Densho Digital Archive
Friends of Manzanar Collection
Title: Chikaye Sande Azeka Hashimoto Interview
Narrator: Chikaye Sande Azeka Hashimoto
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: January 10, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-hchikaye-01

[This transcript has been extensively edited by the narrator.]

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: Today is January 10, 2012. We are at the Centenary United Methodist Church. We will be interviewing Sande Chikaye Azeka Hashimoto, and we have Tani Ikeda on camera, and I will be interviewing. My name is Martha Nakagawa. So Sande, I wanted to start with your parents. Which prefecture did your father come from?

SH: Fukuoka-ken.

MN: And what is your father's name?

SH: Jenyemon Azeka.

MN: How do you spell that?

SH: J-E-N-Y-E-M-O-N Azeka, A-Z-E-K-A.

MN: Now, when your father first landed in the United States, what kind of jobs did he do?

SH: I don't know if, what kind of jobs he did right away, but from what I recall he was a chauffeur and I think later on, (he) must've learned the trade of working at a dry cleaning place. And so he learned to, to be a dry cleaner, and (...) opened up his own cleaners.

MN: And when you knew your father, did he have an English name, or was he always Jenyemon?

SH: Jenyemon? No, they changed, my mother and my father both changed their names, it would be easier for people to pronounce. So he changed his name to James, which is starting with a J, and my mother was Mumeno, M-U-M-E-N-O, and so they called her Mary.

MN: So you talked about your mother, Mumeno. What is her maiden name?

SH: Hisadomi.

MN: Is she also from Fukuoka?

SH: Yes, they're both from Fukuoka.

MN: Do you have any idea what year your parents got married?

SH: (September 1922).

MN: So in total, how many children did your parents have?

SH: Had four.

MN: And where are you in the sibling hierarchy?

SH: I'm the youngest.

MN: And what year were you born?

SH: 1936.

MN: Were you delivered by a sambasan?

SH: Yes.

MN: Do you remember your sambasan's name?

SH: Nomura, Nomura-san.

MN: And can you give us a little background of Nomura-san?

SH: I don't remember exactly what kind of background you meant, but I know she was related to (Shiro) Nomura, and his wife is Mary, the Songbird of Manzanar.

MN: And what is your birth name?

SH: It's Chikaye.

MN: Chikaye is a very unusual name. What is the story behind your name?

SH: Well, I don't know the story, but I know the kanjis that they used means oya no eda.

MN: A branch of --

SH: My parents.

MN: And now you go by Sande. When did you pick up the name Sande?

SH: I picked it up in junior high, and I don't know how it came about, it's a legal name now with me.

MN: And you spell it very unusual.

SH: I don't know how that came about either. Instead of a Y, yeah, I spell it S-A-N-D-E.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MN: And where were you born?

SH: I was born around the L.A. Convention Center, Eleventh Street, by (...) Nomura-san.

MN: Do you have any memories of that business and that area that you lived in? You were very, very young.

SH: The only thing I know, that we lived -- there wasn't that many Japanese around, in fact, it was nothing like the Little Tokyo -- we lived in a predominantly white neighborhood.

MN: Do you remember playing with the local neighborhood white kids?

SH: No, but my father had a good friend. His name is Mr. Walker, and he had a barber shop right (door) where my folks had their cleaners. That was their best friend.

MN: And then from this Eleventh Street, your parents moved the cleaning business to Little Tokyo, or actually closer to Little Tokyo, I guess.

SH: On San Pedro Street near Jackson.

MN: And tell us a little bit of the, San Pedro near Jackson, what was that neighborhood like?

SH: That was predominantly Japanese 'cause we're in Japanese Town now. So I remember the Yamato Hall -- that's just around the corner -- and there used to be a Nagamoto Kamabokoya, I used to go play there and I used to go to Yamato Hall. There's no playgrounds or anything around, so you just kind of go around wherever anything is for me to play with. And I used to always just stay on that side of the street. They didn't allow me to cross the street, so I don't know who lived on the other side of the streets, but I just knew my area.

MN: Now, Yamato Hall, can you share with us what Yamato Hall was, and why did you go over there a lot?

SH: Well, they used to have a lot of these entertainers, and one of the programs that I really was interested was when the takarazukas came. And I would go over there and see them putting on their makeup and whatever, and I watched them with their rehearsals. I was really interested. I don't remember any other programs, but the Yamato Hall with the takarazuka, I do remember them.

MN: So you also mentioned that your father loved to drive.

SH: Well, I don't know if he loved to drive, but then I remember him saying that he used to drive a lot of rich people around. I don't know if he actually drove Charlie Chaplin around, but he would mention Charlie Chaplin. I can't remember any other person, but he said that he shortened his name because they would say, "On, James," and he would do the driving. [Laughs]

MN: But he also took the family out to drive on the weekends, right?

SH: Well, I don't know how often he took 'em, but from the pictures, he used to take us up to San Gabriel Mountains and (...) down to Tijuana and places like that. I don't remember the trips, but (...) he's one to like to explore things, whenever he had a chance, 'cause I see pictures of us going on horseback riding, and he would pitch tents up in San Gabriel Mountains (...).

MN: Yeah, and that's another thing I wanted to mention about, you do have these photos, and so your father loved to take photos of these trips.

SH: I guess so.

MN: And it seems very unusual because not a lot of Isseis of that time had the luxury to go out as much as I think, your father took the family to these trips to San Gabriel Mountains a lot.

SH: (...) We would go with other families sometimes, 'cause they're in the pictures too, so that's why I know (...) we wouldn't always go just our family. (...)

MN: And then you grew up in an era when there were no freeways yet. Was Western the main road down to the beach?

SH: I don't know that. I know now that you can take Western and (...) end up in Palos Verdes or wherever it was, but I didn't know at that time about freeways.

MN: Did your family ever take it all the way down Western?

SH: No, I don't remember that.

MN: What memories do you have of, like Oshogatsu, before the war?

SH: I don't have no recollection of Oshogatsu.

MN: You didn't go out into the countryside and watch the mochi being pounded?

SH: Now that you mention. But I remember we used to go in the country 'cause that's where all the mochi was being pounded. And one of the things -- isn't that funny -- that I know I should remember is because I loved that mochiko that they steam, and I didn't care if they tsuku the mochi or not. I wanted that rice. That rice was so good. I would sit there and watch them make it in these steam boxes, and then (...) make a little nigiri for me. And I liked the koge part too, so I would eat that and then I wouldn't wait for the mochi (...).

<End Segment 2> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: Now let me get into the war years. Do you remember December 7, 1941, at all, that Sunday?

SH: Not really. Not that particular one day.

MN: So you don't remember if the atmosphere in your family changed?

SH: No.

MN: And then once your family found out that they had to go into camp, how did your family prepare to go? What did they do to their furniture and their dishes?

