Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mas Akiyama Interview
Narrator: Mas Akiyama
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: March 15, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-amas-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So when you think about the camps, what did you, from what you could tell, from what you heard, what did you think they were like?

MA: Well, all I could gather was that there was a, kind of like a prison with guards and barbed-wire fences and things. And they were having a rough time in there, and I actually wanted to go see just what these camps looked like. And I did request the War Relocation Authority for me to visit a couple of camps, and they wouldn't give me an answer until the War Department decided it was okay. So I was allowed to go visit Manzanar, because my, my brother's wife was there, and I decided to go there.

TI: Because your brother at this time was at Fort Lewis?

MA: Yeah, my brother was already back in the service, and he was at Camp Shelby. And I got as far as Reno, and then they wouldn't allow me into California. [Laughs] That's where I had to have a special escort come from Manzanar and take me into the camp there. And that was, I kind of liked Manzanar in a way because it was in an apple orchard, and they had paved streets. The shacks were terrible where they lived, but it wasn't too bad. I kind of liked that place. And then from there I got permission from the government to go to Camp Shelby in Mississippi, which was very unusual for them to allow it. And I took, I took my wife...

TI: Now, you had to get permission for yourself, or for your brother's wife?

MA: My brother's wife.

TI: Because you were free, yeah, because you were free to move around the country, but she was in the camp, so you had to get special permission to...

MA: Yeah, she was in the camp, and she got special permission to go there.

TI: Okay, so you took your brother's wife to Mississippi.

MA: Right, Mississippi, and we stayed in a little town called Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which was just, just a few, oh, a few miles from Camp Shelby, and we were able to go visit. And here I was in civilian clothes and all the 442nd soldiers, they kind of razzed me, even 100th Infantry was there. But we had a good time there, while we were there almost a week, I guess. Yeah, it was a nice place.

TI: When you were there also, I think you told me you also visited the camps in Arkansas?

MA: Oh yes, there was a camp in Arkansas, and they also had a USO there, uh-huh, yeah, I noticed that. And I met several Spokane people there, especially Miya Koyama's sister was there, and she took us all around there.

TI: Now, why were there some Spokane people there? Why weren't, why didn't they stay in Spokane? Why were they in the camp, the Spokane people, why were they in the camp?

MA: They're not in camp. I don't know, they were married to the soldiers, so they were there, there was a USO there and they were working there, I guess, helping out. I didn't meet any Spokane in the internment camp itself.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.