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

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so Atsumi, we're going to start your interview.

AO: Okay.

TI: And so I start this with the date and everything, so today is Friday, June 17, 2011. We're in the Chicago area at the home of Jean Mishima. And in the room we have your sister Chieko, and Jean's in the room. On camera is Dana Hoshide, I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda, and we have Atsumi Ozawa. So Atsumi, I'm going to start, and can you tell me when you born?

AO: When? May 25, 1928, in Huancayo, Peru.

TI: Okay, and tell me where Huancayo is. How close is that to, like, the closest city?

AO: The closest city was Jauja. I think it was, by train it was one hour. That was the closest.

TI: And so how big was Huancayo? Like how many people lived there?

AO: Oh, I think I wrote it someplace in here... excuse me.

TI: Oh, that 64,000?

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: Okay, 64,000.

AO: I copied from somewhere, I don't know if it's correct.

TI: So it's a pretty big town, it's 64,000. And in Huancayo, how many Japanese, about, do you think were living there?

AO: Gee...

TI: Maybe hundreds?

AO: Well, in school there were like a hundred children, so yeah, probably...

TI: Probably several hundred then.

AO: Yeah, not too many. There wasn't too many.

TI: And what was the name, when you were born, what was the name given to you?

AO: Atsumi Angelica Suzuki.

TI: And you told me earlier that when you were born, baptized, you were Catholic, so you have a godfather. Who was your godfather.

AO: I forgot his name. [Laughs] It's a Peruvian, and at the time after the World War II, my godfather become a mayor of Huancayo.

TI: So he became a very important person.

AO: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: And he was your godfather. Now, after he was mayor, did you ever see him or talk with him?

AO: Yes, I did. I went to get a letter from my dad, because my dad was hiding, and he used to send a letter through my (godfather), so I remember going to his place and there was two policemen at the entrance, but they let me in. And he used to give me the letter that my (father) used to send him.

TI: And this is when he was hiding, this is during the war? Or when was your father hiding?

AO: During the war.

TI: Okay, so we'll get to that later, that's interesting.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let's talk about your father. Can you tell me your father's name?

AO: My father's name is Eiichi Suzuki. Eiichi Kuhara, I'm sorry, Eiichi Kuhara.

TI: Okay. And tell me, your father, where he was from in Japan.

AO: My father was from Saga-ken, Kyushu.

TI: And so do you know how old he was when he came to Peru?

AO: Nineteen years old.

TI: And now let's talk about your mother. What was your mother's name?

AO: My mother's name is Kin Suzuki, K-I-N.

TI: And do you know how old she was when she came?

AO: I think she must have been nineteen because she finished high school in Japan, and she went to Peru to reunite with (her parents).

TI: Okay. So she came from Japan after high school, your grandparents were already in Peru.

AO: Yes.

TI: And what did your grandparents do in Peru?

AO: I don't know when they just got there, I don't know what, but I remember at the end, my grandmother used to own a restaurant.

TI: And you told me earlier, but tell me again, what kind of food did she serve at the restaurant?

AO: Peruvian food.

TI: And what would that be? What are some examples?

AO: Like stew and noodles and a lot of soups. She used to make a lot of soup, I remember. And then desserts, Peruvian dessert. [Laughs]

TI: And so describe that dessert.

AO: Okay, one of the dessert, she used to buy that dried corn, the purple one, and she used to boil that and she used to put some pineapple and cinnamon and probably lemon or something and sugar, and then cornstarch to... well, she drained that, and then strain it, and then put cornstarch to make it like a pudding.

TI: Okay, that sounds delicious.

AO: Yeah, she used to put some dried fruit, too.

TI: When you were born, so your given name was Atsumi Angelica, but then the last thing you used was Suzuki. And so that's your mother's last name, 'cause your father's last name was Kuhara.

AO: That's right.

TI: So why Suzuki and not Kuhara.

AO: Because my dad went to yoshi, and my mom was the only daughter and they didn't want to lose their last name, so she kind of like adopted my dad. [Laughs]

TI: So the family adopted your dad so that he could carry on the family name?

AO: My mother's name.

TI: And so your mother and father had many children, and so let's talk about all the children. And can you tell me, from the oldest to the youngest, all the children.

AO: Okay. The oldest one, Aiko, Hiroko, myself, Atsumi, Suzuko, Manabu, Masumi, Chieko.

TI: Good. So six girls and one boy. Now, did your parents treat your brother differently because he was the only boy versus...

AO: I think so. [Laughs]

TI: So how did they do that?

AO: Oh, I think he used to take him all over, wherever he goes he used to take my brother, and he used to even bought a special outfit, cowboy outfit. I think he was very special.

TI: So he got special treatment because he was the boy.

AO: Yes, uh-huh. I don't think he was spoiled or anything, but I'm sure my dad must have been very happy to have a son. [Laughs]

TI: So what did you think? You were older, did you ever think that's not fair, that your younger brother maybe got special clothes or got to go with your father?

AO: No, I didn't feel that.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So I want to now talk about your school. So describe your school in Huancayo, and like first, tell me how far away did you have to go to school?

AO: Like a mile. We'd walk there. We went home for lunch, one hour lunch, and then we started from nine o'clock in the morning to four-thirty in the afternoon, five days a week. And then Saturday, half a day Saturday.

TI: Okay, so that's much, much longer than what school is like in the United States. I think it's like maybe nine to three, five days a week. So you're going many, many more hours. How come your days were so much longer? You had so many more hours, why do you think you had to school so much longer?

AO: Oh, because we used to learn two languages, Japanese and Spanish. I guess there's much more to learn both language.

TI: And so explain your school. So your school was with all Japanese?

AO: All Japanese.

TI: And so this was a school that the Japanese, I guess, community put together for the Japanese students.

AO: Uh-huh.

TI: And so you learned... so it was like a combination of Japanese language school, Japanese school and Peruvian school all together.

AO: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: Okay. So tell me a typical day in terms of the subjects you would learn in your school.

AO: The subjects?

TI: Yeah, the topics, or what would you learn?

AO: Well, we learned like any other school. Math, reading, writing and geography, history, and Japanese. We even learned shuuji, writing with a brush.

TI: Oh, so like calligraphy?

AO: Calligraphy, yeah. And art, and then the Spanish lady, she used to teach us how to crochet and sew a little bit. So we used to have to have nine different pieces in one year. So at the end of the year they used to demonstrate and arrange everything that we made, so the parents used to come and kind of look at our work.

TI: Now when you would learn something like your arithmetic or mathematics, did they teach that in Japanese or in Spanish?

AO: I think most of it was in Japanese. In Spanish, less than, because Japanese math was much more advanced, so it was more in Japanese.

TI: And then when they teach history, what kind of history would you learn? Japanese history or Peruvian history?

AO: In Japanese class, Japanese history. And in Spanish class, Peruvian history.

