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

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

<Begin Segment 1>

SP: Today is Thursday, October 30, 2008. We're in the Densho studio today with Sumie Akizuki. My name is Shin Yu Pai. I am the primary interviewer, and Tom Ikeda is with me as a secondary interviewer, and on camera is Dana Hoshide. So welcome, Sumie. Thank you for being here with us today. So I thought that we'd just start with some really easy basic questions. Can you tell me when and where you were born?

SA: Well, I was born in Bellevue, Washington, on January 2, 1929.

SP: And were you born in a hospital?

SA: No, in the home, at the home. And I think my father delivered me. [Laughs]

SP: Wow.

SA: Yeah, he did. And then my younger siblings (were delivered by) a midwife. Her name was Mrs. Beppu, whose son (owned) Lincs Tackle Shop. (Mrs. Beppu) delivered my younger siblings, but (some of) the older ones (were) delivered by actually my father and a neighbor, a lady by the name of Mrs. Takeshita, whose daughter is Mitsuko Hashiguchi. (Mitsuko Hashiguchi) was our neighbor and helped us out when we returned from camp. (Our mother was) close friends with her mother.

SP: So tell me a little bit about your siblings. Where are you in the birth order and how many --

SA: Well, (there were) seven children, (...) two older sisters, two younger sisters, and two younger brothers. (...) My oldest sister is eighty-four. My youngest brother (...) passed away at sixty-five, several years ago. And so there's six surviving in our family.

SP: All still here in the area?

SA: No, there's two in California.

SP: Okay. So I thought we'd turn to asking you some questions about your family background, and so I want to go back to the first of your relatives who came here to the United States, your maternal grandfather. Can you tell me a little bit about when he came?

SA: Actually, it's my paternal.

SP: Your paternal. Sorry, your paternal grandfather.

SA: My paternal grandfather came in the early years, the turn of the century which was the early 1900s. And he worked for about ten years and then sent for my grandmother and my father. And my father came in 1913. And they farmed which is now near Bellevue Square, Lincoln Square in Bellevue. In that vicinity, right across from Bellevue shopping center. They farmed there for about seven years, but then they had purchased this ten acres in, it's called the Midlakes area, where Lake Bellevue is. And they cleared the land there, and it took them six years, according to my father, and it was virgin forest. And they, so while farming in that vicinity of Lincoln Square, which is Bellevue Way and Northeast Eighth, they took the horse and wagon for six years, until they cleared that land. It was very productive, whereas the land near (...) Lincoln (Square) in the downtown Bellevue area (had) very poor soil, so it wasn't very productive. But the (farm) in Bellevue at Midlakes was very productive. It was right near (...) Lake Bellevue. They raised strawberries and lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, (peas, etc.). And then since our grandparents lived with us, (and there were two generations in the household). My grandparents went to the (public market to sell their produce). They (took) the ferry, because the Lake Washington floating bridge (wasn't) constructed (until) 1940, (...) they took the ferry from Medina to Leschi. (They) sold all the produce, and they did well because the large supermarkets had not yet come into existence, and they didn't have the middle man. (...) They raised even flowers and we even had peach (...) and cherry trees, Italian prunes, anything that would grow on the land, they raised. And my sister said she remembers, (...) my grandparents counting (...) the money on the table. So I think they did quite well.

SP: Well, I just want to back up a little bit and ask you, what were your grandfather's motivations for coming to the United States originally?

SA: Well, they wanted to make money to return to Japan to retire (...). They had two children after they (...) immigrated to the United States. They had two children that were Niseis and they went back with them. Excuse me, I have to correct that. They went back with my uncle, (after) he graduated from Bellevue High School in 1934. (My aunt did not return with them.)

SP: So your father, when he was sent for, he was born in Japan?

SA: (...) He was born in Japan, and he was about thirteen years old.

SP: When he came to the United States initially.

SA: Yes.

SP: So it sounds like there's a large age difference between your father and his other siblings. Is that --

SA: Yeah, almost twenty years, I think. Quite a bit. Because he was born in Japan, and I think my grandfather was here for about ten years or so before calling for my grandmother and my father. (...) When my grandparents (returned) to Japan, we didn't have (the) other generation to go to the market. My grandparents' (wish) really was to make money to retire in Japan. They were poor when they came here. They bought property in Japan to build a house, and (returned with) enough money to retire on. They left us, our family, you know, my father and our family, kind of penniless. Because they took everything, all the money they took with them (...). And of course, like I said, they had to build a house.

SP: So it was a very difficult transition.

SA: It was very difficult. (...) Because my father had to take the leadership role, whereas my grandfather was the one that took the leadership role during all those years. And then my father, he was left with the farm.

SP: And a family.

SA: And seven children. And we didn't have any money because my grandfather took everything that, and you know, so I remember that we all of a sudden became very poor. Almost penniless. [Laughs] I was telling my sister, I think (we) became penniless. But then we had the farm, and my father was a very hard worker. And it was fine, because he knew how to raise (...) crops and make it productive.


SP: So, I'm curious to know about your mother, too. So can you tell me a bit about how your mother and father actually met?

SA: Well, they knew each other in Shizuoka Prefecture. And they knew, like I said, they knew each other as children actually. So my mother came in 1921, and she came from a middle-class family, and (her family was) well-to-do. And her introduction to America was just hard work. And (...) she worked very, very hard and always with a baby on her back. And when I visited Japan, her relatives told me that (her father had said) had they known that my mother would have to go through so much hardship, (he) wouldn't have (...) allowed her to come to the United States. But, I asked my mother in later years if she had any regrets, and she said no, that "America's the best place to live." And she's taken several trips to Japan and so she was very satisfied and happy with her life in the United States.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

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

SP: So you've talked a little bit about how when your grandparents returned to Japan that it was a difficult transition for your family in terms of having to kind of rebuild the farm. And so, I'm curious to know what the division of labor was like at that time. Your father was working very hard on the farm and in the fields. What was the daily life for you as child living on the farm like?

SA: Oh, we all had to help. We all had to help. (...) Srawberry was our main crop. We did hire people from Seattle that came and we had even a place for them to stay during the summer. And we used to enjoy it when the high school kids used to come, 'cause they were so much fun. But, well, we all had to help and work all the time. So I didn't really look forward to the summer vacations, because it was just working and helping out.

TI: So Sumie, when people from Seattle came over to pick strawberries, about how many people would come? You mentioned some, in terms of high school students, I mean, were they usually just students, or were adults coming and...

