Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tetsushi Marvin Uratsu Interview
Narrator: Tetsushi Marvin Uratsu
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: May 25, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-utetsushi-01-0006

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TI: I want to back up a little bit. Going back to when you returned to the United States, you had to go through Angel Island. Can you tell me what memories you have of Angel Island when you came back?

TU: Yeah, I had no idea where we were going, but then we went to Angel Island and realized later on. And there was a barrack there where these so-called "detainees" were housed. I think they had double decker beds, very simple furniture. We spent at least one night there, from what my mother's notes show.

TI: And was this kind of like immigration process? You said "detainees," is it because you were just being processed as an immigrant, or why...

TU: We were okay, excepting that my father didn't come to the pier when he should have. So I guess the authorities, they couldn't do anything else but to send us over to the Angel Island for safekeeping for the night.

TI: Oh, interesting. So if your father had been there, then you wouldn't have...

TU: Wouldn't have had any problems.

TI: Do you have any recollection of other people at Angel Island when you were there, like who else was there?

TU: Well, I noticed there were a lot of other Orientals or Asians, and I presume they were Chinese, mainly. And then one day, on that day, later on in the morning, I guess, I looked out and down to the other barracks, and I saw these white women smoking cigarettes outside and I said, "Wow."[Laughs] It's an impression on me, a young mind, a lady, woman smoking. That's unusual. In Japan, they were smoking, but to see a white woman...

TI: So this is 1931 when... these white women, were they like the workers there or were they there also being detained?

TU: Well, I understand they were Russian detainees, Russian immigrants detained, for what reason I don't know. That's my presumption.

TI: And in general, do you remember the treatment you and your brother and your mother had when you were at Angel Island?

TU: See, my brother and I came back alone. My mother had come back already with the middle two children.

TI: Oh, that's right, yeah, it's just you and Gene. So you and Gene. And so, but the treatment, because you're two boys essentially.

TU: No problem at all.

TI: But the only reason you were there was because no one was there to pick you up. If your father or mother or someone had been there...

TU: That's my presumption, yeah.

TI: Because both of you were U.S. citizens so you should have been able to just...

TU: Yeah, there shouldn't have been any problem. But I didn't know what was going on. I just waited for events to take place.

TI: Now, do you ever, were you ever afraid? When you would come back, for you, a strange country, and it must have been somewhat scary for you.

TU: No, not really. At that age... I don't know. I wasn't afraid at all except for the things that were strange. [Laughs] While I was in Japan, the relatives used to tell me that, "Over the hill and across the wide ocean was America, and that's where your father and mother are." I used to get that message from the people who take care of me in Japan.

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