Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Masako Yoshida Interview
Narrator: Masako Yoshida
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Monterey Park, California
Date: August 14, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-ymasako-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

KL: You said you took the train to Poston?

MY: Yes, uh-huh.

KL: Do you remember where you gathered, or what that was like, to get on the train?

MY: I don't know how it was, but I went to see, when my brother went to Manzanar, I went to see him at the old Santa Fe station right there, we used to walk there from Boyle Heights. We used to walk down there, and others who went to Santa Anita went by bus, because I remember walking to, like where the Hongwanji is, the Japanese museum now is. Okay, we'd go there and say goodbye to our friends. We never thought, well, what's going to happen later on, we're too young to even look that far.

KL: You and your friends, you mean?

MY: Uh-huh.

KL: What was the mood like when people were leaving and you were there to say goodbye?

MY: Well, it was sad when my boyfriend left, because he would, on the Santa Fe railroad, but you know, that was it. The kids, we just got split up and that was it. I don't know, I guess we were not to show too much emotion. Do you think that's true?

KL: I hear different... you know, there's a lot of people who I don't know that they have strong memories of departing, and some people do and they, in our film there's someone who says that he remembers, I think it was his sister, pointing to an older lady crying, or it was raining, and his sister or someone said, "Look, even the heavens are crying for us." So I know it was a sad thing for some people, and for little kids it was, like you said, the blackouts were exciting for a teenager. For some people, who were little, if their family was still together it was kind of an novelty. So everybody's different.

MY: Yes. And I don't know that I felt any sadness or anything. We never thought what would the future bring. I don't think you do as a teenager, as your family just stays together, because we were all together.

KL: That reminded me. Your mother taught Japanese language, and a lot of people were arrested who had a connection to Japanese language schools. Did she worry about that, or did any of your friends...

MY: Yes, that's why she burned everything. But they went for the men. My father-in-law, my husband's father, was taken the day after the war started, on December the 8th, because he was a farmer and he had knives to cut the cabbage and everything, and they took him in the very next day. And he had, my father-in-law had to leave his wife who was a complete invalid, and she had arthritis and she was in bed all the time. They had to hire a private ambulance because she could not sit in a train chair unless they wanted to put her into the L.A. County Hospital. And so I know that they hired a private ambulance to go, and she was in the bed all the time. She had, he came from a family of eight brothers and sisters, so the four sisters took care of the mother. And coming back, too, they had to hire a private ambulance on their own. So it was very hard for them because the father was taken to the Tujunga place the next morning. When the kids came home from school, his father was not there.

KL: What is your husband's name?

MY: Mitsuo Yoshida. I have the same last name, same maiden name, and his first name is M-I-T-S-U-O, which means "third son."

KL: And where was he living?

MY: In Orange County.

KL: And they grew cabbage?

MY: They were farmers, they leased some land in Irvine, a ranch. They were not the rich farmers. There were some rich farmers, but his family was poor farmers. But I know that it was bad for them because the father was taken the very next morning to that place in Tujunga. I've never been there but I hear that's where they went. And then from there they went to Bismarck or something, but they finally let them all come home eventually. Not home, but to Poston. I think a lot of mistakes were made by the government in those days, don't think so?

KL: You could call it mistakes, some people would call it something stronger. I know Roger Daniels, who's a historian, he thinks that "mistake" is too weak a word because he thinks that a mistake is accidental, and it wasn't an accident.

MY: Well, the thing is now that it would never happen again.

KL: You don't think so?

MY: It better not. I don't think so because now the minorities are strong, too. See, we were just taught to be so obedient, but the few who said no, they were put in prisons. There were just a few, two or three men who said no, but they won their cases way after, which is nice.

KL: Did you hear about anybody who thought about saying no or trying to refuse to go?

MY: No. Because not at my age, we just did what our parents told us to do.

KL: What is Mitsuo's father's first name?

MY: Rokubei, R-O-K-U-B-E-I.

KL: So you were some of the last Japanese American people to leave L.A.

MY: We were, uh-huh.

KL: What was that like?

MY: Oh, nothing. It was just something we were told to do, and we did it. I guess I didn't have too much of a feeling either way.

KL: Had you heard, what did you know about where you were going?

MY: No, we did not know at all. We went on this train, and I know they gave us sandwiches and milk that was rotten, because it was, you know how hot it was in San Bernardino, that's the train we took. Now I know that that's the train we took to San Bernardino, to Parker, Arizona. From there we took a bus, and it was just horribly dusty and hot, but that's where we went.

KL: How long was the trip?

MY: I really don't know. But when we got there, I know that we were given blocks to go to, and we had to fill our mattresses with straw. Luckily I had some friends there, some boys, and they filled my mattress up with straw for me. And my mother had horrible hay fever, and we all had allergies, so it was kind of rough at the beginning. But at least five of us, we had three and two, my grandmother had died already, so five of us was enough for one whole room. Now, if we had under five, we'd have to have two people one room, where you put a sheet in between, you know that. So that's, I remember it was just very, very dust storms, very bad dust storms that would come... you know, we just cleaned the room. And what I hated was the bathrooms, that we had no stalls to sit in peace, and we would just have to sit in front of everybody, right? And you know, Japanese women, we were never taught to expose ourselves. And taking a shower, we went to showers in high school, so we were better exposed by that. But I know the parents had a real hard time getting used to taking a shower.

KL: How did your mother cope with that?

MY: She had to, right? So a few of her friends, they would go in together late at night when nobody was there.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.