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

<Begin Segment 1>

KL: This is Kristen Luetkemeier from Manzanar National Historic Site. Today is Wednesday, January 30, 2013, and we're here in San Jose in the home of Mas and Shirley Okabe. And I'll be interviewing Mas about his experiences growing up in California, and then being in several different facilities during World War II, going to Japan and spending years there, and then returning to the United States. And Alisa Lynch is operating the video camera today. And before we start, the important question to ask is, do I have your permission to record this interview and to make it available to the public and keep it at Manzanar National Historic Site?

MO: Yes. Yes, you can.

KL: We really appreciate your having us here. So I want to ask you first about your parents' background. I know you know some things about your folks, so let's start with your father. And would you share with me his name?

MO: My father's name was Umesaburo Okabe. He was the oldest son, and he was born in Aichi-ken, Japan. And I think he came here in the early '90s, maybe late 1800s, and he did many things. Some say he was illegal, but I'm not sure.

KL: Do you know where he came into the country?

MO: No, I don't. No, I don't. Some say he came in from Mexico and that he handled horses down there, and that's just hearsay, so I can't prove that.

KL: Who told you that?

MO: One of my son's friends, my youngest son's friends told me that he came through Mexico. I don't know where he heard that, but anyway... then I remember Sacramento where I was born. Beyond that, I don't remember too much about him, but in Sacramento he had a Chinese restaurant, and we were there 'til the war, well, 1941 we moved to Woodland, California. He was going into farming, he sold his Chinese restaurant and we just moved to Woodland to start farming, and we had planted tomatoes, we had pruned the grape vines to grow grapes. And then the war started, and we didn't get to harvest anything. Because we were just uprooted and taken away.

KL: What about your mom? I forgot to ask what your mother's name was.

MO: My mother's name was Asao, her maiden name was Asano, A-S-A-N-O, and she was born in Aichi-ken, also, and she was a "picture bride." And I don't know when she came here, but she worked in the Chinese restaurant with my dad.

KL: Do you know how their marriage was arranged, anything about that?

MO: No, just "picture bride," that's all I know. And shall I tell 'em about my father? Originally, he had another lady lined up... lined up. [Laughs] But things didn't work out, and I guess she went back to Japan, and then my mother came after that.

KL: The other lady came to the United States?

MO: I think so. No? No, she didn't.

KL: How did you find out about that?

MO: I just heard... where did we find out about that? I don't know. It was in one of the documents, I think, yeah.

KL: But they never met, you don't think?

MO: No. I don't think she ever came here.

KL: Lucky for you. [Laughs]

MO: Well...

KL: Had they ever met in Aichi? Do you know if their families knew each other?

MO: The first lady?

KL: No, your mother and your father.

MO: Oh, that I don't know. We know nothing about... they don't tell us these things, you know. So I just remember my mom in Sacramento growing up, and she worked in the restaurant, helped my dad.

KL: What was her personality like?

MO: My mother? She was quiet, warm person, very gentle, caring. She was a nice mother. Couldn't ask for anything better. My father was more stern and domineering, ruled with an iron fist. And if you did anything bad, watch out. [Laughs] He was very, a disciplinarian.

KL: They were kind of complements to each other?

MO: Yeah.

KL: And do you... did they ever say anything to you about their trip over?

MO: Trip?

KL: Their trip from Japan?

MO: No.

KL: Did they say why, why they wanted to leave?

MO: Like I said, they don't discuss things like that with us.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

KL: And you said you remember Sacramento, but where were your parents before Sacramento?

MO: I guess he was in Sacramento doing other things. I think he used to work in a hotel, small hotel, and I think he was a shoe cobbler. I don't know what else he did, but those were two of the things that I do remember. But mainly I think the restaurant was his biggest span of life there. He worked real hard. He was a nice father, as long as you didn't do anything bad, he was fine.

KL: What was his role in the restaurant?

MO: We had a Chinese cook, a chef, and my dad used to help him. And he knew how to cook also, my mother knew how to cook also, but the chef did all the cooking. And I guess he was, my mother would serve, or my father would serve, and they would clean up after the customers left and stuff like that, clean up, take care of the place.

KL: Do you remember the chef's name?

MO: I just remember his first name, Wing, but we used to call him Harry, you know. Wing, he was a real nice guy, very good cook. I used to be so chubby because I used to eat so much of his food. [Laughs] And one time we had to take a picture, family picture, and we had to wear a suit, but I didn't have one, so I had to go to a tailor and have one made because I was so chubby, I couldn't buy it off the rack. But I lost it.

KL: Do you know how they met, your father and Wing?

MO: No, I don't. He was there as long as I can remember, from the time I was there 'til we left.

KL: What was the restaurant, how do you describe the inside of it? Like how many tables?

MO: Oh, we had booths. About seven or eight booths, and the partitions, we had partitions between each booth, and they could take those partitions down to make it a larger. And then we had a big room in the back where they used to have wedding receptions and things like that.

KL: Who were the clientele?

MO: Mostly Japanese people, friends. Yeah, I guess we didn't have too many Caucasian customers, mostly Japanese customers. And there was quite a few Japanese in Sacramento, around that area, in the country area, people used to come into town, they used to come in to eat, stuff like that. I got to know some of them. He had a pretty extensive clientele there, clientele, I don't know if that's the right word.

KL: Yeah, I don't know either. [Laughs]

MO: Customers.

KL: What was the street name that it was on?

MO: M Street.

KL: M, just the letter?

MO: Yeah. It was 318 M Street, now it's called Capitol Avenue, that's the street where you go down and you run straight into the Capitol Building. And that area was Japantown, between Fourth, Fifth, Sixth Street, between L and O Street. Sacramento was alphabetical and numerical.

KL: I like that.

MO: Yeah, it's easy.

KL: Where did you guys live?

MO: We lived above the restaurant. There was a little apartment up there, all of us used to share this one big room.

KL: Your whole family?

MO: The whole family, yeah. All the kids and mother and father.

KL: Did you do your own cooking ever, or just always...

MO: Cooking?

KL: Uh-huh.

MO: When I was little, I used to make my own noodles. You know, I used grab a bunch of noodles, just throw it in the hot water and cook it up and get the broth and make it. It wasn't that difficult.

KL: Did you have a kitchen in your apartment?

MO: No, no.

KL: Just down in the restaurant.

MO: We always used to eat in the restaurant. My biggest treat was going down maybe four or five... not buildings, but stores down, and there used to be an American restaurant run by a Japanese person, and he used to have American food. And that was my treat, going down there and eat roast beef with gravy. You know, you get tired of Chinese food after a while. [Laughs]

KL: Three meals a day you were there?

MO: Yeah.

KL: Who owned the building that the restaurant and the apartment...

MO: We rented it. Never did own that place. We used to rent the whole thing and the apartment upstairs where we slept. And the chef used to sleep in the back, there was another apartment in the back, and he used to sleep there. It was one cozy family.

KL: Yeah, you'd have to get along to live and work that close.

MO: Yeah.

KL: What was the restaurant's name?

MO: M Chop Suey. Simple.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

KL: And you had siblings, right? Tell me who else was in your family growing up.

MO: I had... there were nine children in the family, two older sisters passed away early.

KL: What were their names?

MO: Hanako, she was the oldest. She went to Japan in '35, I think it was, with my younger brother and my older sister. Two sisters and my younger brother went to Japan with my mother back in '35, and then my oldest sister Hanako and my younger brother, they both died in Japan on that trip. They both became ill and they passed away.

KL: What was the other sister's name?

MO: Yoshiko.

KL: And the brother, the younger brother?

MO: Yuki, Yuki. Yukio and Hanako passed away.

KL: Do you know what happened to them?

MO: They became sick.

KL: They get sick?

MO: Yeah. I guess in those days they didn't have penicillin and stuff like that.

KL: What was the reason for their trip?

MO: I don't know. I think... I don't know if they went to school. I don't think so, they just went, you know. And I guess their stay was extended because they became ill and they had to stay there. So they stayed there for two years, and I don't think they went to school.

KL: Who did they stay with?

MO: Probably with my mother's folks, my grandparents. That was in Aichi-ken also. I think that's where they stayed, I'm not positive.

KL: Do you know those grandparents' names? Did you ever meet them?

MO: No. I met them, but I can't remember their names.

KL: When did you meet them?

MO: I met them when we went back after the war.

KL: Okay. We'll get to that, I'll ask you about that later then. So Hanako and Yoshiko and Yukio all went, and Yoshiko came back. Who were the other siblings?

MO: Let's see. There was Ben, he passed away early.

KL: Is he after Yoshiko?

MO: I think he was above Yoshiko, I'm not positive.

KL: He passed away early, too?

MO: Yeah.

KL: What happened to him?

MO: I think he died in infancy. And then there's George, he's below Kiku. There's Hanako, Kiku, George, Jimmy, Ben, Judy, myself, Yukio, and Takashi. Is that nine? [Laughs]

KL: Hold on, I'll count. That's nine, that's a great memory, too. [Laughs] You had a lot of people... well, I'm an older sister, so I can say, looking out for you, right?

MO: Yeah. Yeah, my older brothers used to take me to movies and things like that on weekends.

KL: It's a lot of people, but the ones that you knew that you grew up with, would you tell me just whatever stuck out to you about them? Just a little something about each of your siblings?

MO: Well, George was the oldest boy. He was not as warm as Jimmy. Jimmy was the second oldest son. Jimmy was kind. He used to take me to the movies, he used to play with me and stuff like that. George couldn't be bothered with me, you know, one of those. Yoshiko, she was nice.

KL: Is Yoshiko also Judy?

MO: Judy, yes, Yoshiko and Judy are the same. And she came back from Japan, when the war started, she had contracted tuberculosis, so she wasn't able to go to camp with us. So she was left behind in Sacramento, and she was there all during the war.

KL: In Sacramento?

MO: Well, she went from Sacramento to some other tubercular sanitarium, you know. She eventually wound up in Weimar, W-E-I-M-A-R Sanatorium. That's between Sacramento and Reno, I think there's a facility there, and that's where she was. So she never went to camp.

KL: Do you know how she contracted TB?

MO: No. I guess it's... because I contracted tuberculosis myself later. I guess it was common back then.

