Densho Digital Archive
Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection
Title: Michiko Amatatsu Noritake Interview
Narrator: Michiko Amatatsu Noritake
Interviewer: Joyce Nishimura
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date: February 26, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-nmichiko-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

JN: Well, let's start off with, tell us a little bit about you, like where you were born, just a little about just you and your family and what it was like.

MN: I was born in Winslow, Washington, and Mom and Dad lived at a little Japanese school. And on the day I was born, we had twelve inches of snow, and that was December 6, 1919. And I came early, so Dad had to run across the field to get Dr. Shepherd, and Dr. Shepherd came to the house and finished. [Laughs] Yeah, so... and that was twelve inches, so, we had lots of snow then.

JN: Tell us about your family, your Mom and Dad, when they came?

MN: My Dad and Mom came from Kagoshima, Japan, southern part of Japan. My father came, he was here little earlier, 18... maybe '16 or something, and then we have four, three girls -- I mean, two girls that were born in Seattle. And Mom came a little later, and then we have a sister, Elsie, that was named after the nurse from General Hospital in Seattle, and Kay, Kazuko. And then they moved over to Bainbridge, and then I was born then. And then Eiko came later, so there's four girls in our family.

JN: When did you move to your house in, on Finch Road?

MN: Finch Road? That was maybe around the end of 19'... let's see, I was born in 19'... oh, so around 1922, maybe around then.

JN: Can you remember anything about your parents, when did they come and why did they come to United States?

MN: My dad's family's all doctors, and so he was trying to, I guess, take a rest, and he was the eldest son. And so he decided he'll come, was going to school, university, and he was kind of tired and he wanted a rest, so he came out this way. And then what was the other part?

JN: What about your mother?

MN: And mother was... mother's side was in the army, and so, and Mother was a teacher, she graduated normal school, teacher's school, and then taught school for a while and then came to United States. And Dad and -- I mean, my father and they were married.

JN: So did they meet here or did they, did they... was she a picture bride?

MN: No, because Grandpa, Dad went home once in between, so that's how he met her.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

JN: Okay, let's go back to, can you tell us how life was, what life was like in Bainbridge in the early days before, before the war? What you did for fun, what, how was, what was your school routine, and the kind of friends you had and all that?

MN: Let's see. We did lots of walking. Everywhere we went, we walked. And then everyone would pick one... we were all friendly, so we walked and walked and walked. And then we had some, once in a while, we had a neighbor that had a wagon, and he used to take his vegetables down to the stores, so we used to sometimes ride on the wagon and go to Winslow. And then we had... and then we went to Sunday school and then we started at the Congregational church, Sunday school. And so, and then from there we went to Lincoln School and...

JN: What did you do for fun?

MN: For fun? We'd go visiting friends, and when it snowed, we went sliding down the Wyatt Hill, which is still there. Wyatt road. And they had dances, they had a Japanese Boys and Girls Club. So we had rallies, we had church youth group, and we'd go to Rolling Bay, the, from Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church, they used to come to Congregational church and we were from Baptist, so we would use the Congregational church kitchen and the Baptist church, and the Alliance church leaders would come and take charge of the Songfest and things like that. We used to have a nice rally where we, and then afterwards, we always served a spaghetti dinner, and that was really popular then.

JN: Tell us, you once said something about the, you had friends in your neighborhood, then they'd pick you up to go fishing and just doing those kinds of things that I kind of remember, who they were and what other kinds of things did you do?

MN: Oh, remember I used to go trout fishing down the creek. And there was a Sakuma boy, and Kojima, Tats Kojima, and Tsukasa Sakuma, that we used to go fishing down below, catch trouts. That was lots of fun, in the still water...

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

JN: Okay, let's think back to December 7th when Pearl Harbor was bombed. What do you remember about that day? Where were you?

MN: I was working for the army man, family, in Port Madison, and when the war broke out -- and I had my birthday December 6th, next day was Pearl Harbor. So I was fired right away and I had to go home.

JN: How did you feel?

MN: Oh, I felt terrible, scared, oh, that was a horrible day. But my father was still home, so I remem-, he always said we were minority people, you know, race, so we should always obey what they say and not cause trouble, and try to live a peaceful life.


JN: When you were working for the general -- and then just kind of tell us, like, what you did there, and that you were living there in his house, and so they understand what your situation was, you know. And then, like, what you did for them, and then how, and then how they treated you until, until that day. 'Cause that's a really good story and it would be good to build on it some more.

MN: We had a strawberry farm then, and so after the berries are over, the girls would go out to work somewhere, and my sister, eldest sister stayed home, and my other sister, Kay, would go into Seattle and do housework. And then I did housework on Bainbridge, in Port Madison. And they had children, a boy maybe about three years old and then a newborn baby that came. So I had to do cooking, taking care of the little boy, and just every... we really worked hard. So, and then I was... and then my birthday, December 6th was my birthday, and I became nineteen, and the next day was the Pearl Harbor, so they had to let me go.

JN: How did they treat you before?

MN: Oh, they were very nice people, very nice. But we really had to work hard for our living. 'Cause we had to cook and watch the children, and all kinds of things like that. Clean...

JN: Did you have your own room there?

MN: Uh-huh, I had my own room, and the end of the week, I used to, they would let me come home on Saturday and Sunday.

JN: How did they, did they feel badly about letting you go, or did they feel they had to?

MN: Yeah, I think they were scared just as much as we were, and so they just had to let me go right away.