SA: I think adults came, too, and they stayed. This one fellow said he used to come with his mother, you know. And I remember that there was one family by the name of Hirabayashi. (...) She says she remembers coming as a child with her mother. And you know, it gave a lot of the Issei women spending money, and they would go home on the ferry. And some of them would stay during the height of the strawberry season (...). And we had a place for them to stay (on the premesis). The men stayed in this one (...) place that we had made arrangements for, and the women would stay with us (in the home). And so my mother did all the cooking.

TI: And roughly about how many people like at the peak would be there?

SA: At the peak, maybe about half a dozen at the most. Because we only had the ten-acre farm. And you know, the strawberries won't wait, you know. They were just, like I said, that was our main crop. Then after that, it was the peas.

TI: And when they were there, was it pretty much all work, or at night were there some more festive --

SA: Oh, no. There's no way, it was just straight work. We didn't have any activities or anything like that. [Laughs]

TI: Okay.

SA: Yeah, they would have to get up so early in the morning (...). And life on the farm was really just lots of work, hard work.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

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

SP: Well, shifting gears a little bit, can you tell us a little bit about what Bellevue was like in those early days, prewar?

SA: Well, about fifteen percent of the population was, were Japanese Americans. In the early, well, I went to Bellevue grade school and the population was only about 2,000 at the time. And now, it's 110,000. You know, it has changed because of the floating bridge that was built in 1940. And there was a lot of prejudice, of course. We didn't, the Japanese people did not assimilate because they weren't accepted (...). That's the reason, like I said, they built the Kokkaido. And we had our own, like our own community. And the whites had their own, you know. And my brother even mentioned that when we used to catch the bus in the morning (to) go to school, the whites would (be) by themselves, and we would be by ourselves, and that's how it was.

SP: Very segregated.

SA: We were just really segregated, yeah.

SP: So can you tell us a little bit about the Kokkaido? So it was Japanese clubhouse that was built by the community.

SA: Yes, yes, built (cooperatively) by the (Japanese) community. And, 1930, the entire community built it together. The Bellevue Japanese Americans are a very cohesive, close-knit group. Even to this day, (...) the fourth Thursday in August, we get together at the Old Country Buffet, and there's about sixty of us that just go there and we socialize and talk about the old days. And after the war, there were seventy Japanese families before the war, all farmers. And after the war, only those that owned the land went back. And that was only about twelve (...) families that returned. Bellevue had these town meetings to protest our return, and we just not, we weren't very welcome. And there were, I understand this was written in the newspaper that about five hundred people went to the first meeting. And then the second time, the attendance wasn't as great. And there were a lot of, not a lot but a few of our friends that supported us, high school classmates and old friends, that were there to support us, you know, too, so we did, it wasn't like they were all hostile toward our return.

TI: So Sumie, can you explain that a little bit more? So you said at the first meeting there were --

SA: About five hundred.

TI: This was after the war, or during--

SA: After the war to protest our return. (Narr. note: The Western Defense Command lifted the ban which enabled persons of Japanese ancestry to return to their homes. This ban was lifted in January 1945, before the war ended. So meetings were held while the war was still on.)

TI: So, five hundred people showed up, so you're saying that --

SA: Yes, and they all signed a petition.

TI: But then you said the second meeting it dropped off.

SA: It dropped off, and then there were, and then the first meeting as well as the second, there were a lot of supporters for us, too. Friends.

TI: Okay, so part of the lower attendance was that people came out and spoke in support of Japanese Americans and that kind of quieted down, and so the second meeting wasn't as large?

SA: Yeah, and I understand that some of these, one of the leaders said for those that supported us, they said they should have their own meeting. [Laughs] He said, "You should have your own meeting, if you want them to return."

TI: And how did you hear about all this?

SA: You know, it was written by the press. In the book (Strawberry Days) (...) my father was one of the younger Isseis. And in fact, he was the last (Issei to farm) in Bellevue. (In our family) we were the younger Niseis, (...) I had a younger brother, too, who started first grade (in Bellevue). When I returned in my class, there was only one Japanese boy and I was the only Japanese girl in (my junior class). It was called Overlake High School at that time, the only high school in Bellevue. Now it's called Bellevue High School, (...) I think there was only about six of us Japanese Americans in the entire high school. (...) There were about three or four blacks. The Donaldson family were (...) siblings there. So that was it. All the others were white. (...) They (didn't) have to say anything, but you could just feel the prejudice (...). And when I returned (...) on January 20th, and by that time, the winter quarter had started, so I was placed in the (...) back row. And I didn't realize it, but I couldn't see the board, and I just couldn't ask anyone to ask them about the assignment, and it was really tough. And then to add insult to injury, I was a junior, I had to take freshman Washington State History, because it was compulsory before you graduated from high school. And so I had to take Washington state history with all those freshmen kids. [Laughs] And so (...) it was (a difficult time).

SP: So if you don't mind, let's come back to that a little bit later.

SA: Okay, now I'm going too fast, I'm sure.

SP: No, it's fine.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

[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.

<Begin Segment 5>

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

SP: So after you were at Pinedale, you said that you were then transferred to Tule Lake. Can you tell us a little bit about your memories of that place?

SA: (...) Well, I learned how to twirl the baton. This Caucasian schoolteacher, he was teaching us how to, a bunch of girls, how to twirl the baton (while incarcerated). So my parents ordered the baton from the Sears Roebuck catalog, (everyone ordered from the) Sears Roebuck catalog (...). And I remember (baton twirling) brought me a lot of enjoyment.

SP: And was that teacher you mentioned your favorite teacher? Raymond Cheek?

SA: He was my favorite teacher. And he, when I went to the Tule Lake pilgrimage, my teacher (was) long deceased, (but) his son came on the pilgrimage and was seeking out students of his father. And so I met my favorite teacher's son (Martin) on one of the pilgrimages. And I remember in camp, too, that I had taken care of my teacher's pet turtle. It was a desert turtle which was called a terrapin, named Albert. And I was so worried, because he had gone on vacation and asked me to take care of this (precious) pet turtle. And I told his son, you know, "Your father had asked me to take care of his pet turtle and I worried about it. I thought it might die (...)." But, and he said that he still has the shell of this turtle, pet turtle decorating his, in his home. And he said, "Do you want it?" I said, "Well, no thank you." [Laughs]

SP: Yeah, it was a big honor to take care of your teacher's pet.

SA: Oh, yes. He was a very popular teacher. He had just graduated from I think Northwestern, and had his masters in music. He taught, (and) knew how to play many, many instruments, the violin and clarinet, (etcetera). Kind of going off the subject, but (...) at the pilgrimage, (I met) this dentist by the name of Dr. Murakami, and he (told Martin) that his father had taught him how to play the clarinet. (Martin) was happy to meet his father's (former) students.

TI: So going to this teacher, how would you say Mr. Cheek was different then say your teachers in Bellevue? Was it about the same, or how, what made him different or the same?