KL: I read that I think one in seven people in the United States had it during the '30s or '40s. But she didn't learn she had it until it was time to go into the camps?

MO: Yes, time to go to camp. Kind of sad to just kind of leave her by herself, because she was, what, about thirteen, fourteen at the time. My parents kind of worried about her. We tried to get her to come to camp, but they wouldn't allow that. Because they didn't have facilities for tubercular patients.

KL: How did you, how did you learn she had it?

MO: I don't know. I guess they do exams before they go, I don't know. I don't recall.

KL: Did they test you? Did someone test you?

MO: I don't recall that either. I don't remember. I just remember packing up and going, you know. Anyway, it was sad to leave. I imagine she felt deserted.

KL: Did you write to her?

MO: Oh, yes, we used to correspond.

KL: So you'd hear from her sometimes.

MO: Tried to write as often as you could.

KL: Do you remember your parents' reaction to learning that she had tuberculosis, or that she couldn't come?

MO: No. I imagine they were devastated. But what are you going to do, you know, under the situation?

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

KL: And then there was you.

MO: And there was me.

KL: Mas is a nickname, right?

MO: Well, it's short for Masayuki. I think anybody that had Masayoshi, Masatoshi, this and that, you know, everybody used to call me Mas.

KL: What is Masayuki, do you know of a translation for Masayuki?

MO: Yes, it means to follow a straight path. Masa is tadashii, and yuki is to go.

KL: What do you mean mas is tadashii?

MO: Tadashi means "honest." I guess my father wanted me to follow a straight path and named me tadashii yuki, to go.

KL: So your whole name is Masayuki?

MO: Uh-huh, Masayuki.

KL: I interrupted you, you were starting to say...

MO: No, it's okay, it's fine. So that's the story behind my name.

KL: And then the two little ones?

MO: Beg your pardon?

KL: Then the two little ones, the two other siblings?

MO: Well, Yuki, I don't remember him too much, except that he was my younger brother. I think he was two years younger than myself.

KL: What year were you born?

MO: I was born in '29. And then the other brother, Takashi, he was born in '39, right before the war. So he lives in San Jose also right now. And he's a cute little kid. He's a nice kid.

KL: Yeah, you would pick up on things like that at age ten, whereas with the other ones...

MO: He was a good kid. When we went back to Japan, he had to go to Japanese school because he was small. And he used to tell us because he was from America, he was not treated too well in Japanese school there. They used to pick on him. But he survived, you know. I think it made him stronger, made him study harder.

KL: So do you remember your mom and the three kids leaving to go to Japan on a visit?

MO: No. I just remember them going. And because we had a restaurant and I was, what, '35, I guess I was about six at the time, and I was underfoot, so my father sent me to his friend's place out in the country in the delta called Sherman Island, and I stayed there for a couple of years and I went to school there. And they had this one-building school where all the kids, all grades, we went to this one building, and I went to school there for a couple of years.

KL: When you say in the delta, is that somewhere --

MO: Yeah, around here. Sherman Island. These people were very nice to me and kind. They were like my second parents.

KL: They people you stayed with?

MO: Yeah.

KL: What was their name?

MO: Kakimi, K-A-K-I-M-I.

KL: How did your parents know the Kakimis?

MO: I don't know. I think they met before he became the owner of the restaurant. I think they used to maybe farm together or something, because Mr. Kakimi was a good farmer, and Sherman Island, he was the foreman of this ranch, and he used to do everything there. He used to irrigate and do all these things. I used to follow him around when I was a kid.

KL: Did he mind?

MO: No. He tried to teach me. He was very good, very nice people.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

KL: Were you with them the whole two years that your mother was gone?

MO: Yeah. I remember going to that little school. I used to be pretty bad, I guess. That's why my father sent me there because I was such a...

KL: Bad at school, or just into everything?

MO: Well, like a rascal, always getting into trouble.

KL: Did you continue that in the school? Did you make mischief in Sherman Island?

MO: Yes. I don't know if I should tell you this, but...

KL: Yes, you should. [Laughs]

MO: We had this one teacher, and she used to come to school on a pickup truck. She used to have milk, she used to bring milk for the kids to pass out during lunchtime. And during recess we'd go out, a few of us kids, and we'd put this board with nails sticking out under her tire, and then we used to push the car back and forth until she had a flat tire.

KL: You did that more than once?

MO: No, no, no, just once. I really caught it from Mr. Kakimi, he really gave me hell. In fact, I said he was like a father? He really locked me up in a little dark room in the barn. Being little, it used to scare me, like I don't know what's in that little room, like ghosts might come out and things like that. And he left me in there for a couple hours, I just cried and cried. Tried to teach me discipline, it helps. I learned. Things like that, you don't forget.

KL: Who else were the students in that school?

MO: Just kids around that, in that island. Lot of ranches.

KL: Was it mostly Japanese American kids?

MO: No, not too many.

KL: Who else was it? What are their backgrounds?

MO: Caucasians and Hispanics. It wasn't that big of a school. Like I said, it was one building. But it was memorable.

KL: How many students do you think there were?

MO: I don't recall.

KL: Did you learn any Spanish?

MO: No, no. I don't think any of them spoke Spanish at the time.

KL: The kids, you mean?

MO: Yeah. But I probably couldn't tell the difference anyway, what they were speaking.

KL: It sounds like your parents must have learned some English, at least your dad?

MO: They were not too fluent in English.

KL: How did they communicate with Wing or with other people?

MO: Well, most of the people in that community were Japanese people, so they didn't have to speak English too much.

KL: What about the chef, though? Did he speak Japanese?

MO: No, he was Chinese. I don't know how they communicated. I guess they understood sign language. And I guess the Chinese chef picked up on some Japanese words, something like that. They got along for many years, he was there. Now that you ask questions like that, I kind of wonder, how did they? I never thought about things like that.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

KL: But then you came back to downtown Sacramento when your mother returned?

MO: Yeah, uh-huh.

KL: How was that, to come back from farm life to Sacramento?

MO: Well, I don't know, I just came back and accepted it, and I had friends. I used to play with them. Used to go out after school, meet my friends, come back at dinnertime, just play, play, play.

KL: How did you play?

MO: Oh, we used to play all kinds of stuff, used to play football, and played games that they don't play anymore here. We used to play marbles, and we used to throw knives into the ground, what do you call that, Mumbledy Peg or something like that. Kids don't do things like that anymore. Everything is inside the house.

KL: What places did you go to play in Sacramento?

MO: Oh, about within a block radius.

KL: Someone's yard or a park?

MO: No, in the alley. Nobody had a yard in the city, it was always in the street, not street, but on the sidewalk or in alleys where there aren't too many cars. Sometimes we'd go to the park, which is pretty far, and we used to walk to it. When we'd go to Sacramento now, and I recall the park, and from the park to where we used to live, I think, god, this is far. We used to walk way out here, you know, and we used to go fishing in the lake there, in the park, my brother used to take me.

KL: What's the name of the park?

MO: William Land Park. And we used to go there and fish for perch, little tiny things. Make balls out of bread, used to wet the bread and make dough, and then put that on the hook and dump it into the water, catch these little perch. I don't know what we did with those things, because these were so tiny. But it was fun.

KL: What was the name of your school in Sacramento?

MO: My school? Lincoln, Lincoln school. I guess it was Lincoln grammar school. I think it might have been middle type school, middle grade, but I guess they didn't call it middle grade then, Lincoln school. And then I was there, and from there we went to camp.

KL: What other, how else did your family participate in community life in Sacramento? Were you part of any other groups or church?

MO: Mostly Japanese, yeah. Japanese groups. We used to belong to... my dad used to make my brother and I take kendo, judo, and I used to take sumo, all these martial arts. Every night, not every night of the week, but we used to go judo and kendo and stuff like that. And I guess it instilled discipline.

KL: You and your brothers would all go?

MO: Yeah.

KL: Did you like it, judo and kendo?

MO: Well, I didn't mind that part too much, but the part I didn't like about kendo was we used to do it in the gym, and we had to sit on the hard wooden floor with our feet underneath us, not the comfortable style. But the other one, the teacher would talk and talk, and it hurt, you know. Go to sleep and stuff like that. That's the only part I didn't care for.

KL: What did the teacher talk about?

MO: Oh, this and that. Discipline. It seemed like eternity, but I guess it wasn't that long.

KL: Probably like two minutes.

MO: Yeah. [Laughs] But in a way, it was fun.

KL: Why do you think your dad wanted you to go to those classes?

MO: Discipline, yeah. I think that's it. And I think he wanted to teach us about Japan, things like that.

KL: I used to take ballet, and in ballet, all the terms are French. Is it like that in kendo and sumo, was it Japanese?

MO: Yeah, everything. Don't ask me what they were, I don't recall.

KL: Did you go to language school?

MO: Yes. Before the war we used to go to Japanese school after English school, one hour. Then on Saturday we used to go half a day and learn Japanese.

KL: How was that? Was it fun or was it a task?

MO: It wasn't bad. It wasn't bad. The teachers were very strict. If you misbehaved, they'd kind of pop you on the head with a ruler. It wasn't too bad.

KL: Where was it held?

MO: It was held in a building behind the Buddhist church. They used to call it Sakura Gakuen.

KL: Was kendo and judo and sumo in the same place?

MO: It was in that Buddhist gym. And we used to carry our bag, kendo, you know how they wear those men and stuff like that, we used to carry those on a stick and just walk over there.

KL: And were you part of the church also?

MO: Yes, we used to go to church every Sunday. But that was about it, we were too young to be in any youth organization at church.

KL: And you were still living above the restaurant that whole time, right?

MO: Yes.

KL: I wanted to ask you, too, when your mom and your sister came back, how did you, how did you react to the death of your siblings? Was that a scary thing, or was it so far removed...

MO: It's kind of far removed, and I was at that young age that it didn't bother me that much. I was sad, I guess, but that was about it. Then my oldest siblings that passed away, I don't even recall them.

KL: Yeah, they just left.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

KL: So you were in Sacramento but then you eventually left. What happened after Sacramento?

MO: We went to Woodland to farm, and then Mr. Kakimi, he came to help us farm. And like I said, we were there a very short while.

KL: You said Mr. Kakimi, what was his position in Sherman Island?

MO: He was the foreman of this ranch.

KL: Do you know its name? I know you were a kid.

