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

<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.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So they were married, went to Tanforan, and then pick up the story from there.

SI: Okay. So then, from Tanforan, they were transferred to Topaz, Utah, more permanent facilities. And that's when my brother Kiyoshi was born, in December 1942. And while there in 1943, they were confronted with the "loyalty questionnaire" a questionnaire that required them to answer yes or no to several questions, and two of them had to do with whether they would bear arms against the enemy and whether they would disavow their loyalty to the emperor. And by that time, my parents had had my brother, were very despairing about the possibility of their life in America, and so from what I could tell, because my mother and father never really talked to me about the emotional process they went through, but through her diary and through my father's poetry journal that he kept, it was never for them an issue of loyalty. They were kind of shocked that this was what was presented to them, whether they were loyal or disloyal. And so when the issue of men being, volunteering or drafted into the segregated, the racially segregated military unit, my father gave a speech at a Kibei meeting. And it was this short five-sentence statement, he's a very quiet man, you know, he was very much like how you understand a poet. He was just, he had lots of things to say that he did in his writing, but in this, what they called a speech, he got up and he said something to the effect that the American government needs to respect our constitution, and treat us equal to the free people. And it was in the context of how to answer the "loyalty questionnaire." So my parents answered "no-no" to those questions.

TI: Just as a side note, so what your father said directly almost paralleled the wording from the Fair Play Committee in Heart Mountain in terms of the reasons to resist the draft. And so it's really interesting in terms of... because, yeah, you're right, the, what was called the "loyalty questionnaire," had that one question about bearing arms. And it wasn't necessarily a draft, but it had there, and your father, in some ways, did this a step earlier than the Heart Mountain draft resisters.

SI: And this is interesting, too, because there hasn't been much talk about this. But in Topaz, they actually had a petition, and the petition, which I found, clearly states that all of us who were signing this petition are willing to do whatever the government asks us to do as long as we have our constitutional rights returned to us. Essentially saying, "If we are free men, we will be willing to..."

TI: Bear arms.

SI: "...bear arms." I don't know about disavow loyalty, because they never had loyalty to the emperor. So that five-sentence speech that my father made actually led to him being charged with sedition. And sedition is, what it means is that this person has attempted to interfere with the recruitment of soldiers into the military service. So documents I found, one official was asking for clarification, whether he should be prosecuted, and somehow it got lost in the process. And so...

TI: In your research, did you ever find out how the government knew he said that at this meeting?

SI: Yeah, it's a really good question. Because in the documents, there were two things that happened. One is they arrested -- they didn't use that term -- but they gathered up the men that made speeches that night and had them sign a statement saying, one, "Here's what I said," and it was written in Japanese and translated into English, and then they signed it and agreed that, yes, in fact, they did make a statement. The other thing is, I also located additional documents that showed that there were people who were in the audience. Don't know if they were there in advance on behalf of the administration or whether this was a spontaneous decision. But this was another Kibei man who listed the nine men who had given their speeches and signed a document saying, "I attest to the fact that these men did speak up against the U.S. government," and then signed his name, and it's somebody that my family was very familiar with, whose name I really don't want to say.

TI: So essentially, yeah, so he was an informant.

SI: Yes.

TI: And, again, the words, and they were brief from your father, could be construed as he was just standing up for his rights. I mean, it wasn't really opposing, or saying that he would do harm to the U.S. government, I just want to clarify that, he was just, I mean, I always talk to students about presentism and how 1942 was very different than today. But today, someone would hear that and says, "That's just someone..."

SI: Freedom of Speech.

TI: Freedom of Speech, standing up for your rights as a U.S. citizen, and wouldn't say there's... what's wrong with what he said? I mean, that's what goes through my mind as I heard those words.

SI: Yeah, that it was really about, that the government should treat us "equal to the free people," that's the phrase. And then in my mother's diary, she actually writes, "Without our constitutional rights, we will answer 'no.'" And in that petition, it says, it was a very formal, well-written petition. And that it was very moving to me, words that, "Once we're treated equal to everybody else, we will do whatever the government asks us to do." So it wasn't this challenging... it was a demand, in some ways, but it was also just a really clear statement about an American citizen's rights reminding the government to declare their loyalty by answering these two questions rather than by their actions prior to that and during the time that they were incarcerated.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: There's a term that I'm seeing more and more -- I didn't see this twenty years ago or even ten years ago -- the term "Tule Lake resister." How do you feel about that term and using that term to describe when your father and some of the other men in that meeting, and others who went to Tule Lake, to describe it that way? How do you feel about that?

SI: I think the term is accurate, I think the word "resister" is so attached to the Heart Mountain folks and distinguishes them as men who were about to be drafted, who resisted the draft. The draft for Tule Lake, and my father's group specifically, I refer to him as a dissident, that he was opposed to the government actions, and he wasn't at risk of being drafted. He was fearful that that might come up, but he never received papers saying that he was going to be drafted. So it was even before the Heart Mountain draft movement was going on. So he was standing up for his rights, not as a provocateur or outraged protester so much as a father who was fearful about his family and what was going to happen to them and really holding onto his belief that somehow if his constitutional rights as American citizens was respected, then he would be willing to do (whatever) he would have been willing to do even before he was incarcerated.

TI: So "dissident" is what you would use.

SI: Yeah, that's the word that fits, I think.

TI: Okay, yeah, I just noticed that I hear more and more "Tule Lake resister," and I realized that I know what they're talking about, whether or not that does confuse some people, and mixing them up with the draft resisters. "Dissident" would be... yeah, it's good for me to know. So we're at Topaz, both your mother and father enter "no-no" on those two key questions, so then what happens next?

SI: So then, because they are identified as "no-no," and the government now starts to use language like, sort of splitting the community, those that said "yes" were the loyal, good guys, and those that said "no-no" were the "disloyal." And my parents were segregated to Tule Lake with the rest of the people who... with most of the people who had answered "no" to that so-called "loyalty questionnaire."

TI: And I just wanted to make sure people got this distinction, so the government framed this as a "loyal/disloyal" kind of paradigm.

SI: Right.

TI: And used that, in some ways, to fragment or divide the community. And what you just described with your father, especially his statement, it was really a opposition to the way they were being treated, it wasn't about loyalty. That if they were treated like, in your father's words, "like a free person," he would gladly serve or do other things, but it was just this treatment that he was opposed to, not a loyalty questionnaire, or a loyalty issue.

SI: Yeah, this is such an important point, too, because the language by the government, you know, was so internalized, even by our own community, and it was used to justify the incarceration of innocent people because it was after they'd been incarcerated. By this time it was 1943, that they were asking whether you were loyal or not. And because the military, the army was looking for more soldiers to go fight, and also the burden, the cost of providing for people in these prison camps, was becoming very burdensome. And so the government was looking for ways to justify the release now, and putting uniforms on these people who were viewed as a threat to national security. So from my perspective, this was completely a government-constructed manipulation of the people, and the loyalty question in particular was something that I think led to really fragmenting our community and damaging the community cohesion and closeness. Because my father, my parents never had an issue about loyalty, they always saw themselves as American citizens. They struggled with what will happen to our children if they stayed in America because of the way they were being treated. So it was this, what I called an artificial moral standard that was constructed by the administration as a means to their ends.

