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

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so today is Thursday, December 8, 2009, and we're in the home of Jane and Gene Itogawa in Sacramento. I'm Tom Ikeda, the interviewer, along with Barbara Takei, and on camera is Dana Hoshide. And today we have Sue Yamamoto to interview. But, so Sue, let me start from the very beginning, and can you tell me when and where you were born?

SY: I was born in Spreckels, California.

TI: And where is Spreckels?

SY: I don't think it's on the map, I don't know. It's a real small place. It's near... I don't know whether it's near Salinas or not, but someplace around there.

TI: But in that area.

SY: It's a sugar beet town or city, valley or whatever.

TI: So Spreckels, California, and when were you born?

SY: May 12, 1925.

TI: And when you were born in Spreckels, were you born at your family home, or do you know what kind of facility was used when you were born?

SY: I think in a hospital, I think, but I wasn't born at home.

TI: Okay. And what was the name given to you when you were born? What name was given to you by your parents?

SY: Sumiko.

TI: And any middle name?

SY: No.

TI: And do you have any brothers or sisters?

SY: I have one sister, and I have, I had six brothers, but we have five now.

TI: Okay, so why don't we do this? Why don't we kind of go down in birth order, if you could just kind of talk through, like the oldest to youngest.

SY: I'm not sure about their birthdays. [Laughs]

TI: Don't worry about that, just their birth order will be fine.

SY: Well, George, he was, he's deceased, he died in September. And the next is Frank Sadayuki. And after that is Harry Fumio, and next was my sister, Midori, and Katsumi, and me, and Masaru, and Ken, the youngest.

TI: So eight, eight kids.

SY: Yes.

TI: And you said six brothers?

SY: Six brothers, yes.

TI: Six brothers. And in terms of the age difference, how much older was George than you?

SY: He was ninety-one when he died in November, I mean... what did I say? September.

TI: September, so that meant that he was born, what year? That'd be 1920... no, let me think. 1918. Yeah, about 1918 probably.

SY: 1918.

TI: And you were born in '25, so he was about seven years older than you, roughly? Seven, eight years older?

SY: Yes, uh-huh, I think so.

TI: Good. It just helps me when I think about, just in terms of your older brother, about how much older he was than you.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let me go to your father, and why don't you tell me your father's name and where he was from.

SY: My father's name was Katsujiro Maruyama.

TI: And where in Japan was he from?

SY: Kourauchi-mura, Fukuoka.

TI: Fukuoka.

SY: Yes, Fukuoka.

TI: Do you know what his family did for, to make a living?

SY: Gee, I don't know, really.

TI: Do you ever, did you ever hear a story of why he decided to go from Japan to America?

SY: No. Maybe he talked to the older kids, but...

TI: How about, did he ever talk about how he met your mother?

SY: Well, first I heard, he came with his wife. He was married when he came over here, and he had two sons, we have two stepbrothers, and they're older than George. And she died and then... what do you call it? "Picture bride"? The second wife -- my mother, that is -- she was a "picture bride" and she came from Japan.

TI: Did you ever find out or know how your father's first wife, what happened, how she died?

SY: No, no, I really don't know.

TI: And how about the two stepbrothers? What happened to them? Did they grow up with your family or did they go someplace else?

SY: Gee, that, I'm not sure. I think they were in Japan, and the older one came, I think, with his father, I'm not sure. I'm not sure what that...

TI: That's interesting. It's amazing how many stories you come across where... because I think it was pretty common for like a wife or a husband to die young and then remarriage, but then people find out later on that they have half brothers.

SY: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: So it's amazing how common that is.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So when your father came to America, where did he first go? Where did he start, and can you tell me, kind of, his path?

SY: That, gee, I can't say because I never heard of it. I never heard him say.

TI: So do you remember if he was anywhere else before Spreckels, did he talk about that at all?

SY: I think he was all over. I really don't know, because we traveled all over, too, with him. So we had to change schools.

TI: Okay, so tell me about that. So where are some places you remember living?

SY: Where was it? Oh, gee, we went to so many places, I can't... we went to Alisal, that's in, near Salinas, Alisal. And I think I... gee, what grade was I in? Third or fourth. I'm sorry I can't remember.

TI: So why did your father move the family around?

SY: Well, he didn't own the field, I mean, where he could farm. So wherever he could find land, I guess, he had to move. So we moved with him. So we went to Alisal, we went to Castro Hill, we went to Stockton, and where was it? I think first we were in Tulare, I guess, and then, oh, gee, I can't remember now. Those are the few places that I remember the family moved to.

TI: And so what kind of farming did he do?

SY: Vegetables, mostly, like tomatoes, onions, strawberries.

TI: Now, for you, was it pretty hard moving to, like, different schools?

SY: Yes, it was, uh-huh. It was hard getting used to the new place and make new friends, it was kind of hard. I guess we stayed about one or two years, you know, so we moved a lot.

TI: And generally, when you moved, were they to places where there was a Japanese community?

SY: Yes, yes.

TI: So generally there was always a place.

SY: Yes, yes. Because I guess my father couldn't speak English.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So when you think about your growing up, what's really the first place you can remember in terms of your memories?

SY: I think Gilroy was the place, because that's the last place that we moved to, and we went to school there, I was, I think, seventh grade... no, eighth grade. I was in eighth grade then.

TI: Okay, so let's start there. So describe the house you lived in at Gilroy. What was that like?

SY: It was a small house. It had an outbuilding, and it had a parlor. Long ago you say "parlor," right now you say "living room," I guess. And we had two bedrooms and we had a kitchen and dining room, and a laundry room.

TI: And so at this point, you're, like, seventh, eighth grade. How many kids were still living with the family? Did some of your older siblings, were they all living with the family?

SY: Yes, we were living, all of us were living in Gilroy.

TI: So that's a family of ten.

SY: Oh, wait a minute. I forgot to tell you that the three oldest brothers were sent to Japan. Now, the year... [laughs] that was when we were living in Castroville. No, no, I'm sorry, that's when they came back from Japan. They were very young, I think, going to grammar school, I think, when they were sent to Japan, the three brothers.

TI: Now, do you remember when that happened or were you too young? You must have been... because you would have been really young.

SY: Gee, I would have been... yes.

TI: So all of a sudden your three brothers are gone, they were in Japan.

SY: I don't remember them leaving either, so I guess I was really young then.

TI: And they came back when you were at Castroville?

SY: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: And so Castroville was after, after Gilroy, then?

SY: No, no.

TI: Before Gilroy.

SY: Gilroy is the last place that we lived in before, I mean, when war started.

TI: Okay, good. So going back to the Gilroy house, this two-bedroom house, you said it was small.

SY: Yes.

TI: There were lots of people in this house.

SY: Yes. Well, there was another building. That was also small, but we made that into a bedroom.

TI: So describe where people slept. So you had your parents and you had eight kids. So how did you do that?

SY: Let's see, now. I was sleeping with my sister, and my father and... my younger brother was sleeping with my father. That's one bedroom, there's two beds. And the other bedroom was one bed where my mother and the youngest brother slept.

TI: Okay, so that's two, four, six of you. And then where did the others sleep?

SY: The others slept in the other building.

TI: Okay, so after like four boys...

SY: So they have two beds in there.

TI: So you mentioned Gilroy, and what I know about Gilroy is they have these hot springs in Gilroy.

SY: Yes.

TI: Do you remember the hot springs?

SY: Yeah, I heard about it.

TI: Did you ever go the hot springs?

SY: No, no.

TI: To the Yamato Hot Springs. So did you hear about it later or did you hear about it when you were living in Gilroy?

SY: When we were living there we heard about, "There's a hot spring over there," but we never went there.

TI: And just so I can know about where you were, how far away were the hot springs?

SY: Oh, it was about three or four miles away, just about.

TI: Okay, so not too far away.

SY: Not, it wasn't too far away, I guess. Yeah, I think it was about, I'll say near, maybe 5 miles, yeah. But that's still close.

TI: Were you ever aware of Japanese coming to Gilroy to go to the hot springs?

SY: No, no.

TI: So you heard about it, but you didn't really know much about it.

SY: Yes, yes. We were still, you know, small yet, so we didn't know what "hot springs" was.