JN: How did your family react? Did all of your sisters lose their jobs?

MN: No, Kay still stayed on where she worked in Seattle. And my sister Elsie was the eldest, so she took over everything. Of course, after the Pearl Harbor, they came right, FBI came right away and they took my father. So I, when I came home after I got fired, my father was gone already. They took him away. And then we, we just had, we had cleared the strawberry farm land down below, and so there was about maybe half a dozen or so dynamite left in the barn. So when they searched everything, they found this dynamite, so first thing, they just, you know, dynamite, so they just took my father right away. And so I didn't get to see him when I got fired and came home. So that was really hard, just sad. And then Mother had four of us girls and she had to be in charge. But my sister, the eldest sister was home, so she had to take over everything and so we could get things going on the farm again.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

JN: So when the exclusion order that said you were, you had to leave the island or go east when that Exclusion Order No. 1 came through, how did you hear about it, how did you feel? Did you know ahead of time?

MN: I think they had a meeting at the Japanese Hall and they talked about it. And they said one day that we'll have to go, and they told us to be very careful and watch what we say and do. And then they had curfew, so we had, my cousin living on the High School Road, between Finch and High School Road, and their family, father was taken, too, and so she was left alone, and they had one son, but he was going to school in Seattle, or working, I forgot which it was. So we wanted to kind of look after, see how the mother was doing, but we had a curfew. So by, I think by six o'clock or something, we were all supposed to be in, we want to go look and see, but we couldn't even get over to see her.

JN: So when your family were, had to prepare to leave, how was that like, and how was, what did you, what are your memories about preparing to leave?

MN: My sister Elsie took over and they, I remember she'd go into meetings after meetings. And we had to sell things, and get all those things... we had to find someone to look after the farm. Then we had those, Filipino man that worked for us, he took over the farm. So I know that she had to go to meeting after meeting, I remember. Just... one time, they said oh, maybe we didn't have to go, just the Issei, first generation. Then another time, they'll come back and say, "No, we'll have to go, we'll have to leave." And they, at that time, they didn't know where we were going. But about a week later or something, I think they found out we're supposed to go to Manzanar.

JN: How was your mother during this time?

MN: Mom, she was very strong, 'cause she had to look after four of us girls. And she was very, you know, strong, and said that, "Well, if we have to go, we have to go, we had to get ready." And she was strong, so kept us... she was in charge. And before we left, the family wanted to, we were all assigned certain kind of work on the farm. I was doing a lot of baking, and so the family wanted to have a, eat a chocolate cake before we left. [Laughs] And so we baked, I baked a nice, lovely chocolate cake, it was beautiful. I put the icing on and when we cut into it, it was so salty we couldn't even eat it. I made a mistake, you know, because we had to put all the things away and get ready, so the, I used salt instead of, of sugar. I could still remember someone, maybe, no one could eat it, so thought, well, maybe the chickens might finish it. Took it in the, to chickens, and no, they couldn't even eat it. [Laughs] So it was very bad. But that, I could never forget that, that beautiful chocolate cake. [Laughs] At least we got to laugh.

JN: So you were the baker for your family?

MN: Uh-huh. We all had certain duties to do, so... and I loved to bake. I used to have lots of fun making cakes. [Laughs] And they used to come out so nice, and this day, I can't bake cake anymore. [Laughs] Even cake mix don't work for me.

JN: So when you were preparing to leave, did you have any friends, any hakujin friends, that... did, tell me about your friends that you had then.

MN: Oh, we were very good friends with Alliance church minister and his wife and the son and son-in-law. Got to know them through youth group, and so they were very kind to us. They took over the nice things that we had in the house, they took it over, and we told them to go ahead and use it. Mom was just, finally had her beautiful china dinner set, and I think maybe we used it once, yes, for Thanksgiving. And then we had to evacuate, so we told them, "No, go ahead and use it, everything," and they said they were so glad to store everything for us, so nicer things we took it over to the minister's home. And then we left everything 'cause the Filipino was going to take care of the place, so were just fine.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

JN: Okay, let's go to, to the day you were leaving, March 30, 1942. Do you remember what that day was like?

MN: Oh, it was sad, very sad. We had two dogs, two kitties that we had to leave behind. That was, we didn't, none of us had ever left the island, so it was, you know, maybe into Seattle and that was it. So we didn't know what it would be like to ride down on the train or... it was, and we've never been to other states, so it was really hard. We didn't know what we were gonna get into, and we only had certain things to take, and that was the hardest part, and leaving our friends. We had two neighbors that were very nice to us, one was a blacksmith who took care of the, shoeing the horses, cutting their hoof and all, and then the next neighbor was working for the shipyard, they were a German family. And then the one that had the horse thing were Norwegians, and they were very good to us. And then they are the ones that couldn't remember our names, so my oldest sister had a name already, Elsie, and Kay, her name was Kazuko and they couldn't pronounce it so they named, gave her a name "Helen." And my name was Michiko and they couldn't say "Michiko" so they made "Rose." So that's how we lived by when we were growing up.

JN: So what happened that day? Do you remember going, leaving on the ferry and what happened, and what the train ride was like, the ferry ride was like?

