Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Sumiko M. Yamamoto Interview
Narrator: Sumiko M. Yamamoto
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Barbara Takei (secondary)
Location: Sacramento, California
Date: December 8, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ysumiko-01-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: So I'm going to kind of shift back to something you talked about earlier. You recalled sort of these tables where you would sit down and they would ask you questions. Did you understand that you were discussing sort of your decision to go to Japan and renouncing your U.S. citizenship? Was that all kind of clear to you when you were talking to these people behind the table?

SY: Yes. I was... what do you call it? I was told what to say, you know, when these questions came up. And if you don't, you'll be separated from your family. You won't be able to go with them to Japan, or you won't be able to, you know, do what your family's gonna do.

TI: So describe how people told you what, how to answer. So how were you prepared so that you knew how to answer these questions?

SY: I think my brother, my brother's friends, I don't remember who it was, but couple of them told me to answer this question like this, or this question like that. "Answer it this way." Well, if you make a mistake, you're going to be separated, you know. So I thought, gee, that wouldn't be very good. But I guess I answered it right because we... [laughs]

TI: And what were your feelings about going to Japan at this point? So you're answering the questions to stay with the family unit so you would all go together. You as a person, what do you, how did you think about the prospects of living in Japan?

SY: Well, actually, I didn't have a mind of my own. Everything was made up, you know, was already made up for me. And you just did whatever your father told you to do. So we were brought up like that. "Mind your father."

TI: You know, and during this time, as the family's at Tule Lake and going through this process, earlier we talked about your oldest brother, George, who was in the army. When this was going on with the family, what was George doing? How was he reacting to all this?

SY: Well, we never got a letter from him how he was thinking, but my mother wrote several letters to a congressman, to Washington, D.C. to release my brother from the, from the army, so he could go back to Japan with us. And I don't know whether she got a letter from Washington or the congressman. She probably did, but I don't remember whether she got it or not.

TI: Did those letters do anything in terms of what happened to George? So after she wrote these letters, did anything happen?

SY: Not that I know of.

TI: And so George served out his time with the U.S. Army, and was just discharged and that was it.

SY: Well, actually, he was, he says he doesn't want to aim towards Japan, you know. So I guess he and several other Niseis like him, Kibeis, were sent to some other camp. I don't know what camp that was.

TI: Or to a certain unit?

SY: Yes.

TI: [Addressing BT] So is this the same one, the 1300? Which one was that?

BT: Oh, 1800.

TI: 1800, yeah, I wonder if it was the 1800. Well, yeah, we can find out later, that's interesting.

SY: Well, you know, he was living in Japan when he was a young boy, when my father sent him, and he came back when he was eighteen or something like that.

BT: And then he was drafted, right? He came back from Japan to avoid the draft and then he came to the U.S., he was drafted, right?

SY: [Nods]

BT: And then he, I understood that he had some mixed feelings about being in the army.

SY: Did I mention that to you?

BT: Yeah. I thought he was a military resister.

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