Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Toshiko Aiboshi Interview
Narrator: Toshiko Aiboshi
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Culver City, California
Date: January 20, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-atoshiko-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: You mentioned earlier that you were kind of a carefree, fancy free group without responsibilities for raising a family or caring for a family, and not having to worry about military service and those kinds of things. You did also in that conversation mention the "loyalty questionnaire," which, I think it, I think the, it was seventeen or over who had to answer.

TA: That was the greatest discussion of the whole...

RP: Tell us what you recall about that in Amache.

TA: Amache, it got to be a great debate about the questionnaire because of the wording of the questionnaire. And the people in our block ended up saying, "Alright, even if it says we have, when we say yes, we're loyal to the United States and put aside any allegiance to the emperor," which we had none, "in the same wording we will just say that yes, we are loyal to the United States and that will be the response." And 8-K was that, that they were going to be "yes-yes." I do not know anybody who answered "no-no" in the 8-K situation.

RP: So that was a, that was an issue --

TA: But it was probably the most discussed situation in that whole camp experience. It was the thing, you know. And my recollection is that those people who said they were "no-no" were really ostracized. They, as I say, in our block we had the family that lost four boys, and he had said, and there was a letter that he wrote, and he said, "If I die," he says, "it will have been worth it." So yeah, we had a lot...

RP: So the entire block came together and made this decision?

TA: No, I don't know whether they had discussions, but certainly there were a lot of small groups talking. And you were just aware that this was going on. I don't think there was an open saying, "We're gonna have a forum," which might happen today. But being in an age grade, group which did not have any, where it was gonna have no impact on me, it was not, had I had a brother I certainly would've been much more involved in that.

RP: Involved in, influence in it, it affected...

TA: And I think it was the age group that I was in, and also being a girl. We didn't think about girls going to the army.

RP: You remember young men going off to physicals?

TA: Yeah, they were going off.

RP: Some of your friends, even, might've?

TA: Uh-huh, but not too many. But in the, next to the Yoshimunes was the family, the Bob Uragamis, and Mr. Uragami was instrumental in getting a Boy Scout troop going in camp, and he developed a drum and bugle corps. And so whenever anybody was going to go to war, then they usually went to the railroad station in Granada, I believe, and it usually was around, I guess, four o'clock or five o'clock in the morning that they were going, and Mr. Uragami made sure that that drum and bugle corps went to play "The Stars and Stripes" or whatever, to make sure that they played it very loudly so that the town people would know that somebody from camp was going to the U.S. Army. That was told to me by Bob Uragami.

RP: Going back to the school in Amache, was, and particularly with Katherine Stegner, you said she was social studies teacher?

TA: Yeah.

RP: Did the situation arise where, that you might end up debating the constitutionality of your own internment? What, did the teachers bring to light some of the issues that directly revolved --

TA: Not that I, not that I'm aware of.

RP: I guess a follow up question would be, did you ever, did you detect a sense of cynicism or irony from other students whenever the word democracy might be used in a classroom?

TA: I don't think so. Not that I recall. I don't recall any discussion of that. I think we were just obedient children, and whatever, I don't think we were free spirits in terms of thinking.

RP: I'm probably projecting my '60s mentality on you. [Laughs]

TA: That's right. [Laughs]

RP: You mean you didn't protest that?

TA: But because I think we were taught to be very obedient, whatever the teacher said, we did. And so if they didn't bring up a topic of that sort, and, "Why are we here?" it was not, at least in my radar screen at all. I don't know, you have heard the term shikata ga nai, you can't, it can't be, if you can't do anything about it, that's the way it is. And don't bitch about it, kind of thing. [Laughs] And so some of those qualities that our parents instilled in us was probably very good for us, or to be able to cope. So I don't feel, I don't know of anybody who mentally was unable to cope with the situation. It must not have been very easy for the parents.

RP: Right. And the fact that you, based on the age you were at that time and how you felt, the experience was very positive for you, but could you also turn around and, like you said, have sympathy or compassion for other kids who maybe went through more difficult situations?

TA: Yeah.

RP: I was thinking of Min Tonai, having been from Terminal Island.

TA: Yes, because they were, when they... well, Min Tonai will tell you first that they could not get on the boat 'cause they had to, they were going, not to school in Terminal Island but being bused, boated over, I guess, and they were not able to do that. Their situation was that, he tells me that they could not go to school at all, and it was just a really bad situation. And I think financially they had been very successful before the war, and they lost it all. And so after the war, he was saying in his case he owes a lot to his sister, older sister, who ordinarily would've gone on to school, but they decided that probably one of the males should go to school, be able to go on to college, and that's how he got to go to college and she didn't. So he feels indebted to her for working and being, making it possible for him to go to school.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright &copy; 2011 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.