Densho Digital Archive
Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection
Title: Mits Koshiyama Interview
Narrator: Mits Koshiyama
Interviewers: Chizu Omori (primary), Emiko Omori (secondary)
Location: San Jose, California
Date: October 2, 1992
Densho ID: denshovh-kmits-02-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

EO: So we're getting toward the assembly centers. When you knew you had to pack and go, what did you decide to bring or leave?

MK: Well, to tell you the truth, we didn't have too much because we were very poor farmers. And we gathered what we thought was valuable and our clothes and the funniest thing was that my brother and I, we were very interested in sports, so first thing we thought of bringing was all our sports stuff, you know, like baseball mitts, and basketball, and tennis shoes, and stuff like that. We didn't have any fancy clothes, so regular school clothes was our, was our regular clothes, so I think everybody was in the same, same boat. And when we went to Santa Anita, we were just awed that there were so many Japanese Americans, you know, over there, and that we just said, "Gee, this is Los Angeles. First time we've been in Los Angeles, and here we are in this racetrack, Santa Anita racetrack, and we're just kind of confused and dumbfounded, I guess, would be the right answer. We just didn't know what was going to happen. We did our best to make ourselves as comfortable as possible in Santa Anita. Of course, we had, all our friends were there, too, so... I, certain people used to get together and talk and try to make the best of the situation. And pretty soon we got work orders to work on a camouflage net, make camouflage nets for the, I think for the military, so we went there and we tried our best to cooperate.


Well, Santa Anita was a very large assembly center. And a lot of people, lot of families lived in the horse stables and they also had barracks there. Our family, we lived in horse stables. And if I remember correctly, all those, around the horse stables they had all these famous horse names, like Seabiscuit Lane, or something like that. I still remember that. A bunch of us young people used to get together and we'd say, "Hey, let's go down to the fence way out there and see what we can see." So we walked all the way down there to the end of the assembly center and looked out and we could see the streets and all the cars and we could see that, the town of, I think it was named Arcadia. And that, well, naturally it was sort of funny because we were here in this assembly center and right across the fence it was, life was, life as usual was going on, you know. We said, "Gee, we'd sure like to be out there, free people, you know." But we realized what the situation was and more or less we just... let's put it this way: we did the best we could. They were trying times, but we did the best we could. Our folks were, didn't say too much. I couldn't say what they were thinking or anything because they would associate with other Issei and talk, and I, for one, never heard anything about the Issei chanting, chanting pro-Japan slogans or anything, no. They realized the children were pro-Americans and they accepted our way of thinking and our way of life.

Then from Santa Anita I became eighteen and I registered for the draft in Santa Anita. Then we got notice that people from Santa Clara valley were going to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Naturally, I wondered what kind of place Wyoming was. People from California never realized what another, especially in a state in the Rocky Mountain area, how harsh the climate was, so, especially Los Angeles people who were used to warm weather, when we went to Heart Mountain, they were surprised at how cold it was. I think it was one of the coldest winters in Wyoming history when we went there. We were really out of our environment, so to say. And I think the Californians really suffered there. And all I could think of was, gee, someday, I sure miss Santa Clara valley, and someday I'm going to go back. That's all I could think of. I said, this Wyoming, no, this cowboy and Indian stuff is not for me.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.