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

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

<Begin Segment 1>

CO: So, tell us about when you were born and what your growing up was like.

MK: I was born August 7, 1924, in the city of Mountain View, California. I was a second son, and our family consisted of my father, my mother, four boys and three girls. We lived in Mountain View for a while and then we moved to various parts of Santa Clara valley because the only thing we could do was farm, and that, we couldn't buy land so we were, had to lease land so we were what you call tenant farmers. And I don't know how many times we moved but it was usually in some Japanese community where there were a lot of farmers. And I went to school, started school in Santa Clara. Then later on I moved to, our family moved to Cupertino, California, where we farmed. I went to grammar school in Cupertino grammar school. And then I went to Fremont High School in Sunnyvale. I was a senior when the war broke out, and from there I was evacuated to Santa Anita Assembly Center and then to Heart Mountain, Wyoming.

EO: So what was it like growing up in this area before the war?

MK: Well, when I was growing up there were really tough economic times and I would say most, most of the Japanese Americans living -- Japanese Issei and the Japanese Americans living in the Santa Clara valley, were having a hard time making a living. And just prior to the war, when the children were already high school age and growing up, I think that the farmers and the families were in, in better position as far as living conditions and everything. And a lot of the kids, some of the kids were able to go to college and things like that. Things were starting, just starting to pick up, let's put it that way. And I think that the war really hurt the Japanese Americans in the Santa Clara valley because of that.

EO: Did you go to Japanese school?

MK: Yes, I did go to Japanese school. I went to Japanese school in Santa Clara, then at high school age I went to Japanese school in Mountain View. And some people might say that going to Japanese school makes you pro-Japan, but it's not true. We, as children, were really pro-American and we didn't want to go to Japanese school, but our parents insisted that we get a little bit of education. And my folks promised that if I went one or two years, that would be enough, so I, I was agreeable to that, and that's the reason I went. I, I found the Japanese language very difficult, and I won't say I hated it , but I had a great dislike for it. And I, all my life when I was growing up, I used to wonder why my parents used to eat rice all the time and not bread, and that they used chopsticks, you know. I felt myself that was kind of alien. But when I grew up later in life, I said that's the way they were brought up so they didn't know anything else. And it took me a little while to realize, you know, that I was being very small-minded about that. But I would say that the, the kids I went to school with in Japanese school would talk just like I did. They didn't want to go either, but they went for the same reasons and we were never... some people might say that we were, since we went to Japanese school that we're pro-Japan, but that's not true. We're 100 percent American, even more so than most Americans.

EO: None of your, you or your brothers and sisters were sent to Japan? There were no Kibei in your family?

MK: No. No one in our family ever went back to Japan. My folks were from Japan and we were having a hard time making a living. And they never thought of ever going back to Japan. And they realized the kids were growing up Americans and they accepted it.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

CO: Okay, so we get to what happened in... do you remember Pearl Harbor day?

MK: Yes, I remember Pearl Harbor day very well. It was a Sunday. And my sister and I were doing some chores. And when the radio said that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, well, we were, we were really shocked, and you know, and we looked at each other and said -- my older sister, that is -- and we said, "Gee, I wonder what's going to happen now." You know, we just didn't know. We were, we suffered a lot of discrimination even before Pearl Harbor, so we feared that we might suffer some discrimination, which I thought was only natural at the time. And that I kind of felt sorry for -- well, not sorry -- but sympathy for all my friends that were going to school and I, who were going to school at the same time, that our school had a very hostile reaction toward us. And that when I went to high school after the war, well, people used to come and pick on me and every day was just a battle of defending myself. They used to call me "Jap" or "Chinaman" or "go back to where you came from" and stuff like that, you know. It wasn't very good, so with that kind of pressure, I was forced to quit high school without graduating that year, and I worked on a few farms before we were evacuated. But I can safely say that when I was going to school, my high school, that no teacher ever stuck up for me or the principal never said to the students that we were good Americans or anything. We were just, what do you call, unfortunate, we were caught in that situation. I still remember I wasn't very happy with it.