MO: Which name?

KL: The name of the ranch?

MO: No, I don't.

KL: Do you know how he was able to leave that job?

MO: I guess my father just asked him to come and help, so he just came. And he lived with us, and he helped us in the tomato.

KL: Did his wife come live with you, too?

MO: Yes, my second mother, she came.

Off camera: Did they have children of their own?

MO: They had a daughter, but she was in Japan at the time, all this time. And so there was just the two of them. And they moved in with us and they helped prune the grape vines and helped us plant the tomatoes, irrigate and stuff like that.

KL: Why did your dad want to leave Sacramento and run a farm?

MO: I guess he wanted to get the children out of the city environment. I don't know why. I guess he thought it was bad for us, bad influence. There were a lot of good people in the city.

KL: Did he say that to you?

MO: Kind of. He hinted that. But I enjoyed the country life. Of course, he had promised me a bicycle after they harvested the tomatoes and stuff like that, because we used to walk to grammar school from our house, and it was about a mile and a half away. My sister and I, we used to walk every day and walk back, and then with the promise of a bicycle coming, I was looking forward to that. But the war started and I never got my bicycle.

KL: Say the name of the school that you went to?

MO: Cacheville. Cacheville grammar school. C-A-C-H-E-V-I-L-L-E. There were a lot of Hispanic kids there because of the farming areas.

KL: What was the dynamic like in that school between the groups?

MO: Not bad until the war started.

KL: Then it changed?

MO: Yeah, it changed a little.

KL: How big was the farm?

MO: That I don't know. We had gone into, my dad had gone into sort of a partnership with this other guy, because he was an alien, he couldn't own land, so this other guy's name was Ping, P-I-N-G, Oda. And he went in partnership with him, because he was a second generation, so he could own the land.

KL: Was he younger than your dad?

MO: Oh, much younger, yeah. He was a little older than my brother.

KL: Do you know what the chef did, what Wing did when you left?

MO: They sold this restaurant to this Ping's brother-in-law. So they took over the restaurant and Wing stayed there with them. They got a good deal, they had that chef.

KL: Yeah, I bet you missed it, to not have his cooking.

MO: Whenever I go to a Chinese restaurant nowadays I try to find something like he used to cook, can't find it anymore. I guess I was used to the way he cooked.

KL: Did you keep in touch with him during the war?

MO: No.

KL: So the response to your family in Woodland was okay when you moved there?

MO: Yeah. We weren't there very long, maybe half a year, and the war started.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

KL: What do you remember of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and learning about it?

MO: Well, I was at school, came back home, and then they told me. You know, to me, at that time, war with Japan was something far away, you know. I know I'm Japanese, but Japan is something else. And after that, I think it's two or three days later, I came home from school, my dad's gone. I said, "Where's Dad?" and she said, "The FBI took him away." And that really shocked me, you know, and I was really angry. I was really, really angry then.

KL: What was your mom's condition when you came home from school that day?

MO: Subdued. She was very subdued. She used to rely on my father for everything, and now that he's gone, she had to sort of be the head of the household. Fortunately, my brothers were old enough, they were out of junior college, so that they could sort of handle the stuff like that.

KL: Were they living with your family?

MO: Yeah, we were all together. So they had to take care of most of the stuff to evacuate.

KL: Did they... do you know why the FBI targeted your dad, do you have any idea?

MO: Well, you know, looking back, we got some papers from the Justice Department on my father, we sent in for our papers.

KL: Recently you mean?

MO: Yeah. What do you call that, Disclosure Act? And my father had sent my oldest brother to Japan, and we got to some kind of anniversary in Japan, it was the emperor's birthday or Japan's birthday or some sort, and had to do with some kind of group, and the Justice Department called it the Black Dragon. And I never heard of the Black Dragon before, but in the paper it says Black Dragon. I guess belonging to this group made you alliance to Japan, you know, you supported to Japan.

KL: Your dad sent those to your brother when he was in Japan?

MO: No, no, he belonged to the group.

KL: Your father belonged to the group?

MO: Yeah. And he sent my brother under the sponsorship of this group, so I guess that didn't look good on paper. So the FBIs thought, well, he, his allegiance is to Japan, so they took him.

KL: Did you have any idea at the time, or your family?

MO: No, I didn't know anything about it.

KL: Do you think your brothers had ideas, or your mom?

MO: My brother that went probably didn't know why he was going, you know.

KL: What did they tell you about the FBI's visit?

MO: Nothing. They just said they took him, you know, they came, and that's it. I wasn't there to witness it.

KL: When did you next hear from your father?

MO: I didn't hear from him for a long time until we went to camp. I guess...

KL: That's like at least six months, right?

MO: Yeah.

KL: Did anyone in your family hear?

MO: I think my mom or my brother might have corresponded with him, but you know, they censored everything. Some of those letters were just blacked out, everything is blacked out.

KL: Did your family know where your father was taken?

MO: Yeah, I think they sent him to Bismarck first, and then I think later he was sent to Lordsburg.

KL: Did, like when they took him, when they arrested him, did you know where he was going, did anyone know?

MO: No, no.

KL: Do you know how long it was before your family learned that he was in Bismarck?

MO: I have no recollection of that, because I didn't handle any of that.

KL: Yeah, I know I'm asking you things that probably an eight or ten year old wouldn't know.

MO: Sorry.

KL: It's okay, it's okay.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

KL: So you had the attack, and then two days later, your father's arrest. And then you said that your treatment from your classmates and from the community changed some?

MO: Yes, it did.

KL: How did it change?

MO: Well, some of those friends started to call us "Japs" and things like that, which they never did before. And so I just stayed quiet and didn't stir up trouble. Kept my distance.

KL: What grade were you in?

MO: I was about seventh grade at the time. There was another Japanese girl in my class at that time. And the funny thing is, when we went to Crystal City, she was there in Crystal City. I guess her father was arrested also. I don't know why, but...

KL: Do you remember talking to her at the time?

MO: No. I didn't talk to girls then. [Laughs]

KL: That's right, I forgot you were in seventh grade, yeah. That would be a switch, too, for you, just to get quiet.

MO: Yeah, just kept my distance. So I don't recall too much of that, from that moment 'til we evacuated, we just went about our normal routine. I guess we kept tending the farm.

KL: Did the teachers or the principal or anybody say anything to you or the other students?

MO: No. I don't recall anything like that. I can't even recall who my teacher was at the time, but I do remember the principal. Once in a while, when my sister and I were walking to school, he used to drive, I guess, around the same route, and he'd pick us up once in a while and give us a ride to school.

KL: Did he still do that after the war started?

MO: Yeah, yeah. He was a pretty nice guy, gentleman. I can't recall his name, Beady? I think his name was Beady. I'm not positive, but...

KL: It's Kakimi, your friend, is Mr. Kakimi?

MO: Kakimi?

KL: Was he arrested?

MO: No, he was not. He just stayed with us all that time.

KL: How did you learn that you would have to leave? Who told you?

MO: Well, I came home from school one day and then said we have to leave, going for, evacuate.

KL: One of your brothers told you?

MO: Yeah. I said, "Were are we going?" We don't know. We were going to Merced, there's an assembly center there. So we were shipped over there.

KL: What do you recall of packing?

MO: I don't remember myself packing anything, but they did, my mother and brother did all that. We couldn't take too many things.

KL: Was there anything you wanted to make sure to take?

MO: No. But I didn't have anything valuable. The only thing I really recall, or regret, is my dad had this beautiful set of swords that he got from Japan, and he used to treasure that. He used to polish it, you know, things like that. I remember it had a white hilt, and he couldn't take it to camp, because no contraband was allowed. So I guess one day he went out and buried it somewhere, thinking that he would come back.

KL: Your father buried it before he was taken?

MO: Yeah. But we were never able to return, so I guess it's just rusted away somewhere. It was such a beautiful, it was a piece of art.

KL: How did he acquire it? It was just kind of a souvenir?

MO: No, I think he ordered it through someone, and they shipped it to him. I remember him sitting on the bed polishing it. He was so proud of it.

KL: Do you think your parents were surprised that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, do you think they kind of kept up with news of Japan?

MO: Well, I think they followed some of the news, but I don't think they figured they would attack. You know, they used to keep track of, at the time, China and Japan were fighting, and they used to keep track of things like that. And we used to collect tinfoil before the war, and used to, you know, cigarettes used to have those tinfoil things to put the cigarettes in, and then we used to separate the tinfoil from the paper, and they used to make these balls and, I guess, ship it to Japan, because they needed the tinfoil for the war effort. I mean, being Japanese, I guess we thought nothing, what's the big deal? So we used to send things like that. But I guess the FBI don't think too highly of that.

Off camera: Since the war in China started in the early 1930s, do you know if your father or Wing ever talked about that? Or was there any tension between them because of what was going on?

MO: No, no. Not between them, never.

Off camera: And just one other quick question, you said that you guys went to Merced, do you know why you didn't go to Sacramento or a closer center?

MO: No. I guess Merced was the closest.

Off camera: Because they had them in Sacramento and Stockton and Turlock. I'm just curious.

MO: I don't know, they just sent us to Merced, we just went there. We were there for about half a year or so.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

KL: Who went with you to Merced?

MO: My mother, my two brothers, no, three brothers and myself, the five of us.

KL: Did the Kakimis go?

MO: Yeah, they were there, they went, too. And it was during the summertime, very hot in Merced. And I used to take sumo, remember I told you? So they used to have wrestling in camp, so I used to, my mother would let me go, I wrestled, and during a match, I broke my leg in camp.

KL: In Merced?

MO: Yeah, in Merced. So I walked around on crutches.

KL: What was your treatment like?

MO: They had a cast, yeah.

KL: Did you go to a hospital in the assembly center?

MO: Yeah, they had doctors there to take care of it. I was just hobbling around.

KL: Yeah, casts are --

MO: It was hot, that's what was uncomfortable. Other than that, not bad.

KL: Where did you live in Merced?

MO: I don't recall the cabin number or anything like that. It's just a big horse stall, I guess.

KL: It sounds like, am I right, that some of it was new construction and some of it was the horse stalls and stuff?

MO: I don't recall that.

KL: Were you guys in a stall, though?