TI: Now, would they also teach about, like, Japanese folktales? Like when I grew up, I learned about, like Momotaro and things like that. Would you learn that in school also?

AO: Yes, we did.

TI: So it sounds like you got a combination of both, like, a typical school in Japan, plus Spanish. It was like both. And tell me again, how large was this school? You said a hundred?

AO: Yeah about a hundred students.

TI: And this went from what grade to what grade?

AO: Kindergarten to seventh grade.

TI: And how many students were in your class?

AO: In my class? Seven.

TI: Okay, and all Japanese.

AO: Yes.

TI: Good. And so after seventh grade, what school did you go to?

AO: I went to Lima to a Japanese girls high school.

TI: And how far was Lima away?

AO: Taking the train it was, it took us seven and a half hours.

TI: So seven and a half hours by train.

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: So this was a long, long ways.

AO: Long way.

TI: And how much larger was Lima than Huancayo?

AO: Gee, oh, much larger I think. I don't know if I brought it...

TI: But a much bigger city.

AO: Yeah, much bigger. It was the capital. Lima was the capital of Peru.

TI: That seems like it would be kind of scary for a young girl to go to a big city by yourself.

AO: I was with my sister. My sister was two years ahead of me in this girls school.

TI: Okay, Hiroko?

AO: Uh-huh.

TI: And how was school different in Lima than if you'd went to school in Huancayo?

AO: (Lima school was much larger. The girls and boys were separated.)

TI: Okay. And so why do you think your father and mother wanted you to go so far away to school?

AO: Probably my dad find out there was a special school in there. The oldest one, she stayed there and went to Catholic school and finished high school in the Catholic (school) but I don't know why my second sister and myself, Dad sent us to Lima.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Now I'm curious about the people in Huancayo. So there are several hundred Japanese in a fairly large town, who were the other people in Huancayo?

AO: Oh, mostly Peruvians. Once a week on Sundays, the Inca descendents people, they used to come to sell their things, their craft, and their vegetables, whatever they were growing. So every Sunday we used to have a fair. (They still have a fair every Sunday.)

TI: Oh, like a big market, public market?

AO: Yes. And they showed their things that they made, lot of woven things like a blanket and things like that.

TI: Okay, and is this one? Why don't you show that.

AO: Uh-huh. This is so small. This is real small.

TI: And how would the large ones be? How big would they be?

AO: Oh, that squash, you know how big it grows? Like that.

TI: And so they would paint and carve that.

AO: It's just carving each one. See, there's people in here. I don't know if you notice that. That's a harvest time, I think. I think first they plant the seed, and then it grows, and the harvest.

TI: And who would buy it from the Inca people?

AO: Many foreign people from different countries, they used to come to Huancayo.

TI: Oh, so like tourists?

AO: Tourists, yeah. The tourists.

TI: And this is before the war?

AO: Yes. Many tourists used to come to buy this to take a souvenir.

TI: And which countries would these tourists come from?

AO: I don't know. To me it looked like they were Americans.

TI: Americans, Europeans, too?

AO: Europeans, probably, uh-huh.

TI: And so what was Huancayo known for? Why would tourists come to Huancayo?

AO: Because of the fair, all the craft they used to make. Oh, and then I think my dad used to sell ham, that was a specialty of Huancayo, and people used to come from different states in Peru, they used to come to buy that whole legs, and maybe to buy (for) their store, or to take a souvenir to their family or whatever.

TI: And so it's the marketplace, the special ham, and how about just the location? Was it a beautiful place to visit?

AO: Not really. [Laughs] But of course, the mountain was walking distance, and the river, too. The river was very close. I don't think it was...

TI: Not so beautiful, or it was okay?

AO: Well, yeah, there was interesting, the mountain was kind of pretty, I think.

TI: And Huancayo, we talked about earlier, is very high up. I think it's over 10,000 feet, so did people have, tourists when they came, did they have a hard time breathing because of the altitude?

AO: Yes.

TI: And so what would happen? Would some of them faint?

AO: Yeah, they used to get sick. [Laughs] Yeah, they used to get sick.

TI: Because when I go really high altitudes, when I hike, sometimes you get headaches and things like that.

AO: Yes, uh-huh. My sister, every time we go to Huancayo, even though she was born there, she gets sick. Every time we go to Huancayo, she used to get sick.

TI: Because just the altitude is so high?

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: But you growing there, you didn't get sick because you got used to it?

AO: I guess so. But I don't know why my sister, the second one, right? Yeah, poor thing. But she wanted to take us there, but of course she always, never fail, she used to get sick.

TI: So we talked about, so we have Japanese, we have the descendants from the Incas, kind of the indigenous people, what other kind of races were there? Did they have like European... or tell me about the other people. You mentioned maybe Chinese?

AO: Well, there was once, many years ago, the Conquistador, you know, from Spain, so I'm sure that many mixed with the Spaniards from Spain, people from Spain.

TI: And so was the, kind of the group in charge of Huancayo? Like the wealthy people, the politicians, what kind of background were they?

AO: Probably the wealthy people.

TI: More from maybe the Conquistador, Spanish side?

AO: No, I think they were more mixed, different race.

TI: But Peruvians who lived there for a long time maybe?

AO: No, I guess the Peruvians that were mixed with the descendants of the Inca, they just stayed, they married their own people, so they weren't doing too well, I don't think. They weren't even getting too many education.

TI: Okay, so the Inca descendants, the indigenous people, so they weren't as well-educated and economically didn't do as well.

AO: (Yes, they didn't do well.)

TI: So the Japanese were doing better than they were, okay.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Let's talk about your father's business. So you mentioned a little bit that he served the hams, the special hams, what were some of the other goods that he served?

AO: Oh, butter. It was very good butter. And, let's see, what else that was a specialty, too? And then there were some, we used to call marja blanco, it's something like, some kind of paste, but it's made with milk and sugar, and they used to use like instead of jam, they used that marja blanco. It was a very special thing from Huancayo.

TI: And you also, I think, mentioned some imported goods? So talk about some of the things that he got from different countries.

AO: Liquor, canned food.

TI: So canned foods, liquor like champagne and wine?

AO: Yeah, from France, yes, wine.

TI: Canned food.

AO: Whiskey.

TI: Whiskey.

AO: Uh-huh.

TI: Do you remember what kind of whiskey?

AO: Johnny Walker. It was red label and black label. [Laughs]

TI: I know that, okay.

AO: I kind of remember a little bit.

TI: And like the canned foods, what kind of canned foods?

AO: Libby's and Del Monte, I remember those two.

TI: I think you mentioned cheeses also?

AO: Yeah, cheese from Switzerland and Holland. Sardines, he used to sell sardines, too, I think from Norway, I think it was sardines from Norway.

TI: You also talked about the barrels?

AO: Oh, it was olives, huge barrels, two barrels.

