Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Shosuke Sasaki Interview
Narrator: Shosuke Sasaki
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary), Stephen Fugita (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 18, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-sshosuke-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

FA: After Pearl Harbor, the JACL in Seattle, under leadership of Jimmy Sakamoto, organized to profess their loyalty. Meetings were held, flags were waved. What did you think of all that? You saw that, didn't you?

SS: Oh, I saw that, yeah.

FA: What did you -- first of all, what did you see?

SS: Well, I certainly never was willing to renounce my Japanese citizenship at that time. Particularly since I couldn't get, that was the only citizenship I had. If I had to renounce it in order to stay on good terms with the JACL, I would have had to, in effect, renounce my Japanese citizenship.

FA: Did you feel the JACL was asking you to renounce your Japanese citizenship?

SS: That, that was one of the things that caused so much trouble in the camp when they started to separate the so-called "loyal" from the so-called "disloyal." [Inaudible]

FA: Let's go back to Seattle after Pearl Harbor. What did you think of all of the rallies and organizing and press releases they were putting out?

SS: Well, we, they were trying to ingratiate themselves with the American press. And the American press, I think that's one of the, I hope someday that story will be written up how the American press... until that so-called Japanese... the anti-Japanese agitation really didn't exist at the time of Pearl Harbor, and didn't show up in the American press until at least two or three months later, the anti-Japanese agitation. That was something that was, that the American press was encouraged to do, engage in that anti-Japanese propaganda. And I think, I hope that history will remember that the American press helped to put innocent people into those concentration camps.

FA: As the press got hotter, the public cries for evacuation of all Japanese on the West Coast grew.

SS: No, that wasn't the public that was asking for that. That was something cooked up by the press.

FA: As the cries in the press for evacuation of Japanese grew, what did you think of that?

SS: Well, I knew that somebody was agitating, trying to get us out of there because they wanted to take whatever property we had.

FA: How did you feel about that?

SS: Well, naturally I didn't like it. But I knew that that's what was being done. There was nothing I could do about it. I remember once when a particularly nasty article appeared, an anti-Japanese article appeared in the Times, I felt outraged and I wrote a letter pointing out all of the errors in this anti-Japanese articles that had been appearing, and I rebutted their stupid claims. But after about a week, the letter was returned to me by... I've forgotten who. Anyway, the Times had told them that they will not publish anything pro-Japanese.

SF: What were the main economic groups who were pushing the press to be so anti-Japanese?

SS: Well, there were the American farmers, of course, who were competing with the Japanese, wanted to get rid of the Japanese farmers as competitors. And there were others who wanted to get a hold of whatever real estate the Japanese were operating, even under lease. Boy, those days, everywhere you turned in the press the Japanese were always depicted as crooks, liars, people out to harm the U.S. if they had a chance, so forth.

FA: So around that time, were you aware that in Seattle Jimmy Sakamoto was advocating cooperation with this pending evacuation -- as it was called -- in order to prove our loyalty?

SS: Yeah, yeah. I knew Jimmy Sakamoto was doing that.

FA: And what did you think of it at that time?

SS: Well, under the circumstances, they were only trying to rebut the fact that the American press as a whole had already created this ill, the picture of Japan and the Japanese as being untrustworthy, double crossing foreigners who could never really become American. And that was reinforced because of the laws at that time, which...

FA: Shosuke, if Jimmy Sakamoto and others were advocating that we cooperate, and that we go cheerfully into the camps, that that was a sign of our loyalty.

SS: Yeah, yeah.

FA: Did you... at that time, did you think that was a good idea?

SS: No, I didn't go along with that at all, because what was being proposed was a rape of all our economic rights.

FA: So what did you, how did you feel, how did you react when you saw the notices, the exclusion order?

SS: Well, I realized I had no choice except to, if they told me to assemble at a certain spot where they could pick me up and take me to Puyallup on the day that they specified. I had to follow those orders, either that, or find myself in jail.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.