TI: What you're saying is really powerful to me. Because -- and I think the community needs to articulate this more clearly in terms of rather than trying to describe things based on loyalty, and I'm not sure what the right word is, but it's almost like describing things in term of opposition or dissention, and there's a spectrum.

SI: Right.

TI: And whether you agree or not, but just to talk about it that way, and there were differing levels. And I think if you did that, then people would start seeing dissention as potentially a good thing, a positive thing in terms of our country, rather than as a disloyal thing, and just to change the words of how we talk about it as a community. I think we have to do that much more.

SI: Much more. And I think we're moving in that direction, you know, the "Power of Words" movement to make sure that we're not using the language we internalized from the government. So from a psychology point of view, it's the government's manipulation of how we viewed ourselves, was by the language that they imposed on us. So by splitting the community into these two separate parts, those that were "loyal" and "disloyal," it was really a part of the mass manipulation of a perpetrator on a group of captives, and psychologically had a lot of long-term damaging effects.

TI: Okay, so let's continue with your parents' story. So because of how they answered, how they were targeted, all those issues, they are then transferred to Tule Lake.

SI: Transferred to Tule Lake. And this is where my mother's diary was so revealing, because the conditions were much more severe there, and even though I found documents that said, the administration was saying, "This is not a form of punishment, this is just a respectful way to manage conflict that is occurring" -- that they had actually inflicted but -- "was occurring in the groups." And they arrived at Tule Lake and she describes how they were fingerprinted and photographed fourteen times, for all their identifications and things like that, had these badges with name and thumbprint on the backside of the pin that she had to wear.

TI: So was this a form of harassment, or was it just government inefficiency, or what was going on?

SI: I see it as a form of dehumanizing, that she would now become, they would both become numbers as it started out in the beginning. But a way of criminalizing to be fingerprinted, and to be asked, even to be asked if you're loyal, it's like, "Did you commit this crime or not?" is the position they were put in. So they arrived, and the circumstances in Tule Lake, it was very complex as groups of "no-nos" from all the different camps converged here. Then, again, the administration's strategy of making this a segregated unit, was incomplete because (there) they were still what they called "Old Tuleans," Tule Lake people who had answered "yes" but didn't want to move or couldn't move because of an elder parent or something like that. And so there was this kind of natural tension that was there from the very beginning. And then that's where I was born, and I asked my mother, I understood that she was expecting my brother before they were incarcerated, and I asked her, why would she have another baby in camp? And she said, "We had no way of knowing how long we were going to be imprisoned, and we didn't know, after saying 'no-no,' whether we would go back to Japan or not. But mostly we were afraid of being separated." Now, they didn't know what was going to happen to them, and so there was a rumor that if you had more children, you were less likely to be separated. So they were fearful that my father would be separated from the family, from her and my brother, so this is also (from) part of a therapist, as you know, so my brother was born out of joy and hope, and I was born out of hope and despair. And in the end, of course, that strategy didn't work because we were separated from my father.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: And when were you born?

SI: I was born May 25, 1944. So my father's a poet, and that's what "Satsuki" means, it means "fifth moon."

TI: And your father was separated and went to a Department of Justice camp.

SI: Yeah.

TI: But for that to have happened, U.S. citizens were not supposed to go to Department of Justice camps, because these were technically internment camps for what were then termed "enemy aliens," so how did that happen? How did he go from a U.S. citizen going to an internment camp?

SI: So I think growing despair on the part of my parents, and now having two children, both of us born in a prison camp. I think they got to a place where they felt like there was no hope for a good life for their children, and they had family in Japan, my father had a sister there, and my mother had her grandmother. So they decided to renounce their American citizenship, and that was the... it's not like there was ever specific instructions, "If you take these steps, this is what the outcome will be," it was all word of mouth, rumors, half truths from the government, the camp newspapers, they're living in this constant state of uncertainty. So they decided that they would renounce their citizenship with hopes of returning to Japan together. And my mother...

TI: Just as I'm listening to you, how is it for you to talk about this? And the reason I say this is because in the Japanese American community, it has been historically an issue that is controversial, the issue of renunciants, and it's something that many families have tried to keep quiet or not talk about if it comes up. For you to be so open about it, to even do a movie that really makes this a core feature of it, how was it for you? And maybe now it's a little different, but when you first had to start talking about it, how was it for you?

SI: Well, I think the way I found out was the start of the position that I still feel. So I was a student at UC Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement, this was in the 1960s, and my parents would phone me every night, kind of in a panic, saying, "We're watching the newspaper, we do not want to see your name in the newspaper, we do not want to see your face in the newspaper. Do not protest. We have worked hard, and your purpose at being in school is to go to class. So you must go to class." And I was shocked when they first made that call, but then I was getting calls almost every night as the news was spreading that they were hauling students off to jail and things like that. And I remember the day that there was going to be a big speech on campus, and I'm walking towards class, and all the other students are walking in the other direction towards where the speech is going to be. And so it was a social work class, and so I went in and I sat down, and there were maybe five other students in there. And we're wondering what was gonna happen, and all of a sudden the professor came from the entrance and ran down the, through the classroom, jumped on top of the desk, and said, "Goddamnit, if you show up for class, I'm going to flunk every single one of you." I was like, okay, this is like a double bind. My parents want me to go to class, my teacher's telling me the better person doesn't come to class." So I went home to talk to my parents, because up until then, my parents have always been very supportive. I wasn't an outspoken protester on any issue ever until... at that moment I wasn't even, I was just kind of an observer. And interestingly, the growing concern was more about freedom of speech, and then as the Human Rights Movement started to take shape, more concern about discrimination against African Americans, and at that time had no concept that, as a Japanese American, I too had been discriminated against. This, I don't know, was educational brainwashing or whatever it was, it had kind of erased and taken my position away from there.

So I went home and, typical, my Kibei father sat in the other room, but I could tell that they had had this conversation. My mother said, "I need to talk to you." And she said, "We never told you this before, but we want you to know that during the war, we renounced our American citizenship." And I was, like, shocked, said, "What do you mean?" She said, "It's complicated, but we suffered consequences of opposing the government. And so we don't want you to get in trouble," and she had tears. And I'm sitting there, think about it this way, is that I'm sitting there with long hair, I've got braids across my forehead, flowers stuck in my hair, got a tie-dyed shirt on, I'm sure, and I'm hearing this from my mother, and I'm thinking, "That is so fantastic. You made a decision because you'd been treated so badly." And I said, "Why didn't you tell us this before?" Then she really started crying, and she said, "We were afraid you'd be ashamed of us." And I started crying because it would never have occurred to me to be ashamed of them. And then we went on to have more of the conversation, but when I reflect back on that, I realized that how they spent their life being so careful to not make a mistake, to not be cast in any kind of negative light, because they had suffered so much from that little speech from that two-letter word, "no," that they had to decide how they were going to raise their children, and one way was to not tell them about their dissidence. And because we were living in Japantown in San Francisco, the community survival strategy was, "Look what great Americans we are. We sent our sons, our brothers, our fathers off to war," they were told by the government that their efforts had reduced the war effort by so many years, and so the story of the dissidents, the renunciants, was submerged.

