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-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So why, why did you go to the camp inside Arkansas? I mean, why did you, did you visit somebody, or did you want to see it? Why did you go look at it?

MA: I didn't quite...

TI: You know, like the internment camp?

MA: Yeah.

TI: Why did you visit it if you didn't know...

MA: Well, I wanted to know what those camps were, were like, you know. And there were, there were guards on them to keep the people in, there were barbed wire. Some people were, said, "No, no, that's not true," but I saw the thing myself. I, on the way back, I dropped off my brother's wife at Salt Lake City and she went back into Manzanar, and I got special permission to visit Minidoka because I had friend a there, Frank Yamasaki.

TI: Who I have to explain is my father-in-law, so it was a surprise when you mentioned that.

MA: Yeah, that's right.

TI: So tell me why you, how do you know Frank Yamasaki?

MA: Well, as I say, he had tuberculosis, and I think, as I recall, he was in a sanitarium in Spokane. And when I went to visit a friend there, he was there, and I kind of liked him, and I felt like be a big brother to him. [Laughs] And he was, oh, he was a very likable fellow, yeah.

TI: And so what was Minidoka like, when you went to Minidoka?

MA: Well, Minidoka there, oh, I had a terrible time getting in to get permission. But finally I had a friend and said, I told him I had a friend in Block 42, and he said, "That's way down there." [Laughs] So this security man, I forgot his name, was Onodera, I guess. He got a jeep for me, he took me down there. And that day, oh, it was dusty and windy and dirty, dirt roads. And that night it started to snow and by morning it was raining and the roads were muddy, and oh, I had a terrible time. And I was able to eat there in their mess hall, and they used to serve... what did they serve? Sheep, you know. What do they call, lamb?

TI: Mutton or lamb.

MA: Yeah, mutton, and nobody seemed to like those things. [Laughs] But that was the worst camp that I visited.

TI: Was Frank surprised to see you?

MA: Yeah, yeah, he was surprised to see me, but yeah.

TI: Now, I want to ask you, I mean, how did it seem to you that you were able to travel around the United States, travel, go to these camps, and then there were all these Japanese Americans who were just kind of like you, but they couldn't do that; they had to stay in the camps. How did that make you feel, or what did that make you think?

MA: I don't know. I'm rather surprised that the government gave me all that permission to go. I think primarily maybe because my brother was in, in the service, and I had a lot of friends, too, that were in there. And of course, maybe they looked up my record and I was a volunteer before. I was rather surprised but thankful in a way.

TI: Because it seems odd that you have all these friends of yours who were in the camps, and then they couldn't, they had to stay there. Like your brother's wife, she had to go back...

MA: Yeah, she had to go back.

TI: Manzanar. And it just, it doesn't seem like that was, that made sense.

MA: [Laughs] Yeah, everybody's surprised that I was able to get into the camp, get permission, when everybody's trying to get out.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.