<Begin Segment 1>
MN: We are at the Nishi Hongwanji Temple in Los Angeles. We will be interviewing Yuriko Tanino Yamamoto, and we have Tani Ikeda on video and Martha Nakagawa, I will be interviewing. So Yuri -- you prefer Yuri, not Yuriko?
YY: Well, they call me Yuri, yeah.
MN: Yuri. Let's start with your father. What was his name?
YY: Takeo Tanino.
MN: And which prefecture is he from?
MN: Can you share a little bit about his educational background?
YY: I understand he went to Waseda, then he came to the United States and went to Ohio University, business, I think, major, and that's the way he started, I guess, very ambitious.
MN: He must have been very intelligent to graduate from a United States college.
YY: That's what I understand, yeah.
MN: So when he first came to the United States and after he graduated, what did he do for a job?
YY: Well, I really don't know because all the boys were born in Ogden, Utah. But I know he started selling insurance as an occupation.
MN: Okay, so let me ask a little bit about your mother now. What was her name?
YY: Her name was Tamaki Kawahara, or (Kuwabara). It's either Kuwahara or (Kuwabara). She went to a women's school and graduated.
MN: And where did she graduate from?
YY: I have no idea. I never asked, you know, before, as kids you don't ask these questions.
MN: Do you know what prefecture she was from?
MN: That's very unusual. A lot of people, there's very few, like there's very few native New Yorkers, very few native Tokyo people.
YY: Is that right?
MN: So she was a city girl.
YY: I guess so, she was a very quiet, sweet person, though.
MN: And she got a lot of education because you said she graduated from a girl's school?
MN: Do you know how your parents met?
YY: Well, actually, what I hear, I told you my father was out here and he was seeing this Caucasian girl, I think she was Jewish, redheaded, and her father was a physician. I really think he was quite interested in her but her father objected. So he had gone to Japan and found her, I don't know he arranged it, but he brought her back to America.
MN: I guess because your father, there was a law against interracial dating and marriage?
YY: Oh, yeah, the father said, "Don't ever darken my door," he just told him to get lost. I think that's what he told me, anyway.
MN: And probably with your mother, a baishakunin?
YY: I don't know if there was a baishakunin or not. He never mentioned that.
MN: So when your father went, returned to Japan, he got married, and did he come back with your mother? Did they come back together?
YY: Oh, yeah.
MN: So they landed here, and then they went to Ogden, Utah?
YY: I think so.
MN: And do you know why they went there?
YY: I have no idea. Isn't it funny? I never thought of asking these questions. If J.K. was, I mean, if he was a youngster, he might have, I don't know, but it wasn't of any interest to me at the time. It's too bad.
<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 2>
MN: How many children were born in Ogden, Utah?
YY: Four. Four boys.
MN: And then your parents came out to Los Angeles, and is this where you were born?
MN: Where in Los Angeles were you born?
YY: On Temple Street, I think, a midwife.
MN: And what year were you born?
MN: And what is your birth name?
YY: Yuriko Tanino.
MN: You know, a lot of Niseis from your generation felt pressure to adopt an English name. Did you adopt an English name?
YY: No, I never thought of it.
MN: How many children did your parents have in total?
YY: Well, five, but I understand she had some miscarriages, so I have no idea how many.
MN: But the five that were alive, I'm gonna go down the line, okay? Takeo, Masao, Hideo, Tomio, and yourself, Yuriko.
MN: When you were born, where were your parents living?
YY: Los Angeles.
MN: Where in L.A.?
YY: Hmm, I don't recall as a baby.
MN: The west side, the east side?
YY: Probably towards Boyle Heights area, I imagine.
MN: And what was your father doing for a living?
YY: He was selling insurance.
MN: Do you know which insurance company?
YY: Manufacture Insurance.
MN: Did he have to travel out of town a lot to sell insurance?
YY: I don't think so.
MN: What was your mother doing?
YY: She was a housewife.
MN: She had five kids to look after.
<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 3>
MN: When you were younger, where were you living and which grammar school did you attend?
YY: I think the first grammar school is Malabar grammar school.
MN: And what was the ethnic makeup of Malabar?
YY: More Hispanic, I think, and Japanese mix.
MN: So you have a Japanese and Hispanic mix. Who were your playmates?
YY: Hispanic children.
MN: What sort of games did you play?
YY: Oh, I don't know. Kick the Ball and Hide and Seek and we climbed trees, cute little things. We didn't have radios or anything like that, so outside sports. I think we had some blacks there, too. I remember calling one, her name was Booboo. [Laughs] I think we were all mixed there.
MN: Did you roller skate?
YY: Oh, yeah.
MN: Where did you go roller skating?
YY: We had a big hill there on our street, so it was kind of frightening, but you go down. We were very fearless, we do what the other kids do, and that was it. We had a lot of fun. We were kids. But we weren't sophisticated like now, you know.
MN: Did you get injured?
YY: Oh, yeah, knee injury. Nothing serious, thank goodness.
MN: So if you get like a scrape, how did your mother treat the scrapes?
YY: Wash it and put a band-aid on it. No big thing in those days. [Laughs]
MN: You know, when you were growing up, did you have sleepovers?
YY: Oh, yeah, my Mexican friends and girlfriend would come and sleep.
MN: And did you go over their houses?
YY: Uh-huh, we did. I think her mother taught my mother how to make tamales from scratch, so she made terrific tamales.
MN: What kind of tamales did your mom make?
YY: All kinds. Beef and pork and, you know, put it in a can and steam 'em, and from scratch. It was delicious.
MN: Did you help out?
YY: Well, if you want to call that help. I helped her eat it, mostly eat it. [Laughs]
MN: So you didn't have to put the masa in the corn husk?
YY: No, I just watched her. But my friend Carmella, she used to teach me how to make tortillas with flour, and we used to make it ourselves. It was fun.
MN: So there's this exchange of cultures, now, did she eat Japanese food?
YY: I believe she did. We ate at each others' house, so we ate what they had.
MN: You shared with me about Mr. and Mrs. Herd. Can you share with us...
YY: Uh-huh, they're a neighbor. They were an older couple and they used to take me to Escondido, they had a rumble seat in the back to they let me ride and it was really a thrill. They really were nice people.
MN: They were African American?
MN: So you had a very mixed neighborhood. And I think it was, was it Elsinore that they took you to?
YY: I think it was Elsinore, you're right. They used to go there quite often, but they'd take me with them so it was so nice.
MN: Now did Mr. and Mrs. Herd, did they have children?
YY: Apparently not. If they did, they were all grown and gone, 'cause I hadn't seen anybody. So they kind of treated me like a grandchild. They were really nice.
MN: So I guess your parents weren't worried an African American couple was taking...
YY: No, there was no prejudice among us.
MN: Now you were talking about tamale, so I'm going to ask you a little bit more about tamales again. When did your mother make them? Like was it on a special occasion like Christmas?
YY: Oh, no, just any occasion. We wanted it, she makes it. Gets the masa and wraps it up, and just did exactly what the lady told her how to do. She was a good cook, and she'd try anything.
MN: You know, nowadays I know they sell premade masa, but did your mother make masa from scratch?
YY: It was from scratch. Everything was from scratch.
MN: Did she make the sweet tamales also?
YY: No, the regular.
MN: Beef or carnitas.
YY: With olive in it. I don't think they put olives anymore. I haven't tasted any with olives.
MN: Yeah, I haven't seen any with olives.
YY: She always put olives, that's the way she was taught. And I liked that.
MN: Do you still have a recipe for your mother's...
YY: Oh, no. I never really... I used to help my mother cut things, you know, but I really never cooked, it was only when I got, started living with my sister-in-law, my brother and his wife, she'd say, "Okay, you cook one day and I'll cook the next," so I really didn't know much about cooking, so I started learning to cook.
MN: So other than the tamales, what kind of other food did your mother make for you?
YY: Everything. It was mostly Japanese.
MN: What kind of Japanese food?
YY: Okazu or anything. My father used to have friends in (navy), he'd bring these fellows over and she'd have to cook and entertain. A lot of times he used to bring these people over. So she knew how to cook all kinds of things.
MN: So who did the buying of food in your family?
YY: I think she did.
MN: Where did she go buy food?
YY: Well, I guess there was a neighborhood she could walk to, but I think in time my father used to take her grocery shopping. But he wasn't home too much because nighttime he'd go off to business.
MN: Oh, is that when he was selling the insurance?
YY: Well, that's when they're home, they come home so he has to wait (until she got) home.
MN: So your father was not home at night?
YY: Not too much, no.
MN: Well, what about like perishable goods like tofu or konnyaku or fish?
YY: We had refrigerators.
MN: Did your mother, was there a peddler that came by?
YY: Oh, yeah, we did have people come by, you're right. The fish man.
MN: But otherwise, did your father take her down into J-town?
YY: Most likely. I really don't recall that, but I know we had people come and sell products, so it was very easy for people to get.
MN: So your father you mentioned had a lot of people come over.
YY: He liked to entertain.
<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 4>
MN: Did your father, it sounds like he was very outgoing.
YY: Very. Yeah, he was very, women liked him. He was very witty and funny and he's nice-looking and always wore a suit and always spiffy.
MN: Was he asked to a lot of emceeing?
