Densho Digital Archive
Preserving California's Japantowns Collection
Title: Kenji Maruko Interview
Narrator: Kenji Maruko
Interviewers: Jill Shiraki (primary); Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Fresno, California
Date: March 9, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-mkenji-01-0025

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So let's talk about Santa Fe. What did you see at Santa Fe?

KM: [Laughs] Oh, Santa Fe? It's pretty country. [Laughs]

TI: So better than Jerome?

KM: Yeah. It was a lot better than Jerome, because it was out in the foothills. And of course, it's the Indian architecture, but not the camps. Uh-uh, not the camps at all.

TI: So describe the camps.

KM: The camp was, it was just one long barrack, and tarpaper again, same thing, and all men in there. And we had people from, was it Chile or from South America. Quite a few fellows from South America, and they looked different, too, South American Isseis. Because most of 'em spoke Japanese and Spanish. And we seen one guy commit suicide, oh, it was kind of tragic. I guess he was depressed because they used the South American families to exchange prisoners, and they were people without a country because people in South America didn't want 'em, they didn't want 'em back. And, of course, they came into the United States as prisoners, and they didn't have any papers here, either. So they were technically people without a country.

TI: And so one of them committed suicide?

KM: He took lye. Came back from lunch, and there was a commotion going on, "What's going on?" Well, he just committed suicide. You know, you think about it, committing suicide is easy. And if you're depressed enough, you'll do anything.

TI: It must have been hard for you and others, though.

KM: No, it didn't bother us.

TI: It didn't bother you? Okay. How about security at Santa Fe compared to, say, Tule Lake?

KM: I'll tell you something about Santa Fe security. Lax. It's a federal, but lax. Because one of our younger member, he was studying radio. At that time, radio was... and he built himself a shortwave radio set, and he was, of course, the barrack was higher because we had to walk up to the barrack, there was a lot of room underneath. And he built himself a shortwave radio in the camp, and they didn't catch him. And he was listening to Tokyo all the time. And when they surrendered, he says, "Oh, I heard it on the news. NHK," he says. [Laughs] "What do you got?" he says. "I got a shortwave radio."

TI: So he built it and was able to hide it so that he could...

KM: Yeah, uh-huh. He was in the basement there. They were downstairs from the barrack. I thought that was funny, because you'd think they'd have equipment to trace all of that, but no, they didn't have anything.

TI: How about other security? Was it kind of similar to Tule Lake?

KM: Yeah, similar to the rest of the places, yeah, security was.

TI: And how about, like, fences and things like that?

KM: They had fences, barbed-wire fence, oh, yeah. And then they, the older guys played golf.

TI: You know, at, places like Santa Fe, here you had, from the whole West Coast, all the leaders of the Japanese community all in one place. Did you ever... and I guess your father among them, he was there, too. Did you see them talking a lot?

KM: Oh, yeah, because I think the three ministers from the Buddhist church was there, Fresno Buddhist church was in the same, same concentration camp, yeah.

TI: So did you ever participate in any discussions with the others or...

KM: No, uh-huh.

TI: Or how about your father? Did he ever talk to you about what was being discussed?

KM: No, he didn't. Yeah, kind of left us alone because it's a different group, different age groups.

TI: So you hung around more the people your age, the younger group.

KM: Uh-huh.

TI: And so they were the more recent people who went to Santa Fe, and they had the other group that was there maybe a little bit longer.

KM: Longer, yeah.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2010 Densho and Preserving California's Japantowns. All Rights Reserved.