Densho Digital Archive
Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection
Title: Tats Kojima Interview
Narrator: Tats Kojima
Interviewer: Debra Grindeland
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date: October 22, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-ktats-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

DG: Okay, Tats, we're going to start off, if you could just tell me about your family back in 1942, members of your family, their occupations, where you were living, that sort of thing.

TK: We were living in Port Madison at Maude Beaton -- we were renting from Maude Beaton -- and we were raising strawberries when the war broke out. And this was on a Sunday, I remember, and I can't... I think I was out in the field when... seven in the morning, yeah, I'd be out there about eight or nine in the morning. Other than that, I can't remember what happened after that day. That's all I remember is the war. And I was wondering, well, how is that going to affect me and what are they gonna do to me, or, you know, a lotta questions come up. But I can't remember. Yeah, it was a long ago. I can't... I don't know what else to say. [Laughs]

DG: Now so, can you... this, you were eighteen years old...

TK: I was eighteen years old.

DG: And tell me how you found out about...

TK: It was on the radio, and I think we heard it on the radio. It was on a Sunday, wasn't it? Or was it Monday? Sunday, wasn't it? I'm pretty sure it was on a Sunday. I, I can't remember exactly what I was thinking, but, you know, I'm thinking, "Wow, we're at war. What's gonna happen to me?" and all that. But I didn't realize what the government was gonna do to us. And I knew we had to just raise the strawberries and go on from there and, but then they told us we gotta get rid of all our contraband, which was binoculars, radios... shortwave, well, we didn't have shortwave radios, but radios, and anything to do with dynamites. We used a lot of dynamites in clearing our land, so, we gave... I don't know where we had to take it, we had to take it someplace. But there was one cap and a little bit of fuse left out of all the things that we used, and that's when, that was illegal, so they picked up my dad and took him to Missoula. Or, they took him away. I don't know where they took him first, but then at the end he was in Missoula, Montana. And then I think Art Koura and, God, I can't remember, Sam Nakao came by and told us, "We're gonna take, you can take one suitcase full of whatever you're gonna take to camp. And that's all you can take, whatever you can carry." Then who else? And then I had that... well, I didn't ask anymore, so, I think Sab Hayashida come by, but we didn't know really what to do. You know, you're just eighteen year old, what are we gonna do, you know, you got everything packed, just enough to carry on. But then you have all this strawberries you gotta harvest. This was in April, April, yeah, we ended up in April. So we had beginning of April to, April. And we, I have to know, what are you gonna do with the horses, and who's gonna run the farm, you know. But I don't know how we got Tony Bucset in there to run the farm. And he... supposedly we said, "Okay, you run the farm, we'll leave it..." well, we don't leave everything, it's just gotta be left there.

But the horse... I thought, I asked Maude Beaton, "What are you gonna do with a, what can you do with a horse?" And Maude says, "I don't want the horse." That's when she... I decided, "Well, what am I gonna do with the horse?" And I said, "Well, I better go and kill the thing." And I took him in the woods and I don't know whether I shot with a... what I had to shoot him with, but anyway I shot him, killed him, and left him there. Come back out and Maude says, "Well, what did you do with the horse?" I said, "I killed him." "Did you bury him?" Says, "No, I just left in the woods." She says, "That's gonna smell up the place, so you gotta do something." So, I had to go to Suyematsu's, and Mr. Suyematsu says, "Oh, we'll burn it." So, he came over and helped me and we piled all kinds of wood on top and we burned him. That's all, and I don't know if it burned down to the bottom or not. We just piled a bunch of wood and then burned him, and that's all I could remember. And Maude didn't say anything. And then we, I think we just got ready. Because it's only a week, I can't remember whether it was two weeks or one week that we had to get ready to go to camp.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

DG: Okay, well, let's go back... I'd like to hear more about what you remember from when your dad was taken and the FBI came. Can you describe that?

TK: Yeah, the FBI came and then they went through the house -- but I can't remember them going through the house -- but they made sure... they took the radio we had, and it was an old radio. And I don't know if he had binoculars or not but he... I think they took that, and then they went to the barn where the horse was and there was a dynamite box. And in that box there was one cap and a fuse left that we didn't turn in. And there, that's when he got picked up, and he says, "You got contraband," so they took him in on that. And I can't remember what happened after that. All I know is we had... I still can't remember whether it was one week or two weeks we had to get ready to move out. I gotta ask... he should know.

Male voice: He's not here.

TK: Oh, he's not here. [Laughs]

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

DG: I think you had just one week.

TK: One week, that's what I thought, yeah.

DG: And can you describe that week? All the things you went through...