YY: Well, he used to go to weddings and things, but he would have to get one of these before he had the nerve to. But I think he enjoyed it, he had a lot of personality.
MN: So your dad liked to drink, too?
YY: Not too excessive, but yeah, he had to have one of those to start, because he's kind of shy, I think, in a sense. Especially when he's talking in front of people.
MN: Did your father make any alcohol at home?
MN: What about his sports activities?
YY: He used to golf, I think that was the main thing, he went golfing with his friends.
MN: Any other sports?
YY: Well, when he was young he used to go tennis, swimming and all that. I don't recall him doing that, but mainly it was golf with his friends.
MN: Do you know where he went golfing?
YY: No, I have no idea, 'cause I was little kid, not even interested, really.
MN: How would you describe your mother's personality?
YY: Very quiet, subservient, very sweet, hardly raises her voice, just complete opposite.
MN: And what did your mother, what did you often see her doing at home?
YY: She does artistic things, cooking and sewing and a lot of pastries she makes, Japanese stuff. So she never gossiped. Anytime she's on the phone she'd be exchanging recipes. She's not a person that gossiped about people. Her good friend is the one who took care of me when my father took my mother's ashes over, we're Christians, so we used to always sing when she's washing dishes, Christian songs. But she's a Buddhist, so when she died, she had a Buddhist funeral. I think in her heart she was more of a Christian.
MN: You mentioned like pastries that your mother made. Are you talking about manju?
YY: Yes, she was very clever. Anything handwork, she was very good. She could look at something, knitting or something, she could figure it out and just crochet whatever. She was really good.
MN: What about your clothes? Did she sew your clothes?
YY: All my clothes.
MN: Who was the disciplinarian in your family?
YY: I think more my father. He never hit me, but he used to pinch me sometimes, my arm, when I'm bad.
MN: What about if your brothers got in trouble?
YY: Oh, yeah, they got it, because they're boys. It's two different things. I'm the apple of his eye, you know. I got away with murder. [Laughs]
MN: Now for enjoyment, did your father like to take the family on car rides?
YY: Oh, yeah, he took us all over.
MN: Like where?
YY: Alligator farm, ostrich farm, and Painted Desert in Arizona, and Yosemite. I'm surprised, just drove. So he took us a lot of places.
MN: Not a lot of families...
YY: I know. When I think about it, he had a lot of guts to go all over. But I guess his English was good enough to understand and know directions. But he had a lot of real spunk.
MN: And then you mentioned earlier that your family had a phone in the house.
YY: A what?
MN: A phone.
YY: A phone? Oh, yeah. Is that unusual? We always had a phone. One of these you hang up.
MN: Did your neighbors come to use your phone?
YY: No, they all had 'em, I think.
MN: I wonder if most of the city people had phones.
MN: Most of the farmers didn't have phones.
YY: Oh, yeah, I guess it would be different in the city. Most of them all had phone, they had to have phone.
<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 5>
MN: Let me ask you a little bit about your schooling. Your Japanese language school, which Japanese language school did you go to?
YY: Gosh, I can't remember but I didn't enjoy it, I'll tell you that much.
MN: You think it was probably Chuo Gakuen in Boyle Heights?
YY: That sounds familiar.
MN: Do you remember going every day or just Saturdays?
YY: I think we did every, after school. Sometimes we took a bus, I think.
MN: And what is it about Japanese school that you didn't enjoy?
YY: I don't know, I just didn't enjoy learning, I guess. I just wasn't interested.
MN: Okay, so you're going to Malabar every day, then you go to Japanese school. What did you do on Saturdays?
YY: Play with my girlfriends, different things, Hide and Seek, do something in their house, play.
MN: What about Sundays, what did you do?
YY: I think my father took us places if I recall.
MN: Did you have to go to like a Sunday school?
YY: Yeah, I think I did go. Somebody picked me up, I believe.
MN: Do you remember which Sunday school you went to?
YY: I think it was a Christian school, actually. But I don't remember, it's too far back.
MN: Now in 1933, L.A. had this huge earthquake.
YY: Oh, yeah, I remember that. I didn't know what it was, I think I had my roller skates (on). She was cooking or something and she grabbed me and took me outside in the street. I didn't know what was going on, but I remember that she said it was an earthquake. It really frightened me.
MN: Did your house sustain any damage?
YY: No. Well, actually, we were renting, but no, no damage.
<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 6>
MN: I want to ask a little bit about your two brothers now that were sent to Japan, Hideo and Tomio. Now how old were your two brothers when they were sent to Japan?
YY: Like three and four, or three and a half and four and a half. We were pretty close in age.
MN: So you were very young...
YY: I was two, I think. I don't really remember.
MN: So you didn't grow up with them.
YY: Oh, no.
MN: Now why were your brothers sent to Japan?
YY: Well, years ago it was, when you wanted to adopt a child, it's usually in the family. My mother comes from a family of eight, her younger brother couldn't have children, so (my father) said, "If the fourth one is a boy, you could adopt him." So that's what happened. So he thought he might as well send the other boy for education or whatever, so he sent (both). One was adopted by my uncle and his wife, and the other one was sent to another relative. But not treated too well because (he was) like (a stranger). And when I think about it, it was really a sad thing for them to be sent like that.
MN: After your two brothers were sent to Japan, when was the first time that you met them again?
YY: Fifty years later. That's when I had a mastectomy and I didn't know if I was going to live very long. So I needed to see them at least once, so I decided to go on tour with my sister-in-law and meet them.
MN: What was that like?
YY: Well, I was telling everybody, "I'm going to go hug them," and they said, "Oh, no, don't do that. They'll be very embarrassed." [Laughs] So I said, "I don't care, I'm just going to hug them." So I went there and hugged them, stiff as a board. [Laughs] I think they were embarrassed, but I hugged them anyway. So my brother, my older was still a Tanino, the other one was Takai, you know, name was changed. So I called them both Niisan. He says, "No, I'm your Niisan." I said, "No, you're both my Niisan." But that's the way it was. It was very interesting. The one looked more like me, the other one looked more like my other brothers.
MN: And Tomio's the one that said... Hideo's the one that said, "I'm your Niisan," right?
MN: And Tomio's the one that didn't know he was adopted?
YY: No, 'til he was thirteen.
MN: Do you know how he found out?
YY: Well, I think he was going to high school or some kind of school and he saw his papers, adoption papers, where he was born and everything. So he was a little shocked. But I understand his (...) foster mother wanting a girl on her side. So I don't think he was treated as loving like he should have been. I really felt bad for both of them because they didn't have a normal, happy life to me.
MN: Did either brother have any interest in returning to the U.S.?
YY: Oh, no, I don't think so. But they had dual citizenship so they dropped the American because they can't have both.
MN: Did they drop it during the war?
YY: Either that or before, I don't remember.
<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 7>
MN: I'm going to go back to your life, prewar life in the East L.A. area, Boyle Heights.
YY: Okay, if I remember.
MN: Now, your family moved to Eleventh Street and then you went to another elementary school. Do you remember this grammar school's name?
YY: No, I don't, but they were all Caucasian except I told you one boy and me were the only Japanese there.
MN: Who registered you at the school?
YY: I did because my mother didn't speak English.
MN: And how did the other students treat you?
YY: They were curious but they were nice to me. Because they had a boy there, a Japanese boy.
MN: So just because there was only two Japanese Americans, they didn't...
YY: No. I was a pet, mascot-like. [Laughs] I was treated well, so I was in a good place.
MN: So from this grammar school, you went to Berendo junior high school. What was the ethnic makeup there?
YY: Mostly Japanese. Smart ones. [Laughs]
MN: How did you get along with the non-Japanese students there?
YY: Oh, good.
MN: Did you participate in any sports there?
YY: Oh, yeah, volleyball, I was captain of the volleyball team and they showed, they taught dancing, too, you know, they had a Caucasian guy teach us dancing at the gym, enjoyed that. Things like that.
MN: Share with us how you did in dance class.
YY: Well, I enjoyed it. In fact, he chose me to demonstrate and I was real thrilled. He was blonde and blue-eyed.
MN: The teacher?
MN: So you must have been pretty good.
YY: Not necessarily. I liked to dance, I just enjoyed dancing.
MN: And then your father encouraged you to take private dancing lessons.
YY: Oh, yeah, he enrolled me in tap dancing, ballet, and acrobats. This was at Fourth and Broadway, I took a streetcar with a little suitcase with my ballet slippers, and tap dance, my tap shoes, it was kind of scary. But I went because it was normal. Just went, took it, and come home. But there's people, I was kind of afraid because you sit down, and sometimes they move their leg over, you know, men, so I always stayed by the conductor because I felt creepy. Even then, you sense things are not right. Because I was nine then I remember.
MN: Do you remember what the dance studio was called?
YY: Dave's Dance Studio, I think.
MN: And what was the ethnic makeup of the students there?
YY: They were all... but this group of mine was just Japanese, all Japanese.
MN: And now you said once the dance studio was over, you had to take the, I guess the streetcar back, and you were kind of uncomfortable?
YY: Well, I didn't feel comfortable, so I always stood by the conductor.
MN: Was this already dark, or was it during daytime?