TI: It was submerged, and yet, and so you didn't know growing up, but yet, there were people in the community who knew, right? I mean, they knew the stance that your parents took, and probably some of them knew that they had renounced their citizenship. So was there an undercurrent in the community? Did the people who know, say, treat your parents differently because of that? Did you have any sense of that?

SI: You know, I don't know that. I wasn't observant of that as a kid, but there were, when I think back, there were interesting things. My father pretty much lived in the JA community, the Japanese American community. But he never went back to the Buddhist church, and he was surprised when I decided to join the Buddhist church. But he had been a devoted member of the San Francisco Buddhist church as a young man, but he never went back to the Buddhist church. But he was involved in the Japanese American Scouting, Boy Scouts. I had two brothers, my younger brother was born after camp. And he devoted his life to Scouting. And I always think about that as kind of this paramilitary, very patriotic component of American society, and also he managed to avoid interacting very much with the outside world. I mean, he had a business, a job, but it was my mother's job to answer the phone, to set up appointments, and so she was the one that would even answer the door when a salesperson came. So it was in that way that he withdrew from really engaging with the outside world. So I'm sure there were people that, when I look back on the letters my parents exchanged, and my mother's diaries, that there were family friends who we grew up with who were also "no-nos" and renunciants. But they never, I don't think they ever spoke about it openly to each other once the war was over and they were back in San Francisco, and the feeling I had was that people, not everybody knew. Certainly Kibeis were suspect, because the government kind of bunched them together, if you were Kibei or Issei, and especially if you were in an internment camp.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Maybe another question, then, is because you've done the research, you, in some ways, were able to see who your parents were through their letters and diary. And through that research, did it surprise you who they were when they were young adults, when they got married, and was something lost? Was something taken away from them in this process?

SI: Yeah, I think what was taken away from them was a feeling of security and this kind of freedom to be who they are. I think they lived this very cautious life and passed that on to us, the children, that there was danger lurking if you took a misstep, if you didn't do it properly. Not just the Japanese way, because they were teaching us things about Japanese values, but also implicit in that, was how important it was to... if someone called you a "Jap" or, you know, we went to ghetto schools, we were very poor afterwards, and so there was a lot of bullying, particularly that I suffered, because I was so skinny after we were released. I had health issues and my teeth were all black, and I had a lot of bullying. But my brother and I would initially tell my parents, and my parents would say, "Just ignore them, walk away, you're not to get in trouble. I don't want teachers to say you have said any bad words or gotten into fights or anything like that. So there was this, I don't know, what do you call it? Suppression, maybe more a kind of suppressed sense of being, that the safety was actually of living in Japantown. But once outside of Japantown, it was like I was on full alert, making sure that I carried my thesaurus around to make sure that I understood the words, that I didn't mispronounce a word. I felt the pressure of needing to, in some ways, protect my parents. I didn't realize it at the time, but that if I was super good, I could protect my parents from whatever it was they were afraid of. And I don't know that I could have figured that out any earlier than I did, which is in the last ten or fifteen years.

TI: Well, as your parents got older, and as you became more aware of what happened to them and how maybe it impacted them, and you, because of your training, did you ever have discussions about that with them, to talk about it?

SI: You know, I'm absolutely positive I became a therapist because of my family's history. But it was this very unspoken message, especially from my father: "Don't ask us." I think they decided only what was necessary to tell us, like about the renunciation, because they didn't have their citizenship from the time they renounced in 1943, late 1943 or '44, until 1959. And that whole time that I was growing up, I had no idea.

TI: So let me make sure I understand. So it took them that long to get their citizenship back?

SI: Right.

TI: And so they had to go through it with Wayne Collins?

SI: Yes, Wayne Collins helped them, and they got the official letter, and I saw the letter. But no, I think we never sat around and talked about it. I never inquired, because I didn't really understand why I became a psychologist, why I was so interested. But my interest started in junior high school where I couldn't stop reading about the Holocaust. I would actually, after school, go on the city bus to the main library and bring home enough books that I could carry on my lap like this on the bus. Because I wasn't like a scholar, but there was something that was going on for me trying to understand, and I was trying to understand the perpetrator. I wanted to know about the people who were making the decisions about the dehumanizing things they were doing. And my parents thought that was pretty weird. [Laughs] Everybody else was playing volleyball or basketball, I was going to the library trying to figure out something that I didn't really understand.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: And growing up, did you find yourself being very sensitive, I guess... how do I say this? I mean, it's almost like sensitivity in terms of people's moods and the things not said, maybe, and that you could sense these things?

SI: Right. And in talking to other people over the years, as I started to dial in more about my own family experience and what that meant, I wasn't conscious of it because it was just kind of natural, I always had this radar, like any time I entered a room, I always know how many white people are in the room and how many people of color. I'm always sensing the mood, I mean, still today, I'm aware of the undertone of the group of people that I'm with. And so it's like this constant measure of safety.

TI: Because it reminds me, like you, I read testimonies from Holocaust survivors, and something that struck me was one who talked about being kind of this victim of oppression, how he became so attuned by even the footsteps of the guard walking in, he would know the mood of that guard, and whether or not it was going to be hard, but just hyper sensitive to everything, and that's who he became. And it was mostly a place of fear, or just really building it up. And as you were talking, that's what came to mind.

SI: And I think you grow up with that kind of sensitivity from watching your parents, and messages you get from your parents. And I lived in San Francisco Japantown, and it was, Japantown was one component of a larger poor neighborhood, and we went to schools with kids from poor families. And so there was always this kind of subtext of danger. Most of the Japanese kids were kind of quiet, geeky, trying to kiss up to the teachers, and African American kids were more expressive and more running the show. Yeah, I was always alerted to that.

TI: But there must be, also, times when you're in situations where it's so clear to you what's happening, and you're frustrated that other people don't see that or sense that, and they're going down in a direction that says, "What are you doing? It's going to end up really bad if you keep doing that." So how do you respond to that? What's your mechanism when you see things? It's almost like you have this seeing that other people don't have.

SI: Well, of late, after years of interviewing, doing therapy with Japanese American clients and other people as well, and I think just doing the work, learning about my family, and learning more about the whole incarceration experience, is it's almost like I can't be quiet, I have to speak out. I have to say what I notice, whether it's a mixed group in a meeting or in a social situation or whatever, I feel like that sensitivity has value now, not just a self-protective value, but a value to my own sense of worth and educating. And sometimes it gets pretty awkward, but I'm not the good Japanese girl that will enryo and hold back in a certain circumstance anymore, I'm usually more likely to call it out.

TI: So when did that emerge? Was that always part of who you were even young, or did that emerge at some point?

SI: It was not a part of who I was, because I think while I was growing up, the message was to always be polite, to not notice, turn the other cheek. I used to get pushed around a lot by other kids in school because I was so skinny.

TI: And your earlier was to be so good, to almost protect your parents.

SI: Right.

TI: So what you're talking about now is different. So what was that transformation? That's what I'm trying to understand.

SI: Yeah, it's really hard to say. I think as I've learned to understand racism and the whole incarceration injustice, and I think over the last maybe thirty years, this kind of growing outrage about what happened to us that's culminating in my outrage about what America is doing today. So certainly it was, I'm not... well, I'm not the person my father knew. My father died pretty young. Like many of the men that were incarcerated, the studies show that there were significant premature death rates, so my father died in his sixties. But my mother lived until she was eighty-two, and so she got to witness more of my speaking out, of making my films, of educating people more, and I shifted from, in my career, from teaching basic skills in psychotherapy to more issues about trauma. And as a therapist, focus of trauma became my way of protesting what happened.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So just to fill in the gaps a little bit in terms of your life history, in the film it mentioned that, so the family was reunited at Crystal City. So I guess one question I wanted to ask is, do you remember your father... because you were very young, do you remember the reunification of the family?

