Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Yaeko Nakano - Kenichi Nakano - Hiroshi Nakano - Stanley Nakano Interview
Narrator: Yaeko Nakano, Kenichi Nakano, Hiroshi Nakano, Stanley Nakano
Interviewer: Tracy Lai
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 4, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-nyaeko_g-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TL: This is Tracy Lai interviewing a family, which includes Mrs. Yaeko Nakano and her three sons, Kenichi, Hiroshi, and Stan. Yaeko, I'm wondering if could you just start by telling us a little bit about yourself and how you came to Tule Lake.

YN: [Pauses] I'm sorry. Along with the Tacoma people, we were, left Tacoma on May the 17th, 1942. And I decided to keep a diary of this experience. As you know, before, we never traveled anywhere, our parents were always working; and I have never ridden on a train, I have never left Tacoma, I haven't even been to Portland. And so to me it was going to be a big adventure. And so I thought, "Well, I'll put something down in my diary." And this is what I put down for the first day, just a little excerpt of it: "The last day in Tacoma. Feel kinda blue, but also looking forward to our trip. We bade farewell to all our friends and that was hardest of all. Around 1:00, went down to Chinese Garden, had our last meal in Tacoma. Sort of a shame, but I stuffed myself when I thought, 'I won't be able to eat that kind of a food for some time.' At a quarter to three we locked our front door, looked around the garden, and with a sort of empty feeling, turned our back on our home for the last ten years. The station was a hubnub of people all trying to look unconcerned, and doing a pretty good job at that. I boarded the train, car E, seat 7, and at ten minutes to six we were on our way. We passed railroad yards, the lumber mills, around Point Defiance Park, Salmon Beach, Sixth Avenue, under the still proud-looking broken Narrows Bridge, Steilacoom Beach. (Narr. note: This is a small town southwest of Tacoma where we used to go swimming.) All very familiar places where we spent our childhood days." Then I went on about the rest of that trip.

TL: How old were you?

YN: Probably nineteen, going on twenty.

TL: And how many members were in your family? Who were you traveling --

YN: My mother and father, my brother, my sister, and then also a married brother and his wife.

TL: So you went first to Pinedale?

YN: Yes, we went to Pinedale first.

TL: What do you remember about Pinedale?

YN: In Pinedale, the first day as we got there, we had to stand in line under that hot sun; holding your own utensils and a tin cup like a beggar, lining up to go to the mess hall. And because of that experience, my mother said -- because they told us all young people had to work -- my mother said to me and my sister, "Go and work in the mess hall." She says, "At least I know you will be fed," and that's the reason why we worked in the mess hall. And then later on I applied for a job as a musician, and I was able to teach piano, and lead a glee club, things like that. Then I did a lotta accompanying at all the entertainment; and I have that all in my scrapbook here.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

[Scrapbook Description]

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TL: Today's July 4, 1998. We're at the Tule Lake Pilgrimage and we're finishing the second day. This is Tracy Lai, and I'm speaking with Mrs. Yaeko Nakano and her three sons Kenichi, Hiroshi, and Stan. Kenichi, would you like to start?

KN: Yeah. Mom, you said we went to Pinedale and I thought we all got shipped to Puyallup, the Puyallup fairgrounds. How come we didn't go to Puyallup?

YN: Well, I don't know the true reason, but Tacoma was selected to go down to Pinedale, and Seattle went to Puyallup.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TL: What other memories do you have -- and I'm really asking this to Kenichi and Hiroshi and Stan -- of the experience that your parents had in the camps? What kind of memories did you come to the pilgrimage with?

KN: Well, I only remember through these photographs, these black and white photographs, like the one where I'm sitting on the little toy train and things. So, you see those black and white photographs in this, more like this desert environment, and you always hear these stories about how windy and dusty it was; so I was quite surprised when we first went on the tour yesterday, how green everything is. Even though I know this is an agricultural area, I had in my mind a very arid, kinda desert-like environment. So that was quite a surprise.

HN: Well, I think for me, all my impressions are just because of family gatherings, both of our uncles, and everything else. And this is probably pretty typical, but you hear mainly stories of good times, of picnics, of funny things happening, of little things like when somebody would get umeboshi in or something like that; and everybody would share them, just to have the flavor. And that's really more my memories, more than everything else. And then when I got older, started reading books and kind of adding to that and asking, finally being old enough to actually ask questions about -- well, like in Tule Lake there's that one gentleman that was shot and killed. And I would ask, "Were you there? Did you know what was happening? What did you feel like?" And so then coming here, then, it was interesting trying to sort of picture all this again; of actually being on the site and looking around, and talking to people and looking at the maps, and trying it figure out well, where was the block that they were in? And talking to some of the other internees, and just trying to fill in this whole picture of what camp life in general was about as well as trying to understand a little bit more about what happened to my family there.

