Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Cherry Kinoshita Interview
Narrator: Cherry Kinoshita
Interviewers: Becky Fukuda (primary), Tracy Lai (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 26, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-kcherry-01

<Begin Segment 1>

BF: Well, this is actually kind of a good segue to some of the questions I was going to ask about your background. When you were...

CK: Are we starting?

BF: Yeah. I think it's rolling.

CK: Oh.

BF: Yeah... when you were -- before camp, so you were like junior high, high school -- what were you like? Would you, were you liberal back then you think?

CK: I don't think we had liberal or, that kind of identification because we weren't politically involved and all. I guess, if you want to say, if there was some difference, it may have started back in grade school. Because I went to a grade school, that there were no other Japanese, no other Asians, no blacks. And our family -- my maiden name is Tanaka -- we were the only ones. That was Daniel Bagley in Green Lake area. And therefore, you stood out like a sore thumb and in our case, it was an advantage. It was kinda being treated special and so, being part of that select group, usually there is a group that gets all the favors and things like that. So, grade school was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed grade school a lot more. High school, too. Well, I was going to say about grade school, I thought, "We ought to have a newsletter." And so we didn't have anything like that. So I asked the teacher and she gave a go-ahead, so I made up a mimeograph kind of thing where the office person did type it up, but I did all the stories and everything. And that may be one time when it was doing something different from, from the usual thing. So that may have set off the difference, I guess. And then in high school, we had a few more Asians. There were about ten, ten or twelve at Lincoln High School, but there I was in with the so-called the Girls Club group, the honor society group and so forth. And so I don't think that we had a political type of orientation in those days. At least I wasn't aware of it. I don't know where being liberal started.

BF: It sounds, though, you had a lot of confidence as a kid.

CK: Well, somehow it seems like I was thrust into leadership roles. That, I don't know how I got there, but I was there. [Laughs] Like in high school, the Girls Club president would be the top position. And in the honorary group, which was called Triple L, that was where I suddenly found myself as president of that, which I had never even thought that I would want to be, or aspire to be, and there I was. I think I made a goof of it, but...

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

BF: Do you think your parents had a role in that, or your mom?

CK: No. Not that... I can't remember. Because I hear people saying our parents expected you to do this and so forth. My parents didn't. It was more like you bring home a report card and they, it was just accepted that you were supposed to make good grades. And they never urged me. They never pushed me, and I don't know. It was sort of a sense, I think we were aware, well, I know we were aware, that we were minorities then. And it was that feeling that you had to do better. You had to sort of prove yourself. You had to show that you could do as well as the other person or even better, so that, that may be somewhat the start of it. Because sometimes I wish my parents had either approved or disapproved. But they weren't very... they were stoic, you know. They didn't -- you know how Isseis are. They don't show affection, and a lot of times there wasn't strong discipline. It was verbal, more or less. And so in a sense, I kind of missed that. I wanted more discipline. But I didn't have that.

BF: Was there a language barrier, too, sort of, at that point?

CK: I think so. Being out there, there wasn't the need to talk to other Isseis and it was only the very home-style Japanese. We couldn't express our feelings because I didn't have the vocabulary or the ability to talk about feelings. So it was all very mundane kind of things. The home-style Japanese. I regret I didn't know my parents better.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

BF: Well, so you were in high school when the war broke out, is that correct?

CK: No, I had just graduated in June of '41 and I was trying to earn some money to go to the university, because we had none. Most of us were just barely making a living. My parents had a dry-cleaning shop right across the street from that wading pool at Green Lake. And there wasn't enough extra money. My brothers, who are older, would go to the cannery, Alaska cannery and make enough to go through school. Since I didn't have that, I had to learn a skill to earn some money and then to go to school.

BF: What were you, what were you working towards? What type of a job?

CK: Oh, to be able to do some clerical work or whatever, but that... when I was in high school, I wanted to take some, what do you call it? Shorthand. And the counselor sat me down and said, "You will never be a secretary." So, she discouraged my taking that.

BF: What did she think you'd be? Or...

CK: I have no idea, when you think about it. But she was very discouraging that we, as Nisei, could ever get a job in the outside world, as a secretary. So I didn't take it there. So then when I got out of high school, I looked around to where I could find the skills to get a job to get, to earn enough money to go to school. And that's where the Pearl Harbor happened, in December of '41.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

BF: And do you remember what that day was like when you...

CK: That was a Sunday and I, I remember going to the drug store and I heard the newspaper boys. In those days, when something broke, the newsboys would go out calling, "Extra, Extra." And then people would come out and buy it. And so they were, I would hear the newsboys and so when I got back home, I said, "Something's happening. We should turn on the radio." And so we turned on the radio and then President Roosevelt was announcing the Day of Infamy. And the thing that stands out on that day was to realize, in looking at my father, his whole demeanor changed. He was just crushed. And I guess I didn't realize what it meant to us to have the United States and Japan at war. It just didn't sink in, that that was going to reflect on us. And so, but when I saw him and he said something to the effect that this is, this is disastrous, then it began to sink in. This is not going to be a very happy time for us.

BF: So he knew right away there'd be repercussions.

CK: Oh yeah. In fact, I think through the newspapers and the news, the Isseis were aware that war was approaching and so they were fearful of that. It wasn't a shock. It's something they did fear all along.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

BF: So what was the time period like between hearing about Pearl Harbor and the orders to evacuate?

CK: Oh, okay. A day or two after Pearl Harbor, then we got the visit from two men, dressed in suits and the hats in those days, and I was... my older brother, my oldest brother was in the service, so my next older brother took over in terms of interpreting and all that. And it turned out the FBI had received a report that my father might be a spy because we had a shortwave radio. That radio happened to be an eight-dollar -- I remember the figure, eight dollars -- because we saved for it for Christmas, the Christmas before. It was just a little old radio that couldn't get the station very far. But apparently -- and we found out later it was a neighbor who had said that. And so, the FBI men questioned, oh, it must have been an hour or so, and found that there was nothing. He was nothing but a humble, little dry cleaning operator and so they left. Then following them, we felt that since, sort of, that we needed to be very unnoticeable. In other words, all socials stopped. I remember there was going to be a dance at the Spanish Castle and everybody... it was called off. Everything stopped. But December, January... the weeks after Pearl Harbor, there wasn't a lot of difference. There was this subdued feeling, but it was only later, several weeks or even a month later that the newspapers started to come out with these stories of potentially sabotage so that then the columnists, Walter Winchell and all that... and that began to build. Then the labor unions -- Dave Beck was quite strong in this area -- and so then that sentiment among the public began to build. Because I think the records will show right after Pearl Harbor there wasn't a lot of outcry. It was only later on and it was stirred up by these elements. Economic forces. I don't think enough emphasis had been (placed) on the economic factor. People looked at the farmlands and looked at the holdings of Japanese and wanted them out. I mean, this was a good chance to get them out of the area and so the cry then began, to move all of us.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

BF: Do you remember feeling more tension building in your own neighborhood or community?

CK: Yeah, I think in the sense that all activities, social activities stopped. We didn't -- and then the curfew came, of course. So that was a very confining, depressing thing that made us feel that we were suspect. That we had to be very, very careful of what we did. And of course, having heard about the FBI picking up people and in those days, that was quite a terrifying thing to have the FBI visit. So, there was that feeling, very depressing kind of a feeling during that time.

BF: Did you talk about it much with your brothers?

CK: No. My brother had a very tight group of friends who got together. And we had that sort of relationship... brothers and sisters didn't talk very much together like some families and there wasn't that closeness. So, it's a little vague as to what we did during that time. There was a feeling of when we did talk with friends, you know, about what's going to happen. And so when the orders finally came through, there was a period of time when some of the people, I remember... I won't say I remember, because I heard it afterwards, the feeling that, "Oh yeah, the Isseis are going to have to go, but we're citizens and it is not gonna affect us." There was that feeling. But of course, eventually it turned out that didn't matter.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

BF: So when you, when your family heard about the orders to evacuate, do you remember what you packed or how you prepared?

CK: Yeah, that's interesting because we simply had no idea, no idea whatsoever where we were going, what the conditions would be. And we knew we should take clothing for cold winters. And it was very difficult to decide just what you should take and knowing that it was just the one suitcase that you could carry. I know my mother had a lot of problems deciding where to pack things that were to be left. And we tried to sell the business, the cleaning business and of course that wasn't successful because everybody knew we'd have to leave anyway, so why would they pay for it? We sold, apparently, the equipment, the pressing machine and whatever for a very small amount. I think it was somewhere in the range of $50. Something like that. We had a car and that was very... something really small. I don't have the figures, but I know it wasn't fair market value in any sense. And let's see, your question was how...

BF: Packing.

CK: Packing?

BF: What did you take?