TI: And these were olives from, like, Italy?

AO: I think they came from Spain.

TI: Spain. Wow, so I'm just jotting this down, so they were from, like, many different countries. The United States, Switzerland, Spain...

AO: Cigarettes, too, from the United States.

TI: Cigarettes, I think you mentioned even one canned good from Japan, also.

AO: I remember just the one thing.

TI: Peaches, okay.


TI: Okay, so Atsumi, during the break, we were having a little candy, and when you opened the wrapper, it reminded you of something in your father's store. So can you tell me about that?

AO: Okay. My dad ordered bags made out of cellophane, heavy cellophane, and one was gold and the other one was royal blue. And he had it printed with gold writing, it says, "Antonio Suzuki Bodega Restaurant and Cafe, 446 and 448 Calle Real," the name of that street, and the telephone number.

TI: So it was a fancy store.

AO: Yes, it was that fancy. And the top, he added the tie, you know, even the tie. And when you fill up, when people used to buy candy, and we used to tie on the top and fold it.

TI: So he had to use special bags and things like that.

AO: Uh-huh.

TI: And who were the customers of your father's store?

AO: Middle class Peruvian, middle class and high class.

TI: And so did people like, earlier you mentioned the mayor, did he come to the store, the shop?

AO: Yes, the wife used to buy things.

TI: And your father could speak Spanish so he could get along with the customers and help them?

AO: My father, yeah. He had many Spanish friends, Peruvian friends.

TI: And in Huancayo, where was the store located?

AO: Oh, in the main street. In the main street where they had all the fairs, yeah, that was the main street.

TI: And so what was nearby your father's store? What were the other...

AO: Oh, it was the other small stores, like next was the restaurant, and the next was another Japanese, Araki-san, Mr. Araki, much smaller store than my dad. And yeah, there was many stores around there.

TI: And were very many of them run by Japanese or by Peruvians?

AO: A few Japanese and Peruvian.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So next I want to go to the wartime. On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, United States. How did you hear about the war in Peru? What news did you get about the war?

AO: I know that some of the customer used to come to the store and talk to my dad. You know, they were friends so they didn't say anything bad about Japan. I just heard that war... I didn't think anything, but I was surprised.

TI: So Japan attacked the United States, they didn't attack Peru. So was there a sense that Japan was going to be an enemy against Peru? Or why... I was just thinking why, what the Peruvians thought when Japan attacked the United States. Was there a fear that maybe Japan would also attack Peru?

AO: I wonder how they felt, because most of the Japanese businesses, it was owned by Japanese, most of the business. Maybe they were afraid.

TI: So like the Japanese businessmen in Peru, when they heard, what did they think? Were they, you said afraid, or were they maybe proud that Japan did something, or what was the feeling?

AO: I wonder how they felt, gee, I don't know. Maybe some, they thought Japan was going to win the war.

TI: How about your father? Did he ever say anything?

AO: I didn't hear anything. I think he didn't say anything. But at that time, there was, let's see, before the war, most of the Japanese, they used to own a business, so there was a riot against the Japanese.

TI: And this is before the war?

AO: Yeah, before.

TI: Before the war?

AO: Before, before.

TI: And what was the riot about?

AO: I really don't know, but I think that they were afraid. Like all the businesses was owned by, Japanese owned the business, and all the children, Japanese children, we all went to the Japanese school, not a Peruvian school, even were there, maybe all that, probably they wondered why.

TI: Oh, so people were kind of upset. They were saying, "The Japanese own the stores, they don't send their kids to the same school," and so maybe some resentment or bad feelings about Japanese?

AO: Probably, yeah.

TI: Go ahead.

AO: And then in Lima, when they rob all those Japanese stores, they went and steal everything. It was terrible.

TI: Did anything happen to your father's store?

AO: My father and a few policemen, they went to guard all the Japanese stores, so everyone was safe.

TI: So the authorities protected the Japanese, it was just the regular people? They were the ones?

AO: Yeah. (Narr. note: General Sanchez requested that such violence be stopped for the sake of law and order and common civility. From Adios to Tears by Seiichi Higashide.)

TI: And so now that Japan has now attacked the United States, did that change anything? Did people become more angry at Japanese after that?

AO: Gee, I don't know how they felt.

TI: So how did, did your life change at all? At school, did people start talking? Because you were at Lima right now?

AO: Yeah, I was in Lima.

TI: So at school, did people talk about...

AO: We all were afraid, I guess, we didn't know what was gonna happen. And then all the Japanese schoolteachers, they were sent to Japan to exchange with the American prisoners, the first ones. They didn't even go to camp, I think they went directly to Japan.

TI: Oh, so right away they were picked up, sent to Japan for exchange.

AO: Yeah. All the Japanese teachers, the Japanese schoolteachers and some of the Japanese that were, probably they were doing something with Japan or some connection or something, they were sent directly to Japan.

TI: And then were there any stories or did you hear about anything happening to the Japanese Peruvians during this time? Like maybe someone getting into a fight or getting beaten up or anything like that?

AO: Uh-uh.

TI: But earlier you said that some of the stores were, during the riot... and then after the riot, did things then get a little more quiet after that?

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: Now, did the school authorities tell you or your sister or the other girls special instructions like, "Be careful," or "don't go someplace," or things like that?

AO: Yeah, my dad said, "Don't go out." We were just staying home and then worry about what is gonna happen next.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: And so after Pearl Harbor, did you go back to Huancayo or did you stay in Lima?

AO: I went to Huancayo, yeah, because I was staying in... my sister got married to, she was married to (the son of Mr. and) Mrs. Hoshi that used to own the school. So I stayed there, because she had a few students staying in the school. And since she was sent to Japan, I went back to Huancayo.

TI: Okay. So Mrs. Hoshi went back to Japan, she was in Lima?

AO: She was in Lima. She used to own the school.

TI: And so when she left, then you went back to Huancayo.

AO: Yeah.

TI: And when you went back to Huancayo, was there anything different?

AO: Yeah, and my dad, I think he knew that he was on the black list, so he knew that someday they're gonna come after him. And they ordered to sell the business, but luckily my dad, he had a friend, Gomez, he was from Spain, I think, he bought the business. And then we were staying home, we didn't even want to go out because we were so afraid. But at the time, my mom was expecting a baby. So my dad and another, two other Japanese fellows, Mr. Ikenaga and Mr. Nakamura, they went to hide. I don't even know where it was because I think they never wanted to tell us where they were gonna go to hide. So he didn't say, and I don't even know where he was hiding. So...

TI: So let me ask a couple questions. So you mentioned that your dad found out that he was on the "black list." So describe what the black list was. What was, who were the people on this black list?

AO: Oh, the Japanese businessmen, the big ones. I think from Huancayo there was about four, I think, four Japanese that were in the black list.