SI: So let's backtrack for one second. So once they renounced... let's see if I get this right. So they renounced and my father was a member of the Hoshidan, my mother was a member of the Joshi Seinendan, the women's group. And they, as the Hoshidan leaders were growing in their protest activities, and they had these marches, my father was participating in that, and so when they did the sweep and removed the main leaders of the Hoshidan, then the second group were identified then as the leader, and so the names were on the list.

TI: And this is your father, was in that second group?

SI: Yes, he was in the second group. And I talked to another renunciant, and he said, "Your father's group, they were the quiet ones, they were the writers," he called them, "the intellectuals," who has more principled ideas about what was happening to them, but when they took the more overt leaders away, those leaders put their names on the list, because they didn't want the Hoshidan to be dissolved. So with his name on the list, then he was put in the jail in Tule Lake and then removed to Bismarck, North Dakota.

TI: So just a question, because you mentioned the jail, and there is a well-known photograph, and in this photograph, looking inside the jail, there's, your father is there in a prominent way. When did you first see that?

SI: Oh, gosh, that was such a... that was a really pivotal moment for me. It was 1988, the Civil Liberties Act had just been passed. I'd been living overseas teaching, and so my son and I came back after being gone for a year, and wanted to see the exhibit. I had been gone for the whole redress movement and all of that.

TI: This is the exhibit in Washington, D.C.?

SI: At the Smithsonian.

TI: Okay.

SI: And the name of it had to do with the... was it We the People? Or something about the Constitution and the Japanese Americans.

TI: We Hold These Truths.

SI: We Hold These Truths, right. So we made specifically a stop in Washington, D.C., to see that exhibit before we went home to Sacramento. So we walked in and turned the corner, and there was this big photo. And I remember staring at it, because it's fuzzy, it's not a well-defined image. And I can't describe the feeling, but it was like sinking in that that was my father. Even though his face isn't perfectly clear, I knew that was my dad. I also remember this, my son taps me on the shoulder, and I'm crying, and he says, "Are we going to have any fun on this trip?" [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] How old is your son?

SI: He was in junior high school. Because I couldn't even find the words to say, "That's your grandfather." That never came out at that point. On our way home...

TI: So he just thought, "The first photo we see, Mom starts crying."

SI: "And she's already crying." And then another memory that came up shortly after that really led to me getting focused in on trying to understand what happened, and that culminated in making the first film, Children of the Camps.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Yeah, so actually, I wanted to, that was the next topic. So now you're just, all this is happening, and you're probably now learning how much trauma your parents went through, how difficult it was. And you were this tot, this child.

SI: Right. And my father said, he used to tease me a lot and say, "You were such a crybaby, you cried all the time." And my mother said it's because he was a stranger to me. We'd been separated since from when I was not quite one, and then reunited after I was two and a half. So suddenly he's back and we reunite at Crystal City. And by that time I had really changed, and I had no idea who he was, and every time he'd approach me, I would start crying. And so my first actual recollection is being on a train, and I'm pretty sure it's a train ride out of Crystal City heading to Cincinnati, Ohio. And I remember being big enough that I could reach on the arm rails of those aisles and kind of swing my feet as the train was going. And I wrote about this memory, and I remember my brother sleeping on my mother's lap, with his head on her lap, and my father is reaching for me, and I start crying again, it's like he's a stranger. He says to me in Japanese, he says, "Nakanaide, shikkari shinasai. Don't cry, be strong." And that was the phrase he would say to us as children growing up. And it could be the title of the book that I'm working on now, "Be strong, don't cry." But that, I think, was a powerful message about how to move forward in my life. Doesn't mean I don't cry, because I cry a lot. But the idea of how to be strong, how to endure, how to... it's a very Nisei message, transmitted from the pioneer Isseis, that being tough and taking it and enduring it. And he never said, "And fight back." [Laughs] So I think that has been the next part of my own growth, was to learn to fight back. That I could take it, I could take it, but what they felt powerless to do was to fight back, and that was what I could carry forward, was to take it, learn it, study it, understand it, really feel in control of it, and then speak out.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So you take a train to Cincinnati, I recall from the movie, I think it was a relative in Cincinnati, that's why you went to Cincinnati?

SI: My father's aunt.

TI: So how long did the family stay in Cincinnati?

SI: We stayed there, I think it may have been just a couple of years, maybe three years at the most. It was a difficult time for my parents, even though they had relatives, they had to find work and so the family members helped my father get a job.� My mother had these two young children, and she wrote in her diary that, "I don't know what to do, the landlord is telling is I have to keep the children quiet. I can't keep them quiet so I take them outside, but it's snowing outside, so we're trying to go someplace where we're not in the house and the landlords isn't going to complain." So I think they finally decided that they needed to go back to San Francisco, back to Japantown.

TI: When you say it was hard for your parents, so you talked about your mother, what made it hard for your father?

SI: I know less about that experience of my father's. His poetry didn't continue, although he wrote all through camp. His poetry didn't continue in Cincinnati, it continued when we got back to San Francisco. Because I think he was struggling to support the family, taking whatever job he could get, and finding his way back to having some personal power and dignity. I think he, in many ways, I feel like, as the man and head of the household, the camp experience really emasculated him, and the decision then to not go to Japan was very hard for him. My mother is the one who said, "We cannot take our children back to a defeated country where there's no food for the children." So they're writing these letters back and forth, and my father is, in this very Japanese way, saying, "We can't go back to Japan just because they won and not go because they lost." And my mother is writing to him saying, "The children will starve to death. We can't let that happen." So he realizes that this is a true condition and agrees, they planned the strategy through these secret letters that they wrote, that he stripped his bedsheet and wrote on cloth letters and then sewed them inside of his pants pocket, and my mother did the same. And how they figured out that they would wait until the last boat came up, and he then began to have contact with Wayne Collins and understood that they could resist the deportation.

TI: That communication that they sewed into the pants, so this was a pair of pants that he would send back and forth to get, like, adjusted, right?

SI: Yeah, he said, "They need mending."

TI: "My waist is too tight."

SI: "Tight," right. [Laughs]

TI: And so that communication that they were going back and forth were hidden, that would have all been censored and not, you think, allowed back and forth?

SI: You know, I found a hundred and eighty-two letters that they had exchanged, and many of them I would open up, they had the envelopes, and open it up and they'd just be, like, flaps of paper because the censors...

TI: Just blacked out everything.