TK: Oh, uh-uh, I can't describe it because all I know is that the horse is the biggest thing, and we had a truck and a car and all the equipment. We just gotta leave, there was nothin' we could do. And we had the strawberries we knew that was ready to, you know, another month or two it was ready to be harvested. But we had to leave that, we just had to tell Tony Bucset, "You harvest it and give us what you can for harvesting it, and then send us the money." But, I don't remember getting anything for it. And then the car, she said she totaled, but then we found out later, after I come back from the war, that it wasn't. Well, it, I don't know if it was totaled, he might have got in a wreck but it was still around. Rodels had it. That's all I remember. And then everything from then on was about the camp. We were put on a truck and I remember goin' to... we were, we didn't go to Suyematsu's, they picked us up. And who was on our truck? I think Mojis. I still remember Mojis because they had to have that dog. You know, Mrs. Moji had a dog and they had to leave that, and I can't remember what they did. They... well, anyway, the dog had to be left there, and Mr. and Mrs. Moji got on the truck with us. And then I think it's the Nakamuras that was in their truck with us. I can't remember whether Hideaki and all of them were on there or not.

Then we were taken down to, it was Eagledale, and we were unloaded there and marched onto the ferry. And then from there, from the ferry, we went to the dock in Seattle. And I remember the Mirkovich or Mary Medalia was there and some of the Slavs were there. And there were Slavic people and they were friendly to us and they were saying goodbye, but none of my friends were there. That's all I remember. I can't remember anything else, other than that. And then we went on the train and then, I remember, while we were on the train -- April Fool's Day was, we were on the train. So we were, you know, saying April fools to a lotta people. But then we got into camp and I can't remember what day we got into camp. It was one, two or three in April. But I know we were on the train on April first, that's all I remember.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TK: When we got to camp, all I remember is they told us, you know, "You go to Block 3." And then we unloaded and just, we went to where they told us to go. And of course, I think we registered, too. We gotta put, write our names, and... then we were... oh God, I can't remember the barrack we were in. But we were with... who was it? Terashitas, I remember Tosh Terashita was in there. And I think the Nishis were in there with me. First, you know, there's two and we were separated by a screen or I can't remember what it was. It wasn't a partition or anything, it's just a blanket or sheet or something that separated the two families. And then from there it was just camp. And I remember at camp all we did was eat and... it was April, so yeah, we ate, and there was a lotta dust. Oh, wait a minute. We were in Manzanar and it was sure dusty. That's all I remember, it was really dusty.

But, then we moved to Minidoka -- oh, we went, that's right, in the summer we were in Manzanar and then in the fall they wanted beet picker, beet harvesters. So, we picked Pocatello and -- it was Nakashimas that we went to in Pocatello -- and some of them went to Montana, and I still remember that. And at Nakashimas, we met Nakashimas and I remember Rito and Junko, and, the younger sister, and there was Rito and I can't remember the other person. Anyway, and then... oh, the Nakaos went with us. And they cooked for us and me and Toke Chihara, I think, was in that group. And then from there, the Nakaos and us took us to Minidoka to see the camp. And, they didn't arrange it, but we knew they were gonna arrange us to go -- through Paul Ohtaki and Bainbridge Review -- we were gonna go to Minidoka. So we went there to see the camp. And then we went back to Manzanar and then they brought us back to Manzanar and then they took us to Minidoka from there, I think. So it was in the spring that we came to Minidoka. That was a wet... we went from a dry dusty place to a wet, muddy... yeah. And then Minidoka, that fall, yeah, I went to school... was it '42?, it was '41, '42, '43, I graduated in Minidoka.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TK: Then we went to, I went to Chicago to work at a poster products making tops for... and, for the army. Then I went to school, so I went to mechanics school. And then from there I went to body shop. And then we moved, I moved to Salt Lake, I think because my dad said he's gonna start farming there in Orem, Utah. So I came back that fall, I think. And... but I'm thinking what I, what else did I do in Chicago. And then I worked, oh, I worked as a mechanic in Utah, but it was the first job I ever had. And I did the job all right but I didn't, I forgot to fill the radiator up with water and the customer went out and he just ruined the motor because it overheated and then I was, I was laid off. After that I can't remember -- oh yes, I went to work for Utah Hotel. I was a busboy, or, yeah, busboy down there. Worked in the, in there washing dishes and things in a Hotel Utah. And from that I went to... oh, Kendicott copper mine. I went to the Bingham copper mine and I worked in a... boy, it was a cold. Right down in the deep hole and it was cold in the winter and in the summer it was hot because of the metal copper there. It draws the cold and heats up, too. After that is, I think I came back to Salt Lake. And then, oh, I worked for Sunrise fish market for quite a while. Yeah, and I, I worked there, I think, seven days a week. From seven 'til, oh, that seems like, seven 'til nine or seven at night. There was no... I had a little time off on Sundays only from about two or three o'clock in the afternoon. But I worked hard there and saved enough money, I think, that to buy a house in Seattle, I think. And then I came to Seattle and I bought a house from the Tsubaharas, I think, Tsubaharas, I think it was, yeah, on Columbian Way. And I still remember it was, like, four hundred dollars, or, real cheap.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

DG: Let's go back again to, back to the war, and after Pearl Harbor, and, can you describe to me what it was like at school, what, with the other kids at school, after the war started?

