Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Yoshiko Kanazawa Interview
Narrator: Yoshiko Kanazawa
Interviewer: Diana Emiko Tsuchida
Location: San Jose, California
Date: January 3, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-jamsj-2-15-5

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DT: And what else, so what was a typical day, or days, that you remember, in camp?

YK: You know, when we first got there, before school was organized, I remember a fun time because all the kids in the block -- there were about twelve or fourteen barracks in the block -- and all the kids in our block played together. And we would play Capture the Flag and half the kids would be on one team and the other half on the other team, or Kick the Can, and so there was, a real camaraderie. And I remember that as a happy time. And then when school started, that was in September, and school started soon after that and I was very excited about that because I missed the end of first grade, and so I was very excited about starting second grade. And then on top of that, my cousin, who lived in the next block, she was a sophomore at Berkeley when she was sent to the camp. And she became my second grade teacher. And so she would be preparing flashcards and various lesson plans, and she would tell me what she was doing and I would study her flashcards. So later she told me, "You were the smartest one in the class. You always raised your hand and knew all the answers." [Laughs] And I thought, well sure, because I had a head start. But I loved school.

DT: It sounds like you did.

YK: I did, I loved school. And I've met many people come through the museum who would tell me, "Oh, I was in second grade, too, and I don't remember going to school." So, I don't know if it was a bad experience they had or what, but I thought that was interesting. But it was such an important part of my life. And my father became a chef in the camp, and he wasn't working in the kitchen that I should have eaten at, but he was in the block right next to me. And the authorities did give us permission to eat at his kitchen. so I enjoyed that. I felt like I was eating his food.

DT: Yes. And was he, had he cooked before? Was he a good cook? And could kind of do it or was he...

YK: He learned.  [Laughs]

DT: He learned, he had to learn.

YK: He had to learn, yes.

DT: And was your cousin the only teacher that you had? And were there mostly Japanese American teachers or were there also...

YK: I don't know that, but I had her until she was able to leave the camp, and she got to go to college at the University of Chicago, so she moved away. And then we had Caucasian teachers. And these were people who came and taught in the camps. And they had living conditions better than what we had, but they did live in the camp also.

DT: And I am assuming they were kind to all of you?

YK: There was one who was very kind and the other was a very strict teacher. I don't know if she would have been that way wherever she was teaching, but she was quite strict. And then for a short time I had a young man who had just graduated high school there in the camp. And he was teaching our fourth grade class, and he had all these mimeograph sheets of tests that he would time us and test us and they were on all the math facts from, through the twelves. And so we had to memorize, you know, twelve times eleven, twelve times twelve, because you wanted to do it quickly and not be the last one to finish it in your classroom. So he did a lot of that, but I've always felt when I came out of the camp what good training that was. It's kind of like what they do in Kumon.

DT: Oh that's right, same principle.


[Due to technical difficulties, this question is cut out of the video.] DT: That's so funny. Yeah, and what other memories about camp have stayed with you throughout the years? You know, what other...

YK: I had a very good friend. My parents knew her parents, and she and I used to put on little talent shows. And we would charge the kids in the block, I don't know, maybe five cents or something to come to our talent show. [Laughs] I don't know what we did, sang or danced or something. That was a lot of fun. And one story that my father told me but no one else in the family remembers that story, but I love it, it's when Eleanor Roosevelt came to our camp, she visited my father's kitchen and he had just baked some biscuits and he gave her one of his biscuits and she really liked it. [Laughs]

DT: Wow.

YK: So I like to tell that story. He didn't tell me lies, so I feel like it must be true.

DT: I'm sure it was true, just a very small exchange but it meant a lot.

YK: That's right, it did mean a lot to him. And then I had a little sister who was born in the camp, and she added a lot to my life. Because I had been the youngest and I was so happy to have a younger sister. And when she... she was born at the hospital, and then my father and I walked to the hospital and then we got to bring them home. And the authorities had arranged for us to have a car that drove us back to our barrack. And that was the only time I rode on a car in the three and a half years that I was in the camp, so I remember that. And then I remember my little sister crying because so hot and uncomfortable and my father would walk her around the camp, patting her on the back and saying his Buddhist chants, and that's how he would put her to sleep. So we still laugh about that, because she remembers the chants.

DT: She does?

YK: Yes. And I don't know if it's because she heard it later, but we always say, "That's how Papa put you to sleep."

DT: Oh wow, that's amazing. And at this time, your mother, was she just taking care of all of you and just sort of making sure everything was okay?

YK: Yes, yes. She took a tailoring class in camp, and so she became quite good at tailoring also. And after we were in the camp for maybe a year and a half, people on the outside were allowed to send things to the people. And the lady who was holding my mother's sewing machine for her, sent that to her, shipped it to her. And so my mother was able to sew clothes for us and that kept her busy, too.

DT: Your parents were very... I mean, and I guess everyone was very self-sufficient. They could really just like...

YK: They were.

DT: ...make the best out of that situation.

YK: They truly were, yes. I think that's what makes me so proud of them, that they did the best they could for their children and they didn't just sit there and grumble, but they got up and anybody who had any kind of talent shared it. I remember taking koto lessons from a lady, and then my sister was able to take modern dance. And her teacher was... oh, her last, she became one of the dancers with Martha Graham.

DT: Oh really? Wow.

YK: Yes. So anybody with talent, shared it.

DT: Wow, that's amazing.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.