TI: And the sense was they were gonna be picked up by the authorities?

AO: Yeah, uh-huh. Yes. But I don't know, my dad, before that, I guess (he knew he was going to be picked up by the detective so) he must have went to hide.

TI: And then you also mentioned that there was an order that the businessmen had to sell their stores?

AO: Yes.

TI: And then, so a friend bought it from your father?

AO: Yes.

TI: Do you know if your father got a good price for the store?

AO: Gee, that I don't know.

TI: Okay, so your father and two of his friends go into hiding, and then what happens next? Earlier you mentioned your godfather, the mayor. So tell me that story.

AO: Oh, through him, my dad used to send us a letter, so I used to go to see him. I said there was two policemen to guard the place, but I guess they knew maybe my godfather must have told to let me in. So I went and he used to give me the letter to give it to my mom.

TI: And so your godfather, the mayor, maybe that was a little dangerous for him because he was helping your father?

AO: Gee, I don't know if it was dangerous. But he did it. I don't know. I think my father probably give 'em gift or something.

TI: And then do you know what the letter said to your mother?

AO: I don't know what it says, but maybe he probably was telling where he was and then when he's gonna come home or something like that.

TI: And then what happened next? So your father's in hiding, your mother gets this letter, then what happened?

AO: And my mother was expecting a baby at that time, so when... I don't know how long they were hiding, but when he came back to Huancayo, right away the FBI came and took my dad and took him to Lima and put into jail.

TI: Okay, you said FBI, so these were American FBI?

AO: No, Peruvian.

TI: Peruvian, okay. So their police picked him up. Do they call that FBI in Peru or something else?

AO: Yeah, detective or...

TI: Okay. And do you remember when that happened? Did you see that?

AO: No, I didn't see, I don't know. I didn't see, I don't remember.

TI: And so where were you when they picked up your father? Do you remember where you were?

AO: I think I was in Huancayo, but I don't remember how that happened. I don't know, but I know he was in Lima in jail.

TI: Now, did they pick up very many other Japanese in Huancayo besides your father and some of these...

AO: Yeah, there was four Japanese from Huancayo.

TI: And these were like the top businesspeople in Huancayo?

AO: Yes, uh-huh. I heard that in some cases, if the husband wasn't there, so they took the wife. I mean, they went after the husband, but he was hiding or he wasn't there, they took the wife instead of the husband, so the husband have to come out.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So now your father's in Lima in jail. Then what happens next?

AO: Oh, and then, at the time, we were sure we knew we were gonna (be sent) to United States, we were gonna be deported.

TI: So you knew this already.

AO: Yeah, when my father was in jail.

TI: So how did you know that? How did the word come to you that the whole family was going to also be picked up?

AO: Well, already it was happening. Already it was happening to other families.

TI: And so what did your family do to get ready, knowing that you were going to be picked up?

AO: Oh, it was very short time. I remember it was very short time, maybe, I don't know, it was week or something, we got ready real quick. And then, at the time, my brother-in-law, he was married to my older sister, so he used to work for my dad and he used leave Huancayo. So with the help of him, we got ready and we took the train to go to Lima and Callao and the port to meet my dad.

TI: Oh, so you went there to meet, so the police didn't pick you up, you just went to go meet them.

AO: Yeah, uh-huh. Actually, it was only my... they wanted just my father but we were so young and so my mom probably decided to follow my dad.

TI: Okay, so who in your family went?

AO: Okay, my family, see, my older two sisters, they were married already, so they didn't have to go.

TI: Okay, Aiko and Hiroko were...

AO: Yeah, Aiko and Hiroko.

TI: And so then there'd be the five younger ones, and you were the oldest.

AO: Yes.

TI: I see. And so then the five younger and your mother, and then...

AO: My grandmother.

TI: Your grandmother, too. And you said your mother was expecting?

AO: Expecting a baby.

TI: Was this was Chieko?

AO: No.

TI: This was another baby.

AO: Yeah.

TI: Okay, so your grandmother, this is your mother's mother?

AO: My mother's mother.

TI: And what happened to your grandfather?

AO: I think he passed away.

TI: Okay, so your grandmother, your mother, and then five children, and your mother is pregnant.

AO: Yes.

TI: Okay, and then you take the train to Lima and then to the port city Callao?

AO: Callao, the port was Callao.

TI: Okay, and then you there meet your father.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

AO: And then when we were going to Lima, we're going in the train. And when we got to Chosica, it was very close to Lima, Chosica, it's a small town, maybe one hour from Lima. So my mother lost the baby. She got miscarriage in the train. So right away, they called the ambulance and they took my mom to Lima to the hospital.

TI: Oh, that must have been very, very scary and difficult...

AO: Scary, yeah.

TI: ...for you and the others. And so what happened, they took your mother by ambulance, so what did you and the others do?

AO: Oh, we were in the train and we went to Lima, and Lima, my sister Hiroko, she was there already. She was married with Augusto Hoshi, so we stayed in her place. And we had a... and my mom was so weak after she lost the baby and she needed blood transfusion and all that, but we had a very short time, I don't know how many days, to get ready to go to Callao, to the port to meet my father there. But then she was in the hospital, but she didn't want to, she was afraid she won't be able to get in there. So she make like she was so strong, and we went to the port and we got in the ship, the warship.

TI: Oh, because they gave you kind of the date and the location, the ship, that you had to be there at a certain time.

AO: Yes.

TI: So when this is happening, you're now the oldest one, and so there must be lots of responsibility for you to take care of the younger children, your grandmother, and to make sure everything happened.

AO: Kind of were scared. We were scared we'd lose my mother or something, you know, because what happened.

TI: And so how did you, how did you do it? It must have been very, very difficult for you.

AO: Yeah, we were so scared. It was like I don't know what is gonna happen to us. We didn't know, you know, so gosh, we were kind of worried. I don't know what is gonna happen, what they're gonna do to us.

TI: Was there a way for you to somehow tell your father what was happening?

AO: After two days, we met my dad. After we got in the ship, warship, I don't know what was the name, I think I had in there written, but it was after two days, I guess, that was American ship, of course, you know, warship. And they put all the men and boys twelve years and older, they put under the bottom of the ship. So they used to come up around maybe four or five times to get fresh air for maybe thirty minutes. So that's how we saw my dad.

TI: So this was the... and so describe when you first saw your dad, what that felt like.

AO: Oh, I guess my mom must have told him everything what happened on the train. I don't know, I don't remember how I felt, but now that we were with my dad and we were all the family together, I guess we felt better, I think.

TI: Do you remember what your father said when he learned that your mother had a miscarriage?

AO: No, I don't remember. I don't know, because always there was the guard, American guard with a gun always watching us, you know, guarding us.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Now, what did you think? I mean, you were in Huancayo just a few days before, and you had this tragedy, but now you're on an American warship with American soldiers. Did that make sense to you what was happening?