SI: Yeah, they cut with a razor. And so one of the letters, my mother writes about my brother being sick, and the idea of getting on the ship was, like, too hard for her to bear. And on the bottom she writes, "Dear Censor, for the sake of my children, please do not cut this letter." It's one of the few letters that had no cuts in it. But then she writes in her diary, "Today, I found a letter that Daddy had hidden inside of the waistband," because he writes and says, "My waist, please fix the waistband." So he would unstitch it, and he stripped his bedsheet and he'd write on the cloth, fold it up and stick it in there. I asked my mother about this, and she said he would also stitch the letter inside the lining of the pants pocket. So she also wrote letters back to him that way, but I never found those. I only found the ones that my father sent.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

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.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

SI: So that was like the first striking thing, and then shortly after that, I had to go to a training. I'm remembering this sequence because I had been out of the country for a year and I had to renew my license as a therapist, so I had to go this training. And in this... it was a family therapy training in California style, so it's this mass of people. The exercise was for six people to form a simulated family group, and each person was to take turns in the center of the circle. And the instruction was, as you're doing that, close your eyes and imagine yourself laying in your baby crib looking up at your mother and father, and what do you see? And so I was the last person, and I anticipated that I would look up and I would see my mother and father's face looking very worried or scared. But the thing that was striking to me was that I wasn't in a crib, that I was in some kind of woven patterned thing surrounding me. And I was really struck by that, because the instructions were "crib." So you never know how much is constructed, the memory, how much is unconscious, would have been possibly preverbal memory, I wasn't sure. It was so intriguing to me that seeing my mother and father's faces wasn't disturbing to me, it felt almost familiar. But the crib thing really was unresolved. So I went from that training straight to my mother's place, and I asked her, "Where did you put me as a baby, as an infant?" And she said, these were her words, she said, "We didn't have a crib for you, so we put you in a kori, like that one over there," and she points to a woven basket, a willow basket, where she had packed her clothes in. And I looked and it was the exact pattern that I had visualized. And so, when I write about this, I say, "That could have been a pretty profound preverbal memory," or it could have been something she had told me and forgotten about, I don't know. But that was when I realized, how did that experience affect me? The fact that there wasn't a crib for me was really, it seems kind of trivial, but it was really disturbing to me that I didn't have a normal childhood. [Laughs] And it struck me that this wasn't just about my mother and father's story, but this was also about my brother and my story, too. So that was the moment that I thought, okay, now I need to start talking to people.

So I just started talking to my friends that I grew up with Japantown and said, "What do you know about the camps? What stories do you have?" And almost to a person, they said, "My parents never talked about it. I know this little piece and this little piece." So it felt like some door had opened, but it was empty space. And so I asked five or six of my friends, I said, "Do you want to get together for a weekend? And let's just talk about what we know as kids." So we got together Japanese American style, someone had a place to go, it was all cleaned up and food was in the kitchen, how this happens, you know. So we spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the only thing I said is that I can't be the therapist for the group, I just want us as friends to just share whatever we knew. It was like this giant spiderweb, and we only had these strands of memory maybe but stories, and a lot of empty space in between. But somehow, being together as a group, it held together in this psychological way, there was this sense of what it meant to be a child in camp. So some people had physical memories of what the places looked like. But the interesting thing that happened was as one person talked, it kind of triggered a memory, a piece of a memory for someone else, and this is the group dynamics that is so powerful. And the thread that connected us all is we all cried for three days, tears just continued to well up. And many of us were very young in camp, so may not have even had language capacity, but we certainly had the emotional capacity. And as we heard bits and pieces, some complete stories, actually, that were so moving and sad, and some funny stories, there was this remarkable... I wouldn't say closure, but instead of feeling this fragmented disconnect, it felt like we're weaving together something that had substance, that had reality to it. We didn't have every word, we didn't have every memory, but we knew that we were... that the anxiety, the fear, the unknowing, that that was real, that was something that, someone said it was like a ghost that was kind of haunting us that we couldn't name or see. And that there was comfort in knowing that I wasn't the only one that sensed that. And that's actually what started my quest to learn more and to do more of these groups that culminated in making that film Children of the Camps. Because not with any intent, but by word of mouth, my friends started talking to other people, and then people would say, you know, "I have a few friends, we started talking about this, can you come and sit with us and help us just begin talking?" So in this ten-year period, redress was in '88, I started doing this in '89, and then made the film in '99, so it was like a nine- or ten- year period, that whenever anyone called, I would join them somewhere for a weekend, and we would do this process. Sometimes I joke about being the most healed of all the Sanseis that were children of the camps, because I'd been through so many groups and cried so much. But there isn't a single one where I wasn't weeping most of the time.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Well, that's why I want to ask about the healing process, and maybe you answered it by saying you're the most healed because you've gone to so many... I mean, what is the healing process? Is it just sharing it and sharing in the group?

SI: So I think what happens, in order to understand the healing, you have to understand the trauma. And the trauma kind of fractured our connection to our parents, because our parents didn't talk about something that was so painful for them, so disturbing. And some parents sugar-coated it or minimized it for many reasons. I've interviewed parents and asked their motivation, lots of different reasons, so there was... and I think Donna Nagata tapped into this in her initial research, that there was this feeling of disconnect between the Sanseis and their Nisei parents. And then the disconnection... because we didn't have this, what they call a coherent autobiographical narrative in psychology, we didn't have this coherent story about how we were as children, most of us didn't have photographs of ourselves as babies and children, and there wasn't this birthday party and things like that, so there was this fragmentation of our sense of self and this kind of, the wind behind our back, always pushing towards having to constantly prove ourselves. Looking back and there'd be no one there, but you could feel it, you could feel it in the community, you could feel it in the family. And no connective tissue, like stories or, "Here's what happened when you were three months," and then, "Here's what happened when you were one."

So the healing that comes out of being in a group of people with shared experience is, one, the bonding with each other, because we understand the not known. It's a kind of different trauma, where another trauma that people could say, "Yeah, we were all in this earthquake together, and we remember these elements of it." But for us, it's like when someone says, "Well, when do you think your trauma started?" It's like, "I don't know, I was in utero," or, "I couldn't talk, so how would I know?" And then I think the Japanese believed, our Nisei and Issei parents believed that if you were a baby, you had no idea what was going on, so you couldn't have been affected. But as a therapist, I know now that if you're held in the arms of an anxious mother, you're going to internalize that the world isn't very safe. So the healing is in the talking with each other, and the safety that is built into the trust that we're all struggling to try and piece this together. And really, in sharing not just the unspoken, but the secrets, that my father was a renunciant would emerge over time. And other people said, "Oh, I think my grandfather left his family," or these family secrets that would emerge. One story that I always remember was so powerful is the man who said, "My mother told me that she was having, not feeling well, so she went to the white doctor in the camp, and the doctor said, 'You need to have a hysterectomy.'" She didn't want to hear that, and found out after a few months that she was actually pregnant, and the thought that she may have done what the doctor had recommended. So he was telling me that story, and then someone said, "Were you that baby?" and he burst into tears, because he hadn't made that connection. He knew that story, but, see, that's that kind of fragmented split experience. And then when he realized that that must have been him, and if whatever that doctor's motivation was, there were other stories... I heard similar stories about doctors recommending hysterectomies for women in the camps.

So when a person has this coherent narrative about their life and can allow themselves to have the emotional connection to it, so we cried a lot. We laughed, but we cried a lot, because there was so much unresolved grief. Lost time, lost jobs, lost money, lost futures, lost possibilities, that no one has named. We just look back and we see our parents working so hard, night and day. Why? We hadn't made any connection to. What that meant for us? We were latchkey kids, we had to fend for ourselves. There was so much strain on our parents, but we didn't want us to be the cause of it, so all these things that a child's mind tries to put into place without information.

