Densho Digital Archive
Japanese American Museum of San Jose Collection
Title: Eiichi Sakauye Interview
Narrator: Eiichi Sakauye
Interviewer: Jiro Saito
Location: San Jose, California
Date: February 8, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-seiichi-01-0018

<Begin Segment 18>

ES: Then my neighbors keep telling me, "You're American citizen; you're all right." Then when 9066 order came, all persons of Japanese ancestry must evacuate the West Coast, up to 1/16th blood. And that really shook me and said, "Well, my dad and all of my family must go. Where? We don't know. And finally we had to register at the San Jose State gymnasium and sign some papers, Wartime Civil Control Administration as to what we can do with our assets and so forth. Then we were, got, after we got the family number, we were waiting, what's going to happen next, we got orders that 9066, so we had no other alternative but to listen to what may happen. And we were all shook up because lot of families wanted to be close together, so they start moving to other areas. Well, there was an area in east Fresno that was a clear zone. So I thought that I might move over there. But after going there and looking over the area, no homes, just old cow barn and things like that, where are you gonna stay? And I told my dad, "Let's not go. Let's stay here." Because we'd been law-abiding citizens, and I'm American citizen. So we stayed 'til the last, and that's what happened.

JS: How much actual time did you have between the day that you moved, what were the... you got sent out, and from the time that you had to make preparations for that?

ES: Thirty days.

JS: Thirty days. And what did you have, what did you have to do within that thirty days?

ES: Thirty days we had to dispose of our property, and told us that we can get our family numbers. So we had our identification number, and be ready to move and pack a few clothing, didn't say where to go, I mean, where are we going. Warm climate, cold climate or what, or are we gonna live in the city or out in the sticks, so we didn't know what kind of clothes to wear. So we packed little bit of everything. We can't have any contraband, couldn't have any knives over three-inch blade, no cameras or other things. So what can we put in our suitcase what we can carry. So we did put in a few things, I put in a pocketknife because I was a Tenderfoot Boy Scouts, and you know how Boy Scouts do, they peel apples into... so when I arrived in Santa Anita, the officer there opened up my suitcase and they found this knife in there. They were going to take it out, and I says, "I am in the Tenderfoot Boy Scouts, and you know Boy Scouts' motto is 'Be prepared,' and that's why I have this knife in here. I want to peel apple, open letter, of that nature." So he just put it back in.

JS: As far as your property was concerned, what did you have to do to get ready to move?

ES: Well, the Wartime Civil Control Administration asked us to dispose of our property or do something, so it's a long story, but during, our neighbor had served in World War I, and he had an invalid mother. So he's just worried as to, "Who's going to take care of my invalid mother?" Had a half-brother, but half-brother working full-time on the railroad, and he only has time early in the morning or late in the evening. So we made arrangements that we would look after her provided the half-brother would get her up in the morning and put her into bed at night. So that arrangement was made, and I was a little tot at that time, and I would be a messenger between my dad and mother and invalid mother. And after seven months or almost a year, the war was over. So he came back and he was very thrilled that his mother was living, and in just as good a health as the day he left. So that, he remembered that very well, and so when World War II came up, he says, "I'll," when the Wartime Civil Control Administration told us what we can do, and I told him what happened and what we must do: dispose of the property one way or the other, either lease the property or sell it all, or get someone to run it. And he says, "I'll take care of it for you." I says, "Well, I don't know how long, where we'll be, what's going to happen to us." He says, "Well, I'll take of it for you." So that's what he promised to do. Says, "I can't take care of all your ranches, but I'll take care of the home ranch here." So that's what he did, and he took an inventory of all what we had, and I didn't know that. But there were, when I got into Santa Anita, Missus is a schoolteacher at Franklin McKinleyschool here, and she sent me a box of Shanghai peach to Santa Anita. They held it there 'til it rot, the juice coming out of it. Showed it to me, said, "Here's the box they sent." What can I do with it? Can't eat it, it's all rotten. So I wrote back and told her, thanked her, and what's happened. And she couldn't believe what had happened. So she's a schoolteacher, she knows the rights of American citizens. Her folks were sort of, little anti-Japanese, but she was a very staunch American, so was her husband, a veteran of World War I. So he took care of the home place, then the day I returned, fifteen days before the coast was opened, I went to the door and the dog wouldn't bark, so they were surprised that I came home. Says, "You can take over tomorrow if you want." So I says, "I got to get my folks." So it took me less than a month to get the folks. I got the folks back and I started farming the very next day.

JS: So the options were, in terms of disposal and property, was leasing the property, selling it, or get somebody to run it for you. In your case, I believe it was Mr. Seely, is that correct? Offered to take over and run your property for you. How about the other Japanese Americans? Did you hear anything about their fate as far as their land is concerned?

ES: Yes. Well, the other Japanese Americans, I feel real bad about how they treated, what they lost. They lost everything. Everything you can think of they had, they lost. Because they were on the leased property or sharecrop property, the buildings they put on there, all the barns they put on, belongs to the property, they cannot remove it. And since it's leased, the landlord has the right to assign to somebody else, and every one of those farms have personal belongings, the family had personal belongings. They would either store it in some friend's home or someplace, or even store it in government warehouses at last resort. What they stored, vandalism got in, and I can vouch for that. In Japanese town here, they had these, what do you call, salvage stores or pawn shops. And you could see that these Japanese good that they treasured were in there for sale.

JS: Okay.

ES: Of course, when the coast was opened, they cleared everything out, but coast, I came in fifteen days before the coast opened, I walked in Oakland around to see my former commission merchants, and I'd come to San Jose, go up to Japantown, and went to my banks and my friends and my co-ops. They all asked me to come back, and they said, "Don't go out at night. Don't go to saloons or any gatherings." So, which I didn't.

JS: Okay.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2005 Densho and The Japanese American Museum of San Jose. All Rights Reserved.