MO: We might have been in a newer one, because I don't remember smelling anything. Like my wife says, in Tanforan, she smelled the horse droppings and stuff like that, but we never had anything like that in Merced.

KL: What was a normal day in Merced like?

MO: Get up, go eat, go play with my friends, go back and eat lunch, go play again, so that's all. For kids like us, it was just play and eat.

KL: Was it easy for you to make friends in Merced?

MO: Yeah, because there were kids all over the place.

KL: Did you switch back from being kind of quiet to a more open kid?

MO: Yeah. We just played. For us, camp wasn't bad because there was a lot of people to play with. But for my folks, it was devastating. They had to leave everything.

KL: How did you get to Merced?

MO: I think we took the train. I'm not positive, I can't recall.

KL: So you don't remember?

MO: No, but I remember being on a train, maybe it was a bus, I don't recall.

KL: Were there others with you? Was it a chartered bus or was it just your...

MO: There were other Japanese people there with us.

KL: Do you remember meeting them at the stop or anything?

MO: No.

KL: How did you, do you remember checking into Merced, any kind of...

MO: I don't recall that too much either, except we had to haul our baggage to our dwelling.

KL: Was your sister on the bus with you at the time?

MO: No, she didn't go to camp.

KL: She was already separated?

MO: She was in the sanitarium by then. She was in Sacramento.

KL: Did she leave before Pearl Harbor?

MO: No. She was with us, because we used to walk to school. I guess it was after the war started, and then I don't know if they gave us a medical exam or not. I can't recall that. But she wasn't allowed to go to camp with us, so she was left behind. So she was sent to Sacramento, to a hospital there was a tubercular isolation ward, so she was sent there.

KL: Do you know how that... I know you were little, but do you know how that affected your mother or your family, her diagnosis?

MO: No, I don't recall that. I guess tuberculosis was fairly common in the Japanese, Asian community. Lot of, I think Asian people were prone to that, tuberculosis. I don't know.

KL: I've read that at Manzanar, at least, people were sometimes reluctant to get tested for it or to report it because there was kind of a stigma.

MO: Oh. I don't know about a stigma.

KL: It was just an illness.

MO: Yeah.

KL: Are there any sights or any memories or sounds that, when you think of Merced, kind of come to mind?

MO: No. Yeah, I take that back. You know, in camp, when you're in one of these buildings, barracks or whatever they call these things, you could hear everything, you know. And this young couple just got married, were in the next stall, and you know, you could hear them giggling and things like that. It was kind of funny, you know. [Laughs] I do remember that.

KL: Did you know what was going on?

MO: Kind of. But we never said anything. That I do remember. Other than that... wrestling, you know, sumo. If you win, the people, if it was a good match, the spectator would throw money into the ring, and then you were able to keep that. So...

KL: Where was the ring?

MO: Huh?

KL: Where was the ring?

MO: I can't recall. But, you know, they set up something in an empty area, and they built this little mound. And if you win, you get to keep the money. And then I remember one time I won a match, and they gave me a case of beer. What am I going to do with a case of beer, so I gave it to my dad, and he said, "I'll take care of it for you." [Laughs]

KL: Oh, was this later, like in Crystal City?

MO: No, I can't remember where... maybe it was Crystal City.

KL: You said you gave it to your dad.

MO: Maybe it was before the war, before the war. Yeah, it was before the war. When I used to take sumo in Sacramento before the war. And I won a case of beer and I gave it to my dad, and he said he'd take care of it for me. I never saw it again. [Laughs]

KL: I'm sure he took care of it, yeah.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

KL: What was next from Merced? How did you learn you would be leaving there?

MO: They told us we're going to Amache, Colorado. So I guess most of the people there moved to Colorado, and I guess we went by train then.

KL: What did you know about Colorado or Amache?

MO: Nothing. Nothing, absolutely nothing. When we got there it was just a big, big place, barracks and barracks and barracks. And we were right on the edge of the camp, there's a wire fence, and there was a sewer system right next to us. It didn't smell, but I do recall that. And I do recall the first time it snowed, you know, it was my first time seeing snow. And I was so excited I ran out and tried to make a snowball. I didn't realize that with powdered snow, you can't make snowballs. It has to be sort of that wet dampy kind. So anyway, we had fun sliding around and stuff like that.

KL: When did you leave...

MO: Merced?

KL: Merced.

MO: Let's see, I don't remember that exactly. There were so many arrivals and departures and arrivals and departures, I really don't remember that.


KL: It is, it's tape two of a continuing interview with Mas Okabe on January 30, 2013. I saw that for a moment and thought, is it really that late? And when we left off, we were talking about your family's arrival at Amache, and you said it was pretty vast. What did you see when you first arrived?

MO: Just buildings, all these barracks, and kind of wonder, what are they? Are we gonna live here? Where are we going? Things like that.

KL: Was it daytime?

MO: Yeah, it was daytime. And then you have to get your baggage and stuff like that, we had to sort of stand around and wait. You know, at my age at the time, that's not one of the things you do well, stand around and wait.

KL: I meant to ask you about the trip, how did you travel from...

MO: I think we went by train, yeah.

KL: Do you remember what the inside of the compartment was like?

MO: In the train? No. I do remember one of the trips, I don't know if it was from Merced to Amache or from Amache to Crystal City, or from Crystal City to Seattle, but the shades were drawn, all drawn down so you couldn't see out. That I do recall. I don't know which trip was what.

KL: Did you try to peek out?

MO: Yeah, we always tried to peek out. But you know, train's going by so fast that peeking out doesn't do much. You can't see anything.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

KL: When you arrived at Amache, did it drop you right inside the camp?

MO: No, I think they bussed us.

KL: And who met you when you got off the bus?

MO: I don't recall. I don't recall that. Probably the MPs.

KL: Do you remember the MPs well from Amache?

MO: Just the ones in the tower. I knew they were there, that's it.

KL: What did you think about their presence?

MO: I don't know. I guess I didn't like it. I guess I sort of... not resented it, but I didn't like it. But I knew they were there. We used to crawl through the fence every once in a while during the summer to go chase rattlesnakes, stuff like that, catch 'em.

KL: To catch them?

MO: Yeah, you just get a long stick with a rope attached to the end of it, and go around, then bring it back and give it to someone. Some people used to eat that.

KL: You'd kill it before you brought it back?

MO: Oh, yeah. But we wouldn't eat it; I wouldn't eat it. They said it was a delicacy, can you believe that?

KL: I can believe it. I probably wouldn't eat it either, though. [Laughs]

MO: Well, I guess it's like us eating sashimi.

KL: Uh-huh, or alligator.

MO: Yeah, who are we to say?

KL: What else did you do when you would go out?

MO: Let's see, that's about it, chased rattlesnakes. And then I joined a scouting outfit, and then we used to camp out there, outside of the fence. I remember one time we camped out there, and it rained. We were... I guess I told you that we were in this area right next to the sewage treatment plant. And they had this one place dug out, it had four walls, and maybe it was about that deep, cleared out, they were going to make something out of it. But we camped in one of those things, and it rained like heck, and the water just accumulated in that thing. And we were sleeping there, and we had these comforters, GI-issued comforters, and wake up, and kind of floating inside this tent.

KL: Did you have a tent or anything? Oh, you did.

MO: Yeah. And I said, "What the heck?" And look out the tent, it's coming down cats and dogs, and we're floating in there, so I just got out of there and went home because I was just a stone's throw from where we were camping. So I went home and slept there. But I remember that, that was kind of funny thing to remember.

KL: Did you go into town ever?

MO: No, no.

KL: Did any of your family?

MO: I didn't even have a desire to go. I remember on the scouting trip, we went to Mesa Verde National Park, they let us out, and we went to that national park. I remember fishing for trout -- you could see the trout, fishing in the creek there. We can't catch 'em because we don't have any equipment or fishing apparatus. But it was fun walking through the national park where the Indians used to live.

KL: Did you see some of the dwellings?

MO: Yeah, we walked through there, and we saw this mummy. I remember the mummy's name, it was Esther, they used to call it Esther, and she was laying there.

KL: Did you camp in Mesa Verde?

MO: Camp there? We might have, yeah. Because it's quite a distance from one end of Colorado to the other.

KL: Yeah.

MO: So we must have camped there. But I remember that trip, yeah.

KL: Did you stop anywhere else on the way?

MO: I don't recall.

KL: Not hot springs?

MO: No. [Laughs]

KL: But you said you saw some of the dwellings? Did you take a ranger tour?

MO: No, I don't recall a ranger taking us anywhere. I guess they just turned us loose and let us go. It was fun. I kind of wonder how these people live there in the cliffs. It was fun.

KL: Do you have any other memories that were weird to you? Like you were talking about chasing the rattlesnakes, are there any other animals about Amache that stick out, or plants?

MO: I think there were coyotes, but other than that, no.

KL: How did you know there were coyotes?

MO: You hear 'em, you hear 'em. In Texas, too, you hear 'em.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

KL: What was your, do you remember your barracks number in Amache?

MO: Yeah, it was 7-E-8-B.

KL: And who was in there with you?

MO: Five of us, my mother and four boys.

KL: We were talking about cots and stuff while we were taking a break. What was inside the barracks?

MO: Yeah, I think in Amache we had, we had spring beds, but I think in Merced we had those canvas cots.

KL: Did you have anything else in your... what was the interior?

MO: Well, in Colorado we had this potbelly stove where we put coal in during the winter, keep it warm. That I do recall. And we had, they used to drop coal off in the middle of the block, and you have to go there with a bucket and bring it back to the house... house, barrack. That I do remember.

KL: Did you do anything to decorate?

MO: I don't remember. Just put curtains up, maybe, my mother might have done that.

KL: Did she have a sewing machine with her?

MO: No, no, can't take those kind of things.

KL: Did you order things ever from catalogs?

MO: Yes, Montgomery Ward. I ordered a pair of shoes, I got that. I still remember what shoe looked like. That's about the only thing we ordered from outside of camp.

KL: Did you say it was in Amache that you heard from your father again for the first time?

MO: Yes. I think my oldest brother corresponded with the Justice Department to see if he could be released to come to Amache. They had that kind of correspondence, we got that from the Justice Department, disclosure act, and we got all those literatures, so we had that. And they wouldn't release him. So we asked them if we could go to Crystal City so we could be together. I didn't know about Crystal City at the time.

