Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Sarah Sato Interview
Narrator: Sarah Sato
Interviewer: Dee Goto
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: April 9, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-ssarah-01

<Begin Segment 1>

Dee Goto: Today is April 9, 1998, so, we're here in your home. So, tell me how long you've lived here?

Sarah S.: I think '63. We moved here in '63, so this is '90 what, '97... '98? It would be thirty-five years? Is that right?

DG: Something like that.

SS: Yeah. And we lived in the U-district for five years, from '57 until '63. And then, when we went to look for -- because we were at the University student housing -- when we went to MacPherson, no one would come to offer to help us because they had the discrimination. And one of the salesperson came up and told Ken that, "We're not supposed to be showing you any houses." And so we went across the street to Mutual Realty, and they were the ones that helped us find, and we got this old apartment house on 4142 11th Avenue, near the University. We stayed there five years but when Ned started school, it was too dangerous for him to be crossing Roosevelt and 11th Avenue, so we started to look for a house and then well, we came here. And Gorai had a friend who helped them find a house on 97th because of the discrimination. Right? And they didn't have open housing. And she... who was that coach, Grayson lived here. And then when his term ended right here, Virginia came and asked him if he didn't mind selling a house to an Asian family and he says no. And for that reason we were able to move into this house even if they didn't have that open housing.

DG: Did you feel uncomfortable moving...

SS: No, no.

DG: ...into an area...

SS: No, no.

DG: ...without...?

SS: If I did, we wouldn't have the shouji screens.

DG: Now, tell about the shouji screen. How did you...?

SS: Well, Fred Sugita was married to my second cousin, and he was from Japan and he was a very good carpenter. And he did all the Japanese type of carpentry, right?

DG: Because you said you wanted to show...?

SS: So when -- Ken loved to work on wood -- so, I figured we would like something to show people that we were not white. And so Ken and I, Ken says we should have maybe a shouji screen. We asked Fred if he would help Ken. And Fred said, yeah, he would teach Ken how to make the shouji screen, so for that reason we have shouji screen in our living room window and dining room window.

DG: Ken is your husband.

SS: Uh-huh.

DG: And you've raised three children here.


SS: The family who rented a house two doors down (and) they were walking up the street and they saw (our) shouji screen and so they came knocking on the door and they said, "Oh it must be a Japanese family, if they have a shouji screen." So when they came and we started talk. They said, the husband was with Sumitomo Forestry. So we got to know them.

DG: That's neat. So then, you raised three children.

SS: Three children.

DG: Ned and...

SS: Gwen and Fay.

DG: Fay.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

DG: Let's talk about your background in terms of your parents and grandparents a little bit. What part of Japan were they from?

SS: Hiroshima, city.

DG: Tell me a little bit about... what were they doing?

SS: The families, both my mom and my dad's families had farms, had a little farm and they had their own homes. But my dad's father and mom's evidently went to Hawaii, must have been in the what? Late 1800s?

DG: 1890s?

SS: 1890s, yeah, 'cause my dad was born in Hawaii in 1899, and my mom's family must have gone there around 1890-something 'cause my mom was born in Hawaii in 1901.

DG: They were both the oldest children, you said.

SS: No, my dad was the second son. His name -- I forgot what his first name was, but when his older brother died the family named him Moritake, to take the oldest son's name.

DG: And then your dad's family...

SS: Moved back to Japan when he was five, I think. I'm not too sure.

DG: And then they got married in Japan?

SS: And then my mom went to school in Hawaii. I think she went through the 5th or 6th grade, I'm not sure. But when she was eighteen, the whole family went to Japan, for a visit I guess. And that's when the two families, my dad's family and my mom's family, because they were related, arranged for Dad and Mom to get married. And then after Mom and Dad got married...

DG: And this was in, approximately what year was that?

SS: Well, must be 1921.

DG: Before that...

SS: Or '22, because...

DG: Your father was in the army.

SS: No, he got inducted into the army after they got married I think.

DG: Oh, is that right?

SS: Because Mom was eighteen and Dad was twenty. And, uh-huh, he got inducted, I think, after he got married.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

DG: And, so now, tell me -- let's move on.

SS: Uh-huh.

DG: This is where it gets kind of interesting, because your family moves to Peru, right?

SS: Right. Because after Dad got inducted... and I think he was in the Army for couple years. My brother was born in the meantime, in 1922.

DG: Oh, in Japan.

SS: In Japan, George. His name was Moriso and he -- my aunts put in all of our English names when we went to Hawaii.

DG: So, why does he go to Peru?

SS: They went to Peru because my grandpa didn't want the rest of his sons to be inducted into the Japanese army. So, they sold their house and their farm to Grandpa's sister's family and then they all went to Peru. So this was...

DG: Oh, so that's how they could afford to take everybody?

SS: Yeah, right. Otherwise I don't think they had the money to be able to take the whole family, 'cause Dad has four or five brothers and two sisters.

DG: Now, did they deliberately go to Peru, or were they really trying to come to America and had to go...?

SS: They tried to come, go back to Hawaii, but they were not able to. So the next choice was Peru.

DG: And they knew that they were going to go to Peru before they set off?

SS: Uh-huh, uh-huh and details, I don't know...

DG: Right, right... yes...

SS: ...fortunately. And then, when they got to Peru, my mom hated the place but we stayed there. And then, I was born in Peru, and my sister Patsy was born in Peru and my brother Richard.

DG: Were there a lot of other Japanese people there?

SS: There were quite a few. So...

DG: You said your family started...

SS: A restaurant. Grandpa and all the sons started a restaurant. And Dad worked for Grandpa for a year or so and then he went to work as a cabinetmaker and a salesperson.

DG: Were the clients Japanese or were they Spanish?

SS: Most... you know I really don't know. Must have been some Spanish because my dad was very good in preparing Spanish dishes. And I still remember, he used to prepare this tripe dish that my mom's brother-in-laws loved in Hawaii whenever he cooked. But, I won't touch it. [Laughs]

DG: When you said you learned Spanish...?

SS: That's all we spoke, Spanish and Japanese. So, when I got to Hawaii when I was six, I didn't know any English.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

DG: So, how did you get to Hawaii now?

SS: Then mom didn't like living in Peru, so her sister Helen worked on trying to verify Dad's citizenship because Dad was born in Waimanalo. And she went all over and finally she found two elderly people who lived close by to Grandpa's family, and they were able to verify, certify, that he was born in Waimanalo. And... from and after that, he was able to get a birth certificate.

DG: This is your father?

SS: My father.

DG: But your mother had hers...?

SS: My mom had hers and my mom's was fortunate because when -- there was an old woman -- and they used to live near where the national cemetery is in Hawaii right now, Punchbowl? Close by there, and whenever Grandma used to go to the store, I guess, there was this Hawaiian man sittin' on a bench and told Grandma, "When you have the baby be sure to let me know the name and the day the baby was born." And so, when Grandma had my mom and she saw the man, she said, "Oh I had a baby girl named Michiyo and was born on July 7th," I think it was, 1901. And she just let it go, so when my mom was ready to go to school and they said to bring the birth certificate, they went to get it and sure enough the man had her registered.

