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

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

LP: Today is November 19, 2014. Present in the room is Larisa Proulx, National Park Service staff with the Tule Lake Unit, Kristen Luetkemeier, NPS staff at Manzanar, and Masako Murakami. Do I have your permission to record this video --

MM: Yes.

LP: -- and to use it for educational purposes? Thank you very much. Could we start off by having you talk about your birthdate and where you were born and some of your family's background?

MM: I was born in San Francisco, March 27, 1934. And my parents... my father was born in Bakersfield, my mother was born in Seattle. They both were sent to Japan, so they're Kibeis. I think their primary language probably was Japanese, although we spoke English in the house most of the time. I have a younger sister who was two years younger, Yaeko, who was also born in San Francisco. And when the war started, my father decided that he wanted to evacuate to Fowler, California, in central California, where we had relatives. So we packed up, and I'm not sure when we did, and we probably lived there for months, I don't know. And then everybody in central California had to to go to camp, too. So we went to Gila, I think it was Camp 1. And so most of my people that I met were from central California. And then when the questions 27 and 28 came, we went to Tule Lake.

LP: What was San Francisco like prior to camp and all of that? I worked in Angel Island State Park in San Francisco for about four years, and just curious what it was like kind of growing up there.

MM: I lived right in Japanese town, which is now Japanese town. And I went to Japanese school around the corner, and that's the picture of the people all lined up, I think, to get their registration for camp. And that's always in that area. And I went to Raphael Weill school, which is now another name. But my girlfriend and we were all in, we would always salute the flag in the morning before school started, and Dorothea Lange was taking a lot of pictures in that area at that time before the war, oh, when the war started. And my girlfriend is the one on the big poster that's used all over, she's saluting the flag. We've been friends from when we were born, and I probably was in the background, in the crowd someplace. And then I used to go to Japanese school at Kinmon Gakuen. And then I guess we just moved to Fowler. I don't remember that much about the city. My mother didn't work, she did a lot of piecework at home. And my father was a salesman for some Japanese company, Pacific Trading, I think it was. And then we lived on Buchanan Street, which is part of Japanese town right now. And had a lot of friends who all went to Topaz, 'cause that area when to Topaz or Heart Mountain. A lot of them went to Heart Mountain, too. So I lost touch with all my friends because of camp, but I made new friends in Gila.

LP: What's the name of the friend that's pictured in that photograph?

MM: Helene. Her name was Helene Nakamoto, and they were Japanese, and it was Hideno, and she's in, I mean, if she had a penny for every time they used that, she'd be very wealthy. But she's visited the Smithsonian where they had the exhibit, and she had the ground floor tour, it was really nice for her. But she looks just like it. I mean, if you look at her, you know that was Helene. And her husband goes around now lecturing on Heart Mountain, 'cause he was in Heart Mountain. And she was in Topaz.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

LP: What do you remember about the news of Pearl Harbor, or how was that...

MM: I don't remember much at all, I don't know.

LP: Do you remember anyone telling you about it?

MM: Not really. All I know is we had to move, that's about it. And my parents were young, they were probably in their late twenties or early thirties, so they really didn't have much, they were just starting. And I was seven when the war broke out. So it really didn't, we didn't have our home, we were renting, so I'm sure they didn't have that much in goods, either. So they probably didn't lose as much as a lot of other people did. But I think they stored a lot of whatever they had in the basement of somebody's house, and nothing was there afterwards.

LP: What do you... the emotional psychological impact of being a kid and even though your parents were sort of starting out, you had friends, I mean, do you recall that part of it?

MM: No, I don't really remember that much.

LP: So what was the name of the place again that you...

MM: Fowler.

LP: Fowler. So did you go there by car or...

MM: We probably went by car, I'm not sure. We lived in a house with all the relatives, I think, aunt, uncle, daughter, a son, I mean, we were all squeezed in there. I remember they had a bath, they had an ofuro in the back, that I remember. And they had cactus in the front yard. But I don't really remember how long we stayed there, either. It couldn't have been much more than two or three months, then before you know it we were gone to Gila. So there were a lot of people in Gila from central Cal, from Parlier, Selma, Reedley, all of those towns. So I made friends with them, and I still keep in touch with some.

LP: The family that you met up with, which side of your...

MM: My mother's side. It was my mother's aunt and uncle. And my grandmother lived in San Francisco, but she stayed, she didn't move with us. And so she went to Heart Mountain, and so she would send me things from Heart Mountain, and so I knew a little bit about Heart Mountain, but not that much.

