Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Rose Ito Tsunekawa Interview
Narrator: Rose Ito Tsunekawa
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda, Steve Fugita
Location: San Jose, California
Date: January 26, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-trose-01-0016

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TI: So you talked about, over the course of the war from a, I guess a labor standpoint, you were kind of pulled out of school, so you had to work first in the fields and then later on in a factory. What are some other changes that you saw during this time period? Like for instance, your family, did, did things change for your mother and father during this time period?

RT: Oh, yes. Everything was rationed, having to stand, my mother used to have to stand in long queues to buy anything. Everything was rationed. Food was short. I remember, in those days there wasn't much fuel, so everything was either horse, horse drawn or by man and when a horse got very old and couldn't draw and do its work anymore then they would kill it, and then when we heard about a certain horse was going to be butchered, then we'd go to the butcher shop and stand in line for hours just to get the horse meat.

TI: So all the families in the village would wait there for...

RT: Yeah, that's how it was. I mean, stand in, the housewives, they would be standing in line for a long time just to buy food or whatever.

TI: During this time, because your family was working a farm, were you more fortunate than others because you had food?

RT: Yes. I think much of the rice that they raised had to be sold, or given or sold to the army or whatever, but at least we had, were able, we were a little better off than the normal townspeople because my father was helping at the farm.

TI: So what other changes, like maybe, maybe information? Did you sense the news or anything changing over the course of the war? Did you notice anything like that? Or the police, did they change? I'm just trying to get a sense of, as the war progressed, how life changed for, for you and others.

RT: I don't think the police were on my parents' back as much because my father was mostly gone during the day, helping at the farm, which, the farm was maybe, by bicycle, maybe about thirty minutes or so by bicycle, so he was commuting to my aunt's farm. And my mother was busy trying to get food on the table. My grandfather was still...

TI: As the war progressed, how about preparations for actual warfare? Were people being taught or trained or, to defend the country?

RT: Oh yes. Well, we were, we had to practice bucket relays to, for the air raids. Japanese houses burned very easily and so we had to learn a lot of that, how to do bucket relays and other things, and also, probably the last year of the war, at, working in the factories, during the day, I can't remember if it was in the afternoon or when they, Nagoya built the fighters, fighter planes, the zero fighters that were used as the kamikaze fighter planes, so they had Mitsubishi aircraft there, so Nagoya was really, really heavily bombed during the war. So we weren't, we were maybe about twenty miles from Nagoya, but every day there would be a air raid siren coming on, so the students, we were the first to be able to go into the bomb shelters, leave our place in the factory, so we kind of looked forward to that at least. [Laughs] We didn't have to work when we went into the shelters. One day when they told us the air raids was over, we came out, and this B-29 just kind of was going back, but it saw us and he went and swooped down at us and machine gunned us. That was really, really scary and I realized that, later on I realized that there's no discrimination for something like that. They don't care whether you're, there's an American citizen down below or what.

TI: And when that happened, was anyone hit with the machine guns, when they machine gunned, did anyone --

RT: Yeah, there was one older man that worked in the factory. We were able to run into one of the warehouses.

TI: But in general, the air raids, so the bombers were bombing Nagoya, twenty miles away, but whenever they did that the air raids would go off and you would go into the bomb shelters?

RT: Uh-huh.

TI: So generally the bombs didn't drop close to you?

RT: No. No, the bombs didn't, and during the last year of the war, last six months or so, we slept outdoors. It wasn't safe to sleep indoors anymore because at night when the air raids, when they had the air raids, the Japanese, it was incendiary bombs and the Japanese homes just, was just, it just went up.

TI: So when you slept outside, where did you sleep? Was it right next to the house or was it in the fields or, where'd you go?

RT: Well, in back it was just a small plot of earth, but the, and then there was a lotus lake, a lake with lotus, but, so the Japanese, the soil, it rains a lot, so you can dig three inches and you get water, so we were told to dig a bomb shelter, but we, there was no way you can build a bomb shelter in your backyard, so we just kind of slept outdoors. And, well, the war ended in August, so it wasn't too bad, but every night in the distance you would see bright lights and you would know that there was a town or village that was air raided, bombed. And every night it was, the lights were getting closer and closer.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.