SH: Well, I don't know about the furniture, but I remember them getting all our dishes together, and there was a (...) church right next door (...) on the corner of San Pedro and Jackson. So what my mother did was she got all the things (...) and she put 'em all on the steps and I had to sit there and watch it. (...) And the furniture, I don't remember seeing any of the furniture, (...) so I guess my folks got the permission (...) to store it in the church basement, and they said, "(...) We'll keep an eye on it until, (...) so just leave it there and we'll keep an eye on it until (...) you decide to come back." So we did, we stored (...) things in the basement. By the time we came out of camp I think most of it was gone. Whatever was of value, somebody took it.

MN: Did your mother, like, sew duffel bags for the family to take to camp?

SH: I don't remember her making 'em, but after we came out of camp, I remember we had a lot of bags (...) with our name on it, and I think my father had the block number (...). She had made some duffel bags, like you said.

MN: Can you share with us the story of Mrs. Suzuki and her (Chihuahua)?

SH: (...) She was a neighbor of ours and she wanted to take her (Chihuahua). Her (Chihuahua) was her little baby, (Chibi), she was trying to train it not to bark (...), and she was gonna hide it underneath her coat (...). Anyway, and she's gonna take it to camp, so when I'd go over there she'd be trying to train (Chibi) to be quiet and not make any noise. (...) She was doing that, and then near the end I asked her how's everything, "You'll all ready to go?" And she said yeah, but, "You know what?" (...) "I don't think, after all this that I've gone through," she said, "I don't want to take a chance 'cause they'll just take the dog away." (...) What she did with it (I don't know), but she didn't take the dog with her into camp. (...)

MN: You also mentioned that -- this is from your husband's side?

SH: Uh huh.

MN: Your husband's sister gave you this photo portrait, and in the back there's a cutout area. What happened to this family portrait?

SH: Well, I found out later, (...) it was a picture of Hirohito, the emperor (of Japan) hanging on the wall and they didn't want them to see it, so that's why (...) there there's a cutout. (...) They just cut that part of it out and were able to save the picture (...).

MN: So all they did is, they have this family portrait and they wanted it --

SH: And in the corner, (...) they cut it out, so they just left it like that. (And) I still have the picture (...).

MN: And so that's how they were able to take that picture to camp.

SH: I guess that's why they were able to save it. (...)

MN: Now, did your parents burn Japanese books or photos?

SH: I never saw them do that.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MN: So on the day that you had to leave for camp, you went to a gathering point. Do you remember where this gathering point was?

SH: (Nishi Hongwanji Church).

MN: What memories do you have of, like, gathering and going to camp?

SH: Well, I don't remember anything other than we were at (Union Station). We all had to get on a train, and I saw soldiers standing around, guarding (...) everybody to get on the train. I don't remember the train ride, what happened. The shades were down 'cause the people said that they pulled the shades down (...). But then eventually, at the end of the train, we all had to get on buses (and) they took us to Manzanar. And I remember it was a really, really windy day, and all the sagebrushes and (...) were tumbling, and I thought, "Where in the world are we?" (...)

MN: How old were you when you entered Manzanar?

SH: About five.

MN: And your family went straight to Manzanar, did not go to assembly --

SH: No, we didn't go to Santa Anita or anywhere. We just went straight.

MN: Do you remember what block you lived in?

SH: I lived in Block 20.

MN: And when you were in Manzanar, who were your playmates?

SH: The ones that I played with every day were the Miyatake kids. There were Tabo Miyatake and Minnie and myself. (...) The three of us were together all the time.

MN: And the, this Miyatake is the well-known photographer, Toyo Miyatake's kids?

SH: Yes.

MN: You shared a story about, the stories you made up about the Indian arrowheads with Tabo. Can you share that?

SH: [Laughs] Well, Tabo and I were the same age, but somehow I guess I was able to convince him that I knew a little bit more than he did. And I knew there were Indians around 'cause there was arrowheads all over (...). There (were) fields of trees and there weren't no buildings (...). Anyway, when you're going through there you see a lot of arrowheads, and (...) the arrowheads came from Indians (...). But I wasn't fascinated so much about the arrowheads. I was fascinated because Miyatakes used to have a lot of friends out of camp, and they used to send all kind of goodies to them, and then (...) they would give it to me (...). So I used to tell Tabo and Minnie, "Oh yeah, Indians love sweets," (...), "You know what? We should just have a place where they could come and get it." (...) I designated this particular tree (...), so then they would come and leave it there. (...) But at night, when it started getting dark, then I would be the Indian and I would go over there and get it, and that's why I was getting extra sweets. (...)

MN: Did Tabo ever find that out?

SH: No, I don't think so. And I'm the only one that knew. Minnie was younger, so she didn't put two and two together, but Tabo, he never knew and I never told him. [Laughs]

MN: Now, when you were in Manzanar, did you have a lot of toys to play with?

SH: I don't remember any toys that I played with. If anything, I went over to the Miyatakes', and they had the toys and I would play with them over there. But I myself, in my own barrack, (...) I don't remember having any toys.

MN: So what kind of games did you play?

SH: We played outside a lot, with mud and whatever we had. (...) We'd just pretend type of thing. And at night we would all get under blankets and we'd make a tent, and we would tell each other obake stories, and then we would scream (...). [Laughs] I don't know who the storyteller was (...). But everything was just play, play, play. We'd play until it's time for us to go, we would hear that mess hall bell ringing (...) and then we were the last ones to get there, so my mom used to get after us and say, "You know, if you don't get here in time, you're not gonna have anything to eat (...). But we (would) rather play than to go and eat (...). And I can't remember exactly what kind of toys we had to play with (...). I had a cat, so I played with my cat (...).

MN: Where did this cat come from?

SH: (...) I really don't know. So like, somebody like Mrs. Suzuki probably brought a cat (to camp). Maybe they came from the teachers. (...) Because they get to go out of camp. All the teachers and faculty were all hakujins, so maybe they brought it in. 'Cause everybody wonders, where did everything come from, the seeds for us to plant our vegetables and our flowers, unless we sent for it through catalogs. But somebody had to bring something in to start it, and then after that everybody had it.

MN: You mentioned the Miyatakes and you're very good friends with them, and you have a lot of photos from camp.

SH: So I guess the Miyatakes either gave it to us or my folks purchased it from them, because even after we came out of camp they were right there on First Street, and I used to go over to the studio.

MN: And I noticed some of your photos are colorized.

SH: Mrs. Miyatake used to do it, and she used to do it all by hand. She'd just sit there on her little (stool with) an easel, and she would be doing it all by hand like oil painting. That's how it started. I can still smell that oil that, every time you go into the back area she'll be working on it. Then later on it became in the film, but (...) she was doing it by hand.