LP: Do you know why she stayed?

MM: She had friends. She was a pretty independent woman.

LP: And in Fowler was... I mentioned this when I was talking with Richard, someone I interviewed yesterday whose family was in San Mateo, he remembers walking to the buses and people sort of peering out from their windows and being upset that people didn't come to with the family well. He remembered seeing some of the posters on telephone poles. Do you remember any of that?

MM: No, I don't remember any of that. All I just remember is when we went to Gila, that's the only camp that had white barracks, that was really amazing. And they told us that you have to watch for gila monsters, yeah. [Laughs]

LP: Did that look like... I'm just thinking, what was the gila monster?

MM: I don't know, I never saw one, but they said watch out for gila monsters and snakes, I remember that. And I think we have a coal, I think we had kerosene heaters. And anyway, most of the time it was hot. So unusual camp, because it had white barracks. I don't know if it was to reflect the heat, I don't know.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

LP: So from Fowler, what was the process eventually getting over to Gila?

MM: We must have gone by bus or train, I'm not sure.

LP: Was there a particular place that your family was told to go to?

MM: That, everything is blank to me, I just don't remember any of that. I just remember going to Gila and being there, going to school, I remember a lot of friends. I think we were there probably maybe about a year, and then we went to Tule Lake. Tule Lake was much... well, I was older, too, I remember much more. I was pretty impressed with the schools.

LP: So Gila... there was actually a lady that this past summer I met that was there, and she was a teenager there, and she recalled... 'cause I guess that, was that a reservation area?

MM: I think so, yeah.

LP: Prior to that? So were there, sort of, traces or evidence of any Native American or native people?

MM: I'm sure there was. The other, the camps in general, when people went, they were able to go in and out of camp a lot. And we had a neighbor who was a good friend of ours, and he had a big ranch, and he would periodically go out of camp, maybe tend to his ranch, I don't know, and come back and bring all sorts of goodies for all of us. That I thought was really neat, and he was the father of one of my best friends. But I know that when we went to Tule Lake, you could absolutely not go out. People who were at Tule Lake before the changeover, were all able to go in and out of the mountains and all that. Once we went, that was it. I think they either doubled or tripled the guards towers, put the sentries up there, and you could not step foot outside the camp, there was a lot of violence, I remember that.

LP: One of the stories about Gila that stood out to me was her remembering an elderly man who had wandered outside of the camp and never came back. Did you ever hear any stories of that?

MM: No, but I could see something like that happening. Never heard that.

LP: And then another thing, she mentioned, I don't know if it was arrow heads, but there was something that she remembers there having to do with native people. The other thing was movies. Did you ever, was there any entertainment?

MM: And I think we used to take blankets and sit on the floor and watch movies. But I don't know if that was Tule Lake or Gila, but that's what we saw in the camps, I mean, it was a huge group of people, and I think a lot of times I thought it was outside, I could be wrong.

LP: Do you know or do you remember what block at Gila?

MM: Yeah, I was in 10-12-A.

LP: And where in terms of the layout... earlier Richard was saying it was on the, different places he was out was the edge versus the center.

MM: I think we were probably on the edge, but Camp 1, there were two camps in Gila, Camp 1 and 2. Camp 1 was the smaller camp, and I think it was called Canal, the other one was called Butte. But I just remember block numbers, I'm into numbers, so I remember that. And we went to just regular school, it was a fun time for us because I was only eight at the time, went into camp.

LP: Do you remember anything about the terroir and the space that you were living in, how your family divided the room up?

MM: No. My mother was a seamstress, so she hung sheets up and made curtains. So it looked like a regular room.

LP: What about, you were saying school, do you remember any of your teachers or classmates?

MM: The classmates, I have an autograph book, so I remember that. In fact, there were some people who signed the book that I see once in a while. But as far as the school is concerned, I had no complaints about it. I've always liked school.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

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.

<Begin Segment 5>

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.

<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.

<Begin Segment 7>

LP: What about some of the religious, spiritual aspects of Tule Lake? They recently got in touch with someone whose dad was a reverend, and his dad's name's actually up on a plaque by the cross at Castle Rock, and really an interesting person, a lot of his experiences in camp he translated into helping bridge conflict between white and African American communities. And a lot of his writing is very psychological just as much as it is about religion and spirituality. What was the influence if at all of religion or spirituality on your family or at Tule Lake?