MN: Yeah, it was really sad, the saddest day, darkest day of our life. And people came to say goodbye, and we didn't know where we were going. Oh, it was really sad. But we, Mother was very brave, we all carried two suitcases. And we were so lucky because the army convoy came and picked us up, each home was picked up by army. Well, on Vashon, our friend was telling us, they had to walk half a mile with two suitcases in their hands... and then the convoy came and picked him up. So we were very, treated nicely -- we were the first ones to go, and they came. I remember our, the convoy came and picked us up, and the soldiers looked at us, like, "Oh, enemy." They were really scared, too, and we were scared of them. And then we didn't say much, they just, so we went to the Eagledale dock, and we all had to walk after we got off, the, with our suitcase in our hands. And we all, I think, wore our very best clothes 'cause we didn't know what was gonna happen. Everybody wore hats and good shoes, you know, and coats, because it was, March was still cold. When you think about it, tears come. It was so long ago, but yet you feel the pain. The people were very good, and the neighbors, they were so sorry we had to go. And then when we got across, and we had to get on the train, and we were really scared more than anything, afraid, we didn't know where we were going. And then all the trains had the blinds down, so, and we were kind of shoved in. But we chugged along and there was a lot of people waiting and waving and they were sort of sad to see us go.

But after we got on the train, maybe the first day, the soldiers themselves were very scared, and after we got to know them, maybe the next day or so, they said to us, "Why are you people going?" We're just like... you know, they thought we were just like them. And thought it was so wrong that we should go. And then as we traveled along, we became more friendly. They were from New York, these soldiers that took us down. And then towards the end, whenever we would travel down on the train, it would be open space, and then they would pull the blind up, and so we could look out as we traveled down. And then when we came, or when we'd come into a city or something, then they'd put the blinds down. But they were the most friendliest soldiers, and young men. Along the way we went, sometime, someone would have a guitar or something, and we all get together and we'd sing, It was, you know, sad, and yet we had fun going down. Pretty soon they would talk to us, and they said, oh, it was so wrong to see us go.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

JN: We're going back to when, when your father was taken by the FBI. I know you weren't home at that time, but when you came back from your job, how did you feel? Were you, were you scared, were you afraid for your own safety?

MN: Oh, yeah, that was scariest time of the... yeah, we didn't know what was gonna happen and where they were going. And so it was really hard, hard on Mom, all of us, and we all cried. So long ago, but still, the memories...

JN: Did you ever hear from him, do you know where he went?

MN: Uh-huh, and then before we evacuated, they were at immigration office in Seattle, and so we could go see. I forgot how, not every day, but once in a while they'll give us permission to go and see, so we got to see my father and talk to him. So Father would say, "Be brave and," he said, "obey. Whatever they say, obey. Don't fight back." That was... and then, I forgot how, I don't know how long it was before we knew they took him away, we didn't know where they went, we didn't know for a long time. We found out later my father and that group went to North Dakota, Bismarck. And then later on, towards, a year and half or something, then they moved him down to (New) Mexico, I think it was Santa Fe. So we, so we didn't get to see Dad, we would write maybe once a month, we were given permission to write letters. And so once a month or so, Dad would write, but everything was censored so we had to be very careful what we said.

JN: Did you ever feel before on Bainbridge or along the way, that, for your own safety? Did you ever feel that you were not safe?

MN: On the island?

JN: On the island or going...

MN: Going down? We were scared, every one of us were scared, yeah, 'cause we didn't know where we were going. They didn't let us know 'til I think we got as far as Sacramento, I remember, and then we got a bus, and then they told us which way we were going.

JN: Did you ever worry that they, that they might hurt you?

MN: You mean while we were going down?

JN: Physically?

MN: It seemed like the soldiers were there and they were saying they're protecting us, so no, we weren't that scared. Maybe the parents, like Mother and their friends, parents. But being young, I think we weren't that scared going down. We were thinking, "Now, where are we going?" And then soldiers were so good that they were protecting us, so they said, "Oh, don't be afraid," and then they would talk to everyone and sing. So it wasn't that bad going down. That's how I felt, anyway. We weren't that scared.

JN: They were your age.

MN: Yeah. Maybe the little ones might have been, but we were teenagers and twenty-some already.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

JN: When you arrived at Manzanar, how did, what was your first impression? I know you were early, you were the first group that got there.

MN: Oh, we were scared. Oh... and the, you know, boys, the workers, they were young men, so they had that mohican haircut, you know. And oh, I remember the girls were just so scared, they were all so, you know, they worked in the sun so they were so dark and here we were light, you know. [Laughs] They were scared, I think they couldn't figure out who, we're Japanese, but we're very light-complexioned and all, they couldn't figure how in the world... we were light and they were so dark, and we're still the same nationality. [Laughs] That was really fun, but -- and scary, 'cause they were all men working. And the, they had trenches, ditches, everything was just coming up when we got there. Our place was Block 3, we lived in it, everything was just coming up, so the walkways, we had to walk over a plank to get to here and there and mess hall. But being young, very, you know, towards the end, everybody was okay.

JN: When you got there, was it confusing? Did you know where you needed to go?

MN: Oh, we had to share. We shared with another family called Kojimas, and they were three girls and one boy, and we all stayed, and our family, we all had to share rooms in this small barracks. And then finally, after they got the rooms fixed -- they weren't even ready for all of us to come at one time like that, so we all shared the one small room. And they eventually moved us, then we all got one family room, about a, maybe about a week or two after that.

JN: Can you tell us some of your memories of living in Manzanar, and some good and bad memories of that time?