DG: But your father's wasn't...

SS: No, uh-huh.

DG: Because in those days they didn't...

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

<Begin Segment 5>

SS: And so in 1931 when we, from Peru went to Hawaii, the two people who certified his birth and all, and then he stayed in the immigration for a month until they cleared him. And they not only had to clear his birth, they had to clear if he was loyal or not, and that's when Dad said he was in the Japanese army and all and if Dad was going to lie, he wouldn't have told them. The thing that I get very annoyed with is that when the war started they didn't come to pick him up right away, it was about ten months after that they picked him up. And I don't know if it's true or not, but they said one of the Japanese, resident, his friend, whoever, reported him to the FBI, but my dad was just pulled in from his working place. We were not notified that he was pulled in... and then, I went and sat in the military person's office and said, "My mom is a mess because we have no money and she wants to visit Dad to see what we can do." And they said, "Well, we don't give visiting passes until the person is there for several months." I was only seventeen, but I thought, "Gee, Mom's crying and then we don't have Dad." So I said to the guy, shaking, but I said, "You know I'm not moving out of here 'til you give my mom a pass to go and visit Dad," and that officer was really nice 'cause he gave us a pass. And people were surprised that Mom got to visit Dad in less than a month's time and... and then they said either they were going to ship Dad to the stateside, alone, or the family can go with him. I was only couple months short of being eighteen, but because my parents didn't want to separate the family, they didn't sign the guardianship over to my mom's sisters, so I was forced to go into camp with them. And we were sent to Jerome.

DG: It seems like you would have more to say about it. Still... how could you go along with this?

SS: So long as my parents did not sign my guardianship over, no matter how much I cried, how much I fought, I had to go. That was it, you know the rules here. Unless you sign the guardianship over, if you're under age, there's nothing you can do.

DG: Why was your father so determined to keep you with him?

SS: I think when they pulled him in, he really missed the family, I think, and with the war he just didn't want the family separated.

DG: But didn't he understand that this was your senior year?

SS: He said the family was more important. And the thing about the evacuation that I, that really hurts me yet, is that when my dad got interned -- other than my mom's family, and my girlfriend Marion and my dad's friend, Chungie, who was a Chinese American -- hardly anyone would come over. In fact, they said, "You have your family so we know you're taken care of." But can you imagine not having any friends come near you?

DG: This was from October to February? Or January?

SS: Until January. That's right. And when even your relatives don't come near, it's something.

DG: Then, you were going to school weren't you?

SS: I couldn't because...

DG: You couldn't go to school?

SS: I, because I was too busy, right after he got interned. Then Mom, we had to -- the FBI came, they ransacked through the house to see if we had anything that was detrimental to the U.S. They couldn't find a thing, we were too poor. We were... in those days, the parents worked at stevedoring or housework, and you just barely make a living.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

DG: Let's go back to when you came from Peru, okay? And you left some of the family there, right?

SS: All of his, my dad's side.

DG: Just your family came. Okay, and then, and you started school in Honolulu.

SS: Kindergarten.

DG: Kindergarten.

SS: My brother who was three years older than I, he and I both went to kindergarten. And...

DG: And you didn't speak any English then?

SS: But we spoke Japanese. And fortunately, I guess the teachers were Japanese Americans, so at least I was able to communicate.

DG: Your class was called, "F" class?

SS: No, this was in elementary school. This is kindergarten, was different. Then when I went to first grade I was in the "F" class because I didn't speak any English. And all the people in my class came from China and Japan and all over, and they didn't speak English. But, we were forced to learn the language...

DG: So, did you know that you were in America at that time?

SS: That I knew.

DG: What did it mean to be American then? At that time?

SS: You know I never really, I guess I was too young... family brought me when I was, what? Five going onto six. I was six. '31, I was six. And those days, you just come with the family, and because my mom's family sisters were all so good to us.

DG: But as you went, you said you moved up from F to D to C.

SS: Yeah, but you see...

DG: So you knew what to strive for, right?

SS: Because my aunts, like when I first started first grade, either my Auntie Edith or Auntie Florence would take me to school. And then, I would watch them from the window and as soon as they started to go home, I would dash out of the class and then, they would bring me back. And eventually, I figured that I have to stay in the classroom so, you're forced to learn the language. And when I went into the second grade, I guess I must have been speaking English. Right? Because I landed in D class, from F to D, that's pretty good! And eventually, I went up to the B class.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

DG: Tell me about Mrs. Fisher?

SS: Oh... she was my third grade teacher. We, she was determined that everyone should know multiplication because she said, "If you know multiplication, you can do any math easily." And every week we had multiplication tests. If you missed one, you had to write it a hundred times. [Laughs] And so, during recess and any time we were home, all of us, we would put one, two, three, four, five, seven like that. And then, times, times, times, a hundred times and then, we have that ready in case we missed. We just put which one we missed and then, we'll put the answer, you see? And so, I used to tell my kids, I says, "Well, if when I test you and you miss, you have to write a hundred times." They says, "No way." [Laughs]

DG: And you were willing to do this?

SS: We had to do... in those days, if the teacher says you do this, you do it.

DG: What about that time that you weren't supposed to leave the playground?

SS: Oh, in my second grade [Laughs]. Those days around the school we didn't have fences and I had this teacher named Mrs. Douglas, and so, she told the class, "Just play in the schoolyard," but she says, "Don't you dare step on the sidewalk." So I said to my girlfriend, "Let's put one foot on the sidewalk," and unfortunately she caught us. [Laughs] Took us on her lap and gave us spanking, and somehow, that thing just stands in my mind and I can't forget her.

DG: So even from a early time like that, you didn't actually go along with all the rules and things and you kind of tested them?

SS: No, I guess not. I guess not.

DG: That surprises me that later, you didn't really go along, you just had to and then you had no choice.

SS: I had no choice because if my parents had signed the guardianship, I think I would have remained in Hawaii. Because who wants to change schools in your senior year?

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

<Begin Segment 8>

DG: Okay, think about some other things. Now, I noticed in your picture, most of the kids were Asian.

SS: That's right.

DG: So you grew up in an all Asian...

SS: That's right. We weren't the minority.

DG: What did you think hakujins were?

SS: They were haoles.

DG: What was your opinion about them?

SS: None, I had no opinions because I had never associated with them.

DG: So did you think America was... Asian?

SS: No. Growing up I guess we... in Hawaii you're pretty care... carefree, right? And... I really didn't know anything about this discrimination per se, as you do, because when Ken came up to the University of Washington and then we came to Washington, we used to count the number of Asians we can see. And then, when we saw that I.G.A., we were so happy because we finally found a Japanese store, IGA. Then we found out it was, no, Independent Grocery Association. [Laughs] Yeah... it's funny, when you think about it now.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

DG: So, what about your family then, what kind of celebrations did you have?

SS: Well, when you say celebrations... we celebrated...

DG: Did you celebrate Christmas?

SS: Yes, Christmas was very nice because my mom's sisters made it a point that we would have a good Christmas. And we had to write letters to Santa Claus to say what we wanted and I think, as I got little older in my upper elementary school years, my aunt said, "Aren't you writing a letter to Santa Claus?" I says, "I know there's no Santa Claus!"