TI: Why these crazy people would want to go see the mountains, up in the water.

SY: We didn't know what hot springs was in the first place, you know.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So tell me a little bit about Gilroy. I'm curious about the Japanese community in Gilroy, about how large was it?

SY: It was a small town, and I don't know the population, but Main Street was the only street that went through the town. There was one theater and I think Woolworth, I remember Woolworth was there. There was this Japanese store who made the, the owners made the tofu there. And there was one Japanese restaurant, and the gas station, probably there was one. [Laughs] So it was just a pass through town, you know.

TI: So did they have like a Japanese language school in Gilroy?

SY: Yes.

TI: So like a separate building for that?

SY: Yes.

TI: How about churches? Like a Buddhist church? Did they have a Buddhist...

SY: No, they didn't have a Buddhist church. So we went to Salinas to go to Buddhist church.

TI: And so how large was, like when you say, say, for instance, Japanese language school, how many students would attend the language school?

SY: Oh, there were about, I think, I'd say about thirty.

TI: So it's a pretty good size.

SY: Uh-huh.

TI: So the Japanese community was over a hundred people you would say, or maybe around a hundred?

SY: Gee, I can't really say. Probably.

TI: And you mentioned your father was a farmer. Were the other Japanese in the area, were they also farmers, or what did they do?

SY: Well, I think most of them were farmers. But like I said, they were, they had stores, and they had restaurants, too, so I think most of them were farmers out there.

TI: At Gilroy, did you ever have, like, community picnics where the Japanese in Gilroy would do something?

SY: No.

TI: Or how about any festival? Was there anything that brought the whole Japanese community together?

SY: Gee. No, I don't think, I don't think we had any. Oh, there was Japanese movie, you know, I think we had one every, once a month or something like that.

TI: And where would you guys have the Japanese movies?

SY: At the school, Japanese school.

TI: Okay, so it was kind of that room, and they would set up a screen and show...

SY: Yeah.

TI: And how was that? Is there anything, any memories from that? Was it exciting to go see a Japanese movie?

SY: Yeah, it was exciting, because I think my parents wanted to see the Japanese movies. It comes once a month.

TI: So what was your father like when he got excited? What kind of personality? When your father was excited, how would you know he was excited?

SY: Well, he was a strict father, you know. Meiji-born, they say "Meiji-born," really strict. And he really didn't... well, he would smile, you know, I guess that's about it.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: How about your mother? What would she be like in terms of when she got excited or maybe angry? How would she show those things?

SY: I guess... I don't know. She's not a special... she would smile, you know, and says, "Oh," she'll say that, just about.

TI: So I'm looking at all your, you had all those brothers, so six brothers. And at times, boys can be kind of rambunctious or noisy or do things. What would happen if your brothers essentially didn't mind? They were too noisy or they did something? Who would be the person in the family to discipline?

SY: I think my mother would be the one to discipline. And if they don't still mind her, well, she'll say, "Wait 'til Father gets home." [Laughs]

TI: And then that, your brothers would then get, would start behaving at that point?

SY: Oh, yeah.

TI: Did you ever see what would happen if your dad had to do something? I mean, what would happen if your father had to discipline?

SY: Oh, his hand would... [laughs]

TI: So he would go ahead and hit them or something if they weren't behaving. That's interesting. You never hear enough about how they Isseis... I'm always curious how the Isseis disciplined or how they, in some ways, brought their value system to the Niseis. I'm always curious.

SY: Gee, I don't know. Well, Father and Mother would say, "Meiwaku kakenai." "Don't trouble the people."

TI: "Don't be a nuisance, don't..."

SY: Yeah, something like that.

TI: Oh, interesting. Did your mother or father, did they talk very much about being Japanese and what it meant to be Japanese?

SY: Well, they said, "Whatever you do or whatever you say, don't bring shame to the name or the family." That's what they used to say.

TI: That's good. Anything else you can remember? Other things that they would say?

SY: They would say, "Watch what you say," "Be careful what you say." "Don't offend the people you're talking to." And I think there were more, but I can't remember. "Don't lie," you know, things like that.

TI: Now, what would you say if you were to ask a question, how your parents would view success? I mean, what would be... what would they want for their children? What would they want for you and your other siblings in terms of success or a life? If they were to say, "You would have a good life if..." what would that "if" be?

SY: Gee... I can't say.

TI: How about things like, is family important? Community? Education? Making money? Is there anything that you can remember that they would talk about as being important?

SY: Well, they said, "Be healthy," you know. Because that's the most important. If you're ill or anything, you can't work and do what you want to do. So that's, I think they used to say that a lot of time, many times.

TI: Okay, good.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So going back to Gilroy, tell me about your school, your regular school. What was that like, and I'm trying to get a sense of, like, how many Japanese were at the school relative to the rest of the school population?

SY: I was in the eighth grade, and I think there were one or two other Japanese in the class, in my class. And I can't remember if there was any in the other class. We had two classes, eighth grade.

TI: So you had one or two other Japanese with you, and how large was the class? How many classmates?

SY: I think there were about thirty, a little over thirty kids.

TI: And of that thirty, so you had about three Japanese. What were the rest of the class? Like what race were the rest? Were they...

SY: Oh, they were Italians, I guess that's about all I... I couldn't tell where they...

TI: But a heavy Italian community in terms of Italian Americans.

SY: I guess so. I guess there were other nationalities that I can tell. There was one anyway that I knew, she was Italian.

TI: So we talked about earlier how your father would move the family around. So when you got to Gilroy, you said you stayed there, the last place you stayed there a little longer, were you able to make some friends in Gilroy? Some good friends?

SY: Japanese friends, yes.

TI: And you mentioned Italian. Any Italian friends?

SY: No.

TI: So mostly Japanese. And how were the Japanese in terms of accepting you as someone new? Is that, were they pretty good about that?

SY: No, I didn't feel anything.

BT: I'm curious why it was that your family was going to the church in Salinas rather than going across the mountain to Watsonville which was closer, wasn't it? There was a Buddhist church in Watsonville, and you know, you just go over Hecker Pass Road, that mountain road.

SY: I don't know. Isn't Watsonville, isn't it farther away?

BT: I don't know. I guess I've always thought of Watsonville as just over the hill.

SY: No, I think you pass Salinas and... yeah. And my father had his friends there, too.

BT: Oh, in Salinas.

SY: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: So you mentioned going to church in Salinas, so was that like every Sunday you would go to Salinas?

SY: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: And so were there community events in Salinas that you attended, like Japanese...

SY: Well, Japanese school, we went to Japanese school. We were going to Japanese school there, too, when we were living in Castroville.

TI: And then the church...

SY: Oh, no, I'm... my mistake. In Castroville, there was a Japanese school there.

TI: Okay. But in Salinas you went to the, was this the Buddhist church?

SY: Yes.

TI: And were there, like, picnics for the Buddhist church that you attended or any community events in Salinas that you can remember?

SY: No. They were having some entertainments, you know, like the Japanese dances and things like that, we'd go see that. We used to go.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Okay, so I'm going to go back to school. So we talked about school, it was roughly a few Japanese in a class of thirty. We mentioned that there was a Japanese language school also in Gilroy. So when would you attend Japanese language school?

SY: Saturday.

TI: Oh, just one day?

SY: Yes.

TI: Okay.

SY: So it was a whole day, so we take bento, you know, take their nigiri. [Laughs]

TI: And who would be the teacher? Did the teacher come from someplace else or did the teacher live...

SY: No, they're living nearby. There was a house beside that school, and they were living in there.

TI: Okay. Oh, so you guys didn't have to go as much. I mean, a lot of communities, they would go to Japanese language school every day after regular school.

SY: No. When we were younger, we used to go to Japanese school almost every day.

TI: But that was a different place.

SY: Yeah, different, different place.

TI: So what did you do after school if you didn't have to go to Japanese language school? What type of activities did you do?

SY: We just went home and did our homework and played outside, that's about it. My father was pretty strict, he wouldn't let us go to any school functions.

TI: And so when you played outside, what were some of the games you would play?

SY: Oh, we'd play tag and jintori. I don't know if you've heard of that or not.

TI: No, we, I used to play that a lot when I was a kid, yeah.