MN: Then we all had to find job, works, and so my oldest sister worked in the, in the mess hall. And then my sister, Kay, she helped with the kindergarten, and then I helped with the nursery, and my youngest sister Iku went down to work in the office. So everyone, except the parents, had something to do, that's how we went to work. And my job was up in, towards the end, I worked up in Block 11, so I had to walk. And some days, the sandstorm would come and we'd be covered with dust and sand, and oh, that sand used to hurt our skin and faces. But we still would go to work. And then I had, I made new friends, and when we taught school, took care of the nursery part, there was lot of, we had one Japanese family -- I don't know how they stayed down, they were from Japan -- and I remember we had one real naughty Japanese boy, little one, and no one could take care of this one. He would just dis-, interrupt the class, the little kids were playing, and finally, there was a young man, and he was real good with the little ones, especially the ones that would fight back. He just took care, and he turned out to be the nicest little boy. I could still remember that, Japan little boys were naughty. [Laughs] We had our fun, yeah.

Then I remember... I don't know whether it was that first summer or the second summer, must have been the second summer, that rec. hall was giving a picnic. And we could take the convoy, army convoy, and they would take us up the, towards the mountain, and there was a stream. And the, it was in July, I remember, when our turn came and they fixed us a lunch. And we got on the convoy came and picked us up, and we went way up in the, you know, in between the sagebrushes. And we got there, oh, it was so relaxing. But it was packed with young people because the different recreation halls came. We all had a fun, that was the first time we ever had so much fun was, you know, we all got to sing, they brought ukuleles, and we just, we had a ball then. [Laughs] It was so good to get away for a change, 'cause in Manzanar we couldn't leave the... and then a group of us would walk, and I remember Frank's father and a bunch of us, us would, from our block, we would walk all along the edges. And there would be those soldiers watching in every corner, it seemed like. But we used to walk, get our daily walking, before they had no recreation or nothing, we used to get in groups and walk, and I remember Frank's dad used to walk along with us, too.

Some of us, and then we got to learn to play piano, and then, and then in my group, the recreation group, had all UCLA boys, there was five of them that would come up, and we all took turns practicing on the piano, so we became good friends. I still, I have one friend that writes to me, tells me what's going on among the friends that was in this group, how some survived and some went on. We lost a lot of these friends, but one of 'em writes to me and tells me what's going on, they have historical, they're going in L.A., and then Manzanar got theirs, museum going, sent me pictures, and so I'm pretty well kept up with... yeah. And I'm very grateful that he still remembers to send information. I'm being, I thought I was being very blessed to have all these... because our boys, when they left, there was very few that was going to university. Well, in California, they were way ahead, and these young boys, after they graduated, they all got to go to UCLA, and they were really the nicest fellows, and we had lots of fun. I remember going to dance and then the sandstorm would come up and we would be covered with sand. [Laughs] Oh, my, but, and then they had ball games and just, toward the end, everything worked out fine.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: It was getting hard to leave because we had a friend that lived on the other, you know, we faced from east to west of the barracks, the entry, and so this man was from Bainbridge and they had a wonderful greenhouse right on the, as you left Lynwood Center. And so he knew how to make lawns and raise flowers, and pretty soon, we had a beautiful lawn between the two barracks, flowers blooming. Towards the end, it was, it was a lovely camp, compared to Minidoka. Then they sent us to Minidoka, and it was in February, and it was muddy, and oh... and everybody had to wear those clogs, you know, the shoes. It was so different from camp in Manzanar.

JN: What do you remember in Minidoka? Tell us about when did you go there and what was different?