MN: Now, you also mentioned how you were one of the last ones to get into the mess hall 'cause you were playing all day.

SH: The three of us were playing all the time.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MN: What memories do you have of the mess hall?

SH: I don't remember. (...) What do you mean? What'd it look like?

MN: What'd it look like, what the food was, what the trays were like.

SH: (...) I remember we'd get into lines and they'd give us a, like a tin plate, (...) sectioned off and there was a place for your (...) stew (and) your rice (...) down the line and there'd be somebody there serving (other food), maybe, they changed the plates, but at the beginning I think they were, like, tin plates. And I remember my mom used to work at the mess hall, so I used to go over there sometimes and she'd be peeling the potatoes (...). But I don't remember any, too much (because as) soon as we ate, we were (...) ready to play again 'til it gets dark (...).

MN: Who did you eat with in the mess hall?

SH: I don't know, maybe just the three of us. [Laughs] I don't remember if in the mess hall it was designated every family sits in one place, (...) I don't remember what kind of food we were fed. 'Cause some people said, "I remember they had a lot..." what is it, cream (chipped beef). I remember they had rice and they had stews, (...) people remember on what days they served what (...).

MN: Now, you had to live in a communal showers and latrines. Was that a difficult adjustment?

SH: (...) I just remember that all the showers, kind of circular type of thing. (...) It didn't bother me because I was too young. And then the laundry rooms (was) cement floor and all the tubs would be all lined up, I do remember (...) one time I was carrying somebody on by back and I was giving them a piggyback ride, and I fell in the laundry room, and when I fell I broke my arm. And then when I looked, (...) I'd never saw anything like that, but since I broke my arm I saw the bone (...) sticking up through my skin (...) a lady was in there -- I don't know who she was, washing something on a washboard -- and she thought I was just crying (...), but then she turned around and (...) was helping me up, and then that's when I saw my arm (...). She said, "Oh, you are hurt." So they had to take me to the hospital (...). I had my arm in a cast for a while. (...)

MN: You also mentioned that your block was next to the largest firebreak.

SH: (...) I guess it was a firebreak, but that's where they had the outdoor theater, so everybody from all the blocks (came). So it would be between (Blocks) 20 and 21, (to) see all the movies.

MN: So what was the advantage of living next to the theater? Did everybody, did you get better seating?

SH: Well, you're there early enough, so you would. They had, in the front area (...) dirt, and then from I don't know how far they would start the benches, but we never sat on the benches. We always sat in the dirt area. We would dig holes to (...) contour type of ditch (...). Sometimes when we had a dust storm it would cover it up. But that's what we would do, we'd go there early and kind of dig it up so that we could sit there leisurely (...). It was more fun for us to sit in the dirt.

MN: Do you remember any of the movies that were shown?

SH: You know the only movie, I don't know why I remember that because to me, it's not a cartoon or anything, but I remember that they showed that movie, (...) Ox-Bow Incident (starring) Henry Fonda (...) and that's about the only movie I remember.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MN: Now, your mother had all four children learn something in camp. What sort of things did your, you and your siblings learn?

SH: (...) I took Japanese classical dancing, my (middle) sister took tap, my brother took kendo, and my oldest sister took violin. (So it was before the war, my siblings took their lessons).

MN: But you took the odori in camp, and you started in camp. Where was, what block was odori lessons given at?

SH: It was in Block 5, so I had to walk from 20 all the way up to 5.

MN: Now who were, who was your teacher?

SH: They were sisters (Haruko), we used to call her Haddie -- and (...) her sister's name (was Tome). (...) We used to call 'em the Uyeda sisters. (...) Anyways, the oldest was Haddie (...), and they went back to Chicago. I don't know if they were originally from Chicago.

MN: And then were the Uyedas the odori teachers in Manzanar?

SH: No, there were others too, but I, my mother just wanted me to learn from them because they were students of Fujima Kansuma. (...) After we came out of camp, the Uyeda sisters went to Chicago, so she said, "Well, you might as well start learning from the actual teacher," so she made me go to Fujima Kansuma to learn from her. And she was teaching in Japanese-town, and that was convenient for me. I could just walk over there, so that's where I started with Fujima Kansuma.

MN: Now, in camp, how often were the odori classes held?

SH: (...) I don't remember how many times, most likely it was once a week.

MN: What was the gender breakdown of the students?

SH: It was all women, I mean, it was all girls. There was quite a few from the Terminal Island area because they lived in the same (...) Block 5 (...).

MN: How were the classes broken up? Was there a beginning, intermediate, advanced classes?

SH: No, I don't know (...) from what I remember, we all (...) did the same (dance by ages) since there's two of 'em, they always made me play the boy's part 'cause I was tall. (...) Usually there's only one teacher, so she would have to teach the female part (...) and then she would have to come over to my side and teach me the male part (...).

MN: So I guess if you start, I mean, you just started odori in camp, so they didn't have a special beginners class?

SH: (...) I remember I had learned odori before. (...) And there was another sensei that I used to take lessons from (...) Takeuchi-sensei, she was an older person. I started with her for a while, and then I switched over to the Uyeda sisters.

MN: Was Takeuchi-sensei also in Block 5? Or she was in a different block?

SH: I don't remember what block she was in.

MN: On what occasions did you perform before an audience at Manzanar?

SH: I don't remember really, but probably it was a special occasion like Oshogatsu and maybe ken functions, kenjinkai functions, and various things. (...)

MN: So when your odori group performed, did you have a record, or was it live musicians with shamisen?

SH: No, it was strictly records. We didn't have anybody -- and then most of it was records because it was easier, (...) if you had shamisen and people singing (...), that's a whole new group you've got to bring in, whereas records, it's easy, it's only three minutes (...). But if they went into something more cultural or classic (...), they would have shamisen and they would have people singing nagauta that goes with the shamisen (...).

MN: Now, you mentioned there was shamisen. Do you have any idea how the shamisens were brought into Manzanar?

SH: [Laughs] No, I don't.

MN: What areas did you perform in, in the mess halls? Where the performances held?

SH: I think probably (...) the mess hall. And then they used to have an auditorium too. (...) I think it's still there in Manzanar. We used to perform there for big occasions, but normal things, I think they were just done (...) at the mess hall, (it) just involves the people in the block (...).

MN: What did you do for costumes?

SH: I don't know where the costumes came from either. I don't know, (...) because you could just bring so much into camp (...). But I guess they sent for it later on, from Nihon (or storage). (...)

MN: So you don't remember seeing your mother sew costumes.

SH: No.

MN: I want to ask about your older, oldest sister. You mentioned she wasn't in camp very long. What happened to her?

