Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jack Y. Kunitomi Interview II
Narrator: Jack Y. Kunitomi
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: October 26, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-kyoshisuke-04-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: Okay. Today is Wednesday, October 26, 2011. We are at the Centenary United Methodist Church in Little Tokyo. We will be interviewing Jack Yoshisuke Kunitomi. Tani Ikeda is on the video camera, and I will be interviewing, my name is Martha Nakagawa. Now, Jack, we were talking about Pearl Harbor, and then after, a few months after Pearl Harbor, in February, at the end of February 1942, the Japanese Americans on Terminal Island were kicked off. Were you aware of this?

JK: Oh, yes. Because the local chapters of the JACL put out a request for people who can, able-bodied people who can bring in luggage for the families because they were being relocated into L.A. And so my buddy Bud Mukai and I were working for a retail market bringing in produce from the wholesale market to the retail store. Because the afternoons were free for us, they decided to volunteer us to bring luggage from, for the families.

MN: So what was it like when you got to Terminal Island?

JK: Well, we saw despair, crying parents, and of course we saw young people unaware of what was going on. And it was a pitiful sight for us who, outsiders, who happened to see all this happening in front of our eyes. It was a sad moment for all of us, I think.

MN: Now, you saw this happening to the Terminal Islanders. Do you remember how you felt when you heard that you had to go into camp?

JK: Well, because others have started the process, it wasn't too hard to take. But, this idea of getting picked on to go somewhere where we weren't really needed, so I think it hurt our pride really. So, well, we had to take it.

MN: Now during that time, do you remember Chinese Americans wearing "I am Chinese" buttons?

JK: Oh, yes. It was a strange sight because we happened to know one of the families, Japanese family, who was keeping company with a Chinese young man. And we saw buttons on both of their lapels flaunting their freedom, I guess. But you can't blame them.

MN: Now your brother, Hideo, volunteered to help build Manzanar. Do you remember when he left?

JK: I know the busload was leaving the Maryknoll church, and ladies and gentlemen were invited to put the finishing touches at Manzanar. It must have been, oh, about two weeks' duration when they went to tidy up, I guess.

MN: Two weeks before you, your family went into Manzanar, Hideo went before? Is that correct?

JK: Yes, uh-huh.

MN: How did you feel when Hideo volunteered?

JK: Well, everyone felt that someone had to do something, so volunteer young men, muscles and all. Because I think all of us were in the mood for being a volunteer, except I was married.

MN: Now, when Hideo volunteered, did he write back letters to the family?

JK: Oh, I don't think they had time for letters. I doubted it. I know several people that went as volunteers, and they had a good time plus working hard.

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