YY: It was during daytimes after school. But I have a long ways to walk from the streetcar, so I thought one time I had a drunk following me, and I was so scared I ran all the way home. In those days, they didn't worry about those things.
MN: So what was the favorite dancing style?
YY: I liked tap dancing. It was all kinds, rumba and military, it was very interesting, I enjoyed it. We wear our costumes and entertain, Coconut Grove, we went different places. I remember one of 'em was, Nelson Eddie was a guest there, and yeah, it was pretty nice.
MN: Where did you get your dance costumes?
YY: My mother made 'em. We all had to make our own, and the mothers had to... or ask someone to make 'em, but I didn't even think about it. It was there, my mother just made 'em.
MN: Like for a rumba, I mean, where did your mother get the pattern, the colors?
YY: Well, they must give you a pattern, but she knows how to make the ruffles. I should have brought that one, I forgot to bring that... yeah, there was about seven of us, but it was kind of fun. We all got along well.
MN: So you were saying you were going to the Coconut Grove and having recitals there. How did the audience, was the audience mainly Caucasian?
YY: I think so.
MN: Did they have any problems --
YY: Oh, no, because we weren't the only entertainers, there were several. But we're kind of cute, we're young, and we're in our costumes.
MN: How long did you take dancing lessons?
YY: Just one year.
MN: Why did you quit after one year?
YY: I don't know. I don't know if it was my father or me, I don't recall.
MN: So after you quit, you started to take piano lessons.
YY: That was his idea.
MN: Your dad's.
YY: But I think what happened was I wanted a piano for some reason, so he got me a piano. So of course if you get a piano, you got to get piano lessons. So he hired this guy; he was horrible. [Laughs] He wanted me to practice, but he would scold me all the time. I'd be crying and crying, and he said, "You're just a spoiled brat," he's telling me. And then I would (cry), get my skirt and wipe my face, I can't move, he won't let me off the bench. [Laughs] It was very traumatic. So every time he doesn't come I think, "Oh, good," because he couldn't make it or something. So I don't know... so finally I told him, "I just can't do it anymore," so he hired a Japanese girl, very gentle, then I enjoyed it. She wouldn't get on me like that. Maybe I was a spoiled brat, but oh, he was horrible. Treated me poorly, but, of course, I couldn't get up because he's sitting right next to me on the bench. That was miserable. That I remember.
MN: Did you give piano recitals?
YY: Yes. I mean, a bunch of us, but I'd get up there, and one time I just completely forgot, just blanked out completely, I got so excited. So I had to wait a while, and just like speech to read, Japanese speech, and I'd be about the twenty-third one, and then I'm listening to all of them. And when I got up there, I couldn't remember my speech. It was horrifying.
MN: This is Japanese language school?
MN: So you were the twenty-third contestant? And did you just go up there and then come back down?
YY: Oh, no, I started to remember, but I kind of, I just see my folks just sliding down (in their seats) in shame, but I couldn't help it, I just completely blanked out.
MN: Where was the speech contest held?
YY: I have no idea, some Japanese place, have a big stage.
MN: What about your piano recitals? Where were they held at?
YY: I have no idea. Different places, I believe.
MN: Like Koyasan?
YY: Could have been. I have pictures of that I could have brought, too, but I didn't.
<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 8>
MN: Okay, now in 1938 when you were eleven years old, your father sent Masao to Japan. Now, why was he sent to Japan?
YY: Because he said he's so intelligent he should get a Japanese education.
MN: So now you have three brothers in Japan. How did your mother feel about this?
YY: Well, you can imagine, but she's not vocal about it. But I know it must have been sad because he was the closest to her. Because he learned things from her. Like they'd make little bookmarks (...) and helped with the dishes, very close to her. So when he was sent, it must have broke her heart.
MN: How did you feel?
YY: Well, I miss him, but I'm not like my mom, you know, because gosh, I only already had two brothers here. I wasn't as sad as my mother, but I didn't like to see him go, but he had no choice, that's the problem. He was fifteen.
MN: So what your father said went.
YY: Yeah. But when he wanted to take me, I said, "Absolutely no. I'm not going."
MN: So Masao, who did he live with?
YY: He lived with the relative, probably aunt and uncle. [Interruption] So I think he saved up enough money to fly to Hawaii, just take off. Then he went to high school there and he joined the army.
MN: This is right before the war that he ended up in Hawaii. And then he lived with another family.
YY: Tango or something. He was ready to take that name, he said, because they were so good to him. He earned his money in a bowling alley, set those pins up, you know. It was kind of sad, we all scattered, I think.
MN: So he didn't want to come back to the family.
YY: Well, he had a family there, actually, and then he was going to school. So I guess what can he come back to? Let's see, was it just me and my brother and my father? I don't know, I can't remember.
MN: Oh, by then, 'cause your mother had passed away.
MN: And then I guess you mentioned that during, when World War II started, Masao was teaching at the MIS Camp Savage.
YY: Right, uh-huh. He's good at Chinese, too.
MN: So your oldest brother, Takeo, he's still living in United States. What plans did your father have for Takeo?
YY: He wanted him to be an insurance man, but he wasn't too interested. He also took him to the golf course, wanted him to be able to golf. He loved golfing, my brother was good at golfing, but he wanted him to be an insurance man, but wasn't interested.
MN: I want to ask a little bit about your father a little bit more. He wrote some books.
YY: Yes, he did.
MN: What kind of books did he write?
YY: He wrote Naked America, Hadaka no Amerika. He detested Roosevelt, he really said what he thought, and he said, "Well, I can't publish it here, so I'm going to go to Japan and publish it." And about Hollywood, everything he wanted to ask me about, certain things. He also wrote a health book. He was very health conscious.
MN: And these were all in Nihongo?
MN: Have you translated them?
YY: Well, J.K. started, but it's such a big, so much of it. I don't think he finished it. I think he still has it, but I don't know when he'll get to it.
MN: And J.K. is your son.
<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 9>
MN: Now, your family, they were living in an apartment, but your father found this big, two story house at Harvard Boulevard. How did you feel about moving into this big house?
YY: Well, we did look around, and I love this small house. This other house is too big, and I don't know, I just felt creepy in there, somehow, like somebody had died there. But my father had an idea of having my mother teach sewing, so above the garage is a big room there. So he wanted her to teach but she became ill. That was his idea, I think, it had an upstairs, and I just hated to go upstairs to go to bed, because this closet door, I'd be facing, but I have a dresser that faces the back, and the closet door would just slowly open up. Maybe draft, but I was so scared and I just wouldn't go to bed until everybody else went to bed. Something happened there.
MN: And that's when your mother's health started to go down also.
MN: What was, what health problems was your mother having?
YY: I don't know if it was change of life, I don't know what it was. She had extremely bad headaches, but I think it was Christian Science where they don't believe in doctors or whatever, I don't remember. But he didn't take her to the doctor. Medication maybe but I don't know. She got worse and worse.
MN: So once your mother started to get really sick, did somebody else come and do the cooking and cleaning?
YY: No, until after she died. She was doing it all along, sick as she was.
MN: And what year did your mother pass away?
YY: Yeah, when is it? I was thirteen, so do your math. [Laughs]
MN: I'll look at the year again. Where did your mother pass away? Where?
YY: In the house.
MN: How did you find out your mother passed away?
YY: Well, my father called me. I was in Japanese school and they called me home. He said to me, and he was upstairs and I was downstairs, I said, "Why did you call me?" He says, "Mama died." I was afraid to go up. As a child, you don't like, never seen a dead person, especially your mother, so I was frightened.
MN: So you're thirteen years old, so you understood death.
YY: Oh, yeah. Mother and I were very close. She used to curl my hair and take good care of me.
MN: How did your brother take the news?
YY: Well, it was only my brother Tak. It's hard to tell what boys feel, you know.
MN: Do you remember who made the funeral arrangements?
YY: I'm sure my father did.
MN: And was it through Fukui?
YY: I think so. My father took it real hard, 'cause he would talk to people and the tears would come into his eyes. Me, too. I mean, I dreamt about her about a year. I dreamed that she'd sit up in her coffin, and I said, "Oh, you're not dead, you're not dead." But for a whole year I think I dreamt about her, that she'd come back. Meanwhile, I was living with my guardian parents, so she had a schoolgirl, she was like a big sister to me. So she slept with me, so that was nice. I was counting the days my father would come back on the calendar, but he never came back. The war broke out, so he didn't come back.
MN: Before we get into your guardian family, I wanted to ask you, do you remember where the funeral was held, your mother's funeral?
YY: It was a small Buddhist place, in someplace, it's on First Street, I think, on the left side, your right side. You go in, it was a small Buddhist church, I don't know what it was called.
MN: Probably Koyasan then.
YY: Probably, you walk in a little farther. You know, all that chanting and all that stuff. And my mother was, never used makeup, never wore makeup. Very slightly, coating, I remember she had powder, but they made her up with rouge and lips, and I thought my gosh, (that's) not her. If I was older and they let me see -- 'cause I was kind of afraid to see her, but if I had known now, I would have said, "Don't put so much makeup." My father should have known better. But I dreamed she'd sit up, I said, "You're not dead, you're not dead." It was awful.
MN: What happened to your mother's clothes and her personal belongings?
