Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: K. Morgan Yamanaka Interview
Narrator: K. Morgan Yamanaka
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary), Barbara Takei (secondary)
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: April 7, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-ymorgan-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So we're gonna start, Morgan, and today's Thursday, April 7, 2011. We're at your home in Mill Valley. I'm doing the interview; my name in Tom Ikeda, and helping me with the interview is Barbara Takei, and on camera is Dana Hoshide. And so Morgan, I'm just gonna start from the beginning. Can you tell me when you were born?

MY: I was born in San Francisco, April 14, 1924. I think I was born in the house on Sacramento Street. I'm not sure. There's no record that I was born in the hospital.

TI: So April 14th, so next week is your birthday.

MY: That's right.

TI: And you'll be eighty-seven.

MY: Seven.

TI: So you're eighty-six, you're almost eighty-seven years old. Okay, good. So you think you were born in your house?

MY: I don't know. I think, because there's no record of hospital, midwife's address or anything.

TI: Good. Can you tell me, what was the name given to you at birth?

MY: I was given Kunitake Morgan Yamanaka. Kunitake is not an unusual name, but little unusual name. It was a name of a samurai in Hiroshima area way back when, not unknown samurai. And then Morgan comes from the family where my father worked as a domestic help, since before my birth, and that family is Morgan Gunst family. And they even have a building on Market Street. They're fairly well-known business family.

TI: Good. Let's talk a little bit about your father. Can you tell me your father's name and where he was from?

MY: My father immigrated from Kagoshima, rural fishing village, Kataoka, Kataura, excuse me, in 1906. And as far as I know, he became a domestic help.

TI: So he came right about the time of the San Francisco earthquake.

MY: Yes, right after the earthquake, I believe. I don't know the exact date.

TI: So I'm curious, did he have any stories about what San Francisco was like right after the earthquake?

MY: No.

TI: You never talked about that. Okay.

MY: Never particularly talked about it, nor did I ask any questions. And then he kept on working as a domestic help in the Pacific Heights where we lived. When I came in 1931 from Japan after five years, we lived on Sacramento Street between Broderick and Baker, and then shortly... and at that time I was enrolled at Emerson School, which is renamed something else after a politician, on California Street. Because we moved two blocks up from Sacramento to Washington Street, I changed the school district.

TI: Before we talk too much about your school, let's go back, because I want to know how your father met your mother. So how did, so your father came in 1906, worked as domestic help, so how did he meet your mother?

MY: I don't know how their marriage came about, arranged or what.

TI: Was your mother in Japan when...

MY: Yes, because I believe she came later, and I don't know exactly how much later she came to United States.

TI: Okay. And what was your mother's name?

MY: Hasumi, H-A-S-U-M-I. Hasumi Yamanaka.

TI: And she was from the kind of same area, Kagoshima?

MY: Four miles away from my father's village, another farming -- no, that was a farming village. My father's village was a fishing village. But she came from Sakaki, which is a farming village, and my mother's family is the honchou of the Sakaki village, which is the family, no, excuse me, the village elder. And so they were the highest class of the village and the lowest of the samurai class. Samurai class was divided into different levels, and because their family was a honchou, head village person, they held the rank of a samurai.

TI: Good, okay. And what about your father's family? Were they fishermen, in the fishing village?

MY: No. They were... I don't know. There's no record what he did or what his family did. There's sort of a blank area there.

TI: Okay, and his name, again, was, what was his name?

MY: Ryujiro, R-Y-U-J-I-R-O.

TI: Okay, so now we're back in San Francisco, so they're both in San Francisco. Let's talk a little bit about your siblings so we establish your brothers and sisters.

MY: Yeah, I'm the third of the four siblings. My oldest brother, Sumiyoshi Robert Yamanaka, is six years older than I am. Sumitaka Albert Yamanaka is three years older. I come in three years later, and then my sister, Toshiko, comes in two years later.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let's talk about, let's talk about where you lived. I mean, it's kind of a, I've done interviews of other Japanese Americans in this area. I haven't talked with anyone who grew up in Pacific Heights, so can you describe that neighborhood for me? What was Pacific Heights like?

MY: Pacific Heights was the borderline of the very rich and not so rich. Today, as you notice, the Pacific Heights border goes way down to California Street, Pine Street. The real estate people want to use the Pacific Heights address. Back then it was really Clay Street, which is one block south of Washington Street, and there were several houses where Japanese families lived and they were domestic workers. And so the Nakatanis lived upstairs of a three story building. We lived the middle, and then the Otagiri family, Otagiri, Mirikita family lived down below. So the children of the Otagiri, which are little younger than me, are good friends of my sister. But my friends were not within the neighborhood; they were primarily from the Bukkyokai Japanese Language School where I went every day after public school. Public school let out 3:10 in the afternoon, and I think four o'clock plus or minus we were at Bukkyokai Japanese Language School.

TI: And how far away was the Japanese language school?

MY: That was approximately twelve, thirteen blocks away, which I walked every day.

TI: Okay, so it was a little bit farther for you than, probably, other people at that school because --

MY: At Bukkyokai?

TI: Yeah.

MY: Oh yes, because most of them lived within Japantown and I was way out of Japantown, as I said, approximately twelve, thirteen blocks away. And as I say, most of my friends, if not all of them, were from the Japanese language school, where I spent, as I say, every afternoon during the, up to junior in high school. I say junior because my junior and senior year I was in a crew team, which means every after school during the season we were rowing out in the bay.

TI: Oh, interesting. There probably weren't too many Japanese Americans doing crew back in those days. I always think of crew people being really, really tall. Is that --

MY: No, no. There are two levels. The 130 group, which below, weighed to 130 --

TI: Like the, I think lightweights involved.

MY: Lightweight and above group, so I was in the lightweight group.

TI: I see, okay. I'm curious, you came from a different neighborhood than most of the friends at the Japanese language school, did they ever look at you differently because you came from a different neighborhood?

MY: No.

TI: Okay, so you were just one of them.

MY: Right, just was one of 'em. I was active in both the language school as well as the Sunday school, which is put on by the pretty same people, the Buddhist priests, and so, and my oldest brother was active in Bukkyokai and he taught Sunday school also.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: And I was looking at some pictures earlier and I saw, I think it was your brother in a kendo outfit. Did you do things like kendo or judo?

MY: All three brothers were in different kind of martial arts. My oldest brother was in sumo. My middle brother, Albert, was in kendo. I was in yawara. Yawara is the martial arts where... its origin was in Kagoshima, which is close to Okinawa, which means karate martial arts. Karate means empty hand fighting. So by the time evacuation came about I was in the yawara class for three or four years, so we were already practicing with knives and pistols, .38 special, trigger, hair trigger pistol, so I knew [inaudible] did and did not do.

TI: And so when you said these weapons, I mean, you were learning how to defend yourself against these weapons?

MY: Yes, primarily defending. Teacher says, "The first we want you to do if you get into a bind is run, and if you cannot run then you defend yourself as much as you can without doing anything. And then if and when they cannot do to you, do what I've taught you what to do."

TI: And you did this for about three or four years.

MY: I beg your pardon?

TI: You did this for three, four years?

MY: About three years, because I was turning eighteen in camp. That would've been eighteen, seventeen, sixteen, fifteen, about those years. I remember the first time I was in the martial arts class, for the first approximately six months, all we did was learn how to fall. You notice this slight hill? We used to have two Norwegian elkhounds here, and I would exercise the dogs out there throwing a tennis ball. I still remember one day I threw a tennis ball, and the dog would release it and the ball starts rolling. As you know, once a ball starts rolling down the hill it gains some momentum. And by the time it passed me it was going pretty fast, and I missed it and then I had to chase it down the hill. I'm running and I see myself falling, and I still remember this quite vividly, I could see myself falling, my hands scraping, my face scraping, and the last thing I was -- that was what I remember -- and the first thing I remember after getting the ball was I was getting up with not a scratch on me because I had gone into that yawara roll, martial arts roll where you don't hurt yourself. So after how many years, after fifty years I was still able to do that in an emergency situation, so six months of falling down can have some results fifty years later. [Laughs]

TI: So it just becomes automatic, I mean, when you do something for six months.

MY: It was automatically, after six months of it, it becomes automatic.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Going back, you talked about your friends from the Japanese language school and the Buddhist church, did you have any friends from your school that you were close with?

MY: Yes, several. Primarily Alfred Saroni, who used to live about seven blocks west of Washington Street, where I lived, he and I knew each other in grade school and then we as a group had transferred to Lowell High School, and at Lowell we were pretty much in the same kind of group. He was in the crew team also. And I got to know him... well, let me put it this way. I visited his home quite often, where there was a Chinese cook, upstairs maid, and a chauffeur. It was very interesting how to deal with the chauffeur, who was Japanese, who was a friend of my father. Now, as a teenager, how do you greet your father's friend? "Ah, Tanaka-san, konnichi wa," right in Al's house, because that was the way I was taught to greet my father's friends. So that was the kind of schizophrenic kind of situation I grew up in. I wasn't aware of such words, "schizophrenic," but I behaved the way I was taught and there was nothing unusual about it, from my point, nor from Al's point, nor from the chauffeur's point of view.

TI: So, yeah, so let me make sure I understand this. So say you're walking by the chauffeur with Al, so Al would just, would normally just walk right by him.

MY: Yeah, that's his domestic help.

TI: But then you would just, you would stop --

MY: I would bow and say, "Tanaka-san, konnichi wa."

TI: And what would the chauffeur do in return when you...

MY: Oh, "Kunitake, dou ka," typical older man's response to a child.

TI: And your friend Al would just, he would notice that and...

MY: He wouldn't even think anything about it.

TI: So you were able to kind of balance the two, I guess, being a friend of the family, but also the son of a good friend of the chauffeur.

MY: Yes. Well, there was a strict line of demarcation regarding what to do and what not to do. For instance, Al and I went to Lowell High School in a chauffeured limousine. The chauffeured limousine was the Saddleback Crown Paper Company's owner's wife's car, who sent the car for her chauffeur to pick up Al and take him to Lowell High School. And it was also understood that he would pick me up, but the understanding was he would not come to my front door. I would have to walk two blocks up to Presidio Avenue to meet the car, so there was this line of demarcation between my family background and his family background.

TI: So just very subtle. I mean, you were being driven by a chauffeured limousine essentially, but they wouldn't pick you up at your house. You had to go to --

MY: And I was aware of this also, because my father being a domestic help, he had families, clients in and around Pacific Heights, and one of 'em was about three, four, five blocks, six blocks really, from my house and my dad asked me to clean, scrub the front steps and you just accepted it. That in itself was no problem, except the front step was half a block away from Al Saroni's house. Now how in the hell do I deal with this issue? Me scrubbing the front steps of a house half away from Al's house where I go in and all this domestic help look at me as a friend of Al? And so I dealt with it in my own way, scrubbing the front steps Saturday morning about three o'clock, when I kind of figured out Al would not be awake, and I would walk three, four, five blocks away to go scrub the front steps.

TI: So three o'clock in the morning?

MY: Yes.

TI: So, like in the middle of the night, you were scrubbing?

MY: Middle of the night I went out with a bucket and broom on my shoulder.

TI: So this is interesting, so you did that because you would be embarrassed or you were afraid that Al would be embarrassed? I mean, what made you do it at three o'clock in the morning? What were you thinking?

MY: That issue... that was not an issue. It was just a matter of, it just wouldn't be right for him to see or me to see him in the situation. And beyond that we didn't think, I didn't think too much about it. And the situation never occurred.

TI: Yeah, it'd be just awkward if, if he...

MY: It would be awkward at best.

TI: And so you took it upon yourself to just do it then to avoid the situation?

MY: Avoid the situation.

TI: Interesting. Okay. Yeah, so it's, again, really interesting how you had to kind of...

MY: Balance the two.

TI: Yeah, because you were, at school you were a peer of Al's, but then in, in this case, because of what your parents did you were, like, a different class.

MY: We were a different class of people.

TI: And so how did you, and so probably your parents very much were confronted with it in terms of the class because they worked for them, but you were kind of in this gray area because you didn't really work for them. You were helping your father. Where did you place yourself? Did you think of yourself more as a peer of Al?

MY: Well, again, that was difficult to specifically identify because my mother taught flower arrangement and tea ceremony to Caucasian families, including Japanese, so she was a teacher on one hand, and she was a domestic help on another hand. My father was known as an expert with Japanese swords, within the Japanese community as well as in the non Japanese community. In two of the major stores which carried swords, Gump's of those days and one other major department store, and to illustrate this, after Ruthie and I were married we went window shopping. We had no money at that time, and I was interested in Japanese art, so we were looking at Japanese art and, naturally, a salesman came and said, "Can I help you?" I said, "No, we're just looking." Said, "What are you looking for?" "Well, we would like to see Japanese sword, but you don't, I don't see any. I know you have some." And we just kind of dropped it with that. He said, "Oh, we have a consultant on Japanese swords. By the way, do you know a Mr. Yamanaka?" "Oh, he's my father." [Laughs] So it was, again, a lot of gray area mixed together.

TI: Interesting. Yeah, because your mother was a sensei and yet, yeah, so there's that whole range. Interesting.

MY: And so once that happened he opened the whole store for me, looking at the expensive swords in the back.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: I want to go back a little bit, because you mentioned earlier about spending some time in Japan?

MY: Yes.

TI: So can you describe that, when you went to Japan and why?

MY: The three brothers, of the three brothers, I was the youngest and Toshi was, my sister was not born, so that left my parents pretty free. Now, for a family to have children, it's no big deal, but if both parents are working, the young children, a three-year-old like me is around, it makes it difficult. Well, ostensibly, the three children were sent to Japan for a Japanese education. Well, you don't send a three-year-old for Japanese education in retrospect, so when you think through as an adult, it was really a nice built-in babysitter for our parents, for me to be sent to the maternal grandparents' village, where I spent five years, until age seven.

TI: And that worked for you, but your oldest brother, Robert, was about eight years old, seven or eight?

MY: He was six years older than I am.

TI: Yeah, so you were two and he was then about eight.

MY: Yeah, six, seven.

TI: And then for five years, so he was there kind of in very formative years.

