Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Irene Yamauchi Tatsuta Interview
Narrator: Irene Yamauchi Tatsuta
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Laguna Woods, California
Date: October 13, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-tirene-01-0023

<Begin Segment 23>

KL: I wondered if you would describe the inside of your barracks in Minidoka.

IT: I think, well, family of five, the two end ones, rooms, were small. They were for couples, I think. And then it seems like, I don't remember how many units there were, six maybe? I can't remember which ones we had, but we had a fairly big room. I think there was a little, like... I don't remember separate rooms, but I kind of remember a smaller room. But anyway, it was one big room and most people had to divide it with curtains. It seems like we had a side room, a smaller one, but it could've been, maybe no one was living there and we were able to use it. I'm not sure.

KL: Did your mom cut hair in your barrack?

IT: Not in the barrack. She tried, but she got caught. [Laughs] Yeah. So she... I just remember that one couch that was made, and now I think, I can't see my dad making it. Maybe my uncle helped. And then she had the, what do you call, this stove, the burner or whatever, one unit. And most of our tables were, like, boxes turned. But it seems like that was kind of on a counter. We didn't have counters and things. They had to build it, build it. So it could've been stacked up boxes or something.

KL: You, I feel okay asking this because you had mentioned that you think your parents' sexual relationship changed. Do you have a sense, I know you were a kid, but looking back as an adult at how people navigated sex in Minidoka --

IT: No.

KL: People are amazed sometimes that there were hundreds of babies born in Manzanar with a lack of privacy and stuff.

IT: Yeah.

KL: You don't have any sense for how people dealt with that under those circumstances?

IT: As an adult, later I, when I learned about the birds and the bees, I figured they must've waited 'til the kids went to sleep. But sometimes you do have older kids in the family. And then, because my dad was partially paralyzed, I mean, I didn't sleep with my mother in Minidoka. But I don't know how, you know. I have no idea if they had sex. But they didn't, in those days did they have, what do you, contraceptives? I mean, the pill and --

KL: Yeah.

IT: That came later, didn't it?

KL: Well, the pill came later, but --

IT: Yeah, they had some other means.

KL: I don't know a lot about it, but there were other...

IT: I wonder a lot, I wondered about it. I can't...

KL: Someone who was a kid in Manzanar said that they, either his parents or his friends' parents or someone, every afternoon would say, "Okay, we need to take a nap, so you need to go play outside now and be quiet." [IT laughs] And looking back on it, they were like, you know. So I just wondered if there was something like that that you remembered.

IT: I wonder, because... well, she wasn't supposed to have any more, probably after me, because she got sick. So I wondered if they had any form of stopping it. But I never did give it more than that thought.

KL: Any other people in Minidoka that's important to mention? You were talking off camera about an artist. Would you tell us...

IT: Oh, okay. I didn't know, I don't remember this artist, but I do remember the family, kind of. And the mother, the, okay, he's an artist and he's pretty well known, so they gave him space in the Smithsonian to have a display. At least that's what I understand. And the oldest son, or the oldest child is a son, and we, his name was Shox, I think that's a short, but he's a couple years or so older than I am. He called my sister and said for the display, when they put snapshots or whatever up, they had to identify each person. And we used to go on picnics with them because my mother, the both mothers were good friends, so my sister told me that if I ever go there I should look up this display. I did see some display there, but this happened after I went, so I never did go back and see anything.

KL: And his name was Tokita?

IT: Yeah.

KL: And you said he kept a journal, so about life before Minidoka.

IT: Somebody sent me a video of his father, or this artist, writing a journal about being taken into camp and his feelings, and it was really interesting 'cause it's the first of its kind that they published. And he knew how to express himself, so that was really interesting.

KL: Are there any other figures from Minidoka besides your parents and your aunt and uncle that you think are important to mention?

IT: I just, I still hang around with -- I shouldn't say hang around, well, kind of -- hang around with some of my classmates. But we're all dying off because we're all getting old. [Laughs] I don't remember too much of anything special that happened. I mean, that was the way we knew life.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.