MM: I don't remember much, I don't even remember going to church, but we must have. My parents were both Buddhist. When I came out of camp, I went to the protestant church, Presbyterian church in San Francisco and I spent most of my time in high school during those days. But other than that, I don't remember much about that in camp. It's kind of a blank. I remember my mother used to go to a lot of classes, and she used to take sewing, drafting, she was busy all the time. But my father was always working, and he was... oh, my mother worked in the mess hall. And I don't know they got one, but we had a burner in the room. So she would bring home food, and she would cook herself, which was kind of nice. And my father would, because Tule Lake was a great area for hunting, and the geese, and I don't know what they're shooting, but we were at the very end of the camp, so the hunters would shoot 'em and they'd die on our side. So my father would pick it up, and my mother would make teriyaki duck or whatever for dinner at night. I remember that, we'd have to sit there and pick out all the bullets. He was probably wishing he was out there. [Laughs] But as I say, at Tule Lake, I don't remember anybody going outside the camp. I mean, there were people who really believed that all the camps were easy to get in and out of, but that's not really true. Tule lake was an entirely different camp. And I think everybody should know, to learn that they don't treat it like the incarceration was an easy thing for a lot of people. There were a lot of people whose families were divided, so much so. And I remember the teachers went back on the first ship to Japan, and some of the families did, too. It was a sad, sad day. And there were stories of people starving in Japan. If their families did own farms, they had no way to eat. So there were a lot of people who went back and then came back, too. I'm sure it was really tough for them.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

LP: Did your family... it sounds like your parents buffered you from being picked up, but did you later become aware of, or did you ever get a sense of the conversations concerning repatriation, if that was something they ever entertained as an idea?

MM: I don't think so. I don't think so, because of what my father said. I think they probably figured we would do well in Japan anyway. My father's family was from Yamaguchi, and they were small time farmers. My mother's grandmother, I think some of the relatives died in the war, 'cause they lived in Hiroshima City. And my mother would never go back to Japan. She never even wanted to talk about Japan, whereas when she lived there, she loved it. But after the war, she would not talk about it, she wouldn't make any references to camp, it was interesting. And she didn't want to even talk to people about camp at all, whereas a lot of parents you could encourage them to speak a little bit, but she just didn't want to. What was interesting was when I went to the archives to get her papers, they wouldn't let me get them out. I don't know why, I still don't know why. But after much discussion... if I could find it, maybe I could figure out what happened. But my archives, papers from the archives, I was in the hospital, 'cause I had pneumonia. And I was only probably ten at the time, but they also diagnosed me with scoliosis, really severe scoliosis. And they talked about, maybe I need a brace. There was no, I'm sure at ten years old, if you had bad scoliosis, they would treat you outside. But they couldn't do anything, so I thought I was going to be an adult cripple, but I'm okay.

LP: Do you have any memories of what the hospital looked like?

MM: I enjoyed being there as a kid. We probably ate better food, maybe, I don't know. I don't remember being treated badly, I thought it was a good experience for me. I don't know about for my parents, but...

LP: Were the doctors and nurses all people from within the camp?

MM: I think so, a lot of them were.

LP: Do you recall any of the areas outside of the residential parts? So like the hog farm, the potato...

MM: No, not at all, because we weren't allowed to go out of camp. We did do a lot of walking, and I don't know where my father had got the money, but he ordered a bike for me from Montgomery Ward, put it together, he was not mechanical, so all my girlfriends, we all shared it, each one would write it, run after that. And then he also ordered ice skates for me. So we would ice skate, we all took turns using that one pair of ice skates, that I remember. And my girlfriends still remember that. She said, "I don't know you did it, but you shared with everybody." But we walked... 'cause we were at one end of the camp. It wasn't that far, though, I guess, but we would walk to the library, we would walk to the school. Actually when you think about it, I probably had a great time, until later on in adulthood, you realize, that was three and a half years of my life that I was there. I missed a lot. But I think those of us in grammar school didn't suffer as much as the people in high school and college, they missed a lot more.

LP: When you talked about ice skating, do you know where the area was?

MM: They just filled out, filled up an area, put water in it, and that's what it was. I don't remember what it was, because we were at the end of camp, so it must have been close by. Yeah, 'cause we had a lot of snow, lot of ice.

LP: When you were in Tule the first time you had seen it snow?

MM: Yes.

LP: Was that a pretty amazing...