SY: Oh, you have? Yeah, we played jintori. And my brother made a bar, you know, and we used to hang, play on that bar. That's about it, I guess. I remember my two younger brother and I used to play war, you know. [Laughs] We played Japanese soldier. [Laughs] And then they say, "Bang," and oh, we fall, and they come and say, "Daijobu ka?" We used to play that a lot.

TI: And so when you were growing up, you said 'Japanese soldiers," so was it through your parents or something that you kind of knew what the Japanese...

SY: I don't know what that was. [Laughs] I don't know what made us do that, but we just, you know... well, we played chanbara, too, you know.

TI: I was wondering if maybe at the dinner table or something, maybe your parents talked about what was happening in Japan and what they were doing.

SY: No.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So you got to Gilroy around seventh, eighth grade, so you were a teenager. How many years were you in Gilroy before the war started?

SY: Gee. When did... about three or four years, I guess.

TI: And for you, this was like the longest you could remember staying in a place with the whole family?

SY: I guess so. I may be mistaken, but that's what I think. I know we lived there more three years.

TI: So this is probably a good time to think about, what are some fond memories of those three, four years in Gilroy? Do you have any, like, good memories of either the family or playing in Gilroy or anything about that?

SY: Oh, there was one family that we... we visited. They were in the same town, and there was one particular family that we used to not communicate that... is communicate? And they would come over and we'd go over there. And I guess that's about, that's about it.

TI: And for your family, did you have your own bathhouse, furo, or did you ever, was there a community bathhouse?

SY: Where's that?

TI: In Gilroy.

SY: Gilroy? Yeah, we had our own bathhouse, yes.

TI: And was this something that your dad kind of built for the family? It was just a separate place?

SY: No, it was there already. It was there already. And every night we would make bath, you know, with wood.

TI: And so explain that. Who would make the fire? Would the kids do it?

SY: Yeah, the kids would do it, yeah.

TI: And so would you guys take turns doing it, or did one person, was that one person's job?

SY: No, there wasn't any specific, you know, person that would do it.

TI: And with such a large family, was there always a certain order in terms of who took the first bath and how it went?

SY: Well, it's the menfolks who takes the bath first. And we, the females, they go in last. My mother was the last to take the bath.

TI: Okay, so your mother was last, and then the two sisters was like the second to last?

SY: Yeah, something like that.

TI: And then the brothers before then and then your father?

SY: Yes, my father, of course, he's the king of the house. [Laughs] He was the first, and my brothers. That's Japanese style.

TI: And I'm curious, by the time you took the bath, was the water still hot enough, or had it cooled off by then, or do you remember what it was like?

SY: Well, if it was cool, It's a wood stove, I mean, you know, you burn wood, so you just stick in the wood and make it a little hotter.

TI: So any other, like, family memories? So taking a bath at night together, anything else that you can remember about the family life growing up? Like a certain, maybe a time to read or anything, or just something that you had a routine as a family?

SY: I remember the dining room table, you know, my older brothers would make a ping pong table out of that and we'd play ping pong. We'd play ping pong.

TI: So they were pretty resourceful, they made their own homemade ping pong table on the dining room.

SY: Uh-huh.

TI: That's good.

SY: And it wasn't a big room, you know, so you can't reach over without hitting the wall. But it was fun.

TI: It sounds like you were close to your brothers. I mean, the family, the siblings were pretty close, that you were actually your best playmates, in some ways, your best friends, that you would do things.

SY: Well, I was called otenba, "tomboy." [Laughs]

TI: Good.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So I'm going to move now to December 7, 1941. So you're, do you remember that day?

SY: Yes.

TI: And so describe that day. What happened on December 7th?

SY: I think it was a Monday, was it?

TI: Sunday.

SY: Sunday? Oh, and when we went to school on Monday, the principal told us to gather, gather at the gym or something, and then he'd make us, what happened, you know, he told us what happened. And, gee, what else did he say? That's all I could remember. I think he said something else, but I just don't remember.

TI: Do you remember how you were feeling when the principal was describing what happened, how you felt when that happened?

SY: Yeah, I felt kind of sad and felt like everybody was looking at me. And it was kind of... I felt like running out of the room, but couldn't do that.

TI: Did any of your schoolmates ever say anything to you? Either schoolmates or a teacher or anyone say anything to you?

SY: No, no. There was no one who said anything.

TI: Did you sense that they that people acted maybe differently around you after that?

SY: Not particularly.

TI: How about your brothers or your father or mother? Any stories from them in terms of being treated any differently because of December 7th?

SY: No.

TI: So did, it sounds like, so not much changed. I mean, this happened, you felt...

SY: I know. If there was any change, it must have been very slight.

TI: When things like the government made a curfew and things like that...

SY: Yes, yes.

TI: ...then things started changing in terms of what you could and could not...

SY: We couldn't... yes.

TI: And so, like, so what would happen? How did your lives change when, say, for instance, the curfew started?

SY: Well, if they say you can't go, you want to go. But after eight o'clock was it, or after nine, you couldn't be outside.

TI: Yeah, so there was, that you had to be home by a certain time, and then you couldn't travel a certain distance.

SY: No, About, yes, about... what was it? Five or six miles or something like that?

TI: So once that happened, then you wouldn't be able to go to Salinas and things like that?

SY: No, we never went anyplace.

TI: Well, eventually, people got the notice that they had to leave. So what happened with your family? What did you guys do?

SY: Well, I guess... I don't know what my older brothers and... well, my oldest brother was drafted to the army by then. And I don't know what my father told the older children, but people started coming to our house wanting to buy the refrigerator and cars and stuff like that. So I didn't know what was going on.

TI: Now, were these people from Gilroy who were coming?

SY: I don't know.

TI: You didn't know who they were.

SY: They were Caucasians.

TI: And so did your family pretty much sell all these, all these things?

SY: Yes.

TI: So you mentioned your older brother George was drafted. So he was drafted after December 7th, or was it before December 7th?

SY: Before, before.

TI: So was he in the army when December 7th happened or...

SY: Yes.

TI: And do you know where he was, where he was at when December 7th happened?

SY: He was in Fort Ord. I don't know where he was first, but eventually he came to Fort Ord, and then I think we went to see him there once.

TI: And so during the, when the war started, what happened to him? So he was at Fort Ord, and then what happened to George?

SY: I don't know after that.

TI: But he stayed in the army?

SY: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: And was he always stationed in the United States or did he serve overseas?

SY: In the United States.

TI: Okay, so he never served overseas.

SY: No, no.

TI: Okay. So as, after you get your, the notice, the orders that you're going to be leaving, so your family sells all these things. Do you recall your father or mother talking about the prices they got for things like the refrigerator?

SY: Yeah. The refrigerator, I think I heard them say about five dollars, you know. I don't know how many cubic feet it was, but I think my father paid about eighty dollars or so, eighty or ninety dollars for it. We had it one year, he sold it for five dollars.

TI: So in other words, someone got a really big bargain, because they had to leave, they knew they had to leave, so they...

SY: Yeah, well, I guess he had no choice but to sell it at that price.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about the day you leave Gilroy. So where did you assemble to be picked up, and how did you, I mean, where did you go from Gilroy?

SY: At the high school. We gathered at the high school, and I think there were two busses. I really don't... I just saw the two busses, the one I, when I went, took the bus to go to Salinas.

TI: Now, was there anyone there to see you or your family or the other Japanese off when you were saying goodbye?

SY: No.

TI: So what was the feeling, the mood of people that day when you're boarding the busses at the high school to go to Salinas?

SY: Gee, I don't know, we just automatically got on the bus. I saw a few students waving their hands, you know, I guess to their friends.

TI: So these were some high school students.

SY: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: So the bus goes to Salinas, and what was Salinas like? What did you find when you got to Salinas?

SY: I didn't know where we were at, you know, when we got to Salinas. And let's see. It was a camp, camp there, and I don't know, I just followed the people. Just tagged along, I didn't know what was going on.

TI: And at this point, your older brother George was in the army, so was the rest of the family all together? So there were nine of you?

SY: Yes, yes.

TI: So describe the living quarters. If there were nine of you, what kind of room did the nine of you have, or space did you have?

SY: Gee, did we have two rooms? I don't remember. We might have gotten two rooms.

TI: Anything else you can remember about Salinas?

