Densho Digital Archive
Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann Collection
Title: Nobu Shimokochi Interview
Narrator: Nobu Shimokochi
Interviewer: Raechel Donahue
Date: 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-snobu_2-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

RD: So let's talk about something that we discussed with Kaz, which was now that we know that the fourth generation doesn't know very much about what happened, what would you hope that all of the stuff that we're doing or that we're telling, what would you hope to impart to the Yonsei generation?


NS: Well, you know, if they're fourth generation, it'll be their great-grandparents that were in camp. And it was a very special part of history, it's never happened before or since, but to be in a concentration camp is a very special event in American history, and the kids, the fourth generation should know something about it. If you write it, it's unlikely that they will read the book or whatever, but if it's DVD, I think the chance that they will see it will be much better, and they'll have some kind of appreciation for that experience.

RD: Oh, I know. And why is it you're not bitter?

NS: Well, you know, I'm not bitter... well, number one, I don't want to be bitter and just ruin my life just being bitter and moping about something that happened years ago. No, that's not my style. Actually, it was a wonderful experience. You know, your experience molds you, your personality and your beliefs and the way you behave. And I think it was an experience that made me mentally tough. I learned to gambaru and also gaman. Gaman is to endure pain and discomfort, the ability to postpone your desires, delayed gratification, and it's a quality that makes you a better person. And look what you lose if you were bitter. And another thing, too, we were accused of being disloyal, we were a threat to the security of the U.S., were considered a security risk, and I just wanted to prove that they were wrong. And I volunteered for the army at age seventeen, first chance I could get, and I had my chance to prove my loyalty by offering my life for this country. And if that isn't proof of your loyalty, I don't know else, more you can do. Why should I be bitter? I like who I am, and that experience of the camps made me who I am. So I am not bitter, but I know that there were some terrible things done to us, but I'm not bitter. I pay my taxes, I don't cheat, I consider taxes the price of being an American. I don't always agree with how the tax money is spent, but a lot of people who call themselves Americans, they want to cheat on their taxes and do all kinds of things to be anti-authority. Today especially, they don't want... they're anti-government and anti-establishment, they're counterculture. Some of us have a streak of counterculture in our blood. It's not always bad.

RD: Did you want to say something about the high school?

NS: Yeah.

RD: I wanted to talk just a little bit, I don't know what you were going to say, but everybody looked so stylish. They looked way hipper than the white kids. Everybody's got those great haircuts and the right pants --

NS: But you know, in camp, we wore patched clothes. [Laughs] And we had to be very frugal. So we couldn't buy clothes just for the style or for the looks. But we tried to be, and it's the best we could do.

RD: Everybody looks cool, though. What kind of music did you like?

NS: Oh, all that pop music. And you know, when we were at Santa Anita, it just brought back memories. I could still hear Harry James' "Sleepy Lagoon," because I heard it over and over when we were in camp. And there was a bunch of other songs of that time that the young kids listened to over and over. We had a lot of idle time in the camps, and you know...

RD: Were you listening to the radio or where you listening to records?

NS: Radio. Yeah, we couldn't pay records.

RD: They had a radio for you?

NS: Yeah. We had to bring our radio. What we did is we had a, what do you call it, a shortwave radio, and that was outlawed. They didn't want you to have that, so we got rid of it and bought a smaller radio, and that's what we took to camp.

RD: Do you have something else you wanted to add?

NS: Well...

RD: About school.

NS: Yeah. You know, today we have all kinds of problems. We have drugs, violence, dropouts, teenage pregnancies, it can go on and on and on about problems in schools today. But we had none of that. Kaz talks about juvenile delinquents, well, they were, the damage they did or the bad things they did just was nothing compared to today. It was, I don't know, things that they didn't damage anything, they didn't write graffiti all over everything, we didn't break anything, it just, we were good kids. You know, compared to today, and oh, there was a little bit of bullying that went on, but we were, I think, great kids compared to today. We had a great respect for other people, especially elders, that we don't have today. Our teachers were called sensei, and sensei is a term of respect used for doctors, professors, pastors, government officials. So in other words, the teachers were very highly respected, and what the teacher said went, it goes. If you cross the teacher, we caught the dickens for that.

RD: From your parents?

NS: Yes. And not only that, but if you misbehaved, it was... it brought shame to your family, dishonor. So every time we went somewhere, we were reminded, don't bring shame to your family. And it's so different from today's society.

RD: Maybe this will help it a little bit.

NS: Yes, I hope so.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Raechel Donahue and Garrett Lindemann and Densho. All Rights Reserved.