Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Sumiko Yamauchi Interview
Narrator: Sumiko Yamauchi
Interviewer: Whitney Peterson
Location: Chula Vista, California
Date: July 23, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-ysumiko_2-01-0010

<Begin Segment 10>

WP: This is tape two, and you were going to tell us about this embroidery.

SY: In camp my mother took, when she wasn't working, she was able to learn how to do this embroidery. And she made this in 1944-ish, and the material was ordered from Sears & Roebuck catalog, and also the embroidery. And the panda is supposed to be white, but because of the age, it has darkened. And also the material has gotten darker, too. The picture frame is made from the crate that we used to get from the mess hall, and then we painted it black. My mother painted it black so as to preserve some of the wood. As you can see, it's very delicate, and I don't know how long it's gonna last, but I hope it's gonna last a lot longer so I can pass it on to my kids.


WP: Do you know of any other examples of things that you or your family made when you were at Manzanar?

SY: Yeah. My father... well, after a while, the back gate was open where the cemetery was. And so people used to go out there and dig in the mountain, in the desert, whatever you call it. And used to dig these roots up, I think they're manzanitas, and they used to create... I've got one right there.


SY: And then they polish it up. Have you seen these? They used to do that all over the...

WP: I'm not sure I've seen one from Manzanar.

SY: This is the branch, and this is the roots, and they... I don't know how, and they clean it up, and it kind of makes it, I don't know. And they used to do this, lot of 'em used to make things like this out of it.

WP: Did your father make that?

SY: My father made this.

WP: From Manzanar?

SY: Yeah.

WP: Wow.

SY: Have you ever dug out there and saw these roots like this?

WP: I have not.

SY: It's out there. [Laughs]

WP: It's amazing. Did he make a lot of those?

SY: Yeah. We had, oh, my mother had about four or five laying on the table there. And when she passed away, I cleaned her... I sorted out all of here things, and I thought, well, I'll just bring a few things. So I brought that picture and this one, and those are the two that I just brought.

WP: Did they make anything else?

SY: Well, my father didn't. My father was, used to make tofu in Manzanar. Which was very unusual because in those days, I knew tofu but nobody else did. And the Japanese people loved it because they were able to, soya beans, you could make soya sauce out of it, and you made tofu out of it. And we enjoyed that very much, a little Oriental food in those days was very rare.

KL: Where did he do that? Where did he make the tofu?

SY: They had a little building. You know, remember they used to have recreation hall in camp besides the barracks?

KL: The recreation hall?

SY: Yeah.

KL: Uh-huh.

SY: Well, one of those buildings, they just converted into...

KL: Tofu factory?

SY: Tofu factory. And they were able to make tofu for all the mess halls. Not all at once. And they were, we had a chicken farm, our eggs came from the chicken farm. We had chicken for our stir fry, and I think we had a pig farm. Did we have a pig farm? Somehow I think of a pig farm, yeah. And I remember that came out, and we were able to grow a lot of our vegetables out there. Food was never a problem that I know of.

WP: Do you think your family had more access to tofu than other families because your father worked in the tofu factory?

SY: No, because he... no. Because he made it, he didn't have control over it. Because no matter what you did, you were still under the government, you were in camp. And whatever you made like tofu, because they had to grow the soya beans, the farmers grew the soya beans and brought it over, too, to make the tofu. Not that we could eat that much tofu anyway.

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