SH: Well, while we were in camp I guess she applied to go to college (on a scholarship to Texas Weslyan University for two years). So she was in Camp Manzanar for only about a year. (...) A soldier came to escort her (...) for her safety they didn't want her traveling by herself, so he traveled with her all the way to Texas (...). (She did not graduate) from that school (then later) attended UCLA (...).

<End Segment 6> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MN: Okay. Now, your parents, you mentioned your mother worked in the mess hall. What about your father?

SH: Well, he used to, (...) take care of the trash. 'Cause I kind of vaguely remember him being on a truck and (he worked at the mess hall too). I remember my mom working at the mess hall for sure, (my father and) my brother went out of camp (...) for sugar beets. They were able to go out to Boise, Idaho, (and) worked on the sugar beet field. (...) They went out, maybe for so many months, and then they (returned).

MN: Now, did your parents have a victory garden?

SH: Everybody had a victory garden. It's in between the barracks. That's really amazing how I still remember, I'd have to sometimes sit, stand there and watch how they irrigate. I mean, the victory gardens were beautiful. They took pride in what they planted (...) nasubi, tomatoes, (cucs) and (uris). But the irrigation (...) I'd have to (...) watch the hose so it won't get overfilled, everything grew so well. And then they had (...) beautiful flowers. So everybody had to do something to pass the time.

MN: So you know those produce that your parents made in the, their own victory garden, did they bring it to the mess hall, or did you eat it at, in the barracks?

SH: I think my mom used to make tsukemono and (tsukudani) with the uri and things like that. (They made) tsukemono (because) they wouldn't give it to you at the mess hall. (...) I don't know how much cooking they did 'cause we didn't have what you call a stove. I think they used to be like burners (...). I think everything was (cooked) in the mess hall. (...)

MN: Now, your mother became good friends with Mrs. Komika Kunitomi, Sue Kunitomi Embrey's mother. How did they get to know each other?

SH: Well, they (took) utai. My mom took singing lessons, and (...) Mrs. Kunitomi were learning from the same teacher. (...) I don't know if (the) Kunitomis are Fukuoka people too, 'cause a lot of the Isseis, they kind of stick with their own people from their own ken (...). But anyway, like I said, Mrs. Kunitomi was one of 'em, and then also Joseph Ito. (Mrs. Hitomi), his mother-in-law was also from the same singing group, so they did all these things to pass the time. I think it's great that they didn't just sit around and (do nothing). My father (took) shigin (with Ara sensei), that's another singing group (...) and my mother did utai.

MN: So both of your parents loved to sing.

SH: They (loved) to sing. But none of the kids sang. [Laughs]

MN: During the period that your parents were in camp, did you ever hear them talk about wanting to return to Japan?

SH: No.

MN: Do you remember the riots in Manzanar at all?

SH: No, I don't.

MN: What memories do you have of Christmas in Manzanar?

SH: I really don't remember, per se, but I remember we used to have a Christmas party at the mess hall, and one of the ladies, she became the Santa Claus and they put the cotton (for the beard), she was our Santa Claus. I have a picture of that Toyo Miyatake took of us with a Christmas tree (...). And I don't know if we exchanged gifts, (...) but I remember we did celebrate Christmas in the mess hall.

MN: Now, you mentioned that you had cats in Manzanar. You had two cats, right?

SH: (...) I think what it is, I may have had two cats. One died, so then another comes along, so I had another one, yeah.

MN: Now, when you left Manzanar, what happened to the cat?

SH: Well, the cat, (...) my girlfriend, she stayed in Manzanar 'cause we went out of camp early and she said, "You know, every time I used to go by your barrack, your cat was still sitting at the door waiting for you to feed it (...)." So she said every time she went by (...) she would bring something from the mess hall to feed it. (...) "That cat was waiting for you to come (...) to pick it up again (...). You never came back." (...) I felt so bad when I heard about it, had I known the cat was gonna be there, I didn't even think about taking the cat out of camp. You had to just leave everything again (...), that's how you came. Whatever you could carry, you took out again.

MN: School at Manzanar, what memories do you have of the grammar school at Manzanar?

SH: I don't remember what we learned, the subjects that was taught us (...). I remember my teacher (and) I remember this photo that we took of the class. I always have to tell my friends (about this) photo and in the first row, and at that age I didn't care for boys (...). But when you look at the photo there's space in between this boy and myself 'cause I moved the chair over a little bit. (...) They say, "Oh yeah, you didn't like boys at that age." (...) But I think my teacher's name was Mrs. Vaughn.

MN: Did you have any children of school administrators in your class?

SH: No, not in my class (...).

<End Segment 7> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: Now, let me get into the postwar era. You mentioned that your family left camp before the war was over.

SH: That's right.

MN: Now, do you know when your father left Manzanar?

SH: You mean what month?

MN: Uh-huh.

SH: (...) I know he went out of camp early (to) find a place for us to stay, and then he would send for us. (...) He went back to Little Tokyo, on First Street near Far East, and he found this cleaners that was being run by a black man, Mr. Miller, and he bought this business for (one thousand) dollars. It was a cleaning business, (...) he made all the arrangements (...), then he sent for us. So he came to (...) Union Station and (lived) there ever since. (The neighborhood) was all black. There was no Japanese yet, so we just lived among the black people.

MN: And so your father returned to Little Tokyo, so that would mean it would be 1945, when it was opened up to Japanese Americans.

SH: I guess so.

MN: Now, I talked to Mrs. Uyeda, she said she was really worried about her husband leaving Manzanar by himself and returning to Los Angeles. Did your mother ever share those kind of worries with your father?

SH: No.

MN: So Mr. Uyeda has the distinction of being the first Japanese American to reopen a store in Little Tokyo. What about your father?

SH: What do you mean, what about my father?

MN: Your father wasn't the first, but --

SH: No, no, he was about, maybe (...) the third (...). The second was Mr. Shimizu from Asahi Dry Goods Store, (and) he was also on First Street, the same side as my father. And then we were down towards Far East, directly across the street from Koyasan Temple.

MN: Now, what was your family's cleaning business called?

SH: Baby House Cleaners. What it is pior to, before the war, it used to be (...) strictly a baby, (...) clothes (store) they called it Baby House. Well, when my father came out of camp, it had been a cleaners and I don't know if Mr. Miller's name of the cleaners was Baby House, but my father said that he's gonna keep the name because there was a neon sign above, and he said it costs a lot of money to take that down (so) he's just gonna add "cleaners" to it. So that's how it became Baby House Cleaners. (...) Our customers thought we were just strictly specializing in baby clothes, so they didn't come. (...) It's just a name, it's called Baby House Cleaners, but it's a regular cleaners." (...) So that's how the name came about, because it was unusual.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: Now, when your family first moved into, back into Little Tokyo, you mentioned it was all African Americans --

SH: Yes.

MN: So who were your parents' customers?

SH: Blacks.