MN: Oh, in Minidoka, I still helped with the nursery. And, but Minidoka we had the privilege of leaving, visiting outside the camp. So a lot of them left the camp and went to work outside. And we had Reverend Andrews that was a Seattle Japanese minister, from Japanese Baptist Church, and my parents were member of that. And I was, we were, our girls were all member of that church, so we had the privilege of going to, into Twin Falls to be with our Reverend, Reverend Emery Andrews was his name. And he would open his home, and we would get to go to his home, and then go out to eat sometimes, got to go shopping. And then the office at Minidoka would give us permission to go ride the bus and go see them and shop and then come home, and that was wonderful to be able to get out. Then I got to go, one year, I got to go to a Baptist retreat camp, and they needed girls to work on the table. And so we got to go, through Reverend Andrews, and we got to swim in the swimming pool, in between recreation and working on... we got to do lot of things, so we were very blessed that way. But it was wonderful that Reverend Andrews was there, so I don't know how many times we got to leave camp and go. And then we used to have church service, so did Manzanar camp, we used to have church services.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: And then, in Minidoka camp, got to the point where we could, little by little, everybody was leaving. Lot of 'em went to Chicago and lot of 'em went to cannery to work in Utah, Ogden, Utah. And so I had a chance of working out on the farm with, oh, there was how many of us that went? Six of us or something, couple boys and rest of us girls. My, but that was hard work. We had to, we went, got to go to a Pocatello farm to pick potatoes and sugar beets. [Laughs] We never worked so hard -- we had to pick the potatoes in the hot sun and put these potato in 50-pound sacks or something. Oh, we had to drag them, fill them up, and we worked anyway. And then towards the end, we had, topping beets, sugar beets. And that was a lot of work. We had to top it, and then we had to load it onto the truck, and we never had, you know, on the strawberry farm, we never worked that hard. And sugar beets we had to top it, throw it onto the truck that came to pick it up. Oh, I don't know how we did it, but we had to. We went to earn money so that we could get out of camp and get some clothes to go home in, and the fall was coming. And so I remember by working those two jobs, picking spuds and working in a sugar, topping beets, we were able to make enough money to make clothes to get out of camp, so that we could either go to Colorado or somewhere to find jobs. And so I had a sister living in Denver, so I was able to -- oh, she had a baby, the first child, grand-, my parents' son, so I got to get clothes in Pocatello, get, you know, all ready to go to them for... [laughs]. And so, you know, and so we were dressed nicely, so I got to go my sister's to help out. I went to Denver several times. One time I had to work in a carpet factory, they were mending those Oriental rugs, you, one by one tie, and that was another nasty job.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: And then one time I did housework again, then it was time for me to come back to camp 'cause my parents were able to go back home. They said that they were able to go back, so I was the one that decided, well, I wasn't married, I was single, and so I told 'em, oh, and I wanted to go home and see the Sound, and get a ride on the ferry boat and see the mountains. And I said, "Oh, I gotta go home, I'll take the parents home." So I took the parents home and came home. It was really wonderful. And then, oh, one day, before I came home, my, we knew that Dad was gonna be released one day, but we didn't know when. And so in order to come home, we had to get parents, and Dad wasn't home, Mom and I, and so I went into Twin Falls, got permission to do some shopping, we needed clothes, summer kind of clothes, 'cause it was before September that we were gonna be able to go home. And so Reverend Andrews gave, told me to come in again, so I got a permission to go and I went and done some shoppings, buy things that I needed as soon as we got home. So on the way home... another crying... and on the way home, at the bus stop, here was my dad, waiting. [Cries] He was coming home from (New) Mexico, coming to Hunt, Idaho, and I got to see my father. We hugged and Grandpa came, a pretty straw hat on, and that was one of the greatest moments during all that evacuation time, my father and I got to come home together on the bus, I brought him home. Because I had the permission and all, it was easy to go through. He was able to come home directly with me to our camp in '44. That was one of the... you know, it was so great to... yeah, it was the answer to our prayers, that Dad got to come home. Yeah, to this day, when I talk about it, I still cry. That was the greatest gift, he was released and able to come home.

And when we got home, people were so happy to see us, but the dogs were gone. And oh, and the dogs were from Frank Kitamoto's mother and father's dog, two puppies they gave us, and we named them Teddy and... what was it? Teddy... Teddy... I can't think of his name. I had it all this time. [Laughs] [Interruption] Teddy and Minnie was our doggies' name. The kitties, they were all gone when we came home, even the cats were gone. But it was so sad leaving them and then come home and find them gone. But it was so good to be home, and got to see our friends. Then when I came home, the next door neighbor, that was Norwegian family, their name was Johnsons, they were gone. And the new neighbors had lived in there, and then I got to know them. They were from North Dakota, living in the next-door house. Got to be friends with them. But the renters were still there.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: From Seattle immigration station, they were sent up to Bismarck, North Dakota, and then I forgot how long they stayed. And from there, they were sent down to New Mexico, Mexico, I think that was Santa Fe, (New) Mexico.

JN: So the whole time that you were in Manzanar and Minidoka, he was in...

MN: Yeah, I forgot how long they kept him up in North Dakota, and then towards the end they were sent to (New) Mexico. But we were able to write at least once a month, but our letters were always censored. And then we always had to write to, I think it was Washington, D.C., asking for the permission to let them free them, 'cause they didn't do anything that was wrong against the country. And we had to prove that the dynamites were to clear the land. So I don't know how many times we wrote letters to, asking to free our father. But it was like my dad played that Japanese game, go, so that kept him really secured, I think, 'cause the friends that he made, they all played, too, and so each day... and then they polished, my dad polished rocks, and so I've got several of those, so I let Greg have it, I said, "This is from Grandpa." And polished, and so I let him have it.

JN: So did, how did you hear that he was coming home? Was it from...

MN: No. That's the whole thing, they never let us know that he was coming home. But they, little by little, they were, people were being sent back to camp. But they never notified us that he was coming home on such and such a day or nothing. I happened to be in Twin Falls, and by God's blessing, he was right there. And I'm coming home, and I'm waiting for the bus and there is my dad standing right there. It was the most blessed day. And he looked so nice, he had on this straw hat, you know, and so because I was with him, he didn't have to wait at the gate for, to be cleared and all. It was very easy for him, for me to bring him home, so he got to come home that day.

JN: What was it like when your Mom saw him?

MN: Yeah, no one knew he was coming, you know. We knew someday that they were gonna, because they were being released little by little. Yeah, that was the biggest moment. Yeah, really, God answered our prayers for us, 'cause we were all praying that Dad would be released.


JN: We haven't really gotten, we kind of understand, but we haven't really expressed how, why we think, why we think that so many men got picked up by the FBI. Why were they suspicious of your father and the other men on the island?

