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-01-0005

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LP: Was there a... I've heard from different people there were sort of different divisions of groups, so there was like a youth group and then an adult group and then there was a male and a female group.

MM: Right.

LP: Do you know the names of those different... I hear a lot of "Hoshidan" and I, just for my own, is there...

MM: There probably is. My girlfriend's sister was the leader of the female group, and she would probably be able to tell you all those names, because she was probably in her twenties. She was already going to college at that time. But I don't remember any of those at all, but they were a very, very strong group, I know, and they were very, very pro-Japan. They knew right away that they were going to go to Japan.

LP: So going back a little bit to Gila, do you think the questionnaire instigates some of these more open protests and conversations about things or was that already something that was an undercurrent or even really evident at Gila?

MM: That, I don't know. I just know that we, of course, typically, my parents didn't talk about it at all. But I always thought that my father answered "no-no" because he was the eldest in his family, and he still had a father alive, and mother, and he had a younger brother in Japan. He felt that he had to go back to take care of the father. And until maybe a few years before my father died in his nineties, I didn't know that he said "no-no" because he was protesting the government for putting us in camp. I never knew that. He never told me, because we never talked about it. And then in the meantime, my grandfather died in Japan, so I thought he changed his mind, well, we don't have to go back. So first he said we were going to go to Alaska because he had an aunt and some cousins in Alaska who had property, so there would have been a place for us to stay, but we didn't want to go to Alaska. So we went to San Francisco, because that's where we came from. But I never even thought to ask him why he decided not to go back. So we ended up in San Francisco again, but we had nothing. We lived in Hunter's Point, which was a navy base, I'm not sure. And we lived there for months, I guess, and then we rented a one-room place in a boarding house. And then eventually moved another location, and then eventually saved enough money to buy a house. So for people who came out of camp who had nothing, we each got twenty-five dollars. The parents did well.

LP: Was the impact of the questionnaire just being issued to the camp evident at Gila? Something from yesterday, chatting with this man, one of his brothers was very active at Topaz, kind of facilitating or participating in, really actively, these bigger conversations with different people, saying, no, you should answer this way, and if you answer this, this is what this means. Was any of that conversation, even though you were a child, did that seem like that was weighing on people, or those things were going on? Or did your parents distance you from that?

MM: I didn't know anything that was going on, I really didn't know anything about the questionnaire until I came out. But I do know from conversations with a lot of people that it was really a big discussion and people didn't talk to each other, became enemies, split families. And those of us that went to Tule Lake were labeled "disloyals," which, my girlfriend and I, thinking back now, realized that they were the only ones that were really brave enough to protest about camp. Everybody else just went along and said, "Okay, okay, we'll go." Even if they may not have believed in the questionnaire, but they didn't want to go someplace else, so they said "yes-yes." But we said, you know, our parents were really brave. Silently they protested. So I think the Japanese community really has to realize what happened, and I think the Tule Lake pilgrimage is doing a lot of right the wrong. I think many of the people, even the Japanese people, say, "Oh, those disloyal people were went to Tule Lake," that's not true. That's not true at all. And I think you really have to learn the truth as to what happened. I didn't realize all this until later. I've been volunteering at the museum since 1986, and we had our first... the first exhibit was on Isseis, but the second one was on "America's Concentration Camps." And each camp was represented by an island of all the barracks, and the people who came to see the exhibit were given a barrack and you were supposed to put the barrack on the map, which was really great. So they wanted volunteers to stand by each camp that they were in, very few people volunteered to say they were from Tule Lake. Because I was so young, I didn't know the difference. There was an older man, and I just don't remember too many people saying, "I went to Tule Lake," 'cause they didn't want to say it. And I think it's gone now, because a lot of people have died, but it was interesting. So many people who did go to Tule never admitted it, so that was interesting. Now people are protesting and saying, "Hey, you've got to change your ideals and all of this." So I really think everybody has to be educated.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.