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Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Barbara Reiko Mikami Keimi Interview
Narrator: Barbara Reiko Mikami Keimi
Interviewer: Virginia Yamada
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 5, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-459-4

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VY: Well, do you have any memories of the day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor? You were probably about four or five at the time, right?

BK: All I know is that, at the house, they were, I guess, told to get rid of anything that was Japanese. And so any books and things (we had) were all being burned, and so my dad had a big oil barrel, so we were throwing things in there, and my dad had lit it so that everything would burn. And so I had the job of throwing the books and things in there.

VY: What did that feel like to you? Did you understand why you were doing that?

BK: Well, not really. I know that the FBI came to our house, and all I remember is... I guess being in the farm, I guess we had guns or rifles or something. There was an empty, those casings, I guess, that was on the window sill. And then I know that (we) worried because they said, "Oh, no, if the FBI finds that, oh, we're going to be in trouble." And so I just remember that, I don't know what we did, but we were just hoping they wouldn't find it. I guess they did (not) and so nothing ever happened, but I just remember we just kind of had that anxiety while they were there, searching the house.

VY: So at that time you were probably four, maybe five?

BK: Probably.

VY: Do you remember anything else that your family might have done to prepare?

BK: No, not really. Because my dad was picked up by the FBI, I guess, soon after that.

VY: Was that soon after they came to the house?

BK: Yeah, I think so. Because when my dad was picked up by the FBI, then we moved from the house to go live at my granduncle's house because his wife was living there by herself.

VY: And where was that? Was that in the same town?

BK: That was in Huntington Beach where the complex was.

VY: Do you know why they took your father?

BK: Well, what I heard was that my brother started Japanese school. So they asked my dad if he would be on the board of the Japanese school. And my dad said, "No, I'm sorry, but I'm not able to because I'm busy with the farm and I won't be able to participate on the board." But they said, "Oh, we need somebody so can we borrow your name and put you on the board?" So he said "All, right, but I won't be able to do anything." And so I guess he got on the list, and so that's why he was picked up.

VY: I see, so the FBI saw him as a community leader?

BK: Right, or involved with one of them. So by the same token, my granduncle was already picked up, too, because people in Huntington Beach knew him because he would do the banking and they would all see him coming in the bank and they would acknowledge him. So when they had to pick him up, and he went to the Huntington Beach police station, then they knew him there and they felt real bad having to pick him up and put him in jail. So at the time when they were going to move him to the next place, they knew that my granduncle had to take care of business because otherwise everything was left up in the air. So they brought him home so that he could talk to his manager, like open the safe and all this kind of thing. Took care of that and they proceeded to take them to wherever. I guess to L.A. in their jail. And I don't know if it was at Tuna Canyon, which is, at that time, they called it Tujunga. It's known as Tuna Canyon now, and that's where all the men more or less were incarcerated.

VY: So that was your granduncle?

BK: (Yes), and then I know my dad was there, too, because I remember going with my mom to visit him. I guess my cousin's father (drove) my mom and I down to see my dad, and then I remember the chain link fence that he was behind. I mean, that chain link stayed in front of us, and after that, the other things that happened, I don't know if it's because of the stories I heard, but I just remembered visiting him there.

VY: Do you remember what that felt like? Did you understand why he was there?

BK: Not really. I just remembered that that's where they put him, and we (went) to go visit him. And then soon after that, because my mom didn't really speak English, and here she was stuck with my brother and I. And so she didn't really know what to do, so I guess some friends that had relatives in Marysville said, "Well, we have relatives in Marysville, why don't we go over there?" And so my mother said, "Well, okay," because then she also took my grandaunt, because she was by herself, too. And so the four of us and then our friend's husband and my brother got in a pickup truck and my mom drove the car, the Buick we had. And they had to rush because they could not, there was a curfew and you had to be wherever you're supposed to be by sundown. And so all I remember, her telling me that she drove from eight to eight, and she was so exhausted the next day that, I don't know, she spent a couple of days in bed, because she was so worn out from the drive.

VY: So your mom drove the car?

BK: Uh-huh. She was the only one that was able to drive the car at the time, aside from her friends' husband that was in the other pickup.

VY: Did she drive very much before that?

BK: Well, yes, because going to school or being on the ranch, marketing and going to and from the ranch and everything, she was always driving.

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