TL: Stan, how about you?

SN: Well, growing up you just hear stories here and there what's going on, and I never really thought of it so much as, "Well, these were my parents under these conditions," and stuff. It's just kind of stories to me. And recently I read a novel, and parts of the book go into where the family is taken to the camps, and the conditions and everything. I was going, "God, this is terrible," and everything. And then it dawned on me, "Wow, these are my parents. They went through this." You know, "My brother was born in this." And it made me feel so mad, so... all kinds of things. And so I was really happy that this occurred this year, that I could come down here and find out more.

TL: As you heard stories from other internees, did it give you a different sense of what your mom and your dad might have gone through? Or did it sound kind of similar so you had this bigger sense of, "Wow, there is a whole bunch of people who went through the same kind -- "

KN: Oh, I thought everybody's story was very unique and different. And, I mean, it was all one, but everybody had a different experience and it was very moving to hear all these. This thing that Stan talks about anger, I grew up with this anger, and not knowing where this anger comes from. You just, you don't know why you're mad, but it's in your gut. And like today, just, or the last couple of days, hearing these stories -- I get, I start crying, and I don't know these people but you can just feel it, and it's a very emotional thing to hear all these stories.

TL: Mrs. Nakano, how about you, because, of course, your story is very unique. As you heard from other people, did you find some shared experiences?

YN: Yes. It has been a very traumatic, emotional experience for me. I came because I'm getting older, too, and I thought, "I'll never have a chance to get back here." I really wanted to come back as a sort of a closure for me. I wanted, and especially at today's services, I really brought my mother, my father, and my husband back with me. And I felt a closure when I was able to offer incense; 'cause I'm a Buddhist.

The other thing that surprised me so much was how much it has been emotional for Kenichi. I thought he was -- he was only one when we left camp and I thought, "He doesn't remember. He won't be..." But I was really touched about the fact that he is very... has touched him very emotionally, and I know the other two, the same way. And I thank them very much for coming with me as a family. This has been a marvelous family experience for me.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TL: Can you go back to -- in other conversations you've told me a little bit about going first to Pinedale, and what that was like, and the move then to Tule Lake; and I'm wondering if you could kind of talk about that a little bit more, some of the things that you did while you were there at Pinedale, your mother's concern about getting enough food, and some of those really basic things.

YN: Well, coming from Tacoma in May, which is cool, and the first day as we landed in Pinedale, it was just hot. And when we got to our barracks and we were told there to fill in the straw for a mattress on the bed, that's very humiliating experience. On top of that we had to take our, our utensils and a tin cup and stand in line outside the mess hall in that broiling sun; was again very humiliating. When finally went in, there was hardly anything to eat, and because of that experience my mother told me to work in the mess hall as a waitress. Then she knows that I will be fed adequately.

I worked in the mess hall for a little while. That's where I actually met my future husband. Then I applied for a musician's job afterwards, and I was accepted into the recreation department, in the music department. And I began teaching piano, and I also had a glee club. I also accompanied many, many singers on other occasions for the weekly entertainment programs. I think that's the only thing that kept my sanity, that I was able to do this. In my diary I have a whole day's affair about the Fourth of July in Pinedale, and it describes the parade we had, the decorated cars, the marching band. And at that ceremony part, it was announced officially that we would be leaving for Tule Lake, and so I had the whole day there.

One of the interesting thing was that in the evening there was a dance, and my husband and I went to the dance, and because it was so crowded, it was almost like a taxi dance. We had to line up in one door, go in and dance three dances, and then you go, turn around and get back in line again, and I had that in my diary, which is a very... well, it was an experience for me. By that time I knew that I was going steady with my future husband. And when we left Pinedale, I was selected as a monitor for our barrack and so I was giving instructions that I had to give to each of the members. And then I had to take care of that group on that day making sure they lined up, they had everything, taking them to the bus, from the bus to the train. I had to take care of them all the way up until we reached Tule Lake. And so that was another experience that at my age -- my young age, at that time nineteen -- that I thought well, "Why was I selected as a monitor with a whole group when I had an older brother that was living..."

TL: So were your brother and sister, they were older than you?

YN: No, I had a older brother and a younger sister. Another older brother was married and he was in another barrack.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TL: How were your parents taking this experience? And what had they left behind in Tacoma, and what were some of their concerns?

YN: Well, as it turned out they lost everything. We had a little grocery store; and they leased it, and the agreement was that he would send money each month, because, you know, we didn't charge for all the inventory, we just left it as it is. And they didn't receive anything. There is nothing we can do about it. When we got back, the store was empty, there was nobody there, and so they lost everything. My folks could not recover from that. Actually my father was a janitor after that; my mother worked in the farm.

TL: Was she, like, helping to harvest crops, that kind of thing?