YY: I don't know. Maybe my father had given it away. I have no idea. There's nothing that I could wear.
MN: Were you able to keep anything of your mother's?
YY: Things that she made, like she made (crocheted) gloves, and of course, real fine gloves. Little things like that, but not too many. You know, by the war, when we, she had things, pearls, and she had the crystal necklace, I don't know what happened to them. We just took what we can and that was it, to camp.
MN: What happened to your mother's remains?
YY: Oh, (my father) cremated her and took her to Japan and buried her.
MN: And is this when your father asked you to go to Japan with him?
MN: And why didn't you go?
YY: Because I felt that he was going to leave me behind.
<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 10>
MN: So you didn't want to go to Japan, so what kind of living arrangement did your father make?
YY: Well, that's why he had hurriedly asked his best friend. I'm sure they were a little reluctant, but he said, "Until I get back," so he gave 'em some money. Of course, he stayed on during the war. The war started and he didn't come back for eight years. So they were stuck with me.
MN: And this is the Takahashi family that you stayed with?
MN: Did you know them before you moved in with them?
YY: Oh, yeah. They were one of my mother and father's best friends. So we used to visit, I knew who they were.
MN: And what was Mr. Takahashi's profession?
YY: He was custodian at this Union church.
MN: What was it like living there?
YY: Well, we were... you know, I'd climb a flight of stairs and the sanctuary and up, and then there's another stair up and there was a little place to live. But it was so creepy. I'd come home from school and I have to pass through that hallway, up the stairs. There might have been a few, made you feel very creepy. And sometimes a drunk would be sleeping in a pew, I was scared to death. It was dark. So it wasn't real pleasant for me, but my obasan was very religious. She'd go down and just pray in the morning. She cooked healthy food. Reverend Toriumi used to live downstairs in another... you remember Reverend Toriumi? Yeah, he came upstairs to eat and I had a little crush on him. [Laughs] And then he met Sophie Tajima and he married her. But he was such a nice person.
MN: And then the church that you're describing is the old Union church.
YY: Yeah, Union church is a theater now.
MN: East West Players. So where did you live? Did you live in the attic area?
YY: Well, actually, it was a sanctuary and then there's the upstairs, and there's a little home there, a little house with two bedrooms, I think, one bedroom or two bedrooms up above. And just below there's a little small (apartment), so Reverend Toriumi lived there, so it was a little place to live. For a custodian, I guess, when they built the place.
MN: And then you said there was another schoolgirl living there.
YY: Uh-huh, Michi Kawashima, I think her name was, Kawashiba or something. She had gone to a TB sanitarium because she became sick, but she was one of the very few persons... I was glad she was there because like a big sister, she kept me company.
MN: And when you were living there, did you have to do, like, chores around the church?
YY: Oh, yes.
MN: What kind of chores?
YY: Well, for one thing, I used to hang things on the knob. She didn't like that, "You hang it up in the closet." She was strict. She had to teach me because... [laughs].
MN: Did you continue going to Japanese language school?
YY: No. As soon as my mother died I said, Papa, he's sympathetic because I'm so sad, so he let me quit. So I was real happy.
MN: How about piano lessons?
YY: I don't know why I quit. She was real nice, I enjoyed that. But something happened.
MN: Do you know, like, what happened to your prewar piano and all the furniture when your dad went to Japan?
YY: Well, my piano, I gave it to... oh, when I moved, I took it with me.
MN: Your prewar piano?
MN: So you still had it during the war?
YY: Let me see. Maybe it was another one, I can't remember, but I know I... maybe my father got me another one because we didn't have a piano then, I suppose.
MN: So this must be after the war.
YY: Uh-huh, after the war. I don't know what happened to it. We just lost almost everything.
MN: But since you play the piano, did you play at the congregation?
YY: No, I was just, for enjoyment. I would have never been a good pianist. I'm too shy in front of people. You know how my mind just blanks out when I get too excited.
MN: Well, did you become active with church activities?
YY: Well, I did, I joined the church. I was in the choir and activities, but I didn't play the piano. I was, joined the church, Hollywood Presbyterian.
MN: Hollywood Presbyterian? Not the Union church choir?
YY: Oh, I was too young then.
MN: Oh, but later on...
YY: But these people were about five years older, but they said, "Come on, Yuri, join us." But they had their own groups. I just sat and listened to them. So I knew them all.
MN: So the people in the Union church choir were about five years older?
YY: Uh-huh. Yeah, because the Fukui, Soichi, he came to camp, Heart Mountain, there was a dance, he'd dance with me. He was light, a very good dancer. I snuck out one day and I told my ojisan, I said, "I'm just going to look in the window," and somebody asked me to dance so I went in, and I didn't come home 'til twelve. Oh, boy, did I get it.
MN: This is at Heart Mountain?
MN: So was Soichi Fukui like an ideal dance partner?
YY: No, he was just one of the bunches, he just knows me, so he asked me, so I said okay.
MN: And he was in the choir also?
YY: Yeah. My obasan was good friends with his folks, so used to go back and forth, so we knew each other very well.
MN: So, let's see, your mother passed away in 1940. When your father went to Japan, he was not able to return.
YY: No, the war broke out. He waited too long, I think.
MN: Before we get into the war, I want to ask you about your schooling again. When you were living with the Takahashi family, you were still going to Berendo junior high school and you graduated from there. What was your graduation like? Did anybody come to your graduation?
YY: For the junior high?
YY: I think my obasan and my brother, oldest brother, he was working at a florist and he got me a nice orchid corsage.
MN: And where was Takeo living at that time?
YY: I think he had an apartment of his own.
MN: And then from there you went to Polytechnic High School?
YY: It was Belmont, actually, but I got transferred to Polytechnic. That was before the war. I mean, during the war, I guess, but also there, there was only two, they all dropped out as soon as the war broke out. And this other fellow, my obasan said, "You have every reason to go. You're American citizen," so she made me go.
MN: This is right after Pearl Harbor, Monday?
YY: [Nods] So I felt kind of funny, but she says, "You have no reason to quit. You're American citizen, you go," she said. So me and this other boy, I guess, we were forced to go to school. Nobody was there, I mean, Japanese.
MN: So how did the other non-Japanese students --
YY: They didn't treat us badly. I wasn't scared, it's just a little awkward because I had to do what I was told.
<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 11>
MN: Let's talk about December 7th, on Sunday. What were you doing?
YY: I think I was home. I was kind of shocked, it was kind of unbelievable.
MN: How did you hear about it?
YY: I think it was the radio.
MN: Did you go into J-town?
YY: I was in J-town.
MN: But did you walk around?
YY: Oh, yeah.
MN: How was everybody else reacting?
YY: I don't recall. It was just normal, I don't think anybody tried to hurt me or anything. But I noticed everybody started wearing those pins, "I'm Filipino," "I'm Chinese," so they won't mistake them for Japanese.
MN: Did you know anybody who got picked up by the FBI?
MN: When they instituted the curfew, did that affect you at all?
YY: Oh, yeah.
MN: How did it affect you?
YY: Well, you didn't go out after, what, ten o'clock, you had to be in. So I was a kid, so it didn't matter.
MN: Did your father try to contact you from Japan?
YY: No. I don't think there was any. You couldn't contact each other during those days.
MN: How did you learn that you had to go into a camp?
YY: Oh, I guess my ojisan, obasan told me. They're all informed.
MN: And how did you react to that?
YY: Well, you know, like a kid, you just go along and did what you have to do. You don't fight it or say that's not justice and all this stuff, 'cause I guess you got to be a little older and more mature to know that. Like Wakako, she knew. She's just a few years older, but she knows what's right and what's wrong. Probably Auntie Saye, too, my sister-in-law.
MN: Wakako Yamauchi and Hisaye Yamamoto. How did you prepare to go into camp?
YY: Oh, you just packed what you can, my obasan tells me what we need, and that's it. Just one little suitcase, and little tag, and off we go on the bus. We rode for about three days, the shades all down, and it was a train, I believe. We traveled for about three days, we had sandwiches.
MN: Now, some people stored their belongings at Union Church. Did you help out at that at all?
YY: No. I don't think we had anything, actually.
MN: The day you're supposed to go to camp, where was your gathering point?
YY: I think that was right in J-town someplace. They had gathered us, lined up and picked us up.
MN: Do you think it was the old Nishi Hongwanji building?
YY: It could be. It could be. I have pictures. I mean, I had a picture, but I don't know where it is, now.
MN: Do you recall what month or day it was?
YY: Oh, no.
MN: And then from there, did they take you to Santa Anita?
MN: How did you get to Santa Anita?
YY: Bus, I think.
MN: What kind of buses were these? Greyhounds?
YY: I don't think it was that fancy. Just transportation is all it was.
MN: Was there more than one bus?
YY: Oh, several buses, 'cause there's quite a few of us.
MN: Do you remember how many?
YY: No. I'm not even paying attention.
MN: Were there a lot of soldiers?
YY: Oh, yeah, there was always soldiers around.
MN: And how did you react to the soldiers?
YY: Nothing. I mean, I wasn't frightened or anything like that.
MN: When you got on the bus, did you know where you were going?
YY: Well, they told us, but I don't know the place where we were going to stay, 'cause some people had to go to the... we had a barrack. But some people had to go to horse stalls and things like that, so we were very fortunate.