MN: How did your parents interact with the African Americans?

SH: They got along really good. I mean, they'd come into the cleaners and, "Hi, Mama," says, "I brought my cleaners again." And you know, the black people, they were always having fights (...) with their (...) girlfriends, (...) and my mother did alterations. (...) I hate to brag, but she did a beautiful job -- and they would come in, say, "Mama, my girlfriend cut me and my pants or my jacket up. Can you fix it for me?" (...) She got along really good with them, and we were never robbed (or never) burglarized. (...) They looked after us and they really liked us. And there was a shoeshine place right next door, and they're open until two o'clock and the men would be all standing out there, listening (to) bebop music, (and) we felt very safe. We never had any problem with any black people (...). They kind of watched over us, and we were the only Japanese around there (...). Everybody else was black, so (...) I associated with (...) black girls. (My friend took me to) to Amelia Street School, she would walk me and she'd say, "I'll protect you." So I said okay, so I stuck with her all the time.

MN: Let me go back to the shoeshine place. You said two o'clock, you're talking two o'clock in the morning?

SH: (Yes). They're open 'til two o'clock in the morning, and (...) they never close.

MN: You know, I've read in John Anson Ford's papers, he was a supervisor at the time. A lot of these shoeshine parlors were places to pick up prostitutes.

SH: (...) I don't know that because I'm so young, and it was a real, real narrow place (...), but I never saw a lot of women hanging around there. It was all men. (...) And then right next to that was a Chinese market (owned by the Fongs), and then upstairs was Nikko Low Chinese restaurant.

MN: And now, you mentioned this African American girlfriend you made. Where did she live?

SH: (...) She lived across the street (with) her and her mother, brother and father.

MN: And did you go over their house and did she come over to your place?

SH: I used to go, mostly (...) to her place 'cause they lived (...) in a home. Ours was a business (behind the cleaners). (...) Everybody lived in the back of their business when we first came out of camp. (...) That's what their living quarters were.

MN: So what did you do when you went over to their house?

SH: I played with her toys. [Laughs] I don't know if I had any toys (...). Her mother would really treat me good, and she'd braid my hair 'cause they're very fast (...). And she'd make cornbread (for me). I never had (any) fear of living in J-town among the blacks (...). We wouldn't be running around all over, but (...) kind of stayed confined (...) in the (back of the) cleaners (...) to play. (...) I was playing with this black girl for (...) how many years. (...) Then all of a sudden they all disappeared like a wind (...) overnight (...). I kind of vaguely remember her saying they're gonna be moving, but no, she didn't say why they were moving (...), and I never questioned it. (...) After that, naturally, all the Japanese came out of camp, and before I knew it I had nothing but Japanese friends (...).

MN: So this transition from African American community called Bronzeville back to Little Tokyo, did you sense any tension at all?

SH: No, nothing. (...) To me, it was very smooth. I mean, it was like a wind just came and blew them away and another wind just brought (the) Japanese. And I knew they were coming out of camp (...), but at that age we (didn't) talk about camp that much. That's all we were doing, was playing again.

MN: So there weren't instances where African Americans refused to leave the area?

SH: As far as I know. I didn't hear about it. I was probably too young and maybe didn't hear or... I mean, I wasn't involved, so I didn't know anything.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: -- camp, who were the names of your odori teachers?

SH: They were called the Uyeda sisters, their name was Tome and Haddie, Haruko, Uyeda.

MN: Now let's go to your postwar. You had, your parents had this, a stool in the front.

SH: In the cleaners, yes.

MN: And people used to sit on it.

SH: There used to be a stool when you come into the cleaners, (...) my mother had her sewing machine right there and then while she's doing her sewing a lot of people used to sit there and chit chat with her and my father. My father's doing the pressing of the clothes. So a lot of (them were not) women, but men would come in and (...) chit chat with her and (...) my father.

MN: What did they come and chit chat about, and were there, like, certain people who always used to come?

SH: There're certain people 'cause I guess they have the time. (...) But one was Mr. Hanami, Clement Hanami's father, and he used to live (in) a hotel above us. (...) He would come in and sit on that little stool there, and I knew he would be carrying on a conversation. So one day I asked my mom, "Mr. Hanami, he comes so often. Doesn't he work?" And she says, "Yeah, he works." (...) One day he came in, I said, "Mr. Hanami, are you going to work?" (...) He says, "Kyou wa samui kara shigoto ni ikanai." (...) So it's cold so he's not going to work. Then maybe a few days later, here he comes again, he's sittin' on the stool. So my mom says, "Oh, kyou wa doshita no?" He says, "Kyou atsui kara shigoto ni ikanai." And then I said to my mom, "One day it's cold, one day it's hot, then when does he go to work?" She says, "I don't know when he goes to work," so we used to laugh about that. [Laughs]

MN: You know, I'm wondering why your father didn't go back to Eleventh Street when he first came back and open a cleaner there.

SH: Well, the reason why he didn't go back to Eleventh Street was he had a friend by the name of Mr. Walker that had a barber shop (...) a few doors down from him. He told my father (who) was looking for another cleaners (...), "As much as I like you, and I wouldn't mind you opening up a cleaners on Eleventh Street again, (but) the neighborhood has changed a lot since during the war, and there's a lot of rough people around here (that) won't welcome you. So for (you) and (your) family's safety, I think you should find another location to open up your business." That's the reason why my father decided to then open up a place in Little Tokyo (again).

MN: Do you remember what the address of the Baby House Cleaners was?

SH: It was 341 1/2 East First Street.

MN: Now, was your family's cleaner the only cleaners in Little Tokyo?

SH: No, there (were three) other cleaners. I don't know what the (names were). There was one around Weller Street, (...) one on First Street on the same side (was) Ace High Cleaners. There was another cleaners on the other side of First Street, but I can't remember the name (...), but I remember Ace High used to be one. (...)

MN: So was competition pretty tough?

SH: Well, I don't know anything about competition because, being as young as I was, I had no worries about that.

MN: So your family was out of Manzanar before the war was over, and so when V-J Day was declared in August '45, what was it like?

SH: You know, I don't remember.

MN: There was, like, no huge celebration?

SH: Not up and down First Street that I know of, 'cause I would've asked, what's going on? But I don't remember anything like that.

MN: So you're living right in downtown Los Angeles. Where did you go to play?

