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-01-0004

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KL: What year were you born?

MY: 1924, July 14, 1924.

KL: And you've mentioned a couple other siblings. Would you introduce us to your siblings and what year they were born?

MY: Okay, my brother was George Yoshida, he was born in 1922, and he just passed away. We just had a big celebration of his life up in Richmond, California, and he was very active with the northern California Japanese. He taught tai chi, he was a schoolteacher, and he taught tai chi after he retired from the Berkeley school system, and he taught 'til he was ninety-two, very actively, and he had a class of thirty-five people twice a week. I hope you get the video of his, how he was very active, and he still played the drums at the end, too. So I think you'll find that video very interesting. It's about the camp bands, and they covered every single camp band that they had all over. And I think if you speak to Bruce about it, he will know the name of it, because he was in it also in Manzanar.

KL: Yeah, Bruce Kaji. And your sister?

MY: My sister is five and a half years younger than I, so she was quite young when she went to camp. I was seventeen and she was twelve, so her experiences and my experiences were pretty, were quite different. And she was able to go to UCLA after the war, and she was a schoolteacher. But after she got married she became pregnant and she didn't teach after that. She's still living. She was born in 1936. Do you need that? November 30, 1936.

KL: Okay. And she's Toshiko?

MY: Toshiko, uh-huh.

KL: What about growing up? What were the three of you like as a family?

MY: Well, my sister always, I had to take care of my sister, and it was just understood that I would take care of my sister. Well, my brother was just older, and he was my older brother, that was it.

KL: We were talking about, Whitney said earlier that she used to follow her brother around as a kid and she'd always want to play with him and his friends.

MY: Oh, well, I didn't want to play with my brother's friends, but as we got older in high school, he didn't know how to dance but he loved music. And in those days we were jitterbugs, we used to dance the jitterbug dance. And I used to love to dance so I taught him how to dance. And so from then we got to be a little more friendly, but until then we weren't very close. He was just always my older brother, and just the only time we would be friends was that I would teach him how to dance.

KL: This was in Los Angeles?

MY: Yes, this was in Boyle Heights.

KL: Where were the dances?

MY: At the YWCA dormitory or at the International Institute for the High Schools, we all had Japanese clubs at every high school. And we would invite, just before the war, too, we were really, really, in a Japanese clique. Because, you know, the school is, Roosevelt High School was all mixed. We had Mexicans, Russians, and Japanese, and very few Chinese and very few blacks in Boyle Heights in those days. We had, the Jewish people were the very, very smart ones, I thought, and they were musically very good so our orchestra was very good. My brother played, we all loved music, I guess, and I loved the cello, so we used the school instrument and we learned how to play in the orchestra at school. My brother played the saxophone. You know, we had to use the school one because a piano always, but I didn't really want to play the piano. And that's where I had to learn piano lessons, but my brother didn't, and he ended up, he would have been the good piano player, really. But in the end he was a drummer, and he loved drumming, and he was a saxophone player in camp. And at the very end of that DVD you'll see him playing the drums and he's, I think, ninety years old at that... and he adopted four children, and one of the sons is playing the bass guitar in this video.

KL: But he was a drummer even back in high school?

MY: No. This is what he loved, so he would play, hitting the ochawans, the bowls, and at the end he would always hit my head. I would be the cymbal. He used to really get me angry but he... and he joined the Rafu Cho Gakuen Boy Scouts because he wanted to be in the drum and bugle corps. This is what I remember now.

KL: Was that in Los Angeles, too?

MY: Yes. Seattle, we were kids in Seattle, so we didn't do too much.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.