Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Satoru Ichikawa Interview
Narrator: Satoru Ichikawa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: April 20, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-isatoru-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so today is April 20, 2009. We're in Seattle, Washington, in the Densho offices, and this morning we have Satoru Ichikawa. I'm doing the interview, my name is Tom Ikeda, and on camera we have Dana Hoshide. And so, Sat, it's so good to have you here. So, Sat, I'm going to start from the very beginning. Can you tell me when and where you were born?

SI: Yes, I was born in Fresno, California, on November 2, 1929.

TI: And what was the full name given to you at birth?

SI: My full name is Satoru Ichikawa.

TI: How about a middle name, was there a middle name?

SI: I don't have a middle name.

TI: The name Satoru, was that, do you know why that was given to you?

SI: I believe it has something to do with my father being a Buddhist minister, and he wanted to give me a name that means, "Satoru," which means "to become enlightened."

TI: Good. And growing up, did you ever have any nicknames that people called you?

SI: Yes, I've had a nickname called "Chiisai" because I was one of the smallest kids in the boy's camp. That was one of my nicknames. I don't remember any other nicknames, other than "Sat," which is short for Satoru.

TI: And it's funny, do you remember who gave you the nickname Chiisai?

SI: I really don't know for sure, but it could have been possibly Rube Hosokawa, who happens to be a brother of Bill Hosokawa, or Stanley Kirakomi. They were camp leaders at that time.

TI: Okay, that's a good, that's a new nickname for you, for me, I haven't heard that one yet. Can you tell me your, the names of your brothers and sisters, kind of in birth order? I believe you were the first one, but can you kind of walk through your brothers and sisters?

SI: Sure. After me, my sister Etsuko, my brother Kazuya, my sister Noriko, my brother Akira, my sister Hiroko, and my youngest brother Shinya.

TI: So there were seven children.

SI: Correct.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Let's talk a little bit about your father. Can you tell me what your father's name was?

SI: My father's name was Tatsuya, T-A-T-S-U-Y-A, Ichikawa.

TI: And do you know where he was born?

SI: He was born in Japan at the Nagano Prefecture, a little town called Iiyama in Nagano-ken.

TI: And what kind of work did your father's family do in Japan?

SI: My father's family comes from seventeen generations of Buddhist ministers. So they have a long history.

TI: Is that, is that common for families to have that long of lineage of Buddhist ministers?

SI: I believe in Japan, since the temples are generally, are taken care of by the family, then it goes from one generation to the next, I believe it is pretty common in Japan.

TI: And so did the family have its own temple?

SI: Yes, they have their own temple in Iiyama, Japan. And I was very fortunate to be able to visit it a few years ago.

TI: So I guess the question is, having been part of this long lineage of Buddhist ministers, why did your father decide to leave Japan?

SI: Well, for one thing, I believe that being that he was the second son in the family, and usually the eldest son takes over the temple, he had that liberty to move out, and he wanted to go to the United States to try to further his missionary work.

TI: And so do you know about what year he decided to do this?

SI: I believe that the first time that he came over, he accompanied the Gomonshu, who is the head of the temple in Japan, the Kyoto headquarters, he accompanied him as a baggage boy, carried his baggage around. But I believe that he was chosen because he showed leadership, and was very well-versed in the Buddhist sutras, and so he was chosen to become the baggage boy. But the Monshu was touring the United States and he wanted some assistants to go with him. That's how he got over here in the first place, and that was back, I believe, around 1925 or '26, I'm not certain about that. Finally, when he came back for the second time, this was after he was married in Japan, that was in about '27, I believe.

TI: And so the second time, where did he, did he settle someplace the second time?

SI: Well, he was assigned by the then Buddhist Missions, headquartered in San Francisco, to Fresno, California. And that is where I was born.

TI: So it sounds like the second time, your mother also came with him. The first time she didn't.

SI: Yes. He returned to Japan, got married to Mom, and then they both came over on the second journey of his.

TI: Okay, so before we get to you, let's talk about your mother's family. Can you tell me your mother's name?

SI: My mother's name is Yasashi Ichikawa. Her maiden name was Yasashi Nishi.

TI: And sort of same question, what did her family do in Japan?

SI: She also comes from a temple family that goes back many, many generations, probably about the same number of generations that my dad's family comes from. Anyway, she often tells me that it goes back maybe about sixteen or seventeen generations.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: As an American, it just amazes me, this history that people have, their families, to think back sixteen, seventeen generations, it's... and so for you and your family, it's kind of nice, because you can go back and really trace your lineage.

SI: Yes. Especially since the temples were the repositories of all your family histories, your village people will have the temples keep all their records for them. And so, yes, they do have history that goes way back. And I think at one time, my mother's family came from some samurai leader, but unfortunately was on the losing side. And so usually what happens is when you're on the losing side, you cut off your hair and you could become a monk. So that's probably what happened. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, I was thinking, so in your case, both sides, your father and mother, you can trace generations and generations. It's almost like it's, it sounds almost like royalty. You know, how the royalty can trace back that long. Or is that common, do you think, in Japan, that other families can do the same thing?

SI: I couldn't really say on that particular note. But I think it is very unusual that there are, they've been ministers for the seventeenth generations.

TI: Like if you talked with other Niseis in Seattle, do you think they would be able to trace their lineage back so many generations?

SI: I've checked out with a few of my friends, and they say they have to go back to the government agencies, some office, to find out, but it's not that easy. There's a lot of problems associated with trying to check out your background. For some, it's fairly easy, if your family was fairly prominent. But for others, it was very difficult.

TI: For me, this is pretty rare for someone to be able to know what their father and mother's side, going back so many generations.

SI: Yeah. I think the fact that both families come from the temple, and since the temple was a repository of personal histories, they had an advantage over others.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: How did your mother and father meet? How was it decided that they would get married?

SI: Well, it just so happens that my father was from Nagano-ken, and my mother from Yamaguchi. That's quite a distance, you know, between the two prefectures. But my mother's brother happened to be a schoolmate of my father while they were going to the university. So that's how they got their introduction, through my uncle.

TI: So it doesn't sound like a traditional arranged marriage. Was it more of an arrangement in terms of an attraction between the two?

SI: I don't know exactly. I can't really say. But I believe that they were going to meet and find out if they even were attracted to each other. And when they found out it was okay, they went ahead and got married.

TI: Now, how would you describe, first, your mother? What kind of personality would you say your mother had?

SI: Well, I would say my mother was probably, being the eldest sister in the family, and I think they had about five or six children in their family also, she had to assume the role of the elder sister, take care of the little ones. And from what I understand, in those days, you had to walk quite a ways, travel quite a ways to go to your schools. From what I understand, she had to take a train to go to the next station, walk quite a few minutes to get to a school each day. I know that after experiencing everything that she did, that she's probably, I would consider, the hero in the family. I say that because I believe she's the one that kept the family together. And this I could tell you later on in the story.

TI: Yeah, let's talk about that later on. But just in terms of her personality, it sounds like she was very, maybe, responsible? Was she a little more serious?

SI: I would say that, yes, she was a very responsible person, very strong in character, being able to handle seven children. [Laughs]

TI: Good, okay. How about your father. How would you describe your father?

SI: I think that my father, coming from Japan, was a very democratic thinker. And he's open to many, many things. Actually, even the fact that he aspired to go to the United States from Japan indicates to me that he was a very free spirit in that sense. And he seemed to have been one that adopted democratic practices very quickly.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. So, was he well-read? Did he like to read a lot?

