Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Masamizu Kitajima Interview
Narrator: Masamizu Kitajima
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 12, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-kmasamizu-01-0020

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TI: So tell me, so the next morning... so you came in at night, you had this experience, you got to your barracks. Tell me, the next the day, the morning, what was it like for you to wake up to Jerome?

MK: Cold. Very cold, and we could see what it was like outside. And I remember stepping out, and as soon as I step out, there was a drainage canal from the barracks. It had a center walkway, and there was another barrack with the drainage canal in between, so you'd face each other. You'd walk out, you step out, and the other person would be stepping out. And the first reason that we walked out was because it was breakfast, and they were clanking the bell, something. Bell was clanging on, so we got out and started... then it's breakfast time, so we walked down, crossing that... there was a board, two boards going across, and that thing was icy from being wet and then freezing over. Slipped on that thing first and found out what it was like to walk on ice. [Laughs]

TI: And if you slipped off the boards, you'd fall into the ditch?

MK: Into the ditch, yes. That was ice, too, so... but going to the, we went to the mess hall, and it was cold getting to the mess hall, but once you got to the mess hall it was nice and warm. And then they had, first time I had home fried potatoes. And those guys, the cooks are all Japanese Americans from California, they were cooking for us and all that, and oh, man, I remember that bugger being hot from pepper. A lot of pepper. But it was, in a sense, was enjoyable, you know, that you were in a community where everybody was alike. And it was like finally we're off, off the ship, off the trains and traveling, and we're now home per se.

TI: And what did you do for clothes? Because you said initially you didn't have warm clothes, so eventually you had to get warm clothes. How did, how'd you get clothes?

MK: I think somebody brought clothes to the mess hall and said whatever fits, take, something to that effect. And I suspected this came from all the people from California who had excess clothes that they could give us. 'Cause I heard that a sheep lined jacket... I saw it and I thought, "I want that jacket," and I grabbed it.

TI: So you think all the other prisoners just donated whatever they could and then...

MK: Yeah, from relocation camp, what they had brought from the, from California and everything. Knowing that we didn't have any clothes, somebody thought about these things, I don't know who, but they thought about these things and improving things for us because they knew that we didn't have clothes. Which kind of surprising, 'cause they didn't... they didn't know that people were coming from Hawaii because there's only so few of us that came from Hawaii.

TI: Now in your block, in your area, was it... did they keep the Hawaiians together?

MK: Yes.

TI: So your block was all from Hawaii.

MK: Yeah, we had two blocks. Block 30 -- one and a half block -- 38, Block 38 was our block. It was all Hawaii block. And Block 39 had, half the block was Hawaii people. The Hawaii, the Block 39 was the ship that came in after us. We're the first ship to come to Jerome, and there was another ship that came after us, later in the spring. And they went to Block 39.

TI: Did you --

MK: Block 18. I'm sorry, Block 18, 17 and 18.

TI: Seventeen, 18, okay. So at what point did you start exploring the other parts of the camp?

MK: Oh, wasn't a month, I don't think, because as soon as we found out what the place was like, the first thing we tried to do was cross, cross the barbed wire, try to get outside. Then one of the security guards stopped us and he says, "You folks think you're smart. We'll let you get through the barbed wire, but you know that there's snakes out there in the swamp? And there's nothing out there for you to go to." But we still explored.

TI: 'Cause you were curious. You wanted to see.

MK: Yeah, and then after a while, in Jerome especially, it wasn't too long before the guards disappeared. There was no more guards. Of course, by this time it was, what, mid '43 and the guy, the 442 guys all from Camp Shelby started --

TI: Yeah, so I want to ask you about that, but before we go there, you mentioned snakes. I mean, in Hawaii there are no snakes.

MK: No snakes.

TI: So what, what did you think about snakes when you saw a snake?

MK: Well, first time I saw a snake was a rattler, inside a cage. When we used to walk from our block, we used to walk down toward the early cell blocks, they all had snakes as a hobby. Men had nothing to do, so they would go out, make cages, go trap snakes and raise snakes. They would raise chicken. They would raise anything they could. After a while they used to have farms, small farms. And, in fact, from what I had heard earlier, the people started going to the open land and start farming and started irrigating their own land so that they could do something just to do something. That's how they started the farming in the community, within the camps.

TI: But going back to the snakes, so when you saw a snake the first time, or maybe even the first time you saw a snake in the wild, what did you think?

MK: I don't know, snakes... I guess I'm thinking that I had seen snakes in Japan, so it was different. I had seen the shell from the snake sitting in a kaki tree, overnight and, at night, and go to see there's no shell, the next morning the shell is sitting there. And I had learned about snakes when I was in Japan, so it didn't bother me, so I really can't answer what you're asking. Never, never affected me that much. Maybe some others it did.

TI: Okay, yeah, because I know there's no snakes on Hawaii, so I was just curious how the Hawaiians dealt with snakes, but you had other experience.

MK: I had experience in Japan already, previously, so it didn't, never affected me. Never thought anything about it.

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