EO: Since you were American, do you feel... and you say you had been discriminated against, but did you feel when Pearl Harbor happened that somehow you were going to be held responsible or did you feel guilt, or... I mean, your first response?

MK: Yes, when I, when I heard that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, because of the discrimination our family had before the bombing, I kind of felt that there were going to be racial tension because when my father took the kids down to the city of Sunnyvale, people used to yell at us, "Go on home, you Japs," and stuff like that, you know. And my sister really resented that. It really hurt her. To me it was just those, those people are, just don't know what they're talking about. I felt that I was American and probably... I never thought that I was going to be evacuated but I thought that, that we might have some problems.

CO: Your father was not rounded up?

MK: No, my father never, never belonged to any organization or anything. We used to belong to this Mountain View Methodist Church and we used to go every Sunday and everything and that was a place that, we felt accepted, you know, the Japanese Methodist Church. And my father, no, he never was, belonged to any organization.

CO: So, tell us about the assembly center.

MK: Well when we, the first thing I knew about the evacuation was we had meetings at the Japanese school in Mountain View. You see, the, all the community, even though we didn't live in Santa-, in Mountain View, all the communities around that area went to this central place to hear the older Nisei tell us what's going to happen. And when I went there with my brother, who found out that there was a possibility of the evacuation and all that, we already knew that curfew and everything like that because the signs were posted on the telephone post near our place. And when they start talking about the evacuation, our community was very pro-American and they said, "Well, instead of going to camps and being evacuated to the camps, we'll, we'll go a place like Utah and have our own community over there." That was first thought of by the older people, older Nisei. But I think two or three of them went to Utah that winter and saw how much the snow and all that harsh climate over there and said, "You people can't realize, it's almost impossible to relocate over there yourself," so say, well, that was the advice they said, that we'll do what the government suggests.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 4>

EO: So what did you do in Heart Mountain?

MK: Well, in Heart Mountain, I did various jobs. Some of my friends got me a job as, hauling the ashes out of the mess halls out to the open fields and dumping them. And I think at one time in the winter, in the fall I think it was, there was a call out for the farmers in that general area, needed help real badly or they would lose the crops. So we, a bunch of us young people said, "Hey, those poor farmers out there, they're going to suffer if we don't help them," so we said, "Well, we'll go out there and help 'em with the potatoes and sugar beets, so we did. So my actual time in, in the camp was... I don't know, spent between working in the camp and helping out in the, the farm when there were, the farmers were distressed.

The funniest thing about Heart Mountain was that the town of Cody and Powell, I think those two closest towns, they were very anti-Japanese at that time. And that they would say, "No Japs allowed," put up signs in the towns: "No Japs Allowed," and stuff like that, you know. Very racial, but when the town needed help to harvest their sugar beets and potatoes and stuff like that... they asked the camp authorities to have the evacuees help, help them. And then now they come out and said, "Oh, we're Japanese, we're not Japs, dirty Japs no more," because they needed the help. So I think the evacuees did a tremendous job of going out there and helping them harvest their crops. But after the crops were finished, again, the poor evacuees were labeled "Japs" again, they don't want 'em because they thought, you know, that season was over. But the funniest thing, next year came around again, and when they needed the help, we were again, again Japanese, we weren't Japs no more. And, but the people in Heart Mountain, I think very kind people, and they went out and helped them again. And that kind of stemmed the hostility toward us. We were never accepted there but I think that the signs of "No Japs Wanted" and things like that were less and less because the people went out there and helped them.

EO: Did you go out every day?

MK: I don't know how the people were treated, you know. I think that mostly they went out and lived, lived in the farm. They had quarters there or something like that. Because they went out in small groups, because the farms were small. And they did the best they could. Most of 'em were... I think that most of the Los Angeles people were from the city and never did farm work but they went out there and helped out. And I would say that the state of Wyoming, they were very anti-Japanese, you know, from the politicians down to the governor of the state. They were worried that once the Japanese Americans got established in Wyoming that we'll stay there permanently. But I can assure you that there wasn't one in Heart Mountain that wanted to stay in Wyoming unless they had to. Their aim was to either come back to California or some went to areas like Chicago and New York and places like that. But I don't think anybody wanted to stay in Wyoming.


