Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Mas Okabe Interview
Narrator: Mas Okabe
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: San Jose, California
Date: January 30, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-omas_2-01-0014

<Begin Segment 14>

KL: Did you start school right away in Amache?

MO: Uh-huh, yeah.

KL: How did it compare to the schools you had been to on the outside?

MO: Well, it was all Japanese kids, and I remember I still had my crutches when I went to Amache. And I wasn't able to get around too much because of the crutches. We had three different... by the time I got there, I guess I was in eighth grade, there were three different grades, eighth grade one, eighth grade... three different classes. So I didn't get to meet too many of the kid, 'cause I got there late. And we left right away to go to Amache. I guess we were there maybe a short while, maybe a year, so we didn't get to become too intimate with the kids in our class. And I guess in school I was pretty quiet in the classroom. I wasn't too social. I didn't blossom yet. [Laughs]

KL: Was there a club or a sports team you got involved with?

MO: Not in Amache.

KL: Is there a, you said you went to the Buddhist church regularly.

MO: Yeah, but not in Amache. I didn't go to church.

KL: Did anyone in your family go?

MO: I guess they must have had a church there, but none of us went there.

KL: What had changed, do you think? Why didn't you go?

MO: I don't know. I had no interest, I guess. Father wasn't there to make us go. Sunday was play time. [Laughs]

KL: Did you continue studying Japanese language in Amache?

MO: Not in Amache, not in Amache. In Crystal City we did, but not Amache.

KL: Did you alter your space or your apartment or anything, like dig a basement, or do you remember people building gardens or putting up playgrounds or anything?

MO: No, we were not that creative.

KL: No? No playgrounds? What about your neighbors or people around you?

MO: No, not too much.

KL: Who were your neighbors?

MO: The one right next to us was, I think they live in San Jose now, I can't remember their name. I saw him one time when I went fishing, and I remembered him from camp.

KL: He was a kid?

MO: Yeah. He was a little younger than myself. And then the other side, I remember their name was Harada, and there was a girl in the family, she was the same grade as I was. Her name was Miyoko Harada. And I think she had an older sister. And there were some other people I used to talk to, but I don't recall their names.

KL: Did people plant things? Do you remember people growing vegetables or flowers?

MO: We didn't, but I imagine there were. Japanese people are like that, they like to grow things, do things like that. Well, we used to make rings out of toothbrush handles, the plastic things, used to heat it up and bend it, and then we'd sand it and smooth it out and everything, polish it up with tooth powder, we used to use that to polish it up, and we used to wear those things.

KL: What were your memories of the mess hall and food in Amache?

MO: Not too memorable. I remember going there, but the food was okay. Nothing outstanding. And people used to tell us we're eating horse meat, or we're eating mutton, but I can't tell the difference. I just used to eat it anyway.

KL: Did you have any contact, or your family, with the administration in Amache?

MO: Not myself. Maybe my brother might have.

KL: Do you remember anything at all?

MO: Nothing, I don't.

KL: But they were already looking, your family was already looking into ways to pay back...

MO: I don't recall any of that. Just after we saw the letters that was the correspondence between my father and the Justice Department, trying to get my father back together. After we got the letter from the Justice Department, that's the only thing I know. I don't remember any of that during my camp time.

KL: What was the mood like... well, I guess you were a kid, but did you pick up on anything about how the adults felt in Amache? Was it tense, or were people kind of supportive of each other?

MO: No, I don't remember any tenseness. Supportive? Not really. I mean, we're together, but not rah-rah-rah, that kind of support. We're just friendly, everybody was friendly. Yeah, that's about it.

KL: Were you keeping track of what was going on in Woodland or in Sacramento at all?

MO: No, not myself. I had no idea.

KL: Do you have any recollection of the so-called "loyalty questionnaire" being distributed, or your brothers or your mom having to...

MO: No, I don't. I don't think they had to, what do you call it? They didn't have to do that until we went to Crystal City. Then they, I think they were questioned about that. I remember seeing some correspondence.

KL: They were questioned before they were able to go Crystal City, do you think?

MO: No, I think they were asked that in Crystal City, not in Amache.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.