, how did your parents come to be married and how did your mother happen to come to the United States?

MK: Okay, it was, they did the usual thing, which was the matchmaking. And so, Uncle Jin, who was already in Seattle, probably about two years before my father, was married, and (his wife) had a cousin, well, actually a family that had several attractive girls, from what I understand. And so, this is why the pre-arrangement was made (...). My father wanted to go and meet my mother before. Actually, (...) arrangement was made with another sister, her older sister. But she was not as adventuresome as my mother, who had just graduated from (...), the Japanese high school. And in those days, I mean, it was, that was quite an education. It was almost equivalent to a university education, so...

AI: Yes, that would have been unusual for a girl in Japan at that time.

MK: Yes it was, because the compulsory, if you even finished eighth grade that was an achievement, right. You would call them highly educated, so...

AI: So, your father, then, did return to Japan to meet your mother?

MK: Yes, he did. And it was funny. The funny story I heard was that my father -- my mother's family was a samurai family. And apparently after the samurai era, her father opened a Western clothier. And, of course, it was family-run, so the girls were in the back. And from, through the noren, (...)she was waiting to see what my father looked like. And apparently -- my father was 5'10", which is quite tall for a Japanese man. So, as they saw the sight of him, and his yukata that he was wearing was way up, up his legs, the sisters all giggled and said, "Oh, look at that funny man with the short yukata on." And so I remember she chuckled and mentioned that story. And I thought, now that I understand what the proper length is, I can understand why it was funny.

AI: Right. Usually, it should go down to...

MK: Right, a little longer.

AI: Well, so then they were married in Japan.

MK: Right.

AI: And when was it that they came to the United States?

MK: Okay, they married and came in 1925, and this is after the 1924 when the doors were closed to the Japanese --

AI: Right.

MK: -- aliens.

AI: The exclusion act was passed by Congress.

MK: Right, exclusion act, and so my mother had to come in a different status, which was called the treaty merchants. And from what I understand, to be a treaty merchant that had to mean that you were fairly comfortable. And so, though my father, being a young man, didn't have the funds, they had to pretend that they were wealthy enough and signed up for the first-class and my mother was told that she had to behave very properly, and that's how they came.

AI: So, they disguised themselves as wealthy merchants --

MK: Right.

AI: -- they traveled first-class to America.

MK: Right. He was only twenty-seven. So, to travel first-class, that was quite something. I guess you can call that a honeymoon. [Laughs]

AI: Well, so then they arrived in Seattle, and I'm wondering, did either of your parents ever tell you, or perhaps your mother, did she ever tell you what her first impressions of America were?

MK: Well, being that she was educated (...) -- and very adventuresome, (...) what do you call it, social. She really was enthused, and she knew that, well, she can always go back to Japan and it would always have this connection. And she was very literate, so she could write. So she was very enthused about it.

AI: And so they settled here in Seattle, then?

MK: They settled in Seattle. And of course she had Uncle Jin's wife, who was her distant cousin, so she wasn't, what you call quite alone, alone, you know.

AI: Well, then, you had a couple of -- you had an older brother, is that right? Who was born first, before you?

MK: 1926. Uh-huh. His name is James.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AI: And then, when were you born?

MK: I was born in 1928. Actually, should I go into the details of the --

AI: Yes, please.

MK: Oh, okay.

AI: Please do.

MK: My mother's birthday was in December, December 16 and she found that a disadvantage because in Japan, when you're born you're already one year old. And when the New Year comes everybody gains another year. So, within a month she was already two years old. And so, by that she learned that -- and I was born, actually, on December the 30th. And so because, knowing the disadvantage of a December birthday, well, she recorded, had the registry, birth certificate dated January 3rd. I'm sure if it was a boy, it would have been January 1st. That would have been okay. In these days, you know, for tax purposes you'd rather have it -- [laughs] -- another year. But it didn't really make any difference, I mean...

AI: So, in other words, your actual birthday was Jan-, December 30, 1927.

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: But if, if it had been recorded that way, then in the Japanese system --

MK: Right.

AI: -- just a few days later, on January 1st --

MK: Right, I would already be two.

AI: And so a two-day-old infant would be considered two years old in Japan.

MK: Exactly. And in those days that was very important culturally.

AI: And, well, you also mentioned that if you had been born a boy she might have put your birthday at January 1st. For those who don't understand, could you say a little more about that?

MK: Right, well, I guess, as we see it today, the girls were always one or two steps behind the men. The men were always taking the front, front seat and it was something that was very accepted. And so, (...) this is what they practiced.

AI: Right. So, if it was a boy, having, putting the birthday on the first of the month would have been proper, but being a girl, she considered that not quite appropriate and made it the third instead.

MK: Right, exactly. And so it took a whole twelve months before I became, became one, right? So (...) I was a slow learner, so I think it helped. [Laughs]

AI: Well, then, after you, you had two younger brothers, is that right?

MK: Right. That was Robert and he goes by Bob, and Richard.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: And where was your family home when you were a child? Where did you grow up?

MK: Okay, in Seattle, near the Japanese Baptist Church, I think that was on Tenth Street. And oh, just a few years ago the home still existed. But it was a flat, and, and beyond that, I really haven't followed it. And then, let's see, before the war we did move to Twenty-fourth Avenue. And my father really believed in mainstreaming, being that we came to America, he, he felt that we should mainstream and go to the American schools. And he wasn't afraid to take the steps that really gave us the advantage of the American system.

AI: So, when you were very young and you were living at the Tenth Street house, that was quite close to the Japanese Baptist --

MK: Community.

AI: The Japanese Baptist Church --

MK: Right.

AI: -- and the, the Japanese community and the kind of Japantown area of Seattle.

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: And that was also where the Tsutakawa business was located (on Main Street). Is that right? Near...

MK: Right. It would still be maybe a couple miles, but close enough. Uh-huh.

AI: Well, and so then, when you moved to the Twenty-fourth Avenue house, Twenty-fourth and what, approximately?

MK: So, it was the 900, 924, Twenty-fourth Street. Yeah, Twenty-fourth. Twenty-fourth Avenue, excuse me, Twenty-fourth Avenue. And so it was close enough to walk to Washington Lake to go swimming.

AI: So, that was farther outside of the main Japanese community?

MK: Yes, uh-huh. And I remember, most of my classmates in Japanese school were living behind the mom's shop, store. But I noticed -- and these are things that were, as a child, it was provided to you so you didn't... (...)you don't remember it as something that was -- what do you call it? -- adventuresome, or something, advantage in society. But now that I look back on it I can see where my father was not afraid. He tried to mainstream, give us the best.


AI: Okay, so I was just going to ask you about the Twenty-fourth Avenue house. Where were you going to school then, when you were living there?

MK: Oh, the Rainier, Rainier School, elementary school.

AI: And were most of your classmates at the school, then, Caucasian, or a mix of kids?

MK: Very few Asians. Including the Chinese, I think maybe there were, might have been six out of the class of thirty. Most of them were Caucasians. There were Italians, as I remember. But within the block, I think there were maybe three Japanese families, one Chinese family. So it was integrated, but very slowly. [Laughs]

AI: And did your mother or father talk to you much about being Japanese, or wanting you to behave a certain way or proper behavior?

MK: Not in a competitive way. But I think more because we were Tsutakawa. Now that I see it, it just seems like a lot of pride, but anyway, we just don't do this or whatever, we just took it as law. And I mean, we were kept in line, but not as if, because we're Japanese. Primarily it was because we're Tsutakawa.

AI: So it was a matter of family pride?

MK: Family pride, I think (...). [Laughs]

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AI: Well, and, what was your father's name, and mother's name?

MK: Okay, my father's name was Joji, J-O-J-I, it's a measure, it's, the kanji would be interpreted as a measure. And being the sixth son, and the ninth kid, I guess, it would be quite... [laughs] I guess they were running out of names, but anyway, that's what he was named, Joji. And my mother's name was Yachiyo like in the Kimigayo, it's the eight, eight centuries. And apparently, when she was being born they heard the song being sung and so this is why they named her Yachiyo.

AI: Well, and, how did you get your name? What was your name given to you when you were born?

MK: Okay, my name was... we all got Japanese name. It was Masako. And there's about three ways of writing Masako and I was always told that mine was the more intelligent or the -- I think all Japanese put a lot of interest and focus in the meaning of the name. And so they told me it was the best Masako, kanji, yuuga no ga. And so this is, again, they emphasized the best or the perfect, perfection, or whatever, so you somehow pick up on it. [Laughs]

AI: I'm sure you do.

MK: You do.

AI: Well, as a very young child, do you remember learning English, or do you remember what language you spoke in the beginning?

MK: Oh, it was all Japanese, because my mother, I don't think in those days (when) my mother attended her high school. They were really learning English as a class. And so, she was definitely... it was all definitely Japanese.

AI: So, when do you remember speaking English?

MK: Well, I think I learned a lot of it from my oldest brother, because he had to break the society and go into the, well actually, he attended the Japanese Baptist Church preschool and nursery. And I fol-, when he was mingling with the American kids, well then, he would begin to use the American words. And so I guess it would have been a little bit easier for me, and...

AI: Do you remember having any trouble with English in your early school years at all?

MK: I don't think I was a really sharp kid. But anyway, because I had the two languages, I mean, as soon as I was eligible for the Nihon gakko, which is the Japanese school, local Japanese school, we had to go a little further to attend this school, but we attended the two schools every day after the regular school. And the other, the piano lessons and the things like that, I mean...

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AI: So you were quite busy as a young child.

MK: Oh, I was. My mother did believe in keeping people busy, the kids busy so we won't get into mischief. I remember I was... during the summer, I didn't go to camp but I did attend a sewing school. And from the time I was ten years old, so you can imagine. And she was smart, because, the way she said it was, if I finish a garment, well, she'll very willingly buy another yardage so that I can make the next item. So, of course, out of greed, and fortunately, they were dirndl skirts, so they were not very difficult to make. So I was ready for school by the time fall came around.

AI: Well, that's great. That's very interesting to hear about growing up as a girl. I'm wondering, did you notice that you were expected to behave in different ways, or there were different expectations for you, as a girl, compared to the boys in your family? Did you have different responsibility around the home, or did they have privileges as boys that you didn't have?

MK: Well, now that I look back on it, I think our family was a little the exception. I was lucky because we always had schoolboys in our home, the farm boys from Fife, Sumner, Puyallup area, the ones who didn't fit the farm scene. Their parents would ask my father to use them in his business, and to provide them with a place to stay. Well, they helped out at my -- and when they went to school, then came back to our home, for room and board, well then they would help out with cutting the lawn, because my father was so busy that they cut the lawn and they did the dishes. So, strangely enough, I escaped a lot of those tedious chores that most people resent. [Laughs]

AI: What about... you mentioned the Japanese language school, did you have other kinds of Japanese cultural lessons that you went to? Any other kinds of training, or...

MK: Oh, well then I had piano lessons. And my brothers took violin. And, did you want the names of the teacher? Miyamoto. Michiko Miyamoto was the name of the teacher, and Fumiko (Morita) was the sister that taught the violin. And this is very early, and let's see... I had a teacher before that, but then I think those, these are the teachers that we had last. And of course, in those days our mothers rarely drove, so I had to take the bus. And this was, it took about half a day. I'd have to take the bus and go to my piano lesson and take the bus again and go back home. So, whatever we did, it took time. But they did provide us with all this opportunity. I don't think we appreciated it then, but now, I can see that they did what they could for us.

AI: And what about some of your friendships while you were at the Rainier School? Who were some of your best friends as a child?

MK: I was very social, so I always had friends.

AI: And being that it was kind of an integrated school --

MK: Right.

AI: -- did you have friendships across the racial lines?

MK: Yes, I did. I think when we left for camp there was a, Margie Thompson was a Caucasian girl that befriended me and we left a few items with her. I gave her my, like my desk, school desk, left it with her. I lost track of her, but nevertheless, we were close enough that her fam-, her mother took some items that she could mail, ship to us later. And I think that, I remember her as the closest one. And the other Nikkei friends, Japanese American friends, there were a few, but not, not too many as far as Rainier School was concerned. However, I had a lot of Japanese friends from the Japanese school that I attended after school. And because I have been to Japan before, being exchanged with these prisoners of war, at the age of eight...

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AI: Yes, I wanted to ask you about that family trip to Japan. Was that in 1937?

MK: '37, '38, uh-huh. For fifteen months we were sent to Japan. And it was a good experience. I didn't know that my father had so much in his mind that he didn't share. But my brother was, my oldest brother was left there and he consequently became a Kibei -- he never came back so I can't call him a Kibei, but he was left there being groomed to take over the business sometime in the future. But I did attend the fourth grade in Japan. And I struggled some, but because I had attended the Japanese school in Seattle, I never had a big problem. But then the things that we did with Grandma, everyday life, and it wasn't just a week or a month, it was fifteen months. So I remember how (she made) takuan. And this is country life, but yet it was nice that she went through all these steps and, to observe, and help her... I look back on them as really a nice experience. (Father returned to Seattle by himself after a month or so, leaving the family in Okayama.)

AI: So, during this fifteen months, you stayed at the Tsutakawa family, main family home?

MK: Honke. Uh-huh. Because this is in the country and all the young people, like the Atatori, he was in a successful business in the Kobe area, in (...) shipping, with the export/import, also. And he was in the banding, for the shipping of the exports. His company used to band the freight in the wooden boxes and that was a very successful business. And so he had a mansion in Kobe. But then during the war he was bombed out and lost the entire house, which was a beautiful house, furnished with a lot of American furniture.

AI: But that --

MK: But then he moved back to Okayama, the honke.

AI: But at the time that you visited, as a child, he had his own mansion and his own business elsewhere, and so there was, it sounds like there was room there --

MK: Yes, at the hon --

AI: -- for you to stay with your grandparents.

MK: Yes, right, and that's what we did. And my mother, my father got along with his, well, it was a step-grandmother who brought him up from his very early years. So, we just had a very nice time. This is prewar, I mean, Japan was at war but it wasn't to the extent of... during World War II.

AI: So, even though Japan was at war in Asia, the Tsutakawa family was still fairly comfortable at that time?

MK: Right.

AI: And you mentioned that your older brother, James, was brought there to stay?

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: And, do you know if he was aware of that? That he --

MK: I don't think so.

AI: Oh.

MK: I don't think so.

AI: About how old was he then?

MK: He was twelve. He was twelve.

AI: So then, did you ever talk to him? I mean, you were kids.

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: But did he ever say anything about how, "Oh, wish I was going back home with you to America," or anything like that?

MK: No, because Japan was in their better years and he knew that he can always, easily visit us or write to us. I mean, there was no restriction that way. And he was the, so-called typical, classical prodigal son. And he still is -- [laughs] -- but...

AI: And so he realized that as the oldest son --

MK: He was very accepting, very accepting. I think that's the way they bring them up. And he was privileged because he was the first son. And so we always addressed him as niisan, instead of the name. And I think that automatically gives you the rights, respect. [Laughs]

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AI: Well, so then it was 1938 when your family returned to Seattle.

MK: Right.

AI: And then you started the fifth grade then, back in Seattle? Is that right?

MK: Right. Well, then I really began to feel that I was behind. My English was not quite up to it. And so, it just seemed like when I went to Japan I was a little bit behind in my Japanese. When I came back to America I was behind in my English. So, it (...) seemed like, from there on, it was, I was always a little behind. And so it didn't do too much good in my, for my self-image, I think. So I was not the smartest kid on the block by any means.

AI: That sounds like it was a struggle, in fact.

MK: It was a struggle. And then, for my, again, my size, I was five foot four and a half, I kept growing and growing. My mother is only five, 5'1", but my father is 5'10", so I favored his side and I grew. So, you know that, I kind of stuck out in the Nikkei community, again.

AI: You must have been one of the tallest girls among the --

MK: There was maybe one or two that were about the same and the others were definitely (...) shorter. And definitely, the guys are always shorter. [Laughs]

AI: Well, so then, did you, you were in the fifth grade when, after you returned. And then you had sixth grade, or did you move on to a middle school in sixth grade?

MK: I moved on to Washington Junior High.

AI: Washington Junior High.

MK: Junior high, uh-huh. And so, I was, attended Washington Junior High the two years, not quite, missing by one month at the end, before evacuation. But I managed and I still kept up with the two bilingual languages.

AI: So, did you continue with Japanese language school all the way through those years?

MK: Yes, all those years. And Japanese school was very easy. It was my social school. [Laughs]

AI: Well, when you say it was easy and social school, could you say a little bit more about that?

MK: Well, as far as the academic, it was more primarily just reading and writing, not arithmetic, reading and writing. And so I didn't have the problem, because in Japan I had to focus and concentrate on that. And so it was easy so I didn't struggle as much as I was in the American school, math or even... science was not that bad, but math and English I think I always kind of struggled with.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

AI: Well, also, I wanted to ask you a little bit about Washington Junior High School and the composition of the student body there, the ethnic composition.