DG: What did you ask for?

SS: Oh, just about everything, I think.

DG: What are the presents you remember the most?

SS: Oh, they used to give us... pretty purses... an outfit... some money. And when I think about it now, I think they really did a lot, because they weren't making enough, that kind of money, but they must have saved to make Christmas as nice for all of us...

DG: Because Christmas is a Christian holiday; were your family...?

SS: We went to Buddhist church.

DG: Right.

SS: Every Sunday. But... everybody celebrated Christmas. Then on New Year's, we had Japanese food and we all went to Grandma's house, and my aunties'.

DG: Did you use Japanese or English when you...?

SS: When we spoke to Grandma, we spoke Japanese and then, to my aunties in English. And my Auntie Helen was really nice because when I was in junior high and I had to make current events and all, she and I would read the paper and she would help me write out my report. So... in a lot of...

DG: Did they have, were your cousins around?

SS: They were all younger than me.

DG: Did they work?

SS: My...

DG: Your aunties and...

SS: Uh-huh, except my youngest aunt, who is ten years older than I am, was still going to school.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

DG: And your mother was working at what?

SS: She was doing domestic work, she was doing waitressing at night and she did people's laundry during the weekends.

DG: So what were your responsibilities in the family?

SS: To take care of my younger sisters, I had to have the rice cooked and this started when I was only in the third grade now. And when... now, when you say third grade and I see my grandson and all, I said, "Was I cooking rice when I was only eight?" Yet I did. I guess families depended on the kids.

DG: And you lived right in Honolulu, right? You said near...

SS: Near where Ala Moana Shopping Center is.

DG: And so, where, what did you play? What was your play?

SS: Those days, families were not able to buy too many things for us. Aside from what we got from my aunties, my dad worked for Matson Navigation and during Christmas, they gave us a Christmas present to all the kids of the workers. And they gave us roller skates, so we used to roller skate all over.

DG: Did you go to the beach very much?

SS: Yes, but we walked. We walked from where we lived to Waikiki and walked back. We didn't have the luxury of taking the bus... we walked to the library... everywhere.

DG: And your friends were all Asian friends, at that time?

SS: That's right.

DG: Did you celebrate Fourth of July at all?

SS: Yes, with firecrackers.

DG: Okay, so you knew that that was Independence Day and....

SS: Because when you... the schools, English school that we went to were no different from English school here. Maybe we spoke pidgin English, but once in the classroom, then you forget your pidgin and you're a regular student.

DG: Then you went to Japanese school?

SS: Japanese school, from the time we were in the first grade after English school we went to Japanese school for an hour to two hours... and so, when you consider now, people say, "Oh, day care this and that." I can't see why they can't have a language school or something like that so that the kids can learn something. And I think we were fortunate in the fact that we had the Japanese schools. The Chinese went to Chinese school; Koreans went to Korean schools. So I think people my age were bilingual. And more to our advantage and yet, when you hear about it now that people say, we're having all kind of problems, I think the kids should have something else to structure their lives, don't you think?

DG: Uh-huh.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

DG: So now, moving on, to like... high school. You said that in one of the classes, you had this discussion, about...?

SS: I wish I can remember the exact thing, but I had Mrs. Ruth King during my sophomore year and she was a very good teacher. But there was... I wish I can remember the subject, but there was a pro and a con and something about Japan. And since I was on the con side, the opposite side, I couldn't find anything about, what Japan was doing that was wrong, and so, what I did; now in the newspapers, everything was pro and then nothing that was against. And so, I had my dad read the Japanese paper, and then he gave me that, some of the reasons. And I wrote it and...

DG: Okay, one of the things I forgot to mention, that this is after Pearl Harbor.

SS: Right after Pearl Harbor.

DG: Okay. And we need to establish that...

SS: No, this happened before Pearl Harbor.

DG: Oh, okay. I'm confused...

SS: Okay. And then, she reported after and so, the FBI came and checked, and said, "Why did you answer it this way?" I wish the FBI had that in my record. And I said, "Because the teacher posed that question. And I had my dad read the Japanese paper and I wrote it from what the Japanese paper said." So I said it wasn't my way of thinking but because, and when you think she was a teacher that made you think, and the only way I could get the answer was through the Japanese paper. But I always told my kids, I said, "When you write the paper or anything be sure to qualify it." Because I said, this is what happened to me.

DG: That was really unfair.

SS: It is, it is. So I was bitter, a bitter person for a long, long time. Not only the war, I was forced to go into camp.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

DG: So, let's go back to Pearl Harbor day. What happened?

SS: I was going on a picnic that day. My dad was going to play mahjong with his friends and they usually played outside, so over the clothes wire they hung a sheet, to shade themselves. And, all of a sudden the bombing started. And we couldn't believe, and we lived in Pawaa, and there was a building in Makale that got bombed and which is only about three blocks away or little more, I guess. That got bombed, and then my dad, we turned on the radio and they said, this is war, Japan attacked. And immediately, we had blackout and that night, we could still hear the bombing...

DG: So what was the blackout? How did you...?

SS: We had to get black cloths and everything to black out, because otherwise you couldn't turn on your lights.

DG: How did you know to do this?

SS: I think the newspapers must have told us how to do it.

DG: So fast? Just that same day?

SS: We didn't do it the same day but gradually we did, because without the blackout, we couldn't turn on the lights. And school was out for several months until we had dugouts... shelters, bomb shelters. And then, we were issued gas masks that we had to carry to school and if we forgot, we had to either go home and get it or get demerit.

DG: Oh, really? So how old were you then?

SS: When war started I was sixteen, when we had to evacuate. Fortunately I wasn't eighteen.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

DG: Let's stay with Pearl Harbor and a little bit more, describe to me what your family was talking about... and were you worried?

SS: No more than... anyone else, we were worried that Japan might come and bomb again and...

DG: What did you think Japan was?

SS: The country that bombed us.

DG: Were you aware enough of what kind of country it was?

SS: Not really.

DG: Did you think it was your own people or somebody else?

SS: Just figured it was Japan. It was...

DG: You were American though?

SS: That's right.

DG: Okay.

SS: And to me, they were the enemy.

DG: Okay, that's what I was wondering.

SS: 'Cause I didn't figure myself as a Japanese, Japanese from Japan, and I guess... I was not aware until we had to evacuate; my dad got pulled in. Then all of a sudden I thought, wow... we're not Americans then, although my I.D. that we had to all carry said I was a U.S. citizen and to be shoved into camp, because we've read about the evacuation, on the mainland, the U.S.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

DG: So, other people were being taken in and your father wasn't, right away?

SS: No. Right away I think, mostly were the Isseis like, Japanese schoolteachers, the Buddhist priests and all that... the people who were really involved with Japan.

DG: Were you worried at all?

SS: Not really and then all of a sudden, he's gone. And... you begin to wonder, because he wasn't taken in as soon as the war started.

DG: Right, right.

SS: And to be taken in almost ten months after. And here, all the time he's working and if you were a citizen, you were able to -- even if it's blacked out -- you were able to stay out, whereas the aliens had to be in the house.