SY: Gee... not too much about Salinas.

TI: Did you see, maybe, friends from...

SY: Oh, from Gilroy?

TI: ...Salinas or Gilroy or other people there?

SY: Yes. We met some people from Gilroy, and I think my brother, the one that's just above me, Katsumi, he lived in Salinas going to high school there. So he knew a lot of people from Salinas.

TI: So why would Katsumi go to Salinas High School and not the Gilroy high school?

SY: Well, he wanted to learn mechanic, and they didn't have that in Gilroy High. So he got permission to go to Salinas High School.

TI: And who did he stay with at Salinas?

SY: He stayed with my father's friend who ran the garage, and that's where he stayed.

TI: Good. And about how long did you stay at the Salinas Assembly Center?

SY: Gee, when did we go there? I think we stayed about two or three months there.

TI: And then from Salinas, any other memories before we go to the next place?

SY: I just remember I had white hair. Yeah, I had white hair, so I covered my head when we had to go to mess hall to eat.

TI: Why would you have white hair?

SY: I don't know.

TI: You mean your hair turned...

SY: My hair turned white. Not all white, but you could see the white. So I had to wear a bandana.

TI: Because you were about sixteen years old?

SY: Yeah, something like that. Fifteen, sixteen.

TI: And so already you were getting white hair. And so you were, like, embarrassed by the white hair so you covered it. Interesting.

SY: I was getting old. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So from Salinas, what happened next? Where did you go?

SY: We went to Poston, Poston Camp I.

TI: So in terms of climate, this was very different now. You're going from...

SY: Really, from cool to hot. "Into the frying pan," you would say.

TI: Poston, Arizona, and then what month did you go?

SY: I think July.

TI: Okay, so really a hot time.

SY: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: So describe Poston. How would you deal with the heat? I mean, when you got there, what would you do?

SY: Oh, it was so hot. And when we got to the... you go to a certain place where you have to check in or whatever. Anyway, they said, "Don't drink too much water, just one cup," you know. Because I guess you, I don't know what happens to you when you drink too much water on a hot, when you're, I think you pass out or something.

TI: So they told people just to drink one cup, or just not too much.

SY: Or not too much, yeah. "Don't gobble your water."

TI: Because, do you remember being really thirsty and hot at that point?

SY: Well, not really thirsty, but, you know, you get so hot, you have to drink something to cool you down. And I think there was one young lady who drank, drank a lot of water and she just passed out, you know. She got real pale, I think, and she passed out. So they said, "Don't drink too much water."

TI: And this was while people were just kind of waiting to get registered?

SY: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: And so you're waiting in lines.

SY: To get your room assignment or something.

TI: Boy, do you remember what you were thinking when you got to Poston and this heat? Because here you were from a cool place, you're now in the desert. I mean, what were you thinking?

SY: "What a place," you know, if we could survive there. That's what I was thinking. And my sister got burned on the bus, you know. She put her arm on the seal, window seal, and then she got burnt right on her arm. Yeah, it was that hot.

TI: And what were your living quarters like when you got to your place?

SY: It was a double roof with tarpaper and wooden floors. And later on, you could see the grass coming up, you know, from the floor.

TI: And so in addition to the heat, what are some other things that you can remember about Poston?

SY: The sand was hot. And what else? Oh, we heard that there were rattlesnakes and scorpions and tarantulas, and gee, what a place. [Laughs] I thought it was really a concentration camp.

TI: So when you heard about rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, did you ever see anything like that when you were at Poston?

SY: I didn't see any rattlesnakes, and I didn't see any tarantula except in the jar. And I did see a scorpion.

TI: And what would... where would you see a scorpion?

SY: "Gee, that little thing is poisonous?" you know, they said, "Be careful of the scorpions." And there are little holes on the ground, and then they said you could fish the scorpions out of there. So we tried it, and then little baby scorpions would come out. [Laughs] They were white. Isn't that funny?

TI: So I'm curious, so how would people cope with the heat, the dust, all those things? I mean, how could people stay cool?

SY: Well, you know, a lot of people ordered the fan, the big fans. I don't know where they ordered it from. We had one too, but they made coolers out of them.

TI: And so would they, like, add something in terms of, like, water or something?

SY: Yes, they made something so the water, you have to have the water running all the time to keep the outside damp, and then the fan would blow, and then it would blow the cool air.

TI: So these fans with the water would be one way, any other ways that people...

SY: Did a hole underneath your floor.

TI: So this is the barracks.

SY: Barracks, uh-huh.

TI: So how would they do that? Would they have to go outside and underneath, or would they...

SY: I don't know they did it.

TI: Or did they cut a hole in the floor?

SY: Oh, yes.

TI: So describe, so there's a hole in the middle of your... or someplace...

SY: I guess, yeah, in the floor, I think.

TI: And then down below they would dig a hole.

SY: I don't know how they did it, but my father had one.

TI: And how big a hole was down there?

SY: Oh, I don't know. Big enough so two people could fit in. And my father loved shogi or go, you know, so they'd go down there and play those games.

TI: So just big enough for two men to go play go, shogi down below.

SY: Yeah, so it's a pretty big hole, I think.

TI: 'Cause it was a pretty cool place.

SY: Uh-huh, I think so.

TI: Was there a particular time in the day when they would go to the hole? Is it like in the afternoon or morning or night?

SY: I don't know. I don't think at night. I think in the morning or in the afternoon.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Now, what would you do when you were at Poston with your extra time? Were there certain activities that you would do?

SY: Yes. There are, there were calligraphy classes, flower arrangements, and Japanese dancing if you want to learn, there were many activities like that.

TI: And tell me about how the food was at Poston.

SY: [Laughs] There's really nothing to talk about.

TI: Because it wasn't very good, or how would you describe...

SY: Well, I remember the Tule food, but I don't remember too much about Poston.

TI: Would your family eat together at the mess hall, or how did the family do meals?

SY: Well, my father had trouble with his stomach, so my mother would bring home some food and cook it again and make it so Father could eat it. And so he didn't go to the mess hall. The rest of us went, and my brothers and me, we would go with our friends, so my mother would go with her friends, too.

TI: But then she would bring back your father's...

SY: Yes.

TI: And then in your room, you would have a hot plate or something to re-cook your father's food?

SY: Oh, gee, yeah. No, I'm sorry, that was in Tule. I'm getting mixed up.

TI: No, that's okay.

SY: No, in Poston, my father was still healthy, able to go to the mess hall.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So after several months, the camp went through this process called registration. They had these questionnaires that people would fill out. Do you recall that? Do you remember that process or that questionnaire...

SY: Oh, in Tule, uh-huh.

TI: Oh, so you did the questionnaire at Tule, or did you do it at Poston?

SY: I don't know. See, that... I don't remember signing anything or being asked a question or anything like that. And I don't know if my father did that or somebody else did that for him. I don't know.

TI: Well, how about just the whole process of going from Poston to Tule Lake. What were the reasons given to you for why you were going to move from Poston to Tule Lake? Do you remember?

SY: I think they said they're going to Japan or something like that, and we had to go to Tule Lake.

TI: So when they said they're going to Japan, that meant your family also?

SY: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: So, "We're going to Japan."

SY: "We're going to Japan, yeah." [Laughs] I guess me and my younger brothers were the last to know, you know.

TI: And so how did you feel about that? When you, the reason you would go from Poston to Tule Lake, was that the people who would go to Tule Lake were going to go to Japan. When you heard that, what did you think?

SY: Well, they said, "Never oppose your parents, especially your father." So I felt, well, that's where we're going.

TI: Now, did your father or mother ever talk to you or the other kids about that decision?

SY: Well, they might have talked to the older, my older boys, brothers, but I never heard of, I never heard them say anything whether I wanted to go or not.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So, Sue, we're going to start the second hour now. And we were just sort of finishing up with Poston. Before we go from Poston to Tule Lake, what other memories do you have of Poston? I mean, were there, so you're a young woman, did you start, like, noticing boys when you were at Poston and things like that?

SY: No, no. [Laughs]

TI: How about the school at Poston? Do you remember anything about the school?

SY: I think I went I went to junior, junior class. I don't remember who my teacher was or how many classes we had or... I remember going to barracks.