CK: Oh, primarily clothing because we were told different things. That we had to bring bedding and boy, when you have bedding, that really takes up just about every space. Then, so, anyway, we concentrated on clothing as what we would need. The strange thing, strange, sort of ironic thing was that we were told to report, I think at the station, Union Station down where the I.D. is now. But we were given no means of transportation to get there. We had sold the car and we were way out there about, it was city limits just about then. And so a friend, an Issei friend who lived down here on Yesler said that he would come and pick us up because he was going to go maybe a few days later. So anyway, he gave us a ride so that we got down to the gathering place there. But that seemed a little strange, that here you're told to go a certain place, but figure out how you get there. That's like Gordon Hirabayashi, told to go to jail and he had to hitchhike his way to jail. So some very ironic things happened.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

BF: Do you remember that scene very well, at Union Station?

CK: I'm trying, you know a lot of it is fuzzy. I do remember the days before, when we had to go down and register and sign certain things, and I know that was right down on Main Street, that we went there. I, for some reason that sticks in my mind. But the actual going and gathering there... and then we were put on buses because we were sent then to Puyallup. I remember, though, getting there and seeing the barbed wire around there and then we looked and saw the guard towers and you know, someone manning that guard tower. That was sort of a shock. And then to see the barracks that we were supposed to make our home. That was... yeah, those are fairly vivid. Another thing was our first meal in Puyallup. Here we were supposed to go to the mess hall. Nobody knew what to do. And our first meal there, beets, cold canned beets with raw onions. I remember that dish. [Laughs] I had never seen a dish, you know, beets with raw onions in it. And of course, then we got used to the Vienna sausages and the food was pretty bad. And then, of course, there, the latrines were very primitive. They had one barrack-like structure and then just a slab with very indelicate, but just holes and then a gush of water every once in a while coming through to clear it. And no privacy. I can't remember the showers there. They're more vivid at Minidoka, how there were no partitions at first and how it was very, I mean, you're not used to, to this communal kind of living and so that was really hard to take.

BF: Did you know very many people at the assembly center and then later on at Minidoka? 'Cause you hadn't really...

CK: Mixed?

BF: Yeah.

CK: In Puyallup, we knew some, like our family friends, because in the old days there would be picnics. Like the cleaning shops would all get together and have picnics. I did go to a so-called Tip School, in Green Lake there was one there. And so I knew that group. We were sort of called the Green Lake bunch. And so... and then, we, even in Puyallup we had jobs. We had certain responsibilities that we were assigned to and so then you gradually got to know people.

BF: 'Cause, I was wondering who you would talk to, because this would be a difficult thing you're going through.

CK: I guess I had gone to the Blaine Methodist Church a few times, even being out in Green Lake, and made some acquaintances. Then as I say, this Japanese language school, we knew those people. So it wasn't as if it was total strangers. There were people we knew. Then, of course, gradually at Minidoka you got to know all, a wide spectrum of people.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

BF: Do you remember if at some point either in the assembly centers or at Minidoka, a feeling of sort of the outrage and injustice that later on would sort of, help you?

CK: Well that's interesting. Somehow, eighteen-year-olds I think were more naive in those days, and we accepted, I think, as something, as an authority, what is the phrase? Power of authority, the obedience to authority? That was very strong, particularly in our culture. And you still listened to the government, I mean, you did whatever the government said. There wasn't that feeling of rebellion except for a few, as you know. There were very few who did rebel. But I don't think it really hit me. One event that does stand out is when I went to Minidoka having had a smattering of high school journalism, I applied for the Irrigator and so I, that was, you know, everyone had to work so that was our, my $16 job, was to apply there. And after a while I did some feature articles. Like I did a feminine column and it was called "Feminidoka" and did light things, you know, like what do you do with your hairstyle when the dust is blowing and all that kind of silly stupid stuff. [Laughs] And so then once I sat down to do a column, and it was going to be a reminiscing -- because we had been there maybe a year -- and I was reminiscing about our past and I was going to write a little light article. And I looked at the typewriter and I thought, really, what is so great about this life? And so that's when I wrote the column saying that the dust, the cold and the bitterness, but the worst thing of all was the lack of freedom. That we could not go out, you know, we couldn't go as we pleased and here we were. And it ended -- somebody sent me that column later and I didn't realize I had said -- it ended something like, "We're like birds in a cage," or something like that. And so that's sort of when it really hit me that, you know, here we are prisoners. We're prisoners and we hadn't done anything wrong.

BF: Was it cathartic to sort of write that?

CK: Yeah, it was, sort of. And then the editorials, the editor... the two who first came on, one was Dick Takeuchi who was a professional. I think he had worked for one of the mainstream press and had worked at the UW on their Daily. And then Jackson Sonoda, who was editor of the Japanese Language Courier and North American Post. I don't remember if it was called that then. And they had written some editorials that were, you know, brought out the injustice and things like that. And that gradually got me to realizing that there was such a thing as the Constitution, that we had certain rights. But actually, the anger didn't come out 'til later. I think when the redress movement started. So it was just, a lot of it was the acceptance that this is something we had to bear because we are Japanese and because we're at war with Japan. So it wasn't until later that the full realization of the injustice hit me.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

BF: Now you -- this is a little bit of a jump -- but you mentioned before that you met your husband at Minidoka. Tell us a little bit about that.

CK: I'm trying to think when. [Laughs] The camp was formed of Seattle people and a few, I think, Puyallup, then Kent, and the valley people went to Pinedale and then to Tule. But the Portland people went to the Portland assembly center and then they came into Minidoka. So it was kind of for the first time meeting people from another area. And, so then, of course, there were the usual social activities. Minidoka was essentially a small town. I mean, it had its fire department, it had its coal crew, it had a recreation department, churches, schools, etc. And I think it may have been at one of the dances that we met. Of course, it was meeting people from another area -- he's from Oregon -- it was a little more exciting because it was different. And so it was just the beginning of a friendship there. Eventually it ended -- not ended, but then from camp I went to Minneapolis and then he came out for a short time, but then went back to go to school at Oregon State and then that's when I went to join him. And then we were married in Portland and then I stayed at Corvallis until he finished school and then came up to Seattle.

BF: So did you date in camp or were you just friends?

CK: Yeah, dated. I mean, the dances, you made dates to go to the dance, although most of it was groups. Like he had his group and whoever each of them asked, sort of remained as a group. So I guess it was the feeling, that these people from out of town, they're from Portland area, so it was a little bit different.

BF: It must have been sort of awkward trying to date in that situation where it's such a... although it's a town, a small town and everyone kind of knows each other's business.

CK: Yeah, everybody knows what time you got back and all this stuff. [Laughs] And I guess there were some instances of people going... Minidoka had a canal and after a while you could, it wasn't fenced off so you could go to the canal and like when winters, when that froze over, people could go ice skating. Don't ask me where they got the skates, but they did go ice skating and in the summer there was a swimming area and so we had heard that some of the young people would wander out that way for some privacy, but I wasn't aware of that. I'm sure that people were able to get together. [Laughs]

BF: Yeah. [Laughs]

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

BF: Unless Tracy wanted to ask some questions, I wanted to sort of skip ahead to kind of the time, going a big jump in time to your getting involved with JACL and then redress.

TL: Maybe we could ask one question about how the camps affected, for example, like your health and kind of, well, education, other parts of your life. Could you talk a little bit about that?

CK: What effect the camps had? When you mentioned health, actually that Idaho weather was very good. I had allergies and whatever, and health-wise -- except that I did have some hospital stays there -- the effect of camp in the long range afterwards, was the fact that it totally interrupted my going to any college for years. Then it was, after that, getting married and raising a family and trying to survive and having to work and so forth. So if it hadn't been for camp, I think I would have then gone on to the university and that would have changed my so-called career. I didn't have a career. It was just merely jobs to, to earn a salary. So, that's where I feel it affected me most, is that it determined my later way of life and how I earned a living.

BF: Now you said after you left camp, you went to, you went back East.

CK: Yeah, I went to Minneapolis, the Midwest.

BF: Midwest, right, East to me. [Laughs] How hard was it to sort of resume a normal life?

CK: Well, we all went out -- that was another frustration. I tried to go to a college or university and I had applied for help to the National Student Relocation and the letter I got back from them said that, "(With) your transcripts and your record, you should qualify for the top level of Smith or Vassar." That was it. In the first place, I didn't want to go to any school like that. I wanted to go to just a plain, ordinary university where I could get some help. And, because we had nothing, no funds or whatever, so it depended on a scholarship and a place to live and so forth. But that was it and there was no, you know, getting me in touch with anybody or anything like that. So I was a little disappointed in the help that I had. And I never did find the help that some people got. They were given a specific school that they could go to, like the Friends University and all. That was, I have a friend who went there. And so some people were able to continue their education, but what was the question now?

BF: Oh, resuming normal life after camp?

