Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ken Yoshida Interview
Narrator: Ken Yoshida
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: October 17, 2007
Densho ID: denshovh-yken-01-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about this. So December 7, 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor.

KY: Yeah.

TI: How did you hear about this event?

KY: Well, I heard it on the radio. And, well, there's nothing I can do about it, so I just let things ride as it went. And pretty soon, we had to go to the Tanforan racetrack, because they assembled all the Japanese families, and that's where they went, from that area, Bay Area, they went to Tanforan.

TI: Before you went to Tanforan, you had some months before. During that time, what kind of things were happening in Redwood City? Like did you see...

KY: I was working. I was going to school and going to work, so I paid no attention to nothing. And because I was tall, people thought I was Chinese, so they left me alone. In fact, I used to ride the train from Redwood City to San Mateo, and this is at midnight. They'd just look at me, and that's it. They never bothered me.

TI: Well, wait a second. So midnight, at that point, there was a curfew.

KY: That's right. And I'm traveling on the train to go to work. They just looked at me and that's it, they never bothered me, because they thought I was Chinese.

TI: Now, during this time when you were, when you're really busy working, what did you think was going to happen to you and your family? Did you think anything was going to happen?

KY: No, I didn't think nothing was going to happen until they got notice that we had to go to Tanforan for the evacuation.

TI: And then when you got that notice, what did you think?

KY: I just waited for the time to move, that was it. My mother had a package for, more or less, each one of the kids who can carry something, and whatever you can carry, that's what you went with. And that's how we went through life, through the assembly center and then to relocation center. They call it "relocation," but it was actually a concentration camp.

TI: I was just thinking, you talked a little bit about your father being a judo instructor. It was common for the FBI after December 7th to pick up a lot of Japanese language school instructors, kendo instructors, judo instructors. Were they doing that in Redwood City, too?

KY: They were picking them up in Redwood City, but we had just moved from Santa Maria to Redwood City, and they were looking for him in Santa Maria, and they could never find him. So we went to assembly center and Topaz, and when the camp closed down, the FBI man says, "We were looking for you. Where you been?" He says, "I've been in camp with the family." They said, "We've been looking for you all over." Couldn't find him.

TI: Wow, so if you had not moved, he would have been picked up, but they couldn't find him.

KY: I don't think they looked very hard. They got him after camp, they said, "Where you been? We've been looking for you." "I've been in camp."

TI: So all they had to was look at the list of who was in camp.

KY: Yeah. Well, they didn't care who was in camp, they're not interested in people looking in camp, they were looking for people outside. So they never bothered him.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.