TK: We were very quiet. We didn't say anything because most of the kids, you knew that they weren't friendly. They wouldn't come up and, you know, meet us like they were the week before. Because I was in a group with the jocks and, you know, and all I remember is the principal gathered us all in the auditorium and he said the war is on, and I can't remember what else he said, but he was trying to get everybody assembled and said we were American, but there was really no response. The students were real cold from that day on. And I don't think we were, yeah, we weren't in school very long because we only had a week, right. Yeah, so I can't remember too much of it.

DG: So the principal assembled everyone... and what was the purpose --

TK: Yeah, all the all the students, yeah. Everybody in the high school had to assemble in the gymnasium, and he made a speech. And I don't know... I can't remember what the speech was about. But, you know... well, it was about the war and a that we were all... I think he said that we were all Americans. But that didn't make much difference when it comes to the students because they were real cold, most of 'em were. Except some of 'em, and they were probably the Yugoslavians. They were, they were kinda discriminated, they were kinda outcasts. I could tell they weren't part of the mix, so they were friendly to us. Yugles', Terabochias, Medalias, and I can't remember who else was in that group. But all the rest of 'em weren't cold but they weren't friendly like they were a week before. So, but they didn't start a fight over anything. We just kept our mouth shut and they didn't say much either. So in that one week nothing happened.

DG: And then can you describe to me how it felt to be preparing to, to leave and how you decided what to pack and sort of maybe what was going through your mind?

TK: Yeah, but, you know, for one suitcase, there wasn't much to pack. [Coughs] The only thing was clothes that you needed right away. We couldn't bring anything else. And I couldn't think of bringing anything else, like... we didn't have anything, you know, of, anything valuable that we could bring. We didn't have... oh, did we have a camera? [Coughs]

DG: Would you like some water?

TK: It won't help. I think we had a camera, a box camera, but I don't know what happened to it. We had to turn it in, I know. But I have pictures and from that day on we tried to get pictures, but... [Coughs] But other than that, no, I don't remember too much.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

DG: And you, you described a little bit of the day, March 30th, when you had to leave the island and the army trucks came. Can you describe more in detail what you remember and what you even... it was you and your sisters. And what it was like packing up to leave and what you were thinking?

TK: Oh, I can't remember what I was thinking. All I know is that, you know, we left the farm there, and I was wondering, well, I guess we just leave it and let it go and hope Tony Bucset will farm it and harvest it and we'll get something out of it. But other than that there wasn't much to think about. You know, we just had to pile on the truck and off we went with one suitcase. I don't know if it was one suitcase for individual or one suitcase for the whole family. I think it was for each individual. So, the only thing I could put in there was my clothes, that's all I had.

DG: And what was it like to walk onto the ferry and...

TK: Just walk. Yeah, they just tell you to walk. You know, there's always soldiers there so you just do what they tell you to do, you gotta get on the ferry and that's all we did. And I remember in camp, some of the soldiers, you know, acted like we were enemies, and others were friendly and some of 'em were even curious: "If you're an American, how come we're takin' you?" And all that came about, but you're only seventeen or eighteen and you really didn't understand it all. But then after all of that, you know, remember the Constitution and all of that and who is an American, and then it starts sinking in. "Wait a minute," you know, "I'm an American. Indians are true Americans, and why were we picked out?" and all that, those questions start coming about and then you realize, then you read about the blacks and, oh, all of the rest. Whether it's Yugoslavians or I think even the Irish were discriminated against. And then, then it was Italians, and then the Slavs or Yugoslavians or the Slavic or the Czechoslovakians, Yugoslavians, and so forth. But then, then you start realizing how America became Americans. [Laughs]

DG: And what do you remember from the train ride? Do you remember...

TK: I don't remember too much about the train ride. I remember we had the best; we had sleeping quarters. So I remember we were in a, you know, on the top booth, and at night we were able to get up on top and then sleep in there. And I heard the rest were on cattle trains, you know, right out in open. They had to go on an open... well, just seats only, there was no sleeping quarter. But we had sleeping quarters. Other than that, I don't remember too much about it. I can't remember whether they... we had to eat, so they must have dished out food. But it just passed over my, my memory.