CK: Oh, yes. So the only way I could leave was to have some kind of a place to stay. And the reason I went to Minneapolis is my older brother, who was already in the service, was at Fort Snelling, because the MI, Military Intelligence. And then my brother next to me had gone out to Chicago to work and then from there was drafted and he was at Snelling. So with the two of them there, I thought, you know, at least you need some kind of contact or whatever, so I went to Minneapolis and started out working in a home as a place to stay. And I think I was there about a little over a year and I kept trying to go to school. And so I ended up with a job at the University of Minnesota in the A.S.T.P. program, that was the army training. And then I was able to take a class or two. I still didn't have enough money to go full-time. So in that way, it was fairly easy to adjust because there were the contacts you make through that. And then I called my parents out to Minneapolis because the camps were getting ready to close. So we were there about three years until eventually, as I said, when I came back and stayed in Corvallis until my husband graduated and then we went to Seattle and from there in Seattle, we called our folks out back to Seattle. So we ended up sort of full circle in terms of getting back to our home.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

BF: So when did you begin your involvement in JACL? You're a long time JACL'er. At what point did you sort of step into that organization?

CK: Okay, as I say... so we came to Seattle in the '50s and then it was just making a living and we had to both work. And then in '53, our son was born and since my parents were staying with us, then I was able to work and it was a necessity to work. So it was not much time to do anything other than that. Working, coming home, you throw off your coat and start cooking and there wasn't even time to play with the baby and all that. But then by, as I said, when Kyle, my son, was about ten or so, then it began to be a little easier to think of doing some other things. And since I had been a JACL member in Minneapolis where there was a chapter, then I decided I'll join the Seattle chapter. And I came in and the first meeting I attended, I became secretary. [Laughs] So that's where I jumped right in and then from then on, I was on the board for every year, every year.

BF: What attracted you to JACL? I mean...

CK: Well, because of my familiarity with JACL earlier in Minneapolis and there we were doing, you know, mostly social things, getting together, fellowships and this and that. Not involved in civil rights very much. Very little. And so I was familiar with the organization and therefore I again knew that if I was going to pick any group -- because I didn't have a church affiliation -- so I just joined JACL. And then it was after being in JACL and Seattle chapter, around that time had, Min Masuda and Don Kazama had just come in a few years earlier and I don't know if you know, they were very, very strong on civil rights and just very inspirational leaders. And they led the chapter into areas that you know, Seattle also was a fairly social group, picnics, socials and these kinds of things. And then during Don Kazama's period there was that protest about the Elks. The Elks had a "no minority" policy, and in that period they actually went -- I think that was Joe Okimoto -- they went and actually physically picketed. And of course that was very strange to me. I didn't join in that. But you know, this kind of thing made me realize that you do have to get out there and protest some of these things. So you gradually get caught up in that.

BF: So it sounds like you got into JACL a little bit more for social reasons or to meet people.

CK: Yeah.

BF: And slowly got an education in politics.

CK: Yeah, into the civil rights area. Although I knew that JACL was not a frivolous organization. I knew they had a purpose. And then as I say, Min and Don were leading into areas... oh, I'm trying to think of that other event. Oh, some of these things, and they may not be chronologically correct. But then the Iva Toguri case came along where JACL took up the cause when we understood the unfairness with which she had been convicted and imprisoned, it was just...

BF: She was labeled falsely as a spy, Tokyo Rose...

CK: A spy. She was just one of many who had broadcast and she had been caught over in Japan and because she knew English, she was, you know... I think she was employed to do that. But somehow she was picked out to be the scapegoat. And just, just the injustice of that really stirred everybody up. And somewhere, somewhere along the line I had gotten this feeling of when something's not right and is not fair, it's gotta, you've got to do something about it. You look around and is anybody doing anything about it? You've got to get in there and do it. So, and I can't pinpoint exactly, but sort of grows on you as to, these things that need to be done.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

BF: Did you -- as you were sort of learning these things and coming up with this belief about fairness and justice and civil rights, do you remember talking about it much with say, your husband or your family and sort of sharing these, these developments with them?

CK: Not very much. [Laughs]

BF: So it was mostly within JACL.

CK: Yeah. Typically Nisei, where there was very little conversation, you know, within the family. Partly because our parents were, my parents were with us and because we couldn't converse freely because we didn't understand other than the simple Japanese, so nothing about politics or anything like that. That's the handicap that we had. That we didn't sit down at the dinner table and able to discuss with your parents and all these things. So I think that made us get a very late start in being active. And even now there is the repercussion of we don't have a lot of political leaders. We don't have... I think the Chinese group has done marvelously well and are way, way ahead of Japanese groups.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

BF: What about when redress came about, when people started talking about it and JACL got involved with it.

CK: Well, let me correct that. People didn't start talking about it. JACL was the one who brought it out and I happened to be fortunate in being here in Seattle where... well actually the first contact was attending the 1970 National Convention in Chicago. And I remember during the business session, this fellow stood up and said, "We have waited too long, we need to address the government for the injustice of the camps. We need to do this and JACL should take the lead." The resolution, everyone listened and agreed, and the resolution was passed. But remembering, too, that that year there was the murder at the Palmer Hotel, of one girl. And that just upset that whole convention. And so the following convention in '72, the resolution was again passed. That was in Washington, D.C. But there was no plan to do anything about it, there was no definite idea of redress. It was just, we need to address the government and I think Edison Uno did have the idea of several million dollars -- I remember the figure, $400,000,000 -- to establish community, a fund to help the community.

And then around that time -- and I've been doing this for our project -- I remember that I was filling in as the vice president in our chapter and we had a meeting, and that one meeting, I was told that on the agenda should be a request from our Washington, D.C. rep -- who was Barry Matsumoto at the time -- that we need to respond to this. Barry had sent out a memo and it was on a dittoed sheet, that purple kind of sheet. And I still remember that, picture that, explaining that here we passed this resolution for two conventions, what are we going to do about it? Are the chapters going to do anything about it? And so I was, had that on the agenda, so I presented that and I said, "Is anybody willing to do some research on this and what we can do?" I didn't expect anybody, but then I saw this hand raise and that turned out to be Henry Miyatake. Which in a sense, that sort of is indicative of what happened. Because Henry had been studying, researching the losses. He had been going to the libraries and doing some of this preliminary work and so that's why he was all prepared. And so he came back a few meetings later with this plan of a legislative plan to ask or demand of the government. And he had figured out these figures. $15,000 for each individual and so much per diem, for each day in camp. You know, to us, that was just outlandish. I mean, $15,000 for every individual in camp? I mean, we couldn't dream of anything like that.

BF: Outlandish in what way? Thought it was too small or too much?

CK: Too much. I mean, in those days you could buy a house -- back in the '40s, you could buy a house for $15,000 easily and to think that the government would actually compensate each individual, it seemed impossible.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

BF: Was that the first time people had really, at least when you were present, at least had openly sort of discussed individual compensation?

CK: Yeah, Henry is one of the first, if not the first to bring up individual payments. Because previously they had been talking about grants or community kind of things. And Henry was very strong and he and Shosuke are, I would say, the ones that convinced me of the rightness of individual payments. Of the rightness of asking for monetary compensation. Apology fine, you know, we need that, but you need monetary compensation to back that up. Because -- and the phrase that sticks in my mind is "our American system of justice" -- you don't go to court and just say you've been wronged or damaged. There is always a monetary award. It's like Bill Marutani says, if you have a traffic ticket, you don't go down and apologize that you did wrong. The judge is not going to say, "That's fine that you're sorry." There is monetary, and that's our system. And so gradually, you know, when they brought that out, it, then I gradually began to accept it. Because initially so many of us felt, you know, you don't ask for money. I mean, it doesn't seem right. Somehow it seems like you're asking for a handout and it was putting a value on this, too.

BF: Was that sort of the, what the majority of Niseis felt at the time, probably?

CK: I think, I think so. I know that when they sent out surveys then the responses came out down, because people didn't have to get up there and speak about it. But the surveys, you know, you don't have to sign your name, came back very much in favor of individual compensation, and so people felt in their hearts, "Yeah." But they don't want to come out and say this is what we want, because... so there was mixed feelings, too. Some people felt no, we're not going to ask for money and others felt -- and according, deep down, they were willing to say that on a survey -- that monetary was, was appropriate in this case. So as you may know, Henry took his plan and Henry developed this from, they say Boeing engineers. Actually out of... I guess there were five out of six or so, that were Boeing engineers and Shosuke was the economist who had worked for Standard and Poor's. They had sat, I guess, at Bush Garden and over these get-togethers or whatever, they had discussed about, what are we going to do about this, what we should do. And this sort of developed, as I say, gradually. It was a process of getting people to realize that it was appropriate. What they did was -- and somewhere around that time, '76 or '78, where I had the presidency in '77, so I was drawn in as president. They sent out, they did a tape, "Appeal for Action" and they sent it out -- and this may, probably comes up in Henry's interview -- to all the chapters, 100 chapters across the nation. They really didn't get a lot of response because essentially JACL, a lot of it, when they called, they said, "Well, we don't do that kind of thing, we have a picnic and a dinner once a year." [Laughs] So they didn't get involved. So it was a struggle to get that through. And Henry will go through all the struggle he had to get the national JACL to, you know, to support it and get on board.

BF: So, the Seattle chapter was sort of unique.

