Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Toru Saito Interview
Narrator: Toru Saito
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: San Jose, California
Date: December 1, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-storu-01-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: Now, this '89 trip with Paul Takagi, was that the first time you returned to Topaz from, after the war?

TS: Correct.

MN: And you were really excited to go back there?

TS: I was dying to see Topaz. I have so many memories of Topaz and I, I talk to people who are older than I am and they have, they don't remember we, every block had a block manager. I remember our block manager, Mr. Takahashi. I used to go to his office. I remember some, Mr. Ogi, who lived in Block 4 -- we lived on the east side of the, the mess hall and the latrines -- on the west side was where Mr. Ogi lived. He drove a water tank truck and it was a small one. It was, had an oval shaped tank, and we would help him fill up the tank with the garden hose from the latrine. And after the tank was filled his job was to water the pigs at the pig farm, so he would sneak me under the seat, go through the main guard and take a right and then take a left and go to the pig farm, and he'd always give me his, his bagged lunch made by the mess hall staff and it was always egg salad sandwich. And so to this day I still love egg salad sandwiches. And I had a lot of fun as a kid, other than gettin' my head beat in by my stepfather. So those were my escapes, I guess. Those were some good days. I had fun.

I don't know if I told you this, but I hung around with Arthur Sugiyama and this other guy named Bobby, and I was the youngest of the three. And after a while the guards were not in the guard towers during the day, so we climbed through the barbed wire fence and climbed up this two by four ladder, straight up into the guard tower. So we climbed up there and Arthur told me, there was a telephone in the corner, and he told me to pick up the telephone and swear at the MPs at the other end. So I just knew a few choice words, shit, goddamn, that's about all I knew. And then there would be a jeep coming in a cloud of dust, 'cause we were in the middle between the north and the south borders. There was a guard tower at each corner and then in between. We were in the one in between, and we see this Jeep in a cloud of dust and we would scamper down the stairs, climb through the barbed wire fence and run like hell. And I never got caught. We did this two times that I remember distinctly. If my mother would've found out about it she would've beat my ass like you won't believe, but thank god we got away with it. It was my way of saying screw you. But we had a lot of adventures like that. We made our own fun. We had to. Nobody provided us with anything. It was either our own imagination or nothing.

MN: Now, that's towards the end of the war, when there was no guards up there.

TS: They weren't, they weren't in there during the day. They might've been there in the evening, but not during the day.

MN: Now, early on, Mr. Wakasa was killed by a sentry from one of the guard towers.

TS: That very same guard tower, I found out later. Yeah.

MN: It was the one that you crawled up, you --

TS: Yeah. When I heard that I go, oh my god, thank god I didn't get shot. But who knows? They might have shot a kid. I was only four, five years old.

MN: Did you, so you didn't witness him getting shot at?

TS: No.

MN: Did you hear about that?

TS: Oh, I heard about it, 'cause it was, there was a, almost a humongous riot happening because of that. But of course it scared the hell out of people, this guy got shot in the back. So, and that was for walking along the fence. He wasn't trying to go through. We went through the fence as kids during the day, but nobody gave a damn about us. But they, if they saw us, where could we go? We had no water. We had nothing.

MN: So when you heard this news, though, how did you feel that this man was shot?

TS: It scared the, it scared the hell out of me. My mother made sure I, we knew about it 'cause she didn't want us to be shot. But that was 1943, April 11th, if I remember correctly, but I was still, I was just, had turned five in '42, so '43 I was five, five and four months old, so what did I know? And my mother had so many, so many things that, to worry about, but in those days, you're in a prison camp. You ain't going nowhere, so nobody's gonna ask you, where the hell were you, blah blah blah, you know? Kids did what they want to do, and I know we did.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.