DG: Oh, is that right?

SS: That's right.

DG: So how did they determine who was alien and who...?

SS: We all had I.D.

DG: Oh, okay.

SS: We had to carry.

DG: What about the other minority groups, how did they feel about you?

SS: We really didn't associate with any other minority per se, because all the... our friends were Japanese, we lived right next door to each other, the whole area.

DG: So there must have been a grapevine about different events. What did they say was happening in the war?

SS: Whatever was in the Star Bulletin.

DG: Was Japan winning?

SS: Well, if the Star Bulletin said that Japan was bombing here and there and...

DG: So, you were always worried that they might come back... to bomb.

SS: We were all worried.

DG: Right. So, what did you do to your house, to get prepared?

SS: Not much, just everyone had to have a bomb shelter.

DG: Now, what was that, how did you...?

SS: They dug a portion and then...

DG: The side of your house?

SS: Close by.

DG: Close by?

SS: Yeah.

DG: Just for your own family or bigger one?

SS: Uh-huh. And because we lived in what they called a camp, several families in a row house, they built one that would accommodate about ten to fifteen people. So everyone had one.

DG: And what was in the bomb shelter?

SS: Not much... flashlight maybe, that's about it because... we had some food but we never thought about putting them in the bomb shelter. I think because of all the rats and all; right...? In Hawaii. When you think about it now sounds kind of stupid doesn't it?

DG: Did your father help dig it or anything like that?

SS: They all did, all the men folks. And even the schools, we had to have bomb shelters before we can go back to school.

DG: Oh... so part of the school, what, did they have to dig it there, too?

SS: Uh-huh, all the schools had to have bomb shelters.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

DG: So, what did you think about people getting interned here. Japanese Americans in the state side?

SS: Unfortunately, I never gave it a thought until my dad got interned.

DG: Okay... so, now when your dad got interned, and you told us already a little bit about that, how did you... once you decided that you all had to go, how did you get ready?

SS: Well, for one thing we didn't have warm clothing, because in Hawaii all year round it's pretty warm. About the heaviest thing we had was sweaters. So my girlfriend, Marion, offered and came to help me sew some clothes. And we thought we'd be warm enough, but once we got to Jerome, we didn't realize how cold, cold really is. And if it wasn't for the pea coats and all that that they issued, I think that we would have frozen, 'cause January in Jerome was cold... very cold. But the one thing I want to stress is, when we went on a convoy from Hawaii to San Francisco and then, we boarded a train, they had all the shades down so we couldn't see anything until we got to Jerome. But we stopped in Little Rock, the train stopped in Little Rock. And 'til this day, I can still picture the black people, standing alongside the train with buckets and the food that we couldn't eat, that was discarded, they were picking up. And... that's when I think, besides my father being interned, I realized discrimination was terrible. That here, a country that said they were so rich and yet, the people had to line up to pick up the food that was discarded from the train -- because the food they served us was really not that good, it wasn't delicious at all -- and to have people... I hate to think about it. I... I think that's the reason I don't want to talk about evacuation and all.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

DG: Once you got to Jerome, we don't know a whole lot about Jerome. Tell us a little bit of what you saw?

SS: When we went to Jerome, our barracks were not finished. When I say finished, you know they just have the outside wall, the inside was all just unfinished. The winds were coming through between the boards, and when you come from Hawaii where it's warm and to come to a place that's cold, and where they had to have furnace, coal furnace, to heat up the room. Fortunately, all the single guys who were interned with my dad, they came and helped to put the plasterboards to double, to insulate the rooms and that, warmed up. And they gave us a room, oh, a little bigger than my living room. They put six of us, not two rooms and, but can you imagine my parents having no privacy and the four kids sleeping in the same area, and in order for us to have more room in the single room, my dad built a what do you call... bunkbeds. So that we had a little more room to make it into a living room, a section. So I know my parents slept this way and we had the full two bunkbeds, that way. And when you, now that you're older, you think, how could our parents have had any privacy? And this is what the government did.

DG: What did you bring with you?

SS: Clothing, but clothing that weren't adequate. A few...

DG: Bring what you could carry?

SS: No, no, I forgot how much we were able to bring... quite a bit. So, I think we took over a trunk full of clothing plus several suitcases. But, we...

DG: Did you bring some things that you felt were your treasures? What did you personally bring?

SS: I can't remember... there's really...

DG: Did you have to leave a lot of stuff behind?

SS: We left most of the things with my aunt, in their place, like our furniture and all.

DG: There wasn't something that you brought that you...?

SS: Not that I can think of. I think it was such a, short time, that mainly that...

DG: Any books...? Or... nothing like that?

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

<Begin Segment 17>

DG: In Jerome you got sick.

SS: That's right, I got bronchial pneumonia. They didn't have penicillin, so I was in the hospital for about a week. So, now remember my dad got interned in October, we had to evacuate in January, I got sick in February, so I missed most of my first semester, right? Of schooling. So I had to go to summer school to graduate.

DG: Before we go on to there, what were the medical facilities like?

SS: Fortunately, we knew Dr. Miyamoto, who evacuated the same time we did.

DG: From...?

SS: Hawaii.

SS: And he was nice and we knew Dr. Ikuta, who was a very good E.N.T. doctor from Hawaii that our family used to go to. And they evacuated too, because both Dr. Miyamoto and Dr. Ikuta were interned with my dad.

DG: Why were some of those people interned?

SS: Isn't that a good question? I never asked, we never asked people why they were interned. I think, it was one of those things out of respect that you don't ask.

DG: Because there were about 422, they say, in Jerome, from Hawaii.

SS: Some of them were fishermen. Most of them were Kibei. But I know Dr. Ikuta was not a Kibei, but why he was interned, I really don't know.

DG: Oh... so you stayed...

SS: And then, in the hospital....

DG: And what was the hospital like?

SS: They just... had beds. And the doctors, whatever medication was available, would give you. But they didn't have no penicillin those days and somehow, I must have gotten okay, 'cause a week after I was discharged and as weak as I was, you had no taxi, you had to walk home, in the cold.

DG: How far was that? Because it was in February.

SS: Was about two blocks away, and that's quite ways to walk when you have bronchial pneumonia, but that's camp life for you.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

DG: Did you get any special foods at all?

SS: Nope, nope. You got the regular camp food.

DG: What was that, do you remember?

SS: Mostly fish. Right? Sardine, was it? That, they used to serve a lot.

DG: Maybe it was different at different camps. I heard that, some of the others, of people were tired of Vienna sausage and that kind of stuff, but you guys got fish.

SS: Oh, we didn't get Vienna sausage that I can think of. We had fish that people didn't care much. We had stew...

DG: So then, when you went back home, did you have to go to the mess hall to eat?

SS: That's right, there's no...

DG: Even when you were sick...

SS: That's right...

DG: And then, to go to the bathroom you had to...?

SS: Yeah, outside, right, community bathroom... showers that had no doors, toilets that had no doors.

DG: When you were in hospital, you had to go out to the bathroom, too?

SS: No, because I was, they kept me in bed so, they brought the bedpan, I don't remember the toilets in the hospital.

DG: What did you do with your time in those...

SS: When?

