Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Satsuki Ina Interview
Narrator: Satsuki Ina
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: March 14, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-474-1

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today is March 14, 2019, we're in Emeryville, California, which is next to Oakland where Satsuki lives. On camera is Dana Hoshide, interviewer, me, is Tom Ikeda, and we're here this morning with Dr. Satsuki Ina. So, Satsuki, this is going to be a little different because normally when I start an oral history, I kind of go through step by step in terms of the family history, the parents and things like that. But because of the documentary From a Silk Cocoon, I'm going to do a shortcut and just start off by having you just -- which is about your family history -- to have you just describe a little bit about From a Silk Cocoon. And pretend you're talking to, like, a tenth grader from the Bay Area, and you're trying to describe the film from a perspective of your family. How would you describe that?

SI: Well, in many ways it was a love story, and so my parents met in 1939 during the World's Fair in San Francisco, my mother was a "silk girl" representing Japan's silk industry, and my father was living in San Francisco. They were both Kibei, which means, literally means "returned to America," so they were American citizens, born in the U.S., my father was born in San Francisco and my mother was born in Seattle. But they, because of family tragedy, were sent back to Japan for part of their education and then came back as teenagers. So they had spent their early years in Japan, and so Japanese was their primary language. So when my mother finished high school, she went back to Japan to take care of her grandmother and then they had, Japan had this national search for silk girls to represent the silk industry. It's the first time Japan was entering their silk products in such a mass production way, and so she demonstrated silk reeling, and all the young Kibei men were excited about these silk girls coming. So they met, they fell in love, and my mother returned to Japan to finish her work, and then before she left, they were engaged to be married. She came back and they got married in March of 1939. And before the year was over, Pearl Harbor had been bombed, and then a few months after that, my parents found themselves incarcerated. So they were taken from their home to Tanforan Racetrack at the time, but it had been converted into temporary detention facilities. By that time, my mother was pregnant and really suffered serious illness while she was in the horse stables. She wrote in her diary that this was a desperate time for her, and how sick she was. So that's how her whole four and a half year incarceration had begun for her, she kept a diary from the day of her wedding until the end of the war.

TI: And just a point of clarification, that child that she had, I think eventually at Topaz, that was your brother?

SI: Yes. So my brother Kiyoshi was born in Topaz.

TI: Okay, so keep going. And then you talked about your mother a little bit, how about your father?

SI: So my father was born in San Francisco and was sent back to Japan because his sister, younger sister, was ill, so the mother took the children back to Japan, and their father worked for the Japanese American newspaper and sent money home to help them in their life in Japan. And so he was a young poet from the time he was, like, thirteen years old, he was starting to write haiku, and then eventually was a lifelong poet. And when he returned to the U.S., was a poetry teacher and had a haiku kai, a poetry organization. And so both of them, I would say, had a lot of heart connection to Japan. They finished high school in the U.S., but never quite felt like they were part of the Nisei community, the second generation of Japanese Americans who had never been to Japan. And so their social group was made up mostly of other Kibeis. And my father was very much into the arts and the Buddhist church, he was a Sunday school teacher there. And for all of those reasons, the fact that he was a Sunday school teacher in the Buddhist church, that he was Kibei, that he had returned to Japan, Japanese was his primary language, those are things that were, I would later find part of the records that determined that he was a potential at-risk prisoner.

TI: Although, because of his U.S. citizenship, not necessarily at risk in terms of those initial FBI or not...

SI: Right, the initial sweep was mostly the Issei leaders, and he was still, at that time, in his twenties, early twenties. He wasn't viewed as... because he was a citizen.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.