MM: Oh, yeah, amazing, it was amazing.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

LP: What about... I'm not sure, because of so much research we still need to do with the jail and stockade, what do you recall about those areas, if anything, or what are some of the people maybe that were affected by those areas of the camp?

MM: You know, I didn't know anything about it until I took that pilgrimage. Or we went to Tule Lake, and we were given a tour by one of the rangers there, an excellent tour, and that was before the pilgrimage. And we were coming back from the conference, a museum conference in Seattle, and I had no idea that existed. But when you think back, you think, "Oh, so and so's brother disappeared all of a sudden." And we never knew where he went, and he could have been in jail, and he could have been sent out of camp, which I think probably happened. I've never asked, but I think those of us who were much younger never asked questions, and were never told anything. But I'm pretty sure those were things happened. There must have been a lot of protesting, a lot of very strong-willed people, and probably were right that they protested. But they were few, and I'm sure they were reprimanded strongly.

LP: When you were at the pilgrimage, there were so many different things people could do, but one of them was to go through the jail, and it sounds like you had visited earlier?

MM: We had visited before, so we did go to that area. There were quite a few, some people who said their relatives were in the jail, it kind of hit you right in the face.

LP: I was going to ask what it was like to go through that space. Did you, when you were in there, see the writing?

MM: Yeah. Now, normally, I would think if people were all jammed in there, the walls would be covered with writing, but it wasn't. Just a few people wrote. I think there was only one thing in Japanese and one in English. And that, to me, was striking that a normal group of people like that would be writing all over the walls, but because of the ethnic, the Japanese, they didn't want to deface the property, I think. That's my feeling, I thought that was interesting.

LP: There's some writing in there that was translated that I got reviewed again, and this one piece of writing is the only one that has the person's full name, the prefecture of Japan that their family was from, and their birthdate. So I was able to get their evacuee case file from the National Archives in Maryland, I found their son, and they contacted their son and he had no idea.

MM: He had no idea.

LP: Unfortunately, this person passed away in the '70, or actually murdered in their family bakery in Hawaii. But this person said, "When my dad was alive, he used to get together with his Topaz friends. I didn't know what that meant until, oh, Topaz." So I just asked because of the jail, because to me, the power of places, even though the bars aren't really there, the lighting is whatever, I still go in there and it's really eerie to me, there's still presence there.

MM: They were just jammed in there. I mean, it made for a few, ten, twenty people, and they had hundreds of people in there. It was just amazing. The stories are really...

LP: Something that I brought up with Richard was the artwork from within Tule. Do you recall anyone making anything with shells or arrow heads?

MM: Arrow heads, shells, I remember a lot of carvings. I think a lot of people made canes, lots of people made canes out of the iron wood. And I think my mother used to use a cane that was from camp. I think my sister has it. I think Richard has some, too. Beautifully made. My first husband's father was in Topaz, and he made a sword, a short one, from the bed frame, and I'm sure, pounded it, heated it, and my son has it. And it's a beautiful piece; I've never heard of anybody making anything like that.

LP: Yesterday, the person that I interviewed had one, too. He's very into theater and plays and things like that, and there was a play that he and one other person used to go around and perform, and that was part of his costume, and it was a sword and it had the... what was the thing that it goes into?

MM: Oh, yeah.

LP: But anyways, yeah, the bed.

MM: They made it in camp?

LP: Yeah.

MM: Wow. I mean, there must have been a lot of people who did that, but that's the only person, I mean, the only one I know of, and I thought, "Wow, that's amazing, you had to have a lot of patience. Every night they're out there probably pounding away. My grandmother was in Heart Mountain, and she used to send me pictures, I don't know, I guess people had cameras. And she used to play the shamisen, and they used to perform in camp. There were a lot of pictures of her on the stage in camp. So I know there are people here trying to recreate all that. So I'm trying to find a picture, but not easy.

LP: What was your communication like with her? You mentioned earlier that she would send you stuff?

MM: Yeah, it must have been all to my mother, but she would send me carvings from Heart Mountain, and pins which I've all given to the museum. I mean, their life was different than ours, because it was not so... although in their case, because they had to, because she was from Japan, she didn't speak any English, so she probably lost herself in the arts performance and all that. But I mean, I think she had a good life in Heart Mountain, because all her friends were there. We had a lot of performances at Tule Lake, too, but since I wasn't part of it, I just went to watch.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

LP: Did you get a sense of before, either during camp or after, did she have concern about what Tule Lake meant, that you all were there? Because there was this stigma...