KL: What did your dad say to you in letters? What were his letters like? Were they upbeat or were they straightforward?

MO: He used to write to my mother in Japanese. She never told us what was in the letter.

KL: How was her mood by this time, or her demeanor?

MO: She was quiet. How do you say it? Defeated? It was sad. It was sad to see her like that, to be separated, yeah.

KL: Was there anything that could make her happy for a short time or any comfort, source of comfort she found?

MO: No. Only thing we had going then was, for the kids, was school. I guess if you got good grades, she'd be happy. But that was rare. [Laughs]

KL: Were any of your siblings good students?

MO: Well my brother was already finished with high school. I was the only one going to high school there. And like I said, I was kind of a rascal, so I never studied too hard. Just enough to get by.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 15>

KL: I looked, and I guess you arrived in Crystal City in early 1944?

MO: April?

KL: 1944?

MO: Uh-huh.

KL: What's your recollection of that trip, of leaving Amache?

MO: I don't recall too much of our arrival there, but I was happy to see my father, you know. And this time, the place where we were assigned, not a long, big barrack, but a smaller building, which was divided, our building was divided into four parts, they called them quads. And we were given two rooms of that quad. My father and mother in one, and my brothers were in the other room. But there was a doorway connecting them. And we had markets to go to, and my mother would go shopping. And they gave us this play money made out of plastic, and she used that to buy food. We were given an allowance. She'd buy food, bring it home, and then cook.

KL: She had the play money, too, like the scrip? Or she was using cash?

MO: Yeah, they would issue that to us monthly, and we'd use that and buy food at the market, well, commissary, whatever you want to call it. And she'd come home and cook meals for us, because that's what we did, we ate together. We didn't go to mess halls, we didn't have mess halls anymore.

KL: Did you have a kitchen in your two rooms?

MO: Yeah, there was a stove.

KL: You said you were happy to see your dad?

MO: Yes.

KL: How did you greet him?

MO: Well, I wasn't, we weren't too demonstrative, you know, no hugging and stuff like that. But we were very happy to see him.

KL: How was he different?

MO: He was quiet. I guess being in a place like that, I guess your parents become more subdued. It wasn't too animated, except when they come to my schooling. If I didn't do well, he'd let me know.

KL: How did your mom feel about seeing him again?

MO: She was very happy, yeah. Kind of took this load off of her shoulder, yeah.

KL: So did her behavior change?

MO: Not too much. She was more or less a quiet person anyway. But I was glad to eat her cooking, anyway.

KL: And you said he was in Bismarck?

MO: Well, he was in Lordsburg, I don't know if he went to Bismarck. He was in Lordsburg and then he went to Santa Fe. In Lordsburg, I think he was a cook, you know, because he had the restaurant. So he was the, one of the chefs there. They had a picture of him, all the people in camp, and he was holding a frying pan like he's a chef. [Laughs]

KL: Did you kind of catch up when you first saw each other again?

MO: No, no.

KL: No? Just kind of...

MO: Yeah. Issei people don't disclose too much of their feelings. You have to pump it, "Why'd you do that?" this and that, you know, that kind of stuff. They wouldn't come out and tell you.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

KL: What was the inside of your place like at Crystal City? It was two rooms, how was it furnished?

MO: Bunk beds for us, and they had...

KL: Did all five of you go up to Crystal City?

MO: Yes, five of us. Our sister was still in Sacramento. And four boys in one room, my mother and father in the other. It was okay. It was cozy. I guess you'd say it was better than Amache, because everyone's together now. And then you make new friends.

KL: How did you make friends?

MO: Well, first you go to school. And then you meet... by then I was getting interested in girls. There's a lot of girls. [Laughs]

KL: You were starting to talk to them, you mean?

MO: Well, not really talk to them, but I knew they were there. Kind of starting to blossom a little, putting up.

KL: Are there classmates that you remember?

MO: Oh, yes.

KL: ...more than others? Who were your friends?

MO: Well, like we have these reunions, Crystal City reunions. Well, Crystal City was a smaller camp, so everyone in high school knew each other. So we'd take pictures, everybody knew everybody, seniors to freshmen, everybody knew everybody. So we were sort of close.

KL: How big was your class, the people that --

MO: I'd say thirty, forty in a class, it wasn't big. So we got to know each other quite well. We knew who the smart ones were, you know, the scholars, and who the jocks were. So I'd gravitate toward the scholars who helped me. [Laughs]

KL: So you were smart. [Laughs]

MO: A lot of them were very smart, and they would help, very generous with the knowledge. And the jocks used to play sports in camp. Used to have clubs, we used to... there were two main clubs, there were the Saints was one club, and the North Star, that was the other club. And we had our own club, we were kind of an offspring of these two. And we used to play sports against other clubs. And these two main clubs, the Saints and the North Star, they used to compete against each other in everything, basketball, baseball, everything.

KL: Did you play everything?

MO: Huh?

KL: Did you personally play everything?

MO: Yeah. I wasn't good, but I played. Because they were short handed, they needed people to play. But it was fun. And they had a swimming pool, we used to go swim.

KL: Did you do... did you do anymore sumo?

MO: Beg your pardon?

KL: Did you, did you still do sumo?

MO: No, not in camp. Not in Crystal City. There was no kendo, no judo, no sumo, I don't think. I don't think they allowed that, I don't know. Maybe they did. But we played ping pong and stuff like that.

KL: Was there a community hall, or where did you play ping pong?

MO: I guess we had sort of a rec. hall. And we used to compete against the Germans, they used to have ping pong in their group, and we used to have ping pong. So we used to get together maybe once a year or something like that, compete against each other just for fun.

KL: And the people who were in the German section, they were German Americans, right? So they were, there was no language... were those some tense rivalries?

MO: No.

KL: All just for fun?

MO: I think the only time we competed was in ping pong, but we never played basketball against them or baseball against them or anything like that.

KL: And the schools were separate, right, from looking at a map?

MO: Yes.

KL: Where else did you interact with the people in German section, or did you?

MO: That's the only recollection I have. We used to see them walking around, well, marching around. They used to walk around in brown shirt, you know, like they had these swastika kind of stuff on the shirt, they used to walk around camp. I mean, that's okay, the Germans. And we had, Japanese people had something similar to that, but not quite to that extent.

KL: Like a uniform thing, you mean?

MO: Yeah, we didn't have any uniform, but there were some pro-Japanese type people that formed organizations. That's why they were there, because they were pro-Japanese. And I didn't see too many Italians, they were there, but I didn't see them.

KL: What were your parents' feelings about the pro-Japanese organizations?

MO: Oh, I guess he was more pro-Japanese, too. He wouldn't tell us, but you could tell if he was pro-Japanese.

KL: Did he affiliate with any of the groups or join any?

MO: Well, yeah, he used to take part in... not military organizations, but like he used to take singing lessons, Japanese singing, and he used to belong to this group, and they used to practice all day long. And it used to drive us crazy. [Laughs] It's not melodic at all.

KL: What kind of singing?

MO: They call it shigin. I don't know if you've ever heard of it.

KL: I have, yeah. It's very, you couldn't not be around it.

MO: Yeah, and he used to sing all day long, and my neighbor used to be the teacher, and you could hear him singing, too.

KL: Did he sing by himself, then?

MO: Yeah, he practiced by himself. He's not shy. [Laughs] I don't know, I didn't know what was good and what was bad, but it kept him happy, I guess, occupied.

KL: Did he have any other activities or groups or anything?

MO: No, I don't think so. So that was good.

KL: What about you and your brothers? You were doing sports, but did you join any other groups?

MO: No.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

KL: Did you know already you were going to go to Japan? When did you learn you were going to go to Japan?

MO: Oh, I didn't learn until late '45. They said, "We're going." I said, "Where are we going?" "We're going to Japan." Oh. Then you start talking to your friends and find out who's going and who's not going, things like that. So it was not traumatic, but it was a shock. I guess we figure we're always coming back.

KL: You figured you would come back to the United States?

MO: Yeah, I didn't think I was going to live there.

KL: You didn't think you'd live in Japan?

MO: No, I don't think I could. I couldn't speak the language that well, you know.

KL: How did you prepare to go?

MO: Just pack up. I mean, there's not much preparation, not much you could do. If you're going to go, you just start packing. Because we were going to Japanese school. But that's not like a preparation for going to Japan, you just did it because there was a school there, and you just went.

KL: Did your parents renounce their U.S. citizen -- oh, your parents were not U.S. citizens.

MO: No, they weren't citizens.

KL: What about your brothers?

MO: No, they didn't renounce. But they didn't... remember that "loyalty oath" kind of thing, that "no-no," "yes-yes"?

KL: Yeah, you said those questions came up in Crystal City.

MO: That came up in Crystal City, and they declined to serve, yeah. I remember seeing that paper. I didn't know at the time.

KL: Were you still young, were you asked those questions?

MO: Yeah, I was only fourteen or fifteen at the time.

KL: Do you... I think I cut you off. Did you say that you do remember your brothers deciding how to answer those at the time? Do you remember your brothers being asked those questions?

MO: I don't remember that. I don't remember that. I just saw the papers from the Justice Department.

KL: So for you it was just, we're going back to Japan...

MO: Yeah, that's it.

KL: And how much notice did you have?

MO: I guess they gave you enough time. I mean, my father would say, I guess they ask if you want to go or not go. And if you say you're gonna go, I guess there's a lot of time to get ready to go. It's not like, okay, we're going tomorrow.

KL: Do you think he told you right away when you learned you were gonna go, or was there a gap?

MO: I think there was some space in there.

KL: When did he tell you?

MO: I don't remember exactly.

KL: Late in '45?

MO: Yeah, late in '45. Because we left in early December, December 2nd, we left Crystal City.

KL: Do you have a recollection of the end of the fighting in Europe or in Japan?

MO: I just remember they said the war ended. I remember that. I was kind of glad to hear that. And I guess my dad was sad to hear that they lost. In fact, I still think he believed that they didn't lose. There were some people that figured they didn't lose, that's why they went back.

KL: Had he gone back to Japan at all?

MO: My dad?

KL: Yeah, before that?

MO: I don't remember. I don't remember. He might have been too busy to go, couldn't leave his business. No, I don't really remember that.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

KL: You said you remember the trip to Japan, though?