SI: I think that he read quite well. He had a library of books, which he kept. And many of them are very difficult books on religion. He kept the Holy Bible and the Buddhist sutras side by side on the bookshelf, which indicates to me that he's very open in his thinking, and he's able to see and view things from different perspectives.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. That's good.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So, let's talk a little bit -- when he and your mother went to Fresno, how much do you know about the temple in Fresno? What was that like when they worked there?

SI: I think that Fresno became the headquarters of the Central California Buddhist Associations, was a fairly large temple with a fairly large membership. All I remember about the temple, because I was only about three years old, is that they had a building that had a number of steps going up to their main chapel. I think in those days they believe that in order to... I don't know why, but the temple or the shrine portion always had to be on the second floor. So they had to go up a number of steps. They also had a nursery along with the usual church activities, where the kids would come together and be taken care by some of the mothers. Most of it I just kind of remember through photographs that I'd seen of the Fresno Buddhist Temple.

TI: So how did he come to Seattle? So he's Fresno for a few years, and then he came to Seattle. How did that happen?

SI: When I was about four years old, my dad and mom decided to go back to Japan because I believe my dad's mother had passed away. And so he returned to Japan for two years. There, he was assigned to a temple in Kobe for almost two years, and then in '36, 1936, he returned to the United States and he was assigned to the temple here in Seattle.

TI: So what memories do you have of Kobe?

SI: Very little if any. All I can remember is that there was a park close by to our home where I used to go to play. There was an ichiba, or market, where we'd go to shop for groceries and whatnot, you know. I can't really remember too much about Kobe.

TI: Okay, so it sounds like you're about six or seven years old when you come back to the United States?

SI: I was six years old when I came back to Seattle.

TI: And at this point, did you know or could you speak English at this point?

SI: Well, as you know, being that I was in Japan and my parents spoke Japanese, I spoke Japanese at that time. And so for me, it was a brand-new language, coming back to this country. So I had some difficulty in adapting to the English language when I went into kindergarten. It took me a little while to learn the language.

TI: So I'm curious, when you went to kindergarten, were there other Japanese Americans who were similar, where they had just spoken Japanese at home, and then when they started school they didn't know English?

SI: I was fortunate in being able to go to Bailey Gatzert school at that time, and the majority of the students there were Asians. Some of the older students, of course, spoke Japanese at home. I don't know, maybe the majority of them spoke Japanese at home to their parents. So between Japanese spoken within the family, Japanese spoken at the temple, English spoken at school, I quickly became bilingual.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: I want to go back a little bit in terms of, do you know why your father was assigned to Seattle versus going back to Fresno or another city? How was that decided?

SI: I think that at that particular time, the reverend who was here was about to leave, and they had to find a replacement for him. And my dad happened to be available in Japan. They knew that he had been over this, over here in this country earlier, and so I guess he was one of the prime candidates to come over. I don't know exactly everything that transpired in his being chosen, but that's the reason why he came over to Seattle. He was appointed to come over by the Hongwanji.

TI: Do you know if your father had always thought he would come back to the United States? When you went back to Japan after his mother's death, did he think he would come back to the United States or do you think he...

SI: I don't know that.

TI: And do you think when he was assigned Seattle, did he ever talk about at some point returning to Japan to continue his work there?

SI: I think that his idea was to come here to stay once he's over here. Because the temple back in Japan was already taken care of by his older brother. So he had a mission to stay here in this country and to spread the religion here.

TI: Good. Describe what it means to be a minister. I mean, when you observed your father, what were some of the duties he had during these, the prewar years?

SI: Well, aside from the usual job as conducting the usual Sunday service, weddings, funerals, memorial services, he had to still be a kind of liaison between the temple and the community. So he would go to different community activities representing the temple. For example, when the Japanese government would hold their annual New Year's party at the consul general's, my dad would have to go represent the temple along with the president of the temple. If he had some assignments community-wise, he'd be one of those representing the temple. Like the kenjinkais or different types of parties that was going on, he would still be there.

TI: Did he ever have to represent the temple to the outside non-Japanese community?

SI: Like for example what?

TI: Oh, maybe, I don't know, if there were ever a meeting of other, maybe ministers, different churches, or maybe with a city representative or anything like that?

SI: By meeting of ministers, are you talking about ministers of other faiths?

TI: Yeah, maybe other faiths.

SI: I don't really know if he had or not.

TI: Well, let me ask this question. Did he ever, did he have to learn how to speak English, or was he pretty much doing everything in Japanese?

SI: No, he was able to speak some conversational English. And he was very adept at writing in English, too. He's written a lot of letters to us in English. Some of my friends were surprised that he was able to write that well.

TI: And to whom, or this writing English, for what purpose was it? Who did he write to in English?

SI: Okay, here again, some correspondence may have taken place between his friends because of church business. Or if he did write English letters to us -- this is during the war years again -- because he knew that kids could understand English a lot better than trying to understand Japanese.

TI: Well, probably also, we'll get into this later, but probably in terms of the censors, too, if he wrote in Japanese, it would take longer for letters to get to you also, rather than English, I believe.

SI: Could have been. I can't really answer that.

TI: Okay. So during this time, as your dad is the minister, are there certain duties that you had as a son of a minister around the church? Were there any things that you had to do?

SI: Nothing of any consequence other than to be there on Sunday mornings, you know, attending the Sunday children's service in my earlier years. But you know, as you grew up into manhood, well, then my duties, of course, have changed. There's other things that I've done.

TI: So I'm curious, as a child going to Sunday service, was there expectations or more pressure for you to behave than others? Or how did that...

SI: There might have been some pressure, but not very much. Like he would say, "Well, be sure to be good now, because you're Ichikawa-sensei's child, you know. So you be good now." But no real big pressure on their part.

TI: Now, when you were growing up, as now, the minister of the Buddhist church is viewed as a leader of the community. Was that pretty much the way it was before the war, too, that that was a pretty prominent position?

SI: I think that the minister was considered one of the leaders of the community, yes. So that's the reason that later on, they were, of course, the ones that were yanked out. [Laughs]

TI: Right. Okay, so we'll get to that later.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So let's talk about your childhood just growing up in Seattle. What was that like? What were some of the activities you did besides, besides school? I mean, what did you do after school?

SI: Well, I think my childhood was not really too much different from any other young kids of that time. There were times when we would go out and play out in the street playing tag, jintori, kick the can, games like that. We would get together and maybe tell stories. We did have a summer camp for young children at that time called Fresh Air Camp. And this was a camp for boys located in Auburn, Washington. And kids from the ages of around seven years old up to about eighteen would go there and spend the summer under the guidance of leaders. So I went out to the Fresh Air Camp about three years, between the years of 1938 through 1940, just before the war started. But the children that went there were from, drawn from different families within the community, all Nikkei, of course. And I made a lot of good friends from those days.

TI: And who sponsored this camp? Who was in charge?

SI: From what I understand, it was first sponsored by the Salvation Army back in '36. But then they couldn't do it the following year, and they asked some other community organization to sponsor it. And so the Buddhist church took over in '37. So the people that were there, the children that were there were drawn from the overall Japanese community. Not strictly from the Buddhist families, but from all families within the community.

TI: And when you say "all summer," so when regular school finished, you would...

SI: Well, it would be for about two months during the summer. I can't give you the exact months now. I think it was probably July and August. But at least a good ten weeks, anyway.

TI: And during this time period, did you ever return home?

SI: No, we stayed out there all that time. We had the parents come out one weekend called the "Welcome Day" when the parents would come and visit their children. And we'd have a performance for them when they came. It's right by the Green River in Auburn.

TI: Okay, so you were about nine, ten years old when you were going to this camp. Describe what you would do during a typical day at Fresh Air Camp.

