Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Atsumi Ozawa Interview
Narrator: Atsumi Ozawa
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Skokie, Illinois
Date: June 17, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-oatsumi-01-0014

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TI: And so it was your mother that decided? You said your mother, not your father?

AO: My father was, he was dead already.

TI: Oh, so talk about that.

AO: Uh-huh.

AO: Okay, when we got in camp, that was... I don't know what year. 1944. And the same year that we got in camp, August the 26th, my dad passed away, the year that we got in camp.

TI: And so what happened? Why did he die?

AO: I think there was, in camp we had a hospital. But first he had, I think he had some kind of operation. I think it was, I don't know, but a hemorrhoid operation, and then after that I don't know, something else. And then I heard he had some brain tumor or something, brain tumor. Because when we were in Japanese class, somebody came to tell us, "You better go see your dad," because he was kind of in a coma or something. So we went to see my dad. At that time, he couldn't even talk. So yeah, in the same year.

TI: So I'm thinking about your mother and how hard it must have been for her.

AO: Yeah. And then my father was sent to San Antonio, Texas, a different (city)... I don't know, I had the name of the hospital, but he was sent to the other hospital because they didn't have any facilities in camp, I guess, to cure him, or I don't know what it was. So we heard that, I think they say, "You better go see your dad." So a police lady took my mom and myself, and she drove us to the hospital.

TI: In San Antonio?

AO: In San Antonio. And I went there, and I was at the door over here, and my dad was laying someplace around there. But I don't know why the police lady, they didn't want to... they didn't get close to my dad. We didn't go close to my father, you know.

TI: They wouldn't let you get close?

AO: I don't know what it was, but we were at the door, and then I saw my dad there, but my dad looked so good. He really looked real good when I saw him. And then the lady said, "Oh, it's lunchtime, so we better go have lunch." So we went to eat lunch, and then the soldier, one soldier came and said, "Your dad passed away."

TI: Just in that short time?

AO: The short time.

TI: And he looked, right before, he looked really good?

AO: He looked so good. Really, he looked so good.

TI: Was his eyes open?

AO: Yeah. He was laying there, I saw him, and he looked real good. But at that time, now, I think, boy, I should have, if I knew English or something, I could have told the lady, "Let me at least hold his hand or something," you know. But we don't know what was going on either at the time. We told her we're just going to go and come back or something. No, we were just standing there for a very short time, then she says, "Let's go eat lunch," and then we went to eat lunch, and then they told us he died.

TI: It must have been an incredible shock to...

AO: Yeah, it was a shock. We couldn't even talk. We didn't say not even a word until we got to the camp, because it was kind of a shock for us. Then after we got in camp, we told my grandmother and the rest of the sisters that (he) died, you know, my father died. So then at the time we were just crying, crying real loud. It was so funny... and my grandmother said, "Oh, my gosh," she said in Japanese, "don't cry so loud." But I guess that was something we really...

TI: For you and your mother, did you save your tears, did you wait to cry until you got back to camp?

AO: Yeah.

TI: So you didn't cry in the hospital?

AO: No. I don't know why, but I guess we couldn't believe it or something. I don't know what it was. We didn't even speak, not even a word until we got into camp.

TI: And I'm guessing it's just like shock, you just...

AO: Like a shock, I think, yeah.

TI: And so in terms of the service for your father...

AO: It was a very nice service because there were so many kaikyoushi, priests? Do they call priests, Buddhist? Many. There were like, I don't know, maybe ten. They gave a real nice funeral.

TI: So all ten of them, they all participated?

AO: They all, with their robe and everything.

TI: And they were chanting?

AO: Yeah, chanting. And at that time, we didn't have any dark clothes, you know, so there was a place where they dye our clothes, they dye it black for all my sisters and myself and my mom and my grandmother.

TI: That's so hard. When I think about your mother and you.

AO: Yeah, because we're in a country where we didn't speak English, and we didn't know anybody, so it was, "Oh, now what is gonna happen?"

TI: Now, your family, so they had a Buddhist priest there to help, but you were also Catholic. Were there any Catholic priests or anyone there to help?

AO: No. I guess us children, we were Catholic, you know, so it was so funny. There was one priest that used to come, Catholic priest that used to come every Sunday, and we used to run there to attend the mass. But we were just kind of hiding because at Japanese school, they didn't want, they say, "Don't speak any Spanish, no Spanish, no English." So us, we were so afraid of the Japanese teacher, so we used to hide and go to the Catholic church on Sundays.

TI: And was the Catholic priest good to you?

AO: Yes, uh-huh. Yeah, he probably was surprised that we used to go there.

TI: Wow, what a story.

AO: Yeah, it really was. Well, it was rough. After my mom lost the baby, and then now my dad, he passed away. And five of us, and I was the oldest, and (Chieko) was the youngest, seven years old.

TI: And so who helped your mother the most? Was it her mother or you? When I think of your mother, it must have been very, very hard for her. Did she need support, or was she just really strong and bear it, or how did you all cope?

AO: Gee, my mother must have been very strong, really, (in New Jersey). And then after the war ended, we had to go to, the camp closed, so we went to Seabrook Farms to work. So we all, I work at the factory, and then my sister, she was underage, and so she worked at the cafeteria. And my two sisters, sometimes they used to go pick beans, and they used to get dollar or something, I think. Right, Chie? Well, somehow I never felt that we were hungry. I never felt that I had to borrow money or we need money to buy groceries. I don't think, I never experienced that. Yeah.

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