TI: So I'm curious, if you go to Hawaii or Honolulu and you are with a group of Japanese Americans about the same age as what you've done with these seminar groups, do you see a difference?

SI: Yes. [Laughs]

TI: Talk about that. Because the Japanese Americans in Hawaii, generally, their parents didn't go through this process.

SI: It's a great question because I remember reflecting back on it, the first time I went to Hawaii, I must have been early twenties or something. And how shocked I was that these Japanese Hawaiian men would whistle and flirt on the sidewalk, and walk up to me and just introduce themselves and make jokes and whatever it was like, it was so uncomfortable for me. And then I thought at the time, no one in San Francisco, no Sansei boy in San Francisco would ever be that forward or open. So that was early on, noticing something shocking. But subsequently, to me there's a significant difference in their comfort level in some ways. They're more outspoken, less inhibited, more happy in some ways. They'd talk a lot about things -- the people that I've met and spent time with -- talk a lot about things they want to do that would be fun to do, to enjoy. And in contrast, I have seen -- and it's changing, I think, with the Yonsei generation to some extent -- but there's more seriousness, more avoiding being the one who has failed. Like somehow if you failed to be this ideal Japanese American, how devastating that is if your parents are disappointed. I also always grieve the reality that many in my generation could have been more creative artists, musicians, actors, poets, but we all were urged, either overtly or not, to track ourselves into positions where we could protect our parents with this level of security.

TI: Interesting. So you think that it was a parental thing to take care or protect them later? That was sort of... I didn't think about that. I always thought it was like they did that because they just wanted their children to be self-sufficient.

SI: Yeah, I'm sure that's part of it, to be self-sufficient, but I think there's this under layer that is, this is what we've been entrusted to do. Most of us have way more degrees than we need, we're all teachers, doctors, educators, dentists. I haven't seen any exact statistics, but to become professional, or if you aren't professional, to be really good at whatever you do, whatever the job is, and to be on time, to be responsible.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So this is a question that I think about. So for people who don't really know the community and the trauma and see the community more superficially, they would look at those things, oh, Japanese Americans are on time, they're responsible...

SI: They're clean. [Laughs]

TI: They're clean, they work hard, they go into these fields.

SI: They're smart.

TI: They're smart. And so they say, wow, so it couldn't have been that bad of a thing, right? Look at all these positive things about the community, kind of that "model minority" myth. So what's your response, though? Because you know, underneath that veneer, there's this trauma that has happened. And people said, well, when the Niseis are all gone, they'll all be gone, but no, it transferred to the next generation.

SI: You know, the way I respond is that outwardly, it looks like we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps, and the only minority that's been oppressed that's been able to do that. But it's a distortion of the level of anxiety that's underneath that, and the sacrifices that are part of the trauma to choose careers for safety rather than self-expression. And I think that's a huge loss, that rather than manifesting our greatest wishes or our greatest talents or skills, that those had to be conformed to. And maybe that's true for a lot of people no matter what, but I think that what's wrapped around that is this level of anxiety. That somehow if you don't... like when I decided I wanted my actual birth name, Satsuki, instead of being called Sandy, my mother looked me straight in the eye and she said, "Bad things will happen if you do that." So that's what she transmitted to me, was that if you don't create this image and do what you're told... and then I think as a therapist, I have met with enough Sansei clients to know that jobs taken, careers chosen, were at great sacrifice to what they would have loved to have done. And I think of the loss that our community and the rest of the world have suffered because of that. And then the level of anxiety, so lots of anxiety, depression, it's like anxiety and depression are one side or the other of the same mental health issue. And then anxiety often shows up as being driven. And being driven in America is a good thing, is seen as good, high achievers. But there's a great physiological cost to that, and mental cost to that, too.

TI: And so as you're talking, so is it this, by appearance, it looks good on the outside. But underneath that, would you describe it as maybe less joyful?

SI: Right.

TI: Or what are the...

SI: Yeah. I don't know if it's less joyful. Less freedom, it feels more constrained, more... maybe that's what joy is, when you're uncontained and you can express your joy. But there is this level of somberness, and it slides easily into depression. And I've seen a lot of depression in JA clients.

TI: Do you think Japanese Americans have a higher level of depression or percentage of depression?

SI: I haven't seen any statistics on that, but there is research that shows that we're more prone to internalizing and showing up with more somatic disorders because of the anxiety and depression. So I think at one point there were a higher significant rate for Japanese Americans, this included... this may have included (Sanseis, but Niseis) in particular, higher rates of ulcers, stomach cancer, hypertension, disorders like that that are a result of the level of stress the person experiences.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So the other issue is now how it transfers from generation to generation. So thinking of you and other Sanseis, how does that get translated to your children? Is it physiological, what happens?

SI: Well, from the physiological point of view, there is really fascinating research going on now called Epigenetics, and they're mostly studying rats right now. But they're seeing that rats who were traumatized are passing on genetic markers to the next generation that is a transmission of a traumatic response. So it's not that the DNA is changed, but that there's some signaling that goes on that then makes that next generation more prone to anxiety or distress in the rats. So very controversial at this point, but even if you take... so that's the nature part of the transmission that we're still unsure of.

The nurture part of that transmission, so this is the middle level of understanding is that we know that when somebody experiences trauma, it alters the nervous system. We see this in soldiers that are sent to combat zones, that they have flashbacks, they have hypersensitivity to certain kinds of triggers. So the nervous system, especially if it's a chronic state of trauma, which captivity trauma is, the everyday not knowing what your future or life is going to be like, is a form of chronic trauma. We know that, and they've done this, because we can look at brain scans of people now who have had chronic trauma. If you have a single incident trauma, nervous system doesn't necessarily change. You have one accident maybe in a year, by then, your brain realizes that was a single incident and now you're safe and it can go back to normal function. Chronic state of trauma -- so if the signal in the brain that says you're in danger allows these many experiences to happen, it triggers and fires off this fight, flight, or freeze response. For somebody who has had chronic trauma, it's modified. So there's less incidents or triggers, space-time.

TI: Okay, got it.

SI: Right? So then they're more easily triggered, more often triggered, and so this is a storming of stress hormones which is very bad for your system, which could lead to the somatic things, somatic illnesses that we're talking about. So that's good science, that's pretty consistent, and is a way that a person whose parents have had trauma, there's a good possibility that that person is going to have an anxiety level, a stress response level more readily. So that's one way of thinking about the transmission. And then the third way is purely from a learned perspective, which is, you watch your parents, you hear their messages, you get the message of their silence, so that's, like, very frightening. You get the message of fear, and the lack of safety. And it may not be very overt, but it gets transmitted through facial expression, body language of the parent, sometimes words that the parents share. That gets internalized early on, and this other area of study -- I don't know if it's relevant for this interview -- but they've found that people who have what they call a coherent autobiographical narrative, that is, a consistent life story, and the emotions attached to it, that that individual is more likely to be able to have a healthy, secure attachment with their child. Interesting study, this is the study done at UC Berkeley. That when they compared mothers, the ones that had the insecure attachment to their child were the ones who were more likely to have had trauma and to have also incoherent narrative, their life story, like they were adopted and transferred and all these other things happened, had a difficult time having this really secure attachment with their child, which then creates anxiety for that generation.