SA: He took a (special) interest in all of us (as individuals). Really, he was a wonderful teacher and well liked. And so many people remember him very fondly.

TI: So he went to Northwestern graduate. So that's a major university.

SA: Yeah, he did. (Received) his master's.

TI: Lots of opportunities.

SA: I'm sure he did (have other opportunities).

TI: Did you ever have a sense of why he decided to teach at Tule Lake?

SA: I don't have any idea. But he, like I said, he took a personal interest in all his students. And I wrote to him, even after the war years, and even visited him in Hollister, California. And he invited me over, and met him (and his family). He had a stroke and he died several years after that, I was happy to have the opportunity to see him after the war.

TI: And so you don't really have a sense of his motivation, whether it was perhaps religious or, I'm just curious, what made him decide to do that.

SA: I couldn't even ask him, maybe, I, excuse me, but I have this picture. Sorry, that I have to refer to this. Maybe you could delete that part. (Narr. note: Maybe he was sympathetic to our being behind barbed wire. He was a very compassionate person.)

SP: Of you and his son.

SA: [Showing a picture] Yeah, and he wrote an article in the newspaper in the Morgan Hill Times. And this is him. And this is...

TI: Why don't we hold this up, so we can see him. So right there, so that's Mr. Cheek's son.

SA: Son, Martin.

TI: And next to, is that Dr. Murakami?

SA: Dr. Murakami, I believe that was his name. (Narr. note: Dr. Murakami (retired) from D.C. said he was a cosmetic dentist whose patients were Madeline Albright and Senator Warner of Virginia.)

TI: The clarinet.

SA: (...)

TI: Right, yes, so I saw this.

SA: And he wrote this in the (Morgan Hill Times) and I got this through the internet, through the internet.

TI: Good, so I'll hold this.

SA: He said he felt that his father was looking down on him when he took the pilgrimage to Tule Lake. And we had stayed in Tule Lake until the very end, so Mr. Cheek was there from the very beginning until the very end.

SP: So that was about a four-year span you were there?

SA: Yes, four years. Uh-huh.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

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

SP: So about a year after you arrived in Tule Lake, it became a segregation camp. And I'm wondering if you felt any change in the group dynamic, or how people interacted?

SA: Very different.

SP: What changed? What was different?

SA: Well, I was still a teenager, but a lot of Kibeis came in, and they were very pro-Japan. And from Manzanar, they had their own group, very militant. They were, they had the, called Hoshidan, different groups from Arkansas. They came from all the other camps. And they were the ones that were all pro-Japanese because they were "no-nos." And insofar as Tule Lake is concerned, like a lot of the Sacramento people told me that they just stayed in camp, even if they were "yes" or "no" or whatever. And they did not force you to move. And Sacramento was close to the Tule Lake camp, so they didn't want to be moving to a (faraway) camp to, like Jerome, because they made you go to these (different) camps. Like, our family, I thought we were going to go to Hunt, Idaho, because had close friends there. But my father just did not want to move. And the "loyalty oath," he said, he had the paper that said he put down "yes." But they didn't force us to move, we just stayed. And I remember my father saying that, maybe we won't get back our farm in Bellevue. So he said, "If we don't get back our farm, " he said, "maybe we could go to Japan because Grandpa has a house there." So, it was a time of uncertainty. And my father just, I think he was, like I said, he was one of, he was a person who didn't, (and) couldn't readily make decisions because his father was always making decisions for him, even into adulthood. But anyway, we went back to Bellevue.

SP: And so, while you were still in camp, were you hearing stories about what was happening in Bellevue? Like the burnings of houses?

SA: We didn't hear that at all until we came back home. You don't hear about these things about other people when you're in camp, and so isolated and we didn't have a radio. The only thing we had that was coming in from the outside, we took the San Francisco Chronicle and our neighbor took the other newspaper. The (San Francisco Examiner) and... anyways, and once a week we would get (news) from the outside (...).

TI: So now I actually want to go back and talk about the differences after Tule Lake became a segregation camp. So you had all these individuals who came to Tule Lake from the different camps. How did sort of the ones who perhaps answered "yes" on the loyalty oath, how did they get along with this other group? And was there much mixing? Can you describe that a little bit more?

SA: Oh, well, you know, these militant Japanese groups had their own strong groups. I think it was just within the block. We didn't, we did everything within the block. And my father was influenced by a lot of these people within our block.

TI: So when you say influenced, what would be --

SA: Well, they'll say things like... oh, I think it was very confusing. They would say that, they would hear things like, "Oh, Japan is winning." Or, "You should have your children quit American school. They should strictly go to Japanese school." And that kind of thing was going on within the block. But (...) some blocks had (...) real strong leaders that were pro-Japanese (...). We were in Block 52, (...) and then they built some more blocks, (...) Block 59, 60, (etcetera). And they added on, because (Tule Lake) was the largest of the (concentration) camps, the concentration camps, (with a population of) about 20,000.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

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

TI: And so you mentioned earlier how, so your dad was getting confused and was that when he started talking about maybe going back to Japan?

SA: He was very confused, not knowing what we should do.

TI: Your father. How about for you personally? With other people, perhaps other teenagers who came with their families. How was the interaction with you and sort of the newcomers?

SA: Well, I made a lot of friends (in Tule Lake). And like I said, I twirled the baton. (I) enjoyed (it a lot). And I had nice teachers. (...) And it was sad, though, when some of my friends (...) went to Heart Mountain, another (...) to Hunt, Idaho. (...) You know, they were just scattered all over, when (Tule Lake) became a segregation center. And they would say, "What camp are you going to, Sumie?" I said, "I don't know. My father can't make up his mind." But we stayed and had to live with that turmoil within the camp. But my father kind of, didn't get involved too much. He would join these different groups, but not be what you call a leader. He wasn't what you call a leader. He would just kind of go along with (what others did).

TI: Did any of your siblings have any difficulties that you can remember, with these different groups? You mentioned you had two older sisters, two younger sisters.

SA: No. We continued to go to American school, my two older sisters. And my dad had some of the younger ones, who were younger, go to Japanese school (...) because (it was) offered (...) during the day.

TI: Was there any kind of suggestions to you from other people, besides your parents, that maybe you should go to Japanese school?

SA: No, we made our own decision. But (for) the younger ones, (my father kind of) forced them to go to Japanese school during the day. Because, like I said, it was a time of turmoil, he didn't know (about) our future (...). The main thing was he didn't know whether we would get our place back in Bellevue, because people were living (in our house).