MK: Oh, as I recall, (...) it was definitely more populated with the Asians because the Bailey Gatzert kids all went to Washington Junior High. And... but then, but the teachers were all Caucasian teachers. And I, I really respected them. I mean, I didn't have any bad experience. I think at Rainier, Rainier School I had maybe a few incidences because I didn't speak English and they didn't have the English for second class and those fancy names for these classes. So I remember, even a kindergarten teacher put a tape around my mouth because I was asking, I didn't understand and asking another -- this is in kindergarten, now -- and she put a masking tape on my face -- I mean, on my mouth, over my mouth and I got reprimanded by her. And, you know, those things, you still remember for some odd reason. I mean, it didn't hurt, but my feelings were definitely hurt. But other than that, I never ran into any racial, you know, incidents. So I thought Washington Junior High, being that it was so heavily populated with the Asian population, they were very accepting. And I have an autograph book that some of the teachers wrote in, and they were very kind remarks, saying that they would miss us as we left for evacuation.

AI: Well, before we get to that point of the, of the evacuation, I wanted to ask, in junior high school, it seems like kids can, well, kids can always be mean at any age, but I'm wondering, you said that you didn't sense any negative, you didn't have any negative incidents or racially negative incidents. But I wanted to ask, when did you become really aware of yourself as Japanese, as well as American? When... do you remember when that was?

MK: Oh, I think I was always aware that I was Japanese, from the time I was, well... like that kindergarten instance kind of locked me in as, oh, it's maybe because she's picking on me. Well, of course, it was with the language barrier that I had. And I remember my mother tried so desperately to be welcomed by the school because she respected the school system. And she was attending the English school, herself, to communicate with the, with us, as well as the school. But, I mean, we're saying, "Gee, Mom" -- when I was in junior high we used to kid her and say that, "Oh, you deserve a Ph.D. by now because you never graduate, you're just perpetually going to..." because I had two younger brothers, so she was constantly going to the same class, repeating the same course, and so, so... the language, I think, was really something. But she respected the classes, so she did attend them very diligently.

AI: So then, some of these incidents, like the kindergarten incident, and being aware of your mother's attempts to learn English, and then your trip to Japan --

MK: Right

AI: -- and coming back, it sounds like you were very aware of being --

MK: Yes, yes. I was very aware. And because of our business and the people that my father associated with, like the Sumitomo Bank, the bank people or the export/import business people. And we had different guests, they were, many of them were VIP. And I remember, when we had foreigners with their children I would be asked -- so this is why I remember during those days, I was treated with Shirley Temple dresses. (...) I think my father was using me, but, but I was privileged enough to go out to have lunch or dinner, or visit their home, the VIP's home, or the hotels. And so, this is what I did for my dad, not knowingly that he was using me in this way. [Laughs]

AI: So, in a way, he was proudly showing off --

MK: Right, I guess so.

AI: -- his, his little daughter. And when you say "Shirley Temple dress," for people who don't know, can you describe a little bit what...

MK: Oh, well, I think it's just like today, I mean, Shirley Temple was the person. I believe she's about the same age as I am. And when she became a star, you know, about ten years old, oh, we just idolized her. Everybody idolized her. And there were Shirley Temple dolls and Shirley Temple dresses and to have a Shirley Temple dress, it was just something else. There were a lot of tags on it. And I remember I had a couple of Shirley Temple dresses. And that was my best party dress. [Laughs]

AI: So, you had a few little advantages here and there?

MK: Yeah, right. But I didn't feel that it was that big a deal, but, I mean, I was a happy child, I mean, I was... ate well, and dressed well and I appreciate it after the fact. But I mean now, in my later adult life.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

AI: So, at the same time that you realized that you were Japanese, how did you feel as an American? Did you, I'm asking about the junior high school years now, while you were at Washington Junior High. Did you have a sense of yourself as an American, American citizen?

MK: Not as strong as I should have, I think. It's because, I think, my visit to Japan, when I was ten years old; that focused on the Japan side of me. And I was comfortable with that. So, the American side would be a little bit more exploring, because, in my home it was still the same Japanese situation, and I didn't have any real strong ties with the Jap-, Caucasian homes. Margaret Thompson, the one Caucasian friend I had, they were not that comfortable. (...) But they were nice people. And there were some Italian families across the street, but their home was not as elaborate. But, my father, though I'm sure he could have afforded it, or... he was a very down-to-earth man and he never... and so, those are things that you kind of appreciated, the important things in life. And so, I think he, he actually instilled more value, I think, than my mother did. Interesting --

AI: In what --

MK: -- interesting enough.

AI: In what ways would he do that? Can you...

MK: Well, he, being the boss, you'd think that, well, he could wear a suit, and sit down like his brother Jin. But he wore a cardigan sweater, and rarely wore a suit, except for funerals and weddings. And was like a social worker. If anybody was having any problems he would butt in and... I think the one that I really was impressed with was when I was born, in '20-, well, '28, let's say. The November of '27 there was a baby that was born with a cleft palate. And the parents were living on the Olympic Bay where they were oyster farmers. And of course, as you can see, they're very isolated. And when my father was making one of the deliveries -- now, this is a man that owned the business, but he personally was delivering the grocery items. And he found the problem that they were having and he's never had any harelip or cleft, seen a cleft baby before (...)... it bothered him so much that when he, he helped them to make arrangements for the baby to come to Seattle and have the operation to be corrected. Well, being that Sumiko was very young yet, and I was born, my mother was pumping (breast) milk to even bring to the Seattle hospital. And, you know, it's not, I don't think she offered it, but it was my father's idea. And so, (when I heard about it, I wondered), first thing came, was I deprived of my mother's milk? [Laughs] But technically, my mother was nursing two babies at that time. And I thought, wow, that is, for a man to think that much of trying to help correct this baby's cleft palate. And this lady (Sumiko) has been in touch with my mother for lifetime. So, these are things that, to me, so human, (and) giving.

AI: Right.

MK: Just very impressive. And then about my father, going to the rounds, to the farms, different truck farmers, if the boys or teenagers didn't quite work out, or even girls, I think, and there was one incident, he would find a place, a schoolboy, or use them in our own store, and, or even send the girls to schoolgirl. I mean, he would help the farmers. Because the farmers were Isseis and they had no way of linking up and they had, were having difficulties in the family, so, so I think this is the kind of thing social workers do. So I thought, gee, (...) he was ahead of his time. I mean, he just did it because he felt it right. So...

AI: So he had --

MK: It took a long time for me to understand this. But, he was a busybody. [Laughs]

AI: Well, and so, as a child, or even when you were in junior high school, you could see how busy your father was, and you could see that people were grateful to him for helping them.

MK: Right. And he was, he was, everyone knew him. And it was -- in a good way. So I thought that was neat.

AI: Well, I don't remember if I asked you if your father was fairly bilingual? Did he speak a lot of English, or, in his business work?

MK: I have some letters that he wrote to me while I was in nursing school later on, but he, for an Issei, yes, I think he was. But in our usual conversation, it was Japanese, though. And I understand when he went to eat at a restaurant or whatever, he had no enryo, hesitation in asking the cook, "How do you prepare that?" So this is why, it wasn't my mother that was making the Thanksgiving turkey, it was my father who, hearsay, he would ask the chef, "How do you cook it?" and he'll come home as if he knows it all, knows how to do it. And he, he cooked the turkey. And in those days, twenty-three, twenty-four pound turkey, I remember. And he would invite anybody that didn't have a home to have turkey. And so our house was open this way to the employees, primarily the employees, because the others had families. But these are things that I thought, you know, is this what everybody does? I kinda thought that that's what everybody does. But, realizing that no, it was just because of my dad. Then my mother would grumble, saying, "Yeah, who does all the preparing of the vegetable, who does all the cleaning up after the mess?" [Laughs] And so, I realized, and Dad got all the credit. [Laughs] But anyway, that was all right. They were a good team.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: Well, so you mentioned Thanksgiving. Did your family celebrate many of these American-type holidays?

MK: Oh yes, every one. Yes. My father wanted to mainstream. He did everything, parties, he liked, and so, yes.

AI: So you had Thanksgiving and Christmas even?

MK: Yes, Christmas, very community Christmas. He was... this is one area, I know he was not strongly religious. He certainly respected religion, but he, himself, never sat down, or went to a Sunday service or any... things that he had to go to, he would go, because it's the right thing to do, but he was not a churchy person.

AI: And what about your mother? Did she have any religious teachings that she passed to you, or anything of that sort?

MK: Because of my maternal grandmother's training, she was a Buddhist, and a very, vegetarian, never struck a match. She was one who used the flint stone in the morning to start her candle lighting. This is in Japan, Okayama city. And so she was very religious by action. And so, my mother was more religious. And she, she was a Buddhist. But we attended, the children attended the Episcopal Church in Seattle.

AI: Now, why was that? Why would they send you to the Episcopal Church?

MK: Okay, I have to give Dr. Ishibashi, the dentist, our dentist, the credit for this. He came and picked us up every Sunday. And that was his church. So this is where we attended. And every Sunday he would come by and pick us up. And so, I enjoyed it. And of course, you know, the longer you attend, you get your ties with the Sunday school class and your teacher. Yori Kumasaki was one of my teacher. And I just met her last night at the banquet. And I had to thank her to this day; that was another home base for me. So I have very fond memories of that. And I remember Dr. Kitagawa was our minister because he was young and energetic. And I, I was able to understand it. But in Buddhist, what the Buddhist priest is chanting, I didn't understand. Though bilingual, it didn't mean very much. And so, I guess I'm a simple person. I have to understand. [Laughs] For this reason I liked the Episcopal Church better.

AI: So, as a child, to have a minister like Father Kitagawa really made a difference to you because you could understand what he was saying. His...

MK: Right, right, than the chants that you don't understand.

AI: And also, for people who don't know, this congregation, then, was almost all Japanese American, wasn't it?

MK: Yes, they were. And the Taharas were, Mr. Tahara was my father's butcher at the Pacific Market and so, again, they were, the longer you attended, I mean, it did become a home base. So, I enjoyed, I mean, it was something I enjoyed going to.

AI: Well, it sounded like, sounds like you had a very full childhood, many things, many activities, many family activities?

MK: Right, right. I did. I thought this was a normal thing, but yes, we went to camping... so, I really think, for an Issei man, we really did have a full life.

AI: And it sounds like your father was very open-minded to new ideas, to American ways of doing things?

MK: Uh-huh. He was, he was. I didn't see him sitting. He wasn't what you called a reader, but, and he was a talker, so he often liked to visit people and talk. He learned that way and did a lot of hands-on.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: Now, when you were in junior high school, your brother James had already been left in Japan. And I'm wondering, did you have any sense that someday your mother and father would take the rest of you and you would all move back to Japan permanently? Or did you have any idea?

MK: No, I never did have that concern.

AI: Because I'm wondering, you mentioned that his older brothers, some of his older brothers had done that, that they had made their fortune --

MK: Right.

AI: -- in Seattle --

MK: And they took the kids home. Right, with the --

AI: -- and then they moved permanently back to Japan.

MK: Uh-huh, right.

AI: So, but at that time you didn't have any indication that, that --

MK: No, I didn't.

AI: So, they may or may not have been planning that?

MK: Well, Uncle Jin kept his younger two children with him in Seattle. And so, we were pretty close because Uncle Jin had the stroke so early in his life, and I think he really didn't have the funds, either, to send them back and keep supporting them. But, but...

AI: So, at that time it really didn't seem, it wasn't --

MK: No, it wasn't a concern.

AI: Right. And you mentioned the funds that it would take to support the child back in Japan.

MK: Two families, yes, on both sides of the Pacific, right.

AI: So, in other words, your father must have been doing quite well in business?

MK: I think he was. He was such a happy person, so giving, generous. I mean, not monetarily, but gave himself, that, it's something, other Isseis were more inhibited, more enryo. But, I didn't see my father do the, practice the enryo too much. He was very assertive. [Laughs] Inquiring.

AI: Well, it sounds like he was very entrepreneurial, also.

MK: Yes.

AI: And I wonder if you could tell a little bit more about the business development that he, that he was working with.

MK: Okay. What I didn't know when we went back to Japan in 1938, was, he had a lot of things on his mind, which I didn't know he had. When we came back in 1939, was it? Or late '38 or '39. He had moved the wholesale store to Jackson Street. (...) He (started) the wholesale store, and then bought the Pacific Market, right next door, which (had) a very wide front... and for the convenience, this is what it was, that you had the Pacific Market with the open front, and then the export/import was just as large, to the right, (...). It was all glass enclosed. It was not a glamorous inside because it was a wholesale. But, and then, he had bought the home in Seattle, the next door, when an elderly couple where... we were living in, on Twenty-Fourth Avenue and apparently the next-door couple decided to move to another place for retirement, so my father quickly -- I mean, opportunist that he was -- he bought the home next door. And so when we came back from Japan, all this change had taken place during the fifteen months. Of course, he didn't have to consult with me, but anyway, all this had taken place. So he was very busy. And so, this was a change when I, when we came back from our trip, from Japan.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: Well, tell me a little bit more about the Pacific Market. Could you describe that, say a little bit about what it looked like and what the business was?

MK: Oh, okay. As I remember it, it was called Pacific Market on Jackson Street. And it, I believe it was the largest Japanese-owned market. And from what I understand, George, because we were minors yet, my father didn't have too much power himself, being an Issei, he used George Tsutakawa, the artist's, name, because he had just finished high school and was going to university. He used his name because he was over twenty, age twenty-one. And he was the president, probably in name only, but... and then for the vice president he had a Caucasian attorney. And so, I think he, by consulting, he was able to put this together in the right way. So he was very busy while we were in Japan. And I didn't know about this. [Laughs]

AI: Well, so, to, just to clarify for people who don't know, because of the laws against aliens owning property and businesses, and because your father was not eligible for citizenship --

MK: Right, right.

AI: -- as an Issei, then, it was your cousin, George, who -- and George was the son of your father's oldest brother.

MK: Shozo, oldest, uh-huh, oldest brother.

AI: Right. And so...

MK: So, this Pacific Market had the butcher, and the Japanese section, the produce, and they even included a florist. So, that was the beginning of the supermarket. I think Piggly Wiggly was a, one of the other supermarkets, but that was enclosed. It didn't have that open front. And then, I remember, next door we had another, just the produce. And then, we thought, wow, that's competition. They would interfere with our business, you know, in your child's mind. And my father explained that no, no, when you drive Jackson street, when you see all this front with the -- I forgot the name. (Harada). Their produce stand, and then the Pacific Market, well, anyone's driving on Jackson Street, he said, wow, that's the place to stop. It's worthy of stopping. So he would, always would see it in the positive (side). And so he was quite an entrepreneur or businessman. And so he never took it negatively as a competition. We were very friendly with the neighbor produce store.

AI: It sounds like his Pacific Market was quite unusual at the time, because, of course, now, nowadays a supermarket is the major form --

MK: It has everything.

AI: -- of store. It has everything. But at that time it was more usual to, each store would only have one type of good or service, is that right?

MK: Specialty, uh-huh.

AI: So usually you would not have, for example, the butcher together with the produce.

MK: Uh-huh, uh-huh. So, but, and I remember, he didn't really use us kids as a minor. But then, during Easter break, I remember Aunt Michiko, Jin's wife, used to be in charge of the flowers. And she would give me the job, with a chopstick; I would take out the lily stems, the stamens, because they would soil the Easter lilies. And so, that was my job. I'd get a few of these jobs. Of course, that didn't take very long, but we were never told to work in the store, to do any, any kind of a job. But to keep us...

AI: So, once in a while you would have a few --

MK: A few chores.

AI: -- chores, but it wasn't every day that you worked in the store.

MK: And I took advantage of the situation. I remember I often stopped by Pacific Market before I went to the Japanese school, dipped my hand in the senbei container. Put a, helped myself to the senbei and take it to Japanese school and fed everybody in class. I would grab a twenty-five cents bag of potato chips, which is pretty large, so, the employees didn't seem to say anything. So, I took advantage of that as one of my worst things I've done. I guess it's not the... [laughs]

AI: Well, as a child.

MK: As a child, yeah, you'll excuse it.

AI: Right.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

AI: Well, I wanted to ask a little bit about, you said how your father was so busy, but what about Japanese community activities for you and the other kids, and your mother? Did you go to some of the picnics or some of the community gatherings or the Nippon Kan activities?

MK: Yes, we did. I remember my mother took... she went to sewing school and flower school, Mrs. Shoji's flower school, and we participated in kenjinkai. My father was one of the officers in the Okayama Kenjinkai, being that both my mother and father belonged to Okayama. And, I believe he was mostly the treasurer, just before the war he was the treasurer. And, I think that was one of the problems the government had, because I think some of them did help, assisted in Japan, helping in some way. But I don't know if I should go into it now, but that was the time when my father, when my father was picked up by the FBI.

AI: Oh, well, before we go into that --

MK: Oh, okay.

AI: -- why don't we continue, just a little bit more here. I wanted to ask about just one other thing. You said that your father was very much, tried to go to the mainstream --

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: -- and be more integrated in American life, but I'm wondering, I've heard that, from some of the other Nisei that there were some places that you really didn't go because you knew that you might be turned away, certain restaurants or, even going downtown to some of the major department stores, that you might not get served. Do you have any memories about that?

MK: No. Well then again, the different story is, I, we didn't go to department store too often. See, my father had this wholesale connection. So when we got ready for school, we went to the wholesale. And it wasn't one socks that we bought, we had to buy it by six or a dozen, and then put it on the bill. Shoes, I mean, we'd probably get one dress shoe and one school shoe. So, I didn't know too much about the department store selection. I mean, I know this was different. But since there were three of us, we'd walk in and, to this wholesale place and they'll show us an example and we just came home that way and we never could be picking it from a whole lot but if we liked it, well, we got six or twelve of (the socks). So, that was, I thought, a little strange.

