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-1000-474-11

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TI: You know, this experience, and you saw the letters again, and this issue about your father wanting to go back to Japan, your mother wanting to stay in the United States for you and your brother.

SI: Right.

TI: How much tension did that cause in the relationship? Oftentimes, when I do these family histories, sometimes there's events that just rip apart families. I mean, how did this affect your mother and father?

SI: I think it was a really difficult time, and then my mother is now getting more and more anxious, she's really fearful now. Because some Kibei men went back to Japan without their families, and she would hear stories of that and see what they called "internment widows." It's one of the chapters in the book, called Internment Widows, because they had been abandoned. And some of these men went back and had new families, actually, but others went back thinking that the families would follow. So it was really intense communication for a Nisei couple writing to each other. And my father writes back and says, "I would never... you must know that I would never leave the family. So I understand now the situation," my mother was ill and my brother was also ill. So then he's the one that proposes the strategy, "Let's wait 'til the last ship, and if it looks like I am going to be deported, then, if you're well enough, you can come. Or you could go to Cincinnati with my aunt, or you could go to live with your parents." He had all these other options. So it wasn't like they had this complete conflict about it, it was through this wretched process of censored letters trying to communicate a final decision that would make a huge difference on our lives forever. But, you know, it was a love story to the end. They'd fallen in love under these very romantic ideal circumstances, and went through this torturous experience. And I think it's only one letter where the word "love" shows up, and it's from my father during that desperate time, saying, "For the love of you and my children, we will do what's best for the children." And so he withdraws his application, and then gets notice that they're going to be deported anyway, so there's this frantic period, and then Kimoto writes the letter, and my father and mother are able to avoid deportation.

TI: That's actually a powerful message, that the love of your parents, in some ways, not only kept them together, but helped them navigate this whole process together.

SI: Yeah. And then I tell my brother, I don't know how many people get the benefit of knowing how much their parents loved them, except through these letters and their communication, what they were sacrificing, decisions that they had made.

TI: Because what I get from this is your parents put the love of each other and their family above everything else.

SI: Right.

TI: And that was...

SI: That was their guiding light, right, was the family.

TI: That's such a powerful message. So going back to.. I guess another question, the "aha moment," as you're learning about your parents, the trauma they went through when they, when you were being born, when you were being gestated in the womb, and then as a small child, when did you recognize, "Oh my gosh, it just wasn't my parents, it's me also"? When did that... because I'm guessing that was the "aha" that helped you decide to do this film.

SI: Right. This is a pretty amazing "aha," actually, it was just a few weeks after I had found my father's photo. And maybe longer than that, because I had then ordered... I did the research and actually found my father's mugshot and could match up the shirt he was wearing when he was being photographed for his internment at Bismarck, North Dakota. Same shirt, the ragged collar, but the close-up shot was the cuts and bruises on his face, so he had been beaten at the Tule Lake jail.

TI: So you had to do that just to verify. You knew it was him.

SI: Right. And then I thought, okay, this is something I don't know about, and asked my mother, and she said, yes, that he was, and that he wrote some haiku when he was in there and had those translated. And then I did the research and actually got the mugshot photo.

TI: Plus the record, right?

SI: All the records, the FBI records, so DOJ records, WRA records.

TI: And were there, I'm curious, were there files that you didn't get because they were deemed confidential or top secret or anything like that?

SI: I think I got all the records, but I don't know. Enough for me to weave the story together in a pretty coherent way.

TI: Because there were files that I've seen that aren't in the family files. I mean, obviously like information from an informant or something about your father.

SI: Those were all in there.

TI: Oh, those were in there? Generally they're not.

SI: There were. So the name of the person who informed on my father...

TI: Yeah, so usually those are...

SI: Blacked out or redacted or something, or removed, but it was all in there.

TI: Placed in, like, a more confidential category. Okay, that's what I was wondering.

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