Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Sumie Suguro Akizuki Interview
Narrator: Sumie Suguro Akizuki
Interviewers: Shin Yu Pai, Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 30, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-asumie-01-0004

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[Ed. note: This transcript has been edited by the narrator]

SP: I wanted to go back to what your memories were of Pearl Harbor. So you were about, about thirteen years old?

SA: Thirteen, twelve, almost thirteen.

SP: What are your memories of that time?

SA: Well, I just remember that it was Sunday and we all went to school. And first of all was greeted with, "Whose side are you on?" I remember that. And I would say, "(...) America, that is where I was born." But that was one of the first things that they would ask.

SP: So these were your classmates and children?

SA: Uh-huh, seventh grade classmates. Because I had started first grade in Bellevue. So they were my classmates (from the beginning).

SP: So when your family was removed, what assembly center were you sent to?

SA: We went to Pinedale, and then from there, we went to Tule Lake. (...) All the Bellevue people went to, initially went to Pinedale. We all went to Pinedale. And the Tacoma people went to Pinedale as well.

SP: How long were you at Pinedale?

SA: Oh, just a few months. It was a temporary place, just like the Puyallup Assembly Center. You know, Puyallup was temporary. Pinedale was, too, and it's near Fresno and it was over a 100 degrees and it was extremely hot. But, all the Bellevue people went to Pinedale and caught the train at the (Kirkland station). And I remember (the) Bellevue High School students (...) picked us up and drove us to the station. The white classmates of the Bellevue Japanese, you know, the Nisei, they were very well-liked. (...) At the high school, they got along very well with their classmates. However, they didn't socialize too much with them on a personal basis.

TI: And so you know, earlier you said, when you went back after the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, some of the classmates that you went to school with since first grade, when they asked you, "Whose side are you on?"

SA: "Whose side are you on?" I remember that.

TI: How did that make you feel?

SA: Oh, you know as I recall, you feel kind of (bad), because of the way we grew up, how do you explain that? It's our culture, too, you know. Because (we) knew how (our) parents felt, they were just devastated. And I was brought up in the Japanese culture, but of course, in my heart, I leaned toward America. But yet, you kind of feel... it's hard to explain. Maybe I could say, you feel rather sympathetic to Japan, and to my parents, because they were Japanese nationals.

TI: Or just your relationship with your classmates. So here again, they knew you. You went to school with them for years and years. And you're maybe not super close friends, but they know you, they've been in class, and for them to ask you whose side are you on. Did that surprise you? Or was that kind of what you expected?

SA: It didn't surprise me, because there was such a division with the way we were kind of, not integrated into the community. That makes a difference. Now, it makes a world of difference. But at that time, we were not, like I said, part of the white community of Bellevue.

TI: Yet, and the reason I ask this question, 'cause you talked about those high school students. These are white high school students who went out of their way to transport people to the train station. So talk about that. Why did they do that?

SA: You know, I don't know. because I wasn't in high school. But I knew all the high school, all the Bellevue high school students are the ones that transported us to the (Kirkland train station).

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.