AI: A little different.

MK: A little different. So I...

AI: Let me see, I wanted to, we have a little bit of time here. I just wanted to clarify that, when, it was in the year 1941, what, in the fall of '41, what grade were you starting in school that year?

MK: '41? So, okay, I was in the eighth grade.

AI: So, you were in eighth grade and you were still at Washington Junior High School.

MK: Washington Junior High.

AI: Okay.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: Well, where we were before the break, is that we were just about, just before World War II. And of course, World War II was, already in progress in Europe and in Asia.

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: And as a junior high schooler, I was wondering, were you very aware of the war going on in Europe or Asia? Or did you have any idea about that?

MK: No, I have to admit that I was so carefree I really was not that worldly aware of what was happening. I had a stamp collection which taught me geography, but no, I really, like even Pearl Harbor, I mean, when that took place, I mean, I didn't even know where Pearl Harbor was. I had never heard about it, so I... I have to admit that I wasn't aware.

AI: Well, I was wondering if your father or your mother ever commented on the Japanese news, if they said anything about, you know, from reading the Japanese newspapers or hearing on Japanese radio anything of that sort.

MK: Well, he said, "We're in trouble," because of the export/import, I mean, that part, portion would be definitely... and so I think he had some kind of premonition because this is why he opened the market up. Because he said, "Because Japan is at war for such a long time, the export business will not continue the way it is." And so, I think this is why he was thinking more on the local level, the market business.

AI: I see.

MK: But how much he... business he never really shared. So I wasn't aware.

AI: Right. Well, of course, you were younger, and you were a girl, too, so...

MK: Yeah, a girl. [Laughs]

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

AI: Well, so tell me about the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed, December 7, 1941. How did you find out about it? What, what happened that day?

MK: You could just feel the change of your parents' demeanor. They were speechless, really. They didn't say much. They really didn't say -- I think that they were trying to spare us of the concern, worry. Like, we're in trouble, we're in trouble. And like my mother had warned me that her status as treaty merchant, so now the treaty will be gone, so she kind of knew that, well, there's double trouble for her, because she's not like the majority of the Isseis. So it was the unknown, and I think they were really dumbfounded. They didn't know... yeah, but you can tell, the way they moped around, or the showing of the, the demeanor was so different. I can't express it.

AI: Did you actually hear it yourself, on the radio? Or did someone --

MK: No I didn't, I... and the thing is, the unfortunate part is, I think we only took the Sunday Times because my parents didn't read the English paper. They took, subscribed to the Japanese paper. But for the kids they subscribed to the Sunday paper, just for the comics. [Laughs] So it was through the radio, and then the filtering down of the news, the hubbub, the telephone calls.

AI: So what did you think, what was your reaction when you finally heard about this bombing?

MK: You know, the bigness of it, I mean, it just, I didn't have that impact. It just goes to prove to you how ignorant I was. Even to be scared, to see the enormity of the problem. I think I wasn't as sharp as what the current kids are these days because they have so much media coverage, and, you know, we didn't have TV, definitely, and so... I'm a visual person, so I think more so.

AI: Well, and when you were mentioning about your mother's worry about her status. Since she did not have the same immigration status --

MK: Right.

AI: -- is what you were saying.

MK: Right.

AI: Were you worried that she might possibly be deported back to Japan?

MK: My mother warned us that it might be, because there's, there will be no longer a treaty. And so, she says, "Komatta, komatta, it's a problem, it's a problem." But she didn't know. She really didn't have friends in her similar status either, so you really can't even cry on each other's shoulder. So it was kind of a strange situation.

AI: What happened the next day? It was Monday when you went back to school.

MK: When I went back to school? There was one gal, and I don't even remember whether it was a Caucasian or an Asian, but opened this newspaper up and flashed (it) in front of me a picture of one figure, and it was the (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). And we used to subscribe to the (Seattle Times). This was the (Intelligencer). And it was a picture of my dad. And after she flashed it, well then she took off. Didn't say anything. And it's haunted me and haunted me. And to this day I've never tried to even retrieve that picture. But then somewhere along the line one of our relatives, I think it was my brother Bob that got the (Seattle) paper with that one that I have. And that itself is so hurtful because, gosh, a man who is so free, and to do his thing, always smiling and so energetic, (now) he was really just so controlled by another power. I mean, like the FBI. They didn't have any uniform or badge or anything on, but you could tell my father had to take, for a change, he had to take orders from somebody else. [Laughs]

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

AI: Well, let's back up a little bit. So, after Pearl Harbor, then, there were some of the Issei Japanese men in the community --

MK: Yes.

AI: -- were picked up by the FBI right away.

MK: Right, right.

AI: Immediately.

MK: Right. He was not in the first sweep. So...

AI: What did you hear about the others, though? Were you aware that, or your parents were --

MK: Well, my father came back and he was sighing a relief. And he was naming off the people that were (...) picked up. And they didn't mean too much to me because they were such big leaders and I really had never known them personally. And I remember, he was very heavy with this. And it bothered him. But he was relieved. I could tell he was very relieved. And then, I think it was the second sweep when Singapore fell, that was the time when a second sweep, which was when my father and so many others were picked up.

AI: Well, before he was actually picked up, did you... did he or your mother say anything about the possibility that he might be taken? Or did he, I know that there were some men who actually had a suitcase packed.

MK: Oh, no, not to that extent, no. He didn't think so. But I remember he was concerned, he was shocked, and somewhat, he was relieved. But it was just, it seemed like it was just hanging, (...) dumbfounded. But he, I didn't see that he was packed. But I remember when the FBI actually came, though. He was searched, bodily searched, and he did have a wad of money, which was four hundred (or four thousand) or something. It was rolled bills. And, in those days, you know, we didn't have these drops, banks, drops or whatever, I guess. So he had it on his body, and of course they took, stripped him of everything. They searched all the kids' room, the back room, and then they came back to him and they told him to put something together. And the only thing I... just a regular brown bag, he threw his toilet articles in. And then he was off. There was no suitcase. And I think the picture shows that it's just a paper brown bag. It wasn't even full, it was just about a quarter full. And he just had, tucked it under his arms. But, yeah, I thought, I thought, "Gee, Papa's always the boss, always ordering people around," and now he was like a little puppy. He... other people were controlling him for a change, which I never saw, and that was a funny turnover of events. That, even as a kid, you feel, gee this is scary.

AI: Well, it must've been scary that these strange FBI people come in.

MK: Right.

AI: Did, did they identify themselves? Did they say, "We're the FBI?"

MK: Yeah, they did say it, and they flashed their FBI card. And the worst part, I felt, was, we had furniture, and you know the dust catcher under the sofa, when you lift over the sofa, underneath is a... they slit it open, you know, to see if anything was hidden. And they, we had albums stacked and they were thumbing through it and they ripped off a lot of pictures. And from what I... they didn't rip off all of 'em but I have some and they were pictures of the lumberyards, the business, the transactions as my father was doing. I have some that's leftover, which definitely tells the story that he was out in the (lumberyard) and that was his primary export item.

And I remember, I thought, well, they were after the money. So I even said, well, the piggy bank, I said, "Did you want the piggy bank?" To an FBI, I even said that to him. He said, "No, you're a U.S. citizen." So he didn't touch the piggy bank. And I thought, in a child's mind, you thought, well that's strange, he took my father's money but he didn't want my money. But he didn't look through, and my father said -- and then the way they would tell you, is, oh, you know, "We just need to take him down to the office to interrogate him a little further." And that was it. I mean, we thought, well you know, he hasn't done anything wrong, he'll be back. I mean, that's what I told myself, he'll be back. Well, he didn't come back.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MK: And then we were told to come and see him. So, my mom didn't drive so we took the bus, and three of us kids followed my mom. We went to the immigration office, and through, behind the bars, we visited him. Well, he was getting ready to be sent off to Montana.

AI: Did you know that at the time?

MK: No, no. We didn't know where he was gonna go. Then, well, my father, being the clever one, he slipped, through the bars, a piece of paper, oh, one-sixteenth of even this sheet, real small piece, wadded and crumbled and he kinda passed it to my mom. And I guess she told him in Japanese, but I didn't hear her so I don't know. But he very discretely passed this paper on to my mom and then we bid our goodbye. And I thought we were gonna see him again, or he may come back, but it didn't seem like -- well so, my mother has another kind of a hurried, rushed, and she clung on to my younger brothers and we took the bus home and we went home, she opened the door and she quickly went behind the bookcase. It was a, well, he had the Okayama ledger. And, and she quickly took that out. Well, the FBI looked behind the bookcase, but they missed it, (...) or the bookshelf that was leaning on this side. The ledger being that it was so much longer than the other books, why he had tucked in there. Without even looking at it I remember my mother quickly took it down to the basement and burned it up. And she told me that if they found this they would probably find other names to big donors, I guess, and they will get 'em into trouble. So, I remember she didn't even look at it, she just quickly burned it, burned it up. And I thought, "Well, this is strange." And that's all she said, that if they -- and I didn't think the kenjinkai was any, they did spy work or sabotage. I mean, they were help, actually, you know. The kenjinkai was a helping group. But anyway, I remember that's what they did.

And later on when the peace came, I remember my father was kind of blamed for taking off with the Okayama money, Okayama Kenjinkai money. But wherever it was deposited... everything in my father's name was taken, put into the alien property custodian fund. So, he was... and then, for his business, he never had a personal account. Everything was charged to the business, even our shoes and our socks that I remember. And same with the car, they told us it was mise no car, meaning that it belongs to the store, or my father's car, the sedan, was the store. And he didn't have a personal account because all the money was always recycled into the business. And so, I found out, when you're stripped of everything, I think it was, that was so devastating. So yeah, it was... it's vivid. I mean, certain things are so vivid.

AI: What, about the ledger, so at that time, your father was the treasurer for the Okayama Kenjinkai.

MK: Right.

AI: And as you mentioned, it was a service organization, it was --

MK: Right.

AI: -- a club of people who all came from that same area.

MK: Right, we would help them and... uh-huh.

AI: Right, and so the ledger probably had, recorded the donations that people gave --

MK: Exactly.

AI: -- as charity to help other people in the club, or to, for the club activities. But he must have been very fearful about what could happen to people who were listed as donors.

MK: Right, right. So, well after, I mean, after my mother went through the process, I said, "What is it?" And she told me, "We have to destroy this because the ones who donated so much money, we would get them -- if we, if they look at this they'll get, they'll get into the same problem Dad, Otosan,was in." So then I understood why she had to do this. And without really explaining it, after the fact, then she, we would say, "Well, what was all this about?" And she would explain it, and well, you can understand. But then, later on, I heard that oh, well, Tsutakawa, the reputation of the Tsutakawa again. Tsutakawa took off with the Okayama money. But he had no way of returning it because everything that was in my father's possession, well, he was stripped. And it, from what I understand I think it was only about two thousand dollars. But in those days, I guess it was sizeable. So, we have to accept it, that it was. But there was that mention... it hurt me so much because I couldn't imagine my father doing something that wrong. But he, there would be people who was curious, thinking he took off with it, you know. But anything that belonged to him, it was stripped.

AI: Everything was confiscated?

MK: Every bit. Because insurances he took out on me for the education fund, like I mentioned, small print, when I became twenty-one I would get two thousand dollars. My father called it the education fund, but he was alive, in Japan, because I had come back and he was still in Japan. So, because he was alive, well, the New York Life had to send it to the alien property custodian. So I, this is why I lost another big source of money to go to school.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

AI: Well, what, when your father was actually picked up by the FBI, when was that? That was in February, was it?

MK: February 21st, I think.

AI: Of 1942?

MK: '42. Because in the newspaper it's in the February 22 so of course it was the day after. That was the big news.

AI: Right. And so then sometime after that, after February 21st, then you visited him?

MK: Within a week, less than a week, uh-huh.

AI: At the immigration --

MK: And I think he was already being -- he had his interrogation and they decided, well, he's gonna have to go to, move on to Montana. And so I think this is why he was given permission to have a visitor. And so, and I don't even remember these telephone calls, or whatever, but Mom said we have to go. And so we, it was February, we have our coats on. So I remember it was on the cool side. And we went to visit him. And it was our last goodbye.

AI: So then, your father was gone. And he, eventually you found out that he was in Montana?

MK: Montana, Montana. Missoula. Missoula, Montana. There were a few camps, but it was Missoula. And he met some people who were on the Italian luxury liners, other nationalities that were put there. And then this is before we moved. He had requested his violin. And I guess he had some free time, at recreation time, so this is why -- because of that, well, we still have the violin, because we sent it to him, and that was when -- I even have his notes that he wrote, he was writing the violin music to play with the shakuhachis. And then I guess he played some with the Italian luxury liner musicians. So, that gave me some comfort to think that it wasn't all that depressing. He had some recreation, or time to forget about it.

AI: So, you had some letters from him while he was in Montana, and before you were removed out of Seattle, before you left Seattle?

MK: Not too many, but the few that we got, let me see, are you talking about from in camp?

AI: Before you went to camp.

MK: Not, not, not to our home. I don't, I don't remember any. But the ones that we got in camp I remember. They were all blacked out. You know, it's unfortunate because we went to Japan. We had to unload and thin out all the things. So again, we went to camp with two suitcase, but then again, to go to Japan, we had to screen out some more of that, because my mother had a brand new portable sewing machine and we couldn't take that. I mean, we had to just keep leaving things behind.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

AI: Well, when was it that you found out that you all would have to be leaving Seattle? When did you find out about that? You were still in school, and...

MK: In school, and then, evacuation, I don't even know the exact date, but it wasn't more than a week. We knew the evacuation was gonna happen and so, in different areas, were, had different dates. And so, we had to thin out what belongings and turn it into cash, because, as I remember, we, my mom didn't even have a checking account. So, I remember my piano, my mahogany piano, it was beautiful, never played well, but anyway, when you know that you're gonna lose it, you know, it was kind of sad. But an Italian neighbor down the block bought it for fifteen dollars, and to avoid the curb, well, she, they had to push it along on the street. And there it went. And my mom and dad had a lot of dishes; they were actually sashimi dishes with the shoyu, little extra dish -- nobody really wanted them because for the American dishes, it just didn't fit in. But my folks had some nice things. But we just had to leave it. What we could sell, we sold. But I know we didn't do well.

AI: Did, was your house going to be rented out? Or do you know what, how your mother took care of that?

MK: I don't even know what happened. I don't know what happened. But I remember it eventually sold. It was under the name of my cousin, George. But they got two thousand in equity, and my father was saying, "Well, that, there's a little money, seed money for you there when you go back to America." But it was gone, because George had his hard times and he had to use it. So, when I came back I found out a few surprises, because things that my father thought there might be, the education fund, that, house mortgage, you know, the equity fund, but it wasn't there. So that's when Mr. Moriguchi helped me out for my tuition.

AI: Well, before, just before you and your family were leaving Seattle to go to Puyallup, do you remember what you brought with you? Here you were in junior high, what were you told that you could bring with you and what did you take? How did you get ready?

MK: Well, basically, we were told "only what you can carry." And a little thrill out of all this sadness was, my mother said we have to go buy some suitcase. We had been to Japan before, we had some, but she said, "You can buy the, find the biggest suitcase that you can find in the store. So we went to Yesler Way, where there was a Jewish store, clothier or dry goods store. And so she gave us the permission we can buy the biggest. Usually you enryo and buy the, get the smallest, but she said, "You can get the biggest." And in those days we didn't have so-called brand names, so, sure enough I went for the biggest suitcase. And it was kind of thrilling to be able to go to a regular store and come home with a suitcase. So, I remember my brothers all got, got their suitcase and we walked home with it, or rode the bus home with it.

AI: Do you remember the actual day that you left Seattle, what was that like?

MK: It was in April, but I don't know the exact date.

AI: And what happened when you left? What, where did you go? What did you do as you were leaving?

MK: We went to some central place, beyond that it's all a blur. I don't remember.

AI: Were there a lot of neighbors and friends there at the same location?

MK: Well, there weren't too many Japanese living close by, so I don't remember. It was maybe one, two, two, three Japanese on the block, I'm counting both sides. And I really don't even, they weren't even living in the same block when we went to Puyallup or Minidoka in the same block, so we got all split up. I think the J-town people pretty much stayed together, but we were just kind of fill-in, I think.

AI: Do you recall much at all about that day that you were leaving?

MK: You know, you block it away and I'm surprised how much I don't remember. Because yesterday at the high school reunion, they -- some people vividly remember when I left and all, but they said they threw me a party but I don't remember it.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

AI: Well, I guess we'll get started then. And, today is August 4, 2003. We're continuing our interview with Marion Tsutakawa Kanemoto, which we began yesterday at the Minidoka reunion. And Marion, thanks again for coming back today.

MK: Oh, thank you.

AI: I, we had talked about your father being picked up by the FBI in February of 1942. And I wonder if you would just hold up this copy of the newspaper.

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: I'm sorry, he was picked up the twenty-first, but the paper came out --

MK: On the twenty-second, on the Sunday, the front page.

AI: And can you point out your father there?

