Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Toyoko Okumura Interview
Narrator: Toyoko Okumura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: July 6, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-otoyoko-01-0016

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So, so they pick up your father and bring him to Santa Fe, or to leave Tule Lake. How did they do that? Did they come to your barrack? Can you remember or tell me, describe how...

TO: It was early in the morning, four o'clock, I remember. They came and picked... I think there were about fifteen or so. My neighbor, he was with the 442nd, but he was what they called Kibei Nisei. They picked him up, too. There were about four or five boys in block that were picked up and sent to the same place, Santa Fe.

TI: What did the camp administration say? What reason did they give for picking up these, these men?

TO: I guess they were afraid that they have a group and start a riot, or against U.S. government.

TI: I'm looking at my notes, I'm trying to find... what was your father's first name again?

TO: Seisuke, S-E-I-S-U-K-E.

TI: Seisuke Okumura, okay. And so what was that like for you, your mother, when they took your father away?

TO: We just didn't know what was going to happen. My mother, of course, was in hysterics. It was very hard for all of us, of course. And then we never heard from him for months, and then -- oh, my brother was picked up at that same time, also. And so about a month later, they couldn't send us any letters, or they did send us a letter, but it was all censored, so we couldn't read what was what. So my brother, when he was sent over, I guess he was fifteen, sixteen, maybe, kind of skilled, he likes to do things with his hands. So he made a Japanese slipper and in between the sole, he had the letter in there, told us where he was and what they were doing. That's how we got... 'cause they were able to send packages. We were able to send package over there, too, so in those packages, he was clever enough to put that letter in there so it wouldn't be censored.

TI: And do you know what that letter, that hidden letter said?

TO: Where he was, and that he was doing all right.

TI: And so it said he was, that's when you found out he was in Santa Fe?

TO: My brother was in North Dakota, Bismarck. And then found out my dad was in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

TI: So they had separated your brother and your father. You may not be able to answer this, but I'm curious. Your younger brother was a U.S. citizen, and Bismarck is a Department of Justice camp for, internment camp for "enemy aliens." It's not clear to me how they put him into this camp.

TO: I have no idea. But you know, when we all got on to go back to Japan, my mother and my sister, three of us, three days later, I found out my brother was on that same ship, and Dad was on the same ship. One was from Santa Fe, my brother was from Bismarck, North Dakota, so we all got together three days later after we left the port.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.