MO: Going back? Yeah. We went on the Matsonia, and we left from Seattle, I think it was December the 7th of '45. And my mother was sick all the way, seasick. And my friends and I, we would get together on the ship and play. And I remember this one kid, he was an employee of the ship, he's a black kid, young guy. And we got to know him, and we told him what was happening, why we're going back to Japan and stuff like that, and why we were put in camp and things like... and he cried for us. I remember that distinctly, he cried for us. He was sad.

KL: Do you remember his name?

MO: No, I don't.

KL: Do you know where he was from?

MO: No, I don't. He was real nice to us. Young, maybe he was in his twenties, had a job on the ship.

KL: How long was the voyage?

MO: Two weeks. My poor mom.

KL: That's a long time to be seasick.

MO: Oh, yeah. She went down and never came back up.

KL: How did she feel about returning to Japan?

MO: I don't think she wanted to come back, to return to Japan.

KL: Why do you think that?

MO: I don't know.

KL: Did she give you signals from conversation?

MO: I just had a feeling she didn't want to come back. Because she lost two kids there, and maybe that sort of brings back memories, so maybe she didn't want to come back.

KL: Do you think she believed the news? What do you think she thought about the truth of Japan losing the war, surrendering?

MO: What did she think of that? She never said anything. My mother never talked about anything too much, very quiet. My dad, too, he was quiet. He never expressed himself.

KL: Where did you land in Japan?

MO: Uraga, U-R-A-G-A. It's near Yokohama, and it was cold in mid-December, freezing. And there was, you know, you look towards the city, there was nothing, it was just flat, destroyed. They put us in this place where we assembled after we got off the ship, and we spent the night there. It was cold. [Laughs]

KL: What kind of place was it?

MO: It was just a big building, and everybody just slept on the floor. And then we got on the train.

KL: What was your dad's response to seeing the flat...

MO: He was sad. He was really disappointed. Like he didn't express it, but I'm sure he felt we shouldn't have come. And then we had to make arrangement to go over to our village, my father's village. We got tickets, and the train, you wouldn't believe the train ride. It was so packed, people getting on, people coming back from the war, you know, and this and that. I mean, it was just jammed, there's no place to stand. You know the luggage rack, people were laying down on the luggage rack. And you had to fight your way to get in the train, crawl in through the window. And you know, the conductor, there's no way for him to check tickets, because he couldn't get through.

KL: Or enter the car.

MO: No. I don't see how people got off where they wanted to get off. I've never seen a train like that before.

KL: Were most of the people Japanese people?

MO: Oh, yes. Lot of them were in uniform, just coming back.

KL: What was their interaction with each other or with you?

MO: I don't know, we didn't say anything. We didn't know how we would be taken, so we just kept quiet.

KL: Were you able to stay together physically, the six of you?

MO: Yeah, more or less within shouting distance.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

KL: And where did you take the train, where did you go?

MO: I think we went to Nagoya. And then from there, we took another smaller train to the village.

KL: What... could you see out at all along the way what you passed, or it was too full?

MO: No. I mean, people were hanging out the window. It was terrible.

KL: What about the train from Nagoya?

MO: That wasn't too bad. We got to the village, got out, and then you get these two-wheeled wagons, you know, pull, we put our luggage in there and then walked to the village. And I'm sure my uncle, my father's younger brother, was not happy to see us.

KL: Your father's younger brother?

MO: Yeah. Because here comes five more mouths to feed, and during the war, there's nothing to eat.

KL: Did he know you were coming, did he expect you?

MO: I'm sure he told them we were coming. It was not a warm feeling. They didn't want us, we didn't want to be there type of thing. So my brother, older brothers and myself, we stayed there maybe two or three months. My dad wanted me to go to school, because I hadn't finished high school. So he took me to a high school.

KL: In a village?

MO: Yeah, close by.

KL: What was the village's name?

MO: What the heck was it? Tojo, that's the name of the village, Tojo. You write the kanji, it's "eastern fortress." "To" is "east," "jo" is "fortress." And he took me to high school, and the principal, he talked to the principal. And I didn't want to go because I can't speak Japanese. I didn't go want to go there and sit there like a bumpkin, you know. But the principal said, "The conditions are not good, the school system is terrible now," he said, "Everything is chaotic, it's no use for him coming to school." So my father reluctantly took me back, and I was happy. And my uncle had a small farm that he farmed, and he used to make these brooms on the side to make extra money, so I used to help him make brooms, maybe for about a month. And then my brother and I got letters from our friends, other friends that went back to Japan with us, they got jobs in Atsugi Air Force Base, and they told us, "You want job? Come on over."

KL: Back in the village, just real quick before that, before we go to the air force base, what was, what were other people's responses to you guys' people from the United States?

MO: We were kind of a sideshow kind of thing. You know, people stare at us and stuff like that.

KL: I guess you couldn't hide it.

MO: No, no, no. I mean, you know, small village like that, everybody knew what was going on. I didn't make any friends, but I didn't want to go out and talk to people.

KL: Did you feel any concern for your safety, or it was just kind of awkward?

MO: Awkward, because we couldn't speak the language too well. We don't want to talk too much.

KL: What was your, when you were working with your uncle on making the brooms, how was it with him and you?

MO: With the people working there?

KL: Oh, was he there?

MO: No, he wasn't there. There were maybe five, six people there, and I got along with them, talked to them and stuff like that. They showed me how to do the things, made a few brooms.

KL: What was your uncle's name?

MO: Kyusaburo, K-Y-U-S-A-B-U-R-O. He's the younger brother. My father was the oldest son. And after that, we went to Atsugi.

KL: Where there -- one more question, I'm sorry. Were the grandparents, were your grandparents still living, your father's parents?

MO: My grandparents on my father's side I think had passed away. My mother's side was still alive.

KL: Did you see them?

MO: I saw them but I think...

KL: Were they in Tojo?

MO: There weren't in Tojo, they were in a different village. I can't remember the name of that village. But I did meet them. I can't remember if I met them right after the war or after I came back when I was in the service. I don't recall.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

KL: So you said you and your brother heard from friends that there were jobs on the air force base.

MO: Yeah, Atsugi Air Force Base, so we left right away. We didn't want to be there, so we left. And I got a job as a typist, because I took typing in high school. And they needed a typist, and they wanted somebody that could speak English and Japanese, because they had a lot of Japanese laborer. So we were kind of useful. So we were there for about a year.

KL: Was your brother a typist, too?

MO: No, he didn't type. They were just translators or interpreters. Not translators, interpreters.

KL: Which brother was it that went with you?

MO: Both of them, George and Jimmy.

KL: So you were there for a year?

MO: Yeah. Then my dad wanted to send me back.

KL: Where did you guys live when you were in Atsugi?

MO: We lived right off the base. They had some barracks there, so all of us, we used to call ourselves Japanese nationals, because, well, they didn't give us military pay, they used to pay us in yen. So we were kind of like Japanese nationals, so they gave us yen, so we lived in this barrack.

KL: But you weren't Japanese nationals, right? You were still U.S.?

MO: We're still U.S. citizens, but we were not Japanese citizens. Well, we were at one time when we were kids, we had dual citizenship, but we got rid of the Japanese citizenship. I think we renounced that, I don't know when. Then they paid us in yen, we stayed in this little barrack, but then after I stayed there a year, my dad said, after I went to visit him, he said, "You're going back to America." He wanted me to finish high school.

KL: What was your treatment like from the personnel that you worked with at the Air Force base?

MO: Oh, good. They really treated us real nice.

KL: Had the countryside changed that you could tell? I mean, were people rebuilding already, or what was it like?

MO: In Japan, Japanese village? Well, the village itself was not destructive, so everything was intact. So they didn't have to build up anything.

KL: Okay, I'm done with the interruption. So you said your dad saved money?

MO: Yeah. And he had some money, so he wanted me to go back to the United States to finish my high school, so I bought my ticket to go back. So I went back, and on this trip, this other guy, a friend of mine, classmate, he was going back, too, so we got together on the ship. And there was another girl, she was a little older, maybe a year or two older, so the three of us went back to the United States together.

KL: What about your sister who had tuberculosis?

MO: She was still in the States.

KL: It's interesting to me that your dad seems to plan to go back to Japan and want to return to Japan, but that he wanted you to return to the United States. Do you have any insight into that?

MO: I don't think he had any intention of returning to America.

KL: But he thought it was the place for you?

MO: I guess so.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MO: Anyway, I came back, and my dad sent me to live with the Kakimis.

KL: What had their experience been since the assembly center?

MO: Kakimis? Well, after camp they went to this town called Walnut Grove.

KL: Were they in Amache, too?

MO: Yes. From Amache they went to Walnut Grove, which is about thirty miles south of Sacramento. And he worked in the farming area, and Mrs. Kakimi worked in a cannery. So that's how they made their living, and my dad corresponded with them and asked them if they would take me in so that I could finish my high school, so they took me in.

KL: How was it seeing them again?

MO: It was good. It was good to see them, so happy. Like I said, she's my second mother.

KL: Did they meet you at the ship, at the port, or how did you connect?

MO: No. I came back... I think I went there on a bus.

KL: Where, did you come back to San Francisco?

MO: Yes. Then from there I went to Walnut Grove on the bus, I think. And then I moved in with them, and that's where I went to high school for a year and a half.

KL: So you were a little older than the other students?

MO: Well, I was sixteen when I came back. I graduated high school there in '49. I got two years behind. I should have graduated in '47. But I finished high school in Walnut Grove in '49, then I went to Stockton.

KL: How did you feel when you saw the United States again, backing up a little bit?

MO: I was kind of glad to be back. But I missed my friend back in Japan, all the people from Crystal City that were there, we used to hang out.

KL: You'd been through a lot together.

MO: Yeah, yeah, quite a bit. We were real close. Even to this day, we're still close. We get together. I went through high school there in Walnut Grove. From there, I wanted to go to junior college, so I went to Stockton and made arrangements to work for this family as a houseboy. I stayed there and get room and board, and they gave me an allowance. And from there I would go to college. I did that for two years.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

KL: And you said someone helped you arrange that?