CK: Oh, very much so. And as we see in the final bill, much of which Henry and his group had devised, remained. The concept remained, individual. And it isn't that different, $20,000 as opposed to $15,000. In the final bill it didn't, it didn't just zero in on camp internees, but it extended to other people. But the basic thing is there, and so we do have to credit Henry and his group for devising that and sticking to it and weathering all the storms along the way.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

BF: Now eventually, it, the first step became the formation of a commission and maybe you could tell us a little bit about how that came about.

CK: Well, I remember when Mike Lowry started to run for congressman, he was on his campaign tour, fundraising, and there was a restaurant -- I don't remember if it was called King Cafe or Quong Tuck at that time. They changed names, but that little restaurant across from Four Seas. Do you remember that? You were too young.

TL: Quong Tuck, it was Q.T.'s at that time.

CK: Quong Tuck?

TL: I think so.

CK: Anyway, he had a fundraiser there and there was an upstairs room and I remember this was the first time I met Mike Lowry. And I remember Henry approaching him and I was a little leery because Henry is pretty confrontational and saying to him, "Mike, will you support a bill for Japanese American redress?" And Mike was a little taken aback at that time, but he sort of indicated he would and he'd look into it. [Interruption] But thanks to him, after he won and was a freshman congressman, he went ahead and did a lot of research and then he did draft this bill, Ruthann Kurose was with him then, and together was working with the Seattle group and this bill, the first redress bill was introduced in Congress in 1979. Just a little prior to that, national JACL had met with the Nikkei congressman and they wanted to move ahead on the bill and Senator Inouye was the one who suggested, well, why don't we go for a commission. Well, as John Tateishi says, you know, he was taken aback because he wanted a bill. And but then all of them, Inouye, Senator Inouye and Congressman Mineta, Congressman Matsui, who was very, very new, agreed. And so that was the way it was set and that bill then passed. Mike's bill then died in committee because it was not brought out. So then the commission bill then became the thing to do. Now the Seattle group -- and here I was in the middle of this group that was so anti-commission -- they said, "It's ridiculous. Everybody knows it was wrong. Why do we have to have a commission to determine if a wrong was done?" But see, the point of it was that unless you have an official body declaring it, that, and then if they come out with a remedy, how much easier then it becomes to go through Congress. A direct bill like Mike's and what the Seattle group wanted would have gotten nowhere. I mean, let's face it. We realize now with all the political kinds of things that have to be done that that would have, it would have died and there wouldn't have been much chance. But it was because of the commission and testimonies, and the report that they came out with, that then you had a congressional appointed body -- I mean, people like Goldberg and Fleming -- and very distinguished people saying that this was wrong and this book, the report and then the recommendation of the $20,000. So that gave it, that gave it the stamp of approval kind of thing and it was very, very helpful. Without it I don't think a bill would have gone through. What did I start to say now... my mind went on to commission.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TL: Cherry, as you were telling us about how redress began to unfold and Seattle's unique role in thinking up the legislative campaign and so forth, I'm wondering about how you saw yourself in all of that. What wasm, what was the goal or roles that you could feel comfortable taking on as this movement began to develop?

CK: Actually, I became involved, as I said, as an officer of the chapter and in '76, I was president-elect and I think that's when the Seattle group -- and the formal name was Seattle Evacuation Redress Committee -- began this appeal for action and so I was brought into it in a sort of peripheral way. Then in '77, as the chapter president, my involvement still was there. I was asked to sign different things. And although one point, place where I did fall back a little was that I was planning to go to the San Jose conference -- national convention -- with the group and the group was going to present the resolution to the national. And that Saturday before we left to go there, my brother died in Chicago, so then I went to Chicago instead and I wasn't able to make that convention. But I missed that and missed... that was the time that the Seattle group actually sat down with Mike Masaoka and convinced him to go, 'cause he had been opposing redress in that form and so I'm sorry that I missed that, but I was still involved because of the role of the chapter in this. So it was just kind of an easing into it and my resistance at first of whether it was appropriate and then there (when) both Henry and Shosuke talking about the reasons and why it was essential, then I gradually got involved.

Then the Day of Remembrance at Puyallup was November of '78 and I didn't take a part in it except that I was asked to host some of the national JACL. So Cliff Uyeda, John Tateishi and I can't remember the name of the PC editor at that time. So I was sort of hosting that, those people and saw their reaction to this tremendous outpouring of over 2,000 people. That, that was so moving. To get into... we all met at what used to be called Sick's Stadium there on Rainier. And then we got into these cars, and I can't remember if I was in the bus, but the sight of the stream of cars all with their headlights on moving down the freeway -- just miles -- and that was so inspiring to think all these people are out here to go to the Puyallup... and then that, that I think was the first, very first outpouring of -- no, I take that back, it was the bringing up of the feeling of the camp experience. Many people had either suppressed it or just put it aside and they didn't want to talk about it. I know my reason. When people asked me why didn't I talk about it, is that no one asked me. I mean, my son wasn't interested and you don't force this kind of thing on a person. So this is why I never talked to him about it because he didn't show any interest. But the Day of Remembrance was a very sobering event, where it first, you know all these feelings that were hidden began to surface and when you listened to the speakers and realized that, what a massive injustice this had been, that was the start of it...

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TL: I think I started by asking what role you saw for yourself as this movement was building.

CK: Okay, all right. So then I had that small role there of the link between national JACL and the local group here. And that was '78. And then getting involved with Mike Lowry and knowing Ruthann, so I had some kind of connection there. And then the next step, the major step that I see, was being at a national meeting -- I think it was a national board meeting in San Francisco -- and, that was a time the commission bill was on the verge of passing. And at that meeting, the word came that it was going to be signed and two of the people, I think it was John Tateishi and Cliff Uyeda, flew back for that signing. Then, leaving that meeting realizing that the commission bill had passed and coming back on the plane I started to think, hey, we've got to be ready for that. I mean, it's inevitable. Those commission hearings are going to happen. We have to make sure there's one in Seattle and we have to be ready for it.

So on the way back I started thinking about that, and then when I got back, I called Henry and Chuck Kato -- and Gordon was here on a year-long sabbatical, I guess, at the U -- and I think it might have been Massie Tomita and Ken Nakano, just a few of us and again, we met at Quong Tuck, or whatever. And I told them, "You know, the hearings are coming, the commission is coming." Well, of course, Henry was very dead set against it so I think it was around that point that he dropped out. He had some personal family problems, too. But then at that meeting, I said to Gordon, "How about lending your name? We'll do the groundwork and if you would co-chair this with me, we'll make, establish a community committee on redress, call all the representatives of all the major organizations and let's, you know, get ready for this hearing." And Gordon said yes. So, and as it turned out, he did, you know, not just in name only, but he went around and spoke, and, you know, his name lent a lot of credibility to it.

But then the next meeting we had, we sent letters out to all the churches, seven churches. The major organizations, so we had about fourteen representatives. They all didn't show up, but, I mean, there were fourteen organizations represented, and everyone agreed to form a committee of, to prepare for it. And so that was the start of what later became the Washington Coalition on Redress. So then we got to work, then it was determined that Seattle would be one of the cities and we had a date and I was in contact with the commission staff. They wanted to know where could they hold it in Seattle. So I went all around to UPS and different places as to the best place and we ended up at the Broadway Performance Hall, which turned out to be ideal because, you know, the formation, the ability to see everything on that stage. And we worked a lot with the commission staff on setup, and then our job was to get the witnesses. So to prepare for that, I said to our group, "Let's have a mock hearing. Get some interest."

So we set a date -- it was in May -- and we went through some workshops to get people into the habit of, into the ease of testifying. And in that process, we found three very, very tragic stories. One represented a loss of property. This fellow had acreage in the Olympic Peninsula area and he totally lost it because of taxes. And it was just an outright loss and that was really quite tragic because that was all his life's savings and whatever, involved in that. Another one was Theresa Takayoshi who was in our committee and she was a mixture of Irish and Japanese. Her name was Takayoshi, well that was her married name. But she had been married when the evacuation came. She had the choice of going or not going to camp but they had children and no way, she said, would she want to be parted from her children, so she chose to go to camp. While she was in camp, in Puyallup, her little boy got sick and they took him out to the hospital and then she, she had to go and come back to camp each day. But she went to visit and once she overheard a nurse saying to another one, "Let's let that little Jap kid die." And that was just really tragic. And she realized, she had chosen at age fourteen to go with her Japanese background and so she associated with Niseis all along, but her story was really tragic. And then the third person that we chose to have this mock hearing was a fellow who was only about eight or nine, I think he was eight. He was caught in Alaska with his father, and the FBI came immediately and picked him up. Left him all alone, I mean, there was no one else. So some neighbors and all sort of took him in and they were, the Alaskan people were shipped down to Puyallup. And here he was, an orphan, in essence, and he had to bunk with the single -- some of them Issei men. And this little child, he told a real touching story about, he didn't realize what he could do with his socks and they kept getting dirtier and dirtier until somebody told him you know, "You could go to the laundry room and wash 'em." But he didn't know. I mean he was a little kid. And he told these stories about how he had to struggle, and it was so heart-wrenching. So we asked them, would they mind giving their testimonies.