TI: Now, did you ever leave Poston for any of the surrounding areas, or were you aware that Poston was on an Indian reservation? Was that something that you were aware of?

SY: No. Oh, I remember, I think there were about five or six of us, in the morning, early morning, I think about six or six-thirty, we started hiking and going up the hill or mountain, and then we found these... what do you call those? Those woods? The ironwoods or whatever you call it?

TI: Okay, yeah, ironwood, people like to...

SY: Yeah, yeah, they make canes or something out of it. We went there and that's where we went. It took us about two or three hours walking up to that place. That was fun. [Laughs]

TI: Now, would people ever get lost out there? I mean, was it ever a danger of people sort of getting disoriented and being out in the desert and getting lost?

SY: No. There weren't any fences, so you could just wander off, but I guess you won't last very long, desert all over the place.

TI: And do you recall ever visiting any small towns or anything like that?

SY: No, no.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So let's talk about, so at some point, you then go from Poston to Tule Lake. So let's talk about that. When you got to Tule Lake, what was the registration like in terms of checking in to Tule Lake?

SY: Gee, I really don't know. I really don't know.

TI: So did, similar to what it was like when you first got to Poston, or, but you can't remember whether or not it was different?

SY: Gee, I don't remember.

TI: How about just a sense when you went to Tule Lake, did it seem similar to Poston, or did it seem, what were the differences when you went to Tule Lake?

SY: Well, the barracks looked the same except that in Poston we had a double roof. But in Tule Lake, it was single roof. And they all looked the same, the barracks. We had two rooms and more people, I think. No... I guess not.

TI: And do you recall the block number or what area at Tule Lake...

SY: Yes, we were in Block 36, Ward 3, I think they called it. They have six blocks, it made a ward. So we were in Block 3.

TI: And do you, can you recall... so your neighbors, I mean who, the people in your block, where they were from?

SY: I didn't ask, you know. [Laughs]

TI: Were these people that were there for a long time? Were they...

SY: They were there before we were.

TI: And they had been there for, like, months and months, or just previously, just right away, or do you know how long they had been there?

SY: No, I think they were there for a few months earlier, or a year.

BT: Can we back up a little bit, and did you have any idea why your family was being sent to Tule Lake?

SY: No, I didn't. We just... I heard we were being sent there to find out who wants to stay in the, in America and who wants to leave, you know, go to Japan. And I thought we were going to Japan.

BT: Do you remember about what time of the year it was? Was it in the summer or the spring, early in the year? I mean, did it feel cold or hot?

SY: No, it wasn't hot. Gee, I don't remember.

BT: And do you recall if it was before the whole the whole registration period when everybody had to sign the "loyalty questions"? Was it before then or were you in Tule Lake and then they gave out the "loyalty questionnaires"?

SY: We were in Tule, I remember.

BT: At the time of...

SY: Whether you want to leave or stay.

BT: Oh, so you were there before the leave clearance forms were passed out.

SY: No, we had to go to... I don't know where we had to go. They had about half a dozen... what do you call that? People who question you, you know, from the government. They had separate tables.

BT: Now that was for --

SY: And then you have to go there. They'll call you and then you go in. You sit where they said, "You sit here, you sit there." And then they'll question you, each question from the questionnaire, I guess, and then you answer.

BT: Is this talking about the renunciations of citizenship?

SY: Yeah.

BT: Oh, okay, which happened a year after the registrations or the "loyalty questions," actually more than a year.

SY: Oh, no, I don't know about that.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

BT: But, so your family was in Tule Lake, and with the intention of going back to Japan, for your father. And were your brothers living with you then, your three older brothers?

SY: In Tule, I don't know when, but it was after, they were in Hoshidan, they were transferred to other camps in other states.

BT: Oh, they went to Bismarck?

SY: Bismarck, my, Katsumi and several other boys went to Bismarck, were sent to Bismarck. Oh, and Harry.

BT: In Bismarck?

SY: Yes. And Frank went to, was sent to Texas.

BT: Crystal City?

TI: Or to Santa Fe?

BT: That's New Mexico.

SY: Crystal...

BT: New Mexico?

SY: No, Texas. Crystal City? Yeah.

BT: DOJ camp.

SY: Is that where they had the camp there, too?

TI: They did, but it was more of a family... so Frank was single? Was he a bachelor, or did he have a family?

SY: No, he was single.

BT: So with your family in Tule Lake with the intention, I guess the general understanding in your family was that you were going to go to Japan after the war?

SY: Yes.

BT: So did you enroll in Japanese school?

SY: Yes, we went to Japanese school. I was in my senior year, but my father says, "What's the use of studying English when you're going to Japan?" So I went to Japanese school.

BT: And what other ways was your family preparing for a life in Japan?

SY: I don't know.

BT: Other than learning the language, what about, there were cultural classes?

SY: No, nothing special.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

BT: You mentioned your brother being in the Hoshidan. Were you also involved?

SY: Yes. We didn't question it, you know. And, well, people who were in Hoshidan, they were naturally going to Japan. So we didn't think anything of it. So we joined, my sister and I, and our friends, too, we joined.

BT: And did you feel like anybody was forcing you to do this?

SY: No, no.

BT: And what sort of activities did you do you while you were in the Joshidan?

SY: Well, I was the only one who could ride the bicycle, so they made me the liaison. [Laughs] Made me do liaison work.

TI: So like a messenger.

SY: Yes, a messenger, that's right.

TI: Back and forth, so you would have documents, you would go there, they'd give you something, you would come back.

SY: But I remember just riding on the bicycle once, that's all. [Laughs]

BT: They didn't work you very hard as a courier, did they?

SY: No, I guess they didn't have very much work.

BT: And so were you delivering from, like, one Hoshidan office? I know there was one Hoshidan office, but were there other offices?

SY: I don't know.

BT: Did you go to meetings?

SY: No, no.

BT: So what were the primary activities?

SY: I don't know.

BT: Were you running around the fence?

TI: You mean doing the exercise, like any exercises?

SY: Oh, yeah, marching and, you know.

BT: Calisthenics?

SY: Yes, uh-huh. That's before you started the march.

BT: How many people would be out there?

SY: Gee, I don't know. I don't think there were a hundred.

BT: So there was just, what, a group of under a hundred.

SY: I really don't know if there were more or not. I just remember the group where we congregated for the morning exercise and morning, you face towards the, towards Japan and then sort of rei, you know. That's about it.

BT: And did you do this every day?

SY: Yes, uh-huh.

BT: In the cold and in the heat?

SY: Yeah. Well, I don't think it lasted very long, though.

BT: Right. It seems to have formed sometime maybe around September of '44. And were your brothers involved?

SY: Yes.

BT: And were they doing other kinds of activities, also language school?

SY: No, no. I don't know what they were doing, but I guess that's why they were sent to Bismarck.

TI: Did you ever have the opportunity, did you ever have a conversation with any of your brothers before they were sent away?

SY: No. I don't know how they were sent there.

TI: You were, especially when you were doing the exercises, how did you feel? What were you thinking when you were doing that? Was there a sense... yeah, how did you feel?

SY: I didn't feel anything because, you know, it was fun. And nothing other than that.

TI: I've interviewed... and they're actually men who participated in some of these exercises, and for some of them, they felt, in some ways, empowered because after being, kind of just doing what was being told, they just felt like here they were doing something a little more active, and they just felt this sense of just being more active and more empowered. And I was just curious if you felt any of those feelings.

SY: No. I think if you're involved, really involved in that, you probably would feel that way. But I don't know, I thought it was fun, you know, doing the exercise and marching and all that. It's good for you, I thought.

BT: "Strong mind, strong body."

SY: Yeah. I mean, I didn't think too much about that. I wasn't serious or anything, you know.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

BT: Well, as, and you were about eighteen. I guess you were about nineteen then. That would have been '44. So in '43, when you got to Tule Lake, you were a young woman of eighteen. How were you coping with the lack of privacy?

SY: Well, that's when you take a shower or something like that, they have no partitions. So, and the bathrooms, they didn't have... well, they had partitions, but they were up to here. [Laughs] That's about all. At first, it was really hard.

BT: Oh, when you were in Salinas and at Poston?

SY: When we were at Salinas, yeah, it was the same.