MM: I'm sure, I'm sure. Because I think a lot of the people who did come out of camp, that was the first question you always asked, "Which camp did you go to?" That was just a common thing. And a lot of people didn't want to say they went to Tule Lake, whereas I was young enough that I didn't know, I didn't care. But I know the older people didn't want to say. But I think now it's entirely different. I think a lot of it has to do with George Takei talking about his father. He used to talk to his father all the time, and so he would learn everything about camp. And he's related a lot of stories. And we have another volunteer here who also talked about... he wasn't even born at the time of camp, but he used to talk to his father about camp a lot. So they would have firsthand information about... those are the people you should interview, because they used to talk to their fathers all the time. So their thought are in there, how the fathers felt. And I know George to this day feels very strong admiration for Wayne Collins, because Wayne Collins spent years getting citizenship back for his parents. My parents luckily did not renounce, so we didn't have to go through that. But I think a lot of people went through the periods of years, and I think even people who went to Japan had to work on it.

LP: Something that just popped into my head about renunciation and repatriation, a person I interviewed yesterday said they remembered being told rumors that the U.S. had intended to trade people at Tule Lake for Caucasian POWs.

MM: Right, I heard about that.

LP: Was that something you, at the time, heard?

MM: No, I didn't. I mean, I heard about that, too.

KL: I have a question about the time. I wondered if your daily life, or anything about the conditions you witnessed changed as a result of changes, bigger changes like the installation of martial law or your friend's father being murdered who managed the co-op or the canteen. Did those big kind of timeline changes change your daily routine, and if they did, how?

MM: No, not for me. No, not for me at all. I'm sure it did for adults, but I think our parents in general all protected the children, so that's why they didn't tell us anything about it. They were protecting us from all the problems that were present, and I'm sure there so many, and they just wanted us to have a normal life and a normal existence, so they didn't want to talk about it. Which in a way, at this point in life, it's tough, 'cause we don't know. And probably more people than... there were probably twice or three times more people that didn't talk about it than who did, which is sad.

KL: Did they ever give you any kind of safety cautions or anything?

MM: Uh-uh. I don't remember that at all.

KL: How did being Kibei affect your parents' experience at Tule Lake?

MM: I don't think that, I think a lot of the people their friends were all Kibeis. And since they spoke English well, I think they were more English than Kibei, I mean, Japanese. And I don't feel them having pushed Japan down our throats at all, although they wanted us to learn Japanese. And my sister doesn't understand that much, she's too much younger than I am, but I spent more time with my grandmother before the war, so I knew a little bit of Japanese. I could still read and write a little bit, but that was all because of the schools in Tule Lake. So I feel very fortunate to have had that experience, otherwise I never would be able to do that. I can't carry on huge conversations, but I could get the gist of it.

KL: Can I ask one more? When you guys arrived at Tule Lake, what was the reception from your neighbors? Either who were from Rohwer, like you mentioned, or people who were older term Tule Lake?

MM: I think the longer term Tule Lake people were living in another area. Because people that I knew, they came from all over. So we were all in the same shoes, so everybody was friendly. I mean, one of my girlfriends came from Los Angeles, and one came from central Cal. One came, I can't remember where she came from, she may have come from Los Angeles, too. But we all came from different areas. It's not like the other camps where people would all come from one area. So some of them knew each other already. But in our block, they were from all over. So I think we were all in the same shoes.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

LP: Something from Richard's interview that was really striking to me was the sleds that his dad made, and it sounds like you had some things sent to the camp and your dad constructed the bike and everything like that. But what about holidays, or how, in a setting like Tule Lake, and your parents, it sounds like, are trying to be the buffer, make things normal and enjoyable. What were the holidays...

MM: Well, they used to have camp block Christmas parties. And I'll always remember, I had a pen pal from Philadelphia, I used to write to her all the time. And she sent, I think it started out with a gift, one gift. And American Friends, she was probably one of those, and we became pen pals. Wrote to each other, I lost track of her, but there are people who have kept up, there are stories like that. But my parents were not able to buy a lot, but my mother probably made things. So we did have block Christmas parties. I don't remember Thanksgiving or any other, at all.

LP: Was the party just a social gathering?

MM: I think so, yeah. Like a meal, during the meals.

LP: Was there any sort of Christmas pageanty, any performance or anything?

MM: I don't remember them at all.

LP: Was there a Santa?