So we held a mock hearing at the Vets Hall and we asked Judge Smith, Charles Smith and Ruth... I forgot her name, she is a city councilwoman, and about two or three others to be mock commissioners. We didn't know you know, what to expect, but we just assumed there would be commissioners and they would be asking questions and that they would be timed. And then we asked Min Yasui to come to present his favoring a block grant and Chuck Kato to speak for individual payments. So we had this mock hearing and we had a very good turnout. The hall was filled, over 200 people. That eventually brought out enough people to witness, to want to give testimony so that by the time in September that the hearing came, we had 165 people that testified, and that represented people from Portland as well. The tremendous work was done by Karen Seriguchi of the district. She was the regional... secretary, I think it was called then. She helped the witnesses getting their testimonies typed and she worked really, really hard. She was just... and so both of us were, by the second day of the hearing, we collapsed and we didn't make it. [Laughs] But we got to the final day.

But that was... and the one problem with what we did. I think we worked too hard in preparing people because we went down to Los Angeles the first hearing and the emotion, the raw emotion that came out was tremendous and people wanted to talk and talk and they had to be cut off because it was a five minute time period. But crying and you know, "You've got to let me talk." "How many years you haven't let me talk..." And this kind of thing going on. And so it was quite emotional and moving and San Francisco was similarly so. Ours was too well-prepared. And some of the emotion was lost because it all had been kind of spent with the mock hearing and the preparation. So in a sense I regretted that we over-prepared. But Bill Marutani, who was one of the commissioners, (said) that when he got to ours, he said, "Yours is the best organized." Things went very smoothly. We got the witnesses there and everybody, there was no time lag and this kind of stuff. But I do regret that it sort of killed a little of the emotion. There were some very heart-rending ones. I think there was a woman from Portland, who... her story was quite tragic.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

BF: What amazes me is how a community that for so many years wouldn't talk about it in their own families was willing to talk about it so publicly. Especially at a time when it still wasn't sure that redress would ever be successful and a lot of people were doubting whether it was worth the effort. What did you, how did you get people to testify?

CK: Well, the things that I did say, you know, that the public events and...

BF: But to get people to even go to the mock hearings and...

CK: Yeah. Well, I think people hearing these others testify, said to themselves, "I have a story, too, to tell. I want to tell my story." And so when it got to that point, then there was a big, a wave of feeling that, "I want to tell my story, too." And so it was amazing. Many people held this off. And as I told one of the small groups at the conference, it was in a sense, my own release, too, because I had been fairly stoic because I didn't have a really tragic experience. But one morning of the hearings I was having breakfast with Bill Marutani, with, I think it was Nobi Chan. And Bill was still at that time -- this was, you know, before the recommendations -- he was still questioning the need for monetary and how much and why and so forth, and he may have just been testing, you know. And maybe he felt down deep, it was correct, but he expressed some doubts there, when we were having breakfast. And then I started to tell them about the need. I said, "You may feel that everyone is comfortable now and not needing the money, but do you realize there are many Isseis who are on just social security and they are having problems?" And just thinking about it and talking to him about it and all this build up that we'd been going through came out and I just broke down. It was terribly embarrassing. Here we were at the hotel and I was... so anyway... [Laughs]

BF: Were you thinking about your own parents because they were living with you, well, not on social security, they...

CK: No, not my personal, but just the whole sphere of the injustice. And, how it was so wrong. And having heard these very touching stories, that it just kind of all built up, and it just came out then. So I call that my catharsis there, I guess. So, I guess, essentially people did want to talk about it, but it's a lot like my circumstance. Nobody asked me. Nobody wanted to listen. And finally here was someone who wanted to listen and so the stories came in. And you know, some of these typed testimonies were lengthy because we were limited to the five minutes so they had prepared a shorter version, but the long... in fact I have a whole box full of testimonies down there that I still...

BF: Oh really, from here in Seattle?

CK: Yeah.

BF: Wow.

CK: That I need to go over sometime eventually, when I get to that point. But, and I think the whole area of, it was educational from both our side and the commission. The commission went up to Alaska and had one hearing. They didn't realize all the circumstances of the tragedy of the Aleut situation and they found that out when they were there. And I guess to some of them, they had no inkling of all the, the upset, the total disruption of lives that had happened. You know, I mean, you look at it from a third party view, you think oh, they went to camp, they are out and they're fine. You know, they don't realize the families that were totally disrupted. This one woman in California, who, her husband... oh, well the story is too long and it's going to be told in other places, but some lives were just tragically, tragically ruined.

BF: You said that it educated both sides -- the commission and the community. What, what do you think the community took away from the hearings?

CK: Oh, I think the very fact that they were able to talk about it. They were able to find out that other people really, there were people who suffered so much greater hardships than they. You know, most of 'em, like ourselves, we went through camp, we lost education and this kind of thing. But some of the physical and I guess there were some mental illnesses caused by that and very long range hardships that stemmed from that. I think it was an education to many of us that, hey, we didn't fare so badly. Look at all these other people.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TL: Were the hearings a turning point for yourself, too, in terms of your commitment and drive to follow this issue?

CK: Well, as I mentioned, this sort of cathartic time, that it let my emotions out, it was just one more step. A very, very significant step, but one more step into this total commitment to redress which turns out I spent half my life on it. So it was one thing and then when that was finished then there was a hiatus in that we had to wait then for the findings of the commission and in '82, as we're checking our dates now, California, Priscilla Ouchida and Assemblyman Johnson had accomplished a state redress bill which compensated $5,000 for state employees. So we saw that and we saw the reports coming in and saw in the PC that they had succeeded in that. So I was sitting in the office with Karen Seriguchi and I said, "If California can do it, why not Washington? Should we go ahead?" And she said, "Why not?" So then that's where I contacted Ruth Woo because I knew she had good connections down in Olympia and then I called Priscilla Ouchida and said, "How did you do it? Give us some help." And she told us how they did it and so we took off on that drive to get the state employees, and that started with Ron Sims and Tim Gojio and Ruth Woo down in Olympia. And then they asked me to come down there, so I met with them and they said, well, they can do the legislative part of it, the inside work, but they'll need community support, the lobbying and JACL, and I guess, you know, that's what I mean in terms of, "Yeah, I guess we'll commit." So then we went back. I went back and got the chapter to support it. But you know, like anything, there is a lot of enthusiasm at the beginning, but as it goes on, it gets harder and harder. But anyway, that, shall I go into how the state bills and the...

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

BF: Well, I was going to ask you specifically about you as a lobbyist because I assume that was your first time ever lobbying for anything, and was that intimidating or how did you, how did you learn to be a lobbyist?

CK: Oh, yeah, that was quite an experience. It came that, it developed that Ron or Ruth would call me and say, "There is going to be a hearing," or, "There is going to be a committee meeting," and I gradually found out all these steps that have to be done for a bill passage. You have this committee and then it gets out of committee. It's sort of a mini version of what happens at the national. And so this was a great learning experience. So then he'd want people to come down so I'd gather people and we'd go down to Olympia to show faces, Asian faces, and then hearing, and then testimonies. State employees... okay, there was Mae Ishihara and Frank Kinomoto were the only ones in our area who were actually former state employees, so we got them to go down for the testimony part of it. And, of course, for them, Frank did pretty well, but Mae was petrified. You know, she'd never gotten up and spoken before. Here, the microphone and all these legislators sitting around and... so I kind of had to lead her and steady her and so, she did okay. And so, this helped. And then there is that, and then you go through the House, and you go through the Senate, well, it was introduced in the Senate by George Fleming. That was interesting because Ron Sims was George Fleming's aide and he said, "I think Senator Fleming will introduce it." But it was several months that we couldn't get a commitment that we asked Ron about that. But Senator Fleming, here he is, he's a black legislator and the thing is, he might get flack from his constituents. Why is he pushing something for Japanese Americans? You know, why isn't he doing something... and he had that to contend with, too.

So and then anyway, eventually in January of that session, he did introduce the bill and then it was up to us to get the community lobbying support in. So a lot of it was saying, "Where do we go? What should we do?" And they'd say well, come and talk to Senator so-and-so or Senator this-and-that. Kent Pullen was a very conservative one, but the point with him was the Constitution. You tie it to the Constitution, then you get support. And we found that along the way, so he came on board. And then it was getting appointments and going down and talking to 'em, maybe it's only five minutes, but you get the story across and being an actual internee helps because you can say you were there. Then it was walking the halls, you know, just catching anybody whenever you can. Stopping and saying, "Do you have a minute? Could I talk to you?" And then, or if you do stop by and they aren't there, leaving a note, "Stopped by, would like to talk with you again." I see you're smiling because I think you went through some of this later on.

BF: Right. Well it just amazes me, though, how, how un-intimidated that you always were. That you never hesitated to stop anyone and even if they would say, "Oh, you know, I'm really in a rush, I've got to go." You were very persistent. And I just sort of wondered where that came from.