TI: 'Cause I've read some other accounts of people who were kind of in a similar situation where they initially went to Tule Lake. These, a lot of people from Bellevue and Tacoma, places like that, went to Tule Lake. And they said, some of them stayed past the time when it became a segregation camp. And they said it was very difficult for them, and that in some cases, they were harassed to perhaps join the more pro-Japanese movement and things like that. So I was just wondering if you saw things like that.

SA: We did, like you would see these (youths), especially (those who) were real (pro-Japanese). They would get up like five o'clock in the morning, wear these headbands, and go "Washa washa," (marching). We didn't become (...) militant. (...) Besides, we would always say, "No, we don't want to do that." And he (would leave the older ones alone).

TI: So this is your father talking to you about this, or who was talking to you about this?

SA: Oh, if he wanted us to, well, he never pressed us to join any group, because we were, we just would say no. And he took that for an answer. But I think we were kind of on the low-key side compared to a lot of families. But it was certainly a camp of turmoil. They had shootings there. They had the military, they came to every barrack and went through to see if you had any firearms or anything like that. I remember that. And in retrospect, they were kind of difficult years, especially for my parents. Because I was still a teenager and not even thinking seriously about all these things. I certainly didn't want to go to Japan though.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

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

TI: Well you mentioned earlier that your dad and some of your dad's friends, or people in the block who talked to your dad, mentioned that they thought Japan was going to win, or were winning. What was the information? What did you think, in terms of how the war was going when you were at Tule Lake?

SA: We just didn't get information from the outside. And so, just like I said, the only outside information (we) received (was) by taking the, once every Sunday edition of the San Francisco newspaper that was delivered to us, and that was it. And then, two of my classmates from first grade, they wrote to me, but it was always (...) general talk, nothing about the war. (But) about other classmates, and that was about it. So I didn't really hear anything. (After all, I'm sure the people on the outside considered us as Japanese).

TI: But you personally, so you read the once-a-week San Francisco Chronicle and got messages.

SA: (Chronicle).

TI: Was your sense that the United States was winning the war, or did you still not really know?

SA: We had a feeling that Japan was losing. But you know, when we mentioned it to my father, he would be influenced by other (people's) rumors. You know, the rumors were rampant in camp. Because it's (an internment camp) the rumors get out of hand, as I remember. (Narr. note: A lot of the Japanese in camp didn't believe the American press).

TI: And what were some of those rumors?

SA: Oh, like Japan is winning the war, or they're going to, you know... in fact, I'm sorry but I didn't pay much attention to it, being a teenager. And (as) it was, people would complain about the food, or (about) not getting enough, (etcetera). (...) I was just involved with my own life. And we didn't hear too much about the outside or (about) people on the outside (...). (Narr. note: In camp we just weren't involved directly with what was happening outside because we just didn't have the freedom of the outside world).

TI: So one last question that just occurred to me. What about your mother, during this time? You talked about your father sort of meeting these men and getting perhaps a little confused. What about your mother? Do you have a sense of how she felt about this?

SA: She never said hardly anything. And in camp, she worked, she was able to work as a dishwasher in the mess hall. And she had, made a very nice friend and she never talked about the war. She never talked (much and) we didn't communicate too much (either). We didn't talk things over either. She came when she was, to the United States, when she was eighteen and it was a hard life for her. She had, actually she had nine children, two died in infancy. (Most) decisions were made by my dad. And I don't think they were the best decisions. She was on the quiet side; (she) just went along. And even when we were living on the farm, she never got to go to Seattle. She just worked, worked, worked. She didn't have any social life in Bellevue when we were growing up. So, at the Kokkaido, (she) would go to movies, that was just about it. And when we went to Seattle, she just stayed home and (...) worked.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

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

SP: So your family was about one of twenty families who came back to Bellevue postwar.

SA: No, it was (twelve of sixty prewar families who returned to Bellevue).

SP: One of sixty families.

SA: Pre-war, there were sixty (...) Japanese American families. And we were one of (the twelve families) to return.

SP: One of twelve, okay. Okay. So what kind of conditions did you return to? What was your house like? You mentioned that there had been people living in it.

SA: Yeah, they were what you call white trash. And they would not move out of the house. And we didn't get any rent money, they couldn't pay. (...) We were late in coming back, (returning) January (...) 20th.

SP: So you came back in the dead of winter pretty much.

SA: Dead of winter, and school had already started. (...) Mitsuko Hashiguchi's (family), who's a former Takeshita, (...) had returned months earlier. And they took us in, our whole family. (They were nice) to take us in. Because our house was unlivable. They had chickens running through the house. And you don't know what else. Our roof was leaking, it was (in terrible condition). And the land was fallow for all those years, because no one wanted to farm. (People) could make better money working at the Kirkland shipyard, which is now Carillon Point.

SP: And what happened to the bathhouse that your grandfather built?

SA: Oh, we still used it. Yeah, we still, we did have the bathhouse. And we still used it, even after the war. But we stayed with the (Hashiguchis), but we couldn't all stay there (too long), so I found a job with an American family by the name of Gavins and I went to work as a live-in nanny. So the rest of my high school years was as a live-in nanny and report to work right after school. So I couldn't participate in any of the school activities, just went to work (after school).

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

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

TI: But Sumie, how did your family eventually get the house back? You said there was a family?

SA: They moved, but we couldn't live in it (right away). But they had (finally) moved out by the time we returned.

TI: I see.

SA: But it was an unlivable house, and I don't know how they lived in it. These, they were called, really what you call "white trash." (They even chopped down fruit trees for firewood).

TI: So it took time to just clean it up and make it more livable.

SA: (...) They had to get a professional plowman who plowed the fields for us. And a lot of things were stolen. They just went every day (to the house) to clean up (...) the best they could. But I didn't see all that, because I was working in this American family's home (while) going to school.

TI: So give me a picture of the house. Like tell me what the house was like before the war, like how large was it, what were the rooms like?

SA: Oh, you know...

TI: You mentioned the bathhouse, describe that...

SA: By Japanese standards, when you think of (the) Japanese Americans, my grandfather (...) did well at the public market; he made a lot of money. (We had) the house was painted. We had even (cement) sidewalks, and things like that. (...)

TI: But before that, before the war, describe the house.

SA: Okay, I'm sorry. Okay.

TI: Like how many rooms, and did you have your own room?

SA: No, we had four bedrooms, but we had an outdoor toilet. But we had water pumped into the house from the well. We had a well. And then we had a bathhouse that my grandfather had built. (...) A lot of my friends would say, "That's luxurious." Because they used to take their baths in a washtub. But we had a bath house that my grandfather had built and we built a fire underneath (...). And then like a raft, and we would sink into it. But we would wash ourselves outside the tub and immerse ourself into the tub. And all my sisters would all get into it and we enjoyed that a lot. And I remember that my mother would put wood in the fire and it would get hotter and hotter and hotter. And you could withstand it, real hot water. And we would come out looking like lobsters. I'll tell you. [Laughs] And then my mother would, after we'd bathe, my mother would put the cover on top of the tub and she would recycle the water and use it for, next day. It would be still warm, and she would (use) the water (to) do the laundry. And it was actually clean because we would all wash ourselves outside the tub. And it was kind of a nice bathhouse. Yeah, we enjoyed that, (...).