YN: Bunching onions and things like that. They never did recover.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

YN: Fortunately we were young enough that... my husband had to take very menial jobs. He was just, he just graduated high school when we went into camp. And when we came out of camp, we were married, had a one-year-old child. My husband had a scholarship to Dartmouth, and he wanted to become a doctor. When we got back, he couldn't find any job. I told him that it's easier for a woman to get a job so I will go and work, and I wanted him to go to college. And my husband replied that, "I have a wife and a child to support," and he'll take any kind of a job. And so he sacrificed, and he took a job opening oysters; he had never ever done that kind of thing before. There was, the former person that he used to work for as a houseboy, was a wealthy, influential community leader in Tacoma. And he had a big plumbing supply company and did want to hire him to work in the company, but the union was so strong they didn't want any Japanese. And so he says, "I'm sorry, but I can't even give you a job." And that's the reason why he found out that they were looking for Japanese to open oysters piecemeal, and he went and didn't know how and he learned how. Came home every night with his fingers all cut.

TL: Well, this is a question for your sons. I'm wondering, as you're listening to your mom, you know, remember these early years, clearly you weren't born or you were quite young, but how does that fit with your earliest memories of your father, and perhaps expectations and hopes that he had for you?

KN: I think that's a part of this anger that I had growing up, that he didn't ever get the opportunity to go to college. And that was so stressed on us as three sons of doing well in school and going through college; I mean, that was his number one thing, that we all had to do well. But that's probably one of things that makes me the most angry, that he didn't have the opportunity to go to university.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

KN: Some of the stories that I remember that are sort of humorous or non-humorous is, when we left, I remember the train ride, the story about the train ride to go to Nebraska. We didn't have a place to go. Or maybe we could go back to Tacoma and live with our grandparents; but my father's brother, he didn't -- he chose not to be in camp. He went and worked on one of these farms in Nebraska. So he said we could come out and live with him. So -- did I get the measles or the mumps?

YN: Yes, on the way back here.

KN: Yeah. Anyway, we went out to Nebraska, and how long did we last?

YN: Three days.

KN: Three days. My mom said, "We are not living here," and we got back on the train. [Laughs]

YN: There was a reason why we didn't, we weren't going to live there.

KN: Well, it's probably -- what?

YN: It's because the fact that he [Gestures toward Kenichi] had hernia. And I inquired everybody that I saw, "Where is the nearest hospital, where is a doctor?" And they says, "None. No place." And I talked to your dad at that time and I said, "He needs a doctor, he needs to get that hernia repaired." I says, "We can't do it here." and that's why he also changed his mind.

KN: Another reason why I got mad. [Laughs] Actually, there is a third one, too; that's my bad feet. I couldn't get -- bad feet and I couldn't get corrective shoes. So I always grew up with a pigeon toe and playing sports and stuff, I would always kick myself; I was black and blue all over. But I was really good in sports, but I always used to say, "God, if I had good shoes, I could have been really good in sports." I think that made me mad, too. I always think it's great that, "We could have been raised in Nebraska? Oh, God." [Laughs] I'm so glad we came back.

TL: Mrs. Nakano, you've also talked about what that living situation that you folks discovered. I mean, the camp was -- it sounds like it was worse.

YN: It was worse than Tule Lake, the conditions. As you know, Nebraska is flat country, and we were by the Platte River. And this camp was just migrant workers. We had a cabin, no running water, pot belly stove in the center. In the center was the water and the washing facilities, and your bath -- not even a bath, a shower -- and toilets, and there was standing water in there. [Interruption] And that place was absolutely filthy. So as you know, in camp, at least, the Japanese were very particular about being clean, and our bathroom facilities were clean. And when we saw that, and the fact that I couldn't get a doctor anywhere, I told my husband, I says, "You know, this is no place to bring up a child." I said, "If you insist on staying, well, I'll stay." But I says, "For him we should go back." He agreed with me and that's why we went back.

And then you were saying, on the way back, on the train. Now remember, we had no money and we only had a ticket to go there. We had no money to go back. And so we had to borrow money for our train ticket. And on the way back there was somebody with measles on the train. And then, so he got the measles when we got back. [Gestures toward Kenichi] Now, my folks, we had no house, either, and so they were living in the Japanese school. And then when we came back, I was living on the stage with the curtains where I used to perform when I was going to Japanese school, and there was a piano there so for me it was just wonderful. [Laughs] But it was... when we got back, he came down with measles, and then shortly after that every child that was in the Japanese school in all the different families, one by one they all came down with measles. That's what you remember.

KN: Right.

TL: So Hiroshi and Stan, have you heard these Nebraska stories and how you might have ended up there?