DG: To while away your time?

SS: In Jerome...? Or in the hospital?

DG: In the hospital and after, in your family?

SS: I guess, read because I always liked to read. So, my parents must have brought some reading material for me but....

DG: What did your parents do? Did they work?

SS: Uh-huh, my mom was a waitress in the mess hall and my dad was a dishwasher. And when he was able to, he became a cook, assistant cook, 'cause he used to cook a long time ago.

DG: Right.

SS: But, for that they got paid sixteen dollars a month.

DG: This was in Jerome now?

SS: Jerome. And they did the same kind of work in Tule Lake, too, where we went.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

DG: Let's move on, to when you answered the "loyalty question."

SS: Well, my mom answered yes, yes on 27 and 28. But with my dad, I told him, because Dad and Mom didn't sign my guardianship over to my aunties and I was forced to go into camp, he had to write what I told him. It was his turn to, so, he and I both said, "Give me the reason for interning Dad." And then for 28, we said, we'll answer 27 after we got the answer for 27. For that, Dad and I got blackballed. And then, we got sent to Tule, so the whole family went to Tule.

DG: Now this was, were some of your friends doing the same thing? Or I mean....

SS: Like I said, we never asked what the others, it was one of those silent... etiquette, I guess, that you just didn't pry into people's business. So... only when we had to get ready to be sent to Tule, did we find out who were going. But, we never asked anyone what they answered but it would be interesting to know.


<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

DG: Far as Jerome and you're in camp now. One of the things that I'm wondering, when you first interacted with the stateside Japanese people, what did you think?

SS: We didn't speak good English. [Laughs] But mainly, we just stuck with the people from Hawaii, because fortunately they put us in blocks 38, 39 and 40. And so, we really didn't have to interact with the stateside people, that much.

DG: Being a stateside person myself, we have certain opinions of people from Hawaii.

SS: What is it?

DG: What was your... we think that you're more gregarious and outspoken, and so forth. What did you think about us?

SS: For one thing, I wished we were able to speak nice English, like you guys did, because ours were more pidgin. And I guess, being brought up in Hawaii, we were more outspoken because we were among people with the same background. And I guess, if we had gone out to look for work, we would have felt the discrimination because only the good positions were given to the haoles. But...

DG: In Hawaii, also?

SS: Yeah, uh-huh, uh-huh. But I didn't know anything about that until after I have grown up. But, but as a, growing up as a child in Hawaii, we really weren't hampered. And I think that, in that sense, I feel that I was very fortunate. And only after Ken transferred to UW here, that we realized for one thing, we didn't speak good English. Number two, we didn't see as many Asians. And when you figure I.G.A. as a Japanese store instead of Independent Grocery Association, because we thought it was Iga and we were so happy to see, 'cause it was on, is it 14th and Yesler? They used to have the I.G.A. store there, across from Mutual Fish. And when Mutual Fish was on 14th, I think. [Laughs]

DG: Yeah. That was a long time ago.

SS: It was a long time ago.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

DG: Now, one of the things that we were talking about, again, is about your renunciation and being segregated. So what, when did this happen?

SS: This must have happened in April of '43. And, like I told you that...

DG: Were you isolated from that point, when...?

SS: Not, not in Jerome. But I think it was in August or September, when they transferred or segregated us and put all the people who were considered "no-no", to go to Tule Lake.

DG: Were you worried about going to Tule Lake?

SS: Again, I was angry with my dad, because I thought I should be able to go to college or whatever. But my dad didn't want the family separated.

DG: Oh, once again.

SS: Once again. And since I was hospitalized after we got there, he told me that he just didn't think that I should be going out alone. So we all went to Tule.

DG: Otherwise, you would have gone out and done something else.

SS: If I was able to, but being classified "no-no", I couldn't go out, I couldn't go out.

DG: Were there a number of you that were in this classification? Did you know who the others were?

SS: No, not really. Not until we got on the train. Because those were the days like I told you, you really didn't ask someone, "What did you answer?"

DG: You must have thought that somebody might be unhappy with you, because you... said, refused to answer...

SS: Well, hmmm, those who answered "yes, yes" of course... kept away. And somehow, I guess, those who knew that they can go out, were "yes, yes"; we just presume.

DG: And you had school to finish, I suppose.

SS: Right, 'cause I had to go to the summer session to make up for missing school, so much.

DG: Now, let's get on then to Tule Lake. So you went with a trainload of people again?

SS: Trainload of people.


<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

DG: Okay, let's start again and start with the trip to Tule Lake. How was Tule Lake different from Jerome?

SS: Well, I just assumed everyone in Tule Lake were presumably "no-no's". And after we got there, we found out there, that there were a group that were pro-Japanese. And they were called the washo group because I guess in the morning they used to do their exercise and say, "Washoi, washoi". [Laughs] And most of the people who were in there were -- in Tule Lake somehow, they had people who were, farther on the outside of the camp, in blocks about seventy, in the seventies I guess. So... no, not seventies, in the fifties because seventies were on the opposite end were more pro-Japanese. And the block that we were in were not the real pro-Japanese, we were segregated. And people felt that they didn't want to be sent out because I guess, in the U.S. at that time, they had, the Niseis and all who were farmers, but they were, what... farmers who didn't have the land, that used to go from farm to farm. And they didn't want to go back to the situation, so they stayed in Tule and we were in the group that were not pro-Japanese, as the washoi group.

DG: When did you get there?

SS: We got there in September of '43. Yeah.

DG: And, did you start to work right away?

SS: I was fortunate to get a job. And then, I got to know Lily Yonenaka and Jean Sakata, who were very good friends. And I think I worked in the administration, it was in the administration building and I was there for four or five months, I guess. And then, Lily transferred over to the welfare department and then, she said why don't you come over, so I transferred. I was able to get a secretarial position there.

DG: What was the welfare department?

SS: I guess there were people, like... in our family, we were fortunate 'cause my dad, my mom and I worked. So we had some income coming in, even if it's sixteen dollars per month, per person. So, there were what... three of us, so that's $48 a month that we got, plus three something for clothing per person. And so with that, at least we were able to buy some food, at the canteen, right? We had in the camp. And some warm clothing from Sears; whereas, other people who had all little kids and if the adults could not find a job, then they had to depend on welfare.

DG: Oh, okay.

SS: So, within...

DG: ... particularly because you still couldn't go out, right?

SS: Yeah, right...

DG: Because you guys were in prison.

SS: Yeah, right. And so, when you think about it, it's sad that within the compound now, where we're interned, that we would have welfare... of the internees! Can you imagine?

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

DG: So, do you remember some of the incidents?

SS: Huh... such as...?

DG: Who got, what kind of...?

SS: Families were, where the parents were not able to find jobs because even in camp, there's only a limited number of jobs. And the more I think about it, we were really fortunate that there were three of us employed. And when my sister Patsy graduated, my girlfriend Jean Sakata with whom I worked in administration, moved over to work for the security, police department, which is around for the camp people. And...

DG: Did you have a lot of families come through that?

SS: Yes, quite a few. And in fact I have a picture I showed you earlier.

DG: How many of you were working there?

SS: Gosh.

