Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tokio Yamane Interview
Narrator: Tokio Yamane
Interviewers: Sachiko Takita-Ishii, Yoko Murakawa, Noriko Kawakami
Location: Japan
Date: May 23, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-ytokio-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

[Translated from Japanese]

I1: Your life, along with many others, was largely at the mercy of the history and the relationship between the two countries. But you have clear views and opinions, and you're living your life fully. It is hard to find someone like you in the States. We cannot find anyone who could clearly describe the experience and offer a broader perspective about what was really going on. You were not trying to scare your fellow incarcerees by marching and chanting "heave-ho, heave-ho" in front of the camp. You did it to stand against the U.S. government and to demonstrate that you were able to stand up for your rights without being armed. No one could talk about that. The leaders who remained in the States are hiding and will not talk about it. Because the leaders are being silent, people who renounced their U.S. citizenship are questioning why they did it. They feel confused and could not offer a clear and structural description about what went on. You can describe the entire situation clearly for us. You were twenty-one or twenty-two back then, right? And I believe you were making the best decision you could make for yourself.


TY: I understand why the U.S. government removed 120,000 Japanese Americans from the coastal area in the way they did. I think foreigners would think that Japanese people are so unpredictable, and they don't know what we would do with the bushido values we carry. Japan launched a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor. Japan could plan something with people who live on the coast and invade the mainland. They must have thought the Japanese could invade the mainland by collaborating with the Japanese living in the Pacific Coast region. Those Japanese on the coast would guide the Japanese army into the country. That is probably what they thought. It is understandable that the U.S. government was suspicious. And that was the beginning of the tragedy. Reasonable Americans would think it is wrong to lock up those people in camps. Why did it have to happen to American citizens? It would have made more sense to keep the Japanese Americans where they were, enroll them in the military and make sure they are loyal to the U.S. government. Such a policy would have avoided the incarceration. I don't understand to this day why the U.S. government had to rush building camps and incarcerating Japanese Americans. Besides, life in the incarceration camps wasn't particularly harsh. You could have meals in benches with other fellow Japanese and could do anything. You could live a trouble-free life if you play by the rules. I have to give the U.S. government credit because although we didn't know what would happen to us, our daily life was peaceful in the camp. Then, the "loyalty questionnaire." That was a tragedy. They asked us to choose right or left. The questionnaire forced people to move from right to left. I don't know, maybe more than half. People who were right and who were left. I was considered as left. I said I will not answer the questions. I didn't see the reasoning behind it. Why now? Why didn't they do it before they sent us all to camps?

I1: You would have been right if the questionnaire had been administered prior to the incarceration, correct?

TY: Naturally. The questionnaire to test the loyalty should have been administered before forcing everyone into a camp. All Japanese Americans would probably have declared their loyalty to the U.S. government. They are of Japanese descent but were American citizens by birth and living in the States. Of course, they didn't want to fight against Japan. But if they had to choose between the two countries, then those who lived in the United States would have chosen to live as an American. My elder brother was drafted and went to war in a military uniform. I would have done the same. If I had been drafted, I would have gone to war with a gun on my shoulder. I wasn't even given that choice and was left in limbo. In the midst of limbo, we were questioned whether we were loyal to Japan or to the United States. Why did the government do it? It would have been okay if we had not had the questionnaire. As a result of the questionnaire, many were sent to Tule Lake and segregated there. There were different groups of Japanese with different opinions in the camp. Some took actions that were against my beliefs. The loyal groups were very extreme. If you did something they did not like, they reported you to the authorities. People were labeled as a "dangerous element" and sent away to a different facility. Those who were loyal to the U.S. government reported to the authorities. It was a problem to live with people like that. We asked the authority to separate us. The government created the segregation camp. They administered the loyalty questionnaire at each camp to keep the loyal there and send those who pledged loyalty to the Japanese government to Tule Lake. This kind of segregation should have been clearly made in Tule Lake as well. But Tule Lake did not segregate people. I don't understand why they did not.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright (c) 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.