CO: Do you, do you recall the atmosphere in Heart Mountain? How did the camp, how did the people get along there?

MK: Well, I think in general, people got along pretty good. Mostly from Los Angeles, Santa Clara valley, a few from San Francisco, and a few from Yakima valley. I know in sports there was a great competition between, a rivalry between the San Jose people and L.A. people. It's just, it's normal that there's a rivalry in sports, but socially and everything, people got along. But I was there in Heart Mountain, and I know that people were really questioning why we are still incarcerated in a concentration camp. It was not a happy camp, or described by our Japanese American leaders as happy camps, and stuff like that. It's not true. I was there and I know that a lot of issues, it's like a, almost like a powder keg ready to blow up because people were demanding their clarification of their citizenship rights. And that, that was a big issue. I think the people from L.A. were more, I would say, more politically conscious than people from northern California. We were very naive when it came to political process and the Constitution and things like that. We really learned in camp. But they, I would say that most outspoken people were the people from Los Angeles.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

CO: So along comes the registration, the questionnaire. Do you remember that?

MK: I remember. I went along and like the rest of my friends, signed the questionnaires. Since I was eighteen at the time, I didn't question why this or why that. I thought it's strange but, why we had to sign a loyalty oath, but I... I found out later that it was, the loyalty oath was at the urging of Japanese American leaders at that time who wanted to segregate who they thought was disloyal and the loyals. And they, our Japanese American leaders and the WRA got this idea of segregating, segregating these people by the loyalty oath. By the way, everybody says it was unconstitutional, but at that time, who were we to know what was constitutional and unconstitutional, because we were denied every constitutional right and put into concentration camps, so... I think I talked to my brother and we said, "Yeah, let's go and sign the loyalty oath." And so I went, and I signed both questions 27 and 28 with yeses. On question 27, I qualified my answer by saying, "Yes, I would be willing to serve in the United States Army but I would only do so if my constitutional rights were returned to me first and made me a free citizen." Then I felt that only then would I go and join the army. And I knew that the segregated army, I was against it but I said I'll still go if my constitutional rights are clarified and I was a free citizen again. And my family, too, was not interned in a concentration camp. And I said, "How can I fight for democracy in a free world when I'm fighting for the same thing that's denied my family and myself?" That was the issue for me.

CO: You understood that?

MK: Oh yeah. I said, gee, how can I go and fight for democracy when I'm in a, I'm in a concentration camp? My family and friends are in a concentration camp, denied every constitutional rights. And I said, how can I go? I don't think it's right. And I asked, when I went to court, I said, "Give me my rights back as American citizen and I'll be willing to go." I'm like the rest of those eighteen-year-olds; we didn't want, we didn't want to go to jail, that's the last place we wanted to go. But we were willing to stand up for our rights, and we said we're willing to suffer the consequences, we'll take it to court, and we'll see what, how it comes out. We were adamant that we should get our constitutional rights returned to us first.

And before that, we, my first, I think it was, status in the draft was, I became a 4-C, and I was, I was classified as an "enemy alien." And I thought, "Gee, why am I an enemy alien? I'm an American citizen." I just couldn't understand it, what the plan was, why I was a "enemy alien," classified an "enemy alien." And that... why does certain, how can you be an enemy alien one day and then the next day you get a 1-A and then you're a bona fide American citizen, so-called. I couldn't understand the thinking behind that. And all I could think was, "Gee, something's wrong here. I got to get my, clarification on my constitutional rights and my citizenship before I enter the army." That's what really bothered me, was: why am I treated this way? Why am I put into this camp, denied my rights and still asked to fight for the very things that were denied me?

So I think there were sixty-three of us in the first group, mostly young, and we all thought the same, and I can truly say that there was no one in our group that spoke pro-Japan or anything like that. All we talked about was getting our rights back as American citizen and we said that the government illegally put us behind, into concentration camp on false pretenses. And we never had a day in court, which Americans call, all Americans call "due process of law," which entitles all American citizens a day in court to prove their innocence. We never had that. So we said we wanted these things. We were just like any other American citizen. We thought like Americans and the old saying goes, when the colonies fought Great, England for their freedom, they said that they didn't believe in taxation without representation. And in a way, I believe that the draft case was the same. Taxation without representation. Here we didn't have a... we weren't free citizens, and yet we'll, they were trying to force us into a segregated army unit and fight for the very things that were denied us.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

EO: Tell us about the Fair Play Committee.