HN: Oh, yeah. We've heard all the Nebraska stories and stuff. And over time we've met our uncle and that kind of stuff. So it's kind of interesting a little bit, 'cause actually Dad's (brother) is probably more vocal than Dad was. And so a lot of what I know about what happened to Dad I'd hear through my uncle. My uncle is this big cigar smoker kind of guy, and fairly gruff, and he'd say, "Oh yeah, your dad" is this and that and, he did this and that and everything else. So it was kinda, it was good to be able to meet him and understand a little bit more about Nebraska. [Laughs] For as short-lived as it was.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

SN: The other side of a coin is, I think, we could have grown up as kids of a doctor and we could have been rich. [Laughs]

KN: Yeah, or we could have been raised in Japan.

HN: Right. But it's funny, I was talking to one other person on one of the buses, and just kinda going, you know, you can get really angry over the fact that Dad missed out on being a doctor and -- basically they both missed out on meeting their dreams. Mom hasn't mentioned it yet, but she wanted to go to school and get a degree in music and that kind of stuff, so they both -- and the opportunity was there for them -- and then war came and that just went goodbye. But on the other hand, if it didn't happen, if it didn't -- history didn't happen the way it did, they would have never met, they would have never gotten married, the three of us would have never existed. You know, I would have never gotten married, I wouldn't have the two kids -- all these things would have never happened. My life may not have ever really existed. And so you can get really angry over the fact that history messed with their lives. On the other hand, after that you kind of go, well... you know, you kind of go, well, "It could have been" this, and "it could have been" that, but it wasn't.

YN: Well, I go by my Buddhist teachings that this is karma. And it was meant to be. And I think it turned out very well. My husband, before he died, told me that he came from Japan all by himself at age fourteen with a single suitcase, and he had to borrow money for the ship. And then he says, "I came here all alone and now I have a wife and three sons." He says, "I am rich." He says, "I'm happy."

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TL: Hear some more about your experiences in Tule Lake. I'm wondering if we could go back to when you were pregnant with your first son, and your experiences with the camp healthcare people.

YN: Actually I felt that they took really good care of pregnant women. Monthly or weekly -- I don't think it was weekly, but monthly a truck came around and picked up all the pregnant people and then took us to the clinic where we were examined. We were all given calcium tablets, and then they weighed us and did the regular kind of a thing, and then we went back. The day that I went into the hospital... the sad thing was that I was all alone and I'm going through labor pains, nobody there to help you, no family. And I was really in pain, but I kept telling myself well, this is what other people go through, other women go through, so I'll have to bear it. Fortunately, they did give me anesthesia and he was born. [Gestures toward Kenichi]

My husband came to see us after he was born. They allowed one visit that we... the hospital visitations were limited to only Sunday and limited to two people. And so the following Sunday I'm expecting my husband to come. And we were in a large ward and everybody else has all these visitors, and I'm still waiting for my husband. Nobody comes. And I kept on thinking well, "He'll come, he'll come." But visiting hours are over, everybody left, and I didn't have a single visitor. And at that time I just burst out crying and the nurses wanted to know why I'm crying. In fact, they were trying to tell me, "Shh, you're disturbing everybody else by your crying." And they were quite upset with me. And then when I explained to them what happened, they said, "All right. Will you stop crying if your husband can come? We'll call him." And I guess they called him and he did come. And I asked him, "Why you didn't come?" and he says, "Well, I already saw you and since the visiting are limited to two," he says, "I thought your sister and your friend will be coming." So he says, "I wanted to save the space for them." That was his explanation and so I accepted that, but it was very lonely.

We had to stay ten days and we could not set our foot on the ground at that time. Our babies were brought to us only at feeding time. Otherwise, we didn't see you at all. In those days it was quite different as you know. After ten days was up when I finally was going to go home, first time I touched the ground I was woozy, I could not even walk. But on the other hand, I thought their care was fine for that condition.

However, I do know that there were problems at the hospital. My husband was working at the hospital in the office, and he was one of those that dragged Dr. Pedicord down the stairs and they threw him down the stairs. There was a big riot about that that soldiers came and threw tearbombs. And when George came home he was all red with teargases. So there was a little baby that died and there were conditions that were bad and everybody blamed Dr. Pedicord. That's what happened. But during my care it was adequate.

TL: How was it when you moved into your... I guess, well, you had been living as newlyweds in a barrack, you had moved to the different block, and then you brought home your new baby, and how was that trying to adjust to that situation?

YN: Well, with being a new mother and then a baby cries naturally. Well, I can't let him cry because I will be annoying all our neighbors. You can hear everything that's going on in the barracks so I'm just carrying him all the time. And then, of course, to wash the diapers my husband had to go to the washroom and wash all his diapers on the scrubbing board while I took care of him. [Gestures toward Kenichi] The other thing that was bad was he just kept on crying all the time, and I thought, "Well, gee, I'm an inexperienced mother. I don't know what's going on."

