Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Hope Omachi Kawashima Interview
Narrator: Hope Omachi Kawashima
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Fresno, California
Date: September 10, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-khope-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

KL: What do you recall of the train, of the trip to Tule Lake? Starting with your awareness that you were going to go and actually loading up the trains, what was that scene like? Or do you have memories of it?

HK: Being so young, I remember it was a new experience. We had never ridden on a train. It was the first time to ride a train, so it's just like riding a train in Disneyland. You're excited about it when you're a little kid. But then we wanted to look out the windows and then they wouldn't let us look out the windows. We had to keep the shades all drawn, and we couldn't understand that. Here we're going on a train ride and we can't even see where we're going. [Laughs]

KL: Who enforced that? Or how did that --

HK: Well, they had soldiers on the train. They wanted to be sure nobody escaped, so if they had to stop or something. They had to be sure nobody tried to get off the train.

KL: How long was the trip?

HK: You know, for a kid it seemed like forever. Especially when you couldn't see out the window, couldn't see where you were going.

KL: Who was still with you for that part of the journey?

HK: My grandmother and my parents and then (...) six siblings. Six of us all together, yeah, so five siblings and myself.

KL: Are there any other memories from that trip out to Tule Lake?

HK: Well, all I remember is that we kept saying, "Where are we going? Where are we going?" [Laughs]

KL: Did your family know where you were going? Did you have awareness of that?

HK: No. I think they just said Tule Lake, so we thought maybe there'll be a lake there. But there was no, it was a dried up lake and some lava beds there, nothing can grow, and it's a kind of isolated area. I don't know if you've ever seen that.

KL: I've been up to Tule Lake.

HK: You have?

KL: Yeah, two years ago I was at the pilgrimage to Tule Lake. So I've been there just one time.

HK: We went, my husband and I (...) for a pilgrimage (...), I think it's about seven or eight years ago. But the memories came back.

KL: So it was, when did you first see, see the area? You arrived with the window shades drawn, I assume. What was, can you walk us through those first couple of hours of the, starting with getting off the train? What you did, what you saw.

HK: I just remember it was hot and dusty. Then there was all --

KL: When was it that you arrived there?

HK: In May, I think it was, 1942. But it was already hot. Or June 1942. Yeah.

KL: It was already hot.

HK: It was already pretty warm. And then we expected to see a lake and we kept saying, "Where's the lake, where's the lake?" We never saw a lake. It was just a dried up lake, and just very, red lava dust and hardly any trees even growing there. Just all these black tarpaper barracks lined up. And we said, well, this is where we're going to be living. So then they showed us our room.

KL: Who showed you the room?

HK: Well, I think we had to wait until we got our assignment, and then they showed us one, one room for all six, seven, eight, nine of us. The room was about the size of this living room, maybe up to this couch to the window. Al l nine of us would have to, that's where we'd have to be living.

KL: Was there anything in the room?

HK: I think they had these metal cots that we'd sleep on, and then a black stove, potbelly stove for heat. And that was about it. So kind of, I think, was surprising. There was no bathroom, no kitchen. All you had was one room to sleep in and live in. So it was kind of a shock.

KL: What were people's reactions? You were with your grandmother and your parents and your -- you said your siblings were kind of, you guys were excited looking for the lake -- what was, what do you remember of your parents and your grandmother?

HK: I think I remember somebody said, "Oh no. Is this where we have to live?" And then my father, of course, said, "That's impossible for us to live like that." So he had heard that if he signed up for work camp then he could go to the work camp, and I think it was in Idaho. So that's what he did, 'cause he thought, (...) he couldn't live there. Since my grandmother was with us and then my mother and then all of us, but he said he just couldn't, he didn't think that would be wise for him to stay there. But he wanted to go work and try to get us out of there, so that's what did.

KL: When did he go to Idaho?

HK: I know he wasn't in the camp (for) very long. Because he wanted to work and earn money for us so that we wouldn't have to stay there, so that's what he did. He moved all the way to Twin Falls, Idaho (and) worked in the potato fields. So then when he was able to save enough money, he came after us, and he rented a truck and came after us and took us to Twin Falls, Idaho.

KL: Before you left Tule Lake, did the, you described the room with the metal cots and the stove, did your living space change in your memory at all, during your time at Tule Lake?

HK: No, because it was just barely room for us to sleep. And then, of course, we had to eat in the mess hall, and then we had to go to the community, they call latrines, what was an outdoor bathroom with no stalls and pit toilets, I think, 'cause it smelled terrible. I remember I hated to go to the bathroom because it smelled so bad.

KL: Did you make any other arrangements? Sometimes people used chamber pots or did something different. Or did you just hold your breath and...

HK: Well, I think, my little sister was younger, (...) well, but I think she was already toilet trained, so we, of course, went, we didn't want our room smelling, so we all went to the bathroom. (...) Sometimes, when it would rain it would be muddy and it was very uncomfortable. It was cold, there was no heat in it at all, in the bathrooms. They had showers, but my sister and I were too little to take showers, so my mother would give us a bath in a laundry tub.

KL: Was that in a different place, a different building?

HK: Well, it was (...) near the bathrooms. There were laundry tubs, so we took our bath in the laundry tubs.

KL: Did the bathrooms change during your time at Tule Lake?

HK: Not that I remember.

KL: You remember them always being open and...

HK: (Yes), I think some people tried to put up sheets, just to give a little privacy.

KL: Some people built soaking tubs too, eventually. I mean, you weren't there for very long.

HK: Yeah. I think, (yes), well, the thing is that since our father wasn't with us, he probably could've done those things, but then he thought it was more important for him to earn money for our family and work outside the camp.

KL: How did you, how and where did you spend your days in Tule Lake?

HK: Well...

KL: The apartment, I mean the room, was very cramped. [Doorbell rings]

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.