DG: What about your first impressions of Manzanar when you arrived?

TK: Boy, all I know it was sand, you know. It was, "Geez, where is this?" You look around and just desert. And just look at the barrack and that's all there was. Lotta sand and then later on, naturally it started blowing, and all that dust. It was really dusty. The sand would blow up and it'd get into everything.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

DG: I would like to hear more about camp life and what you did as a teenager.

TK: Well, we just played baseball and I was an individual. I didn't go with a group. But I remember some of the, the younger ones, in my age, were in a group. They'd do everything in that group; they smoked or went around and, whatever they did. I didn't, I wasn't part of that group. I was just on my own and did what... well, there wasn't much to do either. And I can't remember who I did it with. [Laughs] Probably some Terminal Island boys I was running around with. But I didn't play -- well, we played a little bit of basketball but I wasn't too much into the sport. We played football, we played a little bit of baseball. But other than that, all I remember was when we were sleeping, we'd sleep -- it's so warm that we'd sleep outside in cots, and we'd pick up these cots and bring it to the middle of the, of the field or on a Sunday we'd put it right in front of the church. Then they'd wake up and take all their clothes away so they couldn't put their clothes on. So they'd have to sit there 'til someone brought them some clothes so they can get out and get away from the people that were coming by. [Laughs] We had fun that way, but other than that, I can't remember too much about camp. 'Cause the summer goes by, then in the fall we had to go to harvest. Then when the harvest came, we all went to... I went to Pocatello, some went to Montana and some went to Idaho.

DG: And do you remember, how did the kids get along in camp?

TK: Well, you didn't get along with... we didn't get along with the Terminal Island group. Some of the boys... we didn't, I didn't, it didn't matter to me who it was. I had friends over there, but, like some of 'em almost got in a fight and almost had a gang fight between the two, but it never matured. We were, I was ready to get into it, and by the time the time came around, nothing happened. I think Tosh Chihara, and God, I can't remember the guy he was gonna fight with. But anyway, I heard later on that these people, well, the Terminal Islanders, were fightin' with people from Boyle Heights. But they didn't get along, but then when they got to Chicago after the war, they got out, then they got, they were really picked on or somethin'. I heard they picked 'em out and beat 'em up or somethin' to that effect.

DG: And what caused these...

TK: I can't remember what caused the friction or why we couldn't get along with each other. Why we didn't get along with the Terminal Islanders, I don't remember. All I know is, remember Tosh Chihara and... God, I can't think of that person's name... he was, he couldn't get along with and almost started a riot or fight. Other than that, I... not too much memory. I don't have too much of a memory about what happened.

DG: And your father was still in...

TK: He was, I think he was with us then, by then. I can't remember what day he came back, what part of the month. Whether it was June... by June, I think he was with us already.

DG: And I, I remember there was a riot at Manzanar. Do you remember...

TK: Yes. I don't remember anything about the riot. All I know is some people ended up in the hospital and something about one person was killed. Other than that, I wasn't involved in it so I don't remember too much of it.

DG: And can you tell me more about the decision, and how the Bainbridge Islanders were able to move to Minidoka?

TK: I think Paul Ohtaki was writing letters to Walt Woodward telling him what was happening to all the Bainbridge Island, what was happening, and so was Sachi Koura. Those two were writing letter, and then he would write it in the Bainbridge Review. And then at the end he says somethin' about the apple got mixed up with the lemons, and the California lemon, and then he wrote to some congresspersons and they in turn was able to get the Bainbridge Islanders to go to Minidoka from Manzanar, which was more pro-Japan than they were. And then Minidoka was more pro-Americans, the group as a whole. There was a lot of Kibeis in -- Kibeis is educated in Japan, Japanese Americans -- in California, more so than in Seattle. These were the conflicts we had with, yeah, Kibeis. I think there were a lotta Kibeis in... yeah, but I still don't remember because I wasn't involved in it at all, yeah. I stayed out of it.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

DG: All right, is there anything else you want to add about camp?

TK: No, I can't. I think Hisa could, maybe. [Laughs] You don't remember though either, huh?

DG: Now, know your youngest sister Yuriko was a, was one of the group of girlfriends running around, the "seven-ups," can you just, can you tell me about how, why they were called the "seven-ups" and what you remember about them?

TK: No, I don't, because I wasn't part... because there were seven of 'em in there, they were called seven-ups, I think. And that was the same, they were all same age groups and in the same class, I think. They ran around together. That's all I remember. I wasn't involved with them, so I don't know.