MM: I'm sure there was, I'm sure. Because that's probably the person that gave you that one gift.

LP: Was the pen pal thing the result of, like, a nonprofit organization?

MM: I'm sure, yeah, American Friends.

LP: American Friends.

KL: What was your block at Tule Lake?

MM: 22-07-C. Oh, 22-07-A, or C? No, C.

LP: There was something I was gonna ask you that was holiday related. Oh. So a story that's really striking to me is, I don't know if you've seen or read Farewell to Manzanar, there was a sort of story I heard connected to that about somebody singing the national anthem or something, and it was the death of Roosevelt. Did that news at Tule Lake mean anything, were you aware of that?

MM: No, no. But my mother wrote a letter to her friend whose daughter was in the Dorothea Lange picture, because they were friends, our parents' mothers were friends from way back, we lived across the street from each other. And my girlfriend was in Topaz, and both our mothers passed away within the last five years, and they both lived at an assisted living place in San Francisco. And apparently like all Japanese they saved everything. And she found, among her mother's things, she found a letter that my mother had written to her in Topaz. My mother wrote it in Tule Lake, and it was just when the war ended, and she was -- this was all in Japanese, so I'm just having it translated now. And it said that there were a lot of people talking, a lot of rumors going on, you can't believe everything, but it sounds like the war ended, but who knows if anybody is telling the truth? And then she would talk about, I guess Helene's mother had sent gum or things like that to us, and then photographs that they were taken in camp, it was just an ordinary letter from a housewife to a housewife, which was, I thought was really great. And it was intact with an envelope, with the address on it, and my mother's address, and Topaz address. So I thought that's unique, I thought I would donate it to the museum.

LP: Yeah, that's really neat that she had that still.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

LP: So getting, sort of fast forwarding a little bit, being short on time, but could you talk about leaving Tule Lake, what you remember about that, and then jumping a tiny bit to your role as a docent here and all?

MM: Well, when we came back to San Francisco, we lived in Hunter's Point. And then I don't know how long we lived there, maybe months, and then we moved to a boarding house, and we lived in one room for a while, shared bathrooms with other people on the floor. And then we moved into a rental place, and then my parents eventually bought a home. And my father... my mother, it was tough for them to get a job, but my mother was employed as a seamstress at KORET California, which at the time was a growing business. And she was probably the first Japanese hired there, so they had misgivings about, hesitant about hiring. But then once she was hired, then there were a lot of Japanese people hired there. Then my father went to work there also, although he was working other places as a bookkeeper, and he became the personal bookkeeper for Mrs. Koret, or Mr. Koret, I guess. And they both retired from there years and years afterwards. And my sister and I went to Pacific High School, then I went to Lowell High School and then she went to Poly and then we both went to Cal.

And I moved down here when I got married, and then I was widowed in 1979, so I think I started volunteering for, after my children all became college age. I started volunteering here in 1986, probably the oldest volunteer here. Not in age, but in years. And so we used to raise funds, it was just a thought in minds of the people, so it was really hard to find donors, but they all donated for a dream. And we were starting, and when I started to volunteer was, we were in Third Street in offices, and then we'd have committees and groups, and we'd go out and ask people for money, and people would give. It was amazing. You'd get a name on the wall if you put three thousand dollars or something like that, or you would get a name on the window or on the concrete, but this wasn't even here. So then we got the, we moved into the old Nishi Hongwanji where they used that for a meeting point for a lot of people who went to camps from here. And we had our first exhibit there, and then we had fundraising for this building, and then we moved into here. So I've been here a long time.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

LP: What has being a volunteer here meant to you?

MM: Well, you really, I think we all are here because we want to get the message across to people. There are people who come through who have absolutely no idea that we were in camp, I mean, they were just amazed. There were teachers even. Now we had the Hello Kitty exhibit exiting through the Common Ground exhibit, and it's a perfect opportunity, because otherwise those people would never come. And they're just amazed that this kind of thing happened. And I've been to schools, accompanied people who give a presentation about the camp experience, and the children, some of the children, I guess the parents know about it, and they're not surprised. But there are a few, there very, very few people who know about it. So that's our goal, is to make people aware that something like this did happen, and we don't want it to happen again. There were a lot of people, younger people who maybe were not even in camp who can lecture about it, too. So I think it serves its purpose. I've never been a docent because I can't remember details of everything. But we have excellent docents who really tell the story well. So this is a great experience with the Hello Kitty exiting, and people are just astonished that something like this even happened, so then they'll come back again. So it was a good intro, because it's hard to get people to attend a museum of this type. I think we got a lot of members, new members, because of that.