MK: This is my father. His name is not listed in the captions, but, I think Mr. (Gosho) is one of them. I think this is him. And to look at this, even sixty years later, I mean, it is sad. It is sad, because the man that I idolized is just carrying a paper brown bag with his toilet articles. And I didn't see him for the next eighteen months.

AI: Thank you for holding that up. And I wanted to ask you, after your father had been taken away, and you were then living at home with your mother and two younger brothers, what was daily life like without your father there?

MK: It was awkward. You just -- definitely awkward, because my mother was so dependent on him, being an Issei who didn't speak any English and, we were definitely minors, and the communication with the telephone. There was no TV so our source of information was very limited. And since we didn't live in J-town, I mean, we just didn't have neighbors to share the sad experience. So, I think she was typically, the Japanese style, being very quiet. I mean, you could kind of tell. It's hard to express that, that demeanor, but it was, don't have to say anything, you just feel how sad it is.

AI: Well, I wanted to ask you also, when your father was taken like that, here you were about age fourteen, what did you think was happening? I mean, the FBI coming to your house, taking him away. What was your, even as a child that age.

MK: Well, I knew the FBI is really big. I mean, even in the black and white movies that we saw in those days, (in) the black and white (FBI) was really an authority figure. And people feared them. And then, but then when they were in the regular suit, street suit, it wasn't so much. But to flash their badge, that was pinned on them, underneath their suit, inside. But, and then, of course we've been trained, brought up to obey any authority figure so that's what we did. And, I thought well, you know, my dad can't be a criminal, so I mean, he'll be back, he'll be back. They said that he's gonna, they're gonna interrogate him further, but I never thought that that would be the end for a few months. That's for sure.

AI: Well, when your father didn't return, after several months, did you start getting a feeling or wondering, as a child, wondering if maybe he was a criminal, maybe he had done something bad?

MK: Kept wondering. But my mother reassured me that no, he's not a bad person. And the only little glimmer of hope, or what do you call -- not being singled out, where there were several other Japanese men who were picked up. And they were in the respectable position, like the Japanese school teachers, and ministers. So they, you automatically assume that they're very good people. And my father was, and my mother kept saying, "Well, it's because your father did important work in the community work." And she told us in such a way that it, we were proud that, well he was a leader, a good leader. And he was a suspect, but you know, she reassured us that he wasn't a bad person.

AI: What about the reaction from some of the other kids who became aware that your father had been taken by the FBI?

MK: Well, it's interesting how when it's an awkward position, there are people who just stay away. They don't know how to comfort you or to... so they were either the comforters or the ones who didn't ... just actually stayed away. I have an autograph book that in those days we really cherished. And I have many entries in them. And to this day, the ones who made the entry -- I brought it to the reunion -- but they're the ones who still remember, and actually a professor of sociology, (Teruo) Jitodai came up to me and said, "Do you remember we gave you a party, a going-away party?" Well, believe it or not, I don't remember at all. And then he said -- once I got on the Gripsholm, I wrote the class a letter, and he said he was really choked up. And he said it was so sad.

AI: Oh, and that was --

MK: because he didn't know -- I mentioned the fact that I didn't know what was gonna happen in the future. And it was really happening. And I don't remember writing the letter, so I had to tell him that, "I'm sorry, I don't remember. I must have been in shock." I mean, just being like a sheep, being herded and just obediently listening to what I had to do.

AI: So, the letter you were mentioning, that was later, from when you were on the ship, the Gripsholm?

MK: Gripsholm.

AI: But back, earlier, in, in spring of '42, it sounds like it was also a very shocking time, very hard to, hard to deal with, as a family, with your father gone.

MK: Right.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

AI: Well, I wanted to ask about that period, that spring of '42. You mentioned that some of the other Japanese leaders had been taken, such as the language school teachers.

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: So, did you continue going to Japanese language school?

MK: No, that was definitely stopped as soon as the Pearl Harbor was mentioned, you know, struck, yeah.

AI: Well, what about some of the other changes in that period?

MK: I believe we did try to finish, until the day of evac-, or the week before the evacuation, we did attend the junior high school, because I did remember the time when a classmate came up and showed me that other picture of my father on the front page.

AI: Do you remember, before having to leave Seattle, did you... I heard a lot of other families burned or got rid of a lot of Japanese things. You talked about the ledger already, that your mother had burned.

MK: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

AI: But were there other things that you got rid of or burned up?

MK: No, I don't remember any other things, but I know where I live now, or close to Florin town, there were homes that were burned and people burning pictures of the tennoheika or other items that they... military, like kendo or judo, any martial arts material, they burned.

AI: But in your home, you don't really recall doing too much of that.

MK: No, I don't remember my mother destroying anything, other than the ledger. That was only in the protection of the Nikkei men who had donated to the Okayama Kenjinkai.

AI: Right. Well, now we're talking about, yesterday, we were talking about getting ready to leave Seattle, and that you were gathering at a place, at a location where you then got on the bus and were taken away. Do you remember anything about knowing where you were going?

MK: No, absolutely not.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

AI: So when you showed up at the Puyallup Fairgrounds, what, what went through your mind?

MK: Well, I attended the fairgrounds before in a happier situation. But it was cluttered with a lot of barracks, and certainly it looked different. But I think it's being a child, I don't remember it being that devastating. I didn't feel the enormity of what we're being faced with. It just seems a little ignorant on my part. But I just didn't have that foresight or the feeling.

AI: So, when you were there at Puyallup, what was your living condition like for you and your family?

MK: Oh, definitely, just a barracks, and you know that it was pine lumber because as the days went by, the raw lumber would dry up and the knots would fall and then you have a peek-a-boo hole through the walls, and as you know, or as you've heard, the ceilings were not finished on the top so you can hear babies crying or arguments in the family. And that was one thing my mother often used to quiet us with the fights, sibling rivalry. And she would say, "Well, the neighbors will hear so don't behave that way." And this is typically Japanese, how others look at you, and so she used that.

AI: Well, now here you were, now the oldest of the kids since James was in Japan.

MK: Right.

AI: Did she... and you were the daughter.

MK: Right.

AI: So, did your mother expect you to act like an older sister, and were you supposed to be in charge of the boys and --

MK: Right, I was, uh-huh.

AI: Even at Puyallup where...

MK: Right, well, for the interpreting or filling out papers that came. It wasn't, as I remember, it wasn't bilingually written. So I helped her write the letters, because my brother Bob was twelve, and so he was still young. So, yes, I was, I kind of became the head of household.

AI: So that was quite a responsibility at age fourteen.

MK: But not even knowing that it was a responsibility. You just automatically did it. But, yes, that's what I was. I mean, being that my mother relied on, the Eng-, the language barrier, to overcome that, I had to help her.

AI: Well, is there anything that stands out in your mind that stands out about Puyallup at all? Anything that's vivid about that experience?

MK: Well, it's certainly not the camp that we knew, that we shared with my father. It was community eating, the latrines, and the showers. I mean, it was certainly a new experience. But then fortunately, it was only three months before Minidoka was ready for us, that, as you're just getting used to the situation, you're already hearing that we're gonna be moving to another place. So, I don't think it, we really had the time to really feel, you know, how bad things are, or whatever. Everybody was in the same boat, and I think that was (comforting), you know, if you please, that's about what it is. It's, everybody's in the same boat, so you can't complain. You know, you have to gaman, you know.

AI: So, earlier, when your father was taken away, there weren't as many people in that same situation. But at Puyallup, at least, there were many people in your same situation.

MK: In, a few, not too many, I mean, we never got together, those particular families, because, I think we were just staying very close to, with your immediate family and, again, we just didn't have the communication means like several phones. There's only one phone to a family, if you're lucky, you know, in those days. [Laughs] So...

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

AI: Well, so then, speaking of Minidoka, what happened next? You took the train?

MK: Train. Lot of this is just a blur. Yes, we were herded onto a train. And I remember we had everything tagged. And I still remember the MPs lined, they were low-ranked GIs but, nevertheless, they were there with rifles. And we just did what we were told to do. And now that I see it, I mean, gee, that was so dumb. I mean, I'm sure, this day and age, I mean, there would have been much more violence or people would fight that. But we just went along with it. And I didn't see anybody misbehaving, out of line.

AI: What, what went through your mind when you saw these MPs with their guns?

MK: It was frightening, so that, more so, it kept you in line to do exactly what you're told to do.

AI: Well, then --

MK: It's very passive, isn't it?

AI: Well, I think when you see the guards with the guns right there, I can understand that it would be very frightening.

MK: Yes, it is.

AI: Then, after the train ride, you arrived at Minidoka. And what, what did you see?

MK: The barrenness was the -- you know, Seattle was not built up and we didn't have a whole lot of skyscraper, but, as you approached Minidoka, (absolutely) no trees, (...) and, here from the Northwest we were surrounded by these green forests. And so, it was really another, completely another world. We weren't talking about another planet in those days, but, I mean, it was definitely dry, flat, especially Minidoka. And now that I've visited seven of the ten camps, Minidoka, of all places, they had not even a mountain or a rock to look at. [Laughs] So, again, we just had to accept it. And then when you look at the gates, sure, they were barbed wires, guard towers. We sure stuck together with the family.

AI: What kind of, again, what kind of condition did you have here in Minidoka, with your family?

MK: Okay, we were assigned one of the larger, which was next to the two person, and we had one next to it that was for up to anywhere from four to six people. So we were lucky that way. And we were (given), it was army cots, and I remember, the day-by-day. I mean, we would hear what others were doing to break up the rooms within so if we had any extra sheets or blankets we would use that as partitions. And we had no covering for the window, so we used extra pillowcase or whatever, towel or whatever to... otherwise, you know, it's not only protecting ourselves from people seeing you from the outside, but the sun glaring in, the hot sun coming in during the daytime. That was something else, too. And then the dust, I mean, people talk about it today, but, dust was just something. It just really gathered. I mean, you can dust and then feel it every day, every hour. And then, you think that you were breathing this, breathing this.

AI: Sounds miserable.

MK: So, it was. I mean, and then, our family had experienced camping in the San Juan Islands and it's far, far different. [Laughs]

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

AI: Well, in Minidoka, you were there through the summer and then also in the fall, I think the high school didn't, the junior/senior high school didn't start up until later, in November.

MK: Right, about a month later. We were about one, four to six weeks later, I believe. And I actually rejoiced at that news for some reason. I had joined a little, with friends, in the next block, in seventeen, we had a little knitting circle and that's where I went every day. And I was among older people. And that was my security. And I didn't mind that there was no school, for that short duration.

AI: When, so tell me more about the knitting circle. Who were some of the people who were part of the circle?

MK: Oh, my father's bookkeeper, who was an older Nisei, (Mina Kimura) was -- just recently passed away -- but she was my mentor. She was my strength. And she was a doer and so I just joined them and I learned a lot from her, the American ways. And of course my mother joined us also, my cousin (Hide Tsutakawa Yada) joined the group, so it was my happy little circle.

AI: So you had a group of women and girls --

MK: Right.

AI: -- doing some knitting and other handwork?

MK: Uh-huh. And my mother always had the philosophy from the Seattle days, that if I finish a garment I can start on another one. So, really, I made a sweater a week, for my brother, or a vest, or whatever. I never did knitting before that time, so, so long as you kept busy, I mean, the... I can't say it was real sad, I never sat in a corner and cried or anything, it was just...

AI: So it was a way to keep busy and...

MK: Keep busy and, uh-huh. And for my age group, I mean, really there weren't too many things we could do. Oh, the funny thing that no one really mentions is there were a few of those love magazines, Cosmopolitan, True Confession. By the time one friend offered it to me the magazine was all limp. You know, being fourteen and fifteen we were beginning to do those naughty things. But anyway, someone passed it on to me and said, "You want to read it?" Of course, my fath-, my mother didn't know English that well, so it was no big deal. But if it was my father, I'm sure he would've known. And he wasn't around, so I read a few and I learned some shocking things, but nevertheless, the magazine was actually so well-read, and passed around that I thought, well, as I think back on it, that was really a naughty thing to do. But that really did happen.

AI: Well, that must've been one of the few entertaining things around.

MK: Right. Isn't it -- [laughs] -- funny?

AI: And in those days, I think those True Confession kind of stories of these love affairs and so forth, that was considered very racy.

MK: Right, right, right. So we were typical teenagers, I guess.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

AI: Well, so then when school started that fall, what grade were you put into?

MK: I went into tenth grade, tenth grade. (...) No, excuse me, freshman. Freshman year, right, freshman (...). And that was the time, see, I didn't know where my, all my other friends were, in which block or whatever. There was no registry that was posted, so, that was kind of a welcome beginning. So, I really acquainted myself with the friends, where they were living. But we, of course, no family would really want outsiders to come into their one-room apartment, so that never happened. If we met we would have to meet in the cafeteria or, and I wasn't there very long, but movies that they showed (...) maybe once a week. But, I guess the finding of friends was the thrill in those days.

AI: Do you recall much about school? Is there anything about school that kind of comes to mind when you think back on that school in Minidoka?

MK: Well, I had an exceptionally nice core teacher who was Margaret Pollock. And she wrote to me even after I left camp. She knew where I was going, back to Japan. And even during my nurse's training, I believe (...), I followed her. And she had a mini-stroke, and she recovered and she sent me a couple of Christmas cards, letters, and then I never heard from her. But she was definitely leaning toward the missionary side. I never knew her that personally, but definitely a beautiful person who was married to a mining engineer who spent a lot of time away from the city, so I think this is why she chose this type of work. And she was the closest to me. And then I remember other teachers also, but... they were very kind. I mean, I never experienced... they were exceptional people because I never experienced any unkind word or actions from them. But definitely it was a very sparse situation.

AI: When you say "sparse," what do you mean?

MK: Oh, the furniture, of course. And the material, the textbooks.

AI: So there really was very little?

MK: Very little, very little, just enough to run a school. And I think if the teacher wasn't strong it could've, you could lose the whole class, I'm sure.

AI: Well, in fact, I heard that sometimes there were some difficulty with some of the kids perhaps not being as disciplined as when they were back home. What about your younger brothers? Did you have any difficulty keeping them behaving well and doing what they should do?

MK: Right, well, being that they were young, I don't think my mother had too much trouble. My mother was a disciplinarian. Being proper was so important in the family. But being that we were there in Minidoka for just a short while, maybe about fifteen months, yeah, about fifteen months, I understand that yes, things began to, families began to fall apart because as they found friends they would go to another cafeteria. Yes, that was beginning to happen, where you would learn that other blocks served better food. So I guess they had some, each block had some autonomy from the ration that they received. And the teenager would be the first one to find the better cafeteria, and they would go and eat with their friends. And I think -- and that's believable, isn't it? I mean...

AI: Did you do that sometimes? Did you...

MK: I don't think I ever ate at another block. I'm, being, again, without a father, I think you just fear that you don't want to break up that nuclear family, so I remember we were all always together. So, I don't even remember going to another block, maybe just seventeen and nineteen. Isn't it strange? I mean, (...) we're confined, you really can't get lost, but still, that's, that was my area; and then walking to high school and back.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

AI: That December, 1942, as I understand, there was some Christmas celebration. Do you remember anything about that?

MK: I don't remember. It was sparse, and it's not the kind of Christmas that we used to have in Seattle. [Laughs]

AI: Well, and --

MK: That I knew.

AI: And the same way with New Year's, that New Year's, January 1943. And then, of course, your birthday was officially celebrated January 3rd. And you would have been turning, let's see, fifteen?

MK: Fifteen.

AI: Do you have any memories of that New Year's --

MK: No.

AI: -- or your birthday or anything?

MK: No, really nothing. New Year's was a big thing in our family in Seattle, but I don't remember anything. Christmas, I remember, yeah, people tried to make decorations, but, you know, when you improvise too much, it, you kinda lose it. [Laughs]

AI: It's just not the same.

MK: It's not the same, right.

AI: Well, shortly after the New Year's, I think it was that January 1943 that the so-called "loyalty questionnaire" came out?

MK: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

AI: And do you recall any talk about that or hearing -- of course, you were young --

MK: Young.

AI: So you were not, you didn't sign it yourself.

MK: Right.

AI: Did you hear any discussion?

MK: There was a lot of talk, but right, it didn't concern me, so I really wasn't into it. But I did hear lot of the older people, I mean, young, youth people talking about it. Uh-huh.

AI: And about the same time, I think, the army started recruiting for volunteers from Minidoka.

MK: Right. I think that really began just as I was, we were going to, getting ready, or toward that time period. So it was... we had some major problems ourselves so it wasn't our concern.

AI: Right.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

AI: Well, so then during this period, you were... you did receive some letters from your father.

MK: Yes.

AI: And what, do you recall much about the kind of thing that he wrote you?

MK: The only thing I remember was, the few letters that we did receive were inked out in black. And some people had holes, I think they cut it out with razors so you had a holey, holey letter. But I, the one that I remember is, it was inked out. And just to know that you have this letter from Father. I mean, that itself was the comfort. Though you didn't get any meaning, at least you knew he was alive. It was his penmanship. So I think that's where we picked it up from, that he was alive, he was well, but the meaning, or his thoughts were not conveyed to us, not through the black marks.

AI: That must have been scary, just waiting for the next letter, just to know --

MK: Right.

AI: -- that he was still well. Well, then, at some point you heard that he had been transferred, that he was no longer in Montana, that he had been moved to...