BT: Well, you had started your period before camp then, right?

SY: Yes.

BT: And how was it... it must have been, you must have felt very uncomfortable using the bathrooms. Did you, how did you deal with that?

SY: Let me think. [Laughs] I don't know, we just... I guess... gee, I really don't know. I can't remember.

BT: You didn't try and use the bathrooms late at night?

SY: No, no. We dared not go late at night, because there's too many strange happenings. Late at night, if you're taking a shower or if you're using the bathroom, somebody would come in, sneak in.

BT: You mean men?

SY: Yeah. You'd get assaulted, yeah. They would assault you. So they said, "Don't ever go late at night."

BT: This was at Poston and at Tule Lake?

SY: No, I just heard it in Tule. There weren't too many of that, but there were.

BT: Did you feel physically threatened by men in Tule Lake?

SY: No, not especially. Because I think it was happening in the farther, you know, away from our block.

BT: Oh, the rumor was the other blocks?

SY: Yeah.

TI: And Sue, I'm curious, how did that kind of information get transferred? I mean, how did you hear about things, something like this which would be...

SY: Well, they said, "I heard this happened," you know. I said, "Oh."

TI: And so it would be kind of like in little groups.

SY: From word of mouth.

TI: Word of mouth.

SY: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: And so there was, you never heard this like in an announcement or something from the administration.

SY: No, no.

TI: This was all informal.

SY: Yes.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: I wanted to kind of shift a little bit, and we talked about you and your brothers. I want to talk about your father. Was he very active in any activities at Tule Lake? Do you remember what he was doing?

SY: No.

TI: Did you see him maybe communicating with other Issei men, though, about, just talking about maybe...

SY: Oh, I'm sure he did, but I never saw him. My mother would go to the laundry room and do her laundry, and there's a couple of, few ladies in there, too. And she'd come home and say, "So-and-so and so-and-so were fighting in there," you know. Japan's gonna win, America's gonna win, and started a fight or something. Argument, argument, yeah.

TI: There were arguments in the laundry room between the women who were doing this.

SY: Yeah.

TI: And when she would come back with that information, what kind of discussion happened within the family? Did people talk about that?

SY: No.

TI: So she just would inform people, like, "Oh, there was another fight in the laundry room."

SY: Yes, yes.

TI: "So-and-so said this, and so-and-so said that." And your father wouldn't react to it? He would just kind of...

SY: No, he didn't react.

TI: This is so helpful. It's really great to kind of get these inside glimpses of these activities. So thanks for sharing this.

BT: How is it that your family was getting information? Was it mostly rumors?

SY: Yeah, rumors, too, but well, we had a shortwave radio, and there were jeeps coming around just to look for people using shortwave radios. And then someone would come in and say, "Oh, there's this jeep coming, so turn the radio off." And then after they passed and turned the radio on again. I don't know how my brothers got the radio in there, because we shouldn't have radios. [Laughs] And I guess when you listen to the radio, you get Japanese radio through that. And then they're nothing but, "Japan's winning, Japan's winning." So I said, "Oh, Japan's winning," whether it's good or bad, you know.

TI: And so who was listening to the radio? When you say, okay, so you'd listen to these Japanese broadcasts, who listened?

SY: My brothers, they understand Japanese, and we understand a little Japanese, too, you know. I don't know if it's real or not, but my brother Katsumi, he would say, "Oh, that's propaganda, that's propaganda." But my folks believed it.

TI: Did the authorities ever find out about the shortwave radio?

SY: [Shakes head]

TI: So it was hidden really well and you were able to, you were never caught with it.

BT: Where did they hide it?

SY: I don't know how they got it.

BT: No, well, where did they hide it?

SY: No, it was on the little table, but every time the jeep comes along, we'd turn it off, so they can't sense it.

BT: Yeah, hear the Japanese.

TI: Now at Tule Lake, there were times when the army would go through and search the rooms looking for people, but probably looking for contraband like radios. Did they ever come and search your, your place?

SY: No, no. I didn't know that. [Laughs]

TI: But yet, they targeted your brothers, because they removed them from Tule and sent them, it sounds like, to a DOJ camp, Department of Justice camp. So your brothers were somehow singled out as someone that they needed to remove from Tule Lake. Did you ever know why or what they said?

SY: No. My future husband was the same, he was sent to Bismarck.

TI: Okay, interesting.

BT: Were you in Tule Lake during martial law? Do you recall that period?

SY: What martial law?

BT: That the army took over the camp. It was in 1943, and it was after the "loyalty questions."

SY: No, I don't think so.

BT: Late '43, early '44.

SY: You mean a riot or something?

BT: Yeah, some people describe it as a riot. Do you recall any of that period while you were at Tule Lake?

SY: I think I heard about it, but I really didn't know what it was about.

BT: You weren't part of the crowd that gathered at the administration building?

SY: No, not in the administration building.

BT: Or you don't recall the army coming through the barracks and inspecting for contraband or searching for people?

SY: No, I didn't know that. I didn't know about that.

BT: Were you working while you were in Tule Lake?

SY: No. In Poston I was.

BT: Oh, what were you doing there?

SY: Kitchen.

BT: But in Tule Lake you...

SY: No, I didn't work.

BT: How were you occupying your time?

SY: Oh, with friends. [Laughs]

BT: Most of your friends were people that were planning to go to Japan after the war, or the families were planning?

SY: No, not especially.

BT: It was, what, people that you knew from Salinas or new friends?

SY: No, people I met in camp, in our block.

BT: And did you ever have discussions about going to Japan?

SY: No. Don't remember that.

BT: Or they questioned you being in the Joshidan?

SY: No, no. Come to think of it, it's kind of strange, isn't it?

BT: Well, the future was pretty uncertain.

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

<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.

<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.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Did you see much American presence? You mentioned seeing the American flags on the ships when you first came to the port. Once you were in Japan, did you have other examples of the American presence there, whether American soldiers or things like that?

SY: Uh-huh. When we went to Fukuoka, my stepbrother's place, we saw soldiers, I think they were cavalries, they were on a horse and going up the mountain and back again, and I think they were close by. They said that was a Japanese military camp there, so I guess that's where they were staying.

TI: I'm curious, for the people around you, what was the feeling when people saw American soldiers on horses going by, what did people say or...

SY: I guess, I guess they were used to it by the time we went there, because I guess they were there for a while.

TI: And how did you feel? Did you ever attempt to communicate with U.S. soldiers in English?

SY: No. My sister and I were sitting out sunning ourselves in the morning, and there were a couple of cavalrymen riding, and it was a little hill up behind us, you know. And we were sitting there, and these horses were going, passing the place where they could turn off and come to where we were staying. They passed, and then they retreated and they came in. "Oh, oh, trouble." So I ran back in the back of the house, my sister stayed there. And he was, they were conversing, but I don't know what they were conversing about. I went under the, into this bathroom, Japanese bathroom, and I locked the door. I heard the footsteps, you know, come back, and then they came near, but they went back. And when I asked my sister, "What did they say?" Said, "Where's the other girl?" [Laughs] "Where's the other girl?" She said, "I don't know." So every time I see those military guys coming up, I'd run in the house. I don't want to talk with them.

TI: And why? What was your feeling when you saw them?

SY: I don't know.

TI: You wanted to not be near them and hide from them. What were you thinking?

SY: I don't know. I was just, just scared of them. I don't know why.

TI: But your sister would talk to them.

SY: Yeah.

TI: Do you remember, were they, were the American soldiers surprised that she could converse with them in English?

SY: I guess, I guess so.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: What were the, I'm curious, what kind of living conditions did you see in Fukuoka in terms of food, being sick?

SY: The food was terrible. But I had American citizen, I mean, they said I was American, so my brothers were certainly American citizens because they couldn't renounce their citizenship.

BT: Oh, your younger brothers.

SY: Yeah. So they got their rations of butter and sugar from the village. I don't know how they got that.

TI: And let me make sure I understand. These rations were because they were American citizens?

SY: Because we were.

TI: Were Americans, you would get a special ration?

SY: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: But if you were Japanese, you would not get this food.

SY: No, no.

TI: So you were in better shape because you were American.

SY: I guess so, always of sugar and butter, that's about it.

BT: But, oh, I see. It's the Japanese citizens could get the rice rations.

