Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Yuriko Yamamoto Interview
Narrator: Yuriko Yamamoto
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: April 24, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-yyuriko-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

MN: Okay, let's see. We're going into Heart Mountain now.

YY: Okay.

MN: What was your first impression of Heart Mountain?

YY: Very desolate.

MN: Do you remember what time of the day you arrived?

YY: It had to be light, in the daytime.

MN: What were some of the first things you did when you got there?

YY: Well, they all assigned us to certain barracks, so we just had to go to our barracks and settle down.

MN: Do you remember what block you lived in?

YY: 30 Block.

MN: How did you get all the way out to Block 30?

YY: Well, we had transportation, they take us.

MN: So once you got into this new barrack, what did you do?

YY: Oh, we settled down, and you know, Japanese are very clever. They fix things up and make things, and so it was quite nice. All you need is a bed because there's a latrine where you go wash up and you go there. But it's kind of scary to go out there, it's dark, you don't know who's out there.

MN: Do you remember what you ate those first couple days or that first day?

YY: Just regular food I think. Because I told you I'm not too fussy about food. What's there, I eat. It's a lucky thing, because people complained about the food, but I thought it was pretty good myself. [Laughs] But the thing is, we had professional cooks in our mess hall, and that made a difference.

MN: What was the latrine like?

YY: Kind of cold. No partition. Well, actually, there was a partition for toilets, but no doors. So they could pass by you, it's very embarrassing.

MN: I always hear that everybody wants the very end.

YY: Yeah.

MN: But then everybody always goes to the very end.

YY: I know. [Laughs]

MN: So there was no privacy there.

YY: Yeah, you're so shy, it's just terrible. The showers were no partition either. So this old lady says, "Oh, you have such a nice body," because I'm young yet. It's kind of embarrassing, the things she tells me. [Laughs]

MN: Did your latrine, did the camp folks eventually make an ofuro?

YY: There was one, I think.

MN: Did you ever use it?

YY: You know, they said there was a peeping tom, so I was kind of afraid to. 'Cause they have a hole in the roof or something, I heard rumors, so I didn't like to do, but I loved baths. To this day I took baths, no showers.

MN: You know when you were at Heart Mountain, did you have problems with your menstrual cycle like cramps?

YY: Oh, yeah, I did.

MN: How did you deal with that?

YY: Well, there was nothing to do. Just take aspirin or whatever, but mine was long. It took a whole week before I finished, and I flowed quite a bit.

MN: Did you have accidents?

YY: I think I did off and on, but it's embarrassing when you're a kid.

MN: Was that common with the other girls, too?

YY: Oh, I don't think so. I think maybe they were more careful. Maybe they had better stuff to wear or something. My obasan was sort of old fashioned, too, so she's not up with everything.

MN: Did she ever talk to you about this?

YY: Not really.

MN: So basically you have to learn on your own.

YY: Yeah. Or my girlfriend, they know a lot and they read a lot. Things that I learned, because I'll ask her. It's embarrassing to ask anybody else except the person that will tell you the truth. Isseis don't tell you too much, you pretty much learn on your own.

MN: I mean, what about at night? Did you bleed into the sheets?

YY: Oh, no, I think I was pretty careful. If you do, you just wash it. Everything's hand washed, it was pretty rough.

MN: Let me ask you about your school.

YY: Okay.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.