Then one day I noticed that he had a lump here, and I didn't know what was the matter, and it was his hernia was coming out. [Points to side of lower abdomen] And we took him to the doctor, but they won't do anything about it and so all I could do was push that in and that's the reason why he was crying all the time. But I was quite upset about the fact that they won't do anything, but it might have been because he's too young that they couldn't operate. And then I used to tie a penny in there but, of course, it's gets wet all the time. [Motions to demonstrate tying a sash around abdomen to hold a penny in place over the baby's hernia] And so it was very difficult for me just because of the fact that he had a hernia, too. That's the reason why when we went to Nebraska and I was looking for a doctor and that's why we went back to Tacoma.

After we moved to Fife is when we took him to the hospital, and he had his hernia fixed. He was a brave little boy. At that time it's not like now where the parents can stay. The parents couldn't even stay with him. He was so good. I bought him some comic books and I says, "Mom will be back tomorrow." And he went through a hernia operation all by himself when he was about four years old. And so that part I'm unhappy about the treatment for him, but during the birth, like I say, it was adequate that I received.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TL: One of the other, one of the other aspects of life at Tule Lake that many people comment on is the situation with Kibeis. And I actually want to start with your sons' impressions of, "What does Kibei mean and how does my father fit into that." I'm wondering if you had any thoughts or impressions about that.

KN: Well, actually I've learned a tremendous amount just this week. [Laughs] So the only thing I knew about the Kibei was a person who was raised in Japan or studied in Japan and came back. That was about all I knew. And in terms of my father, it was that he had a tough life in Japan because he was abandoned by his mother so he got kicked around from family to family. And then his brother and he at age fourteen decided to come back so they got on a, jumped a ship or something, and came back. That's all I knew of what a Kibei is, but I've learned just a tremendous amount in just the last two days about other Kibeis and their experience.

HN: I guess most -- other than that, which is basically my experience, too... just reading books about internment and the role of the Kibei and the fact that a lot of them expressed a lot of loyalty toward Japan. Or maybe not so much loyalty to Japan, but being really ticked off at the United States and, therefore, seeing going back to Japan or showing their loyalty towards Japan was the only option because obviously United States didn't show them much favor. So there was that part. I guess part of what I've been trying to figure out a little bit more is kind of like how Dad fit into all that. Because I know there was a range, there was a range of Kibei behavior. There were those that were just staunchly, "We're going back and we're going to be part of the Imperial Army and we're going to kick American butt," and all that. And then there were the ones that said, "Well, maybe that's not such a great idea," even though they were still angry. And then there was just people's impressions. I keep hearing from my mom that the Kibeis in the rest of the Japanese American community weren't exactly seen upon with kind eyes. And so they were really kind of -- my feeling about them is they're kind of floating around out there in this society, and society at that point, their own community didn't necessarily trust them, certainly the outside world didn't trust them. And I'm not quite sure what their response would have been going back to Japan because my assumption would be they would come back and they don't have any stake in Japan at that point, they don't have any place to go, and they're, for all intents and purposes, American from their point of view. So I would think that the Kibei were under tremendous pressure just to find where they fit in all this.

TL: Did you want to add anything, Stan?

SN: Well, mine was more just that when he came over I think he was fourteen or so.

YN: Fourteen.

SN: He was by himself or with...

YN: No, he came by himself as far as I know.

SN: Yeah. So he came over here, he didn't speak English, he was fourteen years old, came alone, and I think about... and then he had to start school over again.

YN: From kindergarten.

SN: From kindergarten because he couldn't speak English. And I think about how terribly easy my life has been. And how if I don't feel like doing this or I'm too chicken to do something, and then you think about the experiences of my dad going through all that is just amazing.

TL: Did you want to say more, Kenichi?

KN: The stories I've heard about his school, because in Japan he was really good in science and math so he was taking in high school here, he was taking advanced science and math, but he was taking grade school English. And he'd get teased 'cause he couldn't speak English, but he could excel in math and science.

HN: It's actually kind of -- Mom has Dad's high school grades. And so you could see every year, I think, like, he flunked freshman, freshman English or something like that, and then by the time he graduated as a senior, he actually was getting straight A's. So he was pretty motivated.

YN: Well, he took Latin to learn English better. That way he can get the root of it. Also the fact that he was planning to be a doctor, too, and in Latin he had straight A's.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TL: Mrs. Nakano, maybe you could address the question that Hiroshi posed about where George kind of fit in, in that range of Kibei experience, because Tule Lake was so complicated.

