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-01-0006

<Begin Segment 6>

LP: Do you remember the transition from Gila to Tule at all? Was it by train or bus?

MM: I think it was by train.

LP: And I don't know if you caught this, from this interview yesterday, talking about the train ride, this person was, like, eleven years old and remembers asking the guard if he could put the shade up. And he remembers counting backwards based of where the train would stop and the clicks of the gate going up and down, "Okay, now we're at this street, now we're at this street."

MM: Really?

LP: But do you recall the presence of the guards or the military, what that was like?

MM: Yeah, I don't remember the transition at all, but I just remember when we went to Tule Lake, the barracks were black. That was a big contrast. And I think we went in August or October, can't remember.

KL: October.

MM: October. So the weather was probably... because in Tule Lake it snowed a lot. And it was cold, we weren't equipped with clothing. My mother used to always sew, I don't know where she got the money to buy fabric, I don't know, but she was always sewing. And I think my father in Gila worked on the farm, which he was not a farmer. And then when we went to Tule Lake, he was a bookkeeper in the canteen. So there was a lot of political things going on there, I'm sure, in the background. Of course, he never talked about it. But my friend's father was murdered, I remember, and she didn't come to school that day. And we found out that he was killed, he was the head of the canteen. And I don't think they ever found anybody. I think there was so much going on in Tule Lake, that all of us didn't know about. And I don't think my father was... although I asked about that years before he died, and he says, "I don't know what happened," but my friend's sister said it's probably an inside job, but they never found anything. I'm sure a lot of that was going on, and there were a lot of factions in camp, the real pro-Japan, the real neutral people, people who stayed, who answered "yes-yes" anyway, and they didn't want to move. In my area, because of the Japanese schools and all that, they were probably all people who came in from other areas. Because my girlfriend's, one of them was in Gila, one was in Rohwer, we came from all over. It was a good existence for me because I made lifelong friends. I still see them and talk to them.

LP: When we were talking earlier about the drills and the marching and stuff like that, was there any schedule or any rhyme or reason to certain things being said or done within those drills? Like for people that have no idea what that might have looked like or what was involved in that?

MM: I think it was real early morning, they would all assemble and bow to the east, and then they would say, "Banzai." And then I remember them running through the camp, around the blocks. Those are the only impressions I had. But I guess those people must have really had pro-Japan classes, because did not, at least I don't recall. We did learn a lot of Japanese history, which I don't think they even teach it in Japan anymore. Because I'd ask people from Japan, "Do you remember this story?" and they said, "No, never learned it." And then we learned the anthem, and we learned a lot of the speeches that we were supposed to recite, I remember that. And to this day, many of the children who went to Japanese school do their multiplication tables in Japanese, because it was so easy to learn that way. I didn't, because I hadn't learned it by then, but my sister does. And so all by singsong rhymes. And math was probably the best thing I learned. Because then after I came out of camp, I probably really had to learn math for about two and a half, three years, because I was so far ahead, because they were so good at teaching it. And then we learned the soroban, the abacus, we used to have races on that. It was a good time for us.

LP: What separation was there between cultural preservation and necessarily the politics of the war within school? Did you feel like there were certain schools...

MM: No, I don't think so, not at all. I mean, I don't remember any of that, if they were trying to throw us into pro-Japan, I didn't feel that at all. And then the teachers in the regular schools, a lot of them were Japanese recruited from among the people in Tule Lake. And I remember I had a really good teacher who I saw years later after... I saw him at Cal when I went to school, and I recognized him and he recognized me. But he was just out of high school, but he was a good teacher, he actually taught. He became a teacher, I think he taught for about thirty years in high school after that, but he was a really good teacher, and my sister had him, too. So they recruited from the residents who were inmates to become teachers.

LP: What was his name?

MM: Tsukasa Matsueda. He lived in Palo Alto. In fact, I nominated him as one of the teachers that we remember from camp, and we honored the teachers at our museum, Gila dinner one year. He was thrilled, he was a good teacher.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.