CK: Oh, well, persistence, that is the word for lobbying. That is almost the key word, persistence. I mean, this is what we found lobbying for the national bill, is, time after time going after them and never taking no, whatever excuse. But let me finish with the state bill. So then finally, and then Naomi Sanchez was in Governor Spellman's office and that was very helpful, so eventually, you know, as we got one after another in terms... and Gary Locke and Art Wang did the House side and we were -- you know, with those legislators there -- then I found that at one point the bill then goes to the Rules committee and unless the Rules committee lets it go out, then it could just get bottled there. So then I found that John O'Brien was the key to that. So I tracked him down. I couldn't get him. Finally, I think I went to his house, 'cause he lived in... [Laughs] And so then he agreed that he would let it out and so then it got out of Rules and then, so it passed. And then we had that ceremony where Governor Spellman signed it and we all went down.

But you know, we sort of kind of sighed and said, "Well, we've done this now." And then Tim Otani was in the regional office and he said, "Why don't we do the city?" [Laughs] And I said, "Okay, it's your baby." So he checked with Dolores Sibonga and there were three -- actually there were five employees in the city, only three of whom were eligible and he and Dolores pretty much carried it through and I just brought people to attend the hearings so that there would be Asian faces. And then that passed and Mayor Royer signed that.

And then Mako says, "Hey." She found this story about the school clerks way back then, where they were just fired. They had to resign because of Jimmy Sakamoto, and this and that, and that story came out. And Mako Nakagawa said, "Let's get the school board." And I was kind of worn out by then. And so I said, "Well, if you can get somebody..." so she knew T.J. Vassar on the school board and so she got him to introduce the resolution. I found the school clerks, I guess they were, several who, (we'd) urged them. You know, we got to show people that you were there and what happened to you. So they again -- see, most people, most of us were never used to standing up and testifying in this kind of atmosphere. And so I think at least three or four agreed to. And so they testified and then there was one more meeting and the school board passed the resolution. And I found out later, Mako said that if she -- in fact, just recently when we were doing our own project -- Mako said after she heard the stories from the school clerks and how emotionally it was so difficult for them, then she backed off. And she said she didn't want -- I said, "Mako, I thought, it was because you wanted it and was pushing it..." [Laughs] And she said, "Well, it just kind of went ahead on its own." Anyway, but anyway, it was interesting that these things kind of develop and have a life of their own. And so... but then we found out from Mike Hoge, who was a school board attorney who was so cooperative from the first phone call, he was right back of us. And he tried to get it through, the $5,000 for each of them and found that according to the law, the school board could not pay that kind of money without special legislation. So, that meant another bill at the state legislature. Gary Locke said he would do it. But it took two years for different things to happen, so it was two years later that he introduced that bill. And so this is where you came in, Becky. Where you helped, Jerry Shigaki and you... and I was having health problems, and you, I was so grateful that all these young people were willing to, when you went down and did this lobbying.

BF: Little.

CK: And you went into that and here you were, you were college, were you in college or high school?

BF: Yeah, college.

CK: College. May thought you were in high school yet... but anyway, that was my first meeting with you and I was pretty impressed.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

BF: Seattle really got quite an education and a lot of practice then?

CK: I think what that did -- you know, that school clerk one -- we got press, really good media coverage, you know. And all of these events -- the hearing, the state bill, the school clerks bill -- each time we got press media coverage. So in that way, I think Seattle was fortunate in that they realized and they were more aware, you know, of the whole redress movement. And I think, too, they were aware of the role that JACL played. Because Southern Cal, you know, they don't think that JACL did anything. Whereas here, they realize the great, you know, that JACL was a spearhead for a lot of this. So... so then after the...

BF: So then, by this time, had the recommendations and the findings come out?

CK: Yeah. Because they came out in '83. So this was sort of going concurrently because we had to turn to, we've gotta lobby for the national bill, too. And so we went, doing... on that it was a matter of, I called Ruthann and said, "How do you go about this for the national?" I mean, we'd done some local, but... so she gave me some tips about when you can catch them, when they're back in their district and that's when I said, well, might as well start at the top. And I got Tom Foley's phone number in Washington. So I just picked up the phone. I'd never done this before and directly called Washington, D.C. and called Tom Foley's office and I got an aide who was called, I remember his name, Thad Lightfoot. [Interruption] He listened to me and then he (said), "I think you'd better talk to Heather Foley," which is his wife, Thomas Foley's wife, who was his administrative assistant. And she listened to me -- see, Mike Lowry's bill was in Congress then, because we started the national lobbying as soon as Mike's bill... see, the recommendation came out and Mike submitted his second bill. His first bill died and then when the recommendations came out in '83, Mike submitted this second bill immediately and this is what...

BF: In line with the recommendations.

CK: Yeah, right. And so this is where we started lobbying. And so we were a little ahead of the national, it took quite a while to get going on that. But, so getting back to Tom Foley, she must have been familiar with, Tom Foley must have been familiar with Mike Lowry's bill because she didn't ask that many questions, but she said, okay, she would talk to Tom Foley. He was in the hospital at that time with some minor surgery so I couldn't talk to him directly. And she talked to him and came back, called me and she asked a question, I cannot remember what that question was, but it was something to clarify the bill and I answered it and she went and told him and then called a second time back and said, "Yes, he will support the bill and sign onto Mike Lowry's bill." So I thought hey, this is easy. [Laughs] This is not bad at all, and I felt so good to have that.

BF: Do remember what your, how you would start? Would you always start with a personal story of how you personally were interned or did you have a strategy for how you would... because a lot of times they'll only give a few minutes.

CK: A few minutes, right.

BF: What would you say?

CK: I did so many different things. It's hard to pinpoint one. 'Cause you know, I'd try one way and usually, you start out, "Do you know there is a bill in Congress," or like on the state level, "Do you know that a vote is coming up on the committee for this bill?" And, "If you have any questions about the bill..." You know, I put it that way so then, it's up to them to ask me. I don't want to force it on them. And so that was one of the tactics I used. But as I say, I think Heather Foley knew the bill and Tom Foley knew the bill. But anyway, that was the first success and then that's when I thought, "Hey, this is a snap." [Laughs] But then following that was Brock Adams, who is always supportive. Brock Adams had supported Henry way back when Henry first had his plan. So he was -- and I caught him at a fundraising thing at Nobi Chan's house. And at that time -- that's another good thing to do, is to catch 'em on the campaign trail when they're talking before people and then you put the question, "Will you support this?" and they have to answer in front of people and if they do even halfway commit, then you follow up and say, "You did say this." So Brock Adams said immediately, he would support it. And then later I would go back and ask for a letter or something to commit. John Miller was the same. I caught him at a fundraiser. And so these people who were supportive, we could initially get and we got those on early. Then those who signed on to Mike Lowry's bill -- then Mike gave way to Jim Wright and Mineta's bill -- and so all the forty-some that Ruthann had gotten plus the few, they all signed over to the Wright/Mineta bill, so that was a nice little chunk.

BF: So you kind of gave them a little step ahead of the process.

CK: Right, uh-huh.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

BF: What do you think were your main strengths as a lobbyist, I mean, sort of comparing your style, and who you are with other JACL'ers who were lobbying Congress at the time.

CK: Well getting back to the state. This was interesting because I went down once with Jerry Shigaki and we, we made an appointment with this one who was very, very negative and so I was telling him about the camp experience, what it did and, you know, fairly personal kind of things and I was getting a little emotional about it. And I turned and looked at, and Jerry was looking me like this, as if, "What is she saying?" [Laughs] But after we got through, and he, this legislator didn't commit, but he said he'd think about it. And we got out to the hallway and Jerry said, "You were really, you were really torn up about that, weren't you?" Or something like that, you know. Even to this day, at a JACL meeting, he said, "I worked with Cherry and she cried talking about redress." [Laughs] But that's the one advantage, being a woman and having experienced it, is you can let the emotion come out. A male, a man could not do that very easily, and I can't see any of these Nisei fellows going out and doing that. So, in a sense, it works for me, even though I really felt it, it helped, because it showed the depth of the feeling that we had.

Plus, when we were talking to Ron Sims recently on an interview, he said his colleagues would say, "You know, this is, that woman from Seattle, Cherry what's her name, that bill," you know. So it got to be that... I was down there so often, I guess. I said, no, I wasn't down there that often, but it got to be identified. That's one thing I've found. Get to the point of being an individual to them. Like with Al Swift in Everett. We went up, oh, time after time with different people. We used... and you know you can't get an appointment just by saying, "We'd like to talk about the redress bill." You have to have, after the first time and they put you off, then you have to have some reason for going there again. Well, we almost devised reasons. There was somebody who wrote to us and said they knew Al Swift, they knew a teacher -- they both know this teacher who was going to be honored, or died or something, but they had some link. And I said, "Well, Mayme, why don't you come with us the next time we go to see Al Swift?" So then on the basis of that, I got the appointment, saying there is an old schoolmate of Representative Swift who would like to see him, and so they made the appointment for him. But you had to -- they'd put you off, "Oh you've been here before, we've talked about it." So you have to figure out reasons or use a deadline. "There's going to be a committee vote, such and such a committee, and we need to see if you have any questions about that because that vote's coming up and you're going to have to vote on that." So different things like that. Or, you almost have to be creative.