So I think about, now, my sons are fourth generation, and although they've been very respectful of my work and interested and attend required events, they have their own passions. And they are creative, artistic young men who have the freedom to take risks, and to do careers that aren't necessarily secure. So I feel like the opportunity for the fourth generation, once us Sanseis start talking more, start putting these pieces together, start integrating our history into our today lives, and the more books that are being written, the more films, the more oral interviews by Densho, that the fourth generation, the next generation, and the generation after that, will have a more integrated story about what happened. Not the distorted narrative that the government gave us that left us kind of empty and unsure, I think the future looks good for the next generation. But we have to provide what we can of the empty spaces of that cobweb. So that's why when people ask me to share, I always try to say yes-yes instead of no-no. [Laughs]

TI: Because your belief is that, by doing so, that it's helping to heal this community.

SI: Absolutely. Because doing those "children of the camps" groups, I saw profound healing. People who... I mean, it seems like, so amazing, but people who were in jobs that were not satisfying to them, but gave them security, several of them stayed in touch with me and went on to do different things. They left their job mid-career to become a writer, a Buddhist minister, to become a teacher instead of a bookkeeper. So, yeah, I think that knowing our history, talking each other, feeling the feelings that go with it is really important.

TI: But there are so few Satsuki Inas that are doing this, and the community is so large and dispersed in so many ways, how do we go forward?

SI: Because I don't think it's up to Satsuki Ina. I think it's that people are now... redress kind of opened the door for us to speak our truths more. My mother said, when she got her check, she said, I asked her what it meant for her, and she said it was the letter of apology, she felt like she got her face back. And in that way, all the stories that are being written now, the films that are being made, all of these ways in which we are passing on the true experience of people, real experience, I think Densho has contributed to this in a great way. So it's not just me, and it's about us beginning to feel like we need to talk about this, and we need to find ways to talk about it. And it might be something as simple as a book club reading one of the books that have just come out. It could be going to Day of Remembrance, these pilgrimages are powerful healings.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Which I want to pivot to, because another way in terms of learning about the story, knowing the story, is connecting the story to what's happening to maybe another community. And so you're involved with something right now that I find very powerful, and why don't you explain, it has to do with the family detention centers on the southern border. So why don't you talk about that?

SI: Yeah, and I think that this is... you know, I'll be seventy-five shortly, and I feel like this is kind of the culminating process of really feeling passionate about paying attention to what's going on in the rest of the world, and speaking out, and protesting in ways that, one, our parents couldn't do, and two, in ways that people never did for us. And that muffled silence, I think, is part of what has constrained us, and so there is, I think, a combination with the young millennials now who are more free to protest and speak out and organize, use social media and get the word out. We're working together. So one of my favorite stories is how this started was a fourth generation Japanese American's grandfather was at Tule Lake, called me and he's a lawyer for the ACLU National Prison Project.

TI: And you're talking about Carl.

SI: Carl Takei. And he said, he asked me if I would come to Texas and go inside these detention facilities, because the ACLU wants to get some sense of the trauma that the children are being exposed to, and would I come and do that? And I said, "Okay, when's the next flight?" [Laughs] Because I thought, wow, what a gift, to be able to do that. So he organized and made it possible with a couple of local organizations that were doing volunteer work, and I was to slip in with these folks as a volunteer, and I got to interview several of these mothers and their children. And so I saw firsthand many -- and listened to many -- disturbing stories. So from that experience, and writing about it and getting the reaction from people, and more and more people recognizing the resonance between children who are being separated from their parents and children who are being incarcerated, families held, innocent people, the same rhetoric of the threat of national security with no proof or evidence of that. Criminalizing innocent people seeking asylum, is a legal action, but they're being treated like criminals, handcuffed and put inside of prisons. These are not "family residential facilities" like they called Crystal City a "family internment camp," those were prisons, both of them.

And so at one of the events in Texas, they asked me to speak at a protest march in front of the detention facility, and it struck me that forty miles on the same road is the Crystal City internment camp where I was held with my mother and brother while my father was in a separate prison. So Grassroots Leadership is the organization that organized this protest, and they had a camera guy there, and he asked me, "Do you want to go there?" So we went there and... it was so, I don't know, disturbing and chilling.

TI: So this was the first time you had, since you had returned?

SI: Yeah, I had never been to Crystal City before. And I didn't even plan it as I was speaking, I was just pointing.

TI: And you just sort of knew that it was down the road?

SI: Right, right. So I said, "Let's go." So we left the march and we drove down there, and so, in the past several months, this horrific separation of children from their families who were crossing the border seeking asylum, and I had all these visual images of the stories that these women told me about what it took for them to get to the border, and how they were told that when you got to the border and you saw the men with the hats, the border patrol hats, "Just put your hand out like that and say, 'Asylum,' and they'll take care of you." And these women told me stories about being cuffed and thrown into these cement rooms with the temperature turned down, and their babies, some of these were nursing mothers, some of them with toddlers, some of them... if the boy was eight years old or older, separated and put in the men's unit. And they were being held for months back then.

So after the Tule Lake pilgrimage last year, I met Mike Ishii and some other Yonseis, who had kind of the gusto, the outrage, so we started talking about needing to really show up as Japanese Americans, because we have the moral authority to protest what is so resonant for us, and not just talk about it, but to really show up. And so there was a Crystal City pilgrimage committee with some Japanese Peruvians who were held at Crystal City, and some of us who were children at Crystal City and others, and we decided we would have a pilgrimage to Crystal City and then, on the bus, go to Dilley, Texas, where this South Texas Family Residential Center is now holding mothers and children, but more recently, we just learned, confined with infants.

TI: And what would you call this? Because I know the government uses lots of euphemisms historically.

SI: It's a prison.

TI: Like a prison for babies, or a prison for...

SI: A prison for families. Yeah, and early on, there were cribs in some of these detention facilities inside the jail. And so when I got to go in, I mean, these are prisons. They're prison cells, electronic gates, security guards with guns in their holsters, this is not a "family residential center."

So we decided we would start out small, and we would rent one bus and there's fifty-five seats in a bus, so it would be fifty-five people. But this thing has exploded, thanks to social media, and these young Yonseis who know how to work social media and get the word out. And then I contacted all those people that I had made connections, local ACLU, national ACLU. National ACLU donated $1,300 to help pay for some aspect of the trip, and lots of time and effort. So Grassroots Leadership and ACLU will be there to set up the canopies and chairs for the elders, because there is a Japanese Peruvian woman in her nineties that's going to be coming.

TI: And how soon is this?

SI: This is happening at the end of the month, March 29th.

TI: Okay, so we're literally two weeks away.

SI: Two weeks away. And NHK World from Japan is flying in to be with us, I've talked to journalists from the Smithsonian Magazine and National Geographic Magazine, ACLU is doing outreach to get the press there. We want it to be an event that will point out that this is a repetition of what has happened and talk about the long term consequences of children being held in prisons. And part of that is we want it to be a Japanese American statement. So we have called on taiko drummers to bring what they can on the airplane, so they're bringing their drums from Denver, maybe someone from Seattle that's coming.

TI: We have a staff member who is coming.

SI: Yeah, right.

TI: I'm thinking also, as this sort of evolves, are there going to be caravans of people going?