MY: He was in the very formative years. Well, psychologically I was in the more formative years. His formative years were past. He was more formative years in terms of social mores, social culture, where he learned to become a Japanese. And this was in the late 1920s and 1930s, when Japan was in the beginning, if not middle, of the militaristic era. And so he really became indoctrinated to the Japanese culture to the point that when we were in United States for a number of years he faced discrimination at Commerce High School and in other places where there was a mix of Caucasian and Japanese. He was very active in the Japanese community and he faced discrimination in the non-Japanese community, so when the war was imminent in late 1940s, his decision was, "I'd rather be a first class Japanese rather than a discriminated, second class American," so with that he went back to Japan in one of the last ships to Japan. So this kind of illustrates his background.

TI: And I like the way you talk about the age, so he was at a time when a boy would be influenced by that, and so that really, being in Japan those five years, determined that.

MY: Yes.

TI: Okay. And how about you, those five years in Japan, how did that shape your views about Japan?

MY: Just like a normal child who was not influenced by any political issues except by social issues. I just grew up as a kid in a farming village in Japan.

TI: And then your other older brother, Albert, he was, like, in between.

MY: He was in between.

TI: And how did that time influence him in terms of his views of Japan?

MY: He could fit into both cultures very easily. He could manipulate himself into almost any situation. He studied music as a side issue at Polytechnic High School, and then because of that he was able to join the Japanese, the Nisei band which was part of the San Francisco Exposition that always used the band for the parades. And he was an expert trombone player. So that's one of the things I could show you how he was able to manipulate in both cultures.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Okay, because then you came back when you were about seven years old.

MY: Seven years old.

TI: And so I'm curious, at this point, I'm guessing your Japanese was much stronger than your English at this point.

MY: There was no English in my background, so when I entered Grant School I spoke no English.

TI: And so you're going in about, what, second grade?

MY: Well, there was this difficult question of where to place me. Age wise I was a... I was not normal, let's put it that way. But, however, since I was a new kid on the block they just placed me with the age appropriate class. When they found out that I was essentially retarded and couldn't understand anything, they lowered me. And my understanding was when they lowered me, they naturally tested me and I was superior in mathematics, because in Japan, as you know, arithmetic, math, is very highly esteemed and they teach it. So here I am, above grade level both at the lowered level and at the age appropriate level, and so they put me in the advanced class, not the age appropriate, but the advanced age.

TI: Even though your English abilities weren't there?

MY: There was no English there, so they couldn't do anything with me, so they really had no idea what to do with me, so they put me back in the age appropriate class, and that's where I ended up.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. So they put you here, then they put down here, then they put you up here.

MY: And see, arithmetic was the basic thing.

TI: Okay, so they knew that you were bright because of your arithmetic, or math abilities, but then they figured, well, he'll just learn English quickly and then be fine. Okay. And how did that hinder you, your English, lack of English abilities, over the years? Or were you able to catch up?

MY: All I can say is that those teachers at Grant School did a beautiful, marvelous job of teaching me English so that I was able to not only comprehend, but use the English language in the curriculum in such a way that when I graduated at the eighth grade from Grant School into Lowell High School, one of the highest esteemed schools in San Francisco, I had no problem of any kind when it came to use of the English language.

TI: Is there anything that, you talk about how they taught you English, how did they do that? I'm curious because teaching English in the United States today --

MY: I have no idea how they taught me English. All I can say is they did one hell of a job in teaching me English, because Ruthie, my wife's, mother was an English teacher in high school, and if anything, I could correct her English.

TI: Amazing, so her grammar, your grammar would be, would be excellent. That's interesting.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: I want you, you talked a little bit about where you lived in Pacific Heights. Can you describe your home? What was, what did your home look like?

MY: Home in Pacific Heights was three story, what we call flats. I think, what's the new word? Well, we lived in the flat, three flat building, three -- oh, we call it three story building now -- we lived in the middle story, or third... and then it was three flights of stairs up to the third, up to the third floor. We lived on the second floor, so we had one flight of stairs. We had a large entryway because of the configuration of the floor plan. From the front of the house, which faced the Washington Street, the house was essentially divided lengthwise. To the right side there was the living room, what we used to call front parlor, and on the other side was the bedroom. Then there was a back parlor, smaller living room, using today's lexicon, and then behind that there was one bedroom. Behind that there was a huge kitchen and then a little pantryway, and then a huge dining room. Other side of the dining room was the bedroom where my brother and I, Albert and I shared a bedroom. In front of that was Bob's, my oldest brother's bedroom. In front of that was the bathroom, and if you are familiar with the old San Francisco flat structure, the bathroom and the toilet used to be separated. You know that? So there was a the toilet and there was a stairwell, and then in front of that there was a huge entryway and then the front bedroom. And continuing, as you see, there were my sister's bedroom, my brother and my bedroom, Bob's bedroom, and my parents' bedroom, a four bedroom house. Beyond that, a large living room, about this size, and a smaller living room back there, plus a large kitchen about this size, and a dining room, we had a huge table about this size, so you get a fairly --

TI: So it sounds like a, quite a large house, or home.

MY: It was a large house.

TI: And how would this compare to, like Al's house, when you, when you think about, you just described a four bedroom flat?

MY: Well, a friend of mine, Wayne's parents rented a house in Japantown, a similar San Francisco flat, so to say, except it was a single story building. I mean, there they had, I think, two bedrooms and their living room was about half of this room. It was a very smaller structure. And I remember the Ochi family, they lived in another flat, upstairs, downstairs. Their house was midway between our house and Wayne's house in terms of architectural size of the house.

TI: But I was curious, in that neighborhood where your parents would work, how would your house compare to some of the wealthier families? I mean, it seemed like you had quite a bit of space. Were their homes that much different?

MY: Well, I've not been in any of the neighborhood homes other than Al's house, which had a separate three car garage, separate from the house, and then there was upstairs, a two story house that's still there on Washington Street, huge, living in a real typical wealthy home. Huge kitchen with a cook, chauffeur, upstairs maid, and then the houses my dad cleaned and I used to help, they were mansions on Pacific Avenue, Vallejo Street. So that's the only thing I could compare to.

TI: Did you have any thoughts about class back then? I mean, here you're looking at, you're in San Francisco, seeing some wealthy families, and then you'd have friends in Japantown who essentially were immigrant families. Did you ever think about class back then?

MY: No. The issue never really came up. That question, or the issue to come in any way visible would be I spent most of my time in Japantown, Bukkyokai, and Buddhist temple on Sundays, public school -- during public school hours -- because after school was taken up with Japantown.

TI: You mentioned your friend Al, did you ever share with him some of your Japanese culture, whether it's food or anything like that?

MY: No.

TI: Your martial arts?

MY: No, I don't remember any. Maybe martial arts may have come in every so often, but...

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So I want to now move to December 7, 1941, and so can you describe that day for me in terms of what happened for you?

MY: Well, I still remember very vividly that morning. Al and I were asleep and we had the radio on between our two beds, and this war came up on the radio and was nothing we believed in. It was some program, and yet it seemed to be a little unusual for a Sunday morning program, and that was about our first realization that there was something going on. Although there's the whole background issue regarding war because we were aware that there were, if I may use the, "war clouds" there by 1941, '40, if not back into 1939, between the Japanese community and its preparation for, whatever preparation they were taking, if any. My mother used to send lot of -- for lack of a better word -- care packages to Japan, and I used to go mail them to the post office, but that was about the only indication that we were doing something as far as the situation in Japan was concerned. We weren't quite -- no, I shouldn't say that, because my brother was already in Japan and he was sending letters to my mother in Japanese, which I couldn't read. I was unable to, I could have read them, but it was not mailed to me. And then, naturally, Mother's conversation would bring up what my brother was doing and what my grandparents were doing with the so-called care packages going.

TI: And going back to those letters, did you, even though you didn't read them, did your mother share kind of the news from your brother and what he was doing or anything?

MY: No, not particularly.

TI: But was there a sense that in Japan they were perhaps preparing or thinking of war, perhaps more than the American side?

MY: Let's say that they... the message I got via my mom was that times were hard because of something. Well, something, in retrospect, was war, naturally.

TI: Okay. So go back to December 7, 1941. You listened to the radio, you heard something and that was an indication that something was going on, and then what happened?

MY: I don't recall what happened subsequent to that. In Japantown or... I went to school. I remember vague thing about Lowell High School. There was really no mention of the war, to me. Everybody knew I was Japanese. I was totally accepted within that group of people at Lowell High School. There was no so called rednecks that I was associating with, so there was no discriminating me as the enemy at that point. I was still active with Vice Principal Monroe's office, helping out in whatever I could. But gradually I think I stopped going to school, we're talking of January, and by late January I think I just stopped going totally.

TI: And why was that? Why did you stop going to school?

MY: I don't know. I just don't remember going to school. It seemed the most logical thing, I suppose.

TI: How about your Japanese friends in Japantown? Did they stop going to school?

MY: I don't know. I don't know.

TI: Do you recall any conversations you had with your friends from the Japanese language school or the Buddhist church or anything like that during this time?

MY: No, no, I don't recall any conversation relating to the current events.

TI: How about the treatment towards your parents of the people they worked for? Were there any incidents that they had to deal with by being Japanese?

MY: As far as I know, my dad faced no changes in his work situation. His relationship with any hakujin was good. There was no political influencing of any kind either way.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So any stories from that time?

MY: No, there's no incident that I recall from that time to evacuation. Well yes, in December, somewhere in December, as I recall, Al, my brother, and I talked about the fact that there's a war and that our two citizenship countries were at war, and what to do about it. and I suppose we must've talked a couple times until we both decided, I think we can't straddle the fence here.

TI: Okay, before you tell that story, so explain to me how, or why you had dual citizenship. So you had your U.S. citizenship because you were born in San Francisco.

MY: Yeah.

TI: Tell me about the Japanese citizenship.

MY: Well, all three brothers were registered with the Japanese consulate at the time of our birth, which meant our name, Yamanaka Kunitake in my case, was placed in the koseki in my father's village. I guess that automatically made me a Japanese.

TI: This was something that your parents did actively? I mean, it wasn't something that happened.

MY: This was done in 1924 and six years earlier.

TI: So by then placing your name, that became a Japanese citizen. Because not all Niseis have dual citizenship, so it's something that --

MY: No, not all Nisei. My parents desire was essentially what the classical immigrant was, to make money and go back to Japan. In my parents' case this was always, not a dream, but something they looked... not only did they look forward to doing it, but they planned by sending money to Japan, fixing the family house, sending money to my grandparents, so the relationship was always of such nature, it was in preparation for going back to Japan. So registering our name with the Japanese consulate was part of that plan. And so when my brother decided to go to Japan that also fitted in with my parents' plan beautifully. Also, I forgot to mention, the beginning of 1941, late '40, late '40, 1941, my sister, Toshiko, was sent to Japan, ostensibly for her Japanese education.

TI: Okay, so you had two siblings, your younger sister and oldest brother were in Japan when the war broke out. So you and your older brother, Albert, decided to renounce your Japanese citizenship. What did your parents think? Because here, you just talked about how they had been thinking and planning to eventually go back to Japan and had registered you as a Japanese citizen, and Albert, and now the two of you were going to take that away.

MY: The act of renouncing the Japanese citizenship was, if anything, pleasing to my parents in that they realized that we were taking an ethical stance in this situation. It was the ethical stance, more important than throwing away my Japanese citizenship, that a moral stance was such that we knew exactly where we stood.

TI: Good, okay. So you and your brother renounced your citizenship. Now, was that a difficult thing to do? What did you have to do to renounce your citizenship?

MY: Sign a piece of paper, just like anything else with the government. [Laughs] You sign the piece of paper and that's it.

TI: So you'd go down to the Japanese consulate and fill out...

MY: I don't remember the procedure, but you saw the results of it.

TI: Yeah, I saw that piece of paper. You're right, it's just a form that you sign.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Okay, so Morgan, we had just talked about, eventually people got the orders to leave San Francisco, and I asked you about your possessions, but you went to get this document, which looks like an original. Can you describe what this is?

MY: A friend of mine was able to find these copies and gave it to me.

TI: So these are the original kind of posters that were...

MY: He found a whole stack of them in the original condition.

TI: And this is the actual neighborhood that --

MY: That's my actual neighborhood, by coincidence.

TI: Yeah, these are good. Yeah, these are, yesterday we saw one that was actually a leaflet. You know, like a smaller version of it, that was an original. 'Cause I've seen these.

MY: Those were the, posted everywhere. Naturally, Al and I discussed those at length, and our parents, because that says get rid of everything and go into camp only with what you could carry.

TI: Well, there's something else I wanted to ask you about that, to see if you and Al saw this. When I read this the first time, it's really interesting where they said that "all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non alien," and it always struck me that, why they called you, a U.S. citizen, a non alien. I mean, did that --

MY: That issue never came up.

TI: Oh, so you didn't notice that? I just, that's one thing that popped out when I first read that.

MY: Yeah, technically, academically, that's an issue, but to most of us it was never an issue. We were "alien."

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So, again, talk about, then, when these kind of came up, it's whatever you can carry, you have a whole house, four bedroom house --

MY: Exactly. What to do with them? And we had, both our parents, and Al and I discussed essentially, what shall we do with all of this? That kept going on for a while until my father somehow discussed this issue with his employer, the Gunst family. Well, I knew the Gunst house because I used to help my father clean that house, a huge basement, empty, like a typical basement. And Mr. Gunst essentially said to my father, "Why don't you use our basement?" And so we were able to bring everything into the basement.

TI: Okay, so you were fortunate. You had...

MY: We were very fortunate in that we could bring anything and everything from kitchen equipment to couches and things like that. The total house. Also, by then, contraband, as defined by the government, was to be submitted to the local police department. Well, as you know, my father was a sword connoisseur and collector, and he had quite a few swords, and they became a contraband item and we were to deliver those to the local police, which was, for us on that list, at Sixth Avenue and Geary, right across from the old French hospital. The police station is still there. It's a very small police, local police office. And we took one hundred six or seven pieces, swords or sword related sharp edged instruments, yari and naginata, etcetera, and no two ways about it, the government said bring, you must submit it, so my father did. In those days, once the government said something, that was the law. You didn't question it, which we had no question of following any of their direction, so the swords were sent to the police station. Other family items, furniture, art goods were sent to the, stored in the Gunst basement.

TI: And so these swords, like a hundred plus swords, I mean, these were antique, valuable possessions.

MY: That's right.

TI: Was... and in many cases, I've talked to other people, and when they did things like this they never got them back. And so I, we're jumping around a little bit, but why don't you tell me what happened to those swords?