MN: Like, my father was very active in community, you know, Japanese community. And so, and aside from the dynamite, I really don't know, either, why... I think they were scared, maybe the outsiders might have been, 'cause we were, you know, the shipyard, and then what else? The one by Poulsbo, huh, the Bremerton shipyard, I think, and then I think even the shipyard over here, they might have been. Because I remember I came, when I came home, all the places on the dock, where we were, got on the boat, was all gone. And I mean, the waiting room part was left, but the walkway to the, it was all gone. So one day, I thought, "Oh, that's strange." We had one in Hawley, we had one in... what's that one? Point White -- not Point White -- Wing Point, and they were gone, the bridge part. And so one day, I asked my friend, I said, "How come?" They were scared that the Japanese submarine or the... coming, and they would be bombed, and that bridge part was gone. Not only Point... it was Point White onto, I don't remember. I know... we'd drive, ride down on the ferry and go by it, and here just it would be the waiting room part left. Wing Point, Hawley, I think Eagledale, too. So I did ask, and she said they were scared that a submarine or something would, that Japan would come and bomb them. So, so I guess the government was scared of the Japanese, I think. I don't know whether that's the right thing to say, but the way I understood, they were really scared.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

JN: Okay, we'll jump back to Minidoka, or Manzanar. You, it seemed like you had a fun life with the young men and women that lived there, or that were there. Did you find that the men were, like, leaving or disappearing to, to go in the army, or how did it feel, did lots of men leave and did they come back, or how did you know?

MN: My friend, he went, was in the one in Minnesota, you know, where all the... what was that called? Where all the, maybe the educated boys were taken... what was that called? Fort Snelling, in Minnesota? And then they trained the boys to...

JN: Intelligence?

MN: Yeah, intelligence, uh-huh. 'Cause these boys were all university-goers, and so I know, especially, I know a lot of 'em were, towards the end, after we left the camp, were in the army, lot of 'em went to Japan as interpreters.

JN: Do you know of men that went to, went into the army, and did any not come back during the time?

MN: No, like my brother-in-law, and this friend of mine, Joe, they all came back from... I don't know of anyone among, even my cousin, he came back. I really don't know -- oh, my brother-in-law was killed, he was with the 442nd.

JN: What do you remember about when they sent out that patriot... where you had to declare whether, you know, whether you wanted to be a... [shuffling papers], when you had to declare how, if you were a patriot or not? Remember that survey that the government gave all the families, and what do you remember and how did that, how did you feel about that and what kind of reaction did people have in that?

MN: You know, like in our case was girls, so I guess we didn't talk about it, or... and just, just very few men that I knew were very much against, but that's about it. We never talked among us, you know. I know in camp they had some fights over it, but it was kind of more like a hush-hush kind of thing. We didn't hear people talk about it much. Maybe we all being girls in the family, if we had maybe boys or something, it might have been different, talking about things like that.

JN: Did you see any of your friends leave to go into the military?

MN: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

JN: How did you feel about that?

MN: Oh, we were so happy that they were gonna serve for our country, and we used to go and bid them farewell. Never regretted or anything. We gave them a good sendoff. It was for our country, so...

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

JN: Okay, so after the war, what did your family do after the war? What was it like coming back to Bainbridge? You came, did, was it just you that brought your parents home?

MN: Uh-huh.

JN: And what was it like with your friends and the people here?

MN: They were real friendly and good, and wanted to help. And then we had a nurse that, a couple houses north of us, she was a wonderful nurse at Winslow Clinic, and we became friends. She helped us a lot, by finding someone that, reliable person to come and help us fix the windows or broken doors or whatever that needed fixing, she used to let us have him come and help us, his name was Mr. Leighman, and the nurse was Sally Altman. And to they were very good about looking after us, she especially was helpful.

And our neighbors were all willing, happy that we came back. That time we came home it was September, and it was, it was dry summer, they said, and on, the strawberries are all wilted. The dirt, the soil was just like sand, just really, oh, it was sad. Everything was wilted, I remember. And we had to start all over again, and I still wonder how did we ever, you know, with Mom and Dad, how did we ever get going, I always wonder. But we did. We had a horse, but I don't know what happened to the horse. I never... so really, I, we had to start all over again. And we had this nice field that we cleared, Grandpa cleared and -- I always call him "Grandpa" but it's my dad. [Laughs] And cleared, and then we had beautiful strawberries. We worked hard on it again, and I sometimes wonder how did we ever get started, get going? But we did. 'Cause I don't think the horse was there when we came home. We had to use cultivator and things like that to get it going. Isn't that something? But we managed. [Laughs]

JN: So was your house empty or did somebody live there while you were gone?

MN: Oh, we had the Filipino living, but they were so busy at the shipyard, Bremerton shipyard, that they didn't have time to clean house. When we came home, our floor was just about an inch of dirt. Just trying to get that out was really work. Oh, I think we almost had to use shovel to get it out, it was just covered with dirt. Because I guess they needed all the help they could get at the shipyard, so they just let the farm go, and then continue on with their work. So we had a rough time, after we got home, getting ready for winter, cleaning and scrubbing, windows were falling apart and things. [Laughs] But this nurse was a very big help for us.

JN: Did you feel, when you got home, aside from the nurse and the nice neighbors you had, that the people on the island felt differently?

MN: Well, I heard there was people that was against us coming home, and I was going to our church in Rollingbay, Presbyterian, and one person told me that even their member, some were against, you know, us coming back. But as a whole, everyone was just so grateful that we were able to come home. Out of that, very few were still against us coming home. And then when I came home, my new neighbor -- the Warrens -- and she and I used to walk to go to church and all. And we went to Alliance church for a while, 'cause that's where they took care of our things. And then when we came home, they brought everything back, and it was in wonderful condition, and so we were able to get started again. But I remember we walked, again. And then after that, we got a car. And Grandpa, my Dad, that is, got his license, and drove, and then I learned how to drive, and so we were able to get around.

