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-01-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: Well before we get to Topaz, let me ask you, when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941 you were still very, very young, did you understand the significance of this event?

TS: No, I didn't remember the significance, but I remember we used to have these, what they used to call blackouts and the sirens would sound and everybody had to put blankets over the windows. And I would peek through between the window and the curtain and we would see these searchlights searching the sky for, I guess, airplanes, and we were scared to death. But before that even my mother said there were reports of Filipino men knifing Japanese citizens in Japantown because they were upset about Japan's invasion to the Philippines, so my mother said, as soon as it gets dark always come in the house because the Filipinos were out there. And at the time I had never seen a Filipino, and I come to find out in my adult life the Filipino men were not giant monsters. They were little short guys. But we were deathly afraid of them, only because there was this rumor that some Japanese guy was knifed in Japantown.

MN: Now, were there FBI agents that came into your neighborhood to take people away after Pearl Harbor?

TS: If they did I had no knowledge of that.

MN: So after Pearl Harbor you saw this change in your life as a Japanese American kid?

TS: Oh yeah. I remember this car drove by our house -- we were playing in the front -- and this guy with these yellow teeth, some hakujin guy, he yelled out, "Go back to Japan, you fuckin' Japs." And he scared the hell out of me. And my brothers, we ran up the stairs and we asked my mother, "What does that mean, a Jap?" My mother said, "Never mind, just come in the house and don't play outside anymore." And, and we knew that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. We didn't know what Pearl Harbor was, but we knew it was a bad thing, and we were always feeling guilty for what something, what Japan did because we were Japanese and we identified with Japan.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.