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-01-0018

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KL: Do you remember any neighbors in Twin Falls, or what the climate was like?

HK: I remember there were some Caucasian -- all our neighbors were all Caucasian -- and I remember when I, we went to school, there were some of 'em that would say, "Oh, I can't play with you because you're a dirty Jap." And I remember crying on the playground 'cause nobody would play with me, and then I remember one girl came up and she says, "I'll play with you." So I was so happy to have one friend in school. But otherwise the other children treated us like we were "dirty Japs," type of thing, and I remember crying and that was very hurtful to hear that. And then when we were going to school, walking home from school or something, I remember there were some kids that were on bicycles and they would call us names and things, while walking home from school.

KL: What about the teachers? What was their attitude?

HK: Well, I think in the classroom, of course, teachers maintained discipline so the kids couldn't be calling names. It was on the playground, at recess time.

KL: Did the teachers treat you the same as they treated the Caucasian students, or was there a difference?

HK: I don't recall that. I just remember I liked going to school and learning things, but it was, the whole experience was (...) new and different, being in a different setting than the camp.

KL: Do you have any idea if it was tough for your dad to be able to rent that house, if he experienced discrimination from landlords or sellers?

HK: He never said anything about it. I guess they were happy to rent it. We just had to be very careful, (...) we had to keep it clean and this type of thing, so we had to very careful not to break anything and this type of thing.

KL: What was, you mentioned the one girl who said she would play with you, do you know what made her different?

HK: I don't know what made her different, but all I know is I was so happy to have a friend, someone to play with. Otherwise, I was sitting in, (or) standing in a corner. The other kids would say, "I can't play with you. You're a dirty Jap." That's when you're a first grader, that's the most hurtful word you can hear.

KL: Did you talk about that at home? Or did you kind of keep that from your parents?

HK: I think I was so hurt I couldn't talk about it. 'Cause I just remember I just cried about it. I think I asked my mom, I didn't even know what a "Jap" was, I (asked), "What is a 'Jap'?" Then she says, well, that's for Japanese. And I says, "What's Japanese?" She says, "Well, those are people (whose) grandparents came from Japan." Then I think I remember saying, "Well, I don't want to be Japanese. Why am I Japanese?" I remember saying that type of thing. Then of course my mother, what could she say? So I think that type of feeling I had until I, I think until I went to college. And then I was asked to be in that play about the, Teahouse of the August Moon. Then I found out what it was to be Japanese. I thought, oh, this is not so bad. [Laughs] But otherwise, I was ashamed to be Japanese. Why did I have to be Japanese, you know?

KL: It's interesting, sometimes people, I've read people will, or even heard occasionally, people saying, "Well, they make themselves different. They choose to be Japanese American instead of just American," you know, and it's... but I hear other people who were kids in the '30s and '40s saying that they didn't see that distinction. They were just American, in many cases. There wasn't this Japanese American identity, that they were aware of necessarily, or a Japanese identity, certainly. And it sounds like that was, it sounds like you didn't really have an awareness --

HK: No, not until I was called that. I didn't realize, I didn't know what I was 'til then.

KL: A kid, a first grader.

HK: Yeah, yeah. I thought I was just another kid.


KL: This is tape three that we're starting. It's Kristen Luetkemeier again with Hope Kawashima on September the 10th, 2014, and we were talking about your time in Twin Falls. Can, are there other things that you wanted to tell us about Twin Falls before I ask about your next move?

HK: I think that's mainly all I could recall about Twin Falls, 'cause we weren't there for a very long time.

KL: How long were you there? You came in Sept '43.

HK: Yes, September 1943 we moved to Twin Falls, then February 1944 we moved to Topaz, Utah.

KL: I did want to ask you, you mentioned the school tuition being a factor in leaving. Was that, was that, I mean, when you moved there was there tuition, or did that change?

HK: No, that changed after we went to school. I guess the school decided they had to charge us tuition or something because we didn't look like Americans.

KL: So it was specific to your family.

HK: Yes, yes, it was just to our family, 'cause we were the only Japanese Americans there.

KL: What was the school's name?

HK: It was Twin Falls Elementary School, I think. I don't remember the name.

KL: Okay. Do you think your father and your mother thought maybe you would stay in Twin Falls for a while? It sounds like they did.

HK: Well, they were hoping. That's why my father had made all the arrangements to rent a house and get a job for him and my mother, so they were hoping that we could stay there for a long time. But I think we were there only from September to February the next year, so just only a few months.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.