<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 12>
MN: And what was your first impression when you got to Santa Anita?
YY: Well, it was very interesting. I mean, who would have thought? But you do what you have to do. You don't question it. There's no point in questioning, you go where you have to go. And we had to fill our sacks with straw for our mattress. And I had hay fever, it was horrible. But it's not the most comfortable thing, but if you want to have a little mattress, that's what you do. Just like in Heart Mountain, if there's coal you got to go run down and get a bucket so you can get that going, the (potbelly stove), you know, keep the heat in there because it's so cold. That's the first time I've seen snow, blizzards and stuff.
MN: Going back to Santa Anita, now, you said you lived in the parking lot area. Did you live with the Takahashis?
MN: The Takahashis had a son. Was the son living in the barrack also?
YY: I think he was in the army if I'm not mistaken. Because he was thirteen years older than me.
MN: What about your brother Takeo?
YY: He was, I think by then he was married.
MN: So he didn't live in the same barrack as you?
YY: I think... let me think. Was he in Santa Anita? I think he was. And then I think he went to Manzanar, and then they transferred over to Heart Mountain. Because I think the baby was born in Heart Mountain.
MN: So he joined you at Heart Mountain.
MN: He joined you at Heart Mountain.
MN: But going back to Santa Anita, was your barrack near the cesspool?
YY: Yeah. It was awful-smelling.
MN: But do you get used to the smell?
YY: You have no choice, it's there.
MN: A lot of people that I've talked to had diarrhea at the beginning. Did you have that problem?
YY: No, thank goodness.
MN: I want to ask you some personal questions, female personal questions, menstruation. You had already started when you were in --
YY: No, I think I did.
MN: How did you know you were menstruating?
YY: Well, because there was blood. I was getting it outside. [Laughs]
MN: Did you understand what was going on with your body?
YY: Well, I think my sister-in-law... well, now she's my sister-in-law, but she was more well read and everything, so she tells me a lot of stuff. Because my obasan wouldn't tell me. In those days, there was no belts or anything, they make it out of flannel, they pin it. It was very old-fashioned. Because I remember swirling my dress and it was all red, and I was so embarrassed. Because I flowed quite a bit.
MN: And where did you buy the pads?
YY: Oh, I don't know. I don't remember now.
MN: Did they sell it at the canteen?
YY: I think they must have, because I don't even remember things like that. All I remember is when you took a shower the first time, you went to the horse stall, there's no partition, you're all lined up. So embarrassing. Gosh.
MN: Especially because your body's changing, too.
YY: Yeah, especially that, and you're so shy. It was horrendous. That's one of the worst experience I had. But you get used to it because that's what it is.
MN: So were you one of those people that waited until really late to take a shower or really...
YY: No, I don't think so.
MN: You just get used to it.
YY: I guess so.
<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 13>
MN: Let me ask you about your eating arrangement. Which mess hall did you eat at?
YY: It was the Yellow I remember. It was at Yellow Mess Hall. You had to line up. They still gave me milk.
MN: I thought milk was for the young children.
YY: Well, they gave it to me. [Laughs]
MN: Did you look really young?
YY: I don't know.
MN: Do you remember what kind of food you ate?
YY: Well, you know, I like food, so I'll eat anything. [Laughs] So it was no problem for me.
MN: I hear a lot of complaints about mutton.
YY: Oh, yeah.
MN: Did you like the mutton?
YY: I love mutton. I love lamb, see, so I used to enjoy stew. It's smelly, but I still love lamb. So I didn't mind it at all.
MN: Were there other types of meats that you...
YY: They say it was horse meat, but it was tough, but it was food and I enjoyed food. So no problem with me.
MN: So did they really serve horse meat?
YY: Yes, they did. They really did.
MN: Now a lot of the younger people ate with their friends. What about yourself?
YY: No, I wasn't allowed to. I always had to be home.
MN: The Takahashis were very strict.
YY: Oh, yes, very strict.
MN: What did Mrs. Takahashi do in Santa Anita?
YY: She was a cook. She was a helper in the kitchen. So she used to bring leftovers and made jell-o or something, treated us real good.
MN: Now you're still in high school. Did you attend classes at Santa Anita?
MN: Where were they held at?
YY: The little barracks they had especially for school.
MN: So what was classes like?
YY: Well, the teachers weren't the best, but you know, we used to... I would never skip class, but we used to do that. Things I never used to do. We were not a hundred percent interested in going to classes and things.
MN: So you skipped classes and did what?
YY: Oh, we fooled around doing something, go canteen or whatever. But I had a job there, remember I told you? My ojisan knew all these religious people, ministers, so he got me a job there as a secretary.
MN: Wasn't that at Heart Mountain?
YY: That was at Heart Mountain.
MN: Okay, don't go there yet.
MN: So Santa Anita, you went to school, who were your teachers?
YY: I don't remember. I think we went to the stands. I don't know if it was a class per se, we'd just sit there and listen to lectures and stuff. But I don't think it was like a class.
MN: Oh, you're talking about the grandstands.
YY: Yeah, grandstands.
MN: That's where the classes were held. And your teachers, were they Caucasians or Japanese?
YY: Mostly Caucasians.
MN: Did you take any, like art classes?
YY: Well, I took knitting and things I enjoyed. I think I started to take drafting, but I don't think I was cut out for that.
MN: That's the sewing drafting?
MN: Santa Anita had a riot. Do you remember that?
YY: I don't think I do remember that. Because I probably was kept home or something, I don't know.
MN: Now in general, how did you spend your time at Santa Anita?
YY: Well, I don't know. I was going around with my girlfriend, and I guess we found things to do. I don't know for sure, I can't remember. But it wasn't boring. Most of the time I think I was knitting. Because I learned to knit, I enjoyed it, so I just stick with it until I finished some things.
MN: Did anyone from the outside come to visit you?
YY: No, I don't think so. Might have been one of my brothers', a Caucasian friend, he used to come, I think, and bring things.
<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 14>
MN: So how long were you at Santa Anita?
YY: God, I don't know. For a fairly short time, because soon after, we all separated and we went to Heart Mountain. Lot of Spokane people and Mountain View people, so they thought I was one of (them).
MN: So then did you know you were going to Heart Mountain?
YY: Well, we were told that. I didn't know where Heart Mountain was, Wyoming, but I didn't know what kind of a place it was.
MN: Now how long did you say the train ride was?
YY: I would say about three days, I don't know. But they closed the shades. I don't know where we're going, you just hear the train going. But it was very, it was boring.
MN: Did you get motion sickness?
YY: No, I didn't.
MN: Where did you sleep on the train?
YY: On the seat you're sitting on.
MN: So you couldn't lie down.
MN: Did people, like, lie down in the aisles?
YY: Not that I know of, because people have to walk to the bathroom or whatever.
MN: What did you eat on the train?
YY: Mostly sandwiches.
MN: What kind of sandwiches?
YY: I don't recall. Just plain, you know.
MN: So was there a separate dining car?
YY: No, they just passed it out to you.
MN: Who were passing out the sandwiches? Were they African American porters?
YY: I don't recall that. They might have been, or some Caucasian people, but it wasn't Japanese. We just sat there and they just served us.
MN: How would you describe the train ride?
YY: Tedious. Can't see anything.
MN: Were there soldiers on the train?
YY: I'm sure there were, but I wasn't noticing anything like that.
MN: Did the train stop near Heart Mountain or did you have to take a bus from wherever...
YY: I think we did have to take a bus. Because it's a very remote place, I think.
<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 15>
MN: Okay, let's see. We're going into Heart Mountain now.
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.
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.
<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 16>
MN: How soon after moving into Heart Mountain did classes start?
YY: I don't recall, but I guess in a couple of weeks you start organizing, getting to classes.
MN: So the Heart Mountain high school, how far was that from your block?
YY: It was quite a walk, especially when it blizzard or snowing. We had sandstorms, too. So we'd duck into the latrine, whatever the closest, until it kind of blows over, then start in again. But it was really something. But we had the most beautiful sunset and sunrise in the winter. Unbelievable.
MN: But you know, when you have a blizzard or something, don't you just stay home?
YY: If it's real bad I think we almost had to, because you can't see anything. You get lost. I tumbled into somebody else's barracks so many times, because you can't tell one from the other. Yeah, it's embarrassing, but they all look alike. [Laughs]
MN: Was that common with other people, too?
YY: Well, it didn't happen to me, but I don't know about that. Maybe they're more careful.
MN: And I guess the barracks, they don't have any locks or anything.
YY: Well, these guys, they were all bachelors, they didn't, barged in, they looked up at me, I said, "Oh, my god, I'm sorry." [Laughs]
MN: So who were your teachers at Heart Mountain high school?
YY: Mostly Caucasian. I know that Mr. Underwood was the bookkeeping teacher, I don't know what he was doing there, actually. So I cut his class a lot. I never do such things, but over there, you just don't care. With the wrong crowd, I don't know.
MN: Did you have any Caucasian students who were children of administrators in your class?
YY: I never saw any.
MN: What kind of high school activities did you get involved in?
YY: We had music. I always joined the music club, and there were six that I told you the teacher chose us, and we would perform at games and such.
