Densho Digital Repository
Friends of Manzanar Collection
Title: Grace Hata Interview
Narrator: Grace Hata
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: West Los Angeles, California
Date: March 16, 2012
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1003-10-18

<Begin Segment 18>

MN: Now I want to ask you about your ship ride back to Japan. When you were being shipped to Japan from Tule Lake, what port did you leave from?

GH: Seattle.

MN: Were your father and Thomas with you?

GH: No, no. We had to get out of camp and so we had to go find, decide where to go. Mother didn't want to go to Japan, really, but we went to find out and they said that if part of my family was over in Japan already then we had priority to go back on the next ship. And so we decided, okay, then we'll have to go back because, I said, they were still throwing rocks and it was unpleasant for the Japanese going back to Gardena or where they came from, the rumors were at the time. And so II told Mom, "Well, I think that if anything should happen to us, Dad will say, 'See? You didn't follow me.'" So I said maybe we better just go back and have our family together, so we decided we'll do that. Then Mother, Hugo and I got on the next, I think that was the second exchange ship, which was General Gordon, a troop ship, and it was like six bunks. And Mother was so sick. She was tied down in the bunk and she didn't get up. She was just so sick the whole trip. And I don't know how long it took us, but it was wintertime and that ship, we must've been in the back 'cause it just rocked every direction you could think of, so no wonder Mom was so sick.

We got into Yokosuka and we were taken to this assembly center, so they call, which was used during wartime for the Japanese military to be shipped off to battle from there. And of course there's no beds or anything; you sleep on the floor. But it was what you call chuunikai, mezzanine floor type of building, and they said that they separate by ken, what ken you are, and we went to, of course, Fukushima-ken. And we didn't know what to do from there, and we didn't know where to go, we didn't know what to do, and just about that time my brother Ray came. My mother was so surprised 'cause she was sure that he would be dead, that they would've taken him in the kamikaze and he would've been dead, but here he came. And he told us where Dad was, and he said he just took a chance that, he heard there was a ship in from America, so he came. And so he got us on the train and took us to Fukushima to where Dad was, but this train too, there, it was so few and far between that people just piled up. You see right now in India how people get on that train? It was like that. They just jam packed you and people were just all over the train. [Laughs] But we got to Fukushima, but there wasn't (any housing), we had nothing. My mother was grateful that all of us were together, not as a family unit there, but we were all alive. My brother Ray was sent off to a fishing college in Hokkaido, and Mother told him to quit school and come back so that we could all be together and figure out what to do to rebuild again, because we had nothing, nothing. Before we left for Japan, in Tule Lake, there was a circular that went around and said that the children, those who are accompanying the parents, who wish to come back to America need to sign up with all these agencies -- and they listed all the agencies -- and come to the administration and have your mug shot taken. So I did that because my mother left some money here with a friend. It wasn't that terribly much, but in that time for her it was her blood and sweat money, and she left some money, so she said, "Okay, you can make arrangements then." So I went to the administration, had my mug shot, and had all the papers done, and then we got on General Gordon to go (to Japan).

MN: Now, your father and Thomas had already gone on the first ship.

GH: Yes.

MN: So they were in Japan before you folks got there.

GH: Already, yeah. So then we met, Ray took us to meet (Father) in Fukushima. But Thomas had gotten a job in Tokyo, so he was living with my mother's sister, another sister, 'cause she was the only one who had a house left in Tokyo. Every place else, everybody else was all bombed out and had no place to go. And the sister who brought up my two brothers, they were in Fukushima, sokai they called 'em, evacuees, after the war, being bombed out. They were in the country, so (that aunt and uncle) were living in a recreation hall or something like that. And my mother's (third) older sister was the only one that had this house in Tokyo, in Shinagawa, so we all had to (...) bow kao to her to go out to Tokyo. (Thomas) was already there renting a room from her. The rest of us had just come back to Fukushima. But of course, there was nothing for us to do, we didn't (even) have futon to sleep on. Then, luckily, my grandaunt, my father's aunt that he was sending (had sent) money to many, many years ago invited us to stay with (her), and she gave us (...) one of (her) best rooms, since there were so many of us. And she said to my father that at the time he sent her money (she was) having such a bad time that (she) didn't know where (she) were gonna find food the next day, and so she said that we could come and stay with her.

At that time, postwar Japan, there was no food. It was entire famine. Nobody, even if they had money, couldn't buy food. There was no food. The farmers that had to grow food per plot, (which) they had to give to the government for them to distribute to the city people, so the farmers (would say) that, "We barely have food to, for ourselves, and we have none to spare." My father had to go through whole lot of exchanging his coat, his watch, his, whatever he had, to get food for us because we weren't counted. We were not on the koseki. So they sort of go by the koseki, how many people, how many grams of horseradish this time you could buy (at the) place called haikyu where they distributed the food, but you had to be on the koseki to, for them to know how much, how many grams of this or that they can distribute at that time. We hardly ate daikon anyway, but it might be so many grams of daikon per person and we weren't even counted. So my father went to the mayor in Fukushima, and we were in Iizaka and they never had a case like us, and they didn't know what to do with us. So he put on the koseki that my father was putting (Hugo and me as) we were indeed his children and that we were being put on the koseki. So that was done, and we were more or less counted in the distribution of food, but the food wasn't very much. We're used to eating white rice here (in the U.S.), all nice polished white rice. They didn't have rice. And sometimes we got, for haikyu -- you had to buy this. There was no market; we had to buy this stuff, mind you. But we had a bag of kanpan and it was like dog biscuits that the Japanese army had for rations, one bag of that per person or something like that. The food was, it wasn't (much of) anything. My father gave up his coat and everything to get food for us.

MN: That watch that he gave up was the one you gave him?

GH: I don't know, but maybe it was. [Laughs] We were desperate.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.