MY: Well, if you've seen any stories about what happened to the stored, S-T-O-R-E-D, goods by the Japanese, at places where they were stored, hundred percent of those places were rifled and looted. So almost all Japanese, if not all Japanese, no, almost all Japanese who stored them following the direction lost most of their important items. In my, in our family's case, we followed every other Japanese family and gave it to the local police office. Well, our local police on Sixth Avenue and Geary, our family was the only family that stored any of their contraband items.

TI: So that, so you're the only ones that turned things into that station?

MY: Yes. Other families who lived around there, our neighbors, didn't have any contraband items. Or they didn't have swords, I know. Anyway, we stored them, we got a piece of paper, "the Yamanaka family, one package" kind of a thing, and my dad kept that, naturally. So all items were stored in this manner for us in two distinct locations. Well, getting the furniture and other household items was no problem because it was in a private home. And then when my father and I went to claim the swords, we had heard about these families that your referring to, and I had no illusion of getting anything back. And so when we submitted the slip at the police office at Sixth and Geary, the response was, "Hell, man, this was four years ago. We don't know anything about it." That was the response I expected and Al expected, until this voice came from back and said, "Hey, fellows, wait a minute. There's a package here we don't know what's it all about." By coincidence it was my father's wrapped up swords, so we got everything back including the contraband swords. [Laughs]

TI: That's, so were the police just incredibly -- what's the right word -- honest at this place? I mean, here these swords were worth quite a --

MY: Well, in the police station, unlike today where they take you in, like drugs and such, these things didn't happen. I mean, fifty years ago people were, in quotes, "honorable," so this was the normal, expected procedure. So it was unknown package, nobody touched it, "it probably belonged to somebody, so we better not touch it" approach, and so there it was fifty years later -- no, no, excuse me, four years later.

TI: Yeah, you were, based on the stories I've heard, your family's very lucky to have this.

MY: As far as I know there's no other family that was so lucky. I don't know of any family that got everything back, including furniture, kitchen dishes and such, to contraband material.

TI: No, that's a good story.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So describe the day that you left San Francisco. What was that like for you?

MY: Well, I remember the night before we slept in an empty house on Washington Street. Everything had been stowed at the Gunst home. And we woke up and we were told to go to Van Nuys and Jackson Street, I think it was, and so we went there and there were all the other black headed Japanese. Quite a few, I never thought there were so many Japanese in that area, but there they were, all ready to be evacuated. We were sitting on our baggage on the sidewalk waiting for something to happen. And then nothing happened until the buses came up with the army in full uniform with guns. We were told to get into the buses, and that was the first step of the whole evacuation process.

TI: Now, were there non-Japanese there to see you off or to --

MY: There were... we were the first group of, group out of San Francisco. There was nobody to see us off, no Red Cross with coffee and donuts, no church groups or anybody. We were just the people to be evacuated and nobody else.

TI: And so the buses came.

MY: Then the buses came, and that was the first indication, with the soldiers herding us into the buses, that this was part of the whole process. Up to then it was all volunteer. At that point it was no more volunteering. There were guns on our backs.

TI: And how was that for you? I mean, I don't know you that long, but I would sense that that would not sit well with you.

MY: There was not a question of sitting well. It was the thing to do because there was no other alternative. There was really no other alternative.

TI: But in terms of just how you felt then, as you, because you made this distinction of, up to that point, yeah, you had orders to do things, but you were under your own control. At this point --

MY: It was, as I say, volunteer on our part.

TI: But at this point it, it changed. This is the moment that you are now under guard, in prison.

MY: Yes.

TI: And so did you make that distinction when that happened? Was it something in your mind that you recall thinking about?

MY: No, it was flowing from volunteer to non-volunteer.

TI: And so where did they take you in the bus?

MY: The buses, I don't remember where it took us, but I know there was only one train station in San Francisco, which is Seventh and Thompson. And that was the only police, I mean train station in San Francisco, so that's where they took us. We didn't cross the bridge, so we knew we were still in San Francisco. And then we got onto the train at that point. I'd never really been on a train of any kind, but I never realized such old, rickety trains were still in service. The woven seats, rattan woven seats in back, you just in movies kind of a thing, and that's where we were sitting in, old, old trains. And that took us, the guards at both ends of the train to pull the shades down, so we naturally followed orders and pulled the shades down, although we peeked under to see where we were going. And that went on for hours and hours. Gradually we left San Francisco and kept on going, until I, not recognized, I saw trees with oranges. Well, my calculation says this must be southern California, Los Angeles area where oranges grew. At that time oranges still grew in Los Angeles. And sure enough, we were in Los Angeles. We pulled into the Los Angeles train station for whatever reason, stopped there for a while. We could not leave the train. And then train pulled out, and the next stop was in Arcadia, California, where the Santa Anita racetrack is. And that's where we got off, and somehow, I don't remember walking, we were in Santa Anita racetrack.

TI: And that's a little unusual because most San Francisco Japanese Americans went to Tanforan.

MY: Yes.

TI: And Santa Anita was mostly L.A. people.

MY: It was. We were the, as I said, the first group out of San Francisco. They didn't know exactly where to put us. There were rumors that we were going to be sent to Manzanar, because Manzanar was already being occupied. Tanforan was not ready to be occupied. So we really didn't know where we were headed, and we were headed to where we were headed. [Laughs] We didn't know. And that happened to be Arcadia, California, which was walking distance, essentially, in Santa Anita racetrack.

TI: Was your group always kept together as the San Francisco group at Santa Anita? Were you guys kind of this...

MY: Not in any group as such, but more or less as a group. We were identified as the San Francisco bunch.

TI: Now, any stories about differences between San Francisco and L.A.? Were there any, like, interactions that were...

MY: Well, naturally, there were interactions because I was... I have to back up a little bit. One thing you have in a camp, if I may use the word "prison," is lots of time, and something else you have is nothing to do, lots of time means nothing to do with nowhere to go. All camp, prisons description. And so the logical thing to do is to find something to do. Well, in a camp like the camp we were in, only thing you could do is to volunteer to do something, so one of the things we volunteered was to, to do was to make camouflage nets for the military, until that became an issue with the Geneva convention, which says prisoners cannot make war related items. So that stopped, but I think that was after I had started working in the Santa Anita, in the office assigning barracks to new families coming in. I did that. I remember banging up a pickup. Well, when you don't know how to drive and you drive a pickup in a very narrow place underneath the grandstands, you naturally crash up the pickup, which I did. Why did I crash a pickup? Oh, a child ran in front of me. Naturally, I could not hit a child, so I hit the grandstand. I still remember that. [Laughs] And that was one of the issues, another issue was making camouflage nets. And another thing was just sitting in the grandstand watching the sunset. There were very few other things to do, walk around a little bit trying to find something, trying to find where Seabiscuit had his barracks.

TI: And how was it for you, here, again, we looked at pictures beforehand, and so I saw pictures of you right before the war started. You were a good-looking young man, you're seventeen years old, you're now put in a place where there are literally thousands of, you're now in a place where there are thousands of other Japanese Americans with no time, with lots of time on your hands. So the social scene must've been pretty interesting for you.

MY: When I got off the train, the first thing that really hit me, my god, they're all "Japs," all Buddhaheads. [Laughs] I never thought there were so many Japanese Americans, Japanese in United States. Well, it was a camp for nineteen thousand, so it was a large, one of the larger...

TI: But not only that, but the average age of the Niseis was about your age, seventeen, eighteen years old, and so there were lots of Japanese American young women, seventeen, eighteen years old. And so what was the social scene like for you?

MY: I had no social thing with young girls at all at that time. I was with, a friend of mine used to play the sax, and he was, had a bum leg, so I used to carry his sax for him, so wherever he went to play his sax I went with him. So I was somewhat interested, got interested in music, and so I was around that orchestra most of the time, other than working in the work situation at the office. So Santa Anita was occupied between working, volunteer work, and where my friend played the sax on free time, and then roaming around trying to find something interesting to do.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Now, at Santa Anita, I'm wondering if you had any recollection. There was, some people have called it a riot or a disturbance at Santa Anita, where there was, I think it may have been caused by frustration of the prisoners inside Santa Anita. Do you have any recollection of things like that?

MY: No, at Santa Anita I have no recollection of any uprising of any groups of people. There were some minor disturbances, which was understandable in the... not the stockade, the horse stalls. If you know anything about horse stall, they're lined up where the horses go in, two at a time to a horse stall, and then there's a walkway connected all the stalls. Well, they had divided the walkway by connecting it into the stalls itself by four by eight plywood, and above the four by eight foot plywood there's open space all the way through. For each section of the stall and the extension there's only one bulb hanging down, no big deal for the likes of our family, but for those families with young children and babies, they needed to heat their milk for the babies and they put extensions on it. When you have a number of extensions going out of one central unit, you had blackouts quite often because it would overload the system, and then finally administration said too many extensions being out, so all the extensions were pulled out. Well naturally, there was some reverberation to this because it was a necessary item, which the administration had not thought of, so that was one of the problems, and was, cannot be called a mob action or anything. It was a minor, understandable action. I think it was understandable even by the administration.

TI: Well, there's also, when I talk to some of the L.A. people, there was also during that time tension about informants within --

MY: Informants?

TI: Yeah, informants, people who were --

MY: Inu.

TI: Yeah, inu or people that were, and they've mentioned that perhaps even a Korean American or something in there. Was there any, did you hear any of that?

MY: I was not aware of any. The group I associated with was farmers and college age kids, and somehow within this group of people there was no issues.

TI: How about tensions between Niseis and Isseis?

MY: Nisei and...

TI: Yeah, the Issei and Nisei, essentially you start seeing the, especially in southern California, there was a lot of JACL activity and so you had this emergence of these Niseis who were taking more and more control or charge of the leadership of what was going on. But that created tensions with the Isseis oftentimes. Did you see...

MY: In retrospect, historically, I'm aware of this, but at that time, April through November of '42, I was not aware of those tensions. It was only, I'm not quite aware. See, I later became quite involved in JACL, but until JACL took action, national policy on working with the elderly, which is about, how many years ago, their policy was to help Issei.

BT: Oh, citizenship?

MY: Became a national policy within JACL.

TI: Was that around the immigration or the ability to become citizens?

MY: About, somewhere about that period.

TI: So that would be early 1950s.

MY: Anyway, up to that point I was anti JACL because of this issue, because JACL was actively involved with the evacuation. Now, there are a number of different perceptions of this, JACL perspective and anti JACL-perspective, which is a little too strong for the satisfaction of most of us here. But in any event, I was anti-JACL because of this issue, yes. I had heard the rumors, at that point it was rumors, which later was confirmed by specific actions, signed papers. However, again going back to that point, it was not an issue for me as a person because was not involved in any of those immediate questions.

TI: Okay, good. And I appreciate you making that distinction of what you saw as a young man versus what you learned later on. Sometimes people sort of just confuse that or mix it all up, so that was really good. I liked that.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: When you were at Santa Anita, how old were you at this point?

MY: I went in seventeen years old. On April 7th, that was the first day of incarceration.

TI: Okay, and so that was, you turned seventeen?

MY: I was seventeen. I turned eighteen April 14th, one week later. I went in on the 7th, one week later it's 14th, which is my birthday.

TI: I see.

MY: And my birthday is eighteen. I'm eighteen years old. At that point I had to sign up for selective service. Like an American good citizen, I signed up for selective service.

TI: So this is, while you were essentially incarcerated, you...

MY: That was the first week at Santa Anita.

TI: And how do you sign up for selective service in Santa Anita?

MY: Well, when you're eighteen you're following a national law, and so I went up to administration, said I have to sign up for selective service since my birthday. So somehow they managed me to get into Arcadia to sign up for selective service, because that's where my home office is, was at that point.

TI: So I'm curious, I'm guessing the government would have, what's the right word, would have understood if you had not registered for selective service under the circumstances. What were you thinking? Were you doing it because that was something you were supposed to do, or were you actually making a statement in terms of, of wanting to be a supportive American? What, why did you do it?

MY: It was the logical thing to do, legal thing to do, ethical thing to do. When you're eighteen everybody signs up for selective service, end of question.

TI: So there's no ironies attached to it, the fact that --

MY: There was no irony attached.

TI: -- that even though you were a U.S. citizen...

MY: "Enemy alien."

TI: But you were, you're probably, you're a good student, so you realize, well, as a U.S. citizen you probably were due, you should've had the right of due process and none of that was being given.

MY: There was no due process involved in signing up for selective service.

TI: Right, but there was no --

MY: There was no due process in being sent to camp, yes, which nobody at that point fought or brought up, but for signing up for selective service, it's a normal, natural thing to do for an eighteen year old.

BT: Well, and you had especially prepared for this by renouncing your Japanese citizenship, right?

MY: Well, yes and no. Yes, I had to do it. No, in that I wasn't aware, that was not an issue in signing up for selective service, that I had renounced my Japanese citizenship. Because essentially my thinking after 1931, returning to America, was I was a normal American kid.

TI: Okay. I'm guessing at Santa Anita you're probably one of the first ones, though, to make that --

MY: I beg your pardon?

TI: Probably at Santa Anita you're probably one of the first ones to make the request to register for the selective service.

MY: Probably, being one week after being in camp. Although the camp had been open for some time; we were not the first ones into Santa Anita. But for me, certain issues came out of that situation in that I had been sent to camp as a non citizen and I thought going into selective service, crew man, being on the crew team you had to be healthy, strong, and I thought I'd be going into the army right away. And waiting for my classification, which eventually came, which was something we, none of us were aware of at that point, 4-C. And we exchanged, what the hell is 4-C? And nobody knew at that point, but within short time it was enemy alien, but at that point, one week after I went in on April 14th, nobody knew that, including me. Here for me, within short period of four months, for the second time I'm a non alien, "enemy alien," in other words, and so that, I think, started certain things going through my head. Nothing clarified, congealed yet, but something is wrong in Denmark here.

TI: Right, yeah, this whole issue of how does the government view you. I mean, it's sort of like, are you a citizen or a non citizen?

MY: It wasn't even that clear.

TI: Yeah, no, I realize.

MY: Something was rotten in Denmark.

TI: Yeah, and talking with you, this is the value of, I think, oral history is I, you see the ambiguity, the grayness of a lot of this, so it's really interesting. So any other memories of Santa Anita before we go to the next --

MY: Long lines, long lines, long lines. For food, but a lot for shots.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So after Santa Anita, where do you go?

MY: Topaz, Utah.

TI: Okay, so again, this is a little unusual because most people at Santa Anita went to Jerome, Rohwer, Heart Mountain.

MY: Yeah, because they were from Los Angeles area.

TI: Yeah.