But as I'm saying about being an individual, it got so, persistency is the other thing... so he knew me by name. Al Swift. I mean, I wasn't just one of the crowd. And one time his reasoning was so strange of why he opposed it. He would say, "Yeah, I support it but this $20,000, it trivializes it." And we said, "Well, how?" And said, "Well, it's not, it's not... it makes the injustice, the people who did this, it lets them off too easy." We couldn't figure that out. Well, then we'll ask for $100,000. [Laughs] But why would you oppose... if $20,000 is acceptable to us as a token, and we'd like to see the bill passed because then it's a token that, you know, Congress agrees. But he just couldn't get past that. And I think it was, he had an aide, a Sansei from Hawaii and he was mouthing what Senator Inouye had said initially, that it trivialized the event. But Representative Swift sort of put his own little personal quirk to that in saying, it wasn't... on the one hand he'd say it wasn't enough, but yet he wasn't willing to go more.

BF: Right. Just that far.

CK: So, and we're telling him we're the ones who say it's acceptable. Not... so I got a little irritated with him once and I said just that sort of thing. I said, "We're the ones that find it acceptable and why do you keep saying it's not on the basis of how it affects the people who did this?" Anyway, afterwards I thought, "Oh God, you don't speak that way to a representative when you're trying to get his support." So I worried about that and worried about that. And so Easter was coming up, so I thought, "Well I'll just do this." I went out and got a real nice plant and I went up to, to Everett and he wasn't there, but I left it with a nice card.

BF: So to his house?

CK: No, his office.

BF: Oh, okay.

CK: Yeah, because I wouldn't know where he lives. To his office and then his aide, I'd gotten to know her quite well. So anyway, she told him, I guess, you know, I'd brought it all the way up. But anyway it got to the point where he was calling me, "Cherry," you know, and this and that. And that works with all of 'em. If they begin to know you as a person, they know if they vote no, they're going to have to tell you they voted no. And so this is why, it's persistence, so that they know you. They know Becky. "Becky, you're the one that came down and asked for my support on this." You know, I have to think twice before I have to tell you that, no, I didn't vote for it. This is, this is the thing you see. Becky had been down several times, hadn't you, on that.

BF: Yeah, I think with Jerry. [Laughs]

CK: So anyway, that's one thing I found out about -- oh, and to indicate the personalization of lobbying if you might call it that. And I didn't get a chance to say this at the conference because my time ran out, but on the day of the vote, September 17th -- when Mineta had asked for that vote to be taken on that commemorating the anniversary of the Constitution -- that day, we were all kind of waiting and the phone rings. And then Don Bonker, who had been resisting all this time, said... he was all, I don't know, distracted, and he said, he was talking about he missed the vote. I said, "You mean the vote for the bill?" And he said, "No, I missed the committee -- I was in a committee meeting, I missed the vote for the Lungren amendment." Dan Lungren had submitted an amendment cutting out monetary and Don Bonker was saying, "I missed the vote and I didn't get a chance to vote 'no,'" and then he said, "But I'm gonna vote for the bill." And so I was surprised that he would call me and apologize for not, you know, missing that vote. Then later that day the phone rings and I pick it up and, "This is Al." Al? "Al Swift." And he says, "I wanted to let you know that I voted for the bill." I said, "Oh, thank you so much," and all that. But they get to know you. They get to know you're a constituent, you want to know if they voted for the bill. And so, this, I think it ties up to the fact that you've got to be more than just one individual of that group, that group that wants it. You have to make yourself known as a person. And the only way to do that is just get in their face. [Laughs]

BF: All the time.

CK: Get in their face and they want to get rid of you, kind of thing. But the whole experience of lobbying was just a tremendous experience. And I saw somewhere, I think Mineta had said that when you get a vote, how exhilarating it is. I didn't realize for that level, too, it's the same thing, and it, when you get a 'yes' vote, that's... another one, interesting, was Rod Chandler, he held out until the very day of the vote. And then that day, his aide called and said he was so impressed with the meeting, that Tomio and Tim Gojio and I had gone to meet with him, and at that meeting he had kept saying, "No, no." He had some objections and when we were leaving I said, "Well, Representative Chandler, could we tell our group that at least you'll..." And then he interrupted me and he said, "No," he says, "tell your group you went away disappointed." So he just cut us off and so, I thought, oh...

BF: It doesn't sound good.

CK: Yeah. It doesn't sound good and so as we were leaving and we were shaking hands and then I, when I shook his hands I made one last try. I said, "Congressman Chandler, when it comes to the vote, just remember that if nothing else, it's the right thing to do. Please remember that." And we left, you know. So then on that day, after his aide called and said that he's gonna vote for it. I had C-Span on and they were doing the proceedings and here I didn't see Swift, I didn't see any of them talking. Here's Congressman Chandler standing up there, on the podium saying, we must do this, etceteras, etceteras, that this is only just. And he said, "I thought about this for a long time and in my mind I had difficulty, but in my heart, it told me that I must do it because it's the right thing to do." [Laughs]

BF: [Laughs] Did you jump up?

CK: No, I just... no, it was, it was, I don't know how this is going to be used, but it was quite revealing that politicians are politicians. [Interruption] You know, it could have been there was word from the Republicans that, "Let's vote for this bill." There could have been somebody, his colleagues or Lowry or whatever saying, "Come on, you've got to vote for it." All these things can enter into it. [Interruption]

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

BF: Well, but you know, at the conference when I would ask people why they thought ultimately the Civil Liberties Act passed, because it had so many things stacked against it, the comment I kept hearing coming up that surprised me was people saying because, the justness of it was so right. Because there was no other way really you could take it.

CK: Yeah, I don't know what --

BF: For someone who's cynical, it was, you know, surprising.

CK: I don't know what percentage -- if you want to put a percentage on it -- that worked. But you heard you know, some of the back, behind the beltway scenes of what happens in terms of getting people to support it. I mean, there could be many things. Senator Inouye himself -- now this gets into appropriations -- but an example is, he called in his chits. Now they refer to that as you know, "You owe me because I helped you on this bill." There's that going on. And you don't know exactly what made a person vote for it. Sometimes it's just, the leadership says, "This is an issue we need to support. Some, like those congressmen who are in states where there are no constituent Nikkei. Then it took maybe just one Nikkei, finding that one, this is for Grace Uyehara, of the national JACL was important. To locate somebody in Georgia who knew and could talk to Pat Swindall, who was very important to the passage. And she met with him and we have, we've been able to videotape that meeting, you know, recalling Pat Swindall and that he supported it. And as Grant says, he was a born-again Christian, but he had certain ties with the, I don't know quite how it fit in, but the abortion, anti-abortion group or whatever. But all these very many facets of things enter into it and just the pure altruistic principle that it was justice... I'm with you, I'm cynical to the extent that I don't think, I think that did play a part, but maybe not as hundred percent as one would think.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

BF: Was there organized opposition? 'Cause that's another thing I've heard as why it passed, is that there wasn't really good organized opposition.

CK: No, the opposition was helpful. Because Lillian Baker was such a weird person. I mean, her reasoning... when you look, I mean, it angered you some of the things she said and claimed, but it helped to strengthen the support because she was so outlandish. She did have some supporters, though. She had some people here in the Kent Valley who came out to the hearings and there were at least two very strong Baker colleagues who testified. There was opposition from the veterans.

BF: Oh. Throughout the process or just at the beginning?

CK: Well, locally, Nisei veterans were opposed at the beginning and they gradually came on board. But the majority of the veterans organizations, VFW, American Legion, at first, at first, in the first instance they would oppose it because they still link in their minds Japanese Americans somehow tied with Japan, the enemy, and we had to get around that. So we had some people, Art Morimitsu for one, was tremendous in getting to the veteran's organizations and you know, pleading the case and making them realize that this was an American issue, that this was a constitutional issue and it wasn't a matter of the enemy, Japan, and we, in a sense looking like the enemy and this kind of thing. So that was important to get that support or at least a neutral position and that was what was accomplished, so that you didn't have this outpouring of negative, "Don't support the bill," from the veterans groups. Because that would have been very difficult to overcome.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

BF: Okay, this is sort of a big question. I want to ask you, in hindsight, do you think the Civil Liberties Act accomplished the ultimate goals, the big goals of getting redress? And you can sort of decide what those goals are yourself.

CK: I don't know, phrasing it as getting redress...

BF: Accomplished?