MK: Lordsburg, New Mexico. And I think at that time he was asked if he wanted to repatriate to Japan. And I think my father consented then, because he knew that, from Montana, I believe, several men were interrogated and sent back to their family camps. But, being that my father was still sent to another camp, federal camp, that meant that he wasn't gonna be released. And then, so, at that time, he also said that, well, maybe the only other way we can get together is either go to Japan, and we can unite, or else go to Cryst-, or the other choice would be going to Crystal City. From, after the, you know, the war and all ... just only in the recent years I learned that what Crystal City was, a kind of an "ideal" camp where families were able to cook their own meals and be a unit. But of course, not knowing about that...

AI: And at that time you really didn't know what your father was going through?

MK: Right.

AI: But all you knew was he had been moved to Lordsburg.

MK: Right. Right.

AI: And then was he transferred one more time?

MK: No. So he had warned us that we may be going to Crystal City. So I heard that many times. And about going to Japan, but it was so far removed. I mean, I didn't know anything about these exchange ship, how they did it. So I didn't worry about it. And then, and then he was, I guess it was six or eight months later he was cleared and sent back to Minidoka to join us. But within a very short time, I think he was with us maybe one or two weeks, well, they chased him down and said, "Well, this is your last chance. There's space for you on the Gripsholm." It was only about ten years ago I found out why they had to chase him down. Because, well, the excuse was if my father was able to join us in Minidoka, well, that kind of met a big wish. But, but worrying about his first son in Japan, and his mother, well, that was another thing, but then I think he, he himself forgot about going to Japan, being repatriated, but because Gripsholm didn't have enough passengers to exchange in the prisoner of war exchange, and then my father expressed it once before. They came down and asked him, "Here's your opportunity. Do you want to be exchanged?" And so, in a weak moment, like I said, it was a pressure where he had just come back to Minidoka to join the family, and then because they didn't have enough passengers to exchange, well, they came and begged him to reconsider it. They didn't order us, but this was a request. So I have to remember that it was my father who consented to the repatriation under those circumstances, and same with my mother. And my mother kept saying, "Well, you know, I'm still, there's no treaty. I may just be sent, sent alone. I mean, you guys are citizens, so you can stay here, but" -- so, before we knew it, well, I remember my dad said, "Oh, it's gonna be better in Japan." And what else can he say? And so, within a week or so we were given a -- then sure enough, they couldn't get enough people to exchange, so it was postponed by one whole month. And this is something I learned later, only about ten, twenty years ago I read about that in the, from some papers from Washington. And, so, that's how it was decided that we would go back to Japan.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

AI: So, your father came back to reunite with you in Minidoka. And that was September, I believe.

MK: Yes.

AI: September 1943.

MK: Yes, yes.

AI: And so when he was, came back, what happened? How... what was your reaction?

MK: Well, that was truly a very joyful time. But then again, being a teenager, oh, I had to watch my p's and q's and how I sat, and... he was more the American way. My mother was the Japanese way. And they really did keep us in line. And he was more verbal. So my, my lifestyle was getting a little cramped. [Laughs] I was not an angel by any means.

AI: Well, what were some of the expectations that he had? Here he had been away all this time, he hadn't seen you, and you must have changed a little bit in the meantime. You were starting to grow up a little bit more?

MK: Right. But the thing is, even in Seattle, he wasn't really around at home putzing around. He was out socializing, doing the business. He'd be in and out. We knew, my mom knew exactly what he was doing each day. But to have him constantly in the same room, it was cramping. I mean, it was, you were getting used to that, direct supervision all the time. It was cramping me. But, you know, it's a bittersweet situation. You're happy but at the same time, mmm, you're uncomfortable. [Laughs]

AI: Right. Very happy --

MK: To be honest, that's what it is.

AI: Very happy to have him back, but as a kid, who, you had some freedom before he came and then --

MK: Right.

AI: -- here he was in a very small room --

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: -- with, with all of you.

MK: But then again, you feel normal. That, well, this is the way it's supposed to be. So that when, in that sense, you feel, we're intact, it's, we're normal. I mean, we're complete.

AI: Your family is back together.

MK: Yeah, right.

AI: Well, so then, here's your father, he's telling you that, well, it'll be better back in Japan. You can all be together and your mother won't have to worry about being deported separately.

MK: Uh-huh. She almost thought she would have to be deported herself, just she herself because her, it was she that was the treaty merchant's wife.

AI: So there were all these fearful possibilities.

MK: Right.

AI: And pressures.

MK: And she, she mentioned it, so I'm sure she gave it some thought.

AI: Right.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

AI: Well, as you say, it sounds like the month of September went very quickly, and then...

MK: Then October came when the time for the exchange came. And (...) some Canadians joined us in New Jersey, to join us in the exchange. And I believe they picked up people from Brazil and Uruguay. But they were on the different deck, or the level on the ship. So we never intermingled.

AI: Well, so you took a train from Minidoka to New Jersey?

MK: Yes.

AI: And then in New Jersey is where you actually boarded the SS Gripsholm?

MK: Right, right. And so the boat was detained by about a month.

AI: So, tell me about the trip on the Gripsholm.

MK: Oh, well, the Gripsholm was very nice, actually, very, very nice. We had waiters at the table with a towel. And they pulled your chair out. And so we were treated royally. But, unfortunately, with the seasickness, all the food that was presented us wasn't as appetizing. I used to get motion sickness, so... but this is when my father said, "You see how your good manners do pay off if you... this is the way it's done." So, we really enjoyed it. I mean... uh-huh. (...) I made new friends. (...) I think it was Teiya maru, well, no, on the Gripsholm, too. There were other leaders, of course, Japanese schoolteachers who formed little groups who said from age so and so -- I think it was elementary, and high school, we got together at one of the sunrooms and we started learning our Japanese. And so there was intense Japanese training, which was good and proper to keep us busy. And since I had already been exposed to the Japanese school in Seattle, it wasn't super hard or anything, but that was another social gathering, so that...

AI: Well, so the trip on the Gripsholm was actually quite long?

MK: Yes.

AI: A number of weeks?

MK: Yes, about a month and a half, uh-huh.

AI: So, you had some of these organized activities while you were --

MK: Right. And that, the little classes that we had, I think, is about the only thing I remember. And then eating, I mean, just, as a teenager, that's one of the things you look forward to, but I don't remember too much of the other things that we did.

AI: The Gripsholm, I think, made several stops.

MK: Yes.

AI: In its, in its journey.

MK: Yes, yes. So it was Rio, the first one.

AI: Rio de Janeiro?

MK: de Janeiro. And actually we did not park -- dock at the dockside, it was in the bay or whatever you call it. And I remember the little ships were coming to unload, or the immigration people would be coming on board. And then there were activities going, but they wouldn't allow us to really see too much that was happening, (...) but then I remember we were not docked on the dockside.

AI: And as the Brazilians and Peruvians came, it, you didn't really mix with them?

MK: No, we never really mixed with them because they were on a different floor. So there was so much unknown, unknown. And I learned a lot, you know, later on, after the Information of Freedom Act, '77, then this information came out. But until then, I didn't even know that that's why the boat was delayed by a whole month because they didn't have enough. 'Cause the United States was not at war so they didn't have Japanese prisoner, real prisoners to exchange. So, now, if things are real bad they would have probably, yeah, even literally, took us out of camp and counted us out and exchanged us. I hear that that's, was one of their intentions. That's how the Peruvians were used as you probably have heard.

AI: Exactly. Well, after Rio de Janeiro, then you had some other --

MK: Then we went to Montevideo, which was again, another country in South America, which was Uruguay, and never met them, mingled with them. So this, too -- I don't even know if we were on dockside or what, but I know we were there. And then we took off at night, I believe. Lot of it, we were not allowed... they never encouraged us (...) looking out (...). I don't remember that there was a strict rule order, but anyway, my recollections are very limited. Then they told us, well, we're gonna really have a long journey now. So for about a week and a half, I think it was, when we were going around the cape of Africa.

AI: So you went south --

MK: South.

AI: -- around the Cape of Good Hope, or of Africa?

MK: Right.

AI: And then...

MK: Then we ended up in (...) India, the west side of (...) India, in a little, this was a small port. No warehouses, it was really very, I guess it was a hush-hush deal. And another interesting thing was, you know, this Gripsholm -- it was a white ship, but it sported a blue cross, and that meant that it was (...) a neutral, it was not Red -- well, Red Cross is neutral, but it was a blue cross. So that was the first time I learned that there was such a thing, that there was a neutral ship.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

AI: And I think the place that you stopped in India was called Goa. Is that right?

MK: Goa. Uh-huh.

AI: And so, tell me what happened there.

MK: Okay, we knew (...) the exchange was gonna take place, well, this is something that, of course, we knew was gonna happen. So we obediently packed again, from the room, and I remember we all got off and stayed on the dockside. They gave us a little time, maybe a couple hours on the, on land. They said, "Don't go too far away," but they gave us that little freedom. And then as we were removed, I guess the Gripsholm was getting ready to receive the Americans. And then, then we saw the Americans coming from the Teiya maru and they were walking in a file. And the Americans were real happy and you know, waving. There was a weak moment that my hand went up and waving. And then I had to catch myself, thinking, my gosh. I mean, I did catch myself thinking that this is really happening; one-for-one so they're in single file. Then, when they all left the ship, Teiya maru, well, then almost immediately after, we got in line and marched onto Teiya maru. And then as soon as we entered (Teiya maru) you sensed that this is no luxury liner. It was a freight or troop ship. And so it was a dingy, drab (dark gray outside) color.

And then it was already noontime. So it was soon after we had got on that it was already lunchtime. And that was the time we sat down as a family and, it was rice, just one bowl of rice and some tsukudani, some relish. And being that I had two younger brothers who were curious, they, we looked at it. And, there were little, maybe two or three little brown specks in it. And so, when we looked at it carefully, well, we identified that they were little rice worms, you know, that had been infested in it. And of course, once we knew what it was, well, we would look at each other's bowl to look for more. There were some more -- I think one, or two or three at the most. Then it just turns your appetite. We weren't quite really hungry at that time. So I remember I couldn't even eat it. And then we were settling into our room. I don't even remember what the room looked like, because it was a troop ship and I -- couldn't have been anything fancy. But then dinnertime we were served a little bun and I'm sure Teiya maru baked it on ship, on board. So again, curiously, we would break the bread and also -- [laughs] -- in the bread were little black spots, again, two or three in each little roll. And we identified it, they were beetles, you know, or whatever. So, as kids, (...) I think that maybe the first day we didn't eat much. We, I don't think we even ate, because the Gripsholm food was keeping us alive the first day anyway. [Laughs] But I mean, that's something you never forget. And we already decided, "Wow, this is really gonna be a trip," because we knew we would be on it for over a month, about five weeks. So, the food was sparse, it's not something we remember, except for the worms.

And then again, I remember we had the classes, Japanese classes. And I think the Japanese government had in mind for us. And so, as we approached Singapore they really were encouraging the men, and this, this group of, these group of men were supposedly leaders and senseis, ministers, so they encouraged us to get off, because Singapore was a conquered land by Japan, they wanted us to get off and be the community leaders there. They encouraged us, but my father was, held steadfast that he wasn't going to get off. He was going to go to Japan. But I know, one of my closest friends, who was a Canadian (Ruth Ariga), she had three, there were three girls in that family, and her father was a minister, a language teach-, Japanese language teacher (Mr. Ariga). And he got off and I corresponded with (Ruth) until she died. But they -- and then Japan lost Singapore and so within about a month they lost, the few things that they had, they came back with only the shirt on their backs to Japan. So, these are sad, sad stories. And then when we went to Manila, the same thing happened. But then (...), from the ship (...) you could see these Japanese soldiers -- you can see I'm American. These Japanese soldiers were strutting away on the port, I mean, on the wharf. And there were papayas on (deck), well, that looked kind of festive and nice. I think they were gonna give it to us, you know, as a treat. But they didn't let us off. But again, they encouraged -- whoever they had -- (...) by the time we had landed there to get off. I think there were very few people who got off. But again, Manila was also another (country) occupied by Japan. So, this is what happened.

AI: So they, in some ways, the Japanese were encouraging people, like your father, to become a colonist and to --

MK: Right.

AI: -- to become a leader in the occupying community --

MK: Right, right.

AI: -- the Japanese occupation, then.

MK: Exactly. And then, when we found out in Japan, they really didn't want us. They were struggling. They didn't want more mouths to feed. So we were not welcome at all.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

AI: Well, so tell me then, after you, the Teiya maru then finally arrived in Japan, where, what port was that that you arrived?

MK: Yokohama, I think it was. It's so vague. I can't vouch that it was, but I think it was a port, so...

AI: And what do you recall of that actual, arriving there and realizing you're in Japan?

MK: I really don't remember. There was no fanfare whatsoever because Japan was seriously at war. Things are very depressed. And we, I think we would've had to be given some money to, you know, buy a fare and get back to our destination. So we went to the honke which was in Okayama country, and we found our way. And Grandma, of course, welcomed us and we had the room because she was the only one living in this, it was really a mansion in that part of the country. It was a nice honke home and we made ourself comfortable. And well, at least we had a place to go. And we were one of the lucky ones.

AI: But as you say, they weren't really too happy --

MK: (In) general, the Japanese government was not happy. And then (...) -- when we settled down, my father tried to re-, get reacquainted with his other relatives that we visited in 1938, which always greeted him because, and one of the cousins mentioned that, oh, they loved uncle Joji because he would always come home with the kori with all the Hershey candy and, you know, he was the good will uncle. (...) We were welcomed before, but this time things were different. They weren't about to share anything because it was getting pretty bad, especially the city people. So, it wasn't a happy time by any means. Well, my father was sick all this time with ulcers because he had developed ulcers in even Montana because this, heavy, loss of everything and all the family, and all his employees who were dependent on him. He just felt like they belonged to him. And I remember, (...) -- and at that time it was, milk was the treatment. And I hear now it's, that's no longer, that's probably the worst thing you could do, to drink milk or cream. That was the treatment in those days. So he suffered from that, camp days. And I believe that shortened his life, 'cause he died at sixty-two (from cancer of the stomach).

AI: Well, now here he had tried to think about this being a positive change. He was hoping that, 'course, you'd reunite your family, everyone would be together. And he thought perhaps things would be better. What could he say after you returned and saw the situation in Japan?

MK: Well, I've heard other Issei in a similar circumstances say, well, they said, "Warui koto shita," to bring back their American kids. But my father never really apologized or said, "I made a big mis-," he never said that, but I, you could tell he's suffering so much that I knew, he knew he made the wrong decision. So, again, I think it was more bitter than sweet. [Laughs]

AI: So, tell me, can you kind of describe what this main, the honke, the main family home looked like? What, what kind of a building was it? What kind of space, or the environment around it, what was it like?

MK: Oh, well, it was a contained -- it had, it had a white wall that contained the home. They're very territorial, you know. And they, these are things I learned from my grandmother, but they often -- with the pride, I mean, Japanese, I don't know if it's a bad trait or a good trait, but they have so much pride that they would say -- my grandma used to say that, "Well, this house is especially a good house because the main core, on the roof, that holds the house together, it's one, one tree." Oh, such pride. And all the woodwork on the house walls, or whatever, or the post that's used in the house, the less knots it has, the purer they are, the stronger, straighter they are. So she would go to that extent. And then the tile, it has the family crest on it, or whatever. And (...) the honke had three toilets, one was the guest toilet, which I used to sneak in once in a while because it had the best paper -- [laughs] -- and then the family bathroom, and then one which the maids used. And that was not in the house proper. The ofuro was in another, had a separate, separate building, and the bathroom was a separate building. But, you sense that the -- what is it? -- the pride, but then, they were very proud of it, let's put it mildly. [Laughs]

AI: So, it sounds like the house was quite grand.

MK: Substantial, uh-huh. And then, oh, when we went upstairs, the attic, it was not livable, but it had trunks and shelves full of material things. And these were primarily for guests and for the hoji, the memorial days. So they had beautiful lacquer bowls, I think, at least to serve fifty people and futon, you know, the quilts. Well, those were for guests. Now if you go to Japan, the guests are always treated just royally. Well, see, we were not guests. So, even in the hard times, we were not offered to use these things. And you know, it's a weird kind of a situation where the, it's just reserved for those memorial hoji time, people coming from out of town. But as far as material things, yes, they had lots of chawans, owans, they were all separate, upstairs (in) the attic. And so, I think the more material things they have, that's their mark of wealth, or whatever.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

AI: But on a daily basis, then, what was the condition for you and your little family now that you were here at this main family home?

MK: Well, the earlier part of the war it was okay because Grandma was all by herself. This is actually a step-grandmother, but she's the one who raised my father so they were very close. My father, being the youngest boy, you know how the youngest ones are always favored. So they got along real well. And though she was an okusan,landowner, she went through the process of making takuan, umeboshi, and all these Japanese misos and things to prepare for the rest of the year. It was very interesting to observe. It was an education for me. I didn't really help, help her. But with memory, she didn't have a recipe card, but with memory she made all these things in preparation for the future, the year ahead of them. (Food preparation was observed in 1938.)

AI: Well, and in fact, that you were there for the New Year's of 1944 and also, you would have been turning sixteen then.