MK: Well, this Fair Play Committee started in Heart Mountain. It was a organized group. It originally started from a, a few people, I think. One of them was a Hawaiian, I think this man was a college graduate in Hawaii, and very educated and very understanding of the Constitution of the United States. And he went around camp talking about the Constitution. And he called himself the Fair Play Committee of One. Then the people listened to him and says, "Hey, this man really knows what he's talkin' about." You know, before that, before he went around talking like that, everybody said well, we have to cooperate, we have to accommodate the government, we have to have a positive image so we'll be accepted, things like that. In other words, we have to kowtow to the racial demands, racist demands of the government before we'll be accepted as citizens. But this man says, "No, we, we are Americans. The Constitution is supposed to defend us and that I'm talking about the rights we have under the Constitution." And then a few people joined him, then I think more and more people listened to him and, and joined up and this made the Fair Play Committee. And there were, there were many, many people. Many of 'em were over draft age, too, so...

Many of the Fair Play Committee leaders, there was a difference between the Fair Play Committee, we were the Fair Play Committee members, Fair Play Committee leaders, were seven of them. And most were over draft age and they were married and had children. So they would have never been affected by the draft. But they thought it was very wrong for the government to draft us out of a concentration camp. So they, they were fighting for a clarification of our rights. And they could have been just like anybody else, just ignored it and just act like, like most of the Japanese Americans did at the camps, was just ignore it, and... but to them it was a, really a big issue. They were ready to stick up for us, and they suffered for it.

The seven Fair Play Committee leaders were tried for conspiracy to counsel us to not go to our physical. And they were, they took their case to court, too. And they were found guilty and they were sentenced to four, four years in federal prison. But they took the case to a higher court, I think it was the 10th Court, 10th Court of Appeals, and they won their case. But they served eighteen months in a federal prison. And I think highly of them because here they didn't have to do that, but their conscience told them to, what was right and what's wrong. And Frank Emi and another person are the only remaining living members of the Fair Play Committee leaders. And Frank was married and had two children, and he probably would never have been drafted, but still his conscience told him that it was morally and legally wrong to fight, and to fight for the rights of the draftees. So I have a lot of respect for those people.

As for us, original sixty-three, we went to court, and we found the court very prejudiced. We had a lawyer named Samuel Menin from Denver, a ACLU lawyer. He tried his best, but you got to remember what, how the situation was and how the climate was at the time in Wyoming. And I believe to this day that we never had a fair trial. The judge would only listen to the reason that, from the federal prosecutor, that we just didn't go to our physical. They never took into account that our rights were taken away from us by being incarcerated in the concentration camp, and that the only thing that we were asking was the return of our rights before we went into the army.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

CO: Describe the trial. You were in jail for a while?

MK: Oh, we were in jail for ninety days, county jail, I think it was.


MK: Before our trial, while we were in camp, when the Fair Play Committee was being organized, they had meetings at the mess halls. At the beginning, WRA let them have meetings, but after the WRA found out it was about the draft issues, they forbid the Fair Play Committee from having meetings, but they still had the meetings. I remember in... I've never, I didn't go to any of the meetings, but I think, I hear that it was all about our constitutional rights and things like that. So I think that at the time, most of the people were sympathetic with the resisters, there were some pro-WRA people that just couldn't understand what we stood for and naturally were against us, and I think that when, when most of the people that were with us went to their physicals and changed their minds, well, the rumor was that so many people were getting 4-F status, you know, not passing their physicals, that even the people that were with us changed their mind and went to the physicals. And the, when more and more people went to the physicals, I think the attitude of the camp changed, and more or less the camp just turned their backs on us. They were greatly influenced by Japanese American leaders and, that we were troublemakers and things like that, and that the right thing to do was not question, not question why, why this or why that. I think that most Japanese Americans realized what the situation was and they... most of them did what their conscience told them to do. Well, my conscience told me that this is really wrong and that I should stick up for my rights. So when we were picked up and put into county jail, everybody, all the young people, we all thought the same. There was never any arguments or anything, we knew what we stood for and we were willing to take it all the way to the Supreme Court, which we did. The JACL sent Min Yasui and Joe Grant Matsuoka to Cheyenne jail where we were, to kind of persuade us to change our mind. And they said that the image of the Japanese American is going to be bad if we stood up for our rights and protest about the draft. They wanted us to blindly follow the orders of what the government did for us.


