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-01-0024

<Begin Segment 24>

KL: So what are your memories of people leaving Minidoka? You were, if not the last, among the last to leave. What do you remember about watching others go out of the camp during that...

IT: You know, that didn't, I guess that didn't bother me. Because I was with my parents, and like my auntie and Matsumotos, they went before. And everybody seemed happy to leave, except our family. And I just was gonna stick with my family. But in a sense it was good because when we were evicted and I had the dress I had on, nothing else, my cousin, who's the same age as I am, was already here, so she lent me some of her dresses. And of course it's real important to be educated with these Japanese parents, so we started school right away.

KL: Would you, we've kind of touched on it many times, but I wonder if you would just walk me through your memories of that so-called eviction.

IT: What happened?

KL: Yeah?

IT: Okay. Well, my mother probably was notified. I didn't know she was, she never said anything. But one day -- we had locks on our door. I don't even know who put them up there, but anyway, they really physically man-handled it and pushed it open, and they were, what, the wood was all shattered and all. And they walked in, and two big guys -- of course they're all big because we Japanese, most of us, are small -- they grabbed my mother's arms and walked her out to the car. And the kids and my dad were home; we walked out to see what was happening. We were just dumbfounded because everything happened so fast. They put her in the car and took off. We didn't know what happened to her. Then, I don't, I think we were outside or something -- anyway, they brought us back in, probably to pack a few things. Well, I don't think so, because I didn't remember having anything to carry. But we went back in, and that's when I saw my note. I was thanking my parents for taking care of me in camp because I was so scared that I'd be orphaned. And I put an Old Nick candy bar in there, wrapped it up. That was all torn apart and the Old Nick eaten. And this is when we got back, and I guess they had packed our stuff.

Well, they took the three kids and my dad to the hospital ward. We had to eat in the kitchen with the workers, and it was silent. They didn't, I guess they didn't know what to say. I guess because they were all not Japanese, they all left. I think. Yeah, I'm sure they'd left, because we were supposed to be the last ones. Then they told us where our room is, all four of us had a bed in the ward. And we turned off the lights and then about, I think it was around ten, but I'm not sure, they busted in the door. And this is the War Relocation Authorities. They look like FBI with the hat and the trench coats, but they were the War Relocation Authorities. And they just bust open the door, turn on the lights, and pointed to my dad and said, "Get dressed. We'll take you to see your wife." So he obediently got ready. They took him, and the three of us are sitting there wondering where they're going. Nobody tells us anything.

The next morning, they pick us, they picked the three of us up, and in the car they said, "We're gonna go pick your parents up." And they were at the Shoshone jail. So we go there, park, and this guy gives us quarters to try to get on the good side of us. We just threw it back to him because we were taught not to take money from strangers. Anyway, they went after my parents, and my mother comes out first, and I can't remember if it was two men or one, but she just looked awful, because she was sick, she was thrown in a cell. And she asked for the writ of habeas corpus, but they just threw her in, locked her up, and that was it. So I don't think they even gave her time to wash up. I mean, she looked awful. And then behind her comes my dad, and I'm sure he was escorted. My mother turned around and she was shocked to see my dad, so they didn't meet at all. So they both got in the car, and I remember the two guys that came after us, and I thought at that time I'd get even with them. Course I don't feel that now, but they gave my mother a hundred dollars and said, "You buy tickets to Seattle or we will put your kids in jail." Well, that did it. So they took us to the Shoshone depot -- I think it was Shoshone, and, I mean, wherever the depot is -- and she bought the tickets, we went back to Seattle. We had no idea what was gonna come of us. We just went back to Seattle.

Well, there were some Japanese American men that came to pick us up, and they took us to a hostel or whatever you call it. And I guess they had this program all set up, but we didn't know. It's at the, they use, they turned it, or maybe it was, a Japanese Methodist church in Seattle. And they had a balcony. The women slept up there, the men slept down below on cots. And it was a community kitchen, but you had to buy your own supplies. We had nothing. So my mom had to get sheets and all, and she got remnants, material, sewed it together, made sheets and then she had to send it to the laundry. And at that time she was mad because they charged her for a bedspread instead of a sheet because it was heavy material, I guess. But anyway, she had to get a job real quickly because we had no money and we had to buy food. Anyway, then that's when I met up with my cousin and she lent me some clothes so I could start school. But she had all kinds of jobs trying to support the family.

KL: Did your mother ever talk to you, maybe later, about her, and you kind of touched on this too, but did your mother ever talk to you about her reasoning for why she, or your father, stayed in place so long at Minidoka?

IT: I think, I think her reason was -- and I think this is what she told them, well, she told me that she was, that's her answer. "We're not leaving. We got used to this place. You've, you made us get rid of everything we own." Which wasn't the house, but still. "And we don't have money to start over. We're used to this place, we'll stay here." And it couldn't be because they had to close the camps. But they threw us in there, took everything away, or we had to get rid of 'em, so I could understand her reasoning. If I have nothing, well, I'm gonna stay here and camp it out kind of thing. We were thinking of, how are we going to live if they turn off the electricity, 'cause we were shocked they did that. But they were thinking of all methods to get us out.

KL: What was that night like for you three kids?

IT: Night life?

KL: That night, without your, when your mother had been taken and then your father was taken too.

IT: Well, I guess because we were together, I wasn't that afraid that we wouldn't see them, but I couldn't understand... I mean, everything was so fast, when they took my mother and they said they were gonna take him to see his mother, I mean his wife, so... I guess we just went to sleep. And then the next morning they came to get us. I guess we just felt we were gonna see our parents. But I had no idea they were gonna put her in jail. And then they pick him up and put him in jail, too. It just didn't... and he had a stroke and all, he couldn't do anything. And my mother being so sickly, although she was outspoken and she was sickly too, but it's a good thing nothing happened to her. The government would've been in big trouble. But maybe not for us, because we weren't free.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.