TI: Was there a certain order in terms of who got to take the bath first?

SA: Oh, of course. My father.

TI: So tell me how that worked.

SA: The men of the house got to go in first.

SP: So your brothers, too.

SA: No, not so much my brothers. My father got to go in first. And we enjoyed it. And I think all the, we used to have some permanent workers, too. And sometimes they would be (...) Kibeis (working for us) and they really enjoyed it, I remember. (...)

TI: I'm sorry, I still want to go back. So when you guys had bath night, would the men relax, too, with perhaps storytelling or drinking, or is still pretty much bath, and to bed?

SA: It was just a bathhouse. Just went in there and took a bath and that was it.

SP: No social component.

SA: No socialization.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

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

TI: And so, what did people do for socialization? At some point, you guys had fun...

SA: I tell you what, we just worked. Summer time, I'm telling you. And then the only thing that they had was the picnic at the Kokkaido. And then there was the Japanese school (next to the Kokkaido). And it was (...) in the woods, we'd lay out our blanket, it'd be underneath the trees (...). They would have races. And (...) cracking the watermelon. And that was what we did, that was the big thing. But hardly no socialization, because of the fact that the farmers worked, worked, worked.

TI: So was your sense that the people, the Japanese in Seattle, had a much easier life? That they had much more time to socialize?

SA: Oh definitely, I'm sure they did. (...)

SP: So now you mentioned that you went and worked as a live-in nanny. I'm curious what was happening to some of your other siblings, like your sisters. Did they also go and live somewhere else and work?

SA: They, too. Because they (also did) housework at homes in Medina. And you have to remember that in Bellevue and for the Seattle people, too, as well, you couldn't even get a job in American department store. No department store, like even Penney's, or even a drugstore, they would hire a Japanese American.

SP: So the mood at that time was very hostile.

SA: That was how it was. (A) lot of my friends all worked as live-in nannies. And then after I graduated from high school, I went to Seattle and I worked for a doctor's family and I typed manuscripts (while attending) University of Washington for one year. (...) I didn't have any money (and) I had to help my parents out. Whatever money I made, I had to give most of it to my parents. And so, my sisters did, too. (Further schooling was out of the question.)

SP: How long did it take to rebuild their farm and their land?

SA: Oh, I think that it took them quite a long time. They used to hire people, too. In fact, they even called for some cousins from Japan (to help out). (Their) home was bombed in Yokohama. (My father's) sister (had) two children that were born in the United States, they were citizens and they were able to come back. And my father thought (he) could use them to work on the farm. But they didn't work out too well, because they were, you know, teenagers and they were city boys. It (...) was a mistake really (to send for them).

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

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

TI: So that reminds me, while you're rebuilding in Bellevue, your grandfather and your uncles are in Japan. What's going on over there with your family there?

SA: But they had already passed away, my grandparents. No, excuse me, I take that back. My grandmother had died during World War II, and we received a notice through the Red Cross that she had died. And my grandfather lived to be way into his eighties, and my father was able to see him (and visit) him, but of course, my grandfather was in ill health. And my uncle had died, too. (...) Unfortunately, my uncle who graduated from Bellevue High School in 1934 went to Japan and (attended) Meiji University. And then, because he had dual citizenship, (...) was taken into the Japanese navy and he perished. So it was very sad for my grandparents, because here my uncle who had accompanied his parents to Japan, died when he was only twenty-eight years old. He was married and had a daughter, and so we keep in (touch) with her, because she wants to know about her father. (...) She wanted to know about her father's childhood because she didn't really know too much about it. So I have (a folder) they put together. (...) The internet is amazing, they got pictures and everything, and I have to show it to you. She and her husband put it together.

TI: Now did it every cause any problems that your father's brother, your uncle, was in the Japanese military? Did that ever come up in any interviews?

SA: Well, we didn't even know that he was in (the Japanese military). He was taken, because it was (during) the war. (...) His sister, (my aunt), was living in Los Angeles -- (had) studied in Japan, so she was very knowledgeable in the Japanese language and she had also gone to school in the United States. So when the war started, she was recruited by the, it's called the Army Special Programs Administration. (...) During World War II, she taught at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul (...). She taught the army people. Not, it wasn't like military intelligence.

TI: This was actually through the university?

SA: Actually through the university, yeah. It was called Army Special Programs Administration. (Narr. note: My aunt said upon completion, they were promoted to lieutenants.)

SP: So Japanese language specifically?

SA: (Yes), she taught the Japanese language, because she was bilingual. And bilingual people were really sought after during World War II. And she was very knowledgeable in both languages.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

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

SP: So turning back to Bellevue after the war, can you describe for us some of the things you'd noticed had changed? What were your impressions of coming back and how was it different?

SA: Well, like I mentioned, the floating bridge was constructed in 1940, we returned (after the war) in 1946. Bellevue had changed because of the bridge and the ferry system from Medina to Leschi was no longer in operation. And Miller Freeman, who was the father of Bellevue, you know they call him the "Father of Bellevue," was instrumental in getting the bridge built, and he was developing Bellevue (and the) Bellevue Shopping Center. (...) It was already a growing city. It was growing, (...) and I felt (the) difference, because they built a Frederick & Nelson there and Old Main street still exists (...). And the Freemans, they had visions of Bellevue, of becoming a metropolitan city (and major development was going at full speed).

SP: So there was a lot of this sort of real estate development.

SA: Very much so.

SP: What happened to old properties like the old Japanese clubhouse, the Kokkaido. Was that still around?

SA: They sold it. It was sold, but it was never in use (after World War II by the Japanese Americans). It was used for storage during the war. We all went to get our belongings (where) we had stored things. And I'm surprised (they) didn't burn (it) down. (...)

SP: What kind of changes did you notice when you went back to the Overlake School, where you were going to high school?