But it was hard getting started, farm, but they were so good, Mom and Pop, they just worked hard. And I remember lot of things my folks forgot, and I didn't know much about, you know, 'cause I just had graduated and gone. So I had these young boys that were back on the farm, they came and helped me get started, the Suyematsus, the Chiharas and Sakumas, you know, they all came and helped me, 'cause I didn't know much about it, either. [Laughs] We got it going.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

JN: So, can you tell us a little bit about what your farm life was like before you, before Pearl Harbor and what you did on the farm and how, what life was like?

MN: Oh. We were doing really well, us girls, four of us and Mom and Dad. We worked hard, but we had it going, we had five acres and then my dad cleared another three acres, down below, with that dynamite we had, and we used to all, wintertime, we had to use the dynamite to get the stumps out. And so us girls would, Dad would do and then we would go down and help him clear, you know, get all the barks and stumps and, and then we had a horse, so the horse would, we used the horse to get the stumps out and pile it up on the edge of the field and things like that. And that farm that Grandpa -- my father, I always say "Grandpa" -- 'cause I always told them "Grandpa," so... anyway, we had a beautiful strawberry field, after we cleared the bottom field. Just gorgeous. And we really worked hard, and it was through the horse and the dynamite. And then us gals helping, we all worked after school, and cleared the land. And then the other land that we had cult-, was already cleared. I don't remember ever, you know, but anyway, we had that 5 acres then. And so us girls and Dad would get sick during the, you know, beautiful strawberries, and then during June, Grandpa -- my dad -- would always have asthma. So us, the girls, the four of us and Mother would have to hoe, and do all of the work that Dad and we all used to do. Well, towards the end, we had to do, the girls and my mother, and we got it going good. And then when we cultivated, I think Grandpa was able to still do that, we were raising the berries.

JN: Did you get help with picking the berries, and what did you do with all the berries?

MN: Oh yes, we had pickers come. We had to go, we used to get pickers from Canada, I think, Canadian Indians used to come pick, and then we had place on the bottom fixed for tents to, they lived in tents, and then I remember we had some, we had a little, we had that Japanese bathroom, and there was another room behind there. That, so we had some living, Indians living in there'd come to pick berries for us. And we had a, between the girls and us, we had it going pretty good. So it was alright, and then we helped get that other part ready, and it worked out just fine.

But during the time when we had to harvest, my dad used to get asthma. And so the four girls would have to... my youngest sister and the oldest sister would, we used to have the pickers pick and then crate, crate 'em and then take it to the cannery and put it on the pick-up we had, the girls would take it, take it to the cannery. And that's how we continued the summer because Dad couldn't help during the summer berry-picking time.

And then we hoed, and then, and then after the fall, then my other sister would go, the, see, there was four girls, and my oldest sister stayed and then Kay, the second one, would go to work. And I think I was still going to school and Iku was going to school, so Kay would go to work during the winter in Seattle, do housework, and then helped that way for the winter. And that's how we survived.

JN: And after the war, the strawberry fields weren't really being taken care of, then? You had to start over from...

MN: Uh-huh, we had to start all over again. Oh, and then we had Filipinos helping, so that was a big help. Hoeing... but my oldest sister always stayed on the farm. I remember 'til October we would work in the strawberry fields, and then take it easy winter, and then start all over again. And we had to keep going, and Dad would cultivate. And after we came home, we, I think, concentrated more on that new field that Dad had cleared.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

JN: Can you remember, tell us a little bit about your father, because he came from a family that were not farmers, and how, and maybe a little of his struggles when he got here to, 'cause he couldn't go in, he was, if he was limited in what he could do?

MN: I remember Dad, you know, he was gonna go back, go back home and go back to school again, but he already had two girls and another one coming. And then they were farming on another part of the, on the other side of High School Road, between Sportman's Club, house, there was, we had, lived there for a while, we had a strawberry farm going there. And Dad and Mom never, they didn't know a single thing about farming. They had to start all over again, they never had touched the soil in their life, and they had a very good friend that lived on the corner of Wyatt and Finch Road, and he decided that since Mama was teaching school in Seattle, Japanese school, and Dad was working, but they knew that they had to get going on something in order to support the family. And so the friend told him, "Come and we'll get," you know, this Mr. Sakuma had them started and they said they'll help. So they helped them get started on the strawberry farm, and that's how they got going. And it was really rough.

I remember when we were, I remember I was about six years old, since Dad never went back to Japan, the father had sent his, one of the brothers to come and check on Father to see how he was doing. So he came through Europe and came to Bainbridge, and he knew how much Grandpa was... and at that time he already had three girls already, and then the fourth one coming, and so there was no way that Grandpa could leave. They decided that they were gonna stay and farm. And that's how he got started, not knowing a thing, but never touched the soil in his life, Mom never did either.

But my mother, her father was in the, way up in the army, and so they had, well, she was, she went, got to go to school, both of them went to university. And so Mother was a school teacher, and she taught school in Japan already. But her parents was very wise, and they had a maid already at that time. And so on the weekends, whenever the maid had taken the day off, my mother and the sisters, they had to do the housework in Japan. So they knew how to cook, they knew how to scrub the floors and tend to all these housework things, so Mother was prepared. So she, when she came back and she had to go on the farm, she just about knew how to go about doing housework, so that's how she survived. And then father had to learn all over. And by their friends, they were able to... another family that really helped him was the Suyematsus. They would help, give them money to get fertilizer, plants, and then that year the berries came, then they would pay off with that and get going. And people all helped one another getting started, planting and things like that, and that's how they survived. Without their help, I couldn't have managed, which they were very grateful that they have wonderful friends who took care of them.