SI: All right. The boys were living under canvas tents. These were large tents that could occupy up to about nine or ten boys. And in the morning we would have reveille to wake up. They'd have a recording of reveille. So that would be... well, blasted over the PA system. So all the boys would have to get up early to clean up, brush their teeth, get ready to have breakfast. We would have breakfast underneath another canvas tent, and meals would be prepared by adults. Generally some couple would volunteer to be there all summer to cook. After the breakfast, we would have activities. It could be storytelling or some kind of a game, maybe. We could go out and play softball out in the field. In the afternoons after lunch, we would go down to the Green River and have a swimming session down there. The leaders will teach the young children how to swim. And in the evenings, if the weather is okay, well, we might have a campfire going. Then we'll sing songs, tell stories, then the kids will eventually get sleepy, so, well, taps will sound and then we'd all have to hit the bunks.


TI: Okay, so Sat, we were talking about the Fresh Air Camps. I'm curious, what do you think the purpose of these camps were? Why did the Buddhist church sponsor this? What were they thinking?

SI: I think that the reason why they had the camps was to give the children something to do during the summer. Some recreational activity that they could engage in under the sponsorship of a responsible group with leaders that knew how to teach children the basics of swimming and playing baseball and things of that nature.

TI: How about things like Japanese culture? Were there any cultural activities?

SI: Not in that particular camp, no. It was strictly basketball, softball, playing games, singing English songs. There would normally be a few Japanese songs that they might have sung, but mostly English songs.

TI: Well how about on Sundays? Were there religious services?

SI: I don't think there was any service except maybe one time when my dad came and they had a service, but other than that, I don't believe we had any Sunday service as such.

TI: And so when you think back to those summers at the Fresh Air Camp, do you think back with fondness? Was that a good time for you?

SI: Oh, yeah. I certainly still remember all the good times we had as children. I still see a few of the old friends around. I have some fond memories.

TI: And was this, you mentioned the boys' camp, or the boys' tent. Were there also girls that were there, too?

SI: No, it was strictly boys. The only female around was the cook, who happened to be the wife of a man, you know, they came as a couple and they served as the cook for the whole group.

TI: Now, do you recall if families had to pay for this?

SI: I think they had to pay a nominal sum, yeah. I don't know exact figures, I don't have that.

TI: And you said you did this for three summers. Were the same boys also there for the same summers that you were there?

SI: Well, some of the boys came all three summers that I could remember. But there has been people that came for one year and then left.

TI: Okay, good. Thank you, I didn't know much about that.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Let's talk a little bit more about school. You mentioned Bailey Gatzert. And if your friends were to describe you as a student, how would they describe you in school? Like what kind of student were you at Bailey Gatzert?

SI: Well, I thought that, looking back, I kept my grades up. And so I did quite well in school, and that goes not only for grade school but also for high school.

TI: Well, so after Bailey Gatzert, where did you go, what school?

SI: All right, at that time, Bailey Gatzert was kindergarten to sixth grade. And then we had what they called a junior high school, Washington junior high school is where I went for the seventh and eighth grades. But I was only able to go for the first quarter and a half because I think war broke out in December, and by the following spring, we had to leave. So I wasn't at Washington junior high school, I mean, Washington junior high very long.

TI: Before we get to December 7th, before we do that, what other activities did you do in school? Did you do sports, were you involved in sports or music or art or any other extracurricular activities?

SI: Well, unfortunately, I was never really into music at that time, although I wanted to play some kind of an instrument. I never had that opportunity. So music, I could sing at school, but other than that, I didn't take up any instruments. As far as sports, well, I don't believe I was all that athletic in a sense where you're the sports ace. I'm trying to think of what I did in those days. I remember going to Boeing field on a day hike with some neighborhood friends. Scared the wits out of my mom because she didn't know where I was. [Laughs] And we had an old cart that we made out of an apple box, and rode that thing all the way to Boeing field and back. On the way back, we stopped by what is now Sears. And they used to have what they called, in those days, a camp for hoboes, I guess they called it Hooverville. But we played around there, looked at some of the ponds in that area and came home after eight o'clock. And did I ever get hell from my mom when I came back, because she didn't know where we were. It was not only me but my younger brother, too. And we went all the way from Main Street to Boeing field and back.

TI: And so that's probably round trip about ten miles or something?

SI: I'm sure, all of that.

TI: And so in your family, was your mother, sort of, the disciplinarian? When you guys did something that...

SI: Yeah, my mother was a disciplinarian. My dad would generally be busy at the temple and you wouldn't see him. I think his life is pretty much taken up by temple business, and rarely do we get to really see him, other than when he comes home maybe for his meals, and that's about it.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Let's go to December 7, 1941, Sunday, that Pearl Harbor was bombed. Do you recall where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news?

SI: Yes, I do. I happened to be at the church, and a friend of mine came biking up the alley to tell us that there's a war that broke out between Japan and the United States. So I was behind the temple at that time in the alley, and I just remember that very distinctly.

TI: And what were you thinking when you heard that news? What went through your mind?

SI: I really didn't think of much of anything at that time. I thought, "Gee, that's something new." But I couldn't really think of the magnitude of the problem, the gravity of the problem. See, how old was I then?

TI: Only about thirteen, twelve, thirteen.

SI: Eleven or twelve. I was twelve years old.

TI: I just realized, when you mentioned being in the alley behind the temple, it was behind a brand new temple at that point.

SI: It was behind the current location on Fourteenth and South Main.

TI: Which is, was at that point...

SI: Which is where it is right now, yes.

TI: Which, at that time, was a fairly new building.

SI: It was a brand-new building. It wasn't hardly even, well, used yet. They were still building it. The guts of it were still being built. Laying out all the inside rooms and whatnot. Our residences, the minister's residences happened to be right across the alley from the temple facing Jackson Street, what is now the parking lot. There were two old houses there, and one was inhabited by us, and the other by Reverend Terao's family.

TI: And before we talk about the war, what do you remember in terms of what it took to build a new temple? I mean, that must have been a major undertaking.

SI: From what I could gather, because I really didn't understand what was all going on other than the fact that they were building the temple, I could see the structure going up. And I could see it from the back window of my home, how the building was going up and how the brick layers were laying the bricks on there, how the concrete was being poured. All the volunteers would come in and nail in all the studs and whatnot. I could see it visually every day as it was being built. So, yes, I did have a grandstand view of the whole temple being built from the ground up.

TI: And do you recall or know who funded the building of the temple? Where did the funds come? Because it is a very impressive building.

SI: Well, those are the things that are very sketchy in my mind. But I figure that some people in the temple must be collecting the money, or have the resources to lay down a foundation for the building fund. I understand later on that they had been thinking for many, many years of relocating from the old temple to the new one. So they had to move out of the old temple, which was located on 1020 Main Street, only about three blocks to the west of our current temple, because the government was going to use that area for a housing project.

TI: And so going back to December 7th, so at that point, it was a brand new building, you said they were still working on it. Had there been any services in the new building at that point?

SI: I think that they had conducted some kind of opening service dedicating the building. Like I mentioned before, many of those rooms downstairs in the basement were yet to be completed, but still in a rough-in stage. The chapel area, the main chapel area, was pretty much completed. I don't know about the auditorium, whether the auditorium was completely painted. It was useable in the sense that they already held some kind of a national convention earlier that year.

TI: And at that point, was the gym done, or just the main building?

SI: The gym was done so that you could use it, but I don't believe the walls were painted or the walls were plastered or painted yet. They still had the bricks exposed.

TI: Because even to this day, it's a beautiful building, and I imagine back in 1941, it was a pretty impressive place for the community.