MN: Can you tell us how the sextet was formed?
YY: Well, the teacher just chose us randomly. Maybe we were kind of like pets to her, too, so she chose the six of us. So we had to wear black skirt and white blouse and we sang what she taught us to sing, harmonize.
MN: What kind of songs did you sing?
YY: Oh, I guess popular songs at that time. It was kind of fun, 'cause you're not alone, you're singing with the group.
MN: Now, tell us what kind of occasions you sang at.
YY: Oh, football games or things that we want to celebrate, they would ask us to perform. The whole choir. We were in a choir, too, so we sang. We brought the music.
MN: Did you perform outside camp?
YY: Outside camp? No. We weren't that good. [Laughs] Amateurs.
MN: Was there a name to your sextet?
YY: No, we just called ourselves the Sextets.
MN: Did you get involved in any other extracurricular activities?
YY: I don't think so at that time, I really don't think so. Because I didn't stay there that long.
MN: Well, you also liked reading.
YY: Oh, yeah, that was my problem. I was on, (my obasan) got after because she said, "You have to utilize your time. You can't just keep reading, do other chores." But that was my only pleasure there and I just loved to read.
MN: So your obasan thought it was a waste of time.
YY: Oh, yeah. Well, no, it wasn't a waste of time, but she says I shouldn't do one thing so long, you should take other duties and do it. She said, "You can't be sitting there reading all the time." So she was kind of strict in that way, but it's good. I needed a little discipline.
MN: Where were you able to get the books?
YY: They had them in the library, canteens.
MN: And what kind of books did you read?
YY: Oh, I think Nancy Drew and some adventure type books.
MN: Where did you get your love of reading?
YY: I don't know.
MN: Your mother, your father?
YY: I don't know, think if I ever saw them reading, but I guess at school you read books, they suggest certain books and it gets real interesting. Nothing better to do, you read.
<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 17>
MN: I'm gonna ask you a little bit about the weather at Heart Mountain. You sort of mentioned this before, but I know that was, the first year you were there, that was the coldest winter on record. What was your reaction to seeing snow for the first time?
YY: Oh, it was amazing. I loved to see the stars and the sunset, the sunrise was just, was so thrilled to see that. It's just the blizzard and the sandstorm that was sort of unbearable to bear. You can't even open your eyes in that.
MN: So if there's a blizzard or a sandstorm, how do you go to the latrine?
YY: Well, you just charge in, you know. I mean, you look down and you just run. I mean, there's no other choice you have. If you've got to go, you've got to go.
MN: Now I know some people had chanba, you know, chamber pots. Did you have that?
YY: No, we didn't want to do that.
MN: Now you're talking about these sandstorms, how bad are these sandstorms?
YY: Pretty bad. It's so bad that you can't see. It just kind of pushes you. It's worse than... well, I don't know. Then we had snowstorms, too, which is just as bad. It's cold, you can't see, so you kind of drop in the latrine, the closest one until a little while and then you start in again. But it's hard to find your place. It's dark, the barracks all look alike, so you get scared sometimes.
MN: Now the snowstorms are during the winter. When do the sandstorms occur?
YY: In the summer, mostly. And it's so hot out there, so hot. But people started growing vegetables and fruits and stuff like that. Growing their own things as a hobby. They had baseball games and such.
MN: Did the Takahashis and you have a victory garden?
YY: I don't think we did.
MN: Going back to the wintertime, did you learn to ice skate?
YY: I tried. It was scary. I had a chair, we all had a chair to kind of... but it's not as easy as it looked. But I wanted to be like Sonja Henie. [Laughs] She was my idol, you know, and I used to save all her pictures. But no, I didn't really pursue it. But when I left and went to Detroit, there was a pond there and I would think, well, maybe I'll try it. And I did go out there, but I was kind of scared. You know, when you skate backward, it looks so easy, but it's so difficult. But I was trying to make like Sonja Henie but I couldn't do it.
MN: Now let me see. You said you carried a chair out there?
YY: You push a chair sort of for balance. Because it's slippery, and your ankles are not strong, and wobble. But it really takes a lot of practice, everything. It's scary. It's not like roller skates, you got a lot of support. But ice skating was a little blade. So it looked so easy, Sonja Henie skating, I thought, gee, I'll be like Sonja Henie. Couldn't do that either. [Laughs]
MN: Where did you get your ice skates?
YY: We ordered, mail order. I think Montgomery Ward's. Even our bras, we ordered it through the mail.
MN: So what did people use, I mean, how did you make the ice rink?
YY: I don't know. It just freezes.
MN: Just whatever water there is out there?
YY: I think so. I think it just freezes on its own. It's just nature. I don't think they made it per se.
MN: So basically was the camp one big ice rink?
YY: Probably, a lot of places water gathered and froze.
MN: Did you ever get injured?
YY: Oh, no, because I wasn't that into that much. It was kind of scary because you'd fall and it was a hard fall.
MN: Now Mrs. Takahashi, what kind of job did she have at Heart Mountain?
YY: She was working in mess hall.
MN: Now how about Mr. Takahashi?
YY: Gee, what did he do? I don't know. He puttered around and made things and joined the baseball game and things like that.
MN: Now you shared a little earlier, but what kind of job did you get at Heart Mountain?
YY: Well, I got a job at the church as a secretary. Three ministers, I would mimeograph the program for the church program. So I was very busy. The mimeograph, you have to put it on this big contraption and you roll it. So yeah, I was pretty good at that. And I got wages, too, and I was really happy.
MN: Now when you were in Heart Mountain, did you get an opportunity to go outside?
YY: No. I probably did, but I never pursued it.
MN: Why not?
YY: I wasn't interested. They had, they were very... they didn't want any "Japs" out there. I don't want to go have do that, I'd rather just stay in and just enjoy myself, whatever I could find.
MN: So you had heard that maybe the outside people were maybe hostile?
YY: Well, it says in front of the doors, there's "No Japs Allowed" and things like that, so I'd get the message. I'd say, "Why would I want to be doing that?"
MN: Did Mr. and Mrs. Takahashi ever go outside?
YY: I think Mr. Takahashi did go to Cody. He brought home some doughnuts, I remember.
MN: You talked about this dance that you went to at Heart Mountain already.
YY: They always had dances in the mess hall. And then they wouldn't allow me to go dance, I said, "Can I just go watch by the window? And I'll be back." Somebody, I told you, they asked me out to dance and I said, "Oh, okay." I'd been there ever since, until midnight, and I thought, "Oh, boy, I'm going to get it." I did. [Laughs] I enjoyed myself.
MN: So after that did you ever go again?
YY: No. I don't think, I don't dare oppose them, 'cause I wasn't quite sure what they'd do.
MN: But you were a teenager.
YY: Yeah, but they still wanted me...
MN: Where did you learn to dance?
YY: Well, years ago, my brother was five years older than me, he wanted to, he said, "Come on, we're going to dance," and so he was teaching me so he could learn to dance with the girls. So I got proficient dancing, and it was easy for me. I enjoyed it.
MN: So your brother needed a dance partner.
YY: Yeah, well, he was a good dancer, but he needed, yeah, dance partner, so he practiced with me.
MN: What were you practicing? Like the jitterbug?
YY: That and regular foxtrot, mostly foxtrot and jitterbug and that kind of stuff. The waltz they didn't do too much of in those days.
MN: So in 1943 the government came out with the so-called "loyalty questionnaire." Was this an issue with the Takahashi family?
YY: I don't think so because the son was already in the army.
MN: And then Heart Mountain is known for the Fair Play Committee and the mass draft resistance. Did you pay any attention to that?
MN: How about when Ben Kuroki came to visit?
YY: Oh, we all went to see, listen to his lecture when he came. We were all happy and proud of him, I remember all gathering outside.
MN: Do you remember what he said in his speech?
YY: No, I don't recall. But he was a hero to all of us.
MN: Did you take a photo with him?
YY: No, I didn't have a camera and I'm not into that kind of stuff. I'm sure other people did. I was kind of shy, too.
MN: Now, you also shared about your brother Takeo, he was at Manzanar and then he transferred to Heart Mountain. And then your other brother Masao, did you know that he was in MIS?
YY: You mean in Hawaii?
MN: Hawaii and then he went to Camp Savage?
YY: Oh, yeah, he kept corresponding with me.
MN: Now how long were you in Heart Mountain?
YY: About a year and a half, I think. Because he, (ojisan), got an offer, a job. If you have a job waiting for you, you could always go out. So he had this... the Methodist church that's about a block long in Royal Oak, Michigan, it's a suburb of Detroit, they offered him a custodian job. So he says, "Well, yeah," so he took it. And there's a little apartment downstairs in the basement, so that's where he started living. And I had to finish my high school there, Royal Oak High School. They'd never seen a Japanese there at all.
<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 18>
MN: How did you feel about having to leave Heart Mountain?
YY: I don't know one way or another. It's something you had to do, so I didn't question it. 'Cause I have to go anyway.
MN: And you weren't old enough to say to the Takahashis that you want to stay?
YY: Yeah, but who's going to take care of me? I needed their support because I was still a kid. So I go where they go.
MN: Do you have any memories of the train ride from Heart Mountain to Michigan?
YY: I don't think it was a train ride, per se. I can't remember how we got there. I don't recall.