YN: Yes, it was. The Kibeis didn't fit in with the Niseis mainly because they spoke nothing but English -- I mean, nothing but Japanese, and they clung together. Most of them were bachelors so they were all doing housework and so they were apart from the Nisei community. They also didn't go dances. Even the ones that came back and lived with their family were misfits in that family. For my part I thought, "I'll have nothing to do with a Kibei; especially I wouldn't ever marry a Kibei." Actually when we had the grocery store, my husband did stop in the grocery store one time. We had a little fountain and he had something to drink before he went up to his sister's house and so I did know who he was.

And so when we went to camp, naturally the Kibeis all stuck together. At the mess hall... at the mess hall my sister and I and another girl, we were waitresses, and after we fed everybody, we sat together to have a meal and we sat three here. The three Kibei including my brother [Ed. note: Narrator meant to say, "husband"], Uncle Mike and another person, Mr. Miki, were dishwashers and they all went to Stadium High School and so they were good friends and so they sat across from us. And the funny thing is that all three of us girls married the three Kibeis. My sister married Mike, Haruko married Mr. Miki, and Mr. Miki and my husband were very good friends. In fact, my husband was best man at their wedding, and my sister and her husband are now deceased, but Haruko and Hisato Miki, being our best friends, are living in Tacoma and we still are good friends. (Narr. note: The three girls were myself, my sister, Mutsumi (Hoshide) Shinoda and Haruko (Oka) Miki. The men were Yoshihiro George Nakano, Shigenori Mike Shinoda and Hisato Miki.)

HN: How did Dad fit in all that, though, I mean, 'cause Uncle Mike was more adamant about going back to Japan.

YN: Yes. Your dad really wanted to become an American and he... in camp, Uncle Mike never danced, Mr. Miki never went to a dance. But Dad, he didn't know how to dance, but he says for me to teach him. He tried to change, tried to show me that he was an American and that's the reason why I began going around with him. Gee, I lost my train of thought now. How does he fit into...

HN: Yeah. We were talking a little bit about... the Kibei experience was real complicated, and like I said, on one end Uncle Mike represented a more militant, I guess, approach.

YN: Yes.

HN: And Dad tried to fit into the Nisei community more.

YN: After segregation, the Hoshidan, as you heard, the "washo washo" group, was very powerful and naturally every Kibei joined that. And so originally your dad was in that "washo washo" group, but he and Mr. Miki got really sick and tired of their policy, of their trying to rule and telling them what to do. And as they became more and more militant, Dad didn't like that at all and so he quit, Mr. Miki and he. On the other hand, Uncle Mike was even stronger. He began teaching the Japanese school. He was very, very militant. (Narr. note: The "washo washo" group were young men who exercised every morning by running around the camp with hachimaki tied around their heads and shouting "washo washo" in cadence.)

The thing that was terrifying was the fact that after my husband quit the Hoshidan, every morning at 6:00 a.m. they came and pounded our door, "Come on out, you dog! Come on out!" And my husband just absolutely refused to go out. And that was very, very terrifying. (Narr. note: Michi Nishiura Weglyn's book, Years of Infamy, states that there were three patriotic organizations formed in the fall of 1944. The Hokoku Seinendan was for young men, the Hokoku Joshi Seinendan for women and girls, and the Sokuji Kikoku Hoshidan for older men.)

So he has always said that he was A-1 in the draft and when they changed it to 4-F is when he was very, very upset about that. And when he went to "no-no" the question, whether you serve in the army? His reply was that if he was still A-1, that he would have served in the army. But because they took and put him in "unfit for duty, enemy alien," he was very upset about that and because of that he said, "no." But in every way after he met me he really tried to show me that he is an American, that he's just like me. And he say he tried very, very hard to be like me. He was teased a lot from his other Kibei friends when we were going together and after we got married.

TL: Was there any way that he could have qualified for a leave clearance, or because of his status as "Kibei" and "enemy alien" and all that, there was just no question of leaving.

YN: No question. That's why he couldn't come out with us, even. Even after war ended.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TL: Could you tell me more about your decisions to repatriate, and what happened after that?

YN: My husband wanted to go back to Japan solely for the purpose of finding his widowed mother. He did not know where she was. Although he was... angry at his mother, he still felt it was his duty to go back and take care of her. And that's the reason why we decided to go back. First, of course, he renounced his citizenship here, was a "no-no," then he signed up for repatriation. Then after I got married to him, I put my name in there. After Kenichi was born, his name was also put in.

When war ended and Japan was defeated, I talked to my husband and I said, "If you still want to go back to Japan, I'll go with you," but I said, "Please consider Kenichi. He's only one years old." I said, "First thing, you don't know where your mother is. You're not the chonan" -- the oldest son -- "so you don't have any land to go back to." I says, "Japan is defeated. There is not enough food. I don't think any of your relatives will welcome you back. And we do need a doctor for him." I says, "Please consider all that." And it took him several days and he finally said, "Yaeko, you're right." He says, "We will not go back to Japan." And so we applied to rescind our application, and we were granted permission to stay here. (Narr. note: In Japan it was taken for granted that the chonan, the eldest son, would live with and take care of his parents. He, in turn, inherits the business, money, land, etc. and carries on the family name and tradition.)

