Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Masako Murakami Interview
Narrator: Masako Murakami
Interviewer: Larisa Proulx
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: November 19, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-mmasako-01-0004

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LP: Some of the things they hear about at Tule Lake from time to time are the sort of specialized curriculum and classes and things. So going to school at Heart Mountain, was your class really mixed?

MM: I went to Gila.

LP: Gila, sorry, Gila. Was it really mixed with ages of people?

MM: I think in Gila it was a regular classroom because we were all in the grades that we were supposed to be in. In Tule Lake, the regular school was probably the same, but it's the Japanese school that was different. We went to Japanese school half a day, and regular school the other half. And Japanese school to me was really the best experience I had. Very well-run, lots of discipline, all taught by teachers from Japan. And nobody talked, nobody misbehaved, and the age, I was in the third grade, and the ages ranged, I was probably one of the younger ones, because it was Japanese school, it depended on how much you knew of Japanese. So I think there were teenagers in that group, high school age. And if I remember correctly, it could have been sixty kids in that class, it was a huge classroom. And the teachers were just great, really great. They had a great curriculum, and we were taught manners, history, Japanese history, calligraphy, art, I don't know how they did it in half a day, but it was really a great experience.

LP: Someone I interviewed yesterday also went to Japanese school and his family, this one older brother that was really vehement about them not having any English school, and he remembers having to memorize the emperors and say them all in... it sounds like it's very disciplined, but was your family, did they feel strongly that the Japanese school was all that you needed, or they allowed you to diversify?

MM: Yes. I know there were children who went to just Japanese school all day. So when they came out of camp, they were behind like two years. But we were in the group that went half a day, but they really packed a lot of things into half a day. And I remember in the classroom, we would, the teacher would go up there and recite numbers, and the first person who added it could leave that room. So you can imagine, I mean, you can't do that now, that's a no-no, parents would really object. But that's what he did. And we used to have all kinds of exercises and contests. It made it fun to learn. We had report cards all in Japanese, and I think a lot of the children who went to all-day Japanese school, maybe their parents were in the group, the Hoshidan group. There were a lot in our area, too, they were very, very strong. I remember them exercising in the morning, bowing to the emperor. It was just part of life for us. But it was interesting, my girlfriend's brother was in it, her sister was also in it, they both went to Japan.

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