DG: That picture shows about fifteen, maybe. Twelve.

SS: Oh, more.

DG: More?

SS: About twenty, I would think and then, there were what, one, two, three Caucasian...

DG: And what was your job? What do you do?

SS: ...welfare workers, I worked as a secretary. So... And then, we had the internees who were...

DG: Were some of them social workers that counseled with families?

SS: Uh-huh, and those were the guys who, the internees, the women and the fellows who went to college and they got degrees in not social service but other areas. But because they had the college degrees, were able to work as social workers.

DG: Were there handicapped people?

SS: Some probably, but mainly were families where they didn't have any income. And they had to be helped and they were having family problems. Those were the ones that needed lots of help.

DG: Now your own family, how old were your brother and sisters?

SS: Okay, when we went to Tule, I was what, eighteen. My sister Patsy was sixteen, then Richard was fourteen, and my youngest sister was twelve.

DG: They were all in school.

SS: The younger three were in school and then Patsy graduated from Tule. And then my girlfriend Jean, who worked for the police department, was able to get her to work under her. So then we had four people working you see, so when you consider that... the people who didn't have a job and here we were four, in the family I think you could say we were rich, right?

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

DG: What did you think was going to happen to you?

SS: I thought at the time we went from Jerome to Tule that eventually we would be sent home to Hawaii. Who would have thought that they would let you renounce. And I think that happened in early... late '44, early '45?

DG: Oh, that early?

SS: The war ended in '45 you figure, so, it must have been in late '44, when they started the renunciation. Maybe you can check on that. I'm not too clear.

DG: And so, what was the discussion in your family?

SS: In my family, just before the war, now my dad's family in Peru, because my grandfather drank so much and he was embarrassing the family, my uncles, Dad's brothers, sent him alone to Japan. Now remember, the Okada family had no house, no property and so....

DG: Because they had sold it all.

SS: They sold it all to go to Peru. So Dad was really concerned about Grandpa. Number one he was a drunkard, no property, nothing to support him. And during the war no one can send money or anything right? So Dad (said) he had to go to Japan to see how Grandpa was doing. Mom says no she wasn't going to go. Then I thought I didn't want Dad and Mom separated. So I asked Mom and I said, "If I go with you, would you go with Dad?" So Mom thought about it, she said she doesn't want to but she said if I go then she'll go with Dad. So, when we went to renounce, Dad told them the reason why he wanted to go to Japan because he was worried about his father. For that they made him renounce, okay, because he said he was... so Mom said she was renouncing because she was going with Dad. And when I went, I said I'm going because if I don't go, then my parents would be separated. So for that I got my renunciation. So when people say only "no-nos" were renounced, that's not true. Then, I wrote to my auntie Edith and my auntie Helen, and I said...

DG: This is in Hawaii?

SS: Yeah. I said, "I'm going to Japan with Mom and Dad because if I don't go, Dad would be sent alone and I don't know what's going to happen to him."

DG: That's an enormous amount of responsibility on your part.

SS: Well, I think the evacuation had a lot to do already because after Dad got interned and I saw how Mom was. So then, my auntie Edith's husband wrote back and said, "Yes, we'll take care of your sisters and brother. So, they can come back." And so, I really have real supportive good aunties and uncles. You know without them, I think if the whole family went to Japan, it would have been so difficult. And so my, I guess, from what Patsy has told me recently was that she was not going to go back to Hawaii, she wanted to go out to LA to become a beautician with her girlfriend. But she went back to Hawaii to take the two younger siblings. But, when we got to Japan, I hate to even think about it... it was... so, war torn, poor, dirty. It's difficult to explain, you just had to be there and then, we were put on a train. Oh, but let me tell you when they... you got there as you got off the boat, they DDT'd you. It just came back now. Can you believe? And now you find out DDT, I forgot all about that!

DG: Really dehumanizing, huh?

SS: It is, when you think about it.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

SS: And then when we got on the plane, not the plane but the train and the train was dirty and just packed. Just packed. You couldn't even go to the toilet or anything so when the train stopped at the stations, people used to jump out the window and do their duty and jump back. And then, when we reached Hiroshima... nothing. The old fukuya was partially, just barely standing and then, the dome that is now the shrine, the main part of, were the only two buildings up. Can you picture Hiroshima? With just those two? And then, after we got off... we walked all the way to my mom's father's house because the Okada side had nothing we had to go Kawasaki. And when we got to Grandpa's place... because Grandpa also evacuated, because he lived in Yokohama. And when the war started and it started to get bombed and all, he thought it would be safer to take his family back to Hiroshima, his second family. And... when we got there, I remember Grandpa's youngest sister saying that we were bakatare, for coming back to that place because they had no food, and everything was haikyuu rationed. Rice...

DG: This was winter?

SS: Winter... right...

DG: '46.

SS: '46. Yeah, January. Somehow, we were always being sent in January, right? And then, when we got there well Grandpa said -- Grandpa's house had only one room and the little room and the kitchen. So Grandpa and his second family slept in this big room and my mom, my dad and I in the other one. And... then we had to go and register so that we got our portion of the food and then my Grandpa's sister was one of those who rationed off. And I remember she said, "Oh tonight we're all going to have noodles," because that's what they got for the haikyuu. And then I think that's what they call ration, haikyuu? I think. And she (boiled some) noodles and she put it in the zaru, that bamboo colander, and she was kind of cooling it off, and she turned and when the other people came she was giving them the haikyuu and a dog came and started to eat the noodles. She just got so upset because she said, "There's hardly any food I don't have food to feed the dog and I don't know where this dog came from." [Laughs] But that's how bad the food situation was in Japan. And fortunately because we spoke English, I went to apply for a job as a secretary for the CIC in Hiro, Hiroshima.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

DG: What's the CIC?

SS: Counterintelligence Corps, U.S.

DG: This was in Hiroshima?

SS: In Hiroshima, the U.S. Army had a Counterintelligence Corps in Hiro, Hiroshima.

DG: So then, did you have to there, of course?

SS: No, I had to take the train from Hiroshima to (Hiro) and then my dad and my mom were able to get a job with the Australian occupation force. My mom because she spoke English, she worked as a translator and my dad, worked as a cook because my girlfriend Marion, had sent me the Boston cookbook when I was in camp. And my dad didn't read English, right? He was a Kibei, so my mom would translate for him. And he would cook and fortunately, the Australian soldiers loved his cooking.

DG: What were Australian soldiers doing there?

SS: They were one of the occupation forces now, we had occupation forces from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, British and... and I don't know if there were any others, those are the ones that I know. But anyway, so...

DG: You were living the whole time at your grandpa's house?

SS: But my mom and my dad finally rented a room in Kure because it was too far for them to commute. They tried it for awhile but they had to start working so early. And... I think I was in Hiroshima for about three or four months and then my friend, George Kawaguchi, wrote and said that they were working for the military transport section in Yokohama. He said I could get a job there if I came up. So I told my mom, I'm going up to Yokohama because I said, I think I like it better more if my friends were there. So Mom and Dad says if you go to Yokohama, don't come back. And I figured, oh, it's better than staying in this place then. So, I went, but as soon as I got to Yokohama there was a telegram from Mom and Dad saying you can come home any time you want. [Laughs] But then....

