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-1000-474-7

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So I'm going to possibly come back to this, but I wanted to actually loop back to kind of finish up with From a Silk Cocoon. And you started off, because I saw the same thing, it starts off as this love story but then talks about this powerful story of resistance and what the government did with that, which, in many ways, you have talked about the aftermath and how it impacted your parents and you. But going back to From a Silk Cocoon, what has been the response to this film? I want to get a sense of how people are reacting to it. Because from my perspective, have watched dozens and dozens of films about Japanese American history, From a Silk Cocoon looks at the Japanese American experience from the camp experience very differently than anything I've seen. And so that's why I was curious how people reacted.

SI: I think that's a common response, is people didn't know, or even if they did know something about the renunciation, they didn't know how it emerged. They had a stereotype about who a renunciant was, which was a disloyal, pro-Japan nationalist, a terrorist, a bully, that kind of picture. And I remember one event in Fresno that was very moving to me. This woman, a Nisei woman, stood up and she said, "I am one of those people that have always said bad things about people who said no and were renunciants, and I was always the one that was very proud to have been in a family where my uncle fought in the 442nd." And she was very tearful, and she said, "And today I want to apologize, because your story really shows a mother and father who loved their children, who were just trying to do the best that they can. And that was like the most gratifying feedback for that film, because I wasn't trying to make a point that renunciants were good people necessarily, I just wanted, in my own effort to try and understand my parents, going through the documents, I never planned to make a documentary film, it just kind of happened. But in the end, I think how people are impacted by the film is just the humanness of it, that they could identify in ways that they never could identify with somebody who renounced, because, "Those were the terrible people that marched around."

TI: The Hoshidan.

SI: Yeah, right. And my father was a member of the as a way to identify himself so that when they, 'cause they were told, "When you go back to Japan, if you don't have other people supporting the fact that you were for Japan, you would get arrested as soon as you arrived." And so the , my father's Issei mentor that lived in the next barrack, coached my parents on what to say when you were interviewed. You know, one of the things that I found in the government documents were the recorded, the hearing that my father had said, the guy asked him, "So are you willing to commit 'hari kari' if Japan loses the war?" and my father answers "yes." And later on, of course, he realizes that this is going to lead to his deportation separate from his family, which was not the whole intention that they started with.

TI: Talk a little bit about, there was an important letter that someone who was doing Japanese translations in the Department of Justice, and he wrote a letter, who was this person? I was curious about him.

SI: Yeah, he was another Kibei man who was a colleague of my father, you know, they were friends. The group of Kibei men kind of hung out together, and particularly members of the Buddhist church, men who were literary, interested in writing and poetry, and they would have these gatherings when some famous Japanese writer was coming to San Francisco and things like that. So he was a friend of my father's. In my parents' exchange, there were all these rumors, and so my mother sends the shocking news to my father saying, "Kimoto-san we've heard is now censoring letters." And then the implication is that he's working for the administration now, he's an inu, a traitor. And my father writes back and says it's hard to know the choices people would make. So when it was desperation time, and it was the risk that my father was now, because he was separated from us, was going to be deported without the family, she starts writing to people. So she writes to...

TI: So it was your mother who wrote to...

SI: Wrote to Kimoto-san and said, "Please help us. Will you write a letter on my father's behalf?" and he agreed. And that's the letter, it's like a cat's hair away from the whole separation happening.

TI: And what was interesting in the film, it was mentioned how he had not done this with, really, anyone else in terms of vouching for someone, a renunciant. Which made it stand out, because he wasn't doing this for every person, saying, "I'm a character reference for this," and that's what really stood out.

SI: Because then, I didn't know it at the time, but then after we resettled in San Francisco, that man's children were my age, we all went to high school together, we hung out, had no idea what that family history was.

TI: Did you observe any communication between your parents and Kimoto-san?

SI: No. I mean, they knew that we were hanging out with the kids. I mean, because they recorded everything, I'm sure they felt this gratitude. They knew that his letter made the difference. I don't remember any communication between them or attitude.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.