SI: I think it was, yes.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So going back to the Pearl Harbor, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, on that Sunday, did you, were you able to talk with your mother or father about what had happened?

SI: Like I had mentioned prior to your question here, I don't realize, I don't think I really realized the gravity of the situation. I didn't even know what the war meant. So I don't think I had any answers.

TI: But did your mother or father say anything to you about the gravity of the situation? Do you recall anything?

SI: I think it probably was a shock to them, too. They really didn't say much to the children.

TI: So what was it like when you went to school the next day at Washington junior high school? What was that like?

SI: Well, there was talk about the war, but the business was pretty much the school business, you know, conducted. I can't remember if the principal called us into the hall to tell us what's going to happen next.


TI: The question I was going to ask was, so on December 7th, December 8th, the FBI was going around the Japanese community picking up some of the community leaders. Now, were you aware of that? Were you concerned that maybe your father might be picked up? Did any of that sort of... do you recall any of those memories?


SI: Okay. No, I was not aware of the fact that the FBI was picking up the people. My mother had Shinya, the youngest, on December the 9th. So she was having labor pains, probably, by then. Anyway, he was born on December the 9th, two days after Pearl Harbor. And my dad, I know that he knew about other leaders being picked up, and he was ready to go, because he had his briefcase all ready with his toothbrush and clothing and things to bring with him. But he was one of the later ones to be picked up by the FBI.

TI: Now, were you aware that your dad had already packed his briefcase?

SI: Well, I didn't know exactly what it was, but he had a little satchel and had it right by the front door, ready to go anytime.

TI: Now, did you start sensing, though, that something very wrong had happened?

SI: Yeah, I thought that things were rather unusual in the sense that we had to go and burn up our little samurai knife letter opener. [Laughs] Mom had told us to go and burn it up, because it was something that they didn't want to have around. And here, we had just gotten it from my uncle who had come back from Japan, as a gift, you know, to the kids. And I was kind of intrigued by the little samurai sword letter opener. That plus the cameras that we had to get rid of. My dad had bought both me and my younger brother cameras, box cameras. And we had to get rid of that. So I knew that something was wrong.

TI: As the weeks went by, eventually the community got word that they're going to be removed from Seattle. Do you recall that time period and what was going on, like at the temple? I mean, were people starting to have meetings to talk about it, or were they storing things? What were some of the activities?

SI: Well, definitely, we knew that we're gonna have to be moving. Because by the time the time came, my dad had already been taken.

TI: So let's talk about that. Your father eventually, initially he wasn't picked up.

SI: No, he wasn't initially.

TI: Right, but then...

SI: And so he was waiting for the agents to come and pick him up. Finally, when the day came, he was taken down to the Immigration and Naturalization building down on the Airport Way, where he was placed in a cell for... I don't know, several days, I suppose. I can't remember if he even returned home once, because they didn't have enough room. But that's where he went. After that, of course, we had to wait for any kind of correspondence to come from him.

TI: Now, were you around when the FBI came to pick up your father?

SI: I believe I was there when the two men came to pick him up.

TI: And what can you remember of that, of that time when they picked up...

SI: Well, my dad was all set to go, so it's just a matter of him saying goodbye and just leaving.

TI: Did your father say anything to you or the kids before he left?

SI: You know, I really don't remember what he might have said, but I would imagine that he did say something like, "Take care of your mom, listen to your mother." But I can't be sure now.

TI: Do you remember how you were feeling when this was happening, what you thought?

SI: I think my emotions were kind of mixed in a sense. 'Cause I wasn't really sure what was going on, what to expect. I don't think I had tears in my eyes, but I think it was sort of mixed emotions.

TI: Do you recall your mother's reaction during this time?

SI: Well, she had a pretty, I think she had a pretty brave disposition. She didn't want to show any type of fear towards the children. She didn't show any, too much emotion.

TI: And your siblings? Do you recall anything from your siblings in terms of any comments?

SI: I really don't remember now. The younger ones don't know what's going on, 'cause they were too young to remember anything. I don't think they, my sister showed any kind of emotion either. I'm talking about my first sister.

TI: Right.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: And so how much longer after Pearl Harbor, do you know approximately the date the FBI picked up your father?

SI: I thought it was around March.

TI: So, it was, it was about the time... well, so they picked up your father, and then shortly after, people started getting information or news that they're going to be leaving Seattle. So why don't you talk about.... well, first talk about how it was different with your father gone. I mean, what happened to the family?

SI: For one thing, we were fortunate in having friends in the temple that came to help us to pack. Then I remember one gentleman that came to help us get everything together to put into the duffel bags or suitcases. I remember painting a few Ichikawa names on the suitcases. In fact, there's one suitcase that's down in Portland at the Portland Nikkei Heritage Museum that has our suitcase down there, the Ichikawa still on there. [Laughs] Yeah, but I remember helping to pack some of the stuff into the suitcases and painting names onto the suitcase and onto the duffel bags.

TI: With your, with your father gone, was the other Buddhist minister also picked up, or was he around? I think you mentioned earlier there was another...

SI: Okay, the other minister was the Reverend Terao, and he was not picked up.

TI: So why would your father be picked up and the other minister not picked up? Do you have a sense of how that worked?

SI: I really don't know, other than the fact -- I think Reverend Terao was a citizen, whereas my father was still, he became a citizen later on, but he was still a Japanese national.

TI: So Reverend Terao was a Nisei?

SI: He would be a Nisei, or Kibei.

TI: Kibei. And so, I guess, fortunately, the temple still had at least one minister there to kind of oversee things. So describe some of the activities. So as people were leaving, what happened to the temple?

SI: Well, some of the members' possessions were stored in the basement of the temple. And I don't know who was in charge of that. However, the contractor who built the temple, a Mr. Hughes, was very helpful in taking care of the building to see that things were worked out. And I think he's the one that kind of assumed responsibility for the building during the war. And we owe him a deep debt of gratitude for the assistance that he rendered us during that time.

TI: Because wasn't the temple, during the war, used, at least parts of it, by the government?

SI: The government agency took over the temple as the headquarters for the Maritime Service, the U.S. Maritime Service. And they used it to not only for the office, but also to, I guess, house some of the people that served in the department.

TI: Okay. So it sounds like, so some of the temple members stored some of their possessions in the basement, and then during the war, Mr. Hughes helped kind of oversee it, and it sounded like it was leased to the Maritime Services during the war.

SI: Yes.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: In your case, your family's case, why don't you describe the day that you went to Puyallup. What was that like?

SI: Well, Mother got us ready to, to leave, and she said that there's gonna be a bus that will come to pick us all up and take us down to Puyallup. So we all got ready to go. We might have had a few things to take with us, some suitcases and handbags, satchels and things like that, I don't how many there were, but with Mom and seven kids, you know, all going together in the bus with a lot of other people. I can't even remember where we boarded the bus, it might have been in front of the temple, where we boarded the bus.

TI: Now, do you recall anyone helping you? Because you're right, it was your mother and seven children. You were the oldest and you're only twelve, and she had a newborn. So that whole range of young children.

SI: I'm certain that some of her friends, members of the temple, assisted her during that particular period. In fact, all during that period in camp, too, her friends helped her.

TI: So why don't you describe your first impressions when you got to Puyallup. What was that like for you?

SI: Well, I could remember the barbed wire fence, and I could remember the guard towers, and rows and rows of barracks. That's the first impression I had, anyway. And the fact that we had to go through the guarded gates.

TI: And once you got in the gates, did you see very many people that you recognized?