On the other hand, my sister and her husband, and their daughter, they went back. My husband's sister and her family went back. Both of 'em were just really quite upset with me. They called me a traitor, they called me every kind of name you can imagine; and they called George the same thing. But we decided to stay here. And I think you're kind of happy that we did. [Looks at sons] In most cases the decisions that he made at crucial times -- other times, my husband was quite stubborn, and what he said went. But on the crucial times like this, after I talked to him, he did change his mind. And the crucial times were about not going back to Japan, when we were in Nebraska, to come back to --

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TL: As part of the pilgrimage, one of the, one of the opportunities was to make a hike up to Castle Rock. And Mrs. Nakano, you've said that you and your husband had gone up together, and also that he had been part of a marathon?

YN: Yes.

TL: Maybe you could talk a little bit about those experiences, and then I'd like to hear from you who made that hike today. So, what was the occasion that you and George went up there together?

YN: Later on after we were interned, they began being a little bit more freer, and one of the things was that we could go hiking up at Castle Rock. You had to get permission. George and I wanted to go up there to be alone for one thing -- [laughs] -- we could never, ever be alone; and we got permission. And his mess hall at that time made us a lunch, and we were teased like anything when we went to get our lunch. And we went up, and we did that twice. We climbed up, and we saw Tule Lake from up there. And they were asking me, "Was the sight, wasn't it beautiful out there?" And I says, "It wasn't the sight that I went up there, it was to get away from the camp air. Also, to be alone." But I didn't look at the sights so much because of the fact that we knew there were rattlesnakes, and so my eyes were always just glued on the rocks and the path that we were following. And we had lunch up there and came back. And in my diary I have noted that even the air seemed much cleaner and fresher up on Castle Rock than inside the camp; I hated to go back into camp again. But we did that twice.

About the marathon, they had a marathon race and they had teams from each ward. And my, and George was one of the members of our ward, the Alaska ward. They didn't even train or anything. It was a bunch of young macho men that did this. [Laughs] This was before I was married. My husband is a smoker, and I thought that was dumb of him. Well, he went ahead and did his stretch and then came back. We could not watch this, so when he came back, I was going to go to his room to see how he was. Well, he was hiding from me, and he told everybody not to tell me where he was, because he was absolutely sick, he was really throwing up and everything. And he didn't want me to see him in that condition. [Laughs] He's a very proud man. And that's the reason why I wanted my three sons to go on that Castle Rock.

TL: Well, so what were you guys thinking when you went up there?

HN: It was a nice day. [Laughs] It was a really nice day. It was just nice for me to go up there and get a view of the camp, number one. I think we were probably more interested in the view than Mom and Dad were at the time. But it was beautiful, and be able to see actually the whole layout of the camp up there, because I think Stan brought a map with him; and so we were actually able to kind of look at the map and look out there, and just try to, and again, get a feel for where they were staying. It was tough on ground, though. The site's so huge when you look at it from the ground, it's just like, "Well, it was over there somewhere." But to see it live, and from that altitude, it was great.

SN: Yeah. The other thing that's kind of funny is when you look at pictures of that time, you know, they're all black and white, and then when you go up and see it in color, it's just kind of funny. But it was neat to see the whole, be able to see how huge it was. I mean, 18,000 people, that's a big town. And then going the other way, and you can see Mount Shasta -- that was a beautiful sight.

KN: I think I went up there for a different reason. [Laughs] I'm a landscape architect. And for me what was interesting is kind of the historical layout of a camp, a military camp in this valley which was drained, Tule Lake was drained, so the whole history -- in fact, somebody kept, has been mentioning a plant that's called "the Tule," and I haven't found out what that is yet. So that must have been, Tule Lake was named after this indigenous plant that grows around here called the Tule.

So I went up there more as, just like the historical context of how this military camp was laid out in this physical form that looks almost like a crater of a volcano; and how the whole history of the lake being dredged and it became farmland. So that's why I went up there.

HN: An interesting thing though, too, is, I think -- because Tule Lake's real agricultural, and so I'm assuming it hasn't changed very much, even in fifty years. There's probably a few new buildings and that kind of stuff, but the population probably hasn't changed much. And so looking at it from above, I think it gave me a real sense of what this was like. I mean, even this black and white thing, right, where inside your head you can turn this scene into black and white. It was kind of like the movie where it goes from black and white to color, and black and white to color. And I think you get a real appreciation for what life was like at least from an environmental point of view, what it felt like to actually live there.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

HN: I think a lot of people kind of expressed that, too. I think this whole experience is pretty intense and the walking tour is kind of a nice... it's physical for one, it gets away, and it just, it was just a great day. It was just so beautiful up there.