MK: We're talking about the draft issue. I think, I think a lot of people were watching the, how our case was going. And a lot of 'em were fence sitters, fence sitters, you know. They, if we, if we won our case, they would have gone along with us, but if we lost our case they were going to go for their physical. They had that choice, see. But since we were the early ones, we didn't have a choice. I wouldn't want a choice, anyway, because my mind was already made up. When we went to trial, I mentioned before, the JACL people from Denver came and tried to change our minds, but nobody would listen to 'em because our minds are made up already. We always thought that good constitutional rights should prevail over a good image and that's the way that a lot of Japanese Americans still think. That instead of fighting for your rights, you should present a good image. If you present a good image, you'll be accepted. But I think that's wrong.

And when our trial started, I believe that our judge's name was T. Blake Kennedy, and I really think that he was very prejudiced then. There was one humorous incident that happened during our court case when the federal prosecutor was rocking on his chair -- he was a pretty big guy -- and I don't know if he fell asleep or, or lost his balance, but he fell over backwards on his back and naturally, we had all young people sitting in the front row of the trial and I think it was only natural that we laughed. And the federal prosecutor jumped up and says, pointed his finger at us and said, "You won't be laughing when you, when you know what the verdict is." So in my mind, they already knew what the verdict was. Another humorous -- not humorous, but another incident happened, I remember, even though it was so many years ago, was that the federal prosecutor accused our attorney of being, I don't know what that word is, but... I'm trying to remember what the words he used, but it was that our lawyer was wrong in defending us. And they got into a huge argument and our lawyer stood up and this prosecutor told, "You better sit down or I'll go over there and sit you down." And our lawyer got mad and he took off his coat and he says, "Come on. If you want to try it, I'll fight you." I thought that was... those two things, I still remember. [Laughs]

And that we were found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison. And our judge's -- we just had a judge, we didn't have a trial, a jury or anything like that. Our judge's verdict was that since we got a 1-A call from the government, that that proves that we're loyal American citizens, that we were good Americans, so that we should fulfill our obligations as Americans, because of the 1-A classification. And that therefore, he found us guilty. And I said, gee, if that verdict came out today, he'd be laughed out of court, because that's such a ridiculous statement, you know? But you gotta understand it was wartime and that they were just about, could say anything to kind of back up their thinking. And that...

Okay, out of the sixty-three, half went to Leavenworth prison, and I and the other half went to McNeil Island in the Puget Sound in the state of Washington. We took our case to a 10th Court of Appeals and another verdict was rendered against us. And the judge's name was Judge Huxman who gave the verdict and he says that, "Two wrongs don't make a right." In other words, he's saying that it was wrong for us to be evacuated and incarcerated in a concentration camp. But he said it was wrong for us to fight the draft, too. So he says, "Two wrongs don't make a right." But he says, they found us guilty because we didn't go for our physical.

So we took our case to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court refused to review our case. No reason was given. But I think that... this is what I think: that since our case was involved in evacuation and incarceration, too, that if we won our case, that the Supreme Court would have to say that the evacuation and incarceration was wrong, and they didn't want to face that issue. So the easiest way out for them was to say that, "We won't review the case." And ours was, our case, I think, was probably one of the most important issues of the time about the Constitution and our citizenship rights. And today the Supreme Court reviews a lot of ridiculous -- to me -- ridiculous cases and they just refused to review ours. So we just said, "Well, that's it. How much further can we go?" We can't go any further so we said, we just serve our sentence and that's it.

CO: What was the jail like?