SA: Oh, you could feel the prejudice. You don't have to talk to anyone. you could just feel it. But I talked to (some former classmates who) welcomed me back. But then they don't (invite me) into their homes (...). According to what I hear, that if you talk to someone, they will tease that person talking to you and call them a "Jap lover." And so, in fact, our neighbor told us that he had gone to this grocery store. (...) And he talked to (...) the owner, and he didn't really want to talk to him, was embarrassed (...) because he thought he might lose customers. (He knew him from before the war). (...) I remember this very vividly -- is (of) Adabelle Whitney; her father was the editor of the Bellevue Journal American. And she and I went to school (...) when I was in second, she was a year behind me, but I'd known her through all those years of going to Bellevue grade school. And she said, "Sumie, welcome back." And she said, "You know, Sumie," she said, "it makes a difference if you know that person." (...). And I thought, I never forgot those words. So we didn't socialize, but that's the very words she said to me. (Narr. note: Mr. Whitney's views were of a racist nature because Miller Freeman had an interest in the newspaper.)

SP: So can you tell me about the changes that happened with the cemetery after the war?

SA: It was not, actually, no one took care of it. And it's right near where the Overlake Hospital is on 116th Street, the 1400 block. Because I know, because we lived on the 1400 block, about three blocks (away). (...) But, the cemetery is now where all the medical buildings are on 116th and Bellevue. And just last year, I had gone to the doctor's office and I thought, "Oh my God, it's only a block from where the cemetery is." It just kind of gave me an eerie feeling. The reason being that after, I'm talking about in the 1980s, my girlfriend (who didn't) know anything about the cemetery (or) about the history of Bellevue like I know it, said, "Sumie, you know..." And I was driving, I picked her up and we were driving (on) the overpass (near) 116th, (above) 405 Highway, 405 Highway (...). Right underneath is where the cemetery was. She said, "Sumie, I would walk on this overpass." So she said, "Don't drive over that way (...)." Because she said that, "When I walked there," she said, "I felt this sensation of being pulled down." And I said, "Really (...)?" And she thought it was just her, but she said, "When I went the second time, felt the same thing." So she said that she avoided it after that. She used to go for walks every day (and) she just avoided it. (...) The cemetery (remains were collectively moved) to Sunset. One of the laws is that when you find remains like that (from purchased property), it's up to the person that (buys) the land to (move it) and give it a proper burial place. And so that's what they did. And so the Japanese community, with some of the funds from the Kokkaido (purchased) a nice marker (for) the burial place for the Japanese pioneers and those that had passed away before the war. So that's one of the memories of the cemetery, of Midlakes (cemetery) and Bellevue.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

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

TI: And so the Kokkaido, earlier you mentioned it was, was intact when you came back.

SA: It was intact.

TI: But you mentioned that you were surprised that it didn't burn down.

SA: Yes, I'm surprised because three families, the houses burned. And that was during the war, toward the end of the war, when they thought that we were going to return. Under suspicious circumstances, so...

TI: And so these were all Japanese, sort of, buildings? That were burned down, the three?

SA: Oh, yeah, homes. Homes. Mr. Matsuoka was the leader in the Japanese American community. He's the one that started all these programs, like the Seinenkai for the Niseis. So they had the basketball teams, gives us something to do because we certainly were not a part of the, of Bellevue, the white community (of Bellevue).

TI: Because earlier you mentioned that before the war there were over seventy families, and then only twelve came back. And before you came back, you know, these houses were burned down. I mean, so, was your father concerned about coming back to Bellevue? Was there some talk about --

SA: Well, there was no choice. You know the War Relocation Authority was the one that tells you where to go. And that's why we were given twenty-five dollars and it was hard on my dad because he had had the fields plowed (after our return). (The land was fallow). Not only that, he had to buy seeds. A lot of equipment was stolen. And we had no income because we couldn't farm during the winter months. And nothing could grow until maybe the spring season (...). This was why we had to go out and work, and the best I could do was as a live-in nanny at this home and I remember getting twenty dollars and I think fifteen I gave to my parents. My sisters did the same (but they worked full time). But you know, the jobs were not available to us.

TI: And how long did the family hold the farm before they sold it?

SA: We sold it in 1953. (Six families) all sold it collectively. Like the Hashiguchis, the Takeshita/Hashiguchi, our neighbor (...). The Aramakis, (...) the Itos, (etcetera). We all sold it at the same time; (...) it became the Safeway Distribution Center. But, and I understand some of it was part of the railroad system, too. Because the railroad went right by our farm. The Great Northern Railway.

TI: And so describe how six families, all farmers, decide to sell at the same time.

SA: Oh yeah, it was one real estate...

TI: I mean, there must have been some incentive for you guys to sell?

SA: It was 1953 and I think that we were all ready. My father was already (getting old), you know, we girls just didn't want to farm. And the Hashiguchis, I don't think they (...) wanted to (continue to) farm. And then Akira Aramaki, our neighbor, was going into real estate (...). (Our farms were small, 10 to 13 acres.) I think we were all ready to cease farming. Like my father was the last of the immigrant farmers, so that was that. And a lot of the Niseis had taken over. In the Ito family, (they had taken) over the farms, whereas my father, I think that it was getting difficult for him, being Issei, too.

TI: And so when the six families decided to sell like this, do you guys decide to sell as a group?

SA: No, individually.

TI: So explain that. How did that work?

SA: Well, it was individually, though, I think that the liaison person was Mr. Matsuoka, who had international real estate at the time. He was (the) liaison (person and) individually, he came with the representative. And I don't really remember because I was no longer living at home. (...) In 1953, I was married (...). And I was already twenty-four years old. And my father (was) an Issei, (but) by that time he had gotten his citizenship, so he was able to do the legal work.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

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

TI: Okay. Just one more follow up question, and you mentioned earlier, a gentleman by the name of Miller Freeman as having a vision for Bellevue. He helped bring the bridge across and developed the Bellevue land. He's also noted, a noted, sort of, anti-Japanese character.

SA: Very.

TI: He was head of the Anti-Japanese League.

SA: 1916. I read that.

TI: And so did you, did people have a sense of that? Did the Japanese American community know of his sort of anti-Japanese --

SA: We were all aware of that. Every person that you would talk to of the Nikkei community would know that Miller Freeman was anti-Japanese. In fact, he had a group of Nikkei come over to his house to talk it over about the situation (during World War II). (...) And two Issei (representatives) of the Japanese community, (...) and (three Nisei representatives) they're all gone now. (...) We all knew each other (in Bellevue). And very supportive of each other. So you mentioned someone's name, we all knew each other, the three hundred people in Bellevue. We were just all very cohesive, close-knit group. But Miller Freeman, everyone knew who he was because he was very anti-Japanese.

TI: And also very powerful.

SA: Very powerful. He was instrumental in getting that (I-90) floating bridge (built). (He) and his son and grandson (developed) Bellevue Square, the Hyatt Regency. Just recently, his grandson wrote a, published a book about the family. And he has, I think one or two pages about the Japanese people, about how his father respected the Japanese people. I mean, it was not true. But in reading this book (...) I was just incredulous to read that in 1980s when they needed money for the Hyatt Regency, they sought out Japanese money. Itochu, you've heard of the Ito Company? It's one of the conglomerates of Japan. They provided a lot of the money, because Japan was booming at that time. And I couldn't believe it. I think I lent you the book. So I'll show the picture of the ribbon-cutting, of these Japanese representatives, and the wife is in the kimono. And oh my goodness, if (they) only knew about, about the family and how much they hated the Japanese. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, it's so ironic.

