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-01-0022

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Okay, so why don't we, why don't we go to the... so you go through this process, you want to stay together as a family, so you renounced your citizenship. So let's talk about the next step. So from Tule Lake, what happened next?

SY: Well, we left for Japan.

TI: And so from where in the United States did you have to go to go to Japan?

SY: Oh, we went to Portland and we took a ship. It was the USS... what was that?

BT: Gordon.

SY: Gordon, thank you.

TI: So the USS Gordon from Portland.

SY: Portland to Uraga.

TI: And before we go there, the brothers who were sent to the other camps, were you, were they also sent to Japan? Or at what point did they go?

SY: They left earlier than we did, and they were there when we got to Japan.

BT: Oh, you all met in Uraga?

SY: No, no, not in Uraga. My brothers were, they were at my stepbrothers' place in Fukuoka.

BT: Oh. So when you were on the boat, did you believe that Japan had won the war?

SY: I didn't, I didn't know what to believe. But my parents, they thought Japan won. And they went to Uraga and they see these ships with American flags, you know, says, "Oh, that's strategy. American flags on a Japanese ship." [Laughs] They still didn't believe it.

TI: So at what point did they believe that Japan lost the war?

SY: Gee, I guess right away probably, after we got off the ship.

TI: And what was their reaction when they realized that Japan had lost?

SY: Well, I really can't tell. Gee, when was it? I guess when we finally went to Fukuoka, that they really believed Japan lost. I believe that. And I guess they were really heartbroken, I guess, because they believed in Japan so much.

TI: But at least when they got to Fukuoka, the family was now together, the brothers and...

SY: Yes, yes.

TI: And I'm wondering, during that, this time, with the brothers and everyone being in different camps, how well the communication was? I mean, did everyone know where to meet and that they would all be there? Like did you and your parents know that your brothers were there waiting? Or how did the communication happen during this time?

SY: Well, we had no communication until we met them.

TI: So you weren't sure that they were going to be there. This was...

SY: How did we know? Gee... that I can't tell you how or whether my folks knew that they were gonna meet them there. I don't know if they knew they were gonna meet or not.

BT: Well, when you were on the ship, and it was pulling into Uraga, what were your impressions?

SY: Gee... that was kind of a, sort of letdown or something like that, you know, kind of finally realized that truly Japan lost. I think my parents sort of knew that Japan lost, but I guess they didn't want to believe it. That's terrible.

BT: Do you remember how you got from Uraga to Fukuoka?

SY: It was on a train. It took us about two nights, and it was crowded. Then when we were, it was a local train, you know, so it stopped at every station, and people were just boarding the train from the windows and leaving from the windows. It was so crowded. It was terrible.

BT: Were there a lot of soldiers?

SY: Pardon?

BT: Were there Japanese soldiers on the train?

SY: There were some, uh-huh. People who were coming back from China, they were... yeah, I guess they were soldiers from Manchuria.

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