MK: Okay, by then my father had to make arrangements for himself, because when Kobe was bombed, the first son's home, the mansion that he had built was (...) totally burned. So he had to evacuate back to the honke. And my honke uncle and my father never got along. My father knew his place, so that was the time he was given his, his portion of his inheritance. (...) About two-and-a half acres, (...) it fed the family (...) for about ten months, not quite a year, I remember. (...) We did the calculation on it. It was only about two-and-a half acres, but anyway, land is very precious, so we were lucky that we even had that.

AI: Right, as the sixth son --

MK: Right, right.

AI: -- as the youngest son, oftentimes there is nothing left for the younger son.

MK: Right, right. But at that time, of course, we didn't have any pots and pans, so...

AI: Did you actually move out of the main home?

MK: After my father -- well...

AI: Tell me what happened.

MK: Clever father. (...) My father, though he was not feeling well, he went up the hill, mountains and found a deserted shack. And piece by piece, the Japanese buildings are, you can take it apart because they're not nailed on. So he took it apart. I think he had some help, but he took it apart and put it on a hor-, cart, that it wasn't a horse, it was a, a ox, oxen, and then brought it down. And he traded the things, the American things that we had like the suitcase, or whatever, with the owner of the shack, deserted shack. Of course, he added other things and then built this, this house for ourselves. It was, certainly was not a house to brag about, but it was a house, a decent house and we went through the Shinto shrine (blessings), when we reached the different stages of the building. And it was a livable house. And so it was built on that two-and-a half acres.

AI: Wow.

MK: And our water came from the well in those areas, all of them. We didn't have running toilets or anything. So, Bob and Richard were all doing the honey bucket thing. You're aware of those. So, they had their chores. And, of course by this time, we had no maids. The previous time we had two maids, you know, catering to us. But this time we were on our own and, I don't know where my father found the money to buy the other building material, I really don't know. But he's very creative in finding ways. So --

AI: So somehow he managed to --

MK: He managed to build a livable house, uh-huh.

AI: And on this two-and-a half acres, what were you growing, and how --

MK: Oh, some rice, and vegetables, green vegetables. But the honke side, the main proper, proper land that was next to the house, I remember Grandmother used to, brag, should I say, "Well, we have eighty-eight persimmon trees." See, persimmon is such a precious fruit for them. Well, they had about five different kinds of persimmon. You'd eat it or prepare it in different ways. So, this is what she, I don't know whether she marketed them or not, but anyway, between the trees she would have her vegetable gardens. But she had a handyman, that's right; she had a handyman that helped her with some of that. But it was only a house away, so we went back and forth to Grandma's house.

AI: So in other words, just a, maybe a kind of a field and some of the trees and the vegetables were growing in between the main house and your house.

MK: Right, right, because it was part of the land that the honke owned that my father got.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

AI: Okay, we're continuing our interview with Marion Tsutakawa Kanemoto. And Marion, I wanted to ask you what it was like, you know, after you came, arrived in Japan and then got settled in with the family. What was it like to start school there in Japan? Did you start school right away after you arrived, or, when was that?

MK: Let's see, December. (...) And we knew that that was the right thing to do, and we had to, we did this before in 1938 as we changed countries. So, yes, (...) I did go into the appropriate, I wasn't set back or anything. This is why it was a kind of a sink or swim situation.

AI: About, around December of 1943, was it?

MK: So I think it was right after New Year's that I started.

AI: Oh, early in '44.

MK: And that was the end of the so-called, what, sophomore year? Sophomore year. And, went to a jogakko. And in my grade there were about 150. And it was not what -- jogakko is not, a senior high school is not (...) compulsory. So, (...) the people who go have to pay the extra money. And so it was, what do you call, selected students, so you realize you can't waste your time just being there. So it was serious.

AI: So, was this a, it was a girl's high school?

MK: Girl's high school. And we had to wear uniforms. And to fit in I remember my mother gave up her black coat, wool coat and made me a uniform. And I remember (...) she used the coat for the body and, and gave up a black wool skirt and made the sleeves out of it. So you can imagine how much she gave up. And only I knew, but... [laughs]

AI: Well, when you first started going to the school, you didn't know anybody there.

MK: No.

AI: It was a completely unfamiliar situation.

MK: Right. Well, fortunately, should I say, my personality is one that I'm not really shy, shy. So, I went in and readily I found a few friends. Not everybody. There were some Japanese girls that were always afraid of me. They never (came) close. They were there, but never mistreated me. The girls especially, no one ever mistreated me or said anything derogatory. There were boys walking to school that would call out over the rice paddies and always called me Amerikajin. And I really didn't realize it, but it's the way I, I'm tall, I always was tall 'cause I grew from thirteen on. And the way I walk, I think my gait is so vigorous that, whether they were intimidated or not, I mean...

AI: So, the boys, anyway...

MK: They would call out, "Amerikajin." And this is during wartime, Amerikajin, so they were not accepting --

AI: So that was actually rather an insult, because --

MK: Right, thinking that hey, I chose to... well, I could say I chose to come back to Japan and then they're still calling me Amerikajin.

AI: Because to them, Amerikajin was the enemy.

MK: Right, so this is why they did not really welcome me. But there were cars, because I couldn't see them, but I knew they were way over on the other side of the paddy. So...

AI: Well, what were some of your coursework like? And, it must have been difficult for you to come into this.

MK: It was, especially history and reading. I wasn't that fluent. I could read some. But I have to give my mother credit. Every night she would go over my material with me, and I had another friend, who I still correspond with, Abe-san, she would copy the work down and then show it to my mother. Well, she was an exceptional student so, (...) this gave the notes to my mother. And we sat down every night and did our homework. And my mother would really find interest in it. And she says, "Oh, it's interesting." But then, my mind was not there at all. My, I'm ashamed for that right now. For all the energy my parents put in, I mean, I was (misbehaving)... I was just not there to learn. But, I did enjoy the home economics, the science, I managed to pass, music, things like that. But it was the reading and history. And it was, when we went, or when I first enrolled, it was Chinese history and it was full of propaganda 'cause they're the enemy at that time, so you, you hear it in such a negative tone. And it more so, it just turns you off. I mean, I sensed that, that's not nice. Because why would they be such a big country with such a history? That much I knew, that it was at one time, they had these dynasties and so forth. They had to be strong and good in some ways. But everything was written in such a negative way.

So did I tell you about home economics? I guess I did tell you about the home economics, the grasshoppers. Oh, I didn't tell you? Oh, we went to the rice fields and caught grasshoppers. We dried them and ground them up and made furikake out of them. And things were on ration, however, I remember we put teriyaki sauce on it. And then, that's what we did for that. I don't know why, but that's the one thing -- I think it's because it grossed me out, that I remember that. And, and then, I think in my senior year, that was the time when the American occupation came, and that was the time I really manipulated or, I did some bad things where, you know --

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

AI: Well, I would like to hear that, but before we get to your senior year --

MK: Oh, you do? Okay.

AI: -- I wanted to ask you a little bit more about this period where you were really trying to adjust to the situation. And here you were struggling with the schoolwork, and then in the meantime, your father was making this new house for you to live in.

MK: Right, right.

AI: And, I wanted to ask about how you felt yourself. You mentioned earlier that here you were American, and inside yourself feeling American, but, I'm wondering, how did you adjust to being in this very Japanese situation, especially the school and classmates and teachers?

MK: So, right. I always had to, I think, to be careful who I was talking to because, shortly after that I was beginning to see American people. So you know, it's like shifting, I mean, the roles.

AI: When you were just, say in 1944, early to mid-1944, still pretty much most of the Japanese school, the Japanese high school that you were in, and I'm wondering, did you ever get asked questions about what you thought about the war?

MK: No, I was never asked about that. And the teachers or the principal never interrogated me. Yeah, that is interesting.

AI: I was wondering if your family was suspected at all, because you had spent so much time in the United States, because you were born there and so forth, and whether you heard whether your mother or father were treated differently by some of the Japanese.

MK: Well, my father was very open and he kind of tried to meet the people that ran the city. And he was not a shy person, so, actually, during the war, war, I mean, I don't remember whether he was questioned or not. But however, when the occupation came in, my father became the best of friends with the police department and the city officials because they needed my father's help. Because as the occupation came in, in the country, no one spoke English. But my father was able to communicate with the occupation that came in and they, you know, they feared these Americans so much that my father was actually, he came and rescued them, and to remodel the ryokan so that the occupation forces could make quarters there to guard the border of Hiroshima and Okayama. The Australians took care of the Hiroshima side. So, they had to have the American side (...). And so my father helped the police force in many ways, that way.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

AI: Well, before that point came, before that time, still in 1944, the war was becoming very, very serious. And as I understand it, things became harder to come by. Things were scarce, food and other things were harder to get. And I'm wondering, what, how did the war touch you and your family? Was your area bombed? What kind of things happened there?

MK: Oh, okay. Well, I remember seeing, (...) Okayama came before Hiroshima, so Okayama was being bombed, the city of Okayama, we lived just on the outskirts where we could see the B-29s, in those days, it was B nijuu kyu, B-29s circling around. And you can actually see the American insignia on the plane. And before this, we used to have air shelter practices, you know, (for) the air raids. And by the time Okayama came, I mean, we heard in the news that oh, Tokyo, Kobe, they were all being bombed. But then by the time they came to Okayama, we no longer had those air raids, I mean, practices. We never even went into the air shelters because -- we had them in our backyard, but we never did that. We just, just stood outside and just saw the plane just circling right above us and going back to drop more bombs on Okayama. That's how long it (continued) -- it kinda desensitized us. I mean, the fear, or whatever, you just have to live it. And otherwise you'd be living in the hole, constantly. But I remember, we just stood outside and watched the plane go... make (circles) around and going back. And we knew that's what they were doing, circling and going back to Okayama to be bombed.

And it was soon after that that Hiroshima was bombed. And, but that was the time that we didn't know what it was. But it was the most beautiful -- in the morning; it was the most beautiful orangey, pinkie, red. I mean, there was... I don't know what you call it. The whole sight was beautiful. Only to hear that it was a atomic bomb, all the buildings burning. Now we didn't see the cloud, but it was the skyline that was all red. But it was after you... hearing what had happened, it makes you choke to think that... and we didn't have any relatives living in Hiroshima so it didn't touch you to that degree, but however, the enormity of it all, we didn't know.

AI: Well, when, even before the atomic bombing, when you saw the B29s coming over and you knew that they were circling around to go and drop more bombs, what must you have been thinking? That here you are, you're American, you know those are American bombers?

MK: You know, you just, you're so numb. Because we'd been hiding in the air shelters for how long? We'd been doing this for almost a year, every time we hear the siren, as a class, when you're in school you do that, you tuck under. And we used to do those air raid practices. And at home you have those little dugouts that we went to, out in the field, rice paddies, that you get desensitized. I think by, by the time Okayama was being hit, I mean, I remember we didn't even go. We did, at night, cover up the window so the lights couldn't be seen, but however, we only had one light bulb anyway, 'cause this is the sparse home that my father built us, so. But, yeah, I think we were desensitized. Living this for months, weeks and months, oh, it wasn't a year, but I mean, by that time...

AI: Were you ever fearful that the bombs would actually come to your area?

MK: Yeah, but I think it's the Buddhist way, you accept it as a fate. I mean, that's the way it was gonna be and we couldn't do anything 'cause no one had arms. We couldn't fight them.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

AI: Well, speaking of fighting, I think you mentioned elsewhere, in one of your writings or in your other history, that the girls' school, you actually had some drills.

MK: Yeah, right.

AI: Could you describe that?

MK: Yeah, it was a naginata. In the mornings we would strip down, have a white top on with the monpe on and we'd have the teams red, (or white on) the hachimaki and it was a kind of a drill that we had. It was cold, it happened to be, I remember it was cold. We all had a bamboo stick and as the commands were called out we would go forward, forward, mae, mae. Meaning, and then we were told that when the shinchuu, Amerika-no shinchuugun comes, you know, dosuruka. So we would go forward forward, and we were told, they didn't come out to say that we would be raped, or whatever, but that's kind of the thing they were preparing us for. And I remember we, suddenly people were wearing pigtails, with braids. But then in high school, there was one time when we were gonna go, all go the factory to help out with the war effort. Well, then, we were told we have to cut our hair and just bundle it with a rubber band. And that's what we did. So, everything was done by order. And you know, everybody was in line, nobody -- like America today, you know, people express their own feelings, but that's what we did.

AI: What was going through your mind? Here you were being told, all the girls were being told, "You have to be ready because if the American army comes, you're going to be attacked, you have to be ready." In your mind, what did you think about that, when you heard that?

MK: Well, I kept thinking, "How foolish." Because, you know, the American soldiers have guns and here we have a bamboo stick. But then, you just, you're, it's a mass thing. So, just like a puppet you just follow. I mean, I couldn't cause any wave and I couldn't cause any disgrace to my parents so I continued to do the thing.

AI: And, I think you also mentioned some, in your other interview, that there were some times where you had to for -- to fit in, and to survive, and be part of the group --

MK: Right.

AI: -- that you had to say things or go along with the things that were being said. What kinds of things would those be in talking about the Americans or talking about the war effort? What kinds of things were you expected to, to say or to go along with?

MK: [Sighs] I think, a lot of it I couldn't verbalize. But, I mean, let me see... the things, the ridiculous things that I heard I would say, how stupid, you know, how stupid. They described the Americans as such vicious, mean people. And I knew otherwise because I lived it and I lived with the Americans and we never experienced that kind of thing. Even during war, and so, well, let's see... I (...) can't think of any... but the lectures we, auditoriums that we had with the principal in the auditorium, assembly, we would call it. We had these propaganda speeches by the principal. And I remember his name, Fujiwara Sensei. Do you want me to tell you a couple of them? Really? Okay. That was when he, I think the first story he said was about the bread, saying about the people, that God was gonna make bread. And he put in some loaf of bread to be baked and he pulled it out. And he found that, oh, it was too dark. So he made another batch and he put it in the oven and he pulled it out and it was too light. So, of course he said that, well, the middle would be just right. So he'll take the middle number of timing. So he put in another batch and he took the middle figure timing, to bake the bread. And it came out and he said it was just right. And that's the Japanese. And see, he says, "See how beautiful it is?"

And another time, I think when things were really getting worse he, another one I remember so vividly is the one he said -- well, of course, the Japanese navy was so popular and strong. So he would say, well, when the (navymen) look over the Pacific, the dark-eyed Japanese (...), the (pupils) are brown, and so they can absorb the light much more than the blue, light blue eyes and so they can see so much more over the Pacific. And he said, "The Amerikajins are kinpatsu, you know, the golden hair and the blue eyes and they're blinded by the sun so they can't see far away. And so, you see the advantage (...) we have." And here, inside, you keep asking me how I felt. I thought, "How stupid." And I couldn't even tell any of my friends this. So it's a very private thought that I thought. "How sad. Does he expect people to believe that?" I mean, I certainly didn't believe it. I knew enough science or whatever to -- that it just -- you know, something that I just personally could not accept. And I thought, gee, how ugly this must be, truly a desperate wartime situation. So, I'm sorry, but these are -- I knew that, yeah, as things went on, it just -- Japan was really getting in a desperate situation.

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

AI: Well, I wanted to ask, also, I think you got ill at some point, didn't you?

MK: Yes.

AI: And what, so tell me what happened there.

MK: Well, of course, the Japanese life was so different. The weather was so different. And I came down with a -- it was, I think, within a year -- I came down with pleurisy and it's called the wet serous, I mean, I had a lot of water collect in my pleura. And the doctors were scarce but anyway, I was hardly able to breathe. And I remember I totally lost, lost my appetite. I wasn't eating. My mother was really concerned. And the doctor did come to draw some serous fluid from my pleura and it kinda helped me breathe. But everything was black market. You couldn't buy aid, you couldn't buy food, even if you had the money. We didn't have the money, but even if you had the money you couldn't buy. So, I remember my mother came back and with her hachimaki she had this one egg cradled in her hachimaki and she says, "Marion, Marion, look what I found, look what I got you." (When I was well), I could eat, sit down and eat three eggs at one sitting, but here she, (with) this precious egg. She was so proud, she was, she got this egg for me. She said, "How do you want me to prepare it for you? Boiled egg, soft boiled egg, fried egg?" And I didn't even want that. So I thought, you know, I mean, these are the loving thoughts that you just... I haven't forgotten. Well I, I'm, I don't know how it ended up being, but anyway, I remember that that's how scarce food items were.

AI: Well, you were so ill that you had to stop going to school. Is that right?

MK: Pardon?

AI: Were you so ill that you had to stop going to school?

MK: Right. I stopped going. (...) I stopped going to school. And by the time I got better all the classmates were in the factories, working in the war effort. I don't know really what type of work. I guess they were sent to different, different areas. But then when I was well enough to go to school, just to get my attendance checked off, I went there and they called it the taiki group. I don't know what you call it, infirmary kind of a situation. And there were just a handful, maybe half a dozen girls in the same situation who couldn't do strenuous work. So the school, (Ibara), that town had a lot of, what do you call, they (mills) manufactured yardage, and so they brought uniforms, army uniforms to the school, and our job was to sew buttons on them. And when I felt that, (...) Japanese soldiers' uniforms felt like gunnysack. And I thought, oh my -- I mean, I could just feel around my neck, even as young as I was I just sensed, how sad. And you can just measure how poorly off the country is becoming. So I sat and sewed my buttons. We weren't pressured to... demanded how many we had to do, but that was the thing I did for, for awhile. That was my job, and attendance in school. But I ended up getting a diploma, but so long as I attended. So I really can't say I really learned an awful lot during (my junior year).