SA: Very ironic.

TI: But you mentioned that early meeting of these Isseis who went and talked with Miller Freeman, yeah, Miller Freeman. Can you describe what that meeting was all about?

SA: About the situation, when the war started. It had after the war started. And it's in (Strawberry Days), but it's in detail in the (Strawberry Days) book that was written by Dave Niewert.

SP: Strawberry Days?

SA: Strawberry Days. It's written about that meeting, when the war started, (Miller Freeman had Japanese American community) representatives come. And one was, the name was Inatsu, and he was one of them (...) that went to meet with Miller Freeman because he wanted to talk to them and have a meeting with them.

TI: So Miller Freeman wanted the meeting. He wanted to talk to them?

SA: Yes, he did. He's the one that wanted the meeting, as far as I'm concerned. Because it wouldn't be the Japanese community (requesting it). He would be the one. I'm almost sure of that. (Narr. note: The meeting was on December 13, 1941.)

TI: And was there any outcome from that meeting?

SA: Not really. And after that there was disinterest on the part of the Japanese. And he was mad because I think one, only two showed up or something, when four or five were supposed to show up. He was very angry. (Narr. note: Mr. Freeman wanted this meeting so that there wouldn't be any "treasonous" activity in the Japanese American community.)

TI: So I just want to confirm something you said. So you said, more recently, Miller Freeman's grandson came out with a book. And in there, a couple of pages...

SA: He writes about the Japanese, how he respected them.

TI: So when you saw that, you were just incredulous.

SA: (...) I saw these pictures of the (Bellevue) Hyatt Regency opening, with the ribbon cutting. And then these Japanese representatives from the Ito Company (at) the ribbon cutting, (...). Japan was booming (in) the 1980s. (I) was just incredulous. And that's the land(...) I looked at (historian) Mr. Tsushima's book, that that was the land where the Japanese had cleared, where the Hyatt Regency (stands). And I don't think (Itochu) were aware of the history of the Bellevue immigrants, because, you know, times have changed. (...) I got a lot of information from the (Strawberry Days book). Most of it is accurate (...).

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

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

SP: I'm wondering if we could go back a bit to when you were working as a live-in nanny. I'm curious about what that work was like for you. How old the children were.

SA: Oh, it was mainly babysitting.

SP: Babysitting. For what age of children?

SA: They were like four and two.

SP: So very young.

SA: It was just taking care of these kids.

SP: And did you feel that you were well-integrated into the family?

SA: Well, I learned how to cook American food. [Laughs]

SP: Did you take meals together with the family?

SA: Well, you know, I just ate with the kids. I always ate with the children. Made sure that they were fed. It was mainly babysitting, (...) she did have a person coming in to clean the house once a week, too. They were very wealthy. They were food brokers, and during the war, food brokers did very well (because there was a food shortage).

SP: So you mentioned that you got married in 1953 at the age of twenty-four. Can you tell us about how you met your husband?

SA: Oh, we're divorced now.

SP: Okay. So at that time, were you schoolmates, or how did you come to meet each other?

SA: No, I used to (be) on a bowling team. So, he was on the bowling team, too. So, that's how we met. But we were married twenty-five years.

SP: And did you have any children together?

SA: Two boys.

SP: Two boys. What are their names? And how old are they?

SA: David, he's married. And Douglas is not married. And they both, you know, are doing okay. David lives in Issaquah and Doug lives in Kirkland. And we get together frequently. We have family gatherings.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

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

SP: Okay. Well, I want to move a little further ahead, and I'd like to ask what your feelings were about the government's formal apology and the issuance of monetary reparations in the 1980s to Japanese Americans. What were your feelings about that?

SA: Oh, I think that we deserved it actually. And I, it's too bad that our Issei parents who worked so hard, (are) the ones (who) really deserved it. Because they came to this country, an alien land, and worked so hard. And you know, they taught us to be honest and hard-working. And I really appreciate the Japanese culture that was instilled in us.

SP: How did you spend your redress money?

SA: Oh, I tell you what, I gave some to my children. [Laughs] I think a lot of Niseis did. I've talked to many Niseis, and they say, "Oh, I gave some to my kids." And so I gave half of it to my children. And then, the other half, I just think that I just put it away. Saved it. That's a typical Japanese because we were always taught to save our money.

TI: Well, I'll have to talk to my parents. I didn't get any of that money. [Laughs]

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

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

SP: So Sumie, in your adult life, you've taken two pilgrimage to Tule Lake, what were those experiences like for you?

SA: Oh, very rewarding. I went to one this year (and in 2004). (...) I'm surprised how people are bringing their grandchildren. (I went with my now deceased) two girlfriends' (daughters). One of (my friends') daughters teaches at San Diego State University, and she wanted to give this presentation to, at the school, at San Diego, so she wanted to come. (...) Her husband came (also) and they got a lot out of it. And after that, she went to Hunt, Idaho (with her husband). She didn't go on the pilgrimage (to Hunt), but she wanted to do some research there. And then she went to Manzanar. So the young people are really taking an interest in the internment of Japanese Americans, (the) Tule Lake camp (with) so much turmoil there, she said (...) was really (...) interesting. But, course, she said that, you know, she really said it was worthwhile to go to (all) these places (...). And I also took my friend's daughter, Jacquelyn Murahashi, who lives in San Jose; she's an attorney there. She works with Japanese Americans (and Asians at) the Asian Law Alliance (and) was very interested (in our experience). She's went to two pilgrimages with me and got a lot out if it, too. And she's really interested in Japanese American causes, things like that. (...) I'm glad that they (both) carry on the traditions (and legacy) of the Japanese Americans. (Their parents, all deceased, would be proud).

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

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

SP: Well, as we're winding down, I just wanted to ask you if there's anything else that you wanted to share or any other stories that you wanted us to know?

SA: Just, let me see, I told Tom that I just recently talked to my girlfriend and her name was... is it okay to bring it up at this time?

TI: Yes, yes, please.