MY: And the evacuation, War Relocation Authority, no, it was WCCA at that point, tried to keep the San Francisco, Bay Area group together. We were part of that San Francisco, Bay Area, so they put us together with the San Francisco, Bay Area group, which was, from Tanforan they went to Topaz.

TI: Again, it, it just, it's interesting how inconsistent things are. Up in the Northwest it's almost like we, people felt that they intentionally broke up communities and sent them different places rather than trying to keep them whole, and so I've just, it's interesting in this case they went out of their way to keep the San Francisco people together at Topaz. So it's just, yeah, feels inconsistent in terms of the government policy on that. So you, so you go to Topaz, and what your impressions of going to Topaz?

MY: Well, here I am, a high school student. I did a lot of reading, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan series. Edgar Rice Burroughs over here, Zane Grey over there, at the Presidio Library -- I'm very familiar with that library -- were the Zane Grey books, among which is the Riders of the Purple Sage. Are you familiar with that?

TI: No, I...

MY: Describes the Topaz desert. Topaz is located in Sevier Desert, so after Zane Grey's I was expecting the beautiful Zane Grey's description of the desert. I wouldn't say disappointed, but I said, where the hell was Zane Grey writing from? [Laughs] No, the, my impression of Topaz was essentially that it was a terrible place, and under the circumstances it's only logical that it was a terrible place, being a camper after a while. Pristine desert is a beautiful place. You get a lot of people trampling, that sand becomes ash really and it flies with the first step. When you have thousands of people walking back and forth after construction, then when the wind blows that sand becomes fine, fine dust, and that dust is everywhere. It was interesting. I had read about dust storm coming through, over through the desert. It was very, actually, wonderful, and I use that word, the beauty of a sandstorm, this wall of dust rolling towards you, something you just don't believe that could happen and then you get immersed in that dust as it roars right on through. So that was kind of the experience I was having. Dust, dust, dust.

TI: And during this process, do you recall any conversations with your older brother as this is happening? Do you guys talk a lot about what's going on with the two of you and the family? Do you ever...

MY: No, not particularly. Both of us, well, yeah, both of us accepted the situation. Nothing can be done about it, shikata ga nai.

TI: So at Topaz, did you do things like school or jobs? What did you do at Topaz?

MY: Well, naturally, just as in Santa Anita, you try to find something to do. Well, I find out that I was ready to go to Stanford or Berkeley after Lowell High School. They wouldn't let me do that that point. I wasn't able to do it for a number of reasons, and what else can you do? So there werea number, series of questions that another Nisei asked me, and finally the question came up, "What did you do most of the day?" Well, described an average day, including reading the four San Francisco newspapers. My parents took Hokubei and Nichi Bei newspaper, Japanese, but we didn't take any of the English papers, so I went across the street. Lived right across the street from the fire station and over there I got to know the fellows, and I started reading the San Francisco Chronicle, the Examiner, Call Bulletin, and the San Francisco News then, partially to occupy one's time. I would like a social reason to get to know the firemen, and in the process got to know what a fire engine looked like. So the question came up in this interview, what'd you do at the fire station? Read the newspaper. "What do you know about firefighting?" I could tell you what a two inch hose is, a coupling, male, female, four inch coupling, hose, etcetera, etcetera. "Oh, you know something about firefighting?" I said no. "Well, you know what a hose is, what a coupling is. You're a fireman." So I became a fireman at Topaz.

TI: Good. And that was just because you wanted to read the newspaper. [Laughs] That's good. But what about school, because you had not yet graduated from Lowell High School?

MY: No. Psychologically I was finished with high school because technically by April, senior high school is not involved in studying, I knew, and graduation was too close, in June. And my mind was also like that, so in my mind I was through high school, so I just did not go to high school in camp, although there were schools in camp, as you know.

TI: So what did you do for a high school diploma? Did you ever get one?

MY: I was a university professor without a high school, as a high school dropout. [Both laugh]

TI: Okay, that's what I was wondering.

MY: That's true. I was a full professor as a high school dropout.

TI: And so just never came up, you just...

MY: The issue never came up. After I came, this is going ahead now, after I came back to San Francisco to continue my education I enrolled at City College in San Francisco, then, "Where'd you go to high school?" Lowell High School. End of question regarding high school. Transferred to Berkeley. "Where'd you go to school?" I'm transferring from City College, San Francisco. "Where'd you go to high school" Lowell High School. No question. Lowell High School has such a good name academically, people mention Lowell High School, just assume you're a graduate and you're a good student. That's what they assumed. [Laughs]

TI: That's good, so yeah, you were a high school dropout.

MY: High school, I was a high school dropout.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Okay, so Morgan, we're gonna start again, and where we left off we were talking, you were describing Topaz and you talked about having a job as a fireman. So I'm now gonna go to, like, the beginning of 1943, and there was a form that everyone over seventeen years old had to fill out called the leave clearance form.

MY: Quite familiar with it.

TI: Can you describe that? Describe what you did what that form.

MY: Well, the form itself was no big deal. Nobody ever made a big deal about it. The real question was, naturally, the twenty-seven, twenty-eight and how to answer that question. And question twenty-seven has certain dynamics around it, and twenty-eight another set of dynamics around it. For me, twenty-seven was, regarded, are you willing to go into the military? Well, my reaction to myself was, well I just had recently signed up for the selective service. What more does one need of anybody who voluntarily signs up for selective service other than yes, I'm willing to go in? So I felt that was unnecessary. Question twenty-eight, regarding one's affiliation to the Emperor of Japan, again, had in a way no dynamic involvement for me, being in Japan only through ages two to seven, five years through very psychologically formative years, but politically had really no meaning. Well, they imposed age seven up through seventeen for the last ten years, any political connection related to this answer. Again, there was no correlation with my activities for the last ten years, and this question of one's relationship with the Emperor of Japan. Then the larger question of being in camp comes in about citizenship. Here I'm classified non alien, essentially "enemy alien," which my selective service made very clear I'm an "enemy alien," so to me the logical question was, well, it really has no bearing for me. Twenty-seven is, if you look at my background, it's very clear. Twenty-seven, twenty-eight, I think is also clear. I'm a Kibei, yes, but so what? Ages two to seven makes me technically, legally a Kibei because the definition of a Kibei at that time said anybody in Japan for five years, regardless whether you were age two to age seven. So again, overall had no bearing to me and no direct connection in answering this question, so the logical question for me was to answer "no-no." Well that put me in a certain classification with the government.

TI: Let me back up, because, so I take a look at that and I'm thinking, if I were to predict what you would've, based on what you've told me up to now, I would've said, well, related to military service, you registered with selective service, so that was something that you felt good about. And in terms of the allegiance issue, within the last couple years or year you had renounced your Japanese citizenship, so you had taken that. So if I were to have predicted I would've said Morgan probably would've said "yes-yes" based on his prior actions. But you went "no-no," and that's where I'm thinking, so why? Because, again, it feels like you were on a trajectory to be more "yes-yes" based on the things that you've said, like the government tells you to do something you just do it, "I had sort of this predisposition of being more of a U.S. citizen than Japanese," so why not "yes-yes"?

MY: Because I was really not politically inclined one way or the other. I was not politically active in any way. The action meant little meaning to me. And putting the... my Japanese citizenship was an ethical, moral question of which way does one go in terms of allegiance to whom, and I'm thinking the logical allegiance is to my lord, who is U.S. government, not the President as a person, but the U.S. government as a political unity. So there is where my loyalty stands and therefore Japanese citizenship or allegiance to another country doesn't belong in my thinking, so that's the reason. And yet this political entity called the government tells me: you're not part of us. You're "enemy alien" and we're gonna treat you like one, which they did with the incarceration and selective service. And they say they don't want me, well fine, I don't want them either kind of vernacular thinking. So out of that I felt that "no-no" was the logical response, with the added component of, boy, if you don't want me I don't want you either, you know, four letter F-you kind of a reaction.

TI: Yeah, that's what it feels like, it's more, you say logical, it's almost like a gut feeling that you had back then.

MY: Yeah... no, it was well thought out in terms of the group of us who were thinking, well, which way do we go? There was a lot of that, like, well advertised in the, discussing this question. Which way do we go? Which way do I answer, do we answer? And the "no-no" seemed to be... it was not a political answer. If it was political I think it would've gone along your way, "yes-yes," but it was not a political answer. It was a cultural, social answer which the political, social situation was given to me. Without any question you will do this. Fine, I'll do it. Without any question on my part, I did it. Well, okay, here I am then. And then I'm becoming aware of it, well, what the hell do I do now? They don't want me one way or the other, so I might as well answer "no-no."

TI: And then logically, did you sort of then play it out in terms of, so this means eventually going to Japan, I mean, kind of turning your back to the United States?

MY: That was not thought out that way. It was a reaction to this rather than what might happen this way.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: And where did the family come into the considerations? Did you think about the family as a unit?

MY: Well, the family did not come into it any more than in the answer of renouncing my Japanese citizenship. It was my own decision. My family would act in their own way to their own interest, wherever that went. And that way was they were gonna retire to Japan, and I had no problem with that.

TI: And what was the reaction of your parents, your brother, to your decision?

MY: I suppose in a way they were happy with it -- I'm just assuming this question, answer -- that I would essentially be a Nihonjin.

TI: It's interesting, when you said that you had this twinkle in your eye like you could almost see your parents or something.

MY: Yeah, because they were going to return, they sent us for the Japanese education, and in a way they were hoping that we would be Japanese where here I was giving every sign of becoming a Japanese. So I think in a way they were happy with it.

TI: Earlier you mentioned that you had discussions with friends about this issue. As a group, did they all do the same thing or did people take different paths on this one?

MY: There was a general tendency for "no-no." There was not a very clear cut "no-no" to all of us, sort of a muddled "no-no."

TI: When I look at the kind of general statistics about the number of people who said "yes-yes" versus "no-no," a large majority went "yes-yes." I mean, there were fewer people --

MY: A huge majority.

TI: Yeah, a few, very few people...

MY: Less than five percent, as I recall.

TI: So "no-no," so when you decided to go "no-no" was there reactions from others around you that, that predominantly were saying "yes-yes"? Was there any repercussions of your decision?

MY: I never shared my "no-no" with anybody. It was a rather private affair, which I did not feel the need to share with, very personal kind of decision. Just like renouncing my Japanese citizenship was a very personal, it was an answer to myself rather than to anybody.

TI: Okay. And so people really didn't know until the family just disappeared or left with the others, probably, to go to Tule Lake.

MY: Well, all I could say to this question was I did my own thing, and what others thought about what I did I really didn't care. I didn't even think about what they thought about me. It was a personal issue, my value, my judgment.

TI: Okay, so tell me what happens next. So you say "no-no." I guess we should establish, so what did the rest of the family, so you had your parents and your older brother, what did --

MY: Life did not change at all. Life maintained its status quo within the prison called Tule Lake.

TI: Well actually, let me back up a little bit about the leave clearance form because, was it clear to you and others what the purpose of this form was? I mean, it's --

MY: The purpose of the form was not clear. The title of the form does not say what all the questions were. The question had no relevance to the title, so it was a confusing thing, and I had no thoughts of leaving camp, so it was not an issue.

TI: Right, because it was labeled "leave clearance," so the assumption would be this is to be able to leave Topaz, but the...

MY: But as I said, the application for, or signing of the paper had no relevance to my lifestyle at that point. Lifestyle would be, I'm in a prison, I will continue being in a prison until something happens.

TI: Okay, and so when you signed it "no-no" versus "yes-yes," were there, were any consequences ever described to you in terms of, you do this, this will happen, versus if you do this, this will happen?

MY: Yes, I remember I was asked to come to interview by, I'm not quite sure whether it was one or two Caucasians and I don't remember whether they military uniform or not, but there were, the questions asked by the two Caucasians whether you really mean what you're doing, are you aware of the ramifications of this, etcetera, etcetera, along that line. And I answered what to me was the logical way of answering those questions, according to my two answers.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Okay, good, so let's talk about, then, what happened next. And so you said things were kind of the same for a while, but then eventually your family was moved again.

MY: Well, the life remained pretty much status quo. There were all kinds of ups and downs of the camp life, riots, etcetera. In a way it was very involving, and in a way I was completely out of it. Politically I was not involved. I was not involved with anything, however, during that time, certain events did happen to my own personal life in that I was sent to the stockades.

TI: Well, this is at Tule Lake, right? So we're, so Topaz first, then we go to Tule Lake.

MY: Yeah. Well, the things that happened at Topaz was the rumor which happened to become a fact is all "no-nos" will go to Tule Lake. Okay, so be it. That was a fact of life, and I accepted it. It wasn't a matter of accepting it; it was a thing that had to be done. So I don't remember the specific situation of the last moments of Topaz, but whatever happened happened, and I don't even remember the ride to Tule in the train. And before I knew it I was in the middle of this large area with a horizon at least broken by Castle Rock here and Abalone on the other side. Beyond that, it was another camp.

TI: And how would you compare Topaz with Tule Lake in terms of security. I mean, were there differences in terms of, maybe, guard presence or, or procedures, things like that?

MY: Historically, I am aware that they doubled the fences, they almost doubled the security of the military personnel in addition to the trucks and tanks and such, but at that time, for me, I wasn't aware of any of this. We were aware, hey, we better not go near the fence. That was about the extent of the situation of Tule Lake as compared to Topaz. And there was no need for us, for anybody, including me, to go near the fence, to contest this issue. We just accepted the fact that there were more military around, and I wasn't aware of the increase in military personnel. Living in an enclosed area of nineteen thousand people, you don't have to be aware of any of this, until certain occasions arise, like the riots and such. My life was pretty self contained in working every third day as a fireman. Firemen worked two, three eight-hour shifts together. And then a group of people that I was with included one Mr. Emerick Ishikawa, who happened to be Mr. America, bodybuilding, in nineteen, early '40s or late '30s.

TI: Who was that again? I don't know this person.

MY: Emerick Ishikawa

TI: And he was...

MY: Was Mr. America in bodybuilding.

TI: Mr. America.

MY: He happened to be in camp, and he happened to be in this group of people I knew. So we started doing weightlifting, and so we did weightlifting every third day for three, four hours a day and so I was in very good shape, as you can imagine, day after day of weightlifting for three, four hours a day. So that was the second day of a three day work, three day passage of time, and the third day was, a group of us who were musically oriented started just playing music together, primarily Hawaiian music. And that's what we did every third day, played music. I happened to play the guitar. I'm almost tone deaf, but nevertheless, I played the guitar. And my brother played bass, and my other friend played the ukulele and guitar, others sang, so we had a music oriented group of people, no formal group as such, but a bunch of fellows getting together.