MO: Yes, there was this lady in Stockton that did that type of thing. I think her name was Mrs. Linebarger, and she used to do that for Japanese kids, set up a houseboy arrangement or something like that. She was a really nice lady. In fact, I think I took English or Shakespeare from her. Real nice lady.

KL: Did you reach out to her when you wanted to go there, or did she find you?

MO: A friend told me about her, and I think that friend set it up for me to go to Stockton to this place.

KL: Who was the family whose home you were in?

MO: Where I moved in?

KL: That you worked for.

MO: Bennett. I can't remember his first name, Bennett. He had a laboratory, you know, where he used to have frogs. In those days, they used to use frogs to determine women's pregnancy and things like that, and he used to have a lab.

KL: How did they do that?

MO: I don't know. I used to live above the garage, and he used to have this tank in the garage next to my bed and stuff, and he used to have frogs in there. They didn't bother me.

KL: And what was your work for them?

MO: I just used to arrange the table for breakfast and make simple things like salad. I never did any cooking, because I didn't know how to cook. Set the table, clear the table, little things. Well, I didn't do any house cleaning and stuff like that. It was fairly simple. Did that for two years.

KL: What were you studying?

MO: Well, when I was in high school, we used to, the kids used to sit around and say, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" I had no idea. And one guy says, "Why don't you be a dentist?" I said, "Why?" He said, "Well, dentists go to their office and come home, and there's no emergency, you don't have to go out at night. I said, yeah, maybe that's a good idea. Maybe I'll try that. So when I went to junior college I started taking courses for that, and that's what I did for two years.

KL: And then did you finish junior college?

MO: Not there. When I finished junior college, then the Korean War was going on and they were drafting students. Until then I had a deferment.

KL: Because of your student status.

MO: I can't remember what status it was, but for a student. And then my friend and I, we thought, god, I don't want to get drafted. Said, "Well, let's join the navy." And that way you can go to the naval school and do what you want to do, I thought. Choose the occupation, what you wanted. So we joined the navy, there was three of us, we joined together. Went through boot camp training, and they sent us to this ship after boot camp was over, and we were assigned to this destroyer, and we went to Korea. But we were never that close to Korea because ours was a radar picket ship, and we just stayed far away from land. I guess the radar would pick up planes or whatever, something. And we used to cruise around back and forth.

KL: Who were your three friends that you joined with?

MO: James Inouye, they lived in Stockton, and George Shibata.

KL: Were they on the ship with you?

MO: Yeah, the three of us. And then I was working in the, when I first came aboard the ship, this officer said, "Who knows how to type?" so I put my hand up right away. Said, "Okay, you go to the captain's office and work there." And the rest of the guys, they had to go and chip paint and that kind of stuff. So I made out pretty good. I wasn't a real good typist, but I could type. And working in the office, you're with the executive commander, and he says...

KL: Who was he? Do you remember his name?

MO: Huh?

KL: Do you remember his name?

MO: Yeah, his name was King, K-I-N-G, M.C. King. Because I used to sign papers for him, I used to forge his name. [Laughs] He was really nice, and he says, "What do you want to do?" I said, "Well, I don't want to be doing this, I want to go and do something in general field." He says, "Okay," so he packed up orders for me so that I could go to dental assisting school in San Diego. So I got off the ship, I went to San Diego and I went to dental assistant school there, and I was in San Diego for a couple of years.

KL That was after your discharge?

MO: No, during my naval career.

KL: During the navy time. Oh, okay. I didn't realize you were in that long.

MO: And I was stationed there in San Diego during that time. I was in the navy for two years. We signed up for four, but I was in for two years because I wanted to go to Japan. And before you go to Japan, they give you a physical exam.

KL: Why did you want to go to Japan?

MO: I just wanted to go. Because when we were on the ship, we used to go to Sasebo to fuel up the ship and get food and stuff like that, and then we go back out to sea. But during the time I was in Sasebo, I enjoyed Japan, so I said, "I want to go back again." So I put in a request to go to Japan, and they said, "Okay, you can go." But before you go, they give you an exam, physical, and they found out I had tuberculosis, so that ended my navy career. So I was given a discharge, medical discharge. And they sent me to Oakland, they have a hospital there, and they treated me there for a little bit, then they sent me to Livermore, there's a VA hospital there, and it's a tubercular hospital. And I was there for a year. And after I finished that, there was a counselor that used to come from the VA to see how I was doing and what I wanted to do. I told him what I wanted to do, I wanted to go to school. And he set it up with the GI Bill so that I could go to school. So then I went back to Stockton, it was called COP then, it's UOP now, but it's COP then. Then I finished up my one year of pre-dental courses.

KL: What did COP stand for?

MO: College of the Pacific. Now it's called University of the Pacific. And then I stayed there for a year at COP, and then I sent in for dental school, wanting to go, and then I was accepted at USC in Los Angeles. So this counselor again set me up with my GI Bill so that I get all my tuition paid, all my equipment and books paid by the government, and I get an allowance to live. And I did that for four years, studied there.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

KL: So this is tape three of an interview with Mas Okabe on January 30th, and we left off talking about you had gone to USC for dental school Was it what you thought, did you like dental school?

MO: Yes, I enjoyed it. My freshman year, we got to work on cadavers, and that was really interesting. Freshman year, I met my wife.

KL: How did you meet?

MO: Well, there was this organization called the Nisei Trojans Club, and I forget what... what was it, Psi Omega? No.

Off camera: Sigma Phi?

MO: Sigma Phi. And they had a yearly get together, and the ladies would bring, make lunch and bring it to this picnic like thing, and guys would go. And you would bid on the lunch. And whichever lunch you got, the person who made it comes with it. So I bid, and I won her. [Laughs]

KL: Was it immediate that you wanted to get to know her more at least?

MO: Yeah, I felt like, you know, I said, "Oh, she's cute," this and that. It wasn't instant big time love, but it was starting to grow from there. I didn't tell her all this. [Laughs]

KL: What was she studying?

MO: I don't know what she's saying.

KL: What was she studying?

MO: Oh, she was studying... she was working on a bachelor of science, and I couldn't see any connection between bachelor of science and what she was doing, because all she had was art classes, seemed like. And she was studying to be a teacher, education. So I didn't see the connection, but, you know, bachelor is a bachelor, I guess. So that's how we met.

KL: And that was your first year of dental school?

MO: Yeah, freshman. I think she was there half a semester before me, right? Yeah.

KL: [Coughs] Excuse me. How long were you in dental school?

MO: Four years, four years. That's kind of a fun time again, meet new friends. This time I was in Los Angeles, which I had never been before.

KL: Yeah, what was your --

MO: It's big, you know. You need a car. So before I went to USC, I purchased this used car, it was a 1953 Plymouth. You know, at that time I didn't know anything about cars.

KL: What year was it --

MO: '53.

KL: -- when you started school at USC?

MO: USC it was '55.

KL: You didn't know anything about cars, you said.

MO: No, I don't know anything about cars.

KL: Why'd you choose that car?

MO: It was cheap, you know. Bought it at a used car lot. And I bought it with the money that I saved, which I earned during the summertime working out on the ranch, picking tomatoes, picking fruits and this and that. And I saved all that money. And then with that money, I bought this car. Drove down to L.A., and I had that with me. And then one time I went, after I met her and we started dating, I went to her place. I parked the car in a parking lot, they had a church, so I parked the car in the church lot, I stayed there to visit, and then I was leaving, started backing out, and I, she was there on the porch, and I guess she was waving, don't... you know, stop. And I kept going, and I banged into this truck or something, put a huge dent in my trunk. Had to get a new trunk. Went to the used car lot, you know, the junk lot, and shopped around for a part, got it, the other guy put it on. It was okay.

KL: Where did you live when you were at USC?

MO: I lived in this place where they had students who could get room and board, and I paid so much a month.

KL: Was it like a private boarding house?

MO: Yes. It wasn't affiliated with the school. Most of the students there were Japanese American students, and it was fairly close, you could walk.

KL: Were they people who had been to Japan, or they stayed in the U.S.?

MO: No, these are mostly people that were here after the war. They didn't go back.

KL: How was your relationship with them?

MO: Normal. They didn't know I was back or anything like that. I don't talk about it. They don't ask me, I don't talk about it. It's not because I was trying to hide it or anything, it just never came up. But once in a while, if it would come up, I would talk about it.

KL: Did that affect anything with them?

MO: No.

KL: They didn't feel one way or the other toward you?

MO: No, no problem. Those were fun years.

KL: Where was the house? Was it near USC? What neighborhood?

MO: Yeah, it was close to USC. So we walked.

KL: What did you do for fun then? Where did you guys go out, you two, you and Shirley or you and your friends?

MO: A lot of school functions, you know, like their group and our group. Well, in fact, she was in, Nisei Trojan is a co-ed, and her group was just women, ladies. But yeah, we used to go out to movies and things like that.

KL: One of the things that neat about these interviews is to hear what places like Los Angeles were like in the 1930s or the 1950s.

MO: Yeah, you go to restaurants, you go to a nice restaurant, get steak, it's five dollars or something. That was expensive, you know. Now, you go eat a steak like that, thirty dollars or whatever. So you know, it kind of blows your mind.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

KL: Who else was in dental school with you? Was that Caucasians and Japanese Americans, a mix of people?

MO: Yeah. There was a hundred and five students start out, and in our class we had, I think we had ten Asians, which was a very high percentage of Asians for that group. Usually they take maybe two or three, but we had ten. I think there were six Japanese Americans. And there was a Korean, there was a Chinese, there was two Koreans and one Chinese, somewhere around there. But we all got along together. We studied together.

KL: The ten of you?

MO: Yeah. The fraternities that the other kids belonged to, the Caucasians, they used to have access to test files, all the tests that were given in the past, they had accumulated all that. And so they had access to that. So for us to compete with them, we had to study together, and maybe we get one copy of an old test or something, we had to share that amongst us, the Asians.

KL: Did you have any interest in fraternity life?

MO: No, no.

KL: Was that pretty closed off at that time?

MO: Yeah, it was.

KL: To Asians?

MO: Now it's open, but not at that time. Our class, we had two girls, which is unusual. One was Japanese American, and the other was a Caucasian girl.

KL: Did she study with you, the Japanese American girl?

MO: No, she was smart enough, she didn't need us. [Laughs]

KL: Did they, how were they treated? How were they received?