DG: This George Kawaguchi was from Tule?

SS: Yes, he was a renouncee too, uh-huh. He worked in the welfare department. And then, I think it was, I worked there for about, four or five months I guess, and then, Jean Tanaka, although her maiden name was Aoyama, said her brothers worked at the Daiichi Hotel, in Shimbashi? And so, I went and I got a job over there. And the reason I transferred was because the section I worked for -- the major was really nice, Major Miller, I forgot what his first name was. But then the commanding officer of that, M.R.S., Military Railroad Service, put me into the commander's office and he was a scary guy, and I worked for him for about a month and I couldn't stand it because I didn't choose to go there, they just pulled me out. And so, I told Jean, I said I can't work for him, she (said), my brother works in Yokohama so Mits was able to get me a job there.

DG: So where did you stay?

SS: Then, fortunately at the Daiichi Hotel, they gave us room and board. The food, they were not supposed to feed us but since it was a hotel and they fed the field grade officers, major, lieutenant colonel, and colonels, who billeted there. So, essentially even if I didn't have my U.S. citizenship at least I got three meals a day, right? And the room and board, so everything I earned, was mine. So I worked over there until I came back. So that was from end of '46 to '50.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

DG: So, did you associate with other people from Japan...?

SS: Mainly --

DG: From Japan or...?

SS: Mainly, with the renouncees, because most of us really didn't speak that fluently. And Japanese.

DG: And were the other situations similar to yours?

SS: What?

DG: Other renouncees that you associated with, were their situations similar to yours?

SS: Like I said, we never asked each other the reasons. Maybe I didn't because at that time, I felt that I didn't want to discuss my situation with anyone. And I was bitter...

DG: But were you all wanting to go back to America?

SS: Yeah.

DG: Sounded like it.

SS: Yeah. Because I don't think any of us thought Japan was that devastated. If you saw the Japan when we saw... it's like, I was there from '46 until '50. And the first time I went back to Japan was in 1990 when I retired from my work here. And when Ken and I went, I couldn't believe the changes. It's the 19, late '40s Japan and the 1990 Japan, altogether different. In fact, Ken used to stay at the Ajinomoto building, the old Ajinomoto building when he was working as a civil service employee.

DG: So this is back in '46?

SS: Yeah. So when we went in (1990), we went, he couldn't find the building. And then, I used to go to the kabuki. And when I went, there was a river there in front of the kabuki. And I looked and I couldn't see the river and so I asked the Japanese person, "Koko ni kawa ga ata no do..." you know, "doushita no?" That's the freeway now. Can you believe? They drained the river, it's the freeway. So, Japan has changed.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

DG: Okay, back to 1946, how were you treated by the Japanese nationals?

SS: Looked down. [Laughs] We looked like them but we couldn't speak like them.

DG: So the occupation forces, were they treated the same way? Were there a lot of hakujins then?

SS: Yeah, then, because you figure the field grade officers, hardly any Asians. All whites.

DG: Were they feared?

SS: No, on the whole the field grade officers, they were all really nice. They were nice.

DG: And so, what were the Japanese people? I mean they were defeated... they were a defeated nation?

SS: [Pauses] It was a poor, defeated...

DG: Like your aunt, back in Hiroshima, what did she... She said you were stupid to come back. But then --

SS: They --

DG: ...what was her feeling about Japan at that time?

SS: They still had their Japanese pride. The only thing was that they didn't have enough food but they (still) thought they were more superior than us you know.

DG: They weren't embarrassed or anything, about the war?

SS: No. And I didn't want to bring it up. After all... we were at their mercy, we had no house, we had no food, we had to rely on them. [Laughs] Right?

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

DG: Let's go on to when you met Ken.

SS: Actually I met him on a blind date. He had a car with this guy named Stanley Nakahara. And my two girlfriends had dates but their dates didn't have a car. But they knew Ken had a car and so my girlfriends said, if I would go with them then they have a car and so I told them I didn't believe in blind dates. So I gotta' see the guy first. So Ken came and I told my girlfriend, no, I don't think so. But eventually they talked me into it and we went out. And I think that was one of the fortunate things of my being in Japan.

DG: Where did you go?

SS: Oh... must have been to a... party somewhere, I think. Ken might remember.

DG: So it wasn't love at first sight?

SS: [Laughs] No.

DG: How did you get to know him?

SS: Oh, he would call and I would go out with him. And then, for a while we separated and then, we came back again. And... that's it.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

DG: And so, he went back to Hawaii?

SS: He wanted to go back to school under the GI Bill. You know, without the GI Bill I don't think lot of the Niseis would have gone to college because I think the families were not that well off. And so, Ken didn't want to lose his GI Bill.

DG: Had he volunteered for the service?

SS: He got drafted, and he went to Fort Snelling, after his basic. And that's why he's (an) MIS.

DG: MIS stands for -- ?

SS: Military Intelligence Service for the U.S. One of the secret weapons as they called it.

DG: When was he drafted?

SS: He must have been drafted in '44. Yeah, must be '44, and '45 he was at Snelling.

DG: When lot of the guys came from Hawaii, they didn't get along with the stateside people, so much.

SS: That's what I hear. And I think, it's because we didn't speak good English. Ours were all pidgin, right, whereas the stateside people were fluent in English. And like Ken said, eventually when the Hawaii people found out the way the stateside people were forced into camp and all... and they...

DG: First of all, the... Hawaiian guys got mad because they were treated --

SS: Kind of looked down by the stateside guys, the kotonks, right?

DG: So they were larger in number, right? So they sort of...

SS: Yeah, 'cause the Hawaii came as a group. Right, the 442nd....

DG: So they were kind of aggressive and then they found out... that...

SS: Yeah, 'cause no one, in Hawaii, only because only a small percentage were sent into camp. You consider, I think it was a group that went to Topaz. The first group. And the second group went to Jerome. Other than that, none of the other Niseis were interned. So when Ken and I first got married, he couldn't, I think, understand why I was so bitter. And then having lived here, having heard all about the concentration camp and all, he can understand, right now. But I think when we first got married it was difficult for him to really picture 'cause there was no, nothing like that in Hawaii. So long as you were a citizen, you were able to go out, go everywhere.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

DG: So let's go back. How did you get your citizenship back?

SS: My friend, Kuni Seki, who worked at the welfare department with me, somehow read somewhere I guess, or heard, and he put in his forms to get, to regain his citizenship. He came to me and he says, "Sarah, turn yours in because they're reviewing all our cases."

DG: So this was about 1949 by then?

SS: Must have been '49 because Kuni and us, we were about the first ones to get cleared. Because like lot of them went through -- who's that guy, Myers was it who... what was his name that helped lot of the renouncees in the stateside to get their citizenship back. They had the group went through that. But Kuni told me to send mine directly to the state department where he sent his.

DG: Were you excited about the possibilities?

SS: At that time I just didn't trust the U.S. government, I didn't know how it was going to be. All I knew was nowhere did I say I was disloyal. [Laughs] And so, when we got our clearance, I think it was in the fall of 1950.