SI: At first I really didn't recognize too many people. Actually, in our particular area, I knew very few people that were in the camp. We had one of the smaller assembly camps, "Camp Harmony" Area C, which is a parking lot outside the fairgrounds. No, I didn't really recognize or know too many people in there other than there was one schoolmate that I kind of remember, yeah, two or three schoolmates that I could remember.

TI: So describe, so you're in lot, or Area C, which is a parking lot. Describe your accommodations. What was that like?

SI: Well, it was, in the first row of barracks, the room is about roughly, oh, twenty-by-twenty. And the separation between the rooms was maybe around eight or nine feet high with an opening on the top. The walls were made out of clapboard and two-by-four studs. There was one window in the back as I could remember, and one door in the front. And essentially that was it.

TI: Like bedding, what was the bedding like for the seven children and your mother?

SI: I believe they had cots for each one of the kids. I'm not quite sure if it was a canvas or a steel cot. It might have been a canvas cot. Then as far as the bathrooms, it was a communal bathroom. You had to go out to go. [Laughs] And as far as the meals, you have to go to a communal mess hall. They'll ring the triangle or someone would shout that breakfast is ready, line up. That happened, of course, for all three meals. You have a long line of people going into the mess halls. I can't remember if there was a canteen where you could buy things there at that time. I can't remember for sure if there was one. But then, of course, there were the communal bathrooms and latrines. Of course, ladies' and gentlemen's were kept separate. But the showers, being communal, you'd all get in together and there'd be a row of showerheads where the water would come out. So that was generally how things were laid out.

TI: And so what did you do to, during the day to sort of, sort of get by each day? What would you do?

SI: During the time that was spent in Area C in "Camp Harmony," I can't remember for sure if we had school or classes. I know I went out and got to make some friends and played with them. They organized some sports where you could play maybe softball. But there really wasn't much of a field to play on. Area C was a very small camp of the four that was in "Camp Harmony." They made a sumo pit where you could have sumo wrestling. But other than that, I don't remember doing much, maybe playing mumblepeg, marbles. Some of the older boys in the next row of barracks even made a little golf course, miniature putting course. That I remember. They had some craft groups that made different types of art like carvings. I remember one gentleman that carved an eagle out of the bark that came off of kindling, and that was fantastic, really.

TI: How about things like religious ceremonies? Did they, on Sundays, have services?

SI: I think that we did have some services. Since Reverend Terao happened to be in our particular camp, Area C, we did have Sunday service. And we would chant sutras and sing some gathas in one of the mess halls.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Okay, so Sat, the first hour we talked about your early childhood, we talked all the way through the Puyallup Assembly Center. And now I want to take you to Minidoka, Idaho, Hunt, Idaho. So can you describe the trip from Puyallup to Minidoka and what that was like?

SI: I just remember a train ride, taking the train from Puyallup all the way to Minidoka. I remember at that time, a popular song was "Way Beyond the Hills of Idaho," and when we hit that state, Idaho, the following morning, I remembered that song. [Laughs]

TI: So were people singing it?

SI: Some of the kids were singing it, yeah.

TI: So it's called "Way Behind the Hills of Idaho"?

SI: No, "Way Beyond the Hills of Idaho. Where yawning canyons greet the sun." I don't want to sing it for you right now. [Laughs]

TI: Okay. That's a new one. I never heard about this song. So what were your first impressions when you got to Minidoka?

SI: My first impression, "Well, here's another camp with barbed wire fence, guards, the gate that you have to go through." We were bussed in to an area that first we were, we were first sent to Block 21 in Minidoka. And we stayed there for a short period of time, and for some reasons unknown, we were moved up to Block 13. And so we did go to two different barracks in Minidoka.

TI: And what would the difference be between Block 21 and Block 13? Was one more desirable than the other?

SI: Well, the difference is that in Block 21, families that were living in Area C in "Camp Harmony" were the ones that also went into Block 21. So those people that I knew from camp were in Block 21. And when we moved to Block 13, that was a whole new set of people that I had to become familiar with. So that was probably the main difference. But then once, you know, I got to Block 13, I found that there were some people I knew from Seattle. And so it wasn't very long before I formed some new friendships or renewed some old friendships.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Now, when you were at Minidoka, did your mother ever receive any letters or correspondence from your father?

SI: She received many, many letters from my dad.

TI: And did the kids, did you receive letters also from your dad?

SI: Yes, we also received letters from my dad, because he could write in English directly to the children.

TI: So what were some of the things that you could remember from those letters? What did he write?

SI: I think the main thing is activities that we were doing during the day, like, going to school, studying, what kind of sports we were engaged in.

TI: Okay, so these were letters that you wrote to your father?

SI: Yes.

TI: Okay, but when he wrote to you, do you recall what he had in his letters?

SI: I think mainly he just wanted us to be sure to mind my mother, you know, and try to be good children so that we don't create a lot of problems for her. There are some letters where he did definitely write excerpts from the Buddhist sutras. Those are some of the things I can remember.

TI: And how frequently did these letters come?

SI: Very frequently. To me, it seems like he was a very good correspondent as far as writing letters, and I think he wrote as many letters as could be sent out, whatever allotment they had for writing letters. So as far as number of letters, I've got a whole collection of letters that he wrote.

TI: So you kept all these letters that he wrote to you?

SI: I have three, four volumes of letters.

TI: And did someone keep the letters he wrote to your mother also?

SI: I have the whole shebang. [Laughs]

TI: And the letters he wrote to your mother, were those in Japanese?

SI: Yes, they were all in Japanese.

TI: Did you ever get those translated, by any chance?

SI: I've been trying to translate a number of them. I have translated a number of the letters, but general conversational type letters are fairly easy to translate. But when it becomes a little bit more difficult, like when he starts to recite poetry, that becomes very difficult for me to be able to translate.

TI: And when you got these letters, where was your father when he wrote these letters?

SI: He was in several different camps. Number one, the first camp that he went to was in Missoula, Montana, and I think he was there for about three months. And then he was moved to Camp Livingston, Louisiana, and I don't know how long he was there. At least a good year, little over a year. Then he was moved over to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and finally from there, we joined him at Crystal City.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So describe that. How... do you know how that was arranged in terms of the family joining your father at Crystal City?

SI: If you're... well, first of all, the camps that we were detained in were Department of Justice camps. I think the government wanted the families to finally get together at the end. They kept us apart for roughly two years, but they decided that, families to get together. So they established a family reunion camp down in Texas, and that was the one at Crystal City. I don't know what the reasoning behind all that is other than to, probably, for humanitarian purposes, I suppose, see that the families get together.

TI: Okay. Well, I'm really interested in Crystal City. So let's, let's go there. And can you describe, I guess, first meeting your father? How, describe that first meeting.

SI: All right. Crystal City is located about 120 miles from San Antonio, near the Mexican border. The camp was located just the outside of the city. But as you go through the gates of the camp, we were, of course, transported by train all the way from Idaho to San Antonio. And then from there, we boarded a bus to be taken down to camp. Once we got into camp, we went to the guard gates and we went to an assembly hall where all the people unboarded and brought all their stuff inside this hall. Of course, my curiosity was to see where Dad might be, you know, because I hadn't seen him for over two years. And I looked around, and finally I spotted him outside looking in from the window. He's very easy to spot because he's bald and he's got glasses. So anyway, that was the first time I saw him since he left us in Seattle.

TI: And how did he look? Did he look pretty much the same?

SI: As I could remember him, yeah, he hadn't changed all that much. He looked the same to me.

TI: And what were you thinking or feeling when you saw your dad after two years?

SI: Well, I was happy to see him. I think for my younger brothers and sisters, they didn't know who he was, 'cause they hadn't really known him all that much. Like my younger kids, younger brothers, they were only about two or three years old, and they don't remember him. So it took a while for them to get used to having him around.