DG: They, they left you alone? [Laughs]

TK: No, we were never, yeah, we'd never see each other. The group, we were always in a different place. Yeah, when I was at home in Bainbridge, like my dad would always tell me, "Yeah, the place you have to go is in the field and weed strawberries." But when we got in the camp we were gone and we were... the only time we were around was when it was time to eat. We would be near the mess halls. Other than that, we were never by the family. We were out-out, we were either swimming in the canal or doing baseball, football, something. We used to play cards in the rec. rooms and cook in there, we used to bring pots and pans and then at night we used to go in the camp where they had chickens. We'd kill all the chickens and bring it home, bring it back and then cook it in our mess hall -- not in the mess hall but in our, our rec. room. There was a little one barrack for rec. rooms and we used to cook in there and fry all the chickens and everybody'd come over there and have chicken dinners with us.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

DG: And what else do you remember about the food in the cafeterias and...

TK: The food wasn't very good. The lambs... and they used to have a lotta lamb. And a lotta people didn't like the lamb. And I can't remember what it was that we didn't like. The only thing we did like was pancakes in the morning, but we didn't have it all the time. So we'd find out which mess halls were serving pancakes and we'd run to that, but then they put a stop to that, too. I don't know, yeah, I think they had scrambled eggs and potatoes and things like that. So, everybody... I guess the kids didn't like it, they'd look for pancakes someplace. [Interruption] Yeah, it was the cooks that made the difference. Whether it's a restaurant or a home or, yeah, in the camp. If you had a group of cooks that didn't know how to prepare food and prepare it so it tasted good, yeah, nobody would nobody would eat it. Nobody'd... they just left it, they didn't even eat it. It's just not... we'd just, we could go from one meal to the next meal without eating because it didn't make any difference. But I can't remember all of that. I can't even remember all the food that they served, either. All I... geez, well, I don't remember whether they served rice or okazu or whether it's English meals or Caucasian meals. I don't remember spaghettis and I don't remember... I don't remember anything about it.

DG: Can you describe to me where your family lived, the barracks?

TK: We were, yeah... all I know is we were on the last barrack... you know, if you were facing this way there were barracks on both side, we were the second one. The Kitamotos were right next to us, I think. I remember, I don't remember... you, Frank, crying all the time. [Laughs] All I remember is, yeah. All I remember is crying all the time. I could hear him. And the Hayashidas were directly across from us, all I remember. And who else? I don't know who was next to us on this side. Kitamotos were on the, toward the barrack, I mean, the mess hall side. I don't know and I don't remember how many, I think there was three rooms or three families in each barrack. There's not two, it was three, I think, or was it four? I can't remember.

DG: And what was it like inside?

TK: Inside we just had a potbellied stove with coal that we kept warm. Other than that, just a cot, and that's all. Well, you made your own... you had to scrounge up your own chairs or table, and a lot of the people were out scrounging for extra material. I mean, you know, where they're building and they got shot at because you can't cross beyond a certain point, but they'd steal that lumber and try to make tables and things. And lotta that was goin' on, they were makin' tables and artwork. And, 'cause, what was out there? Was it sagebrush? They'd cut it, it'd be big and plant and they'd cut it and they'd sand it down and they'd make tables out of it, and they'd put legs on it. But I wasn't one of them, I remember a lot of 'em did that. They had nothin' to do, but it was somethin'. I guess all I'd do was playing baseball or football or walkin' around with a group. Oh, we had to go to school, too. Yeah, we were in school, too. All of the day was taken up in school and little bit of time playin' baseball, football, or basketball. Other than that... and dancing at nights. Not every night, but, you know, on I think weekends only, they'd have dancing in the... at nights. Other than that, I don't remember too much about it.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

DG: And can you compare what it was like to be a teenager, compare how it was for you here on Bainbridge Island before the war to what it was like being a teenager inside Manzanar?

TK: The difference was, you know, I was free. In Manzanar there was nothing, but at home we had a little... every time there's spare time we had to be out in the field weeding or cultivating, taking care of the farm, strawberries. That was our source of revenue. But in camp, you know, the government's giving us food so we didn't have to have... well, I had a job as a plumber, but...


