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Title: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga Interview II
Narrator: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Torrance, California
Date: July 7, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-haiko-03-0012

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TI: During, when you find out that the families, the Japanese American families are going to start being removed, what did you do during this time period? In particular, I'm thinking that you had a boyfriend during this time period. Can you tell me what kind of things were going on for you?

AH: Oh, yeah. Well, we were all looking for specific instructions and facts. And, of course, the army, government, really didn't know what it was going to do at that time, making decisions on the fly. And with General DeWitt and all those details we didn't know about until we started doing the research, of course, forty or fifty years later. But most of us just spent our time worrying about what's going to happen. At first, I thought only our parents, as aliens, would be affected. I never dreamed at the very beginning that, oh, we're American citizens, this is not gonna bother us, even though we had some social pressures on us. But eventually, of course, it turned out that all of us would be affected in some ways, and we spent our time worrying about, "Well, what are we gonna do?" In my particular case, we didn't know until quite a bit later, probably in February or March, that in Los Angeles, where there was such a large community of Nikkei, that we would be divided into certain areas and be sent somewhere. None of us were told where. I really felt that maybe they're going to take us out someplace in the desolate area and shoot us all. I really thought that they might do that. So there was a lot of fear. Maybe other people didn't feel that, but I thought, "Why would they be sending us away unless they're going to do something bad?" So there was this kind of fear, at least on my part.

And then I had the personal thing. At that time, my boyfriend was living on the east side of Los Angeles, and here I was on the west side. And when we were told that we'd all be sent to different places, I panicked. And I thought, "Oh, my gosh, I'll never see this boyfriend again." And so when it came time, pretty close to time to go, as a matter of fact, only a few days before, we ran away and got, we eloped. I falsified my age, I was seventeen but I said I was eighteen. He was already nineteen, I guess, then, couple years older than I was. So that way I was able to go with his family wherever they were gonna go. Of course, that devastated my family terribly because they, my father did not, I think, did not want me to hook up with this young man. Because my father -- oh, he had a thing about every time I got a new boyfriend, he would say, "Is he going to go to college?" [Laughs] And I had no idea whether or not Jake was going to go to college, I said, "I don't know." "Well, you'd better pick somebody who's going to go to college." [Laughs] So when the time came, and the community in that particular area of Los Angeles, the Boyle Heights area, had to go to the train station, I joined, the night before, joined Jake and went with the family to Manzanar.

TI: Going back, before we go to Manzanar, so your parents must have been upset about the, about you marrying Jake and eloping. And how about your brothers and sisters? What was their reaction?

AH: Oh, I think they were pissed off -- excuse me, bleep that out -- I think they were upset at my selfish motive to do this. By that time, my oldest sister had been married, my oldest sister, and my other sister was living in New York. Frank, the oldest, the chonan and I, we never got along anyway. So I said, and he was angry with me, of course. I think my brother Johnny and I were close, and Amy, they were real upset with me for doing that, and, of course, my parents were.

TI: Now, would this, going back to that date, would this have been sort of out of character for you to have done something like this?

AH: No, I was always self-centered, and it was "me, me, me," all that time. So I think, I'm not sure if they were that surprised. [Laughs] Because I was sort of not in the mold that they had hoped I'd be in terms of family. I was always sticking out. I guess, I think they were unhappy, but I'm not sure that they were that surprised.

TI: Now, in retrospect, do you feel like, perhaps, this was, for you, a rushed decision? Something that if it weren't for the war and the camps, that this wouldn't have happened?

AH: Oh, I'm definitely sure of that. If we didn't have to make this rash decision, I don't think I would have gotten married, because that would have given me a chance to develop the relationship more before I ran off, and then later found that it wasn't gonna work.

TI: So, actually, you didn't really know the person you married as well as, perhaps, you would have.

AH: No, I had been only going with him for about a year or so. And it was always on dates, and you're always on your best behavior, everybody is when you're on dates, right? Maybe that's the reason I'm not that much against, even though we used to raise eyebrows for young couples to start living together before they were married. Remember? That was, oh, a no-no. But nowadays, it sort of makes sense to me. You find out what, does he snore too much? Does she, is she a good cook? You find out a lot of those things, and then you can make your decision, "Yeah, I think I could tolerate and live with this person." But during those days, of course, that was never the thing to do. So I sort of don't raise my eyebrows on that kind of living arrangements these days. It's nice to be.. abstinent, it's nice, but just to get to know somebody better, it's hard to do unless you live together.

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