SH: (...) We used to play up and down First Street. Nishi Hongwanji (was) on the corner, so we (...) go in there, and behind (the church) there used to be a playground. (...) It's not like a park with a lawn (...). It was all dirt, and they used to have swings and (slides). (...) Most of the time (we would skate on) First Street (...). (In) Nishi Hongwanji (...) there's a lot of places (although) we shouldn't be playing in a church. (...) One time I remember we were playing hide and go seek, and I didn't know what the rooms were -- (...) I thought I found myself a nice hiding place. Well, I didn't realize that was the room where they kept all the ashes, and I was sitting there and (...) counting, and said, "Here I come," (...) then I started looking around (...) and noticed (...) there (were boxes with) all kind of names written (...) I said, oh my god, (...) the room with all the ashes. I screamed and ran out, and we never went back to that church again. (...) My folks never knew that we (played at Nishi). But you have to do something to pass the time (...). We'd go across the street to Koyasan, not so much to go inside, but we used to play in the driveway (...).

MN: I'm surprised the Obonsan didn't get angry.

SH: I guess they didn't see us. (...) They're busy in their offices (...), and we don't go inside, so they don't really hear us (...).

MN: I think you mentioned that your uncle had a barber shop?

SH: He had a barber shop in the Nishi Hongwanji building (...). It's a (sushi) restaurant now, but he had a barber shop on First Street.

MN: Okay, the restaurant faces First Street right now.

SH: (...) (There is) a door where you could come out of the church from that area. (...) He was just about a few doors (...) from there on the other side. (...) It used to be the Ninomiya photo studio. (...)

MN: And when we were talking about Nishi Hongwanji, you're talking about the old Nishi Hongwanji, which is on --

SH: (Yes), not the pavilion. It's the historical building.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: When you started to go to grammar school in Little Tokyo you went to Amelia Street School.

SH: That's right.

MN: Can you share with us the story about, like, where did they initially place you in Amelia Street School? What grade?

SH: Well, when we first came out of camp, I don't know if I had anything to show, papers (...), so they didn't know where to place me. They didn't know what grade I was. And I think they were going (by) height, and I was on the tall side, so they thought I was in the sixth grade, (...) they sat, they had me sit in class to see how much I could comprehend, and I thought to myself, this is a little bit too much. I don't know what's going on. So I kind of mentioned it to them, and after that, then they put me down (...) whether it was the fourth or the fifth grade. (...) I don't know (what) they did with everybody else (...). My experience, they didn't know where to place me.

MN: Did you also start attending Japanese language school?

SH: I don't know at what age. I started going to Daichi Gakuen, and that was every day. On the way home from Amelia Street School (it) used to be -- (...) around Gary, (...) Jackson, somewhere around there (...). It was a house converted into a school (...).

MN: So does Daichi Gakuen, was it the, in the same building as it was before the war?

SH: I don't know because I didn't attend Japanese school. (...) Probably in the same neighborhood. (...) It seemed like it was a (two story) house. (...)

MN: Now, you have this incredible memory of J-town right after the war, and I'm gonna ask, throw some things out at you. Share with us what the Town Crier was.

SH: The Town Crier was a (...) neighborhood paper. It was run by Mr. Akahori (...) and he used to just write things about the community. It wasn't big like Rafu Shimpo (...) and he would run it off on his little printer, and then he would staple it (...). I don't remember ever having to deliver (...) I remember (...) I played with his daughter. (...)

MN: And then you remember there was the Nozaki Beauty Shop.

SH: Nozaki Beauty Shop was also right next to Mr. Akahori's Town Crier. (...) Below (there was) a very famous sushi place, (Matsuno-Zushi). (Nozaki Beauty Shop was owned by Mrs. Nozaki). Reverend Nozaki (belonged to the Zendoji Church) and they had a son by the name of Richard. He was so bad. [Laughs] He was so bad.


MN: What about Angle Inn?

SH: Angle Inn?

MN: Angle Inn, I'm sorry.

SH: There used to be a coffee shop right on the same side of the street. It used to be run by the Sato family, and they had a hotel above. (...) We used to have a lot of Hawaiian soldiers. I don't know where they stayed, but they all (came) down to J-town and they would hang out at Angle Inn (or) Atomic Cafe. There were (a lot) of Hawaiian marines that used to hang around in those areas. The reason why I know, 'cause I knew a girl that used to be a waitress. Her name was Yuki Sato, and she (worked) at the Atomic Cafe. (...) (At Angle Inn I would) eat sundaes and (...) sit at the fountain. But towards evening, (...) the marines (came in).

MN: Is that where all the fights used to break out?

SH: Probably, 'cause they do a lot of drinking, beer (also at the Atomic Cafe).

MN: There was also a lot of the China-meshi restaurants.

SH: (...) Mr. Uyeda used to have his (clothing store), and above was Sanko Low. You had to climb (many) steps to go all the way up. (...) Nikko Low was around in my neighborhood. (...) And then, naturally, the Far East. Those were the three most famous places.

MN: And your family was very close to the Jung family, of the --

SH: (...) We were there for so long that (...) I think his name was Jung, but anyways, the old man, (was) the cashier. (...) (Because) I had so much time (and) no place to play. So I used to go there, and there's chairs (near) the cashier, (...) and I used to talk to him. (...) Every Christmas they would send (a) meal to us. They would deliver chow mein and chashu and pakkai.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MN: Now I want to ask you about your odori lessons. You started in camp, and you continued after the war. You mentioned earlier, but I'm gonna ask you again, who did you learn, who was your teacher after the war?

SH: After the war was Fujima Kansuma.

MN: And where did she initially hold her classes?

SH: She was holding it in (...) mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Hamaguchi, they had a hotel (...) called the Anzen Hotel. (...) I don't know if, because of the Anzen Hardware, the hotel name was Anzen Hotel, (we practiced in) one of the hotel rooms. Later (...) go to her home too (...). She didn't have really what you call a studio (...).

MN: Now, in camp you played a lot of male roles. You have a new sensei now. Did you get to play a lot more female roles?

SH: Oh no, it continued. [Laughs] Even with Fujima Kansuma I played male roles.

MN: And is it because of your height you were --

SH: Well, the height, and I guess my personality too (...)... in camp I (did) a lot of yakuza parts. And even after we came out, I did yakuza too, (and) I always had the (...) male parts. (...) I assume it's my personality and my height, the two things they know from looking (to do) this part. (...) I used to (...) tell my mom, "I wish one of these days I could wear a kimono." But they did (...), two or three times (had) me play a female part. (...)

MN: Do you want to share with us the time you were able to play a female role?

SH: What do you mean, what parts I played?

MN: When you played, there was one, one especially when you were in the Disneyland Christmas parade --

SH: (Yes), I was a oiran. But of course, it didn't matter how tall I was because I had to wear these getas that were like this [holds hand up], you know? So that made me even taller, (...) she had me play a woman (...). And it was fine, except it was hard for me to walk in those getas (...) later on they had me take it off because I couldn't walk through the whole parade (...).

MN: So you're in this Disneyland Christmas parade. What other venues did you perform at?