AO: We really don't know what is gonna happen to us. We didn't know what was gonna happen. We were so scared and all that.

TI: And how was your mother doing? Because she must have been weak during this time.

AO: Yes, she was weak. And oh, when we went in the ship, we were so seasick. Constantly we were running to the rail and vomiting, we were so sick. My sister, she even fell down from the upper bunk where she was sleeping because the ocean was so rough.

TI: So it sounds like a very hard, difficult trip.

AO: It was.

TI: Because you're seasick, your mother was probably sick.

AO: Yeah, and every time we go to someplace maybe they didn't want us to see, they used to say, "Go to your room and close all the curtains." They used to order us, the American soldier. Said, "Everybody go to the room and close the curtains."

TI: And were the American soldiers stern, were they angry or mean, or were they nice? How would you describe the American soldiers?

AO: I've never seen them smiling. And we were afraid, too, you know.

TI: But even though you were just like children, they were still...

AO: We were afraid, yeah.

TI: Now, were the American soldiers, did any of them speak Spanish?

AO: Some I think they did, yeah. Some they did, I remember.

TI: Okay. And your younger brother, was he staying with you or was he...

AO: At the bottom of the ship.

TI: He was at the bottom of the ship, so he was with your father.

AO: Yes.

TI: And did you have any, were you able to talk with your brother or father on the trip very much? Or were you just able to see them, or could you talk?

AO: Just see, I think. We didn't talk much. It was such a short time, I think, to... I don't know if it was thirty minutes or fifteen. Thirty minutes probably to get the fresh air.

TI: And then maybe just enough to tell him that everybody's okay or what's going on, things like that. So what happened next?

AO: Next, okay, we got to New Orleans, and it took twenty-two days in the ship, we were in the ship for twenty-two days.

TI: So how did you go? Did you have to go all the way around?

AO: I know. I don't know how, but I know we passed Panama.

TI: Okay, through the Panama Canal?

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: I see, okay.

AO: Yeah, it took us twenty-two days to get to New Orleans. We got to New Orleans, and then we get off there, and funny experience there. They had to put a DDT, it was a spray, to all of us.

TI: So when they do that, do they make you take your clothes off?

AO: Yes.

TI: And then they just spray you?

AO: Yes.

TI: That must have been a terrible experience.

AO: Yeah, first time. That never happened, those things, but gee, we don't know what is gonna happen to us really. And then, at that time, our destination was to camp, to Crystal City, Texas, camp.

TI: Now, when they took you off the ship, again, were they, how did they handle you? Were they gentle, or were they pretty rough in terms of orders and things?

AO: Just orders. But it wasn't rough, I don't think. Just the order where to go and get in line or things like that.

TI: Now how about things like papers? Like probably your mother and father probably had Japanese passports or kind of documentation that showed where they were from? Did you have any of those papers?

AO: I think they took away the passport.

TI: So they took it away.

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: And then, so then they spray you when you come off, then how long were you in New Orleans before you took a train?

AO: I don't know. Just a few hours, I think.

TI: Okay, so very short. So not even overnight.

AO: No, I don't think we'd stay overnight.

TI: And so they had a train waiting for you.

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: And how many people were with you? How many people?

AO: Oh, gee, I don't know. Maybe... I'm just guessing this, but maybe hundred, more than hundred, probably.

TI: And they come from all over Peru, or more from Lima and Huancayo, or just... where did all these people come from?

AO: I think it was only from Peru. But when we stopped in Panama, there were some Japanese that they previously, they sent there already, the single, some of the single men. So when we got there, they got in our ship. I heard that they gave very hard jobs in there.

TI: Now during this journey, did you ever talk to other people to get their story? Do you remember any stories or anything?

AO: No, no. We just were so scared. We just didn't know what is gonna happen.

TI: In the ship, what kind of quarters did you have? Was it like a room, or for you and your sisters and mother and grandmother, where did you live?

AO: I think it was a small room and the bunkbeds. And I don't even remember now, who, if it's just one room. Because we were four, and my mom and my grandmother.

TI: So it'd be six.

AO: Yeah. I don't remember, though. How was the room, I don't remember.

TI: Then what about the train? What was the train like?

AO: Oh, the train was very nice. We stayed, I think we stayed one night. It was very nice, the train was really, it was the real good food they serve us, it was nice.

TI: And so did you have sleeper cars? Did you sleep?

AO: Yes, uh-huh. It was something new for us. We never had that experience sleeping in the train.

TI: And when you're on the train, did you know where you were going?

AO: The only thing I know, they say we're going to the camp, so it was just follow whatever they told us.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: And so when you, when the train ride was over, where did they drop you off?

AO: In camp. (San Antonio, Texas. Then a bus from San Antonio to the camp in Crystal City.)

TI: In camp, so this is Crystal City?

AO: Yes, Crystal City, Texas.

TI: In Texas. And what did you see when you got to Crystal City?

AO: Oh, when I got there, all these other Japanese people, they stayed there, they kind of welcome us with singing some Japanese songs, so we felt really strong and happy because there was a lot of other Japanese in there.

TI: Oh, so they were waiting for you. They knew that you were coming?

AO: Yes. Because, I don't know, our ship, how many ships came from Peru, I don't know how many ships there were, that they sent from Peru to United States, and I don't know what number was ours, I don't know.

TI: So the people who greeted you, were they Japanese Peruvian?

AO: Some, and some from the United States, people from United States.

TI: And do you remember what Japanese song they sang?

AO: Yeah, I remember. Let's see, it was "Aikoku koushin kyoku." Aikoku...

TI: Aikoku...

AO: Koushin kyoku.

TI: And then what is that song?

AO: I think it's about Japan, how good is Japan, I think. What a good country, it was something like that, I think, the words (I kind of remember).

TI: But it made you feel good when you heard that.

AO: Felt so good to see other Japanese in there and welcome us. I felt real good.

TI: And then so what -- okay, so after you got off the train, you have the people singing, then what happens next?

AO: And then they took us to where we're gonna stay. Oh, it was, well, you know, lot of grass around. It was the place where it wasn't really a nice homes or anything, it was, they build real quick, I think.

TI: And so were you kind of disappointed when you got to your place or was it okay? What did you think?

AO: We felt, well, at least we're going to stay, and we were all the family together and there were other Japanese, so I think we felt kind of strong.

TI: I forgot to ask you, so when you came off the ship and you're going to the train, were your father and brother, did they come together with the rest of the family? Were you now together as a family on the train? Your father...

AO: Yes, I think they were. Yeah, I think they were.

TI: Do you remember any special moments with your father or brother when you all got together?

AO: No.

TI: Yeah, because I remember that you were separate and you came together.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So tell me the, kind of the living quarters. Describe the living quarters to me at Crystal City.