CK: Because redress was a process... but did it accomplish what we wanted? Actually, I was thinking about that because I questioned, when we talked with Mike Lowry, I wonder if there could have been some other way to accomplish redress, not necessarily monetary, individual. We did have in the past the social security and the federal service, the addition of the time to our earnings credit and so forth. They didn't make a lot of difference, but at least it was a sign of the government acknowledging it. And then we had the "American Promise" which was acknowledging the rescission of E.0. 9066 and acknowledging that, the loyalty of Japanese Americans. But as somebody pointed out, "That was not an apology," and you reread that and yes, it doesn't constitute an apology, it's an admission that it was a wrong, but...

Oh, as I was saying, as I was talking, asking Congressman, or Mike Lowry now, I guess, how he viewed it, I said, could there have been, say, I mean, just taking an example, there could be, I guess, all kinds of things. But, lifetime medical for internees on the presumption that the camp had damaged them physically. I think there are many people who can validly claim that the treatment they received in the hospitals as such, whether that would -- the reason I asked him that was because we saw some ugliness in the monetary. I mean people, for instance, I'd see one of the questions of people who didn't support it in the beginning and yet when it came to pass, first in the line kind of thing as if it were their due, in terms of, "I earned it because I was in camp." Not realizing that when they were asked to help in this years and years of struggle, they couldn't, they couldn't lift a finger. That, that was excusable. But some of the other ugliness I talk about is we've heard that there were families that deliberately left out other family members in reporting, you know, when you report who's all in your family. Because there were some family problems, or there was some family dissension. There were some feelings of, "Where's my check?" You know, this kind of stuff. And it was kind of disheartening to see that. That was, you know, the money part of it. But Mike's answer was that, the same thing, when you go to court it's damages and we're talking about monetary. That's what our system, how it's based. And he didn't see any other way to do it. And the fact that it was individual was helpful because it wasn't just a block grant and many people would not have had any benefit or whatever from it.

But as to whether it accomplished what we were looking for, I think it did in the sense -- as we said in talking about this -- how it brought out the feelings. How it finally, people were able to, I think, put closure to the whole thing. I mean, it keeps going on. I mean, like these things, it keeps coming up, but I think it puts closure to the emotional part of any bitterness that at least the government apologized. At least there was admission by vast numbers of people that it was wrong. That you know, there wasn't disloyalty. I mean, being incarcerated, the implication that there was something that we had to be incarcerated for. You wiped that out. And so I think, I think that yes, it did. There might be, there might have been some other things that could have been better maybe. But I think essentially our goals will be met and this is ongoing, too. I mean, we're still talking about it so you know, there is no point at which we say it... 'til we are gone I guess. And maybe it'll take historians many more years to... that's, that's a question I have: will this be forgotten, or will this remain in history? Will it be said that in 1942 there were 120,000 people sent to concentration camps? But along with it, will it be said that through the efforts of this small minority, the government did apologize. I think that's an important part of history.

BF: Yeah, both were pretty amazing events. First the incarceration and then secondly, the amazing success of this minority population with no real political power or leverage, not like this huge base of money, to do this and accomplish what they did. And yet it seems as though the larger population knows very little about both these events still.

CK: Still and I think that's too because as new generations come along, they aren't aware of it and probably more people who were adults you know, during that period would be more, can relate to it more. But you wonder how long or how far reaching it will last. Some people claim it will go down in history and others, I guess you can get cynical about it saying, "So who would care, fifty years from now, a hundred years from now?" I think in our time, though, it is something that I think was unbelievable in thinking that it could be accomplished. 1.65 billion in Congress. That's amazing.

BF: During deficit years.

CK: Yeah, right, yeah.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

BF: Well, so how do you think that you were... I mean, you said yourself, you said half your lifetime working on redress. What do you think it changed about you? The whole process.

CK: It's hard to say because I don't have another life. [Laughs]

BF: Well, I mean, I guess, how do you think you... I don't know, were altered or developed by the process?

CK: Well, I don't know. If I hadn't become involved in redress, would I have... see, I don't know for myself. Would I have become... well, I can say that during the Vietnam protest, I did in a minimal way get involved. So I suppose I would be, like the nuclear test ban, that I'm very much concerned about, had been all along. So I guess I would have been involved in other things. So it didn't change my focus, probably. I mean, who knows? But I think the, why redress was so close is because you know, when it involves you personally. I mean, it's not like environmental issues. Yes, they do involve you, but not so closely, so, so very, very personally. So I don't know how it would have been if I didn't get involved in redress.

BF: There must be some gene, I think, responsible for why people either have sort of a consciousness or a desire to be involved or not. Because it just always amazes me how some people just for whatever, will always be involved in something they believe in and some people just never will.

CK: I don't know. I've wondered about that, too. In terms of how do you, I guess it's somewhat like, how do you develop a conscience? Can you say, you know, how did you get so you feel guilty about this or that? You know, where does it come from? Does it come from environment, does it come from parents, what? I don't know. I can't find the answer and I don't think social scientists can really find an answer to that, either. Because I can't relate it to any particular injustice that I experienced. I can cite a few points of discrimination, but nothing real traumatic. I mean, I always knew. You look at the mirror, you know you're different. And I didn't experience anything that was terribly traumatic, so it's a good question. I don't know. If you find the answer, let me know. [Laughs]

BF: You could market it.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

BF: Is there anything that you would like, I guess, future generations to learn from your experiences, both in redress and in being in the camps? That you'd like to sort of pass on?

CK: Well, I guess it's... one thing would be to get involved. I mean, things don't happen just because they're right or wrong. You've got to work at it and whatever you can do as one individual, even though you may think it doesn't matter, you know, what does one vote or one this or that do? How hard you work at it can have ripples in terms of how it can affect others and I think that's true with all of us. Every one of our lives affects a certain area or people you are in contact (with). And if you hadn't been around, maybe this hadn't happen, or whatever. So I think one should feel that whatever they do, not regard it as insignificant. Because, you know, that person may affect another person. Even one other person can make a difference. So, I guess one should say that, value what you do and I guess believe in what you're doing. I mean don't... I guess people could have a goal of being rich, having a nice lifestyle and for them, that's a goal. As long as they can accomplish it without hurting a lot of other people, then that's fine. What else could I say for future generations? Live your life as you feel that suits you, I guess. Each person has different goals. I think part of it is knowing yourself, if you feel good about something. And if you don't, you've got to ask why. Why am I not happy doing this, what I'm doing? Or what is it that I need to do to make me feel good inside that I'm doing? Or if you're... I don't know, sometimes you wonder about all the political bad stuff that comes out. How do those people feel when they're doing that? How can they live with themselves if they are doing things like that? So anyway, I would say, be true to yourselves. Be able to look yourself in the mirror and say you feel good about it.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TL: It strikes me that the redress movement has become another defining moment in Japanese American and really people of color, in a broader sense for constitutional rights, for civil rights, for all the things we've talked about. And I'm interested in what you think is next, kind of post-redress. Where would you like to see the community put its next efforts and continue to grow?

CK: Yeah, I think as far as JACL goes -- and I'm so wrapped up in that organization, although I'm getting away from it now -- I think there is this period, sort of a floundering around, what is the next big issue? What is it? Something that we can all be united on and really, no qualms about fighting for and so forth? I don't know... I think I'd like to see a lot more effort put into the multicultural generation that's coming up. Because for one, my granddaughter is half Japanese and half of Norwegian descent and I don't know at this point whether the multicultural, the mixed races are going to have problems or not. And if so, shouldn't we be doing something about it? Shouldn't we... and not necessarily problems, but maybe things to benefit. Is it going to be essentially no... to the point where it's not going to matter at all, in terms of race? Are we reaching that point where we're so, getting so mixed and with outmarriages and all that we don't need to? Then the question comes up, are we losing our culture? Are we getting so, for instance, my granddaughter, is she ever going to be interested in Japanese culture? Is she going to be interested? So you're looking at two things, one, of reaching a point where it won't matter, but on the other, do you really want it that way, so that you don't retain some of the culture and some of the things that we like to feel are definitely Japanese American? Because as far as Japanese Americans go, as we know it, I don't think we're going to ever have that population again. Because we don't have the immigration and it's entirely different. Other Asian groups I think have the continuing stream so it's not defined like ours where we have Issei, Nisei, Sansei and we are down to Yonsei and Gosei and maybe that is going to be, you know, the end of it.

So, as far as issues go, let's face it. We still have racism, as long as we look like we do, we still have that and it's, maybe a matter of arriving at each problem as it comes. I mean, we've got this Asian violence now, what are we going to do about that? And actually, is it our responsibility? Because they're Asian, does that mean we need to carry the burden or the load of saying hey, this is reflecting on all Asians, or do we have that right or authority to say that any more than we do, to say an African American or a Native American or a Caucasian, you know, if they are into crime and whatever. We as just general public, yes, but should we take any more responsibility because it's Asian? I don't know. These are questions that I'll leave for your generation to figure out. [Laughs]

BF: [Laughs] Thank you. I'm going to do our verbal slate now. We, this is a Densho interview of Cherry Kinoshita. And the interviewers are Becky Fukuda and Tracy Lai. It is September 26, 1997 and we are in Seattle, Washington.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.