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 40>

AI: Well, so there were, many changes happened after the surrender of Japan. And you were, started to say a little earlier about, here you were, I think you were a senior in high school by this time and, and that your principal started talking about how these Americans were going to be coming. And so, what happened there that you --

MK: To visit the school? We talked about the naginata training, all the stories he --

AI: Oh, right.

MK: But when Americans came to occupy that particular area, why they came was because we were right on the border of Hiroshima. And my father worked himself a position with the police force, and then on the side he was teaching English, which was in great demand.

AI: Tell about that. Why was that that English then was in such big demand?

MK: Because of the occupation coming. And then they had, they were told to, of course, work with the city officials to be excused to use or, certain buildings, or the roads, or whatever, have some priority in their occupation. And in this country no one knew, the British English was very, they couldn't understand each other, but at least my father was able to. So he really became popular and it made him happy that he was useful, both sides. And then we ended meeting up with a lieutenant that came from Seattle, he was attending Seattle University. And he even got a promotion to a captain while he was serving in that area. And he knew how things were, how bad things were, so he helped us out bringing, unloading flour and sugar and even coffee. And my father used to make some breakfast for him. And he came into our house and they were chatting away, and I mean, this was just kind of like a godsend and I know now that it was really not what he should have done, but, I mean, he was a godsend for that time. And it was only because this lieutenant was from Seattle, I'm sure.

AI: And because your father's English was good enough.

MK: And English, right, right, again.

AI: That he could communicate.

MK: And he kinda paved the way. And I remember one job my father had was to, at the ryokan where the occupation force (lived) was kinda converted into their dorm, he (...) instructed the Japanese carpenter how to make it into a American-style toilet so they can sit on it, not squat on it. And those are the things. And when you understand what your goal is, it's easier to do. Because, being in the country, they didn't know what a Western-style toilet was because they were not used to traveling. So there are funny stories mixed in with the sadness of it all.

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 41>

AI: Well, in the meantime then, what was happening at school? Because, here, now again, you're very, still very obviously American...

MK: Right.

AI: And, so what changed for you as you were in school?

MK: So when they recognized that there was some... well, when they came around, buzzing around the jogakko, which was large --

AI: You mean the American soldiers?

MK: Girls -- yeah, the American soldiers on the jeep. They came, they're just supposed to be, I guess, (...) overseeing everything in general. Well, the principal was so afraid. Of course, after all, he's been saying all these negative things to... and he knew that I spoke English. So he would send a messenger to "get Tsutakawa." And I would go down and.. I knew I wasn't in trouble. And I happily went down to the office and reported to the principal and, well, the GI would start talking, well, that was no problem, greet a friend. So this was role acting, I had to be careful not to be too happy, and, but then we chit-chatted. I mean, it wasn't even the guarding or anything, it wasn't even business. And then I did a no-no once when I was ready for a Chinese history test on Thursday, I remember Thursday at one o'clock. And I feared that I would definitely flunk, and I told him to come by about Thursday at one o'clock, because I knew that I would be called out. (...) And then sure enough they showed up and so I got excused from my test. And then when, in preparation for the graduation I didn't know what I was gonna do because these occupation people weren't exactly saying, well, that they can hire me (for) a job, but however I was pulled out -- I mean, on the weekends I did some interpreting for some of the officers.

But then, well, I had to more formally plan my future, so there were no colleges around, but my mother suggested maybe I can apply for Doshisha University (in Kyoto), it's a women's college. And that's what I did. And we had some glitches, but nevertheless I got accepted and I kinda feel bad because I entered, took up a space of somebody who really wanted to go. There was no other major that I would have been comfortable in but they offered home economics or English. And so, of course, I thought, well English. [Laughs] And that's how I was accepted into English.

AI: Well...

MK: And then I know that they, the jogakko fixed up my grades to make it acceptable, so I think out of the 150 there were only about four that went on to college, and I was one of them. And I know my grades came out pretty good, I mean, better than it should've been. [Laughs] But they were very proud of us because, any school that's promoting kids to the college level...

AI: That was prestigious for the high school?

MK: Well, right, right. And so, I guess, in a sense I helped the, the jogakko toward the end, when the occupation came.

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 42>

AI: Well, I'm so interested that your mother encouraged you to go away to college.

MK: What she was... had finished high school herself, so, yes, she was very liberal, and educated, herself, compared to her peers. And so she definitely -- but my father, I remember my father saying, "Oh, she doesn't need to go to college. (...) She's got three brothers. She'll always be taken care of." But my mother knew that, well, being as tall as I am, being the way I am, who am I gonna find as a mate? And then now, the next step was to get married, right? Well my mother was thinking beyond that. And Kyoto was, she knew, we knew, that was never touched by the bomb. And I think the Americans planned it that way because it was historically, such a rich history. So, yeah, I appreciate the fact that my mother, I really overheard the discussion with my father and my father said, "Yeah, your brothers will take care of you so you don't need, you don't need to go to school." So there was his, Japanese in him. So, I remember that.

AI: But in the end, you did, you did go to --

MK: He did approve and I did go. And I did have a page of that letter from the University saved. And Doshisha was American-sponsored by the Congregational Church. But then, I understand that during the war that it was cancelled out. However, and then my Doshisha experience was different in that due to the hysteria in Japan, (...) the English department had burned up all their material in English. And so, by the time I had enrolled it was no longer a so-called English school -- they had no material, written material. They scrounged and found some. Well, that's what they Xeroxed. And they started asking us to translate the Shakespeare into Japanese, and the Japanese Shakespeare into English, and they kept us busy that way. But I could read the Shakespeare and then write it in Japanese. If it was the reverse, it would have been more difficult for me, 'cause my Japanese was not that fluent. So, again, I just played my game. I mean, and knowingly, and it was a survival kind of thing. And in Japan you always have a study period, I think it was seven to nine, we have a study period. Well, our meals were very sparse 'cause I stayed at the dorm. We had a study time, during that time every student was busy trying to supplement their, their diet, because we were all starving and what the dorm fed us was not enough. And even in those days, nuka? Do you know what nuka is? The grain from the rice mill, you know, when they polish (bran) --

AI: Oh, the leftover.

MK: Yeah, polish the rice. Well, we used to (...) make tsukemono out of it. They use that as a tsukemono paste over everything, but they tried to use that in stretching your flour and making pancakes, and that was oftentimes a meal, during wartime meals, because the rice was so scarce. So, my mother would send me some nuka, the (bran). And I would spend the time, spending my study time cooking these pancakes for my roommate and myself. So this is the way we preoccupied ourself, with the hunger and the scarcity. So, these are things that I think has been with me. So you learn how to be frugal. I wish my kids had it, a little bit [Laughs]

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 43>

AI: Well, so here you were, you were majoring in English at the university and struggling to have enough to eat. And what did you think you were going to do next? What you were hoping to do, that would be able to do?

MK: Well, maybe work, by then it was, the occupation was in. So I thought, well maybe if I perfected my English a little bit more I could do some translating, or whatever. So it was the slim, slim hope of that kind of, but working as a Japanese 'cause I was an indigenous person at that time.

AI: You were considered an indigenous Japanese?

MK: Japanese.

AI: People did not, the American occupation --

MK: They never...

AI: -- did not consider you an American citizen?

MK: No, no, no. But then, by talking in the social times, well, I think there were a couple other Nisei gals. I don't know what their circum-, I never was that close to them, but I heard that, well, they were both saying that well, the occupation forces wanting anybody who speaks English, Japanese who speaks English, to help out with the occupation. And, I heard more and more about it. And they said that well, they'd pay us. And I thought, well, this is -- and I thought well -- and I wasn't learning anything at Doshisha, and my father was scraping to send me the tuition. And I felt bad. And they were not too well, health-wise. So I thought, well that's what I'll -- and he gave me permission to leave school and then work for the United States Army station hospital. They took over a Red Cross hospital in Kyoto, one of the largest hospitals, and the army took it over. And so, soon as I applied they hired me and they put me on a switchboard. And I wasn't there even a month and I was sent up to the library. And that was nice because -- and for thirty-six dollars a month. And I met a couple of... not at the same time, but the army librarian. And she taught me how to do the Dewey decimal cataloging. So, for their little library at the hospital I did that, made my rounds to the hospital beds, chatted with the guys, the GIs. So, that was most enjoyable, because, here, at my age, you know.

So the librarian, once she got the job done, well, of course, was promoted and moved up to a bigger area. And then there was another younger lady that came. She, too, was very nice and I was corresponding with them. They're much older, so they're gone but, for quite a while. But I remember Shirley Welshinger, the first librarian, she was a single lady. She triggered something into my mind saying, "Marion you should find a way to go back to the United States." And that was, I said, "Well..." "Have you thought of that?" And I said, well, gee, with the money situation the way... I mean, I never gave it a thought. I thought, well, I can save my money at thirty-six dollars a month. And she said, "Well, if you don't, maybe you can go and live with my mother in Palm Beach, Florida. Gee, coming from Seattle, the only place I knew was Seattle and Idaho. That sounded kinda glamorous because I heard that Florida is a resort place. And she was thinking, well maybe I can go live with her mother, maybe take care of her aging mother. And so I talked to my father and he thought, well, that was a nice, nice lady to -- so one day we decided to go to the Kobe consulate. And I thought we, I might have some problem with my passport. But strangely enough I didn't have any problem. They issued (...) me a passport. And then (...) my father got busy and started finding money. And then Mr. Yamamoto, in Petaluma, California was his classmate during his Japan days, and he was a poultry farmer. And he was going to finance my way. And then, when my relatives in Seattle, Mr. Moriguchi, the one that owned (Uwajimaya), the senior. He heard that. He was furious. He said, "You dare go out of the family and ask for money?" He will finance it. And he had seven kids and they were all younger that I was. But this is the man, (...) he had a bark, but he had such a heart. And so he financed my way. But the condition was that I bring back his daughter who was left in Shikoku, Ehime, in the town of Uwajima. And that's how it (was). (There) was no problem. I mean, she was eight years old. So we made the arrangement and that's how I found my way back after working for the army occupation for so many months, about fifteen months.

AI: You know, I wanted to ask you, when you were working for the army and you were visiting the, in the hospital --

MK: Soldiers? Uh-huh.

AI: Yes, I wonder what their reaction was to you. Here you were looking Japanese and yet speaking perfect English. You were actually American.

MK: Surprisingly, they were very accepting. There was another Nisei lady who was in Japan. She was, had a pharmacy degree. So she worked as, as a civil service pharmacist. And, and I do have some autograph by these GIs, and they were very accepting. That's the neat part of Americans, they're so open. You know, much more than the Japanese. I mean, it's so much easier to go to any American and strike up a conversation than strike up a conversation with a Japanese. They're so formal and proper, enryo and, so, no, I, actually I befriended (GIs) very readily.

AI: And do you think -- and here they were, injured, in the hospital, and so obviously they had some very negative experience in the war. But did they...

MK: I never knew the real details. But the serious ones were sent, shipped out back home. But these were people who probably had broken legs or whatever, their spending some time, they didn't have any major things. But they were just killing their time before they can go back and join their troop. No, I never...

AI: Did they think that you were American or --

MK: I had to do a little explaining. I had to do some explaining.

AI: And then they would understand?

MK: Not the prisoner of war exchange, just saying that I happened to be here. And they weren't that seriously probing, but as long as they knew that I could speak. Well, they were hungry for people who could speak English. So that's why those, even those GIs came to the high school, because they wanted to speak their English. So, actually, inside, it made me feel good because I was able to talk. And working for the station hospital, besides the thirty-five dollars a month, I was given room and board. And so, that was a welcome, because there was a little ryokan that they took over and people like myself were in this ryokan that they had converted. We ate our meals at the hospital with the GIs. So of course I, with my height, I readily gained a lot of weight. During the war in Japan, I mean, in the country home, I remember, with my height I was down to hundred and twelve pounds. And then I suddenly blossomed to hundred and thirty-five or more. [Laughs] And it's quite a difference.

AI: Well, so then here you were with your cousin's daughter, eight years old.

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: And the two of you then traveled together?

MK: Traveled together. And there were no ships coming into Seattle, so we went into the port through (...) Hawaii, Honolulu. We went to San Francisco. And then my father's friend, the one that was gonna loan us the money, he met us at the port. And then there was another arrangement made that I stay until I made the train arrangements, stayed overnight, with a Mrs. Suwada, She was the okoto teacher in San Francisco, a very well-known teacher. Oh, she was the pharmacist's, the Nisei pharmacist's mother, in San Francisco. So we stayed with her for a little while. Mr. Pet-, Mr. Yamamoto, from Petaluma took me to Macy's and bought me a new suit. And I mean, they were so kind, so kind.

<End Segment 43> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 44>

AI: So, let's see, by this time, when was this now that you actually traveled and... it was about 1948? Was it about February that you traveled to the United States?

MK: Yes, uh-huh, uh-huh.

AI: So, by then, you're twenty years old?

MK: Right, right.

AI: And you had been in San Francisco, you got your new suit, and then you traveled back to Seattle?

MK: Back to Seattle, uh-huh. I remember it well, that it was February '48 because Suwako had her eighth birthday on the ship. I think it was General Meig's ship.

AI: So what was this like for you to be coming back to the United States and arriving in the country?

MK: Well, it was exciting. I mean, I wasn't really scared because I was going to Seattle, and then the Moriguchi clan, I was gonna stay with Neesan, which is Suwako's mother, (she) is my cousin. And it was a sewing room that they had fixed up for me, because after all, they had seven kids, you know. So, the sewing room downstairs was where she (...) put a bed. And that was gonna be my room. And I really didn't have any real, real plans, but then I found right away, that if I'm gonna even think about going -- because I had that high school diploma from Japan, I thought I can go in and apply for university. But that was not to be. They said I had to have a high school diploma with my History I and History II. So, February, the spring semester, was just beginning so I quickly enrolled at the Broadway Edison, which was an adult education, and got my History I, and I took a couple other courses besides, I think it was English and typing, or whatever. And then I went to summer school and finished my History II. That qualified me for a high school diploma, a U.S. high school diploma.

And that was when I ran into, I went into the office. I didn't know what I was gonna do. All my peers in Seattle were secretaries. And they were happy and (...) everybody was, it seemed (to be) a secretary. But then I saw this flyer at the Broadway Edison High School, and there was this bulletin, flyer that came from St. Mary's, Rochester, Minnesota. And I asked the lady in the office, "Oh, this is interesting, do you have another one?" And she said, "Oh, take it, take it. No one, no one's interested in that. If you want it you can take it." So, on a lark I wrote back to them and asked them if I would qualify. And they told me, well, so long as I had my high school diploma. And then again, I had to -- well, going to the university was a problem because in the meantime I was searching for my education fund that my father said that was a possibility. But none of it was available because the insurance, at maturity, it would have gone to the alien property custodian because my father was alive. If my father was dead, well, then, I would have received about two thousand dollars. The equity from the house in Seattle, Cousin George had used it because he was in his down time. And so I knew where I was financially. And of course, I could have worked for the Uwajimaya, which I did while I was going to adult ed. I used to weigh the senbeis and the mushrooms. And they were again nice, accommodating my situation. But going to the nursing school, well, all the three years would have cost me two thousand, and it seems, seemed much more practical, I would've had room and board, so that's the way I leaned toward. And I met the qualifications, so that's where I was.

And then, to go there was another problem. I needed transportation money. So George said, "Oh, go on the Greyhound bus." So I took the Greyhound. He said, "Well, you can see the United States." So, like an obedient person, I took the Greyhound bus, and it took me about (...) four days, (...) and three nights. Slept on the bus and finally arrived in Rochester. And I talked to the bus driver, I didn't know, so I said, "Well, I'm headed for the St. Mary's Hospital." And that's not a usual stop. But the Greyhound man knew that I had a suitcase, so he just dropped me off right in front of the hospital. And so I just walked into the front of the hospital. Of course, the nursing school is behind the hospital. But all these little nice, nice gestures really encouraged me. And the nuns had experience with the cadet, cadet nurses from the camps. And that program was finished but at least I wasn't a total strange, strange-looking person.

AI: Oh, so the St. Mary's hospital was a teaching --

MK: Yes.

AI: -- hospital with a college, that they were part of the student relocation program that accepted Nisei students from the camps.

MK: Yes, they had the cadet program.

AI: I see, so --

MK: Right, and...

AI: -- so they had met and trained other Niseis before you.

MK: Yes, many of them. And so, one of the nuns said, asked me about it. And I thought, I thought that was interesting. And then, it made me feel good that I didn't have to win them or -- just be myself and they accepted me openly because all the Nisei so-, Nisei nurses proved to be such top-notch nurses. That, that was a comfort.

AI: So, in a way, your, your way there was smoothed because they were already familiar with having Nisei student --

MK: Right.

AI: -- student nurses.