SI: Yes. So we have our bus of elders, but also now...

TI: No, but like from California or different places, people driving?

SI: I don't know if they're driving, but they are going to show up at the protest. And local people and state people are going to be showing up. And the Cranes for Solidarity project, so the barbed wire fence is right along the highway. So the demonstration will be on the highway, but we want the children who are in the facility, the children and the families, to be able to hear us and see us. So we want to string ten thousand cranes along the fence -- I get kind of choked up when I think about this -- because, you know, the symbol of the wings and how they're trapped, and we want them to see the colorfulness, they won't be able to get very close to us, and to hear the drums beating, so they'll know. Because I think about how people turned away from us when we were emptying the classrooms and not showing up for our jobs, and neighbors seeing empty houses and farms being left behind, and nobody marched for us, nobody protested in ways that even us as a small community, we can do. And the best part of it is the Grassroots Leadership, who helps bring pro bono young attorneys to go into the detention facilities to help the mothers prepare for their immigration judge, prove that they have credible fear that if they get deported, terrible things will happen to them. And so he said he will make sure all the attorneys that are going in will tell all of their clients, and the word will get passed on, that, "At two o'clock on March 30th, listen for the drums, and if you can get a peek out the window, see the colorful birds that are being strung on the fence." And I just came back from Japan and I gave a talk, and at the end of the talk, like three hours later when they were thanking me, they presented me with a bag of folded cranes that people had folded just in that short time, wanting me to bring it to hang on the fence from Japan.

TI: And you get the power of you, because -- now I get choked up thinking about this -- but in cities all around the country, people are folding cranes.

SI: They're folding cranes, it's so amazing, yes.

TI: It's such a powerful thing. And as I hear your story and this interview, it's a way for the community to get back some of its power.

SI: Yes, right. And then people are connecting with each other across the country in ways we haven't before, and we have Mike Ishii in New York, and Nancy Ukai, the Omori sisters, we have all of these people who have been activists, but we are connecting in ways that, the time is so ripe with these young millennials who can articulate. And it's interesting, when I think about the generational differences, like we started out thinking, "Okay, we'll have this small bus, we'll go and we'll carry a sign, and maybe it'll be a vigil." But now, it's a full-on protest. It's going to be loud and it's going to be covered by the media. And some of us are going to go down to the border at Laredo, we want to just see what's happening there, that's the closest border place. And an NHK crew wants to come with us and film. And then the pilgrimage protest ends on Sunday, but a large number of us are actually driving up to Austin because Bob Libal from Grassroots Leadership has organized meetings for us to meet with legislators and their representatives. And we want to tell them our story, we want to warn them about what's happening, we want to demand that they do something to bring these prisons down. These are private prisons, corporations that are making billions of dollars every year, and we don't like it. [Laughs]

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So what do you think is next for you? I mean, it feels like it's building, it's growing, this foundation, and many things that you're doing, because you are a leader, and the community is, I think the work you did in terms of sharing, and I see this ongoing now in terms of the community healing, standing up and doing this protest. What's the next thing? Not so much thinking you have to do this for the community, but I'm just curious where you see yourself going.

SI: Well, one thing is that I think this network that has been built up and strengthened through this specific protest is going to continue, and I want to be engaged in it, continuing the protest until this thing is brought to an end. For me, personally, I've been trying to make space to write my books. I have three books that I want to have published before I'm gone, and one is the Be Strong, Don't Cry, I don't know if the editor will finally accept that title or not, but that will include my parents' letters and then the narrative written by me about some of the things you and I have talked about today, my perspective on that. And then the other, there's a children's book called My Name is Not Sandy, it's really written for immigrant children whose acculturation process is violated trying to make them part of dominant culture rather than... keeping their names is such an important part.

TI: Where does "Sandy" come from?

SI: So when we left camp and went to Cincinnati, the schoolteachers told my parents, "If you want your children to be real Americans, they need to have real American names." This is one of the ways my parents had to turn their cheek, because my father was a poet, and a lot goes into choosing a name for a Japanese child anyway, but because he was a poet, it had a lot of meaning for him. But the teacher said, "Okay, Kiyoshi, you're going to be Kenny, and Satsuki, you're going to be Sandy." So I was Sandy 'til I was thirty-five. And I had seen my birth certificate, it didn't dawn on me, but at some point I looked at that and it said... I thought Sandy was my nickname and Sandra was my real name, and that Satsuki was a little middle name. But I looked at that birth certificate...

TI: And there was no "Sandy."

SI: There's no "Sandy, Sandra" on it at all. And so I told my parents, "I want to start using my real name." And my mother said, "Don't do that. Bad things will happen." That was her phrase. So she called me Sandy until she died, and when we went to Japan together she would stumble over my name as she was introducing me to the relatives. So that's the second book, and the third book is the collection of my father's beautiful haiku, and that's already been translated and together, I just have to find an editor, publisher.

TI: Is there anything... so I've gone through all my questions, is there anything else that you think is important that we should talk about?

SI: I think you covered most of it. I think this what we didn't do, was preserve our history. So capturing it through Densho Project...

TI: Well, I have a question, then, about that. Because this is something we're figuring out now, how important is it for Densho to collect the stories of the Sanseis and the impact of camp in their lives?

SI: I think it's crucial, because I think the Sansei generation is going to be the last generation that has any direct connection to camp, to the whole experience. And the Sanseis are the ones -- this is a weird way of putting it -- they're also the ones that can free the next generation to really be out of camp, to learn so much and to be so conscious now about the fact that we were held captive against our rights. And I think I'm seeing that in these fourth generation Nikkei, many of them are hapa who are outraged in ways that we couldn't. And I think we need to feed that and we need to give them the information, the stories, that they can carry forward in maybe a less burdened way, or less confusing way, that the Sanseis have had to hold it. So crucial, critical. Once we're gone, it's only our stories that will help the subsequent generations to keep the story coherent.

TI: And as we do that and think about that, were there any benefits for us as Sanseis in terms of what our community went through, and that because of that history, and I think about how we maybe are connected with other communities to take a stand there, but is there anything that is maybe unique about the community's experience, that there's something there? And I don't know the answer to this, but I'm just wondering.

SI: Yeah. I think about, it's hard to differentiate how much Japanese culture is still a part of who we are, but I think it's there. And I think there's a great benefit to the values that have been passed on to us, as long as we don't bind them with the trauma. I don't know how else to explain that except to say that values of integrity and respect and grace, respect for elders, these values, I feel like are things that we have to now, more consciously, pass on to the next generation, because it's not all around us, that they just absorb it.

TI: I love that, actually. But then don't bind it with the trauma.

SI: Don't bind it with the trauma.

TI: Which we do so much on the West Coast.

SI: Right, yes. And then I think...

TI: Because we make it kind of a "should" to protect or something.

SI: Exactly, yeah. And I think it'll be up to the next generation to sort that out, but up to us to transmit the part of the culture that the Isseis brought with them, that I think we still have, that are really unique in this country, and can really be a benefit to the next generation in terms of influencing America as a whole, spreading that attitude, those values, in ways that could make our country better, really.

TI: Well, thank you. You truly are a treasure.

SI: [Laughs]

TI: You really are. You are such an amazing person for our community, and so I'm so glad we did this.

SI: Thank you.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.