DG: So did the officers and whatnot treat you as renouncees, too?

SS: No.

DG: Because they must have known.

SS: Not all of them because those were the things you were kinda' hesistant about discussing.

DG: Okay.

SS: Only among ourselves we would talk but you wouldn't go out of your way to tell people. Because even after Ken and I came to Washington when he went to UW, the Niseis around here looked down on the renouncees.

DG: Oh definitely.

SS: So how would I tell people I'm one of the renouncees who got their citizenship back, I wasn't about to... as it is, I was bitter and even if I explained to them no way did I say I was disloyal they're not going to believe because as far as those who remained here felt that everybody answered "no-no". Only after saying and then, I think it was in late '70s or early '80s when I wrote to, where was it, state department and the FBI to get our records, to show. And then I showed my kids, I said, no way do Grandpa and I say that we were disloyal. And they said, that's right. But you think the other people would believe? So, it took me a long time and then, after I got my kids I thought, you can't be bitter. But what I told them was that they have to learn to stand up for what they think is right. But don't get killed doing it because that was the foolish way. But from the time they were little we put in lot of the Japanese objects here to show them that they can still have the Japanese face but they were Americans.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

DG: Lot of what your grandparents, probably, like not wanting to go into the service and things like that... although, same thing wasn't it? They went along but they didn't go so far as letting...?

SS: They must have been strong, yeah -- they must have been strong-willed maybe, somehow maybe, we got. How they were. And yet now, my sisters, my brother and I, we have different views on the evacuation. I think age has a lot to do, too.

DG: Can you tell me a little bit about how that's different?

SS: Well, see like my sister, Patsy... never took, about being in camp, the consequences of anything seriously because she was younger. And then she, in fact, it was just recently we were talking and she said well, I worked for the Tule Lake police department you know and all... and I said, do you know who got you the job? And she said, I got it. Because I said, do you know who you worked under? And she said, I forgot. I said, Jean Sakata. I said, she got you the job because I asked her. I said, in fact at that time, I asked lot of my friends if there were any openings because in camp you had to have connection to find a job. And she said, "I didn't know." You see, so...

DG: It took a lot of things for granted.

SS: Yeah, and like their reasons and all, so probably you should talk to my brother too... Richard. Because he has his and even if you grew up in the same family and all, you come from different view.

DG: Let's finish talking a little bit about your getting married. And what was the scenario there?

SS: Ken came back in...'49? You have to ask him I think. In time so that he wouldn't lose his GI Bill. And then I came back in December of 1950 with my parents and we got married in '51. And he wanted to transfer to UW here so we came. Right after we got married he came in September and I came in December of '51.

DG: Were you worried about coming back...stateside?

SS: No, because I didn't think I was going to be here. Ken said we were going to be here only two years and then we were going to go back. And we never went back. And now, I don't think I want to live in Hawaii. We have a house there, in Maui, but I don't think we'll ever live over there permanently.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

DG: How did camp change your life as far as, as you look around now and you see the people around you, how is your life different because of these things that happened to you?

SS: Well... it's different in the fact that I learned that you really don't need a lot of friends. You just need couple of good friends who stick with you, who help you even if they might be ostracized and that's my friend, Marion. I guess for that reason I don't join lots of organizations, in fact I hardly do. Ken does all the joining and volunteering. To me, it's more important to nurture my family, my grandkids because when we get old and can't do anything, it's my kids and my grandkids who's going to take care, so --

DG: Because that's the thread that runs through your life, I can tell.

SS: Because my grandmother took care of us.

DG: Uh-huh, and you took care of your family.

SS: Yeah and I take care of all my kids. And in fact, so my kids don't forget the evacuation, the internment, when we got our twenty thousand. Before I donated to JACL or anybody, I gave my kids a thousand each and I told them (that) I wanted them to remember that that we got back. Plus I bought Otsuka's painting because that depicts Japanese, right? And I want them all to have it in their house, so every time they look at it they know their mother was in camp. And my two girls said they bought the Hawaiian bracelet because I was evacuated from Hawaii, and they have the name of the camp I was in and the dates. And hopefully, nothing like this would happen in their lifetime but you can't trust the government, because every two to four years they change, right?

DG: But you're choosing to live here in America? What is it, you can't trust the government but you...?

SS: Because I love this country. It's up to us, I think if we elect the people that we think are going to represent us, I would trust them. But we never know them personally, do we?

DG: But you've done things personally that insure...

SS: Yeah, and I think the number one thing is to educate your family. And like my kids say, "Mom, we heard it so many times," but I'm going to keep on saying it 'til I die. And now my eight year old grandson says, "What are you talking about?" So, I go through and I don't think he can picture that, but hopefully, I'll be living long enough so that when he gets to junior high and high school he will understand that this happened.


<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

DG: Okay Sarah, tell me in conclusion, now what you think, how should I put it? This whole experience, the important parts of it and the reason we've brought Ken, your husband in, is because you've talked over and over again about how important he was in your life.

SS: He sure was. Well --

DG: You were talking about how you met.

SS: A blind date, right?

KS: Oh yes, we met on a very, very blind date. Actually, they were looking for someone, she and her friends, her two friends were looking for someone with a car. [Laughs]

DG: So, you were the car.

KS: Found out that I had a car, so they asked me, to date her.

SS: And wasn't that a two door car and the six of us got into it?

KS: I believe so. I think, yeah, there were six of us but it was a two door car.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

DG: And so, tell me in conclusion again what you want your grandchildren to know about this experience?

SS: I want them to know that they are Americans first and Japanese second. That if they believe in something that's right, that they don't have to knuckle over but they shouldn't fight it to get killed because then they lose the purpose. I want them to be proud of their heritage and proud of us, right?

KS: Right.

SS: And just be good people. And hopefully then, no other, non-white Americans would go through the experience that we have, because for one thing it leaves a person humiliated, bitter and...

DG: How did you get over the bitterness?

SS: I guess when you have kids, you don't want them to be bitter. But you want to teach them... but you want them to be strong.

DG: You couldn't talk about this for a long time.

SS: But I think bits and pieces I have talked to them and I think that helped. And then, when your grandkids come. We're happy now, aren't we?

KS: Oh, oh, very happy.

SS: [Laughs] So, I think that's the main thing and --

DG: But it still upsets you when people talk about renunciation.

SS: Yeah, it upsets me only when they said "no-nos," disloyal people renounced because that's not true. People have family reasons for having done it. And actually, if the government were smarter they wouldn't have given us our renunciations because of the reasons why we had to go.

DG: One of the things that I noticed in particular is that both of you being from Hawaii, you're not afraid to be Japanese whereas those of us stateside try harder to become American.

SS: But why shouldn't we be proud, right? Of our ancestors. Our parents were good parents.

DG: Ken, you were discriminated when you came over here, too because of your...?

SS: Right...

KS: Yeah -- I think we have to remember that America is not for the whites alone. America is for everyone who were born here. I think that's an important thing to remember.

DG: You wouldn't go back and live in Japan would you..?

SS: No.

KS: Not to live, I like to go and visit.

SS: But we only went once after we left Japan, right? After the occupation.

DG: Okay, thank you very much.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.