AO: Oh, gee. Well, I don't know, I have a little book here. Well, you know, most of the things that Mr. Higashide wrote in this book is almost the same thing that happened to us, you know. But let me see. This lady, something like this, see?

TI: Oh, so this is the layout of...

AO: Yeah.

TI: But what about your apartment? What was your apartment like?

AO: Oh, my apartment? Well, it was nothing fancy. Of course, nothing fancy, and I remember they gave us some kind of material, I don't know. My dad says, "Okay, make some curtains," and the shelves to put all the dishes and things. I remember that. Because there was a place where they had a sewing machine, so anybody could use the sewing machine. So I went there and I made us a curtain.

TI: Because, now, I'm trying to think, there's two, four, five, six, seven, eight of you?

AO: Eight of us, and it was only, let's see, two and a half rooms, all the rooms, I don't know how big it was. Not that big. It was two and a half rooms. Two and a half, even smaller than this.

TI: And so eight of you had to share.

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: How about, like, a kitchen? Was there a kitchen there?

AO: The kitchen, they built a little bit outside, outdoors they put a little roof and we'd cook outside.

TI: And how about like a bathroom?

AO: The bathroom we had to share with everybody.

TI: So another building?

AO: Yeah, another building.

TI: And your apartment, was it near, was it with all the other Japanese Peruvians?

AO: Yes.

TI: And so tell me about some of the other people in Crystal City. So you had Japanese Peruvians, who else was there?

AO: There were some Germans and Italians, and then, of course, the Japanese from Hawaii, Japanese from Peru, and Japanese from mainland. So three different.

TI: And in terms of the size of the groups, was there one group that was bigger than the others, or were they all about the same size?

AO: I think the United States group was bigger.

TI: The mainland Japanese?

AO: Uh-huh.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: And so what was your daily life like? You're now there, you get settled down after the curtains go up, what was your day like in Crystal City?

AO: I think we were having good time because we had everything in there. They gave us plenty food, and we used to have recreations, and then we used to go to the Japanese school. Oh, we had everything. I didn't feel bad or anything, it was nice.

TI: So you had food, you had school, you had recreation. So what were some of the recreation type things?

AO: There was a ping pong table, there was a piano, and, let's see, we used to play volleyball, the boys, they used to play baseball. Let's see. And then we used to have a play... I don't know if it was once a year, everybody used to sing a solo or something. Let's see, plays, they used to have a play. It was nice. It was nice.

TI: Now, the school, you said Japanese school. Was this just for the Japanese Peruvians, or was it for all the children?

AO: For all the children. But many Japanese from the United States, they went to English school.

TI: And so in the Japanese school, you had the Japanese Peruvians and the Japanese from Hawaii?

AO: Yes.

TI: But then the mainlanders had a different English school.

AO: Yeah, but some, they were in Japanese school also.

TI: Okay. And how did you get along with the Japanese Hawaiians and the Japanese mainlanders who were in Japanese school? How were they?

AO: You know, we got along better with the Hawaiians, because they knew Japanese more than the mainland Niseis, the Hawaiians knew more Japanese. They were more Japanese style, I guess. So I don't know, somehow we got along better with the Hawaiians.

TI: So when you were with the Hawaiians, did they try to teach you how to speak pidgin, different English words?

AO: I think we must have speak in Japanese probably.

TI: Did any of them ask you could you teach them some Spanish or anything like that?

AO: No, there was no... and in the Japanese school, the teacher, they didn't want us to speak no English, no Spanish. All strictly Japanese.

TI: Now when you were at Crystal City, did people have an idea of where they would go next? Did they think maybe they were going to Japan or what did they think?

AO: Well, after the war ended, many of the Japanese, they went to Japan. They still thought that Japanese won the war and they went back to Japan.

TI: Oh, so in Crystal City, people were thinking, even though the war was over, that Japan won the war?

AO: Yes. And (some people) went back to Japan.

TI: And what did you think?

AO: Well, you know, luckily, I don't know, but my mother made a real good decision to stay in United States. So that was the best decision my mom made.

TI: Now, did she know that Japan lost the war or did she maybe not, wasn't sure?

AO: Probably she knew. I think she knew. And I'm lucky we stayed here, because I don't know what would have happened to us if we went to Japan. Like my sister's mother-in-law that went to Japan, the first one, she lost a son that was sixteen years old (because of malnutrition), and she lost her son-in-law because there wasn't enough food.

TI: So they starved.

AO: Yeah, they had a very hard time.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

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.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Well, now that you're staying in the United States, when did you decide to learn English? Because in Crystal City, it sounds like you're just Japanese and Spanish, but now you speak English.

AO: When I came to Chicago, I heard there was a school... I don't know, I think they used to call Dante School. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, Dante School, they say. And then I went there, but it was from nine to twelve in the morning, four hours. It was a special school for adults, it was all adults. And mostly there were a lot of students, they were from Japan, they called Kibei. You know Kibei? They were most all Kibei.

TI: But it was to learn English?

AO: To learn English. And I went to the school, too.

TI: So this was going to be your third language. Most people, they try to learn two languages, but you knew Spanish, Japanese and now English.

AO: But we have to learn English, of course, being here. So I went there, but it was, I think it started from nine to twelve, but I needed a job, so I found there was an office that they find a job for you, but I paid twenty dollars, I think, and I found a night shift job. It was from four o'clock to twelve o'clock at night, a third shift, like. So I started working there, but I was so scared to wait for the bus all by myself, nobody around, you know. And getting in the bus, there was hardly anybody in the bus, maybe three or four people. And waiting in the bus all by myself was so scary. But I think I must have did that maybe for a couple of months or so, and I changed to the first shift because it was just...

TI: Yeah, the night was probably...

AO: Yeah, uh-huh. And we used to live in, it wasn't too nice of a neighborhood, either. It was Sedgewick and Division. Sedgewick and Division. So it wasn't too nice of a neighborhood.

TI: So, Atsumi, I want to go back a little bit, when you're at Crystal City, when your mother decided to stay, not to go to Japan, did she ever talk about the possibility of going to Peru? Because you had two sisters who were married in Peru, did she ever think about maybe going back to Peru?

AO: They didn't allow us, the Peruvian government, they didn't want any Japanese to come back.

TI: Oh, so that wasn't even a choice? You couldn't even go back to Peru?

AO: No. But there were some, I don't know, seven families, they went back, but I don't know how they did it. They must have spent a lot of money, or I don't know how, but they went back. Seven families, I think. I don't think we could go back.

TI: But even though you and --

AO: I probably...

TI: -- you and your sisters were born in Peru?

AO: Yeah, maybe we could have, but not my mom and my grandmother.

TI: And do you know why the Peruvian government said no to no Japanese coming back?

AO: I think they didn't want any more Japanese.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So at this point, your mother only had two choices then, Japan or stay in the United States.

AO: Yeah.