MK: Right. The nuns were familiar. However, one of my first patients I had -- this is in the very beginning part, this is in the Midwest, of course -- and they looked up at me, and as a guess she guessed that I was Alaskan -- excuse me, Eskimo. She said, "Are you Eskimo?" And I thought, oh, this is time for education. And so I clearly came out and said Japanese American, even in those days. One even asked if I was French. But see, the Tojo image of a Japanese was so strong, they expected my eyes to be more slanted and maybe bucktoothed. I mean, I didn't have orthodonture but I certainly don't have those strong traits. And so, people didn't know what I was. The ones who didn't know who I was, they --

AI: So in the Midwest there were still people who thought that Japanese were the picture of the stereotype that they saw from the war.

MK: Right. So those are the few things I do remember. The nuns were okay. They accepted me, but there were patients who just couldn't figure me out. I looked definitely different. [Laughs] They didn't know what cadet nurses were, so -- and then the cadet program was all over and so it was too bad. I think there was a couple of them that had, had to take leave of absence so they were finishing up. And so I met them. And that was a time I heard that, oh, that was a nice thing that -- that was a way for them (...)... when you're in a cadet program they even get a stipend. So that was a good deal for them.

<End Segment 44> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 45>

AI: Well, now when you met up with some of these Nisei cadet nurses and got to know them a little bit, they must have asked you, "Well, where did you come from?" or "What camp were you in?" or so forth. What kind of conversation would you, would you have with them?

MK: I never ran into -- well, I never was very close with them because they were seniors and I was a probie. And they were seniors so I never was really that close. I remember I bought a second-hand book from one of the cadets, because it was a Japanese name. But...

AI: I was just wondering whether you were... ever had to kind of explain about what happened with you, your family being taken to Japan and --

MK: No, you know this is it; it's a place... none of my classmates knew my experience. They never asked. They were immature eighteen-, nineteen-, twenty-year-old kids right out of high school, most of 'em from farms -- this is the Midwest. And so they never asked. The same with the instructors, they're so proper. They're very professional. They don't get involved in personal (lives). I mean, like the way they do now. I think they're more caring. But I remember, not too many adults -- I remember they were actually almost snobs because they're the ones who taught me how to wear hose, girdles to save our backs as nurses, wear hats and gloves, which I never did, other... but I thought was a little, kind of a front. You know, it was not really more from their heart. So I went (along), just, that part of it, I was, it was anonymous. They didn't know anything about my background. They never asked. I wasn't gonna tell them. So, this is why, talking about all this is... the more I do, it just all kinda comes back. But...

AI: Well, in the meantime, as you're doing your studies there, you also had some social life, and as I understand, you met up with some people, some acquaintances and then started going on some social trips, or, was it... where was it that you went, where you finally met up with your future husband?

MK: Oh yes, uh-huh. Well --

AI: How did that happen?

MK: Because I was so lean in finances, the girls did go out to have coffee, but I couldn't even afford -- and then it was fashionable to have a cigarette. But I didn't have that kind of money because the allowance that I was supposed to get never came through. So consequently, I really hit the books, practically memorized the books. And, this I think is funny, but once a week, on Saturday, when I went to the mailbox, I would treat myself to a nickel Coke. What a music that (was), when my nickel Coke would come down the machine, clang, clang, clang, it was in the bottle then. That was my once-a-week treat. But other than that... and there were no colleges, there's no Japanese living in that area. And so, this is why, that age group was not in Rochester, Minnesota, because it was a medical (center). There were a couple of medical physicians in -- not physicians, but, what to you call it? Fellows, that were taking their specialty. They, they had the Japan experience as, in the occupation, so they invited me into their home. I went and made sukiyaki for them, or whatever. But other than that, even the locals, I didn't get that involved (...). So, it's really playing the game where it fit, I just had to kinda, oscillate. [Laughs]

<End Segment 45> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 46>

AI: Let's see, and then, at some point you were --

MK: Oh, to meeting my husband.

AI: Yes, uh-huh.

MK: Oh yes. We had dances, and I think -- no. On my first Christmas, we only got three (weeks) of vacation a year. And that, my first vacation was to Chicago, 'cause I looked up my father's bookkeeper (Mina Kimura), who was my mentor, my American, Japanese American mentor. And there, Yoshiko Tsuru, my classmate, said, "Well, let's go to a church, they're having a New Year's Dance," I think it was a New Year's Dance, Christmas dance group. So we crashed in a New Year's Dance. And I was literally a wallflower because I... going through Japanese school I didn't learn how to dance and I wasn't in camp long enough to learn it. And then, Jim was with a bunch of Hawaii boys and they packed themselves in a car and (came) from the University of Michigan they had driven down to Chicago. And they were on their Christmas vacation. So they crashed this party. And that's how -- and he's kinda quiet. So he came up and talked to me. And he, he tried to convince me to come out on the floor and dance and from... later on I found out that Jim was good because he was a welterweight boxer. So he's very light-footed. And my friends who danced with him said, "Oh, he's really good at dancing." And I found out that that's because of his boxing. And of course he was boxing without his parents' knowledge because... so that's how I met. (...) I wasn't that impressed at the beginning, but anyway, he started writing a letter to me and, with my name, St. Mary's. That was all you needed. And the letter found me at the nurse's dorm. And reading the letter, it impressed me that he was intelligent. And so, I thought, "Well, I'll write back to him." And it came, the answer came right away. So we exchanged letter for -- so we exchanged letters for four years. He was broke, too, after using his GI Bill. So, he took his first job in Okinawa. And so this is why we, neither of us were in a position to get married. And he did encourage me to finish nursing school, so there was no question there.

AI: And you did. You did graduate from the nursing school.

MK: Right.

AI: And that was 1951, was it?

MK: '51, uh-huh. So I went back for my fiftieth reunion.


AI: Well, so to continue when we just took our short break, we were just talking about how you married Jim, and please, what is Jim's full name?

MK: Oh, James Akira Kanemoto.

AI: And did you say that he came from Hawaii?

MK: Right, in Kauai, Hawaii, uh-huh. And his parents moved into Honolulu after the war. But he continued on to... let's see, he had his first two years in University of Hawaii, but with the GI Bill he went to University of Michigan with a few other boys.

AI: So had he been with the 442nd?

MK: No, he wasn't. He was on the invasion of Okinawa, but he was not MIS or 442nd.

AI: Oh, so he was in Okinawa?

MK: Yeah, apparently he, his Japanese was proficient enough that, in the desperate need for the people, the Hawaii people managed to grow up with the language, so he didn't have to go to school and he was shipped out as soon as he was, he went into the army.

AI: Well, and then he, did he know very much about the whole camp experience when he met you?

MK: Not much, not much. But he has been very supportive, has, of course, with my involvement, but he's been very supportive of it, and he knows, I'm sure, quite a bit now because he's the one who has taken me to these, seven of the ten camps. We visited them and he's, he certainly is empathetic, has empathy for all of us, our experience.

<End Segment 46> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 47>

AI: In fact, shortly after you married, didn't, was that when the two of you traveled to Washington, D.C. to try and find out more about --

MK: Right, exactly. Well, he was, this is why he was so supportive. He said, "Well, we'll go to Washington, D.C.," while he's waiting for his assignment. We will look into the, my father's assets, what happened to them. And we did find out. We first found out that my father's oldest brother, Shozo, owned eighty percent of the Tsutakawa company. And he and his brother Jin owned ten, ten percent each. And so, legally, if we had fought it, they were all -- let's see, Shozo was still alive, so, and then his family never cared to fight it. And then, even Jin's family, they were not in any position to fight it. So we just decided, you know, even if we fought it legally it wouldn't have... and we didn't have the funds. So we just gave up on that. But we at least knew that that's the way it was.

AI: You knew what had happened. Yes. That all the business assets, everything had gone to the Alien Property Custodian.

MK: Right.

AI: And it was almost impossible for you to get some portion of it.

MK: Right. Ah, they say sometimes, some hundred years later maybe it will be resolved, resolved. But yeah, it's not something that we would... and we inquired whether we, Shozo's son would... but he had no interest whatsoever. And Jin's family was not interested. So, it was not a greed, or wanting it, but we, out of curiosity, yeah, we looked into it. And then, even my father's... why he was targeted as a, such a suspect. I mean, I got all his papers. And that was only about twenty years ago that I wrote and I had to pay for each sheet that they Xeroxed. They even Xeroxed blank sheets of paper and I got 'em. I had to pay for them. But anyway, out of curiosity. But at this point I'm satisfied that, true, there was really nothing that he had done illegally. So, I can happily say, "Well, I tried my best, and at least I kind of helped pave the way for the people in my category to be redressed." And so, in appreciation, out of the twenty thousand (...), if anybody says too much about it I said, "I gave all that away to the universities so that they can use that in the line of education." So, at least half of it I did give (...) to UC Davis and the state universities, and then to the law office and so forth. So, at this point, I'm satisfied.

<End Segment 47> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 48>

AI: Well, unfortunately, we only have a few minutes left here and there's so much more that happened to you after Jim got his assignment to Okinawa working for the Army Corps of Engineers, was it?

MK: Army Corps of Engineers.

AI: And, but, rather than going to that portion of your life right now, maybe we can only mention that in the meantime you had four kids. You, after Okinawa, you returned to the United States and continued your education and continued your career in school nursing. And I'm sorry we don't have to go into, have time to go into that now. But I did want to come up to the point of redress, where, and I was wondering, you know, when the activity for redress first started happening in the earlier years, I understand that some people didn't think it was a very good idea, or they were unsure, not sure that it was such a good idea to be asking for this type of thing. Do you happen to recall what you thought, or what you felt when you first heard about redress?

MK: Oh, when I heard that the reason why we need to ask for the redress it needs to hurt and have an impact. I mean, money does -- in America -- money does count. So I had to agree that that goes toward that, and especially for the education fund. As I look back on it, it certainly was well-done. Otherwise we wouldn't have all these grants to leave all this work that we, I did, and we're all doing. Because, hopefully it will contribute to education. I don't think we -- I think we still have work to do, but...

AI: So, in other words, you did see that as a positive movement for redress?

MK: Yes. And in the Constitution, those words are used, that "redress" is used, in the State Constitution, so, rightfully, I mean, it's certainly a token amount. This is something we really have to say it was token, because some people (frequently say), "Oh, that's a lot." But I have to remind them, it only buys a half a car. And in that way it sinks in more. Because --

AI: Excuse me. But when was it that you found out that you weren't going to receive redress?

MK: Oh, we got our letter, formal letter saying that we are denied. And that was the time my son Ames, who was in the legal study at UC Berkeley, said, "It can't be." And he was the one who was so upset. And really pushed me and pushed me and then, of course, he was with a bunch of legal study pre-law students that... and then in a simple way, being that he was so young, he said, "Well, all of you should get together and put that in one pot and fight the government," and... you know, we're all scattered, how do you go about it? Not everybody belongs to a JACL, so even if you put it in... so all in all, well, it worked out and I'm so glad, (...) I went to the JACL and they said, well, it was still at the beginnings. They said, "Let's not rock the boat. We'll see, until it really actually happens then we can bit by bit work toward it." And same with the Asian Law Caucus, my son went, because he's young, well, you know, he wasn't taken very seriously. And that upset him. But then he did have some classmates that eventually went into law and she happened to be working for Morrison and Foerster and she talked this over with her boss -- she was doing her internship. And the boss is the one who said that he would take it on pro bono. And I certainly appreciated it. I never met (Lisa Oyama) and she's married (...), but I did write her a letter thanking her. But it was because of this. And then, when Morrison and Foerster came in, the Asian Law Caucus came it, then the JACL was backing up, so, in some ways I am disappointed with the JACL. And I can understand they didn't have the clout, but with an American, large law firm behind us, they're the ones who paved the way.

AI: So, with the support of an established law firm --

MK: Right, right, combined with... yes, I think that was the only way.

AI: So, I think it was, I had a note here that said that it was in May of 1992 that you got the denial letter.

MK: I think so, okay.

AI: And then it was later that summer that you, that an appeal letter was sent to you and was it that fall, September or so of '92 that Morrison and Foerster actually helped you file the suit?

MK: Yes, it was soon after, uh-huh. But, so they're the one who initiated the Marion Kanemoto v. Reno. But then we didn't, it didn't actually come to (...), fruition because it was settled before we even went to court, but they were preparing to fight it all the way.

AI: So they were preparing for a class-action lawsuit.

MK: Right, right.

AI: And that was, and you were named there as the main plaintiff --

MK: They used my name because the others didn't speak up as, so we had a couple of meetings at the Asian Law Caucus held in San Francisco. So we're all scattered, but we did in a small way, get together (at) the Asian Law Caucus, with the help of Morrison and Foerster. (...) If we paid, if we were successful, (...) there were only fourteen names and two of them were my brothers. And then I called two other friends, one was in New York and one was in Seattle -- no, not Seattle. Oh, Concord, California, I told them about it and they joined. But see, I wasn't in touch with everybody. And all this costs money. And so, finally we got fourteen names (...). But if even one got cleared with it legally, see, that would have cleared everyone, the 345 of us.

AI: 345 minors that, minor children.

MK: Yes, between the two ships (exchange trips) I understand that there were 345 minors, right.

AI: Minor children who had been taken to Japan.

MK: Denied, right.

AI: And therefore, denied redress.

MK: Right, right, right. And then, only 215 or so got the redress because we applied for it and we fell into that category. And the gentleman I called this morning was wondering what happened to the others. Well, that was because they probably died. And I know two of 'em has died. So, they lost out. And if they didn't apply, they were in Japan (or) they never came back, or then they would fall into that small group of people. So, at least there is a closure to this. We tried.

<End Segment 48> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 49>

AI: Well, you know, I'm wondering... this period when the suit had begun, in the meantime, in 1993, was it, you were interviewed by your, the oral history group, the Florin Chapter oral history group and at that time, I think, I have a quotation from that interview. And you were saying... oh, I'm sorry, this was 1991, before the suit actually started, 1991. "I don't feel I have the energy to write to the Pacific Citizen, which is the Japanese American Citizens League paper, saying, 'Where are you, the rest of you 239 people? Let's start a class-action suit.' I guess that's one way, the legal way to do it. I'm just not that political of a person." And so, at that time, in '91, you weren't very hopeful, you weren't thinking that you would do it and you were saying that you weren't very political. But in fact, you did go ahead and do the suit.

MK: Well, it turned out to be that I was. And it was because of the encouragement, once I got the backing from Morrison and Foerster and the JACL, they came on board after. Well then, yes, and then I was more active, after retirement (...). And I retired in '88. So I had time there to spend more time on it. But every time I wrote to anybody, I mean, to Washington, D.C., you know, every piece, copy or whatever they send you, they charge you. And nobody else seemed to care. And it was discouraging.

AI: Well, then, when you got together with these other plaintiffs, and there were at least a small group of you, what was that like to get together with these folks who had a similar experience with you?

MK: Well, the truth was... I was disappointed because some people never even spoke a word. They were there just for the ride. But at least they were there. But there were maybe a couple others. There was, I think, a daughter who spoke for her father because he had just passed away after the '88 signing. So, she would have qualified. (...) We were not a very political group. And so this is why we needed the help from the Asian Law Caucus and the Morrison and Foerster. And truly, I'm not a political person. I mean, I'm, generally, up to now, (...) pretty much a follower. But I guess I'm one of the rabble rousers. [Laughs]

AI: Well, and you mentioned that your two younger brothers also joined in the suit.

MK: Yes, but not in such a vigorous way. And my brother, Bob, who is, has the head for it, of course, is in Missouri all by himself, and so he's kind of isolated. I kept feeding him with information, but he doesn't have the support group in the community, so it was difficult.

AI: Well, when the suit was finally settled, what was your feeling, what was your reaction to that?

MK: It was a sigh of relief, an appreciation really. Appreciation, because without the help I would have never, we would have never gotten where we were. Maybe in time, after I'm gone, but -- [laughs] -- but in many ways I thank my son, because he was the one who just couldn't understand why, because he had studied enough law and he was more interested in it and just couldn't understand why we couldn't move it along, but I know for sure the movement, lot of these governmental things, it takes time, it takes time. Maybe deliberately, but...

AI: Well, and then, finally, I think it was, that you did receive your redress.

MK: Uh-huh.

AI: That was when, 19...?

MK: '96. Three years after. And so it really put a closure on. And then too, I think, to see it while I'm alive and healthy, I think this was a mission accomplished. So I feel really good. But for the Peruvians, I hope they will succeed. Because I don't know in-depth what it all entailed. I've listened to many stories, but they were wrongly used, just like we were. So the government doesn't always reveal everything in true honesty.

AI: And here it was a situation of you minor children were being used --

MK: Right.

AI: -- even though you were American citizens.

MK: Right.

AI: You were being used --

MK: We were being used.

AI: -- as prisoner exchange.

MK: So, as our friends, many people will agree, education is the (solution). It's a matter of education that we have to educate individuals. The more (...) educated people we have, I think we have the strength (and tools). So we'll continue to do what we can, and (Densho's) certainly part of it. Thank you very much. (Narr. note: My two younger brothers, Bob and Richard, volunteered into the U.S. Army in occupied Japan, served in the Korean War prior to returning to Seattle, and were first denied then later received the redress as I did. My father and mother returned to the U.S. in 1957, managed to find jobs as housecook and housemaid, but, sadly, died prematurely at age 62 and 68. While a housemaid, Mother studied for her U.S. citizenship and became a proud U.S. citizen.)

AI: Well, thank you. Certainly appreciate it.

<End Segment 49> - Copyright © 2003 Densho. All Rights Reserved.