TI: And so your father was there for some time before you showed up?

SI: I think he wasn't there too long, maybe about two or three days prior to the time that we'd gone into camp. He was moved from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Crystal City.

TI: So describe your accommodations.

SI: Our unit happened to be a quaduplex. So we occupied two rooms of the quaduplex in the Q Section of the camp. "Q" stands for "quaduplex," I suppose. Anyway --

TI: So when you say, it was like a quad? Like four units?

SI: Yeah, yeah. So "Q" stands for quad. But anyway, there were several different types of residences in that camp. There were one-unit, one-room units, there were duplexes, triplexes, quaduplexes, victory huts, there were about five or six different types of housing. Is there something else you want to know about the housing?

TI: Well, how was... describe your unit. As much as you can, how many rooms, how large were the rooms?

SI: I would say maybe about fifteen by thirty for each room, and we had two rooms. And it was connected by an opening in the wall. They had just torn down some, a section in the wall, so that the two rooms were connected.

TI: And how about things like a kitchen? Did they have a kitchen or was there communal eating, what was that like?

SI: Yes, we had our own stoves and our iceboxes. Each family was able to cook their own meals in camp, as contrasted to the relocation centers, where you had a communal situation where everybody had to go to the same mess hall or they had a camp, the block cooks cook food for everybody. We were able to make our own meals.

TI: And where would you get the food to cook?

SI: They had a market where everybody would go shop for their food items. And every morning, the mothers generally or the dads would pull their carts along with them to go to the market to buy their food.

TI: And how would they pay for this food?

SI: Well, the government issued a certain number of money to each family. And these were generally tokens, or they were government-issued coins, anyway, that each family received. And that was for the whole month, which they would use to buy their items.

TI: And so besides food, what else would these tokens be good for?

SI: Well, if you want to go and buy some clothing or go to take care of your hair, you know, barber shop, have your shoes repaired. There's other little stores that they had.

TI: So this was a pretty big change for you. When you were at Minidoka, it was like this mess hall kind of food, and then now, Crystal City, you would, it would be more, I guess, normal, in terms of you shopped for food, you bring it back, and then your mother would cook it.

SI: Yes. I think that definitely, it was an improvement over what we had in Minidoka. We felt more as though it was a normal kind of life rather than the type of life that we had in Minidoka where people were all fed together and had to, well, ask others to do things for you.

TI: So tell me a little bit about your father. Did, now that he was living with you again, did you notice any changes in him, or was he pretty much the same?

SI: I don't think I really noticed any big change in him. When he was in Crystal City, he was a schoolteacher. Each adult was assigned some kind of a job in Crystal City. And so my father, having taught before, was assigned a job as a schoolteacher. And so he taught, I believe it was third grade. But this was Japanese language school.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: And then tell me about your, kind of, your life in Crystal City. What kind of things did you do there?

SI: Well, when I was in Crystal City, I was already a freshman in high school. So my daily activity would consist of going to school, doing some homework, and then after that, we would go out and maybe get together with some friends and go watch a movie or go play some baseball or whatever, go swimming.

TI: So first tell me your school, like your class. How many other people were in your class?

SI: I think that our class numbered about maybe (thirty-five) students.

TI: And these were all freshmen?

SI: They were all freshmen.

TI: So would that mean that the high school had close to a hundred, like a hundred students?

SI: Easily.

TI: And tell me who these kids were. Where did they come from?

SI: The children that were in the schools were kids that came from parents that were either ministers, schoolteachers, community leaders, businessmen, or just... fishermen, or just ordinary people. So they come from all different phases.

TI: So the school, I'm curious, how would you compare the school at Crystal City with the school at Minidoka?

SI: First of all, they had a building that looked more like a school than barracks. They had a building that had an auditorium with wings that came off from the auditorium that had little rooms for offices and for classrooms. It was more like a regular high school, whereas in Minidoka it was all in barracks.

TI: And how about the, just the quality of the education? Like the teachers, how would you compare?

SI: I think they drew from volunteer educators in the state of Texas or from other people, from other areas outside of Texas. There were all certified instructors. They were very devoted and dedicated people. And so I thought that we had a very good staff of teachers along with the principal, who were very sympathetic to our situation. Knowing that here we are, American citizens that are incarcerated by the government and denied our rights. I think that these were excellent people that we had for our teachers.

TI: And was that different than Minidoka? Do you think that the quality, the commitment of teachers at Crystal City was...

SI: I don't know if I could equate one over the other. When I was in Minidoka, I was still in the seventh grade, so I was younger, junior high. I can't really place any kind of a value on the, or the quality of teachers. I think they were both very good teachers in both camps.

TI: How about just the general size of Crystal City versus Minidoka? How did that compare?

SI: The what?

TI: The size of the Crystal City camp versus the size of Minidoka.

SI: Oh, Minidoka is much larger than Crystal City. I think at the peak of its population, Crystal City had perhaps 3,300 residents, whereas Minidoka must be close to nine, ten thousand. So it is much smaller than Minidoka, and also area-wise, there's no comparison. Crystal City was a camp that, perhaps, contained about 100 acres of land.

TI: So much smaller...

SI: It was quite a bit smaller, yes, in scale, than Minidoka.

TI: How about security precautions? When you look at the security at Minidoka, a WRA camp, versus Crystal City, a DOJ camp, did you notice anything different in terms of maybe the fencing, the guards, or anything like that?

SI: I really didn't notice that much difference. Both camps had barbed wire fences, both camps had guard towers, although it was, in Crystal City, being that the guard tower was right behind our school, we could see them every day. Maybe the security might have been heightened in Crystal City.

TI: How about things like religious services? You had lots of, I think, ministers there. Did you have, like Sunday services?

SI: Yes, we did have services in Crystal City. It was sort of an, all-Buddhist sects got together, so it was a united service of Buddhists. So there was no definition as far as sectarian, you know, services, in Crystal City. So we'd have not only Shin sect, but also Zen, Shingon, Nichiren, all together. So all-Buddhist service.

TI: And so did your father participate in this?

SI: Oh, yes, he participated in those services.

TI: So that was kind of a, I guess, a different type of service, to have them all together.

SI: Uh-huh.

TI: And so when they would do this, would they -- so I'm not familiar -- did they have similar chants, similar sutras?

SI: I think they stuck to chants that are general, that's observed by all Buddhists.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So tell me about, when you went to Minidoka, most of the people there were from the northwest, either Seattle, Portland, Washington state and Oregon state. Crystal City, where did the people come from?

SI: They came from all over. Like I told you earlier, there was a group of people from Hawaii, many from California. In fact, the main group of people were from the state of California. There were a few of us from Washington and from Oregon, a family that I... a couple of families from Alaska that I could remember. Along with Japanese nationals from Peru, South America. And there might have even been one man from Bolivia, as I could remember.

TI: So tell me about the Japanese Peruvians. So were they just intermixed with everyone else, or did they have separate area for them? What was that like?

SI: Well, they came in together, so they were housed in one area of the camp. But there were no fences between the houses. Some were housed in victory huts because they came in kind of late. And all the other housing was already full, and so they had to raise some victory huts for them to be placed in.

TI: So how did you get along with the kids that were Japanese Peruvian? I mean, there's a language difference...

SI: Well, the only way we could communicate is by Japanese, we'd have to speak Japanese to them. Unless you knew Spanish, it would be very difficult for you to communicate. So most of the communication that took place between the Peruvian Japanese and us were through the Japanese language.

TI: And so how did you get along with the Japanese Peruvians? Did you guys play sports together?