TI: Now, did you guys ever perform?

MY: Oh, we were finally, finally asked to perform for the Caucasian celebration of some kind every so often. Not too many times, but I remember several times.

TI: How about inside camp? Did you --

MY: Inside we didn't perform.

TI: Now why was that? I mean, you would, were well enough known so that outside you would perform.

MY: There were other groups performing. There were many different kinds of organized groups of people, baseball teams, sumo, you name it, flower arrangement, tea ceremony, music groups, orchestras. And we were not particularly well known, I suppose, because we didn't, we did not try to become well known or anything. We did it just for our self enjoyment.

TI: So it sounds like you were really busy.

MY: Yes, it was a three day cycle.

TI: I mean, this three day cycle of work and then weightlifting and then the music.

MY: Music group.

TI: Now, were you aware of some of the activities of the, like, pro Japanese groups during this time?

MY: Oh, you couldn't help but be aware. Every morning there was a "Wassho, wassho, wassho" group of the Hoshidan, the younger people.

BT: Well, that didn't start until about a year later, after segregation, the militant...

MY: Well, we're already in Tule Lake. Exactly when that started I don't remember, but I would agree with you, it was toward the latter part of all of this uprising, difficulties in camp management.

TI: But how about just the general atmosphere? Going from Topaz to Tule Lake, was there a difference in terms of the feeling or atmosphere inside the prison?

MY: Yes, there was, but I can't put my fingers on what the difference was. There was a definite difference of, the word comes to my mind of calm, peaceful atmosphere of Topaz, versus kind of volatile-ness underneath this calm of Tule Lake. There was something boiling, so to say, and there was that feeling. You couldn't put your, I cannot put my finger on that at this point.

TI: Interesting.

MY: And then these things boiled over in terms of the unfortunate situation of the farm truck turning over, and that just happened to be an accident, it just happened, and it just happened the person died. And that was, in a way, because it just happened, it was no big deal until the funeral issue came up. As you well know, with the Nihonjin, funeral is a very important part of life pattern. When the administration would not allow a large funeral to take place -- and the large funeral fit into part of this boiling-ness of the... yeah, by this time it was well known that certain political groups were identifiable, so these groups were trying to get a large funeral to push their own agenda. Well, people like me who weren't particularly involved with, alright, so be it. If they want a large funeral that's okay with me. So everything that subsequently followed was a situation where I was not involved, but I was involved being a resident of Tule Lake.

TI: Interesting. So any follow up, Barbara? Okay. I'm curious, kind of going back to your three day routine, so one, you're very disciplined to do these things, but you're around kind of the same group, the same music people and the same weightlifting people.

MY: Well, in addition to that I had other groups of people who were friends of mine whom I visited at different blocks for different reasons, because a different reason for knowing them.

TI: But how would your, the people who knew you at Tule Lake, how would they describe Morgan? How, whenever you're with a group and people, there's certain characteristics, like this one might be the funny one or whatever. If they were to describe Morgan --

MY: I can't answer that question. I don't know how they saw me.

TI: So that was something that wasn't really on your radar. You just never really...

MY: It never occurred to me in any way.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Let's talk a little bit about your parents. What were your parents doing at Tule Lake at this time?

MY: My parents, in general, I kind of perceived, not in any concrete way, but this was their vacation since coming to United States. I mean, they didn't have to worry about food, they didn't have to worry about anything other than pursuing their interests. And their interest was my father's sword making. My father's interest in Japanese swords manifested itself by he taking a job in the boiler room of the block where he could take care of fire in the boiler room and thereby, having fire and getting the spring of a truck -- you know spring of a truck is not circular, it's flat -- he getting that and making swords out of that. And that was his hobby, of working every day at the boiler room, which was no big deal for me, not a big deal for him because he was enjoying himself, making swords, pounding swords into shape.

TI: So he was using the boiler room, so the heat from that, to heat up the metal, straighten it out, and forge...

MY: Yes. I could show you examples of the swords he made there.

TI: Oh, I'd love to see that. That's amazing.

MY: So that was primary activity, but then my father was a very creative person in many different ways.

TI: But going back, I'm sorry, but going back to the swords, so he's, we've talked about in the past and he's always been interested in swords, he was a collector of swords. Why was he making swords? Was it purely just because he had the time and wanted to do this, or were they perceived as potential weapons?

MY: No, no, that was, he was interested in swords and there was not an access to Japanese swords in camp. I just assumed this was his way of getting into his hobby. If he can't find any he'll make them himself, which he did.

TI: But is that, so I'm thinking, here you are in a prison, you're prisoners and you're being guarded, and, and wouldn't the guards perceive that as contraband, something that is...

MY: If they were aware of it I'm sure they would have taken it away, but he was one of the nineteen thousand people in camp doing whatever they were doing. My father's action was taking care of the boiler room.

TI: So other, so he makes swords, and other activities?

MY: Well he was, as I say, a very creative person, so he made furniture for the room and he made furniture out of scrap lumber. So our unit, twenty by twenty -- this is about twenty by twenty, correct? Approximately. Part of it was divided into my brother's room and our room, with a division, my parents' room was over here, and then this whole area was the living area. My father made armchairs, couches out of scrap lumber, and then, let me see, no, the scroll is not hanging here. My father took a scroll with him into camp, and so that was hanging. And then he made armchairs out of branches of trees. Like this, this is made out of horn, deer horn. You could imagine these being branches of a tree. He made arms out of that, so we had two armchairs, yeah, two armchairs created from this kind of branches of trees, and then one couch. So our living room would have fit in this room just as easily, in terms of furniture. It was unique kind of furniture.

TI: I'm curious, was any of that saved or preserved?

MY: I beg your pardon?

TI: Was any of that brought back or saved?

MY: No.

TI: It's too bad. I'd love to...

MY: I have pictures of it, but that's about it.

TI: And your mother, what did she do with her time?

MY: My mother's attempt, I could say, and it was a very noble attempt to try to keep the family together by going to the kitchen and getting four people's...

TI: The ingredients or the...

MY: Four meals, and then bringing it home hoping that the family will eat together. Well, every so often would do this, which meant my mother's noble attempt -- and it really was a noble attempt because we seldom sat down together, the four in our barrack room. We sometimes sat together in the kitchen, mess hall, but not too often because Al was with his group and I was with my group, and every third day I was with the fire department eating there. But I have something which my mother made which surprised me, was her embroidery. So she had time to do embroidery, which I never knew she knew how to do. And then she made all my clothes, pajamas and such.

TI: Going back to those rare times when the four of you would sit together in the barracks to eat, so it's quiet, the four of you eating, what kind of conversation, what would you discuss?

MY: I don't remember.

TI: Or do you, do you have a sense of the feeling, would your parents talk more than you and Al, or do you have any sense of how that went? I'm just trying to get a sense of, it's almost like it's --

MY: It was just the family getting together and no one way or another way of conversation or anything. And we were, we interrelated with each other in no specific way, as I recall.

TI: Yeah, it's almost like a scene from a movie almost. I can see this. Because it is in, you talk about this kind of turmoil going on with nineteen thousand people, and your mother tried to just bring the four of you to this, in her mind maybe, a little haven, just the four of you, to come together. So there's just, like, this nice image.

MY: She succeeded in her own way.

TI: Your father, what, did he have a job or was there any role that he played at Tule Lake in terms of, you mentioned you didn't get so much into the politics. How about your father? Was he someone that got more involved in that?

MY: Yes, he was involved. He was a block representative. I don't remember for how long a time sequence, but he was a block representative, as I recall. And at what one point I don't recall either, because that has important bearing in terms of the fact that all three of us were in the stockade together.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So let's talk about that, so the three of you are in stockade. How did that come about? What were the circumstances?

MY: I don't remember the... well, I'm assuming that Al and I were, so to say, picked up for the stockade at the same time, and that same time happened to be one day when the camp was essentially told to get into your unit and stay there until further notice, and then as I recall, from one side of the camp the military came with a list of people and the administration came from the other side, and they picked up all the people on that list. And my brother's name and my name was on that list. Why, we don't know. When, we don't know. Of all the "no-nos" we were, there's all, only thing I could say.

TI: Now was there any, I'm trying to think of, yeah, it, it always puzzles. You never know. I mean, we've been looking at the records and we're trying to figure out you and your brother were selected. Were there any, like groups that you were involved with, that the two of you and other people were also picked up?

MY: No. Al and I were, if anything, he had his own group and I had my own group, and our group did not really mix too, we did not integrate in any way. Except one of the, Wayne's brother was also with Al's group, but I think that was about the only contact between the two groups, my friend Wayne and his brother, Al was in another group. Beyond that, politically, not politically, socially or culturally there was no contact between Al's group and my group.

TI: And so really, then, the connection was because you were brothers and then the family. I mean, your father, you, and Al were picked up, so was there something about, then, the family unit?

MY: No, you're assuming certain things. When I was picked up only thing I knew was I was picked up. I had no idea where my dad was, nor where Al was, until we were taken into a room and at that point Al was in the room, or came into the room, I forgot the sequence. And then we were, about the size of this room, perhaps, packed with people who were picked up for, at that point, or that day and evening. And that was the beginning of the stockade experience for us, or for me, let's put it, because after the whole thing I knew a friend of mine who had been in the original stockade way before our stockade was built. Our stockade was built, I'm not quite sure, sometime in the, this is '43, so it must have been '42 perhaps, before our stockade was built.

TI: So late...

MY: Before the two barracks and the kitchen, the toilet. That was not there originally.

BT: And it seems to have been put together sometime in November '43.

MY: November, so I know of a friend who was in the original stockade, and he was, he had been released before this stockade had been built. And okay, the reason he was picked up is his family had kept a Japanese record, a 78 record in Japanese. That was enough for the military to pick up the members of this family unit, and he happened to be home when his parents were not home, so he was picked up. [Laughs] But, as I say, we were picked up after this unit was built, but we were, after picked up placed in a room and with no idea why anybody was picked up. All we knew, we were in the room, and just talking amongst each other, and in time one logical question was, can I go to the bathroom? So we tell the guard we had to go. "That's your business, not our business," was the soldier's response, so we kept on going like this [rocks back and forth]. Then discussions of what to do, and then somehow the discussion terminated for me when my name -- oh, all this time names were being called out, so we were wondering what was happening to them -- so that issue of going to the bathroom was forgotten because of this issue. And then in time, in time my name came up and I was taken from average lit room to another room, fairly bright, not too bright, average, I would say, and held there for, I don't know for how long. No kind of discussion took place.

TI: And in this second room who else was there? So you're...

MY: I was the only one, in the middle of the room with about, I would say two, three soldiers. And I don't remember the kind of discussion we had until, again, my name was called -- obviously, I was the only one -- and the two soldiers took me by the shoulder, took me to another room, completely dark, and they sat me down in a chair and left alone for a while. Completely dark, and then a light went on from top of my head, and if you're aware of the, when a light goes on in a dark room and only light is here, there's nothing you can see out beyond the circle of the light. In other words, a classic description of a third degree. And then as the light went on voices came on. I don't remember what kind of question, but at that point my response to the whole situation was complete blackout of memory. I don't remember a thing after I heard some kind of voice come on in this dark room with the light on top of me to the point where I was standing next to my cot in the stockade barrack.

TI: Although you can't remember the questions and things, do you, can you remember a feeling of what it was, of what...

MY: No. It was just what the hell's happening kind of reaction, really, if I recall anything. I don't recall anything.

TI: And it's just blacked out?

MY: It was a complete blackout. A friend of mine tried to do an interview, did an interview. I'm a full chapter in John Tateishi's book, and John was telling me, five years or six years later after he wrote the book, "Morgan, you know you have a complete blackout in memory?" I said, "No, I don't. As far as I know I remember everything around my life." "Well, you know what the hell happened after the blackout," I mean, "after the third degree?" "No." And he says, "I tried to get you to try to remember that sequence four or five times in that interview coming from different approaches during a different time period, and you could not recall anything." That's about all I can answer. I don't remember a damn thing.

TI: From your background as a social scientist and social worker, if one of your clients or someone you were interviewing told you this story, what would you think as a professional in terms of what happened during that time?

MY: Well, I'd say this is the body protecting itself. The mind protects the whole body by just blotting out the unpleasant aspect of one's life. But it has to be pretty severe for the mind to do this, but I'm aware, after reading some psychology books and trying to teach psychology, sociology, so I could say something severe must've happened. I don't know. But I can say that my brother, who could talk about it, said he was physically beaten, so I said hell, I must've been beaten, too. I'm assuming this. I don't know.

TI: And do any of these memories ever leak out in dreams? Like, I mean, since that time, it's been many years.

MY: No, there's been nothing that...

TI: Just nothing. No flashbacks or anything?

MY: No flashback of any kind of this period. So it couldn't have been that severe. [Laughs] That's all I can say. I could laugh about it at this point.

TI: And so the next memory you have is you're next to your bed, you said?

MY: I was standing by my cot in this large barrack, twenty, I think it's twenty by a hundred, classic barrack, and it was all lined up with some two hundred plus inmates of the stockade at that point. And there was a pile of blankets, three blankets, I think, on this cot, mattress and cot, next to two other people.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: It's such an amazing story, and so describe to me, at this point you're like about nineteen years old, '43, the other prisoners, what age range was in there?

MY: For the most part they were older than me. I think I was more of the younger, if not youngest, member of the whole stockade group. I think, well, there were several others, I'm sure, that looked younger than me.

TI: And was the barracks pretty filled? You said two hundred people.

MY: Well, at that point by count, I think, there was about two hundred twenty people maximum, about that period. And they were between two barracks, where each barrack, the classic barrack was twenty feet by hundred feet. If you remove all the rooms you could pack a lot of people in both sides because between that cot and this cot was probably no more than this much space.

TI: So they really packed you in there, yeah. In terms of inside the stockade, was there like a hierarchy in terms of how you organized yourselves inside the...

MY: I was standing by this cot, which became my cot, and there as no, as far as I was aware, there was no hierarchy of any kind in this stockade, I mean, this barrack. In the other stockade were the leaders. Now, how many were self made leaders, how many were -- no, I'm sure there were no voting procedures in the stockade, but somehow the leaders, by reputation or by self proclamation or by just talking, got into that leadership group. I was not part of it. I knew the, some of the names, but beyond that had no awareness of their action.