TK: Yeah, at home, yeah, we were mostly, you know, like I had to chop the wood at home to, for the fire and to keep warm. I had to saw the thing and then pile it into our, our shed. Then we'd chop it up so we'd bring it inside and keep warm all day, I mean, all night, until it ran out. Then it's real cold in the morning in the winters especially. But in camp, you know, you had all of that. We had our... well, we had the coal stove would go out, but the coal would last longer than wood stove. And then in the morning, you had get up and go to the mess hall. Dinner was served, and the parents had nothin' to do with it. You never got together as a group, I don't think. I never seen families -- some of 'em did, ate as a family, but most of us teenagers just ate whenever we could. We had a certain time we had to eat by, though. And, you know, from seven to I think nine or ten, and then from eleven to twelve or twelve to one was dinner or lunch. And if you weren't there you don't get it, you got to wait 'til supper. But you just go to the... that's all. I mean, other than that you were free to do anything. And to me it was, it was pleasure. [Laughs] Boy, at home when I was at Bainbridge, I had to... man, I had to work. And it was cold in the winter, you know, we were so poor we didn't have good clothes. And my hands would be... couldn't even grab anything it would get so cold, weeding, you know. But in camp, when you got in camp, it was like another world. [Laughs]

DG: So now, as a grown adult, do you have an opinion on maybe how that affected families and kids?

TK: I don't think it... well, it didn't affect my family, I don't think. I don't know. Because we weren't in there long enough to mold... we were only in there, what, '41 to '43, that's only two or three years. And you can't mold a child in that... they do, from one to seven, the child, you can mold 'em. But you, that's five to seven years. But in camp we only had three years and that wasn't long enough to do anything. It didn't, it was really, it was three years, but I can't remember because it was so short, I guess. We didn't do the same things long enough to have a lasting memory in our mind.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

DG: And can you tell me how you were treated, you said you left, I think it was Manzanar to go work, to go farming. How were you treated as a Japanese American?

TK: We went from, oh, Manzanar, to Nakashimas', see. We went to another Japanese farm and we didn't see or feel any discrimination in Pocatello. We did in Hunt, Idaho. I heard there was some kids that were gettin'... not beaten up. Never heard of anyone gettin' beaten up, but they wanted to fight, you know. So a group of us did go to Twin Falls, but they didn't even show up anyways. But other than that, I, I didn't hear too much. Except the Twin Falls, me and Hideaki was walkin' on the road and a whole bunch of 'em, about fifteen or twenty of 'em, said, you know, "You're a Jap," and all that. And Hideaki said, "Well, I'm fighting for this country, too." He was, he had his induction papers with him, so he showed 'em. He says, "Yeah, I'm, I'm ready to go in." Then they backed off. I thought we were gonna have a fight right then. [Laughs] Him and I and fifteen... that's the only time I ever confronted anybody that had anything to say bad about us.

Other than that, I don't, I don't remember. Even in Chicago, in Chicago when we went there, I think the 442 was makin' a lot of names, and it was in the paper so a lotta the kids used to come to us, "Oh, you're a Japanese American?" They used to say, "Geez, I heard the 442 did this and they did that..." So they were in the paper. And then there was, in Chicago, we were in the Polish, I think Polish neighborhood, and they were all talking. And that's one thing that I noticed right away, was you got in a Polish neighborhood or... what other neighborhood did we go into? But they talked their own language; you couldn't understand what they were, they weren't talking English, and that's all they spoke. And the society was, you know, everything was Polish or Yugoslavian, or whatever. I can't remember what else. 'Course, I didn't get into the outskirts, you know, you were in the in the inner city where... and I didn't get into the black neighborhood, either. Well, we weren't there long enough to experience all of that either. We only had one, I think, one winter and I was working during that time, so it was only on the weekends that I would experience it. So, didn't have enough time to learn all of that. But that's the one thing that I noticed right away. Like, where at Bainbridge, you know, here, you didn't have a... well, we had a Japanese community, but you didn't have -- I guess they did have a Yugoslavian, you know, society that they, you know, the fishermens were all... [coughs] But we didn't have Italians, or German society. Whereas in Chicago they did have. I think, I don't know if they had German, but I remember, yeah, little societies all over, but they all spoke their native languages. And they don't... yeah, even if I walked in there, they didn't, they know I'm Asian, but other than that, yeah, they didn't discriminate or anything. And that's the first thing I noticed. Yeah, you're not discriminated. I didn't feel it anyway, like I did when I was leaving Bainbridge and everybody says, "Oh, you're a Jap." You didn't, I never ran across that since I went to Chicago or came back to Salt Lake. But I heard it when they came back to Washington, a lotta 'em went to eat and they wouldn't serve 'em. I never had that. Of course, let's see, I came back, oh, I came back late, that's right. I was... where was I? I was in Salt Lake for quite a while. That's why, that's why. Yeah.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

DG: Did you personally come back to check on your land, that you had leased, and look or...

TK: Yeah, I did come back. I didn't... I was leasing it, and soon as that berry crop was over that year, which was '41, and there was nothing there, so there was nothing to come back to. And I wasn't, I wasn't gonna go back to farming 'cause I had trained as a mechanic and a body man. But I didn't get into body but I went as a mechanic and worked at Seventh Avenue Service. So, that was out. Just, I became a mechanic and I had my own shop on Yesler, and that's it. Whole life...

