Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Sumida Interview
Narrator: Frank Sumida
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Barbara Takei (secondary)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 23, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-sfrank-01-0030

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TI: When it comes to the gambling, earlier you mentioned how back in Little Tokyo, sumo wrestling was a, kind of a gambling sport. People liked to bet on it.

FS: Yeah, right, right, right.

TI: I know there were sumo tournaments in Santa Fe. Did that become a gambling situation?

FS: It was a minor. I was involved.

BT: What were you doing?

FS: I was involved.

BT: What were you doing?

FS: The yakuza boss said, "You know, we could make good money." "Kane mo dekiru de." I said, "What?" "Sumo." "How are you going to make money?" "Well, if you know you're going to do so-and-so, if you know you can whip 'em, you give me a signal beforehand." Because they give you a posting beforehand. So I said, "Well, you know, I could do better than that. From the first day of practice, I'm going to lose to everybody." Lose. So I did, so I was going it with the minor, small people, you know what I mean? Weak guys. So they had a gonin nuki, you take out five guys, you win. And then there was another one, sannin nuki, three guys. And then there was a face-to-face, shobu, two out of three, or something like that. So first time tournament, he started bettin' on me to win. And everybody saw me lose now. So everybody was against me. And gonin nuki win, boy, he won big money. Sannin nuki, I won big. Face-to-face, I won again. The second time, hardly anybody would bet on me. So I was with a stronger group, so now, did the same thing, but we couldn't do good. Big guys were strong, especially a guy from Peru. There were people from Peru in our camp, and they were, like, savage, you know. Just like Indians. If you look at the guys from Peru, they look like Mexicans. You know, with a mustache, you see Mexicans, dark featured Mexicans? Peru.

BT: So there were sumo teams that were both Peruvian ones and the ones from...

FS: We hang around together. So there are not many Peruvian sumo men, but they were good. They were better than me. I lost to a couple of them. Hate to say it. Good thing I didn't bet, or my boss didn't bet. The first sumo, he told me he won about six hundred bucks bettin' on me to win. Then the second time, he says, "Bet to lose." And I lost, so he won again. Everybody was betting to win because they saw me do the first. But now he took me as a win to lose. And he made money. Smart son of a gun. So he gave me a cut, though.

BT: So that was part of the thousand dollars...

FS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, all accumulated. The House money.

BT: That money belt must have been pretty big.

FS: I had to make it out of bed sheets. Homemade. I got pretty good making it. Single fold, because I don't want to make it double because it'd be too fat. Then I had to line the money in the first, and then sew the money together so it don't move around, then put it around me. So I had a big gut. [Laughs] But that was, how could I bring money, you know?

BT: Well, weren't you limited, how much you were able to leave Santa Fe with?

FS: No, no limit. They never asked. They never... I never signed no paper saying how much I had. The only thing they did make us, when we got on the train, they say right away, the guards, officer came and said that, "Anybody want to leave the train and not go back to Japan, next time we stop, just walk out and tell the guard, 'I want to stay.' Just tell 'em, 'I want to stay.'" And you go into the, what do you call the... station office? You know, on the railroad station, there's an office? They said, "Go in there," and you can get, I think they said a hundred and fifty bucks, or something. They had it arranged already, so they give you a hundred fifty bucks, and you could take the next train going that way or any way you want. No questions. They didn't want you to go. I can't understand that. First they want you to go and now they don't want you to go.

TI: So did you consider taking that offer?

FS: I never took the offer because I knew that my dad and my brother and my mom were going to come on the second boat. They didn't come with me. I was on the first boat, all single guys. So it was like me telling a lie, a breakup of the family. So I didn't want to do that, even though I knew that... I don't know if my dad was correct to say that he asked us to go to Japan. Maybe he should have said that, "Me and mom are going to Japan, you guys stay here." He didn't give us a choice.

BT: Well, given the censorship of all the correspondents coming in and leaving Santa Fe, how was it that you were able to communicate and make plans?

FS: We didn't. I just assumed. I just assumed that when I left Tule Lake, my father and mom and my brother were still there. So my dad was saying, "Renraku, no communication in the future, but remember, you have to go back to Japan." He said, "Just remember that, forget everything else. No matter where you are." He said, "Doko demo ii," wherever you are, you got to remember. So when I went, he want to Bismarck, you know, I didn't know he was in Bismarck. There's no communication. My mom's letter was all cut out. So when I reached Japan, Uraga, until the second boat came, I didn't know what the hell to do. I mean, I was in a foreign country.

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