TI: You mentioned your brother and seeing him, how about your father? Do you recall --

MY: My father was in the stockade also.

TI: Was he in the other barrack?

MY: But he was in the other barrack and my brother was also, so I wasn't aware. So who went which barrack was God know why.

TI: Earlier you talked about the weightlifting, so you were pretty strong physically, you took martial arts. Did that ever become a benefit for you, just knowing martial arts, being strong? Did that ever help you?

MY: No. I never made use of my martial arts, other than outside trying to pick up a ball, which I threw to my dog.

TI: Okay, so all that training, all those years -- [Laughs]

MY: [Laughs] All that beautiful training came into effect, but I've never had to use it in any way verbally or physically.

TI: And so your teacher would've been proud because that's what he wanted you, I remember initially you said you weren't supposed to...

MY: I'm sure Professor Matsuyama would've been proud of me.

TI: So Barbara, what questions, any questions in terms of inside the stockade or anything that you want to ask about?

BT: Well, did you have a routine in the stockade?

MY: No. Other than eating there was no need for any routine. You just talk with whatever you, whatever subject that you can talk about.

BT: So what sort of things were you talking about?

MY: I have no idea.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

BT: I kind of wanted to go back a little bit about the knives and swords --

MY: The what?

BT: The knives that your father was making. And did he do that in Tule Lake?

MY: Yes.

BT: And where did he hide those?

MY: I have no idea. I had no idea he was even making those.

BT: Well, given what a, even though it was a large place with a lot of people, it was hard to have any privacy, so do you think that other people --

MY: Well, it depends on what means by privacy. My brother was making sake under his bed next to me. Is that privacy? [Laughs] Exactly. I don't think my father ever -- I conjecture. I don't remember my father making, ever bringing those three swords into the house, so he must've kept it in the boiler room.

BT: But he worked with other people in the boiler room, didn't he?

MY: No, in the boiler room there's only one person taking care of the boilers.

BT: Twenty-four hours?

MY: Well, you take shifts, naturally.

BT: So it's possible that somebody might've noticed what he was doing?

MY: Yes, it's very possible other people knew what he was doing.

BT: Making knives, you mean?

MY: Yes. Well, my father was known for his knowledge on Japanese swords, so this was only logical.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

BT: Well, there were two things, one of the reasons why people were getting put in the stockade is they were elected leaders. That's one reason.

MY: We don't know why any of us were in the stockade.

BT: They never told you why?

MY: No. "Why are you here? Because I told you you're here." That was the response.

BT: So people would ask the prison authorities? Did the, did the inmates ask the prison authorities --

MY: I remember specific questions asked to Colonel Austin, "Why are we here?" "Because I want you," no, "You're here because you're here." I think that was the answer.

TI: So it's almost, in addition to this lack of knowledge, which is, in some ways is control. I mean, by not telling you this information, they're, in some ways, what's the right, I say control, like harassing almost the prisoners. Something else that I read that you talked about was sometimes at night they would just have you guys come out of the barracks and stand in line.

MY: Oh, they were... having midnight raids in the barrack was nothing unusual. As a matter of fact, one of the, one of the times in my life I was actually scared was when, one of those midnight raids -- are you familiar with Thompson submachine gun, the round cartridge? That Thompson machine gun was aimed at my belly by a young soldier who seemed to be shaking because he was scared. Well, I know something about arms because in martial arts we were studying arms. His trigger finger was on the trigger. Well, if you're shaking like this the damn finger could... and I'm aware of this, so I think that was about the only time in my life I was physically scared. In other words, there were many midnight raids. There were other kinds of raids --

TI: So going back to that, so it sounds like you viewed those raids as more of a harassment more than anything, that, you thought that there would never be orders to, for instance, shoot anyone or anything like that? They were just harassing you, even though they had guns?

MY: No, we couldn't go that far in our thinking because we didn't know what these soldiers could or would do. There were rumors that these soldiers were from the Japanese warfront and they were "anti-Jap," which was one of the rumors, true or not I don't know, but if that, we didn't know, where if they were "anti-Japs," logical they would do anything because they had seen the horrors of the war and Japanese soldiers are not the kindest soldiers. And so those thinking were behind our, back of our thinking. And then when you have a Thompson submachine gun pointed at you with a trigger finger on the trigger you're damn careful what you say or what you do.

TI: And physically how close was this soldier, when he...

MY: Holding machine gun like this.

TI: So that close, and so you could actually see him trembling.

MY: Yeah, so he was actually shivering, and I assumed he was shivering because he was scared. It wasn't cold. So those are the midnight raids, but there were other raids where we were told to get out in a open area of the closed stockade, and one of those times was, the whole area, this open area between the barrack and the kitchen, was already surrounded by soldiers in full uniform with their M-9 rifles, and then by the gate there was a truck with a machine gun aimed at us with a guy sitting by the machine gun. And we were told to stand in line in this, I don't remember whether it was snowing or not, but it was not warm. It was cold. And most of us were in zori because that's how we stayed in the barracks, and if we were fortunate enough to grab something because we were going out, we were fortunate. Others who did not grab anything just... they were out there the way they were out there. It's as if somebody came and said, "Okay, get out quick, there's a fire," we would just run out the way we are. That's the way we were told to get out of the barrack. And we stood out there, stood out there, and stood out there, not knowing what was happening.

TI: When things like this happened, was there any recourse? I mean, were there, could you or the others talk with anyone, whether it's the Spanish consul or anyone, in terms of grievances in terms of treatment?

MY: Well there were a number of reactions instead of the word recourse. One of the reactions, we would talk about it. And finally, what can we do about it? Not a damn thing. Another reaction was at that time a few of us who were motivated -- I wouldn't say brave enough -- motivated, would ask Colonel Austin there, "Why are we here?" And his response was essentially, "You're here because you're here." And then as a result of, at one of these many such situations... oh, I recall two situations. One, we had a little bullpen, I think was the word we used, where they kept any one of us who Colonel Austin wanted to put us there, and it could've been any reason. And then asked, I forgot what the question was, "There's somebody in there. Any one of you guys want to join in there?" following a dialogue of some kind, and then for whatever reason, one of us responded somehow and he was told to go to the bullpen. No, no, no, that wasn't the issue. "There's somebody in there. Any one of you guys want to go in there?" Okay, then something happened... "Okay, who wants to..." I don't remember the sequence, whether, "Okay, you go," or whatever, but the question was answered in such a way, "Who wants to go in?" that the whole group of us responded by, essentially by our actions saying yes. Well, there's not a damn thing he could do but the bullpen would hold only two people, three people at the most, so that frustrated the colonel quite a bit. And then --

TI: But this was an act of defiance to the colonel?

MY: It was an act of defiance, yes. There was not much one could do. I think something like that was made in the River Kwai picture, where everybody responded. Anyway, that was one of the sequence, one of the results of the reaction. Another reaction was we will go on a hunger strike. And the Colonel's reaction, "Well, if you want to go on a hunger strike that's your business. We'll take all the food away," and he told the soldiers to take all the food away, which he did. And then that was interesting, in that situation of taking all the food away... what confuses me now is when that happened. It must've happened after the hunger strike, or was part of the hunger strike, "We'll take all the food away." And then they emptied the commissary kitchen of all the food other than bread, bread because they issued us bread and water, and then they went to all the barracks taking all the food away. And out of that issue came the question that the so-called leaders were eating food, and this rumor had spread to our barrack too, but we didn't know anything about it except in this situation all the fruits and candies came out of that barrack. It was attributed to the leaders, so that was interesting. It was part of that third reaction by the group. So in retrospect, there's only about three reactions.

TI: Okay, so yeah, okay.

BT: Were you aware of any visits from outsiders?

MY: What?

BT: Were you aware of visits by outsiders, like the ACLU?

MY: Yes, during that sequence, I don't remember when, we were aware that the Spanish consulate, Spanish representative was in camp, and that's about all we knew. And then, I can't think of my friend's name, the lawyer for ACLU...

BT: Besig.

MY: Ernie Besig. Ernie Besig was allowed into the stockade, and that was the first time I met Ernie, and I call him Ernie because he and I became good friends subsequent, after the camp. I had been volunteering at the ACLU even before questionnaire was due and such. At that time Ernie Besig was not here yet, at the office, and so after I was released I volunteered again and Besig and I continued our relationship even, and when he joined the faculty at San Francisco State we became fast of friends, so to say. So Ernie Besig I met in camp, in the stockade, and I never met this Spanish representative.

TI: And what could Ernie Besig do? So he came in...

MY: He was asking questions. He was with ACLU, was asking questions regarding, I don't remember the specifics, but I assume about the treatment. I don't remember.

TI: And do you know if he was, in particular, interested in the treatment of citizens or was it just the whole group?

MY: I don't remember.

BT: Well, when the visitors from the ACLU or from the Spanish consul came to the stockade, was there discussion among prisoners about the nature of those visits?

MY: Spanish representative, I cannot say because I did not even see them. In terms of Ernie Besig, was more of an individual, he and whoever he wanted to talk with. There was no group discussion, as I recall. There may have been.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: And about how long were you in the stockade?

MY: I think about three, four weeks. I think, I don't remember. It may have been longer. I tend to think it was longer, but I don't remember.

TI: But it just felt like about three to four weeks that you were there?

MY: In retrospect, I can't see it being any shorter, but I could feel it was longer.

TI: 'Cause what's interesting, when you look at the records, the records indicate that you were there for five months.

MY: No, that's plain BS. I was not there for that long.

TI: So the records were wrong.

MY: I would say record is wrong. No way was I there that long, because if I were that long I would've gone through three hunger strikes. I went through only the first hunger strike, and the second hunger strike took place after I left, and then the third hunger strike took place way after I left. That would've been toward the end of stockade, which would've been about four or five weeks. Correct? I don't know the period sequence, 'cause stockade did not last that long and all those hunger strikes did not take place too much longer after I left.

TI: And so why were you released? So after that time, what, what...

MY: Any better reason than I was placed in there, no reason. Nobody knew why were there. Nobody knew why were being released.

BT: Now, what was going on with your mother at the time that you, your brother, and your father were in the stockade?

MY: Well, I remember my mother coming to the end of the prison area, Tule Lake, and where we were and waving. And then they put a plywood so we couldn't see each other. Last time I remember my mother was that situation. Beyond that, I don't know what my mother was doing, other than teaching flower arrangement and teaching, doing her embroidery and sewing clothes for us as an activity.

BT: You don't think that she and your father were writing letters?

MY: No, I don't know, because I don't remember how long my father was in stockade. I don't think he, I think he was released before me.

TI: Okay, so let's, so now you're back in the more general population, and so do you get back into your routine of three days?

MY: Back into the same routine. I retain my position in the fire department.

TI: But after going through that experience in stockade, how were you changed?

MY: None.

TI: So that's, you went through it, even though you had that period of even blacking out and not remembering and hunger strike, it was like life back to normal?

MY: Part of prison life.

TI: So again, when you think of your professional kind of view of this, when you, when you hear this, I mean, it would seem to me, as an outsider, thinking you just went through a very traumatic experience, and now you're back into a routine and not...

MY: Well, the routine in itself is traumatic. It was not a normal life, let's put it that way. It wasn't that traumatic. So the stockade experience itself, other than incidences of blacking out, the issue of the hunger strike really was no big deal. One becomes hungry and I could tell you it's no big deal to go through seven days of hunger strike.

TI: But having, maybe, a soldier with a machine gun pointed at you --

MY: That in itself was pretty damn cold standing out there. There was a soldier behind me and there was the truck there with a gun pointed at us, machine gun, so... [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] So to many people that would be a very --

MY: That kind of situation becomes a pattern of life, at that time. In retrospect, my god, it's a major traumatic experience. To me it was not traumatic, even in retrospect. Now, one goes through seven days without food? It's no big deal. One gets a little hungry, that's about it, and that's my reaction to hunger strike or people not eating. They shouldn't go too far because they're gonna damage their body, is my reaction. When people go hunger, hunger strike in terms of publicity: publicity.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So you, you're back into your routine, so what, what happens next? What disrupts the routine for you?

MY: Disrupting of routine is toward the... oh, I guess the, one of the major issues that does come into my mind is the day Japan surrendered.

TI: So this is August 1945, August, about fifteen? August 14th?

MY: Fifteenth, twenty-first, I don't remember. There was deathly silence in the whole camp. I feel that you could have heard an ant move it was so quiet. It was such a shocking experience for the Japanese. Whether you were in camp or out of camp I don't think would have mattered. Japan surrenders -- was natural that they would surrender, they were losing the war -- but to hear the Emperor speak and Japan surrender was, at least for me, you don't hear Emperor speak. In my upbringing of two to seven, and even subsequently, I don't know anything would've supported that concept, but the Tennoheika addressing the whole public, impossible kind of a thing. But so be it. That happened.

TI: And so describe that. Did people assemble to hear this?

MY: No, there was no movement in camp, as I recall. Nobody was moving.

TI: And so how did people hear it? Was it on the loudspeakers or...

MY: I don't know. I don't remember. You raise a good point with how did we hear. I don't remember how that took place. I don't even remember where I was, whether I was working or what.

TI: But you just remember the deathly silence.

MY: It was the deathly silence, no movement in camp.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: It's about this time you also made another decision regarding your U.S. citizenship. You decided to renounce your citizenship, so can you talk about that decision, and how did that come up?

MY: Renouncing my U.S. citizenship seemed to be the most normal, nothing unusual event. Seemed to be the logical thing to do under the circumstance, so again, it was not a big issue as part of my life. The decision, I think, was made for me by the U.S. government, not me. That's pretty much how I looked at it, I think.

TI: Do you recall, kind of the process for you to do this? Did they approach you? Was it something that you went to a place to sign? How did this happen?

MY: I don't remember the details of renouncing my citizenship.

TI: Earlier you mentioned how your decision to go "no-no," you had discussions with a group of people. In a similar way, did you have discussions with others to renounce your citizenship?

MY: I don't remember. It would seem logical that I would have done that, but I don't remember.

BT: Well, would you explain what your reasoning process was and the logic of it?

MY: For renouncing one's citizenship?

BT: Yeah.