SI: Well, I really didn't have too many Peruvian friends, 'cause they came in kind of late. And by that time, we were almost ready to get out.

TI: When you think of the kids who came from, like, California or Hawaii, did you see differences in terms of, based on where people grew up? Like the Hawaiians, did they seem to be different than, say, the Californians, different than the Washington state?

SI: I think we were more accepting of each other. Being that we knew that we were all in camp together, that all our dads were interned, and essentially we had to learn to be friends. So I thought that we did fine as far as getting along.

TI: Good. Now, was there anything that was a memorable event in Crystal City? When you think back to those days, there was one or several events that really stand out in your mind?

SI: I think one of the memorable events was when we were given the opportunity to go outside and go to a picnic down by the river. Which, of course, we've never seen a river for a long, long time. The school was, schoolkids were given permission by the camp authorities to go out with some guys to go to the Nueces River, where we'd spend the day down there having a picnic. I thought that was a very memorable event for us, just to be out.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Any other events that you can remember?

SI: Oh, yeah. Well, there's a lot of things that happened in camp that I would consider very memorable. My very good friend Edison Uno, whose dad had a hobby in taxidermy, he was able to get the authorities to approve him going out of the camp to collect specimens. So Edison and I would go along with him and go out and collect different types of insects, birds, whatever, out there. And that was an opportunity for me to get out of camp again. He had a little bird that he had captured, had a wounded leg. It was a water bird, and it just hopped around all the time. Brought it home and tended to it, and he'd be walking around with one leg, just hopping around all the time. [Laughs]

TI: So you mentioned your friend, Edison Uno. Edison Uno later on was one of the early proponents of redress, spoke out for getting redress for Japanese Americans. What was Edison Uno like, and how would you describe Edison?

SI: What was that again?

TI: I'm sorry, is this the same Edison Uno that later on worked on redress? And I was just curious, what was Edison Uno like? I mean, describe him.

SI: Oh. Well, you see, Edison and I were schoolmates, both in the same class, and he lived very close to me in camp. And so we would walk to school every morning, he'd come and pick me up and we'd go walk and walk back, also, we'd be on the same softball team. And I got to, you know, be a real chum with Edison. At that particular time, he didn't have any real strong feelings about redress, but I know later on in his life, especially in the later, since he was one of the last, they were one of the last families to leave the camp, long after everybody else has already left the camp, he and his dad were still there. And he would write letters to me saying that, "We're the last ones here." And I don't know what the reasons were that detained his dad, I mean, I don't know why he was kept so long in camp. He was very bitter about the fact that he had to be there when everybody else was gone. And it's for those reasons I think that he got into the redress movement.

TI: Do you know what his father did, what his father did before the war?

SI: I really don't know. I think he was in some kind of business that had to do with trade between Japan and the United States. I'm not sure exactly what kind of business he was in.

TI: But when you think of Edison, how would you describe him, though? What kind of personality did Edison have?

SI: Well, first of all, he was the president of the class, so that shows that he was very popular, very outspoken, very friendly, had a tremendous sense of humor, he was a good cook. Used to cook apple pies, or pies, you know, and give it to all his friends. Very outgoing type of person.

TI: And so when he got involved with the redress, were you surprised that he did that?

SI: I didn't learn about this 'til quite a bit later, when I was reading a paper about Edison and found out that he was an outspoken critic, especially of Governor... gee, who was the governor of California at that time?

TI: Was it Earl Warren, maybe?

SI: Warren, yeah. He just said, "We should impeach Earl Warren."

TI: So did you ever write to him or communicate with him after the war?

SI: Yes, I was already back in Seattle, he was still in camp. And so I used to write to him. Unfortunately, I didn't keep any of the letters that he had sent me. But I could feel the bitterness in his letter, and they were still there. And this was long after the war was over. I don't think he got out of camp until '47.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So let's talk about leaving Crystal City. So describe when you found out you were gonna leave Crystal City and how you felt about that?

SI: I thought it was great. Finally we could leave this camp. Because all the time that I was in camp, my hope was that I could get out. I would always be thinking, "Why are we here? Why are we in this camp, and when will we get out of this camp?" So when we were told that we could leave now, we're gonna go, that was a big day for me.

TI: Now, was that about the same time lots of people were leaving?

SI: Yeah, there were quite a number of people leaving. There was a whole trainload of people that boarded the same train that left for California. And, of course, many of them got off in Los Angeles. We stayed on the train all the way up to Seattle.

TI: And so this was after the war with Japan had ended?

SI: Definitely, yeah, after the war was over.

TI: And when the war ended, do you recall, especially with the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagaski, do you recall any conversations about that in camp?

SI: All I can remember is the day that the war was over, the boys were out in the softball field playing baseball. And we were playing the game, and then all of a sudden somebody came over to say, "The war's over, the war's over," you know. Of course, we all immediately stopped the game and went back to our homes to find out more, what's going on. And of course we all had radios in our homes, no shortwave, but just regular AM radios. So we were trying to listen to see what the heck's going on, you know. So I thought it was tremendous that the war was over, yeah.

TI: And what was the reaction of your parents during this time?

SI: I thought they were very happy that it was over, too. But I think some of the Isseis, they didn't know whether to believe it or not, until the emperor came on and he definitely said that this is over now.

TI: And what do you think the reaction of the Isseis were when they heard the emperor say that it's over? Was there a sadness, or what would you, how would you describe that?

SI: I don't know really. I can't give you an answer on that because each person's reaction is different.

TI: How about your mother and father? Did you get a sense of their...

SI: I'm sure that they had a tremendous sense of relief hearing that the war was over. I don't think there was any bitterness on their part or anything like that. There was a tremendous sense of relief that it's finally over.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: Okay, so earlier you were talking about the train ride. So the train went through California and then brought you back to Seattle. What was Seattle like when you got back to Seattle? Now you're a young man, you're in high school.

SI: I was a junior in high school. And I came back and I saw the lights of the King Street Station. It was at night. I can't remember exactly what time it was, must have been about seven or eight. But we unboarded the train, and members of the temple greeted us. And they took us on a car up Jackson Street. I don't know if there were a couple of cars, but they took us and transported us up to our houses on Jackson Street. I can't remember exactly who was there, but one of the persons that I could remember was a man by the name of T.R. Goto. And I think he was one of the fellows that were there to help us unboard and transport us.

TI: And that... and what did you notice? How had things changed in those years that you were gone?

SI: Well, we were four years older. [Laughs] I think the change has to do more with myself rather than with the surroundings of the temple. The building was still there, although it was still being used by the Maritime Service. Our family had grown, all of us have grown four years. We're ready to go back to school, we had to go back to school. So it's really a continuation of the schooling that we've had, plus reacquainting ourselves with our new surroundings, new school, new classmates.

TI: And so when you went to high school, which high school did you attend?

SI: The high school that I returned to or went to was Garfield High School.

TI: And when you went to Garfield as a junior, how did your education at Minidoka and Crystal City prepare you to be junior at Garfield?

SI: Well, apparently they felt that I had all the credits necessary to enter high school at that particular level, junior class level. It was actually the second half of my junior year.

TI: But when you went to, like, your math classes, science or social studies, did you find that you were, that you had good preparation to fit in and do the work, or did you feel like you were more advanced or perhaps, or behind? Did you have a sense of the quality of education?

SI: I felt like, in some respects, that I had to do a lot of catching up in order to become up to the level of the other classmates. The classes that I had were... what did I have? Spanish, English, Math. Well, actually, the curriculum was pretty much the same. There wasn't that much of a difference between what I'd been taking. It's just a matter of you have to do a little bit more studying to catch up with the rest of the group. It was in, I think it was in March that we returned to Seattle, March of 1946. So, you know, that would have still been near the beginning of the second half of high school, the junior year.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: And when, so when you got back to Seattle, and say, the Buddhist Church, the Betsuin, how had that changed in terms of the membership? I mean, when you came back and they had a service, did it look pretty much the same as before the war, or what had changed?