MN: I just assume it was a train ride because...
YY: Probably. I don't even remember.
MN: And then you said you lived in the basement, right?
MN: Did you and Mrs. Takahashi help out at the church?
YY: No, we just did dishwashing when they had banquets like five hundred people or something. We didn't have a machine, so we washed and wiped, and it took us hours and hours and then we'd get about five dollars apiece. We'd make about fifteen dollars, so we split it three ways to get five dollars. [Laughs] I hated that, it was so tedious.
MN: Now which high school did you attend?
YY: Royal Oak High School, Royal Oak, Michigan, high school. Royal Oak High School is what it was called. It's was all Caucasian, suburban, and from the countryside that came in. They bussed the country kids in.
MN: How far was the high school?
YY: To me it was a long way because I had to walk. There was no transportation over there. And my ojisan never offered, so I trudged over there. I never expected it. I never asked. He never offered. I had galoshes, too, I didn't have boots, leather boots. And my feet were freezing. It was quite a trudge, but you do what you have to do. I mean, I had no choice. I don't know why I never asked them, but he never offered.
MN: How would you compare the cold in Michigan to the cold at Heart Mountain?
YY: I don't know. The Michigan seemed a lot colder, 'cause I had to trudge through it and wait for the bus. My toes were, like, frostbitten and so painful. You wait for the bus, you miss one and you have to wait another twenty minutes. It was awful. And then, of course, they look at me funny, too.
MN: And you said you were the only Japanese American.
YY: Uh-huh. That they've ever seen. There was a Chinese girl, 'cause there was a Chinese laundry in Royal Oak, she just graduated ahead of me. That's when I came in, so of course they're looking at me like, "What are Japanese people like?"
MN: Did you feel pressure?
YY: Oh, yeah. I had to study like mad so they won't think we're stupid. I was, they said, a quiet studious girl, they thought of me, because I was very quiet. Because I was shy. I don't belong there, I didn't feel I belonged there. But the only people I told you, the suburban people are very high class. But the kids from the country, they befriended me and they were very nice to me. They invited me over, so I'd take the bus and go to their house, have lunch and things like that. So it was nice. The teachers helped me out because they knew how I was feeling. So especially my English teacher, I loved English lit, so she was really good to me.
MN: Can you share with us how you did on the English tests on Shakespeare?
YY: Oh, I got a, I was the only one in five classes that got an A, she said. She didn't tell them, but they all knew it was, because "Studious Yuri, she's quiet but she studies." I loved that, Shakespeare and all that, so I memorized everything. She was a Scottish woman, but she was so good to me. Because I told you, all these book reports, everybody had to do it orally, I said, "I just can't possibly get up there and do it. I just can't." So she let me write it. I mean, what teacher will do that for you? She did, and she was very good to me.
MN: Now, at Heart Mountain you were in the choir, in the Sextets, did you join the high school choir in Michigan?
YY: Oh, I did. [Laughs] I don't have a voice, so they said, "You could audition for it." So bravely, I went to -- I wasn't good, but they accepted me. So I was in the big choir over there.
MN: Did you perform in different schools?
YY: In groups. Not by myself. That was so funny. I was always doing some strange things, I don't know. So this girl had to go down the steps and hit a note, so we all did. I followed her down, I didn't know what I was doing. I was so embarrassed, I followed her back up. But I'd get so nervous, oh, gosh. So I do a lot of stupid things. [Laughs] Those things stay in my mind, because I remember I was doing things like that.
MN: So how would you compare the education you got in Michigan to the one you were getting at Heart Mountain?
YY: No, nothing like Michigan. The other place was, I wouldn't even consider it a real class, say.
MN: So would you say Royal Oak really pushed your education higher?
YY: Michigan, yeah, but not over there. Didn't do a thing for me. Maybe I wasn't interested, I don't know. Because I would cut class.
MN: What did you do when you were cutting class at Heart Mountain?
YY: Oh, we'd go to the canteen and do what we'd like to do. There was just a few of us. That influence, I just tagged along.
MN: So how long did you attend the Royal Oak high school?
YY: About seven months, I think, finish up my senior year.
MN: Did you go to, like, the high school prom?
YY: No. Nobody asked me, because I'm a stranger. They'd be embarrassed, I think.
MN: How did you feel about not going to those activities?
YY: Well, I expected it. I wasn't expecting anybody to ask me.
MN: How about the graduation ceremony?
YY: Oh, I was there.
MN: Did anybody else come out to graduation?
YY: Just my obasan, because Ojisan said it was, "Unless it's the college, I'm not coming," so she came. But, you know, they have the upper third class Golden... I forgot what it was, something society. The teachers have to choose the students. So there was a lot of student there that were trying for years, and here I come in, short time, and they let me in. So I think they were a little bit jealous, prejudiced, about me getting in. So I was kind of happy myself. I was proud to go down the, my graduation.
MN: Well, you must have done really well.
YY: Well, I had to study so hard. Because it didn't come natural, just had to study. [Laughs] I mean you really buckled down and do it.
MN: Now while you were going to high school, did you also have to work?
YY: Yeah. I was doing babysitting and cleaning houses and things like that to get my allowance.
<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 19>
MN: So after you graduated from high school, what did you do?
YY: I went to a beauty school. I went to school.
MN: Was this in the Royal Oak High School area?
YY: No, it was downtown Detroit. I took a bus.
MN: Were you the only Japanese American?
MN: Were you able to make friends in Detroit?
YY: Just the classroom, 'cause I didn't see anybody outside of class.
MN: Did you live in Detroit away from the Takahashis?
YY: No, I was with the Royal Oak, because I couldn't afford to get my own place, just got out of high school.
MN: Why did you choose to go to beauty school?
YY: I don't know. I thought that was the easiest thing to do. I used to like to fuss with hair, so I thought, well, I'll try that.
MN: How many months did...
YY: Probably a year, I think. And then you graduate, and then you start looking for a job in a beauty shop.
MN: So once you graduated from beauty school, where did you work?
YY: Oh, well, some beauty shop, get hired and do permanents. They had manicuring, too, so I was good at that. So this man used to come, a man's shop, and he wanted to hire me because he wanted me to manicure for the men. They'll probably give you more tips, too. I said no. So I worked there about a year and then I came back to California. Then I would have to make up six hundred hours more, so I decided not to do that anymore, and went into other things.
MN: That's the six hundred hours more of the, to get a California license?
MN: Now, you know, when you were working in the beauty shop, this is, temporarily they called you Judy, right?
MN: Where did you get the name Judy?
YY: They just adopted, they just called me Judy. I don't know why. They were all mostly Jewish people, not very generous with their tips. [Laughs] That's why I thought I should have worked in the men's place because they tip you big. But I didn't like the idea of holding their hand and doing their nails, so I said no.
MN: And I guess you didn't stick with the name Judy.
YY: No, no, they just called me at the shop. I guess it was easier for them to call me Judy.
<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 20>
MN: So you said you returned to California. Do you remember what year?
MN: Do you remember how old you were?
YY: Hmm, about twenty maybe? I don't know, because we drove down. We went to New York and Chicago and just went around and came home to California. So Ojisan would say, "Now, watch that map, watch that map," I would keep falling asleep. [Laughs] He would get so mad.
MN: How did you feel about returning to California?
YY: I was kind of excited, I guess.
MN: So when you moved back to California, did you continue living with the Takahashis?
YY: Let me see, what did I do? Oh, they had an apartment. They had bought an apartment, and I used to live in the apartment, I think, until my brother went chick sexing, he said to go live with his wife and kids, so I did. And then pretty soon my father came back (from Japan) and we lived together, things like that.
MN: So the brother -- this is Masao?
YY: No, this is Takeo.
MN: Oh, Takeo went to chick sexing. And so you lived with him, not Masao?
MN: And then you didn't continue with the beauty...
YY: No, I didn't want to go take six hundred hours more (required for a California license), because I thought I'd better find a job first.
MN: So what did you do?
YY: There was a letter shop, I perforate letters on this machine, and it's for disc jockeys, make their little letters, thank the fan, and then I forged their (signature), 'cause I'm very good at forging their names. So I did, that was a little letter shop, I worked there for a long time.
MN: So then, I guess this is around the time your father returned. What was the reunion like?
YY: Well, it was kind of cute, he was in highwaters and a little Panama hat that was pretty worn, and he looked like a country bumpkin because he's a spiffy dresser. And I thought, "Oh, my gosh." But I had saved, I think, ninety-nine dollars, so I took him to a men's shop. In those days, I could get a suit and a hat for that price. So I got him a Panama hat and a suit, and he'd been happy. I was shocked when he came over, really, 'cause he's a snappy dresser. So he was happy, and then I'd take him to, on a streetcar, I paid the fare and take him to a show or take him out to eat. Just the opposite. I think he was happy.
MN: Now you also became friends with two very good writers, Wakako Yamauchi and Hisaye Yamamoto. How did you become friends with them?
YY: Let me see. Oh, I know, I went to a dance, that's where I met Jim, my husband, and then, of course, I started meeting his sister and Wakako. So I was, it was a long time, we just got, I think we were seeing each other about a year and a half, and Wakako and Chester and Saye. So he was living with Saye, Saye was living with him and a little boy, so we got to know each other well. So when I had the baby, Saye took care of me.