SY: Uh-huh.

BT: But apparently you were getting different rations because you were Americans?

SY: I guess so, American citizens.

BT: You were getting butter, which is a very non-traditional Japanese food, right? [Laughs]

SY: I know.

TI: So this is a little bit, I haven't heard this part in terms of special rations. Because what I've heard is that, yeah, they had special rations for Japanese, and so oftentimes Americans or people who renounced had difficulties because they didn't get that, so they were sometimes viewed as a burden on the family because they would have to dip into the other people's food. But it sounds like it was a little bit different for you.

SY: Was anybody else getting things like that? Butter and...

TI: Not that I've heard, so this is...

SY: Oh, really?

BT: Especially butter.

TI: Yeah, so this is special. That would be like a luxury to get sugar and butter and things like that.

SY: It wasn't much, but at least we got butter and sugar.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So eventually you had to make a living. So what kind of work were you able to find in Japan?

SY: Gee... I think we, my sister and I got a typing job, you know, at the military headquarters in Fukuoka. And there was another Nisei that had a job there, too. And we had a chauffeur. [Laughs] Yeah, we had a chauffeur. The car took us, picked us up in the morning and took us to the office, and then in the evening they took us back home.

TI: So this is different, too.

SY: This is, yeah.

TI: Especially for a typist to have a chauffeur, I've heard of others...

SY: Yeah.

TI: And why do you think you got this special driving, driver?

SY: I guess because we were working for the armed forces, occupying, occupying forces. Well, my sister actually started working for the city of... what would you say?

BT: Mayor?

SY: An interpreter for the... what do you say, mayor or something?

TI: The mayor? Okay, so like a personal interpreter?

SY: Yeah, not for the mayor but working in that capacity, you know.

TI: So this was the Japanese mayor, so like a interpreter, sort of a person as a, yeah, I guess between English, I mean, the U.S. military and the Japanese city government. So that made you and your sister really valuable because of your bilingual capabilities.

SY: [Laughs] I guess so. Maybe she was the reason she got the chauffeur, huh? You know, and not...

TI: We'll have to interview her. [Laughs] We have to understand this a little bit more. You got all these special privileges.

SY: Yeah, really.

BT: They're two pretty young girls who speak English and Japanese, right? [Laughs]

SY: Yeah.

TI: And so how long did you work in this position?

SY: Oh, gee... I think about a year, but I'm not sure. I don't think a year, because that place moved to Hakata from Kurume. We were working for Kurume in Fukuoka. And then that office moved to Hakata, and eventually my sister and I were both working for the armed forces in Hakata, for headquarters.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: So I'm wondering if at any time, especially when you were working with the U.S., U.S. agency, if it ever came up that you had renounced your U.S. citizenship? Was that ever an issue in terms of employment or certain jobs?

SY: No, they didn't ask us that.

TI: So was the assumption that you were American citizens?

SY: Yeah, I guess so, because we spoke English.

TI: And did they ever ask you, "So how is it that you came to Japan?" Did they ever talk about that or ask any questions about that?

SY: No, they didn't, but when we were in Hakata, we, headquarters, General MacArthur's headquarters sent a message to each armed forces office that all repatriates may not working for the armed forces anymore, so we were released.

TI: And so you were released.

SY: Released, yes.

TI: So you lost your job.

SY: Yes.

TI: Because you were, 'cause you had repatriated, you were in that classification.

SY: Yes, yes.

TI: Which essentially sort of identified you as probably someone who renounced their citizenship.

SY: Yes, yes, I think so.

TI: Did you ever understand or know why that order came from General MacArthur's...

SY: No, no.

TI: And so there's no, no explanation.

SY: I think I heard about it, but I forgot what it was about. So after we quit, my sister and I did housework -- not housework, but worked for the family of the armed forces as a housekeeper or babysitting or something like that.

BT: Did they pay you in dollars?

SY: No, we got paid in yen.

TI: So it sounds like --

SY: Japanese government paid us.

TI: But, so it sounds like it was, like you had a pretty good job working with the U.S. government, and when you got essentially fired or released, you had to take a cut in your standard of living in terms of what you could do.

SY: Uh-huh.

TI: Okay.

SY: We got paid in yen. Unless you were a civilian hired by the American, U.S., you don't get paid in dollars.

TI: So was it that your younger brothers, though, they were still American citizens. Were they able to get jobs, or were they also unable to work for the U.S. government?

SY: Well, gee I forgot about them. [Laughs] My brother just below me was working as a houseboy. And my youngest brother, he was going to Japanese school. I think he was going to high school or something... no, junior high I think he was going to.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: So let's start the third segment. And so right now we're in Japan, and you talked a little bit about some of the jobs that you did. I'm curious, how did the Japanese react to you? When they would meet you and they would get to know you and a little bit of your background, what did the Japanese think about you?

SY: Well, we met our cousins and, you know... and this one cousin I was talking to, she said, I mean, I thought I was speaking good Japanese because over here, you know, when we were in camp, the ladies would tell my mother that, "Oh, your daughter speaks good Japanese and she knows how to aisatsu," what do you say? Communicate? And I thought I was speaking good Japanese. And she started laughing, you know. I looked at her funny and she said, "Your Japanese is funny." [Laughs] I think my... it wasn't really a Japanese speaking, you know. I guess I had some accent, different kind of accent. So she said, "Anata no Nihongo, okashi ne?" she says. [Laughs] And she started laughing, I says, oh, gee, I felt insulted, but what can I say?

TI: But then how did they think about your, like your American sort of background? Because here you were fluent in English, and what did they think about that?

SY: Oh, they didn't hear me speak English yet. When we first went to Fukuoka, we went to our relatives', my folks wanted to go to their relatives and greet them. And we tagged along with them, and we passed a school. And these kids, you know, I guess they thought the clowns were coming or something, I don't know. They gathered at one window, you know, and then we'll pass the window, and then they'll run to the next window. You could hear them running in the hallway. And that was really funny, though, it was really funny. I think the way we dressed and walked, I think, was different, really different.

TI: And so did they have any prior warning, or just, they could see you walking and the way you were dressed and they would know...

SY: See, there were five or six of us, you know, walking. And I guess we drew quite attention. [Laughs] We were dressed differently, and I guess they say, "Oh, somebody's different coming down the road."

TI: Did you talk to any of them and find out...

SY: No. We were up on the higher place over where the road is, and the school is below. So I guess they could see us.

TI: So there was something different about you, the way you looked, the way you walked...

SY: The way we dressed.

TI: Dressed, the way you talked, all these things were just a little bit different. And so how would your relatives, what would they say to you, other than your Japanese might be a little different. I mean, what else would they say? Would they make any other comments about you and your sister in particular?

SY: No, they didn't say much. Yeah, I don't remember anything special that they said.

TI: How about Japanese who would hear you speak English? So they were in a situation where you used your English and then they saw you? What was that, the reaction of Japanese then?

SY: They said, "Your English is different from our," you know, the Japanese English, the way the Japanese speak English. I said, "Oh, we were speaking English when we were born." Oh, they marveled at our, you know, pronunciation and all that, the r's and the l's. [Laughs]

TI: Well, how about sort of Americans? When you came across them and you used your English with them, what was the reaction?

SY: Oh, they were surprised we spoke English. That was their first impression.

TI: And generally then, would they ask more questions about, about you and...

SY: Yes, uh-huh. "How'd you learn English?" and all that.

TI: And what would you tell them when, say, you're working with the U.S. Army or something and they, and someone asked you, "So how did you learn your English?" What would your response be?

SY: You mean when the Japanese asked?

TI: No, when the Americans would ask.

SY: Americans? Oh, I guess they're surprised that we were there. "How'd you get here?" and all that.

TI: But when they asked, so they were surprised. So they'd say, "How did you get to Fukuoka?"

SY: Yeah.

TI: How would, what would you say?

SY: Oh, we came from the U.S., you know, we came on the ship. And they said, they were surprised. They were surprised.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: So at some point, you're in Japan, and you decide you want to come back to the United States. So talk about that. Why did you want to come back to the United States?