TI: And so how did she decide Seabrook?

AO: Oh, and the Seabrook, because when the camp girls, I think in Seabrook, I think Mr. Seabrook must have offered a job to all the Japanese people, I guess. So many of the Japanese people that were in Crystal City, Texas, they went to work at Seabrook Farms. It was nice because, like in our case, we don't have any place to go. We didn't have any relatives, so for us it was good because they offered us a job. It was only seventy-five cents an hour, but they gave us a place to live.

TI: And how did the place to live compare to your place in Crystal City?

AO: About the same. It was like a camp, too, because lot of Japanese, they all were, almost all Japanese. Yeah, there was three shift, it was nine to four, four to twelve, and twelve to eight in the morning. Three shifts, and we changed every two weeks, changing shifts.

TI: And what kind of work did you do at Seabrook?

AO: Oh, the jobs was very easy. It was packing frozen food, like lima beans, carrots, let's see, peas and things like that. And we used to pack and weight.

TI: And so you have Japanese workers, what other kind of workers were there at Seabrook? Was it just Japanese, or other...

AO: The Americans, and one, there was a lot of colored people, African people, and I don't know, I don't know if they were students or what, but there was no comparison. Japanese people, they always used to work, and they used to compete, who makes the most. Which line makes the most, so everybody worked real hard. But I think that the colored people, they used to fall asleep in the night in the third shift, so it started from four. And I used to see, they used to just be falling asleep.

TI: So they never wanted...

AO: I guess not. I think they wanted Japanese, Mr. Seabrook probably really wanted Japanese, and maybe he must have made a lot of money because they all worked very hard. You know how the Japanese people are.

TI: And how about the activities? Did they have, you mentioned Crystal City, they had schools, they had, like, recreation, did they have similar things at Seabrook?

AO: Japanese movie. I think there was Japanese movie.

TI: Like your sisters, did they go to school? Did they have a school?

AO: Yeah. Oh, they were so young, so they went to regular school, right? Yeah, they went. But us, my sister and I, we'd have to help my mom and we went to work. We were too old to go to grade school.

TI: And so how much school did you get?

AO: Okay. When I was in Peru, in Huancayo, I finished the grade school, and then I went to Lima, I went one year in high school, and then the war started. And so there wasn't any teacher to teach Japanese, so I couldn't continue the Japanese school. So my dad says, "Okay, maybe why don't you take sewing? You can go to sewing school." So I went to sewing school for one year, but it was good that I went because when I came to Chicago, I worked for a company, interior decorator, and I worked for twenty years sewing.

TI: Oh, sewing, okay. So that helped that one year.

AO: Yeah, uh-huh. Maybe my dad was already thinking that way. [Laughs] No matter where I go, if I know how to sew, probably I'll have a job. Maybe he was thinking like that.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So explain how you went from Seabrook, New Jersey, to Chicago. How did that happen?

AO: Oh, okay. When we were in Seabrook, there was a friend of my mom, I think, Mr. Goto, and he came to our place, with the kindness of him, he took my younger sister and came to Chicago. And she stayed at Mr. Goto's sister's, Mrs. Omura's place. Then after a few months, I followed her and I came to Chicago. And then we worked for a while and then we called out the rest of the family.

TI: And so did all the rest of the family come to Chicago? So your mother, your grandmother and then your brothers and sisters?

AO: Yes.

TI: Okay. And, but what did you think about Chicago?

AO: Oh, a big city.

TI: Yeah, because it's very different than Huancayo.

AO: Oh, yes, uh-huh.

TI: Very different than Seabrook, very different than Crystal City.

AO: Lot of work, there's all kind of work.

TI: And so this was probably the biggest... I mean, Lima might be big.

AO: Yeah, uh-huh. I don't know what is the population, but yeah.

TI: Yeah, and Chicago was a big American city.

AO: Yeah, oh, yes.

TI: And so were you frightened by Chicago?

AO: No. It wasn't frightening. Probably the place where I lived wasn't really, if I go downtown, yes, those big buildings and all that, yeah, I know it was so big and different, much different.

TI: And so you talked about, so you took English classes in Chicago, you did the sewing job for twenty years?

AO: Uh-huh.

TI: You also got married in Chicago?

AO: Yeah. Well, you know, I went to learn English, probably, I don't know, not too long because I was working night shift, and I thought it was, I was afraid to wait for the bus. So maybe couple months, and then I changed to the first shift. And then after that, let's see. Yeah, then I met my husband and I got married.

TI: Now, where did you meet your husband?

AO: In Chicago. We were living in the same building. I was living in the second floor, he was living in the first floor.

TI: And what's his background? Where did he come from?

AO: He was born in Pasadena, but he was a Kibei. He went to Japan to get his education.

TI: Okay, so your, the common language is Japanese.

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: Because you were Japanese and Spanish, and he spoke Japanese and a little English, or English.

AO: Yeah. I think we were able to communicate in Japanese. Because in camp, when I was staying in camp for two and a half years, I learned Japanese, more Japanese.

TI: Okay, that's interesting.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: And so what year were you married?

AO: What year? Okay, let's see, what year? I think I was maybe twenty-two when I got married.

TI: So twenty-two, that would be 1950?

AO: Yes, 1950.

TI: And was he about the same age or was he older?

AO: Older. Three years older.

TI: Okay, not too much.

AO: But you know about this Kibei, there's a lot of family, they have a very hard time, because they send only the oldest son to Japan to be educated or maybe they sent the youngest one. And then when they came back to United States, they weren't able to communicate with the rest of the family, and they felt real bad, I think, not to be able to communicate. And the brothers and sisters were having a good time because they knew English. But the ones that came from Japan, they didn't know any English, so they must have had a very hard time and kind of maybe emotional problem or something.

TI: So it was really hard for Kibei?

AO: Yeah. But my husband's case, the whole family went to Japan. He had three brothers and one sister, they all went together. So...

TI: And then how many of them came back? Was he the only one who came?

AO: No, everybody came back.

TI: Back to the United States. To Chicago?

AO: Yes, in Chicago.

TI: And so that's why he stayed in Chicago.

AO: Yes.

TI: Because I was thinking if he spoke Japanese, why he didn't go up to maybe Los Angeles where there are more Japanese and he can speak more Japanese there?

AO: No, I think his father was in Chicago, his father, so that's why they came to Chicago.

TI: Okay.

AO: But even in his case, he says he was nine years... no, when he came back, I think he must have been twenty-two years old, twenty-two, but he says all his friends that he used to play when he was little, they were working in the office and they were having a real good job, but he started from the beginning, you know, from working at the factory, because he didn't know any English. But then he found a place in a steel company, and having a lot of knowledge in Japanese, in math and everything, I think he was doing real good. So the boss put him in charge, to be in charge of one department, and they sent him to school. So he become an electrical engineer. Yeah, and then he worked there for thirty years in the steel company.

