Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mo Nishida Interview I
Narrator: Mo Nishida
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: November 29, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-nmo-01-0011

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MN: Share with us about this incident you had, you boys were playing at the Amache --

Mo N: Oh, graveyard?

MN: Cemetery.

Mo N: Yeah, yeah. That was a real spooky kind of incident. We're out there playing, and you know the showers that come up like that, they come up real quick. And it wet the ground and then we were debating what we can do. We were playing out there near the graveyard because there was a hideaway lake, there was a lake out there and that used to be the watermelon patch out there. So we used to go out there and fool around, look for water moccasins in the creek down there and fool around wading in the lake. And then if you're hungry, went out and got some watermelons. So I guess on the way... so there was things to do out there, so we weren't too worried about getting too wet. I guess it wetted the ground, and so we went out to the graveyard and this hinotama came out of the ground. The chemical kind, scientific way of looking at this, that apparently when you put bodies into the ground and decomposition takes place, phosphorous forms, some kind of phosphorous gas forms. And if it gets wet, it comes out of the ground, and that sucker glows and glows kind of greenish. And shit, we saw that sucker come out the ground and said, "Oh my god, what the fuck is that?" [Laughs] I don't care what it is, I'm gettin' the hell out of here. So the three of us took off like a bat out of hell, boy. And the thing is that this gas is attracted to moisture. Right by our block, the next block 12-K, right next to 12-K was the water tower for the whole camp. The goddamn thing was going toward the water tower, so it looked like it was following us. So, oh, lord, we were so scared, man, running like hell, screamin' and hollerin'. [Laughs] That's when I realized that there were ghosts. [Laughs]

MN: Now when you were in camp, did you play any of the team sports?

Mo N: Yeah, played... I remember, distinctly remember playing baseball. I'm sure we played football and some of the other stuff, did some sumo.

MN: Where did you have the sumo dojo?

Mo N: Yeah, they had one towards the co-op, I think. We had a guy that was from the market, and he was a gambling man. And what he used to do was he'd make a ring right in our play area in our block, and all the kids would line up. We split into two lines and do a kohaku shiai, right? And then whoever won got a little money, that kind of thing. So that's what we used to do. With no professional training or nothing, we were just out there grunting. [Laughs] Little guys.

MN: Let me ask you about some of the holidays at Amache or Granada.

Mo N: Okay.

MN: What was Christmas like?

Mo N: Well, Christmas was a special time, I think, for us little kids, 'cause we could expect gifts and stuff like that. And most of the stuff was gotten either your dad or some male relative went out of camp and went to work, and when he'd come back for Christmas would bring back gifts. Or we did mail order stuff, ordered through the mail order catalog. So any kind of package that came to camp, came for you, you looked forward to that. So we used to look forward to those things, getting something special. But I think, I guess for little kids, I guess that was the most tanoshii one, right, Christmas, 'cause you were getting a gift. But the ones that were the most fun were New Year's, you did mochitsuki and did all of that. And the whole block participated, and yeah, it was just a good thing. It was just positive and feel good about being Buddhahead, and especially eating that fresh mochi. I don't know where in the hell they got that mochigome from. Oh, yeah, we used to get care packages from Japan. So that was always a treat, they'd send ame candy and stuff like that. You think back later, gee, from Japan? 'Cause after the war, we were all sending care packages over there, but during the war they were sending stuff to the Red Cross. That was always a nice treat.

And then of course the other big one was Obon, and that was usually tied together with an athletic event and the Bon dance. That's when the whole camp turned out, sort of thing. And like undoukai and then Bon Odori. Yeah, so used to have a lot of track events, dance. The thing I remember was that if you got out there and danced, then you got ice cream. [Laughs] I'm an ice cream freak. That was always fun.

MN: You know your parents, what did they do in camp?

Mo N: Well, I never knew this, but my mom told me, and other people have told me, that she was a kindergarten or preschool teacher in camp. So she took care of little kids. I hardly saw her, I mean, maybe come home and sleep. And my dad worked first as a cook in the mess hall, then he worked in the motor pool for the camp, and then he started leaving camp to work in the fields in Colorado outside. And then he was lucky 'cause he had worked out there in the fields in Colorado before the war, going out there. We have friends, relatives, so he went to work for them, Blanca Valley up there in southern Colorado. But yeah, so it was always cool when he came back, 'cause he always brought goodies with them. That was kind of nice. But when the war ended, he wasn't with us, so we came back to camp by ourselves, just me, my mom and my sisters. Of course, we had our extended family, so we kind of stuck close with them.

MN: Now when you were in camp, were you in any sort of talent shows or any sort of theater?

Mo N: Well, I think every block... we used to have movies I think once a month or something like that. And on special events or special occasions we'd be organized into groups and we'd put on a shibai. And so that's what we did every year. And most of the time, as I recall, we used to play 442. That they were over there, whatchacallit, so we were always fighting, killing Germans. We never fought any Buddhaheads. But I remember that was a theme that whatchacallit sent. And then everybody participated. You had the older guys were all the officers and all the big shots and then all us little guys were grunts, private soldiers out there.

MN: Now your family was still in camp when the war was over, and you have this memory of something you witnessed over the skies of Amache.

Mo N: Yeah. The three of us were playing out in the desert again, and we looked up, and there were nine planes coming, three flights of three, like that, one, two, three, coming over like that. And they were these Superfortress, big suckers. And we watched them open the bomb bay doors. "Oh, fuck, they're bomb our ass. Everybody go home." So we're running like hell, talking about, "Ain't gonna bomb us," here come these bombers. And so instead of bombs, all these papers started coming out. And on the papers was written, "Japan has surrendered." So running back into the block, telling the Issei men, "Nihon no maketa." "Uso, bakatare." [Laughs] Told us to throw that shit away, don't read that foreign propaganda. Yeah, we thought for sure they were gonna bomb our ass, man. Saw 'em coming, open up that bomb bays, Superfortress had, the thing about them, they're so big, right, they had two bomb bay doors on each plane, so to watch them both open up, I thought, dang, man. Yeah, we thought for sure our goose was cooked. Hauling ass to get home, so if we're gonna go, go with our folks. [Laughs]

<End Segment 11> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.