Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mako Nakagawa Interview
Narrator: Mako Nakagawa
Interviewer: Lori Hoshino
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 27, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-nmako-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

LH: Okay, when you say you were reunited, where were you reunited and when?

MN: I think my timing's pretty bad. I suspect that we were in Minidoka a couple years, and then there was some contact between Mom and Dad. And then my sister says that she thinks my mom had to declare that she's willing to be a prisoner of war and be shipped to Japan if the time came. She says that was the condition by which she could be reunited with dad. I don't know this at all, but my dad at that time was in Arizona, and they made some arrangements where they're going to get reunited in Crystal City, Texas, so we left camp, left Minidoka, and went to Crystal City, Texas.


LH: Okay. So you're in Minidoka. Your family is getting set to have a reunion with your dad, and you're allowed to go to Crystal City, Texas. And now can you tell me if you have any direct recollection of the time?

MN: It must have been a long trip from Minidoka to Texas. I don't remember much of it except one direct recollection is the train depot in Portland, and my sisters got to go up the stairs and go to the top and look down. And they came later on telling us how people looked like ants down there. "We saw you down there and you looked like ants," and I wanted to go up there so bad, but Mom wouldn't let me go. I remember the guards counting us, 1-2-3-4-5, counting us like that and all the Isseis grumbling that they counted us like pigs. It was so demeaning, when people point to you and count is 1-2-3. In Japanese you count bottles differently from the way you count sheets of paper from the way you count people, and you never count people rudely and demeaningly by just going 1-2-3-4. That was a big complaint aside from the food here and everything else. And I didn't think that was such a big deal, but I remember the Isseis thinking that was just so dehumanizing. I do remember the bus trip, I don't know from where, into the campgrounds, and Mom saying that we're going to see Pop soon. We're going to see Papa soon. There was a seats on both sides of the bus and then they had these little boards spread across the seats, and us little kids had to kind of precariously sit ourselves on these little boards so every time the bus bounced, you get slivers in your butt, [Laughs] and I wasn't too happy about sitting there. It was not comfortable and I'm hoping this bus ride will end pretty soon. And they say, "Papa's coming. Papa's coming." It was such big deal and next thing you know we pull into the campground. And these men are milling around and we're looking around to see which one is Papa and then I hear my sister saying, "There he is. There he is," and I'm looking around, and I see nobody that looks like this distinguished man in this picture. And when he finally comes to the window and he talks to my sisters and I'm thinking this is my father? I was so disappointed. [Laughs]

LH: Because you were about seven years old?

MN: I think so.

LH: And you haven't seen him for maybe two years?

MN: And I don't recognize him. I do not recognize him and my kid sister was scared of him, ran away from him. I was too big to run away from him. I wish I could have. I didn't like this man. [Laughs] He looked dirty and he looked kind of disheveled and I was expecting this handsome, distinguished, well-dressed, groomed man. And this man was a disappointment, but my sisters were hugging him and they were so happy to see him, and my mom looked pretty happy. And I tried to pretend like I was happy. I wasn't. It took me a while to really get used to him, and he was, he really was. He was very different from what I hear from my friends. He was a gentle person. He was a loving person. I guess later on when I took his story, the fact that the baby ran away from him just hurt him really bad. He said, "My own daughter, my own daughter is running away from me."

LH: Oh, your baby sister --

MN: Yeah.

LH: -- didn't recognize him at all or just didn't even know him.

MN: Yeah. She had a speech that we prepared her for. "Otousan, watakushi-wa Midori desu. Oukiku natta deshou." You know, "Father, I'm Midori, didn't I get big?" She made this speech perfect. We rehearsed her all the way up to where she said the speech, and she said that. She was so proud of herself, but by the time she finished, she had nothing to do with my father. She always ran away from him, and her recollection is she didn't like this guy. He was interfering with her mother. I wasn't too sure about him either, but I couldn't run away. I was too old to do that. But...

LH: How long did it take you to come around?

MN: I don't think it took very long because he was so compelling. He genuinely liked kids. I think the fact that he looked forward to having kids for so long. He always had a very soft spot in his heart for the old and the young and the disabled. He was always helpless... I guess partly, for the old, he left his mom when he was only eighteen years old, and he never saw his mom again after that so the old was -- he had a soft spot in his heart for his mother, I know that. But he used to read stories to me. We used to go to the swimming pool. I used to hang onto his back and he used to swim me across what I thought was a humongous swimming pool. He used to love to tell stories and so I got to the point where I started following him around. He used to go to the Shigin Club.

LH: Can you explain what a shigin is?

MN: It's a stylized singing, which is very foreign to our Western ears. So, but I mean, I grew up on it and it has a lot of control in the voice. And my father used to go to these clubs and sing and so I got to the point where I started mimicking him and so they let me sing at their recital. [Laughs] Because it was kind of anomaly, all those older people are singing these songs and this little kid comes and sings along with us. I was only seven years old so I was a pretty much of a ham when I was a kid, I guess. [Laughs] But the camp activities, yeah, there was sumou tournament. Our family was -- my recollection of the entire family was completely different. My dad was now with us. We felt like a family.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.