SA: Her name is Miyoko Kawakami. And they were the largest landowners in Bellevue, Japanese American landowners. One hundred and four acres in the Wilburton area, near Kelsey Creek, I don't know if you're familiar with that. But they never returned because they had lost their property. But her story, she said that she didn't continue with her education. None of them did, but They helped their father who was one of the younger Isseis. In his late forties, she said they worked in the canneries of Isleton, after they were released from camp. And at that time, too, they stayed at Tule Lake until the very end. And there was a time of indecision, her father thought, he knew he couldn't get his land back. And had thoughts about maybe returning to Japan, to Fukuoka. But they all stayed and helped, helped and worked hard. And they lived on the premises where they offered housing for the cannery workers. So she said it was very meager living for two years. And helped the father buy twenty acres, a down payment (on) twenty acres of land in Reedley, California, she said they bought this land where they had (raised) watermelons (that) were still there, she said. But that wasn't their (specialty), they didn't want to raise that, they wanted to raise tomatoes and zucchinis, and things like that. That they were more familiar with. And she said that their father paid off that land in seven years. Worked hard. Really, they all worked hard. And she said that when he got his citizenship in 1952, she said that he wanted to buy these labels for the boxes that you put on, "Raised in Reedley by Kawakami Farms." And he was able to do that, and lived to be ninety-six years old. And she said that before he died, he said that he had no regrets about all the hard times of being an immigrant and losing his farm. And they, he said he had a very happy life in Reedley and felt that he (had succeeded). So I said, "You know, Miyoko, that's a real nice story." Because, you know, they all helped out, they worked hard. And so she went to the camp pilgrimage too. I invited her and I said, "Would you like to go? (There's) going to be eleven in our group." And she brought her two daughters, and (...) her granddaughter. And she said that, and (she's satisfied with her life). I mean, she had sent her kids to college, and her granddaughter had just gotten a double degree from Stanford. And even her own children she said that they have done okay. (So) I thought the Kawakami family, (...) was kind of a nice story. Because they had lost all of their land, and the father just persevered, (worked here) and just didn't look back.

SP: Really turned it around.

SA: Yeah, and their mother lived to be ninety-one, father, ninety-six. And in fact, at one of the Bellevue gathering, they said, "Oh, Mr. Kawakami is the longest living Issei from prewar Bellevue." [Laughs]

TI: That's interesting. Can you just give us a little more details of how he lost the farm? You mentioned earlier it was the largest farm.

SA: It was a hundred and four acres in Bellevue. Can you imagine? But the thing of it is, see, like in our case, we bought the virgin forest for $300, and cleared the land. And we owned it outright. But they had bought this Wilburton property, Bellevue property in (...) 1936, I believe she told me. And they had, they were making payments on it, and when you make $12 a month in camp, you (can't continue making payments). You know, they just lost their farm because they (discontinued to make) the payments on it.

TI: And so who took it over? Was it a bank foreclosure?

SA: I don't know what kind of (foreclosure it was). She said they just lost it. They just couldn't make the payments anymore. But (...) I said, "Miyo, it's nice that your family did (...) well. Is it okay if I tell this story, because I'm going for the interview, and would like to maybe mention that about her family." Because she says they've never told anyone here in the Pacific Northwest about she had, they had gone through. But, one of the things she did tell me that was, "My father, (...) one day (...) said, 'I'm going to buy you all a watch, for appreciation for all you did for me,'"(...). So he took them to a jewelry store and bought them all a watch. And I said, "Gee, that was pretty nice. Really nice."

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

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

SP: [Showing a map printed in a newspaper article]. So we're looking at a prewar map of the Bellevue area, in the Bellevue Journal American. And so you can see all of the rental properties that were being managed by Japanese, as well as the properties in the darker color, of properties that were owned by Japanese. So starting here, this area here, is what is now downtown Bellevue Square. And Sumie, can you tell us where your parents' original rental farmland was?

SA: Well initially, before, right across from Bellevue Square is Lincoln Square. And right in that vicinity, is where they actually leased the land. But the ownership of their land was here.

SP: Their ten-acre property.

SA: Ten-acre property, with five other families. And it was virgin forest so they had to clear it. (By) horse and buggy, they went every day, from Northeast Eighth, which is the busiest street in Bellevue today. And they went back and forth (to clear) the land. (...) But the land in the Lincoln Square area was leased land, (about 5 acres). And it was not very productive, according to my dad.

SP: And I also want to point out this block of land here, item sixteen, which was the farmland, the 104 acres that was owned by the Kawakamis, which is the family that Sumie talked about.

SA: Yeah, and they were purchasing their land, (...) they had bought it in 1936 and (purchased it through a relative) who was a citizen.

SP: In order to process the paperwork.

SA: Yeah, in order to purchase the land.


SP: [Showing a panoramic photograph]. So we're looking at a photograph taken in 1934 of Bellevue. And Sumie, can you just point out for us where the farmlands were that the six families owned property?

SA: Well, they were, the Takeshitas had thirteen acres. But their land extended a little bit further. And then ours was ten acres. So this is the Takeshita/Hashiguchi family.

SP: And that's the family you stayed with when you came back from Tule Lake.

SA: Yes, we did. Yes. And this is our farm here.

SP: Okay, so this is the Suguro farm.

SA: And in it, approximately five acres on this side, and then there was a railroad track here. I'm sure that when you cross Northeast Eighth it's still there. And those five acres approximately on this side. And then up the hill, too. And this is the Aramaki farm. And this was the Hayashida farm, but they had rented it from a relative. And over here is the Fuwa farm. And he didn't go back either. They sold their land, I believe to the Itos. Because they, and then this was the Yamagiwa farm, and they went on to Chicago; they discontinued farming.

SP: Now, adjacent to the railroad track, is that where you would say the cemetery was?

SA: Right here. Yes, there's a street over here, a little bit. And 116th was where the cemetery, so it was like right across from where we were. I think it was about four blocks over west of where we lived, because our farm ended then maybe a few more blocks was the cemetery.

SP: And can you tell me a little bit about the little lake or pond area? Did you, what were your experiences of hanging out and playing when you were a kid? Did you spend much time around these areas?

SA: Well, you know, we had to help on the farm a lot. It was lots of work, (and during our) spare time (we pulled weeds). We had to work every minute of our spare time (like our parents). And I'm sure that anyone who farmed in Bellevue could tell you this. We didn't have too many pleasures.

SP: Sure, but did the children go ice skating when the lake would freeze over in the winter?

SA: Yeah, it was during the wintertime. (When we did have some time, with no crops). We only had one pair of ice skates, and it was usually too big. And we'd go sledding and it used to freeze over. But not now, like I said, restaurants here, condominiums here (there on the lake front). (...) (And it is near) the overpass (which) my girlfriend was walking on. (...) (It's a major) thoroughfare, (it goes right past Lake Bellevue). And so... I always feel very nostalgic when I go there (and see Lake Bellevue). (...) I Love Sushi is over here. [Laughs] And then the Crab Pot is over here. And then there's a lot of condominiums along here.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.