JN: Did your parents ever express regret that they left Japan, or did they ever make you, make you feel that they really, this was too hard of a life for them?

MN: No. They decided now that the family came, they're having a family, they decided that they're gonna be American citizens and they're gonna start a new life here, so that's when they got started. In fact, after they came home, we never said "okaasan" or "otousan," we got to say "Papa" and "Mama" in English. And they sent us to Sunday school, and made friends. So they were, and then after they got back from war, they decided they're gonna apply for American citizenship, so they both became Americans, they passed the exam. I remember them going to Seattle to take the test. I don't know how they did it, but they did it, they became American citizens. They were so proud.

And so they, and then, we had missionaries. You know, you think missionaries from Seattle sounded strange, but they called from Japanese Baptist Church. We were taught missionaries went far away, but they had this Japanese-speaking woman missionary that came to take care of the Japanese on the island, and so she came and spoke to them in Japanese. And I remember she's driving a car, coming across on the ferry, coming to our home to visit and talk to Mom and Pop. And so they, Grandpa and Grandma joined the Seattle Japanese Baptist Church. Through that we were able... so we became member of the Japanese Baptist Church, we were baptized there. And so when we got into trouble with strawberry picking and all, our reverend in Seattle, Reverend Andrews, would bring truckloads, a busload of kids to help us, come and pick berries and get us out of the mess we were in. So our grandma was happy that they became American citizens.

JN: Tell us a little bit about why, why they couldn't become American citizens before, before the war. There was a, there was a law that said that unless they were American citizens, they couldn't, they couldn't own property. So how did they buy their property?

MN: Dad had a, our neighbor had a son that was American citizen, twenty-one, you had to be twenty-one, I think it was, in order to buy. And so he bought the land in his name, and that's how we survived. And then when my sister, oldest sister got to be twenty-one, then she was, he transferred it to her name, and that's how we got the land. So, our friend's son that took over...

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

MN: Today, how do you feel about what happened to you and your family during World War II, and how do you feel about what's happening with our, the memorial that's coming up? What are your feelings about just looking back?

MN: Well, like my father said, we're American citizens, and they, when they, you know, that they'll abide by whatever they had to do. And taught us that we're, you know, to do the best we can and serve our country. That's how we...

JN: Do you feel that your experience -- how did it, how did it shape how you lived the rest of your life?

MN: And the one thing I am very thankful is I never regretted that we had to go to camp. I know some people did, but I never... you know, I knew it was, my father always told us it was for our protection, and to abide by the law, and so we never felt, so we knew we were protected, and we knew that was how they wanted us to do, so never fought back, and never felt very bad about that. It was for our protection, we were taught that. So that was the time that, for our safety, we were sent to this camp. So never had a grudge against... I know some felt very bad, but we never did. We did what we were supposed to do, abide by the law. And then this, I think it's wonderful that we're gonna be remembered, that they have... there's a quite a few already that's gone ahead of us, that's already, or have started this memorial for us. I think that's great, and there, everybody is for it, so I think that's wonderful.

JN: We haven't really talked about your, your adult life after the war. Do you feel that your experiences during the war shaped how you raised your children and how you lived your life afterwards? Or if it would it have been any, if it would have been different if you had not experienced that time?

MN: That's a hard question, isn't it? [Laughs] No, I think we would have just continued right on. And then I was always raised, my faith was in Christianity, so, and my friends, Caucasian friends were church-goers, and we were member of the Japanese Baptist Church at that time. And so we were really, and then the church on the island helped us through. So we were very thankful that we had wonderful friends that looked after us and cared for us. So no, I never, you know, 'til this day. Christianity means so much to me, helping one another and serving. So like yesterday, I was at a retreat camp, and I just had a wonderful time, we're treated just like they are, no regrets. So we live in a wonderful world.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

JN: What would you like to say to the visitors that come to the memorial? What kind of message would you like everybody to get from the memorial?

MN: Well, I say thank you. It was rough, but it turned out to be a beautiful memorial, and I think everyone feels... I don't think no one is against or anything like that, they're very grateful that we're gonna be honored and remembered, and how it'll never happen again.

JN: Okay. Why do you think it's important that we build this memorial?

MN: Well, I think because we went through so much, and yet we're able to come back and become American citizens, be one of us again, and so many served for the country, too. And to be honored, it's, really grateful for. Because of the love and faith of our country, it's wonderful that we'll be honored.

JN: Do you have anything else you want to share from, anything that I might have missed? About just from, you know, your early years to anything at all?

MN: I just love this part of the Northwest, and I just had to come home. And here I am, and I'm so thankful to enjoy this beautiful land of ours.

JN: Because all of your sisters went, Elsie went to...

MN: Denver.

JN: Denver.

MN: Yeah. And Kay was in Montana but she was able to come back to Seattle. And then my youngest sister, she lived in California, but she's gonna come, she lives, is gonna come in March to be in Spokane, Washington, so she'll be a Washingtonian, too, she'll be back.

JN: Why, why do you think they all want to come back?

MN: Because they, you know, love this country, Pacific Northwest, and then to be near to the family, that's so important. So we could all be close to one another again like before.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.