MY: Only in retrospect. In retrospect, I was a U.S. citizen, I gave up my Japanese citizenship, then subsequent to that, the camp, I had to go to camp, which I did. Subsequent to that I was signed up for selective service and then nothing happened. They kept me in camp regardless of what happened. And essentially my U.S. citizenship was a meaningless piece of paper. It didn't affect me one way or the other. So being a citizen, and I'm thinking... nobody questions my role as a U.S. citizenship today in my everyday life. Even up to the point of renouncing my citizenship and subsequent to that, the issue of one's citizenship is not a big issue. Nobody questions you, and nothing stops you from doing this or nothing allows you to do something, I mean, "allowed" because you're a citizen. And I never had that happen. I think there were certain circumstances, if I crossed the border they'll say, "Are you a citizen?" say you're gonna check up on it, and I would have to carry proofs of that. But I've never crossed the U.S. border, so I have no idea. So the issue of citizenship has never been an issue. The question of citizenship has never been an issue, so discussing that is not an issue, or was not an issue. And then as quietly as I had renounced my Japanese citizenship, it was nobody's business but my own, and it was my business now to myself according to my, for lack of better word, value system, ethical code or whatever. Well, this is logical thing to do for myself, so that's why it was done.

TI: Okay, so logical to give it up, and when you did that you also signed up to be repatriated, not repatriated, expatriated -- no, repatriated to --

MY: Repatriated.

TI: Yeah, repatriated to Japan. Tell me about that decision.

MY: That was part of mass psychology more than anything else. That was part of mob psychology, logical thing to do, everybody else was doing it, I'll do it too. It was not a well thought out, personally well thought out situation.

TI: And then about the time of when the war was ending you decide to not repatriate to Japan, to stay in the United States.

MY: Again, that was a logical thing to do, realizing to go to Japan after Japan lost the war, poverty, etcetera, so I, that was more logical than the original act.

TI: And then, was it then logical because now that you're gonna stay in the United States to --

MY: Stay what?

TI: To stay in the United States, to stay here, to then ask for your citizenship back? Because at that point then you start working for --

MY: Well, again, I was, about that point I was involved in getting my citizenship back and there were a number of issues for me, Wayne Collins group. Then the question about my age came up, can a minor renounce my citizenship? When did I sign that piece of paper? I didn't remember, so I never could answer that question, and so this was all hanging up in the air until the government said a minor cannot renounce, "you were a minor." So I didn't make the decision. The government made it for me.

TI: That, one, that you had not renounced because you were a minor, you mean that?

MY: Yes.

TI: Okay. Tell me about the Wayne Collins group, because you worked with them. Describe --

MY: No, I had little, if any, contact with the group itself. It seemed the most logical, one of the logical things to do is to get my citizenship back. Why I get my citizenship back, I don't know. It was sort of a mob psychology thinking, I think. I had not thought it out clearly as to why I wanted my citizenship back.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: So Morgan, we're gonna start again. Earlier you were talking about your father in Tule Lake, he was the boiler room man and he would make swords there, and so I think Barbara and I were really interested in those swords and you said you actually had the swords here, so let's talk about the swords. You have them next to you.

MY: Yes, I have the swords right here.

TI: Can you, can you show the swords first? I just want to look at them. I haven't seen them yet, other than...

MY: Well, the background is, in order to make a sword, all you need is a hammer and the tongs to hold the heated piece of metal, and the piece of metal could be any piece of metal, whether... and the most important thing is the carbon content of a metal. These things you've got to know, and I learned all these things from one of the foremost swordmakers in Japan. A friend of mine and I met this swordmaker in Japan some twenty, thirty years ago who came to the United States, and subsequently we've been good friends, and he knew my brother Al because my brother Al was a sword appraiser in Japan and they spent a lot of time together, including vacations together. Anyway, getting back to making a sword, as I say, you need heat, fire, that is, not plain heat, fire where you could put the piece of steel into the fire. You're gonna need something to hold the steel because you can't hold the steel, tongs, and you need a hammer, something to, piece of metal down below in which you could put, place the metal and beat the heated sword until you have the control of the carbon content of the metal. And these are knowledge which comes out of looking at that steel. Well, only place you can do that in the camp is the boiler room, where you have to keep the boilers going. In order to keep the boilers going you shovel coal. Okay, so for whatever reason, my father had this job. I think he consciously knew what he was getting, and getting a piece of metal is no big deal because there's a motor pool, and then all you need is somebody to get a piece of metal from them, which he did. So he got a job tending the boiler room, putting coal into the fire, and that's how he made his swords. As I said, the process of making a sword is heating the flat piece of metal, beating it in such a way that you could get the shape of a sword.

[Shows a sword] And here you get a fairly rough -- you never touch a blade with a finger -- so that is a basic shape of a sword, and it is not in any way finished, because if you look at it you can see all the mark, hammer marks. All those black spots are hammer marks. And this is basically done with a flat piece of iron, which is, tire spring is about that big, wide. It could be any length, and you could cut any steel by heating it and just bending it, and so this was done in such a way, and then you started hammering it so you get this shape. This is the cutting edge, and this is the hasp end, and then you notice there's a, this is where the peg is placed between the handle and the blade, and then there's the name of the maker, my father's name.

TI: So he would label his, his...

MY: Yes, it's carved into the middle, like any Japanese sword, not every sword, but ninety-odd percent will have a signature. So that is the, roughly the shape of a sword before it's polished in any way.

TI: How did you come into possession of this, 'cause you mentioned you didn't really know very much during the camp that your dad was doing this?

MY: Well, when he left camp he just left it behind, because Al and I were still there. No, excuse me, no, he had this when he came out with him. No, this was on Washington Street when he left for Japan, because in Japan this is worthless. It's a piece of metal. That's all it is.

TI: And so the first time you saw that was when? When did you first see this sword?

MY: Nineteen-forty, fifty, oh, about, my parents retired in '56, so it's about plus or minus that period where we were cleaning up Washington Street after they left. And this is a scabbard roughly made by my father with a redwood piece of lumber which he found in camp. This is all found in camp. So that is the basic sword.

[Shows a different sword] And then this is finer shaped from the... and then, I told you about the hole in the, this is the peg that holds the handle. And then when you handle a sword the blade is always up so that the sword rests on the bottom, and so here you have more or less the finished blade.

TI: Wow, and he did that in camp? It's heavy. It's...

MY: It's a piece of steel. I did the finishing job. It's still not completely finished.

TI: Did your father ever tell you any stories about these swords?

MY: No.

TI: Did, he just left them behind?

MY: He never told me anything about making these.

TI: Did your father, do you know if your father did this with anyone else? Were there other --

MY: What?

TI: -- other people doing similar things?

MY: Don't touch the blade.

TI: Okay.

MY: I seen one, two other swords made in camp, in the whole of hundred twenty thousand people. [Addressing BT] Other questions, ma'am? You're the one that's entranced with this.

BT: Right. Well, what I'm puzzled about is, is about how he might've gotten them out of camp without --

MY: Got this out of camp?

BT: Well, how did they survive without the military police finding them?

MY: By the time we were leaving camp nobody cared what we had. Nobody looked at what was in our baggage.

BT: Do you have any idea when he was making them?

MY: Sometime between 1944 and '45 when he left camp.

BT: Not earlier?

MY: Well, we went into Tule '44.

BT: '43.

MY: '43? I'm trying to remember when he was a boilerman, and all I could think was '44, '45.

BT: Toward the end.

MY: What?

BT: Toward the end?

MY: Not necessarily toward the end, but I don't remember him doing this after stockade. And it was really, I would say, no big deal for him to be a boiler man, and it was no big deal for somebody to be busy doing something in the boiler room.

BT: I think the guards would disagree with that. [Laughs]

MY: I don't think some of the guards would've. They really didn't care what we were doing.

TI: Well, what's interesting to me was if you were trying to hide it, or in fact they did, you wouldn't put your name on the blade. I mean, he, like a craftsman who's very proud of this and actually wrote his name on these blades.

MY: [Shows a knife] That's what my father did, too, put decorations on the blade.

TI: Oh yeah. He's, looks like he had a lot of time.

MY: Hmm?

TI: Your father had lots of time to, to do these things.

MY: We had lots of time, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, twelve months a year, and for four years. Can you imagine that much time in your life?

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: Well, so I want to now go after camp. You're twenty, what, about twenty years, I mean, how old would you be, '46?

MY: I was twenty-two.

TI: Twenty-two years old, a significant chunk of your life has been spent doing nothing, just in camp, so what do you do next? Where do you go after this?

MY: Well, the question was, what can I do? I was really not prepared to do anything. I hadn't even really completed high school. So my brother and I were -- this is now March of 1946, six months after the war ended, and essentially nine other camps had completely closed and Tule Lake was at the beginning, well, it really was the tail end of the camp because I think it was end of March was actually closed, and I left on the thirteenth.

TI: Now, we should establish, so yeah, you were at the very end. Why did they hold you so long?

MY: I don't know any more reason than I was in the stockade or released from the stockade.

TI: 'Cause by then they had, your father had left, pretty much everyone else had left.

MY: Everybody else had left, nineteen thousand people. There were only a few of us that were left from the stockade, and another group of people who, they didn't know why they were being kept, so beyond us, we were told we could finally leave camp. This other group of people could not leave camp and were sent to Crystal City, not a WRA camp, as you know. It was another federal jurisdiction. And from there, if they were released, they were just told to go wherever they wanted to go, wherever they could go. Another group of people were not released and they were en masse sent to New Jersey...

TI: The Seabrook?

MY: Seabrook Farm, as essentially slave labor. So that's how finally the 120,000 people, ten concentration camps were closed, so I was one of the last of the hundred twenty thousand people to leave camp and go somewhere. The question of somewhere became a personal issue of where, so my brother and I decided, well, where can we go? Well, we have friends in Chicago, we have friends in New York, so we could go there and at least get the most out of the U.S. government by train fare. So that's what we did. We both took a train trip, train ticket to New York. I think if I was familiar with New England I would've asked for a northern New England state to cost the government a little bit more ticket money. [Laughs] Anyway, I took a ticket to New York. I stopped on the way to see a friend, Dave Ikeda, somebody else I knew by Ikeda name, and Dave said, "Morgan, why don't you stay with me? You don't know anybody in particular in New York." I said fine, so I stopped to stay with Dave in Chicago and he happened to be a short order cook in a restaurant at that point. And then I paid my rent money, about twenty-five bucks I had, and I don't remember how much I had total money, but twenty-five was the money a month given by the government. I stayed with Dave, and Dave essentially said, "Show up when I tell you because that'll be the day when the dishwasher gets paid, and he gets drunk, so he doesn't come to work and that's your job," which turned out to be exactly that. Well, that took care of my place to live and place to eat, and beyond that there was nothing to worry about in terms of living expenses. And then I met other friends, and in time Sue Koyasako said, "Morgan, why don't you work in this company that I work?" So I went from my short order -- I had upgraded myself from a dishwasher to a salad maker to even short order cook sometimes.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: So I'm, at this point, were you thinking at all about career, about college, things like that?

MY: Well, I think that goes a little ways back. I'm not trained to do anything, so the logical thing is education. In order to do education I really have to go to college. Where in college? Well, in order to do this, San Francisco, Bay Area was the logical place, but in the meantime, getting out of the camp was a circuitous way of seeing the country, and so here I was, March and then April, May, Fourth of July I was in New York, then couple of days in Washington, D.C., and then back to San Francisco to start the fall semester at City College of San Francisco. At City College I enrolled as a, presumably a high school graduate, and in the application, "Where'd you go?" "Lowell High School." "Oh." And that was the end of the application.

TI: So the question, I'm curious, so it's like five years of your life were just sort of wasted in some ways. I'm trying to get a sense of how you changed in terms of your aspirations. I mean, when you were seventeen, Lowell High School, one of the best high schools in the whole country, did what you want to do with your life, did those four or five years change you in terms of how you thought of who Morgan was before and after the war?

MY: No. Essentially, the idea was I needed a college education to do anything that I wanted to do. The question of what do I want to do was still kind of vague.

TI: So from a sociological standpoint, again, because of your background, I'm curious how you view this, a lot of people would say someone who's gone through such a difficult time, they're kind of, their life is going and then it's disrupted for four or five years, it'd be common for them to have a hard time getting back on track and doing something. It seemed like you had no problems, sort of like here you had this very difficult time, you were essentially in prison, and now you come out and you get back on the horse and figure, okay, I have to go back to college and you continue with your life. How is that possible?

MY: Possible because those four or five years, as you mentioned, was only one kind of a life of a prison. See, it wasn't going through different kinds of lifestyle, from this job to this job to this job, or one kind of social experience and another social experience here. It was only one kind of social experience. Even the social experience was limited to every three day cycle, so in a way the original thinking was not particularly disrupted, go to college, because this pattern was just a time away from normal life.

TI: So it wasn't, so it just, like that time was just on hold kind of? I mean, it was like you're, you're progressing, then these five years, and then just like...

MY: It was a time, lifetime being on hold, essentially nothing different from April 7, 1942 to March 13, 1946. I went into camp straight and then I picked up the pattern from here over here.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: But, so people sometimes ask me about the Niseis and, again, it seems extraordinary to them that there's not this huge sense of bitterness or something that would, that would kind of drag them down, that how is it that they could, they could have their lives so disrupted and then seemingly just go on? Like you're saying, they go, they're progressing, then their life is on hold, and then it's like okay and then just like nothing happened. How is that possible?

MY: Well, I could say it's my personality. Many people say, "You're a 'no-no'? Aren't you bitter?" Well, the question of bitterness never entered my life. "How come you're able to get along with hakujin so easily?" Well, "Why not?" kind of response on my part.

TI: So you see nothing extraordinary in your life in terms of just...

MY: There was nothing extraordinary about this period when 120,000 people were placed in concentration camps, and I was one of the 120,000.

TI: But again, from your, if you look at it from a professional, and if you took another group, a hundred twenty thousand people, perhaps even randomly, and put 'em through what happened to Japanese Americans and Japanese, would, would you expect a similar type of trajectory after that experience? That's, that's the part that people seem amazed.

MY: Sociological background, I could say there were probably a hundred twenty thousand different ways of dealing with that life. Morgan Yamanaka had his own style, as Dave Ikeda's parents had their style of life, and mine happened to be this. Psychologically it may be another issue of what went through my mind.

TI: And how so? What do you mean by that?

MY: Well, a different Morgan Yamanaka would've probably done it differently.

TI: Yeah. But I guess what I'm trying to see, if there's a residual, if there's an impact of those five years that made you different, that it changed your trajectory or how you saw the world.