SH: You mean with Fujima Kansuma? She had all kind of occasions where we had to perform. We (danced) at the Wilshire Ebell Theater, and (...) at the Shrine Auditorium... gee, what other big ones? I was in a couple movies. One was Around the World in Eighty Days (where we) go to Japan (...). And then I was in House of Bamboo. That one, I had a bit part, so I was, I was in one scene with Shirley Yamaguchi, 'cause she was the main star (with) Robert's Stack. But that had nothing to do with Japanese dancing, (...) they had me try out for it and I got this little part.

MN: You also later on joined the Contemporary Dance Group?

SH: (...) It was called the Keigo Imperial Dancers, and that was a whole new (...) very modern (dancing). Because the choreographers (were) white and then the other fellow was Japanese, (...) Keigo Takeuchi. He was a very famous dancer. Him, and Reiko Sato. (...) She performed in Flower Drum Song, they were very close, and (...) did a lot of dancing together. So anyway, between the hakujin fellow and Keigo, they did a lot of contemporary Japanese dancing, and (...) I was able to (perform at the) Mocambo with Miyoshi Umeki. (...) She was the main star (...) and we were the Japanese dancing part. But like I said, it was very contemporary, so it was real different from classical Japanese dancing.

MN: Now, when you were the dancers for Miyoshi Umeki, had she won the Academy Award yet?

SH: Yes. She had won it for Sayonara. (...) Then she went on and (...) performed at the Mocambo Club.

MN: So what was it like to work with Miyoshi Umeki?

SH: Well, you don't really talk to them, (...) 'cause she's the main attraction. She does all the singing (...), and we just kind of expose ourselves with the Japanese dancing part.

MN: Now, you also have these very young photos of Misora Hibari when she was here in the '50s.

SH: Yeah.

MN: Did you play with her?

SH: (...) I played with her a little bit, (...) I think I was older than her. But we did play (...) and she would come and practice at the Koyasan Temple, and since I lived right across the street, (...) I'll go over there too and I played with her. But there was another girl (who) was always playing with her (...) because her father's the one that has some connection of bringing her over from Japan. (...)

MN: So how did you feel when she returned to Japan and she became this huge megastar?

SH: She was a star already. She was singing (Hokano Hoteru). She was singing that one with the top hat. (...) She was pretty famous already (...) and a star (...) in her own rights.

MN: What other famous entertainers were you able to meet?

SH: (...) We used to have a lot of entertainers come from Japan. (...) We would either help with the ushers or handing out programs. (...) (I met Tanaka, Kinuyo, Hasegawa, Kazuo, and Eri, Chiemi.) I did talk to Shirley Yamaguchi too because we were in the same scene together, but not really to say I really know her personally.

MN: But you're getting all this exposure...

SH: And it all probably stems from because I took Japanese classical dancing.

MN: Did you ever think about being a professional performer?

SH: Oh no. [Laughs] No, not really. (...) And when you're younger, you're enjoying it, but as you grow older and it starts interfering with your chosen life and everything, then you start saying, oh no. (...) [Laughs] (...) I wasn't gonna become a professional entertainer (...).

<End Segment 12> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MN: Let me go back to your odori classes. You're continuing from camp, and when was the busiest time of the year for you folks to perform?

SH: We would be pretty busy... (...) every year (because of) a New Year's performance at Koyasan. And (...) all of us (...) Nisei, Sanseis (...) would have to learn what they (...) call shibais. That's Japanese (...) classical plays. And we would have to learn our lines, and we didn't know what we're saying because (...) in layman's term, (it was like) samurai language. (...) And then you (...) don't have a script (and) you have to perform like you're in a movie. (...) They put this (white) makeup (and) it's just like kabuki. (...) Shibai is like kabuki. (...) We would have to always be women or men. (...) Everybody in the community comes and (...) it was free. (...) They didn't buy tickets, (and) Koyasan Temple would be jam packed. And (...) you'd have your kenjinkai picnics, and then you have other performances, like at Hollywood Bowl and Shriners (...). So they kept us pretty busy, not every month because we're not professional. They would pay something, but not individually. As a group, (we) would perform, (and) had (...) exposure, (...) other than going to school or work. It wasn't like it was our livelihood.

MN: You mentioned the kenjinkai. Did you perform at all the kenjinkai picnics?

SH: No, just certain ones. We would perform at, like the Hiroshima, Okinawa, the big ones. And then my sensei was Mie-ken, (...) and I'm Fukuoka. (...) But then other (students were) performing at other (...) kens too, so we would hit a lot of the picnics at Elysian Park. That's where they had all the kenjinkai picnics. (...) A lot of our summers are tied up (...) performing at picnics.

MN: You mentioned Mr. Tanaka. Who was Mr. Tanaka?

SH: Mr. Tanaka, (...) he was the greatest as far as makeup was concerned. (...) He probably went to school where all these kabuki stars (attended). (...)

MN: Now, how long did you take your odori lessons? For how many years?

SH: I started at about (six or seven) probably around (until) nineteen or twenty years old. (...) I told my mom when, after I, after... well (...) Fujima Kansuma had one of her biggest recitals, (...) "I'm going to quit my Japanese dancing lessons." I went to Japan and I stayed there a year, so that was a good time, and after (I returned), I never went back to my Japanese dancing and (...) concentrated on my work (...) and Japanese dancing lessons on the weekend. (...) It was just too much.

MN: But overall, did you enjoy --

SH: (...) I learned a lot, (...) and we were able to attend (...) places that I probably wouldn't have gone had I not taken lessons, and a (...) exposure to different people and culture. (...)

<End Segment 13> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MN: Now, you mentioned your work, and there was one instance you shared about, that you felt prejudice for the first time.

SH: (...) The first job I had was (at) the Board of Education, (...) a summer job (...) from L.A. Business College(...) for a month or two. Then after that they placed me (at Western Carloading 960 E. 3rd St.) The supervisor that I was gonna work (for) put me to the side and told me, "You know, we don't have any Japanese working here. We do have one and she works upstairs so nobody sees her, but you'll be the only one downstairs. (...) People do come by and you'll be exposed. (...) What does that have to do with my work," (I thought). He just wanted to let me know. (...) He had a little bit of prejudice against me. (...) I started working for him and nine months passed by. (...) He says, "Do you have any friends (...) you'd know that (may want to work here). By then I knew the ropes. (...) So I said, "I don't have any friends, I don't have any relatives, and I don't think they would like to (...) work here, anyway." And that was the end of it. He never approached me again. But everybody else treated (...) me real good. It was just my immediate supervisor. He had something in for the Japanese. (...)

MN: I wanted to ask a little bit about your husband's work, your late husband, Harri. And he spells his name H-A-R-R-I also.

SH: (...) We're an odd couple. [Laughs] Sande with an E and Harri with an I.

MN: He worked at a very well-known company in Little Tokyo. Can you share a little bit about that work and that company?