MK: Well, the jail was not as bad as I thought it would be. Right away, I think the prison officials said, you know, "What are these guys in prison for, anyway?" you know, and right away, they sent us to a, the farm. The farm had no bars, or anything. We were just about -- other than there were set times when we had to be in our squad room and stuff like that, we had a lot of freedom. I became a truck driver and Saturday and Sunday, I used to go all over the island measuring the water and things like that, so it took a, kind of a load off my mind that the prison officials didn't consider us as hardened criminals or things like that, you know. The food was better.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

CO: Tell me about your brother.

MK: My brother? What about my brother?

CO: He was drafted?

MK: Oh, my brother was drafted, yeah. He was drafted in early 1945. He went to Military Intelligence School and went to, when the war ended, he went to the Philippines and Okinawa. And my mother wanted him to come back after he served, served, I don't know how many years. But when his time was over and my brother wanted to stay in Okinawa. This was the first time in his life he was accepted as a human being, you know, since he was an American GI and he had a little bit of authority, there, that he really loved it in Okinawa. He was really accepted by the Okinawan people. But my mother kept telling me to send him letters to have him come back and I finally convinced him to come back, and like a dutiful oldest son he came back. But I think, in my mind, that he would have been a lot happier over there.

My brother, he thought it was wrong, too, about the army drafting us out of the camp, but he says, "I don't think you're going to have a chance in court," because of all the prejudice and everything at the time. I guess he was right, but I was determined to fight it all the way, so the threat of being sent to prison didn't worry me that much. I thought that some years later that people will read about it and that they might say that I have my, I was right in fighting for my rights and that I would be vindicated. That was my hopes. But after the war ended and my prison term was over, I came back to Santa Clara valley, all these years it's been a struggle trying to get back to a normal life. And our family worked real hard, and I didn't really have much time to think about this, about being put into prison and the violation of my rights.

And another thing I was very upset of was that the Japanese leaders, Japanese American leaders of the time, during World War II, were really against the resisters and made very bad statements to hurt us. And I could never forgive wartime JACL leaders calling me a draft dodger and that I should be tried for sedition. It kind of left sort of a scar in me that I can never forget, and even though I might say, I might try to forgive them, I just can't. I thought it was very wrong for them to side against us and make such bad statements against us.

CO: You got pardoned, didn't you?

MK: Yes. In December 1947, President Truman gave all the resisters, not only from Heart Mountain, but all the resisters a blanket pardon. And that this pardon returned to us all of our citizenship rights and that President Truman's amnesty board, in their pardon, said that they fully understand, or understood what we really stood for and that their, their wording was very sympathetic to the Heart Mountain resisters.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

CO: So how did you re-adjust to life back in the communities?

MK: Oh, back in the community? When we came back, naturally, we were in the same position as everybody else. We had no place to go and when I came back, most of the people in our community were living in a, a lot of them were living in the Mountain View Japanese School, that was used more or less like a hostel. And I think it was, I give, I give those people a lot of credit. They, they endured a lot of injustice and hardships and in their own little way they achieved some kind of success. The Japanese Americans in the Mountain View/Sunnyvale area really worked hard. I think that was true of all the Japanese Americans that came back. And with the help of their Issei parents, tried their best to re-establish themselves in the community.

We took any kind of job that was available. Picking fruits, working in the fields, nobody offered us a office job, 9 to 5 with high pay. They just give us... they didn't give us anything. In fact, we had to scratch for everything we, we got. So when the Japanese American leaders take, say that we were responsible for success, that's not true. Success came from the Japanese Americans and their Issei parents coming back and scraping their life together and working very hard, most of 'em worked seven days a week. If anybody's going to pat anybody's back, they should pat their own backs. They really did it the hard way.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

EO: Have you had a stigma attached to your life because you were a resister? Have you had to feel you needed to hide it, and have you had help from like, JACL?