TI: Now, did he work on his English also? Did he go to English classes or anything like that?

AO: Oh, he went to night school, yeah, he had a tape recorder, he'd play over and over and over. [Laughs] Yeah. But he was, he remembered quite a bit, I guess, because he was nine years old when he went to Japan. That helped, I think.

TI: Now, how did, in Chicago, the Niseis, the ones who grew up in the United States, how did they treat you and your husband? Because you were a little bit different because you didn't grow up in the United States, English wasn't your first language. So how well did they treat you and your husband?

AO: You know, when we're in camp, I think the Niseis (from) the mainland, I think they looked us down little bit. I think, I kind of felt it. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong. But I felt like that. But no, well, mostly we associate, I guess, with, I don't know, with people who spoke Japanese, I think.

TI: Yeah, so you didn't associate too much with the Nisei from the mainland so much?

AO: No, but he belonged to a church, Tri-C Church, and yeah, his friends... I think he picked up his English very quick.

TI: Because in Chicago, in the Nisei community, the mainlanders, they had lots of activities. They had parties and dances, they had sports leagues. So I'm learning all these things about Chicago. Did you and your husband participate?

AO: Yeah, we used to go to dances. We used to go to dances.

TI: And when you went there, it was okay? They would accept you okay?

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: Good. Now, how about other Japanese Peruvians? Are there very many in Chicago that you know?

AO: Not too many, I don't think.

TI: So you have your family, your family was all Japanese Peruvian. Anyone else?

AO: Maybe there's a few, a few families. Mostly they moved to California or to Hawaii, different states.

TI: Now, did the Japanese Peruvians ever have, come together, like a reunion?

AO: Yes. Once every two years. But then (I attended) only one reunion (in San Jose in July 1984), but they have, they used to have a reunion in Japan and California and San Jose, I think. And then in Las Vegas, the last one was in Las Vegas. They even went to Peru for a reunion in Peru.

TI: When was that? Do you know how long ago?

AO: Oh, gosh, I think, I don't know if I could... (Narr. note: In Lima, Peru, July 1995 and May 1999.)

TI: Oh, that's okay. Do you know when the next, are they gonna have another one soon?

AO: They say now everybody's getting kind of old, and I don't know, maybe that was the last one in the Las Vegas. Probably that will be the last one, they were saying.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So for the last few hours I've been talking to you, and your life has been a very interesting life. Starting in Huancayo, Peru, and going to school in Lima, then the war, going to Crystal City, then Seabrook and then Chicago. There were some hard times, when your mother had the miscarriage, your father's death. What do you learn from all this? Is there something that, when you think about what life, what's important in life, what do you think is the most important thing in life? When you think about your whole life and what keeps you going, you're a very positive person, I notice. And so I'm thinking, what's your secret? What makes you, what's so important to you?

AO: Gee, important to me? Let's see... gee, what could I say? [Laughs] I don't know. I guess going through life like, so many different happened to us and we went through, and everything that happened to us, so maybe that made us being strong.

TI: So the difficult times actually made you strong.

AO: Probably, yeah.

TI: And then your mother, what happened to your mother?

AO: Oh, my mom? My mom, she was very nice, very kind, an only child, so I think she was raised very... how would I say? Being only child, maybe she was a little spoiled probably. But very hard worker, she really worked very hard. Oh, and then when Heiwa Terrace, you know Heiwa Terrace in Chicago? When they opened the place, I think my mom was almost the first one to move in that place. Because at the time, it was so funny, lot of Isseis, they didn't want to move there because they didn't want to be burden of the government, so they didn't want to move. But my mom just went there, and oh, she really liked the place and she enjoyed it. And then she went to the daycare at the JAC almost every day. I think... oh, she belonged to the church, almost every Sunday she went there. So I think... and at the age of ninety-one, she passed away, ninety-one.

TI: Now, where did you... her remains, after she died, where did she get buried, or where is she?

AO: She's buried. She's buried in the cemetery...

TI: In Chicago.

AO: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: And how about your father?

AO: Same. My father, my grandmother and my mother. But you know, when my father died in camp, the urn, we had to bring it to Chicago. And then for a while, I don't know why we kept it at the Buddhist temple, I think it was, and then we buried him.

TI: Earlier you talked about you've returned to Huancayo a few times. How has Huancayo changed over all these years when you go back?

AO: I think it's changing to the better. I see better places, and yeah, I think it's changing, it's getting better.

TI: Do you see still some Japanese people in Huancayo?

AO: Yes.

TI: Some of the old families that you remember, anyone that you recognize?

AO: I think they were there, but no, we didn't even go visit them. But we stayed there, and we didn't go see my (friends), so we did more shopping and things like that.

TI: Because it'd be interesting to ask them if they knew what happened to you and other Japanese Peruvians who left, it must be kind of a mystery to them what happened.

AO: Yeah, I think so. If we would have met some of the Peruvians that used to know my dad, I wonder what they thought. I wonder.

TI: Interesting. So I'm at the end of my questions, is there anything else that you want to talk about that maybe we forgot or that's interesting? Or, Chieko, is there another story that I should ask her about? Anything else?

AO: Chie, you remember when you came to Chicago?

TI: Anything that I should ask your sister before we stop.

Off camera: Well, when I went to camp, I mean, when we were gonna leave camp, we had to learn English.

TI: Oh, this is when you left Crystal City, you mean?

Off camera: Yes. Somebody made a card with a picture, like a table, and on the back it spells "table." You have to learn through that and put it together in a sentence. Just before we left camp, we had to know how...

TI: Some basic words. Yeah, so let me ask you, so leaving Crystal City, do you remember those little flash cards, maybe some English?

AO: No, I didn't...

TI: So it was more your sister had to do that.

AO: Yeah, probably, uh-huh.

TI: So for you, is there anything else that you want to, Atsumi, say? Anything about... when you think about... "Densho" means to "pass on stories to future generations," so when you think of maybe a hundred years from now, people wanted to ask, know about your story, anything else you want to say?

AO: The same thing what I mentioned to you, I think that's about all. Funny thing, I have three grandchildren, but I don't know, they never ask me. They know I came from Peru, but I don't know, maybe they're not interested. Or I don't know what it is.

TI: I think maybe later on they might be interested.

AO: Probably, probably.

TI: And what's going to be nice is we'll have a DVD for them. We'll make extra copies.

AO: Oh, how nice.

TI: And they'll have it, so they can learn about their grandmother's life. Because I think your life is very interesting, very special.

AO: Oh, you think so?

TI: Yeah, it is. And I've listened to lots of stories, and yours is very special.

AO: Oh, really?

TI: So thank you so much for talking with us.

AO: Oh, thank you. Gosh, I hope... too bad that I cannot explain very nicely.

TI: Oh, no, you did a really, really good job.

AO: Thank you.

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