SY: Well, I think I was one of the last ones to leave Japan, except for my two brothers who are in Japan. The first one, well, I thought, "I'm not going to marry a Japanese." I don't think it'll, I'll be happy with that. Because our thinking was different. Well, I got married in Japan in '51, to Junichi's younger brother. He was working for the PX, too, in Beppu with my brothers.

TI: So this is Sam?

SY: Yes, yes.

BT: And was that the first time you met him in Japan or did you know...

SY: No, we were in the same block in Tule Lake.

BT: Okay, you knew each other.

SY: And my brother Katsumi was a good friend.

BT: Of Sam's.

SY: Uh-huh. And I didn't know him until in Tule. And when we went to Japan, we started working for the Post Exchange on base, and my brother called Sam. He was in Hiroshima working for the Australian forces there. So he called Sam, and then Sam came up to work for the Post Exchange, and that's how we knew.

TI: And so you married Sam in Japan?

SY: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: In 1951. And so Sam was working for the Australian...

SY: In the beginning, yes, uh-huh.

TI: And so how did he come to Japan? Was he, did he also repatriate?

SY: His family was the same.

TI: Same situation?

SY: Yes, same situation.

TI: And so he had renounced his citizenship also?

SY: Yes, yes.

TI: And so now you're married, both of you. At this point, how about your sister and younger brothers, or other brothers? Were they still in Japan or had they come back to the United States?

SY: My... let's see. My two younger brother were in the States already.

TI: Okay, so they had returned. And then how about your sister?

SY: My sister was there when I got married, was in Japan.

TI: So she was in Japan.

SY: Yeah.

TI: And then Richard, or Dick, where was he?

SY: He was in Japan.

TI: In Japan, okay.

SY: Yeah, he was married and then he had three kids.

TI: Okay, so it was just the two younger brothers had gone to United States.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: So you get married to Sam, 1951, you had both renounced your citizenship. So how did you decide that you wanted to go back to the United States?

SY: Well, I found out that even though I renounced, I didn't lose my citizenship because I was underage. So my U.S. citizen was intact, and my husband's was, you know, he renounced it, so it was, he didn't have any American citizen then.

TI: Okay, so you were still a U.S. citizen but your husband was not.

SY: Yes. So he was working to get the citizenship back, and eventually he got it back.

TI: And how did he get it back? What process did he go through?

SY: He was writing to Collins.

TI: Wayne Collins?

SY: Wayne Collins.

TI: Okay.

SY: I don't know whether he got it from him or not, but he was writing to different people. I don't know who he was writing to.

BT: About how long did it take him to get it back, do you recall?

SY: Oh, about a year, I think.

BT: Oh, so it was relatively quick.

SY: Oh, you think so? I think, I'm not really sure on that.

BT: About, do you recall about what year? Was it in the mid-50s?

SY: I think so. Towards the end of the '50s, somewhere around there.

BT: So why did he want his, to get his citizenship back? Were you planning to return to the U.S.?

SY: Yes, he wanted to come back, yes.

BT: Why?

SY: Well, we got married and we had three children, and in... what was it? '80... no, it was in '79, I think, he had a stroke. And he had a citizenship then, and he was working for this American company, I-tech was the name. And he got a stroke, I think, around May, April or May. And he couldn't do any work after that. So the boss told him he could either retire in Japan or, "retire after you go back to the States." So he thought it's better for him because his brother was here, he wanted to come to Sacramento because his brother and his two sisters were here, and he had a sister in Chicago, and he had two brothers, one in L.A. and one in San Jose. So he wanted to come to Sacramento. So that's why I came with him. The whole family came.

TI: So this is about 1979, 1980?

SY: 1979, I think, he decided.

BT: And so to clarify, even though your husband got his citizenship back sometime in the 1950s, he worked in Japan and you lived in Japan until, all those years, right?

SY: Yes. And he was looking for a house. We were looking for a house to buy, you know, in Japan. But we found a place, and he went to the bank, Yokohama Bank in Japan to see if he could borrow the money to acquire that place. And as soon as the bank found out that he was U.S. citizen, they thought they will never get their money back because if he goes to the States, how would they get the money back? I guess they were worried about that, if we skipped. And that's why they wouldn't loan us the money.

TI: Interesting. So if they had loaned you the money, then you would have bought the house and perhaps stayed in Japan.

SY: Uh-huh.

TI: So it was a bank...

SY: Yeah, the bank.

TI: ...that really forced you in some ways to maybe think about coming to the United States. So you were Japan -- I'm doing the quick math -- close to thirty...

SY: Five?

TI: ...little more than thirty years, so it was a long time.

SY: That's why during my stay in Japan, my husband was coming to the States every year. The company would have a conference or something somewhere in America, in Hawaii or Florida or San Diego, every year it's different. And people from I-tech company, the boss was a Caucasian. And he would bring his, you know, workers to the conference, and their wives were invited, too. So my husband, naturally, he was a field manager, so he got to come every year, and I came with him. And we visited our, my brother was in Union City, his family was back here, my sister was in San Jose. So I got to see them all. Here I was thinking like a Japanese, all this time in Japan. And I couldn't get along with my nieces or my brothers or my sister. The way they think and I think were completely different. I was Japanese, and I spoke Japanese. So I thought I could never live here in America, you know. And every year I was coming, visiting here, and my brothers in Chicago, too, I would visit them, and I would meet their children. I really couldn't think like they were thinking. I thought I could never live out here.

TI: So it was a big adjustment for you to move.

SY: It was really a big adjustment. And it was a bigger adjustment for my, for our children, you know, because they spoke nothing but Japanese. They graduated high school in Japan. So they really had to adjust.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: So I'm thinking about your children. So what citizenship do they have right now? Are they Japanese or American citizens?

SY: They're both. I mean, my older, oldest daughter -- she's the oldest of the three, two boys and one girl -- and she's, she was American citizen.

TI: And how would she be an American citizen? Because she was born to a U.S. citizen, is that how that works?

SY: Yes.

TI: Even though you were born in Japan, you would be a U.S. citizen, if your...

SY: Yes. If your parents are U.S. citizen, then you're naturally, yeah.

TI: So you said the oldest is, so all your children have dual citizenship?

SY: Yes.

TI: Okay, good.

BT: But you didn't want to raise them biculturally? I mean, did you intentionally not speak English?

SY: No. It didn't even dawn to me that I could teach them English. I thought the school will take care of that, but they come home and they said, "Bata-furai," you know. "No, butterfly." And even then, it never dawned to me that, you know, I should teach them English. And they would say, "Oh, there's a teacher teaching English." I said, "Oh, that's good," and it's a Japanese teaching English, you know. So it can't be a true English teacher.

TI: So I wanted to ask, whatever happened to your parents? Did they stay in Japan all this time?

SY: Yes, they stayed in Japan. And they're staying in Japan.

TI: In that they're, they died in Japan and they're staying?

SY: Yes.

TI: Okay.

BT: Your father never wanted to come back, or your mother wanted...

SY: No, they never mentioned it. My mother came over here once to stay with my sister for about two years, and then she went back.

BT: But your father never wanted to visit.

SY: No.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: So you've lived a very interesting life, lots of journeys, lots of places.

SY: Oh, I guess... I guess. I never thought about it. I talk to different people, you know, I tell them what I went through and they say, "Oh, you could write a book." [Laughs]

TI: You really could. In thinking about your life, were there any places where you think back and you would have made a different decision? Do you think about your life in that way? Like, oh, maybe at twelve, "If I did this instead of that, my life would have been different"?

SY: No. I never, I never did think about it. So I guess I'm... I don't know what you call it. [Laughs]

TI: No, I think it's healthy not to have to think back to your life and do this, but I know some people sort of second guess, but personally, I think it's healthy to just always go forward and not think about that. But I'm just curious if you ever had those thoughts.

SY: No, I never did. I would think maybe if I stayed in America I might have led a different life. But I don't worry about it

TI: Good. So, Barbara, any other questions?

BT: That's about it.

TI: So is there anything that you would like to say? Anything that we maybe didn't ask you about that you'd like to share or anything else that you can think of?

SY: I don't know why my brain doesn't work that way. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] Okay. Well, thank you so much. I mean, this was an amazing interview. I learned so much.

SY: Oh, really?

TI: Yeah, and you could write a book about your life. It would be very interesting.

SY: Thank you.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.