YN: Okay, I think he's ready.

HN: Oh. What was I saying before? [Laughs]

KN: It's amazing when you look at the plan of the whole camp, and you can't quite figure out the scale of how big this thing is -- 18,000 people, which is a small city. But when you get up on top of the mountain, and you can see the valley, and you can sort of visualize how many barracks that was, then you see the enormity of the size of this thing. Then it becomes real. When you look at a map, it's not very real, or when you see the black and white photographs, and you only see a couple of barracks, you can't see the depth of how big this thing was.

YN: And your mother walked all the time across from one end to the other end, and the reason why I did that many times, too, is -- oh, because of my work for one thing, too. The other reason is because the Tacoma people who came from Pinedale were the last big people to come into Tule Lake, and so they had filled in the inside first and only the outside was open. And so the Tacoma people were split between the Alaska, where we were, and the other end, which we called South America. And I had friends of course, in the South America area. So I naturally walked back and forth there. So that's the whole length of the barracks. [Gestures to Kenichi] And after you were born, I had a buggy, and I buggied him all the way across, back and forth many, many times. Can you imagine me doing that now?

KN: [Pauses] Sure. [Laughs]

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TL: Do you have any questions, other kinds of questions for each other? Maybe new things that you're thinking about as a result of the information and the exchanges you've had here?

KN: Only thing I can think of is, I didn't bring my ten-year-old daughter. And now I wish I would have brought her. She didn't want to come because, I just assumed there was going to be a lot of lectures and stuff and she'd just get bored. But I was amazed at the number of kids that are here, and she would have really enjoyed this. Plus all of our cousins came then, we didn't even know they were coming from California and Portland. And we met 'em here, and so she would have seen all of her cousins. So, I don't know, when I get back it's gonna be... maybe I can bring her on a future pilgrimage. That's the only thing that I'm thinking about is, like, when I go back to Seattle and relay this story.

SN: Well, I just think about, especially when we were listening yesterday to the Peruvian Japanese and how much more there is still to be done, and how... I'm a very private, "Don't get involved" kind of guy. And I think about, I need to think of something that I can do to start seeing that... a lot of these things are still going on, and there's still reparation that hasn't been, been finished.

HN: I don't know. I guess my only thought is, it would have been nice if Dad were here... and be able to get that part of the story. And maybe he would have been able to, at least in a small way, kind of maybe put this chapter behind him a little bit. That might have been helpful.

YN: For my part, I want to thank my sons for coming to support me here. And I really appreciate the fact that we been able to be together these days, and for them to experience partly what I and my husband went through. This, for me, is a kind of a closure for me. But I'm very glad I came.

TL: What do you -- are there other thoughts that you'll take away from this pilgrimage? For those who didn't come along, how do you suppose you'll talk about it to them?

SN: I'll certainly encourage my friends to come on one, because I don't think I know of anyone else who has come on these. So yeah, I'll definitely be doing that.

KN: I think I was in one of the groups, the intergenerational group, and Mr. Kiyoto, the author of The Kibei, he was so elegant. [Ed. note: Narrator is referring to "Mr. Kiyota," who is author of Beyond Loyalty: The story of a Kibei] And we bought the book. So I think I'd like to read that book, and I think I'd get a better sense of what, like, Dad, the Kibeis were, and then all the Kibeis went through.

HN: I don't know, for me it's been kind a reconnection again. I think when I was younger in high school and college, I spent a lot more time reading and trying to put all this stuff into place. And then I got busy, I guess. [Laughs] Career and family and all that kind of stuff, and hadn't spent very much time being very active or just continuing to educate myself on the story. And so now, for me it was kind of nice coming here and reconnecting again, and expanding that and filling in a lotta things, and... just sort of rekindling that interest again. So, I think I'd be really interested in coming back again, and like Stan was saying, probably any of my friends who are interested in talking about it, and really encouraging them to do it. I think it's really a worthwhile thing to do.

KN: I think one thing for me -- and I mentioned about growing up and being angry, and not knowing why you're angry. And coming here and hearing all these stories, and seeing this place, and, "What is Tule Lake" and all, being born here... I think maybe some of that anger goes away, will go away, just because you find out what it is. It's not a mystery anymore. It's not... so, I think that was helpful.

YN: Well, for my part, I have a collection that I have been accumulating of all the books that been out about the camp, and I have it all in a row there. I bought this for you, hoping that one day you'll ask me, "Can I read that book?" And so my dearest wish is that, when you have time, will you take home some of the books and start reading for me? That is my wish.

Sons: Definitely.

TL: Well, thank you so much for participating in this.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.