SI: I think there were pretty substantial changes. Many of the Issei that were members prior to the evacuation no longer was there. They've moved elsewhere, or they've either died or they moved elsewhere. They never came back to Seattle. Then there were others that were new people that decided to come to Seattle who lived elsewhere before the war. I think the composition of the temple has changed, but there were still a fairly hard core of membership that came back that was able to take it up without too much trouble, I guess. The big question for the temple was to pay off the mortgage on the building, and that was a substantial amount of money that had to be raised from members who were, you know, in camp, who had no source of income, who came back to Seattle where they had no business, nothing to fall back on. I remember they had, the finance group had to really go out aggressively asking for donations to try to raise the money to pay off the mortgage for the temple.

TI: Would you say the group was smaller than before the war? When you say, you mentioned the composition changing, some didn't return but new members...

SI: I don't have an exact head count on that. I don't know what the head count was before the war. But I think the numbers of members after the war grew substantially. Where at one time, there were four hundred members in the Fujinkai. That's a lot of people, you know.

TI: So the peak, the peak size up to now has been, was more of a postwar phenomenon.

SI: The size increased after the war, yes. And then like they had two shifts of Sunday school, because they couldn't possibly get everybody into the, all the kids into chapel at the same time.

TI: Did you notice that -- so I'm thinking, just in terms of demographics, the increase, so a lot of Niseis were part of the membership of the Betsuin, and that increased with their children. Do you think that was the cause of the... 'cause you mentioned Sunday school doing two shifts, so it seems like more Sanseis were there. Is that how you would characterize it? Or are you thinking of, there were new memberships, new people joining the temple? I'm trying to get a sense of where that increase came from.

SI: Yeah, I don't know the exact reasons, but I feel that one thing's for certain, the church was, in a sense, a community center, being they had a big gym where people could get together for different types of functions. And we had a court that you could play basketball on, which drew the younger people. We had different types of socials and craft clubs that helped to bring people to the church.

TI: So in terms of challenges for the temple, you mentioned the financial challenge of paying off the mortgage. Were there any other challenges that faced the temple during these postwar years?

SI: I think one of the biggest challenges is trying to find an English-speaking minister. They knew that, the church leaders knew that in order for a religion to spread, they have to have an English-speaking minister that could talk the language of the members, the young members. That was one of the big challenges.

TI: I'm guessing that must have been a challenge for, perhaps, all the Buddhist churches on the West Coast. Demographically, they probably all wanted...

SI: Yes, definitely, it is for all temples, churches.

TI: And so where did the BCA or Buddhist Churches of America find English-speaking Buddhist ministers?

SI: The first ones that came over were ministers that were actually English-speaking members that went over as young ministers to Japan and they were trained in Japan. And they received their training in Japan and returned to this country after the war. And they were the first English-speaking ministers. There were also a few Caucasian members, ministers, who served the temple. One person, in fact, I know this Reverend Sunya Pratt of Tacoma that used to come and give sermons to the English-speaking congregation. But she was also a member from Tacoma prior to World War II. She used to come to Seattle to talk to English-speaking members. The others that I could remember were possibly some of the lay leaders that assumed leadership roles to try to give talks on Buddhism. They were probably former Sunday school teachers that continued on to become leaders for discussion groups.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: So for you, given the, kind of the rich family tradition in Buddhism, did you ever consider joining the ministry?

SI: You know, that's one thing that my mother keeps pressing on me is that, "Someone in our family should become a minister." Unfortunately, none of us did. But my dad never pressed that. My dad never said at one time, as I could remember, that one of should become a minister. I don't know for what reason, but he never did. I think his idea was that each one of us find our own way. But my mom was persistent on that, she said, "(We) have four sons, one of us should become a minister."

TI: So did you feel some pressure from, I guess, particularly from your mother?

SI: No, I didn't really feel any pressure on that point.

TI: Well, so what career did you pursue after...

SI: What was that?

TI: What career did you pursue after school?

SI: Okay, I was always interested in the art field and since I was a little kid I used to like to draw. So I became a graphic designer. And that was my, actually, my major in college, commercial art.

TI: And where did you go to college for commercial art?

SI: Oh, I went to the University of Washington.

TI: Okay, so you studied at the University of Washington, then you became a graphic designer. And where did you work during these years?

SI: I worked at a local printing and mailing company.

TI: Okay, good. And your family, tell me about getting married, children, for you. When did you, when did you get married?

SI: Well, I was actually one of the older ones to get married, I mean, as far as age-wise, I was married back in 1962 when I was thirty-two years old. Most of my siblings married much younger than when I married.

TI: And who did you marry?

SI: I married a young lady from Oregon.

TI: And her name is?

SI: Her name is Grace.

TI: And tell me about children. How many children?

SI: Oh, I have two children, one daughter and one son. And my daughter's married and has two children, my son is still unmarried.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: We talked a lot about the Buddhist church, because you essentially grew up with the Betsuin in Seattle. And we talked about some of the challenges before the war and right after the war. We're now 2009, what do you think the challenges are going to be for the Betsuin now and in the future?

SI: I think the main challenge for the Betsuin is to continue. As the world is changing, the membership composition has changed. There's more diversity among the group, so that has to be addressed. Where these young members, the new members, will have to learn the religion, which will influence their lives and have leadership that can intelligently lead the temple so that we don't fall into arrears or have problems financially or any kind of, other kind of problems. Try to keep the ship afloat, even keel, and do the best we can to keep it going evenly, smoothly. That's a challenge.

TI: And how would you compare the challenges today to some of their historic challenges? I mean, is it, do you think it's... in terms of the Buddhist church in Seattle, do you think now the challenges are harder than they were, say, after the war or before the war, or about the same? What's your sense? Because you're one of those few people that's seen the whole thing.

SI: Well, I believe that the current membership definitely is lucky in the fact that the temple is paid up for, and that they have a place that they could meet. The challenge, I think, is to make sure that the new members that come in, the young members that come in, can receive the type of teaching that was given to their forbearers. And that regardless of the situation, the current economic situation, political situation, that we find our answers in our temples, and that we have the ministers and the leaders to be able to continue what has been given to us by our forbearers, the Isseis.

TI: Good. So Sat, I finished all my questions on here. Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about, reflect on at this point?

SI: I thought this interview was very enlightening to me, too, you know, to be able to articulate what's in my mind. It's the kind of thing that, I guess, sometimes you gotta have somebody asking you questions to be able to come up with answers that you haven't even thought about. So in a way, I appreciate you asking me all these questions so that I could try to solidify certain thoughts in my mind, too. There's a lot of things that I would like to discuss, maybe some other time, but I think for this particular interview, well, we've covered most of the bases.

TI: Okay. I'm really interested because you brought some of your papers and things, and drawings at Crystal City, and I actually want to study some of this.

SI: I'm sure that there are things that would be of interest to you, Tom. And I've thought about it before, but I figured, well, you're such a busy man and your time is of the essence to you. Whereas I'm retired now, I have my leisure time. But anyway, I'm glad that we had a chance to get together finally, and I could show you some of the stuff I have and let you decide on whether it's of any value to you at all.

TI: Oh, from what I've seen, it is going to be very valuable. Sat, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. I really enjoyed this.

SI: Yeah, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to talk to you and knowing both your parents and all that, it was really nice to be able to get together.

TI: Well, thank you.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.