MK: Yes, we had... there's a lot of stigma being attached to being a resister because to Japanese Americans, the people who went in the army and fought were the real heroes. And I admit to that, they're very, very brave people. But the stigma comes from, I think, Japanese American leaders always trying to use when we speak up, that we're against the veterans, and that's not true. We have brothers that were in the service and some of the people in our group had brothers in the 442nd. We were never against the veterans. That made it hard; we just couldn't speak up. And Japanese American leaders, wartime leaders that were against us, were always saying things about the resisters, you now, like we weren't good citizens and stuff like that. It put a lot of pressure on the families, the wives, the womenfolks, they didn't want their children to be stigmatized by seeing that their father was sent to prison and stuff like that. Even today, many of them will never say that, "My father or my husband was a resister." It's not that they're ashamed or anything like that, it's just that they don't want their children hurt, or their family hurt. That's what it is. And for many, many years, when the topic of the resisters came up, it was that since the Heart Mountain Sentinel and the Pacific Citizen, which is the newspaper of the JACL control people, they came down very hard on the resisters. And I'm sure that emotionally it left a scar on a lot of people.

CO: But you are speaking up... tell us why.

MK: I, the reason... even though -- I might, I might say that it left an emotional scar in me, too, I want to speak up because all the dissidents and resisters in the camps are left out of Japanese American history. And I want the Sansei and the Yonsei, the third and fourth generation, to really understand what really went on in the camps. According to the Japanese American writers, that everything was fine in the camps and cooperated and everything, but it's not true. There was a lot of dissension, a lot of people got beat up that were pro-JACL, and I want the young people to know the real truth. And if people like myself don't speak up, I don't think any, too many historians are going to write about that, the Heart Mountain resisters and, and other dissidents. I want to make clear that we were never anti-America or anything like that. We were brought up in American system and we believed everything in America. And we believed in the Constitution, that's why we stood up, stood up for our rights.

CO: Are you getting heard now? I mean, as we're willing to listen to this.

MK: Yes, I'm very happy, because the young people of third and fourth generation are more broadminded and they, they understand the issues, what we had to go through. And that I'm sure that I hear from a lot of 'em that they're very unhappy that our parents, their parents cooperated with the government and went through with the evacuation and incarceration without protest. And I can't blame 'em because if I was young myself, I would wonder why this happened. I'm not saying that we could have stopped the evacuation and incarceration, but at least our leaders could have protested and have it in the records that we protested this unjust treatment. But all the history writes is that we went along without protesting and I believe that's not really true history. I don't think that most Japanese Americans, I think that most Japanese Americans were very upset about leaving their homes, especially since we were in California, that most of the people in California didn't want to leave. And that I think the final fact is that people fought for redress. If all the people said that accommodating the government was the right thing to do, well why, why would they fight for redress? Redress proves that everybody was, most of the Japanese Americans were unhappy and that the evacuation and incarceration was unjust.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

CO: What was the most intense, scariest experience through the whole...?

MK: Well, I kind of have to think back but I think, I think one scary thing happened to me when I was on the train, volunteering for work out at the camp. And a group of us were on a train and we're going to have lunch. Then on the way, I think we went through a bunch of recruits -- army or navy recruits. And when I was walking with the guys going to, to eat, one young guy jumped up and stuck a knife in my stomach. And it really scared me, I said, "Gee, what's happening here?" I didn't have time to think, because I didn't think anybody attack me. But that's what happened. I think the fellow was just, I don't know what was wrong with him, to tell you the truth. He just didn't like us, I guess. That was one scary incident. And another time, when I was trying to help the farms, my friends and I were walking down the street and some young people started throwing rocks at us. That was kind of scary, too.


MK: Happy things in my life? I think one of the... one of the happier parts of my life was last year when I received an award from the NCRR group in San Jose that they said that my resistance in the camp was a brave thing to do. And when they stood up and applauded me, that really put a lump in my throat. I said, "Gee, after all these years of being called all kind of names, and finally people are saying that I did the right thing." It made me real happy.

And I'm very happy that the young people today are willing to stand up and fight for their constitutional rights. I think that's something that I believe in myself, and that... well, let me put it this way: when I was young, I think the girls of my generation, the women of my generation, the Nisei girls of my generation, were taught not to speak out or make trouble or be activists. And I'm very happy that today, these young people of today are, the women are, I would say, are the leaders of civil rights and constitutional rights, and we should be proud of them.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 1992, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.