Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ronald Ikejiri Interview
Narrator: Ronald Ikejiri
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 6, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-461-3

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

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TI: So tell me a little bit about your mother and her story.

RI: Yes, my mother was born in Fresno, California, grew up in Fowler, Parlier, in the San Joaquin Valley. And she is the daughter of a Japanese picture bride. And she came, my mom was born in 1923, and grew up and was looking at her old high school yearbooks, she was pretty active, and she was involved in a lot of different activities. And she had two older sisters that unfortunately, at a very young age, apparently had taken some kind of wrong food, and they had passed away. So my mom ended up being the oldest child, and then they had a middle brother and a younger sister, and with Baachan Kono. And when the war broke out, they were all moved, and they went to the Canal relocation center.

TI: Okay, and how did the two meet, your mother and father?

RI: My father was, after being in Gardena when the order came out, they moved to Fresno. But then again, from Fresno, they ended up going back to Arizona. And I remember the story goes that my father kept running into my mom, my mom probably had no need to get married to some Kibei that probably didn't understand English very well. But for whatever reasons they decided to get married. And I always asked my father, said, "How can you even consider being married from behind barbed wire? You don't really have a job," although he was a cook, and so I think the cooks were paid sixteen or nineteen dollars a month, so they're probably one of the higher paid people in the camps. But I couldn't imagine what your future would be if you didn't know when you were going to get out, or if you were going to get out. And then his aunt and uncle decided that, when asked the question, they both said, "You're going to answer 'no-no,'" so that's what he answered. So as a result, my mother and father and other relatives, they ended up going to Tule Lake.

TI: And so did your parents get married in camp?

RI: Yeah, in camp, and then they moved to Tule Lake. Then because of "no-no," my father ended up going to Bismarck, North Dakota in the Justice camp.

TI: Okay, so he was... so did he have to renounce his citizenship?

RI: Yes.

TI: Okay.

RI: And then after that, he went to Santa Fe, New Mexico. And then by 1945, '46, he was in Crystal City, Texas. And then he was, actually, I think they were being prepared to ship him back to Japan. But because the war ended, they were released from Crystal City. My sister was born in 1945 in Tule Lake, and she didn't see her father until about a year or so after she was born.

TI: Okay, so after your father renounced his citizenship, he was separated from the family, he went to all these camps, but then at Crystal City, was the family reunited there?

RI: Yes. There's a variety of people that, more recently that I saw, that had the same route, that did the same thing and they were reunited with their father in Crystal City. You know, I think now, those kinds of stories can be shared, and there's a greater openness, not only the Japanese American community, but just generally as to hearing it. I think certainly after World War II, mostly everyone just wanted to get on with their life, and there was probably little tolerance or little patience or little desire to hear any other story that was not super patriotic. And this one person, and I believe it was on Remembering Manzanar, it was on NHK, George Takei is on it, one person indicated that her parents eventually ended up -- they were in Tule Lake -- and eventually they ended up somewhere in Ohio. And as a little girl, the teachers told us that, "You need to change her name from a Japanese name, so her name for now is going to be Sandy." So then she said she didn't want to change her name, because her mother said, "You have to because it will be too much trouble down the line." So she said she never changed her name, but 'til her mother died, she would always call her daughter Sandy. So it was one of things that culturally and experience-wise, you don't want to... if you go through what internment must have been -- I was born after -- it had to have a devastating impact on a lot of the things that you think about yourself. But at the same time, the Japanese American resilience comes out in what they're able to accomplish.

TI: Well, thinking about it in terms of your father, too, because coming out of the war, did he have to go through a process to get his citizenship reinstated? Do you remember anything about that?

RI: I remember, in terms of reinstatement, I think there's a lot of effect -- and this is Mike Masaoka and others when they passed different immigration bill, I want to say it was 1952, it restored many of the rights that were otherwise...

TI: Right, it allowed Japanese to become naturalized citizens.

RI: Right. And if you were already, even if you renounced your citizenship, then they declared that null and void because it happened during wartime under those conditions. So there were a lot of ways in which there was an attempt to right a wrong even right after the war.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.