DG: And tell me what happened with all of your furniture and your farming equipment.

TK: I don't know what happened. It just disappeared, there was nothing, nothing there. There was nothing there. I'd always... I asked Tony Bucset, he said, "I don't know," and Maude Beaton says, "I don't know." So, what can you do? You don't know what happened to it. And I can't even remember what all the things that I had. There was a lotta tools there, that's all I remember. And horse tools, harnesses for the horse, That's all gone. I didn't come back to Bainbridge, there was nothin' for me to come back to. Well, I, I had a job in Seattle and I worked for Seventh Avenue Service as a mechanic, and then I opened my own shop and that was the rest of my life.

DG: Now, how did that feel to... did you know that you had lost everything?

TK: Well, at my age, it didn't make any difference. I didn't want to be a farmer, so it didn't, didn't matter. I musta lost something. If it was an older person, yes, he might have said, "Oh, God, I had a lotta tools and it was worth that much." Even the horse that I, I killed was worth something if you had to buy it. Then it was about two three hundred dollars to buy a horse. And we had to kill it and he was all gone and it's not there. I'd have to, if I was gonna farm, I'd have to buy another horse or a tractor. I don't know if I had that kind of money. [Laughs]

DG: Do you remember your father, what he was like and what he was going through at the time?

TK: No, he was a, we were... I was on Columbian Way and he was retired by then, and he didn't work. And I had my own... yeah, I was workin' at Seventh Avenue Service and then I started my own shop on Yesler and I didn't have too much communication with him. I didn't speak Japanese too well and he didn't speak English, so, and when you don't communicate too well... so we just didn't talk. In fact, in fact, I went to Japan and his sister or his brother was saying, "Your dad said you don't even say anything." No, I don't, I don't say nothing. Even my mother-in-law, my wife's, says, "He don't even say anything. He doesn't say hi in the morning or goodbye." [Laughs] I was one of those that didn't say much at all... nothing. When I shut my mouth, it was closed.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

DG: Let's see. Maybe we'll move ahead now to, to present-day and we're building this memorial. And can you tell me your feelings on the memorial and...

TK: Well, I think it's a good thing. I think if people didn't know that we were... went through all this, they should know. And it could happen to anybody. And, but I think what really hits me is that I went through school and I wasn't a very good student. And you're talkin' about the Constitution and what it meant to each one from the first to the thirteenth, and yet, our government doesn't practice, you know, they don't follow the rules or the Constitution. That bothered me. [Coughs] Because there's rules that we're supposed to follow when they don't follow it all the time, and they don't, they don't apply the laws. They do some, but they, they overlook others. That's the part that kinda bothered me for Americans.

DG: As an eighteen year old, did you think about the Constitution?

TK: I didn't at that time, no. I did later. It took me a little while to get up to my head and realize, "Oh, wait a minute. I went through all of this." I went to school and they were teaching me all of this and who the Indians were, and that's, the Indians were the first Americans. It was their land. But they weren't, they weren't considered citizens, real citizens. And you start realizing, yeah, that it didn't apply to them. And I guess it didn't apply for us, for a little while, because they didn't follow the rules, the Constitution. And I, I'm a renter of apartments, and we sign contracts and in the contract it tells you what you shouldn't do, you can't do and what are my responsibilities, what are their responsibilities, but they don't ever read that. So I have to remind them, "Please read it." But I guess as citizens we tend to ignore some things and take other rules that's in our favor, and ignore the ones that are not our favor. And we just pick and choose what laws you want to abide by. I guess we all do that, I don't know, to a degree. When you're supposed to stop at a stop sign, we slow down and keep on going... we're supposed to stop. But I think the real, I think attorney told me, but the real reason for the stop sign is that we don't get into an accident. So, if you look both ways and if you're rolling and you kept on going, you've actually came to a stop and you're avoiding the accident. That's what it was there for, the law, the stop sign, that is. So, yeah, if you interpret it that way then, yeah, you're not doing the exact thing that the law says. Stop, meaning dead stop and then go. I don't know. I'm not... I'm just a citizen, one man out of millions. It's... even this war. Yeah.

DG: So, what would you like the memorial to be?

TK: Well, to teach people and show them that, yeah, that there is rules that we have to follow and sometimes you don't follow it, this is what happens. You pick on people because he looks different, he's different color, or he's a different religion. And they get boxed into a group that he gonna pick on and rules don't apply to them and only to you.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

DG: Can you describe to me what it was like, living on Bainbridge Island, before the war. Specifically, being part of the Japanese American community and being part of the entire community.