LP: Kind of thinking about Park Service activities, Tule Lake Unit, we're a newer national park and we have limited capacity to do stuff because of money, but is there anything that you, if we had whatever amount of money, that you would really think would be great for us to do there, or something you absolutely feel like we should not do there? Is there anything, any input in that?

MM: Well, I think, I mean, the pilgrimage people really do a good job. And I think if you could tell the story from their vantage point, and how people were sent there because they protested, but not so much being disloyal, but protesting the fact that we were sent there, or to the camps, and they were voicing their opinions and they were incarcerated further because of that. And for even the Japanese people to hear the story, to correct their image of people who were in Tule Lake, I think that would be terrific. I don't know, do you have many artifacts?

LP: We're building a collection. We're kind of in this catch-22, I guess, but basically we have all of these things that we want to have as our collection, but we need to amp up our facility or find some arrangement that will allow us, based off of the standards, to do that. But we know the floodgates are starting to open in terms of people wanting to donate things for a variety of reasons, so it's a priority for sure.

MM: Because a lot of the people who were actually adults there are gone. I mean, I think I still have things, I used to have Japanese school books, I kept all my report cards, and I have some here, but I still, I'll make a point, whatever I have, if I have any, to save it for Tule Lake.

LP: That'd be great. Definitely archival stuff is much easier for us, too, 'cause of the space. Yeah, that would be great, we'd be definitely interested in that. Was there anything that we didn't cover or ask that you really wanted to bring up?

MM: No, I don't think so.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

KL: I have a question from much earlier. I've never heard anyone talk about the Japanese American experience in Bakersfield, like in the '20s and stuff. What do you know about what drew your dad there and what his life was like there?

MM: You know, actually, I don't know much about his life in Bakersfield because my mother actually lived in Bakersfield. I thought she was born there, but my mother was born in Seattle. And her mother had a pool hall, and she had a lot of, I think, gambling hall. And they lived in a tough community, I think, where my mother's sisters all passed away. And I think this was when my mother was probably, after she came back from Japan, in her high school years, and she had to work, and she hated it. But that was a rough like for her, because the father was gone, her sisters had all died.

KL: She helped out in your grandmother's establishments?

MM: Yes, yes.

KL: And she talked more about being there than your dad did?

MM: Yes. I don't remember much of my father's experience in Bakersfield at all, 'cause he was born in Bakersfield. And my mother was born in Seattle, I think. I don't know. Maybe I got it mixed up, I can't remember. But my mother used to talk a lot about Bakersfield. I don't think there were many Japanese there. I mean, there were, but I don't think there was a big congregation of them.

KL: Did she talk about any other community institutions?

MM: No. I remember they used to go to Yosemite a lot, all the people from Japan went to Yosemite a lot. Richard had never been to Yosemite.

KL: We're hope Chiura Obata's granddaughter will come as a docent to Manzanar this summer, so that'll be exciting. And then one last thing, it seems like the formation of this museum and the redress campaign and Visual Communications being so close by, and the Little Tokyo revitalization, affordable housing, and the Manzanar Committee really have a lot of overlap. What if any memories do you have or involvement did you have or observations on the Manzanar Committee and the Manzanar development of pilgrimages.

MM: I wasn't involved at all. I did attend a few Manzanar pilgrimages. My late husband's aunt was really involved in the first redress group, and she went to Washington, D.C., for the signing, I mean, she was very, very active. And I went to one of the hearings in Los Angeles, the commission hearings, but other than that, I wasn't involved at all.

KL: What was the hearing like?

MM: Oh, it was really emotional. There were different people spoke about their experiences, and it was really, really emotional. You should really listen, one of the fellows, Steve Nagano, put together all the hearings. And I think the only place that was actually videoed was here in L.A., and he's got them all together. I'm trying to get it to be shown at the museum again, but he's really done a good job. So people who would never talk about it just broke down. I just went one day and it was really an experience. I think they should show it at every pilgrimage site, because that's what really brought it all on, the redress. People who had, older women, men, and they never probably talked about it to their children, but when they were interviewed, they really spoke about it.

KL: Yeah, it seems like a very different time to me, before redress.

MM: Right, right. That opened up a lot of people talking about their lives and what really happened to them.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2014 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.