MY: Well, direction would've been possible only if my perceptions were different. My perception of being in camp was a wartime experience. Was it bad? I would say no, it was not a bad experience because I could compare to the Nazi concentration camp, what the Japanese did in their concentration camps, nor what my sister endured in camp versus, again, what the German Jews experienced in camp. And I experienced my own thing in camp, which is no big thing compared to the wartime experience of the world, because I am looking at the larger picture and I'm just a little speck in that larger picture.

TI: Okay. Okay, again, I think it's not necessarily... and maybe it's you and how you, you perceived in your perspective, but easily, and you know this, I mean, some other people could have taken that experience and used it as, perhaps, an excuse not to have, been able to move on in some ways, and so that's what, but again, it's an individual thing that you're saying, I think.

MY: After four years of dealing only with Nikkei people, then going to City College and dealing with all kinds of non Japanese people, I had no problem. As a matter of fact, I organized a group at City College of San Francisco called the World Peace Group, and we discussed world peace. And I organized that group, and primarily, not primarily, I was the only Japanese American in that group. So I had no difficulty dealing with hakujin or any other people, blacks.

TI: Or maybe, here's a question, in terms of as an observer, do you see scars in the Japanese American community because of what happened? I mean, I think you said that, perhaps not so much for you, but you said you dated Japanese Americans and then dated others, I mean, did you notice...

MY: Amongst my own social circle, no, but then I choose my own social circle. Do I know any Niseis who are bitter about the wartime experience? I'm thinking of my immediate group of people I knew at Tule, they resumed their life, if I could say resume, after four years in their own way, and I don't see any bitterness in Gori's part, Hideo's part, Nakamura's part, and these are quite different people. One is a Kibei, one was a young thirteen, fourteen year old kid, Gori, Nakamura, Sue, couple of years older than me, and they seem to have developed their own lifestyle, which was no particular bitterness.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: So I want to move to your time at San Francisco State when you're a professor there. And it was a kind of an interesting time for, in general, Asian American Studies 'cause it sort of was being birthed in the Bay Area, and can you tell me a little bit about that time? I think, I'm not sure if S.I. Hayakawa was the president of San Francisco State at that time, but you also had Jim Hirabayashi. Can you talk a little bit about that time and your role during that time?

MY: Difficult where to start. There were five of us who were Japanese American males. There was what's her name in the nursing department, but she was not particularly active in the circle of Niseis. The five males were active and we organized the first mochitsuki in Japantown. I was teaching Japanese to, with a title, how to speak to your grandmother with a mixture of English and Japanese, so we were doing different, all kinds of things like this, organizing this and that activity in Nihonmachi. I was also active in the health fair for the elderly. I was very active in the hibakusha movement. So beyond the campus, I was active in Japantown for a number of reasons. I was also involved in ACLU with their surveys, such as discrimination in the hospital situation, if any, kind of thing. So I was doing all kinds of activities, which I found no reaction by the non Japanese towards me that would say I'm being discriminated. I was just treated like another member of their family or number of the staff. And it was within this circle that the five of us were involved in, outside the campus. Now, when the campus, student activity started kind of emerging, and it kind of emerged to the point of a strike, what should we do? I was involved only as an individual, faculty, not even as a faculty member I was, became involved, although a number of my students were reacting to the situation. I remember one student said, "Mr. Yamanaka, I won't be coming to class anymore." I said fine, no problem. "I'm going to Canada, to avoid the military." Another person with pretty much the same reason said, "I'm going to Sweden." Other people said, "Mr. Yamanaka, are we gonna continue class the same way?" And I said, "What do you guys want to do?" And out of this they opted, well, they weren't sure what to do. I said, "I'll give you a couple of alternatives. We could just dismiss the whole damn class and that's no big deal for you or me under the circumstance, or I could arrange for us to meet as a class elsewhere. The elsewhere will depend on you." And so for a while we met at the students' home in, what's that housing unit next to campus? That was too small a unit, so I arranged to meet us at the church on Nineteenth Avenue, and then finally with the American Friends Service Committee on Lake Street, and that's where we became permanent until that whole situation blew over. And so my class had continued to go, and therefore I was able to give them a grade for the class, whereas part of my colleagues would just dismiss the class, couldn't, their students lost out. My point was I'm not gonna go on a strike where my students lose out, so I was able to help my students out during this situation.

Also during the strike, what can I do? Personally, I saw the students being beaten up by the cops and I felt that's just not right. Something should be done, but should and could is something else. What could I do? I don't know. So I said, well, tomorrow I'm gonna go between the students and the cops. There was a group of us faculty, about twenty-five of us, who wanted to do something. And then John and I from the sociology department decided we'll go between the students and the cops wherever they were meeting, confrontation was about to happen, and this is always, there's a prelude to anything like this. It's always between ten to two. It's always somehow the groups get together, the confrontation group. And so the day before, like a good Japanese, I took a bath, put on new underwear, put on new shirt -- I was not gonna be caught at the hospital with a dirty underwear -- and then on top of that I put on a suit and I put padding in my shoulder. I put a hat with padding in my hat just in case I get beaten up. So I was all ready to go to the hospital, beaten up, so whenever there was, appeared to be confrontation between the cops and the students -- and you know, it was the students raising hell usually, so it was fairly easy to spot, to be aware of this -- so I would go in there and try to calm the students down, which I was able to do fairly easily. And that went on until one o'clock to one thirty, and then everything calms down by one thirty, and the students go home, the cops are not doing anything except around the perimeter, and I felt my job was too, so I wanted to go to my office, which is in the psychology building. Well, there was a cordon of police around the place where I wanted, my, where my office was located. It was very interesting, as I was walking this way and the cordon of police was this way, the police opened up a rank and said I may go through. As I went through the police, the police said, "Thank you, Professor," some of whom were there when I was trying to stop the students from getting into, more excited, so that kind of made my day. So that was the kind of role I was involved. I was not involved in any direct role with Hayakawa at that point, nor was I there when Hayakawa was putting out the cables and the loudspeaker in the truck on Nineteenth Avenue. That was just another group of, I stayed on campus where the rioting was. So out of that kind of situation, the student movement resulted in ethnic studies, various ethnic groups wanting classes finally came about, and the Japanese Studies came about, and in time I created the course called Concentration Camp USA and taught that for --

TI: And how did that go about, that terminology? Because even today terminology is debated back and forth. It's controversial sometimes to use the term "concentration camp." You used this decades ago.

MY: I used it with apologies to my Jewish students. I said the word "concentration camp" I'm using has no bearing on the Jews in Germany. They were annihilation camps. They were out to get rid of all the Jews. The Japanese had another concentration camp in Southeast Asia, toward all the British, the other groups, including Americans, missionaries and such, they had a very harsh social, cultural experience there. Primarily it's because this was the Japanese way of dealing things. To them it was no big deal that they didn't have much food because they themselves didn't have much food. So I tried to explain the use of the word concentration camp and how I was using it. For us it was just a holding facility, and with food provided, clothing provided, just to be held until when god knows what kind of a thing. So that was the basic premise on which I used the word "concentration camp," in terms of the definition, who, why, and chronological sequence of the camp.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

TI: In terms of, I wanted to ask some, just final questions, and one question is your, your feelings toward the U.S. government.

MY: U.S.?

TI: Government. After all that has happened to you, what are your feelings towards the U.S. government and how they do things?

MY: Well, probably I could best answer that question, after teaching this course, essentially I ended the course by saying in spite of all this I believe United States is the best government, best country to live in, so in a way that answers your question.

TI: But did your incarceration experience change your perspective of the U.S. government? Maybe that's a better question.

MY: No, I feel that the American government reacted in its own way, primarily hysteria, in terms of the treatment of the Japanese Americans, Japanese and Japanese American. It was a hysterical reaction of not knowing what to do, what the whole issue was about. And there was the troublemakers and warmongers of the Hearst Press, as represented by such as the Hearst Press, many of the Hollywood leading stars.

TI: And then my, my last question I have is, you were involved in the redress movement in the 1980s.

MY: Yes.

TI: Why was that important to you, that redress happen?

MY: Well, I became, I was anti JACL from pretty much the beginning of the, when Masaoka and others, in a way, dealt with their relationship with the U.S. government in what they felt was the best way for them, and they, I don't think, necessarily said, "We speak for the Japanese Americans," but I think everybody else said, "They're speaking for us." So because of their role, and I came under that impression that JACL was working for the government, giving names and addresses, which is, some of it was true, a lot of it was BS, until the JACL, I think for lack of better issues to hold onto, said it was gonna put this emphasis in this coming year, I think better conditions for Issei, and that was about ten years ago, I suppose, and I said, well, something finally I could go along with JACL. And so I started becoming a little bit more co-JACL to the point that I was one of the few leaders, along with John Tateishi and others, in creating the Golden Gate Chapter JACL. I think there were four of us, which was no dancing, no golf tournament, but issue oriented, and whenever there was an issue we would take action. No issue no meeting, so it was, the role of the president became somewhat important, to become alert as to some of the issues we could get involved in, and along with a few others I became the president for a while there. So that was the beginning of my being a little bit more involved with JACL.

So when the redress became an issue with the meeting in Salt Lake City, and then I think next one, is it San Francisco? Well, it became that we should do something about this whole area of, in quotes, "redress." There was no specific idea where to go. When it became little bit more congealed, by the government, when they had those hearings, I became a little involved in trying to encourage certain people to go and talk, address themselves at the meeting in San Francisco. And then when the redress became a local issue also, we got to do something at the local level, and I knew John by then to the point that I was supposed to be a, I signed up to be a speaker at the San Francisco meeting of that group, and I said to John, "You're not speaking, I noticed." Said, "Well, I used my space." Well, use my space. So we were like this, John and I knew what each other were doing. And then John became more involved with redress and I knew him quite well then, when he was the faculty at City College, English teacher, to the point that he was neglecting his studies. And John and I talked about this. "John, you've got to do something. You can't continue this being absent from your class and not doing your job over there." So he felt, and he decided what he did, and then out of that, when the redress issue came he asked me whether I would be the area chair and the district chair. Area was the nine area counties, so I became the chair of the, getting the JACL of the nine Bay Area counties more involved in redress. And I was also chair of the northern California and western Nevada. I wasn't too involved with that group. JACL didn't have the money, and I didn't have the money or the time to go to Alaska, Hawaii, and such, but I was locally involved, and to the point that I made essentially a pact with Ruthie, my wife, said, "Give me six months to get involved in this issue of redress. In six months I'll give it all up, success or not." And Ruthie said, "Fine, I think it's important issue for you," and so that's how I became very involved. I was seldom home evening time with the kids and such, but Ruthie did not make an issue about that, knowing where I was. And so that's how I became involved.

TI: And during this time with redress, did the issue of you being a "no-no" and a renunciant ever come into play? Did that ever come up?

MY: Never became an issue with anybody, even including some of the diehard anti "no-nos."

TI: Yeah, I was curious, because the JACL didn't always look favorably on "no-nos" or renunciants, and so I was curious.

MY: True. But my point is they didn't know what the hell, being against "no-no" because they didn't know what "no-no" was all about.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

BT: Well, I wanted to ask one last question about the renunciation, since that's been my focus.

MY: Renunciation.

BT: Right. And about the, kind of the shame and sense of stigma that --

MY: What?

BT: You know, a lot of the people who renounced feel a sense of shame and stigma about that, so I thought that perhaps you, as a former renunciant and a social scientist and an Asian American Studies professor, could maybe give us some insight into what that sense of shame and stigma is all about.

MY: My own reaction to that, I have no stigma, no shame. It was just something that happened. But many of those people put themselves as a target of that. Where there is no target, they make themselves a target. Does that make sense? There's an issue of "no-no." Me, I just look at it from a distance. You're making an issue out of "no-no," oh, you guys did, you're disloyal, etcetera. I got to put myself and say, what the hell she's trying to do? Well, these people, well, "she's talking to me personally," so they make it, they make the issue a personal issue where it doesn't have to be an issue. So I don't feel ashamed. They make, you make them feel ashamed by saying, "Oh, you're anti United States, you're anti this, you're anti that," and I think the people who talk about it make big issue of making them more ashamed of it, more trying to hide the issue. Because I never felt any guilt about this. It was a not... it was an understandable situation for those who signed "no-no" as just as well as those who make issue about it understand it. Just like the anti draft people from Heart Mountain, quite understandable from their position, quite understandable from the other position. And so it's, perhaps, my objective way of sociology that makes me do this, just as well as my little knowledge about psychology, self defense, etcetera.

BT: Well, and you were able to surround yourself with people who would not be critical of a decision like the renunciation or "no-no."

MY: Again, that is part of social, social conditioning of everybody. You surround yourself with likeminded, you do, I do, and I just happened to be amongst that group, perhaps a little bit more broad minded. Does that answer your question? So, and in a way I could not really understand why this question of guilt, feeling guilty, feeling ashamed, ever came about, because I don't think there was any reason for that.

BT: Well, I think a lot of the sense of people who renounced is that the so called "loyal" people were criticizing them for their decision, and they felt that there was a need for that to support the face of the Japanese American community as totally aligned with the U.S. government.

MY: That's one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is, well, what did they do to make, create this situation? Why did they even offer this questionnaire?

BT: Oh, you mean why did the government create the questionnaire? Right.

MY: So who is creating this? It's the government, not my "no-no." So my "no-no" was a reaction to what the government started, so I have no feeling of guilt. I didn't initiate this. But that has never been that clear cut. I don't think many of us thought through that question, which is not necessarily true of any situation. I mean, how many situations that we get involved in think through all the dynamics? Not the way the "no-no" was analyzed. I mean, that "no-no" question was analyzed with a fine magnifying glass, which really didn't exist, the points they bring out. It was created by the eye of the beholder. So the shame issue, I think the eye of the beholder put it on them, those other people, and they're minority, they've took, they took the message true to form hundred percent and they made themselves guilty.

BT: I think what's interesting is that the stigma has been around, or that sense of shame has been around for almost seventy years.

MY: For a long time.

BT: Right.

MY: Yeah, ever since that damn thing started, but the shame to me was never there. I had no shame. I'm the guy that renounced my Japanese citizenship.

BT: So do you have anything to say to others who renounced who have been keeping it a deep, dark secret?

MY: No, I have nothing to say. That's their life. If they were to ask me, yeah, I might answer a question, but I have no pat answer for them. It's a difficult question, why these people feel guilty, and they actually feel guilty. They actually are ashamed. There's no question about that. I don't question that. But my position, there's no need to be that way. It's not your fault. It's the government's fault. I don't know whether that answers your question.

TI: Good, so Morgan, we're done. Thank you so much.

MY: Thank you.

TI: This was a fabulous interview.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.