Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kay Matsuoka Interview
Narrator: Kay Matsuoka
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 29 & 30, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-mkay-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: Before we go further in that, let's back up a little bit and tell me about the actual Pearl Harbor day. What do you recall from that day?

KM: Well Pearl Harbor day, it was on a Sunday. My girlfriend and I were in a bowling alley. And, you know we never listened to TV. We didn't have TV then, but I don't even listen to radio and I don't read the paper. So we went as usual, every Sunday we have an understanding to go meet at the bowling alley. And we were bowling away and we felt like all the eyes were just looking at us. So first we said that, "Gee, they must sure think we're good," you know. [Laughs] And then in the meantime after so many games, we thought, "Well, we better go to the bathroom." So we went to bathroom, and then we went to the newsstand. And there was a great big write up, "Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor." And so we said, "Hey, there's war going on. We better get home." So we went home. But that was what we were doing. To this day, her name -- she comes to visit me once in a while, she lives in Los Angeles -- and says, "Remember that Pearl Harbor day? We thought we were so good and everybody was just looking at us." And then it was just the opposite and they were just glaring at us. So that we were, really remember for a long time.

AI: What was your parents' reaction? How did they...?

KM: Well, they had lot of mixed emotion too. But they didn't really express it too much. But then one thing they did, "Whatever the government says to do, we're to obey 'cause we owe it to America." That's the way they, and so we never were told to oppose, or fight or be bitter, or anything. That we were to obey and do whatever. So whatever the new rules came out we just abided by that. We put the black curtain on the window and...

AI: For blackout.

KM: ...never did drive more than ten miles from our home.

AI: And that was because of the curfew...

KM: Because curfew, uh-huh.

AI: ...on the people of Japanese ancestry.

KM: Yeah. And one time, now you know, sometime when you're in dressmaking some customers come later and I can't keep the, and then wintertime, during the Pearl Harbor days, the days were short. And I looked and said, "Oh, this is six o'clock. I'd better get home." And as I was coming home I saw a red light in the back of my, and I said, "Uh-oh, what happened now?" And then he flashed his flashlight on my face, and he says, "Let me see your driver's license. Did you know that you're not to be out after five o'clock?" I said, "No, I didn't." And he says, "Well, what were you doing?" So I said, "Well I was in my shop and I'm just gonna go home now." But fortunately, he said, "Go ahead and go home. But remember, you're not to go out after five o'clock." And that was kind of a, I felt like a prisoner. Yeah, it just kind of gave me a real cold chill. I thought I wasn't gonna get home. I was, at first I thought, "Gee, I wonder if they're gonna put me in jail?"

AI: So for a moment it was...?

KM: Yeah, for a moment, yeah.

AI: Well, you know, I had heard that some Issei who had followed news, or kept up with news from Japan had some idea or worry that there might be war between Japan and the U.S. Had your folks ever mentioned anything about that?

KM: No. I never did correspond with anybody from Japan. So, now I do, but before I never did, so I don't know. And so I really met my relatives and everybody after the war. And my girlfriend that got married, we graduated together, we never did correspond until after the war. So I just lost track of her, and somehow through friends I got her address and started corresponding again.

AI: But, so at the time of Pearl Harbor it was a complete shock.

KM: Yeah, yeah. I lost lot of friends. In fact, to this day I have a friend in Hawaii and she came to learn dressmaking, to my school. And then she was gonna take different courses. And I told her, "This one isn't worth it," I told her. And said, "I'll give you the copy, you copy it." And so she's been sending me different Hawaiian artifacts for thank you. And then she got married and she built a new home in Hawaii, and I lost her address, and so I forgot which island she was in. And so with the Internet I've been trying to search, but I could never find it. I wish, those are the real cherished memories that we had such a good friendship and we lost contact because of the war.

AI: Well, what other kinds of restrictions or problems do you recall during that time after Pearl Harbor, soon after?

KM: Yeah, well...

AI: Did any other...?

KM: ...we couldn't travel. And time limit, and so...

AI: And did your parents have any problems during that time?

KM: Well, they, no, they kept believing in America and then they just kept harvesting. And you know, and when everything was just ready to harvest they were put into camp. Somebody else went and helped themselves. But when they, they gave them a chance to say how much damage it was, but you know, during the war the price went up. Only price they remember was when they were farming, so they say, "Well, we just estimate the best we can." But our ranch was just in perfect condition. I remember the green onions were ready to top, and... but, I told my girlfriend, one of 'em said, "Is there anything I can do for you?" But I still didn't trust her thinking, "Well if the government can't store our things, how can you trust them?" But she said, well I said, "If you want to, if you have time, if you can go to see what they did with our crop." And she said, "At that time the Italian people were in the farm and they say..."

AI: Italian?

KM: ...they got the permission, which wasn't so. And they really harvested and then they got all the money.

AI: So for your parents it was really, they took quite a loss.

KM: Yeah, yeah, it was very much of a sacrifice.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.