TK: Yeah, and when you're going to school, you're part of the group, part of the school, so you're an American and you, you're in the culture and everything. But when you get home and when the Japanese Americans or Japanese community has their own group and we don't mix with the Caucasians, then you realize you're not part of the American, 'cause you still got your culture. We, we go to the picnics, it's all Japanese, and you go to the movies, it's all Japanese. So, you know you're different. You're different, you're not part of society anymore. But only in school. But then your, the teacher... you're learning that, what America's all about. And it just doesn't, doesn't seem to hook, blend in, they stop someplace, bouncing off of it. That's the only thing I remember.


DG: Can you tell me what you did -- I know you worked hard on Bainbridge Island as a teenager -- what sort of things did you do for fun, on Bainbridge?

TK: The only... yeah, well, I used to go fishing. Whenever we were given the time to go fishing, I used to... I loved fishing, or we used to go mushrooming up in Bucklin, but that was very, very seldom. Other than that... oh, I did judo, and of course my dad told me to do it because I think he was more into it than I was. [Laughs] And, basketball and baseball, I wasn't too good at, except football, I was a football in high school. So, these were the things we did, but that was during the school hours. So, after school I always had to work on the farm, whether it's Sunday, Saturdays, anytime, we had to get that, weed the farm... weed it, cultivate it, and things like that. And in the mornings I fed the horse and chickens and things like that to get the farm going. So you don't have too much time in between to do anything else. And then in the evenings I'd go judo. And, other than that, I was supposed to study, but I didn't do much of that. [Laughs] So, I don't remember much more than that.

DG: Did your family attend church?

TK: Oh, yes, yeah, we went to church but only... not for religion but mostly for feeding. They used to bring a lot of confection, you know, something to eat, so I'd enjoy it because they'd bring a lot of some kind of, oh, pastries. Yeah, I used to enjoy it. This is the only reason I used to go to church. [Laughs] It was on Sundays. I remember Ms. McCullough and Ms. Rumsey, and... God I can't remember the other teacher that used to come over every Sunday. I think it was in the afternoon, or was it in the morning. I can't remember. But anyway, after, even after church we'd have to go out in the field and work, so we'd try to delay that as much as possible. [Laughs] We'd have to go Japanese school, and I didn't learn anything in Japanese school, but we ate a lot. And soon as we came home we had to change and go out in the field and weed 'til it got dark. And you say it's hard, yeah, it's hard because we didn't, we weren't dressed warm. We didn't have the clothing, it was cold. And that was the only hard part of the whole thing, growing up. Not comfortable with what you're doing. And I think if I was dressed warm and dressed right, I could have done it a lot better. It would have been a lot easier.

DG: And which church were you talking about?

TK: Baptist church. Yeah, it was Japanese Baptist Church, the one by Hirakawas. I don't know what the name of it... down by Nakatas. [Coughs]

Lucy Ostrander: Debra, what about Caucasian friends?

DG: Okay. Did you have many Caucasian friends?

TK: Not when I was small. I remember the only ones were the Ugles, Johansens, but only in school. During off school times, there wasn't much time, but you know, the Sakumas were our neighbors. We used to play with them. But other than that, none of the Caucasians lived close to me. There was none in that Winslow. You know where I lived was on, oh, down... the only one was, who was it, down below? Olivers... no, no. Olivers were living by Suyematsus. God, I can't think of their name. But we didn't play with them. They're all, they always played by themselves, the sisters did. Flodins? God, I can't think of the names. Anyway, there were three, three sisters, or four sisters? Then there was the Cuhns, they used to own the store down there, but they were always working so they never played with us. Oh, the Freeman and Larsen, Jack Freeman and Alford Larsen, they used to pick berries and they used to come to Sakumas and that's the only time they ever came together but they were working for the Sakumas... pick berries or whatever, harvest. Other than that we never played with them, except in school, again.

DG: So tell me what it was like to be on the football team?

TK: Oh, I don't know. I can't remember. I remember Pop Miller. That's all I was... one of the, I was a halfback, and I got hurt. I think I got, I still got marks here [points to chin]. And that year I think we did get the championship. My dad wouldn't let me play so it made it very difficult. He wasn't backing me up. He wanted me back workin' on the farm, not playing football after school. Again, that time between school and dark, you're supposed to work on the farm, but I was playing football, and he didn't like that. He wanted me on the farm. So I didn't get to play baseball or anything either. I wanted to, but he wouldn't let me.

DG: And how did the other athletes treat you?

TK: Oh, they didn't, they treated you, you know, we don't, they treated me all right. We were all, we's jocks, you know.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2007 Densho. All Rights Reserved.