SH: Well, I think it's probably one of the oldest companies (located on) First and Alameda, and it was called California Hardware Company. And like Anzen Supply (they ordered) supplies from California Hardware. (...) He worked (at) other places (...), but worked at California Hardware for thirty-two years, (...) and that's where he retired from.

MN: So he was one of the last ones to be there and --

SH: He was, when they closed the door he was one of the last ones. In fact, one of his supervisors gave him a brick from California Hardware. He says, "This is for you to have," 'cause he was one (...) to have worked there (for thirty-two years). So I still have it at home, on the shelf (...) as a reminder of the old times at California Hardware. [Laughs]

MN: You know, I was looking over my notes with Archie Miyatake, and he mentioned that it was the salesman from California Hardware, because they had a contract with Manzanar, and this salesman smuggled in the film and the photo papers and chemicals to Mr. Miyatake.

SH: Really? I didn't know that. Had I known that earlier, I would've had my husband ask about it. (...)

MN: I'm gonna skip a little and go to the Rafu Shimpo's ninetieth anniversary, and there's this very special photo, I've seen it everywhere. Can you share, who's in this photo that -- you know what I'm talking about?

SH: Yes, you're talking about my mother and her friend, Mrs. Seki, (they were both) in their nineties and Rafu Shimpo was having the special edition of their ninetieth anniversary. (...) And at that time she was at the Keiro on Boyle Avenue, and they took this picture (...).

MN: It's been blown up everywhere, I think, in Little Tokyo. I've seen it.


MN: Your mother and her had a very special relationship.

SH: From way back. I think they used to work together (at Spice Island, a spice company).

MN: McCormick?

SH: (...) (They met at Spice Island) and ever since then they have been friends. And so when my mother was at Keiro (...) Mrs. (Seki) found out about it, (...) moved in too. (...) They took the pictures (...) because they saw them together all the time. They were like buddies. (...) Somebody that observed them said, "I never (saw) two Issei women that were so close." They were just together all the time holding hands, and they (...) comfort each other, (and that) was an appropriate picture (...).

<End Segment 14> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

MN: Okay, let's see, I have asked all my questions. I want to ask you, do you want to add anything else, anything else you remember?

SH: (No).

MN: I do want to ask you this, though. And you do have the JANM, the Japanese American National Museum, you're a docent there.

SH: No, I'm not a docent.

MN: You're not?

SH: I'm just a volunteer. (...) Whatever they want me to do, then I do. But I am not a docent.

MN: Well, you're not just a volunteer.

SH: (Yes). [Laughs]

MN: But why is it important for you to volunteer there?

SH: Why is it important? (...) I didn't realize what I was getting into when I first decided to volunteer 'cause I thought I wanted to do something to pass my time. (...) There was actually (...) three of us that started to volunteer at the same time. But since I started volunteering there, I've learned so much about the Japanese American, what people have done. 'Cause not everybody is famous where they hit L.A. Times, (...) but there's so many people, I mean artists and writers and anything, Larry Shinoda. Well, of course, my husband knew him.


SH: He knew him, but this was way before (...) he became famous, (...) so now they're displaying his Corvette (...). And there's a lot of people that I never knew, (and) met a lot of very interesting people that I probably would've never met. (...) (We are) from all parts of town, and we're all different ages. And age doesn't really mean that much (...) they could be eighty or ninety, I could still converse with them. We have something in common. And all the way around, I've learned a lot, really, from volunteering. Of course, it's social too, because we all like to go out to eat, and we always say, "Well, where shall we go (for lunch)?" (...) I would've never met these people, never been exposed to a lot of these things. And I'm learning as I go along, and it's my own culture. But then, since the Isseis are gone, we have to rely on each other. (...)

MN: And I know you were very young when you were in camp. You were, I think you were there from five to --

SH: To nine. When we came out of camp I was nine.

MN: So I think you have a very different perspective of camp than some, let's say your parents. But looking back at it now, what do you think about the camp experience, what the government had done?

SH: (...) I wasn't thinking what the government (did and) why they did it. (...) I'm learning now by volunteering in the museum. But one thing (that) puzzled me, they say that United States didn't know (...) Japan was going to bomb Pearl Harbor. (...) But I said, in those days we didn't have computers, (so) how did they know that Azeka family had four kids, (names and what camp to place them in). They had to have been planning years before, so they knew something was brewing. (...) That's the part I always think, it wasn't like a surprise, "Oh, they bombed Pearl Harbor. We're at war with Japan."


MN: Let me ask you, then, when redress, when talks of redress started to come out, did you think that was possible?

SH: No... what's sad about talking about the redress is the Isseis, our parents, are the ones that should have gotten it, but they're all gone. I know my father, he would've been in heaven thinking that they got something. My mother was around, but my father is the one that I feel (...) so many Isseis that never got the redress and the apology from the government. (...) It's better late than never (...).

MN: And you were a former Manzanar, Manzanar person. How do you feel about where the Manzanar camp site is going right now, with the National Park Service taking over?

SH: (...) I have no knowledge of that. I haven't researched it (...), but as far as that's concerned, I think it's probably going very (well). (...) It's on the (West) Coast, (...) I saw something on (...) Minidoka, the other day, and I don't know anything that went on in any other camp. (...) I only have an interest in Manzanar, and even then, I don't know what's all being done. But at Minidoka, the documentary that I saw (...) was very interesting too. I mean, like other camps, they went through different things and they looked different. (...) But Manzanar, I have been up in that area. I've never been to the pilgrimage, (but when) I'm going to Reno and (...) to Mammoth (...), we stopped in Manzanar. But since then, they built (...) a museum there (so) people (will) never forget what happened.

MN: Were you able to return to Manzanar with your mother and father?

SH: No, (...) we never took 'em and they never went. My father, for sure. My mother, we could've taken her, but we never did.

MN: Have you gone with your kids or grandkids?

SH: Uh-uh. I've been with friends. They never ask to go, and they never said, "Let's go," or anything like that.


MN: Do you think, then, something like this is important to capture?

SH: Well, I would think so, knowing that your mother and your father were in (relocation camps). It's just the generation, I don't know, because now my daughter, she's more into Japanese culture, I guess because of my granddaughter, and they both went to Japanese school, but my, if I don't tell my son, "Aren't you ever going to Nisei Week, just to see what it's all about?" "No, that's okay." (...) And he has come one time, but he's not one that comes every year. He has -- I take that back -- he has helped three years (at) Camp Musubi. He was (...) helping out, not a counselor 'cause he didn't come every day (for) about three years (...) and he enjoyed it (...). But as far as being active (...) in the community, nothing. So I guess it's the generation that goes on, (...) he's proud he's Japanese American. But that's about it. [Laughs] I wish they would take more interest in it, but it's fading, so I don't know.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.