<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 21>
MN: Tell me about this meeting you had with your future husband, James Yamamoto.
YY: We went to dances with a couple of real nice-looking guys, and I guess they were buddies. He said, he just got back from the optometrist, eyes are all blurry, he said. So then that was the dance, the service that we used to go to. In about a week or two, somebody calls me and says, "Guess who?" And I said, "Jim Yamamoto." He said, "Oh, you remembered." [Laughs] So then he started coming over. He was in Boyle Heights and I was in L.A., the Jefferson area. So he used to come to see me.
MN: And that's how you got to know Hisaye.
MN: Did she ever take you to the Los Angeles Tribune?
YY: No, never. That was, I think that was way before my time. It was way before.
MN: Oh, so by the time you met her, she wasn't working at the African American newspaper?
YY: Oh, no.
MN: What year did you marry James Yamamoto?
MN: And how were you able to afford a wedding?
YY: We saved. We had a little piggy bank, and every time we have spare money, we'd put it in there. And so my father offered to pay for the invitation, and his father, they gave us a hundred dollars, and so my obasan, Takahashi, and Mrs. Fukui, and the three of us went to Grand Central (Market), bought these colored breads, pink and yellow, so we made our own little sandwiches and rolled it for little dessert for our reception. And I bought little shaped ice cream, bells and angel and nuts, and I had my club serve it. That was our reception in our wedding. And I became a flaming bride, because my ojisan had two candles there on the altar there, and when I went, swung around to go down the steps, my veiling caught fire. And I was in flames, and I felt something hot. And then when I was descending the steps, my husband knocked the thing off me and stomped on it. Everyone was saying, I didn't know what was going on because I was in seventh heaven. I was just floating. And then he said, "Don't cry, don't cry." I said, "I can't cry, 'cause I'm meeting all these people." But everybody was stunned because it caught on fire.
MN: Well, it's a good thing you didn't catch on fire.
YY: Well, there was a little hole in my little gown, but yeah, that thing was really crinkled, you know, this nylon. Yeah, so Jim just knocked it off and stomped it out. But it was quite a wedding. [Laughs]
MN: Share with me, you said your club, service club did the, helped out at the reception. What service club was this?
YY: It was Double I they called, International Institute in Boyle Heights. That's where we formed a group, it was already formed and they invited me to join. So we had service dances and all that stuff. So I asked them if they would mind serving, so they did. It was just plain, just a small wedding, but they did it.
MN: And where did you get married?
YY: Union Church.
MN: Do you know how your father felt on your wedding day?
YY: I think he was quite proud.
<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 22>
MN: Let me change the subject on you and then ask about your two brothers in Japan again. Because you went to visit them when you were fifty. When you went to Japan, did you visit your mother's grave also?
YY: Yes, I did.
MN: What was that like?
YY: It was a hilly place. I got up there, and he was buried in the middle, and his second wife was on one side and my mother was on the other side in Okayama.
MN: And it was because of the cancer that you went to Japan. What advice would you give to other women who are, who may be struggling through breast cancer?
YY: Well, I always had a positive attitude, but the thing is, it never went into my lymph nodes, that's why I didn't have chemo. So I was very fortunate. But every time I had pain in my other breast, I'd get panicky, I'd think, "Oh, my gosh." Because I had two kinds of cancer, the regular and it was lobular. It doesn't show up on the x-rays. So I was thinking it might be on the other side, too, but so far I'm still here, so I figure I've been very fortunate. There must be a purpose for me to be here yet. Taking care of my husband, I guess. [Laughs]
MN: Now, going back to your camp experience, have you visited Santa Anita or Heart Mountain since the war?
MN: And why not?
YY: Well, I had no desire because I couldn't. Because we weren't, we didn't have money, it was always a struggle for a while there.
MN: But last year they had that huge grand opening at Heart Mountain.
<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 23>
MN: Let me ask you a little bit about redress. When they started to talk about redress, did you think that something like this would be possible?
YY: No, I didn't. But I did go to one of the sessions. I don't know who I went with, but I was listening and I thought, "Wow. These Sanseis that got up so much courage, we wouldn't even mention it." But they got up there and it was injustice and all, and I was proud of it. I thought, "Wow." I didn't think it ever would happen. But a lot of people suffered and went through a lot for that.
MN: You're talking about, you went to one of the commission hearings?
MN: Were you at the one when Lillian Baker stood up?
YY: I believe I did. Oh, she wrote horrible things in the Gardena Valley News, oh my goodness. I don't know why they printed, well, they didn't print it's only democratic. But boy, she was really, very bitter.
MN: How did you feel reading about all the things that she wrote about?
YY: Well, I didn't like it, but then everybody's entitled to their own feelings. Because she was bitter because of her husband, what happened to him. So I can't blame her. I guess she's, that's where she's coming from.
MN: Was that really true about her husband? I think he was a, I heard rumors that he...
YY: You don't know the truth. You never know what the real truth is. You just don't know. You can speculate, but you don't know.
MN: So it was just speculation that he was a Japanese POW?
YY: Well, he might have been, but she makes it sound so terrible. But in those days, war is war, they do horrible things. I don't understand that. It's not necessary, but they do that.
MN: So how did you feel when the redress bill finally passed?
YY: I was quite happy. 'Cause so many people -- and not me, it's more the older people -- lost so much. The property and their livelihood, it was hard. That doesn't even cut it for them, but it's better than nothing.
MN: Now I want to ask a little bit about, you have these really, two great writers who are your friends, Wakako and Hisaye, and you love to read. Did you ever think about becoming a writer yourself?
YY: No, I don't think so. I just liked to read. But I'm just amazed at what they can write up, and you have to research and all this because I'm not into that kind of stuff. You've got to know what you're writing about. But it's amazing, these people, what they come up with. Oh, that's why I really enjoy these stories. My son-in-law always gives me what he reads and passes it on. Some I'm not that interested, but I read most of them.
MN: How did you feel with J.K. became a writer?
YY: I was quite proud of him. He was always a good writer. Even in high school he used to write things and draw, he was quite a good artist, too.
<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.
<Begin Segment 24>
MN: You brought some photos. Can you share some of those photos with us?
YY: Sure, what would you like to see?
MN: Tell us what photos you have. What is that you have up there? What is that right there?
YY: This one? This is our wedding, my husband and I.
MN: Can you hold it up?
YY: This is 1950.
MN: And I guess you're going on, is it after your wedding?
YY: Uh-huh, we're going off, you know. Yeah, that was a great day. And did you want me to show these --
MN: Yeah, tell us what the photos, can you hold it up and tell us a little bit about --
YY: Can you see? This is my two older brothers that went to Japan, these were passport pictures, I guess. And this was the family portrait before they left.
MN: Now is that your dog?
YY: No, it's not a real dog, it's just a stuffed dog.
MN: Oh, it's a stuffed dog.
YY: Yeah. [Laughs] But it's cute, though, isn't it? So he had that taken before the kids all left. And, well, this is my husband's family, brothers, one passed away when he was a little baby, but this is my husband's family. He had, there was four boys and Saye was the only girl.
MN: Who was taking these studio shots? What studio...
YY: I really don't know.
MN: 'Cause I know there was a lot of photographers before the war.
YY: Yeah. My father knew, I guess, who to go to. Because I showed you this, my husband. And this is a beach picture, my brothers, my two brothers and a friend in the middle, that's me.
MN: Which beach was this?
YY: I don't know. I really don't remember all those things. Well, this is, I don't have too many pictures of my mother because I sent the whole album to Japan, to my father, and never returned it.
MN: Is that you?
YY: That's me when I was a little girl. And this is my father with his friend, this is old.
MN: Is this before he got married?
YY: Oh, yeah, way before. This is when he came back to the United States. He was quite a, he swam and golfed and he was quite a... and this is my brother, my brother Takeo and Masao and me.
MN: Which side is Tak on?
YY: This one's my brother Tak, and this is Masao, and that's me in the middle. And this is my brother in Japan. This is Hideo and this is Tomio, and that's me.
MN: And that's the first time that you met them?
YY: Oh, yeah, so we took a picture. So this is me and Jim when we were young, I think first year of marriage. We were still young. These are, I don't know whether you want to see these pictures. I'll show you, this is my daughter, oldest daughter Kathee and her husband John Fleming. And this is J.K. and his sister Peggy. And this is Saye and her brother, my husband, and this is Saye and her, his sister and myself. And this is Saye, her husband and me. That was about it. This is me and Saye at Wakako's house. I should have brought, I should have dug in more, but there's so many things I, scattered, so it's hard to find. But I should have brought that dance picture. Yeah, I didn't think of that.
MN: Is there anything else you wanted to add, tell us about your life, you want to share with the younger generation?
YY: Well, no. I guess you go through a lot, but you weather it. But I'm generally a more positive person so I don't, I try not to dwell on it.
MN: I guess that's what got you through your cancer.
YY: Yeah, I'm still here. I'm amazed myself.
MN: From age fifty to now...
YY: Uh-huh, eighty-five.
MN: And you look really good.
YY: Oh, thank you.
MN: Well, thank you for sharing your story.
YY: Thank you for interviewing me.
<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.