Densho Digital Archive
Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection
Title: Shosuke Sasaki Interview
Narrator: Shosuke Sasaki
Interviewers: Chizu Omori (primary), Emiko Omori (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: September 28, 1992
Densho ID: denshovh-sshosuke-02-0007

<Begin Segment 7>

CO: So, tell us about the assembly center and then Minidoka.

SS: Well, the assembly center was the worst, was worse than Minidoka. Minidoka was, was better. The assembly center was really crudely constructed. They had no provision for, in that wet climate, you know what the Seattle climate is like. And after tearing up the ground and everything to construct those barracks, well, the ground was nothing but plain mud. And after rain you just walked through a sea of mud. That's what it was when we first went there. And the food that we got was, for the first several days, for the first week or so, all we got was starch. I think for breakfast we had white bread and also at that time we got, we had no butter and no milk. We had white bread for breakfast, and I guess we had noodles for lunch, and maybe potatoes for dinner. Or something like that. It was totally without any protein. And in order to get milk, you had to have a doctor's certificate saying that you had to have milk. Oh yes, they told us that we weren't supposed to, we were supposed to keep five feet away from the fences, which were barbed wire. And I was in Area, Area A; across the street was Area B. And one night some people, they heard a rifle shot. And it wasn't in our, our... but the next day we found out what had happened. A cow had wandered too near the fence and the guard from the guard tower thought it was a Japanese trying to escape, so he shot the cow.


SS: Well, in, in going to the camp, one of the things I did -- which I don't know if anyone else did the same thing -- I expected to be in a barbed wire enclosure, and it turned out to be that way. But the thing that worried me was how they would treat us there. And I wanted to be able to get out of camp if necessary, if treatment was as bad as it might have been. And so as we left home, I remember one of the last thing I grabbed out of the toolbox was a pair of wire cutters, put it in my pocket and went. And I had occasion to use those wire cutters only once. When, after the, in Minidoka, they had bits of insulation, Celotex, bits of it, piled up in a pile on the other side of the barbed wire fence that they had us in, you see. And I wanted to go and get those pieces of Celotex to insulate a part of the barrack, the quarters that they had us in. Well, I thought, well, the best thing to do is to get out there and bring that inside the wire. Well, I tried crawling through that barbed wire and I got caught on it once or twice and I said, "Well, the heck with it," and I took the pliers out and I snapped it. Well, that was an unexpected surprise. All that barbed wire was taut, and so when I snapped it, then the thing goes, "boing," like that -- [laughs] -- loud sound. And I thought, "Oh my gosh," and the first thing I did was to go flat on my stomach so they couldn't see me because of the sagebrush. And I thought someone might show up, so I lay there for a while, and nobody seemed to notice, so I got up and went through the barbed wire fence, this time with considerable ease, and brought most of that inside the wire, which I could take back to my apartment. Well, that was the first, that was the only time I ever used that barbed wire -- that clipper.

And the other time that I broke one of the regulations was that winter. My, they were feeding us mutton as protein. My mother couldn't eat it. Many Japanese couldn't. They wouldn't eat. The smell of it just nauseated them. So I decided, "Well, gee, if my mother's not going to eat any protein, she might not be able to survive this." So I remember one day after, after lunch, I got out an old flour sack and put it in my pocket. I had also heard the preceding day that the guard at one of the gates across the irrigation ditch that served as a moat on one side of the camp, that because of the extremely cold weather, the guard was no longer there, you see. So I thought I'd better take advantage of that, so I just took the flour sack with me and walked about four miles from camp to the nearest town or village, through the sagebrush and the snow on the ground, and I loaded up with all the canned tuna and canned salmon that I could get and came back with it. That, I also made it a point to get back before 5 o'clock because they took a body count at that time, every day in the evening. So as long as I wasn't missed at lunch and as long as they didn't miss me at the body count, nobody knew. But I would say that's about, about the only two times that I violated the rules.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.