MO: Well, yeah. We didn't discriminate against the girls. They were nice girls.

KL: What about the Caucasian girl? Did she need any study partners?

MO: Yeah, we treated her as equal.

KL: Did she study by herself?

MO: I think so, I don't know. I don't know. She didn't study with... she might have access to old exams and stuff. It's hard if you didn't have it, very difficult. I gave the secret away. [Laughs]

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

KL: When did you graduate then?

MO: Graduated in '59, then I came up here to San Jose to open my practice, and I've been here since.

KL: Were you and Shirley married already?

MO: No.

KL: When did you marry?

MO: Let's see, I graduated in '59, we got married in '60? Yeah, 1960. But she was here in San Francisco at the time. She graduated her school at SC, then they came to San Francisco. That sort of influenced my migration up here.

KL: Did you ever go back into a Buddhist congregation?

MO: Here?

KL: Here in San Jose?

MO: San Jose, I did. Well, even when I was going to dental school, she belonged to Gardena church, her father was a minister there. So they used to have this youth group, YBA, so I joined that, and we used to go bowling and things like that. We had a good time.

KL: Where was your practice?

MO: Here in San Jose, it was downtown San Jose, right across the street from the hospital.

KL: So you opened that in 1960?

MO: '59, soon as I got out of school.

KL: Who were your clients?

MO: Referrals first, you know. I met a couple of dentists, I introduced myself to all the dentists around here, and had them refer me patients that they didn't need, overflow, so that's how I got started. Oh, and I went to San Francisco once a week to practice with this other dentist just to make some income, and I practiced there once a (week) and worked there, and then the rest of the time I spent here in San Jose.

KL: Was it a pretty mixed group of people as far as ethnicities who came to your office?

MO: Yeah, yeah.

KL: When did you and Shirley first talk about your World War II experiences?

MO: About our war experiences?

KL: Your World War II experiences in the camps.

MO: I don't know. I guess while we were dating, I guess, we talked about it a little bit. She'll ask me, "Where are you from?" and stuff like that.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

KL: You say you were married in 1960, and then I think the first Manzanar pilgrimage was in 1969, then people started to, I guess, be more open in the 1970s. How did you view those changes, or was your camp experience and your experience in Japan a big part of your life? How often did you think about it in the '60s and '70s?

MO: Yeah, I thought about it because my brothers were still there. My brother was still in Japan, he stayed there.

KL: Just one of them or both?

MO: Well, both of them stayed, and I came back, and then I earned money during the summer, and then I would send my brother that money and he would come back.

KL: Which one was that?

MO: The oldest one. And he came back and he started working. And then my other brother, the second oldest, he got a job as a civil service employee, so he was okay. He didn't have to come back. So he married over there, married a Japanese girl, and eventually he came back here.

KL: Did she come, too, his wife?

MO: Huh?

KL: Did his wife come to the United States?

MO: Yeah, they both came back.

KL: What about your parents?

MO: They came back right after my oldest brother came back, I think.

KL: When was that?

MO: Huh?

KL: Around what year was that?

MO: Let's see, they were back when I graduated dental school. Oh, that was just my mom and Taka? He passed away in '50.

KL: So he died in Japan?

MO: My mom was back in '59 already, because she came to my graduation. I can't remember what year it was she came back. Yeah, somewhere around there, '57, '58. She and my younger brother, they came back.

KL: What about your sister?

MO: Oh, she was still in the sanitarium.

KL: Did she stay there the rest of her life?

MO: No, no. She was... when did she get out? I can't remember. I guess back in the '50s. She got a job with the geological survey as a cartographer making maps and stuff. I can't remember what year that was.

KL: Was she getting treatment that whole time?

MO: Yeah, all that time. And then she was released, and then she got the job. I don't think she ever finished high school. So the job she got was making maps and stuff, it wasn't too difficult, she was okay with that.

KL: So she got training on the job?

MO: Yeah, uh-huh, she learned that.

KL: Do you think she was released by the time you graduated from dental school?

MO: Yeah, uh-huh, they were back.

KL: Did she have a recovery or was she pretty ill?

MO: Yeah, she recovered. She was okay for a long time.

KL: Did she ever tell you how it was to...

MO: No, she never did. I never asked. I should have, but I never did. It never occurs to ask things like that. I guess you're so involved in your own life, I guess you forget. It's sad.

KL: Or you think that they know already.

MO: Yeah. She never complained to us, anyway. I know she felt maybe abandoned, but she never told us. Now that you mention it, I feel bad now. [Laughs]

KL: Sorry.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

KL: When... do you remember like when Farewell to Manzanar came out, the book, or people starting to talk about the camps in the '70s.

MO: No. Manzanar was something else, it was their experience, not mine.

KL: What about when people started organizing for redress or arguing for...

MO: Well, redress, we never got involved in that. I didn't know anything about it. I just heard that it was going on through the JACL, and I never...

KL: Were you ever a part of the JACL?

MO: No. Well, we did join, but it was for some other reason, to get health insurance.

KL: That's why I joined the Association of National Park Rangers at one point, yeah. What did you think when you heard about it?

MO: Well, I thought it's okay. Not us, but I thought my parents deserved something, but at that time they were both passed away. But I thought they should address this to our parents before they passed away. They should have gotten the money, not us. But they lost a lot. I mean, $25,000 wouldn't have covered anything in this day and age. But we didn't look a gift horse in the mouth.

KL: If your parents had survived, what do you think their response would have been?

MO: I don't know. I don't know. My dad was a hard-head, you know. He might have taken it, accepted it, I don't know. I don't know what his feeling would be. I'm sure he had hard feelings toward the United States.

KL: When you received the letter, the presidential apology, what was your response to that?

MO: Yeah, I thought that was good for them to do it. But I still thought it should have been to our parents, not us. Because you know, for us young kids in camp, all we did was play and eat. Our parents were the ones that suffered. Somehow, I wish they could have been... not rewarded, but paid back.

KL: Have there been any... have there been any other times when you were reminded of that climate where Japanese American removal happened, any other times in your life where you've seen either the papers speaking similarly or people speaking about groups in that way? Have you been reminded of the World War II time at other times?

MO: I'm sure there has been, but I can't recall. No, I can't recall anything like that. But I'm sure I felt like we shouldn't have had been asked to move, you know, not asked, forced to move.

KL: You guys have a couple kids, yeah?

MO: Beg your pardon?

KL: You guys have a couple children.

MO: Yes.

KL: Tell me about, tell me about when they were born and who they are.

MO: Well, my daughter was born in '61, and Keith was born about seven years... '67, so that's about seven years. And they both went to school here, grammar school here in San Jose. They both went to high school here, then college, Tish went to USC, and my son went to San Jose State.

KL: Your daughter's Tish and your son is Keith?

MO: Yeah. After she graduated, she got married and stayed there. I guess she's happy down there. I would never want to live in L.A.

KL: Have you, did you ever talk with them about your family's experiences?

MO: Well, they ask sometimes, we tell them, but we don't elaborate. We don't say, "Sit down, we're going to tell you," about this or that. Maybe this will help them.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

KL: So how do you think that your experiences during World War II, do you think they shaped the rest of your life?

MO: Uh-huh.

KL: How did they shape your thinking or the person you became?

MO: I think I became more focused, because like when I was working in the farm during the summer earning money, I said, "I don't want to do this for the rest of my life, I want to do something else." So that kind of helped shape my future. I think a lot of the Niseis felt that, too, but some of the older Nisei, it's too late for them, because they were already beyond that, college years and stuff like that. But us younger kids, we were able to kind of determine what we want to do and set out to do that. So I think we were kind of fortunate.

KL: What did your oldest brother do for a career?

MO: When he was going to junior college before the war, he was taking accounting, both of my brothers. So after that, when they came back to America, they worked as accountant for the city and one for the county or for the state, I can't remember which one was which.

KL: Okay. So since, you know, since Japanese American removal, you've grown up from being a child to being an adult, the country's gone through a civil rights movement, and how do you think the country, how do you see this now that's different from how you saw it then, and do you think the country sees it differently, and how?

MO: I see some improvement. There's still a lot of discrimination, but I think, I think getting a little better, but those being discriminated against don't feel that. But I think we're moving along okay. It's got to get better, that's what I think.

KL: If there's kind of one thing that people think of, what do you think is the most important thing about your experience? If someone watches this videotape in a hundred years, what do you want them to know about your life?

MO: Don't let this happen again, that's all I ask. Don't let this happen again. No more camp life. It's terrible for the parents, devastating.

KL: We appreciate your sharing this. What have I left out? Are there questions, are there stories you wanted to tell, or questions you guys have?

MO: Not really. I think I said all I wanted. After you leave, I'll think, "Oh, I should have said this, I should have said that," but you know.

KL: You can write me a letter.

MO: Yes, it's endless, endless.

KL: Yeah, I'm trying to exercise some self-discipline so that Alisa and Shirley can talk, too. Were there questions you two had that you wanted to ask?

AL: Well, I'm just curious about what it was like to be dating Reverend Nagatomi's daughter. Because at Manzanar, he is such a big character, so much bigger than life, and it seems to me that it might be a little intimidating to be the guy dating his daughter.

MO: I didn't know he was that big.

AL: What are your recollections of her parents?

MO: Okay, this is what she tells me. She said when I first -- there's quite an age difference between my wife and I, there's seven years' difference. And I was twenty... twenty-one? Well, anyway, there was quite a difference in age. So when I first went to her house to take her out, the mother knew that there was an age difference, and she also knew that I was a sailor, and sailors used to have a bad rap, right? Girl in every port and this and that, this and that. But I wasn't like that. [Laughs] And I tried, you know, I didn't go out of my way to be nice or anything like that, just try to be myself, and I think they accepted me eventually. He was a nice man, her father. He was a real nice man. Her mother was nice, too, treated me very well. Her siblings, her sisters, it was fun. It was fun growing up with them. I remember the first time I went to her house, her little sister, Shinobu, she was, what, about twelve? Yeah. Knock on the door, the door opened, and here's this little kid sticking her head out like she's waiting for me to show up. [Laughs] And sticks her head in, "He's here, he's here." I remember so vividly. So funny. And she was always hanging around. But she grew up to be a good kid. We miss her, we miss her; she passed away, but we miss her.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2013 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.