Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Midori Suzuki - Sanzui A. Takaha Interview
Narrators: Midori Suzuki, Sanzui A. Takaha
Interviewer: Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: Millbrae, California
Date: July 13, 2015
Densho ID: denshovh-smidori_g-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

KL: Well, I guess I wondered if your parents kept in touch with current events in Japan or with their families in Japan when you were growing up?

ST: My mother did, yeah. Yeah, she used to write quite a bit.

KL: Were they worried about the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and Japan?

ST: Yeah.

MS: Yeah? I don't remember. She was very political, she kept in touch. Remember? She used to send care packages to them, the things that they had difficulty buying.

ST: Oh, yeah?

MS: She used to send them things, the basic things like soaps and things like that. I don't remember exactly what, but I know it was very, some were very basic things.

KL: Did she ever say anything about what she thought might happen?

MS: No. But after the Pearl Harbor incident, then she didn't really believe that it was a sneak attack and all that. And she was very tuned in politically, and she seemed to be very aware. And after the Pearl Harbor incident, we were all told that we couldn't leave the house after, what, eight o'clock at night or whatever. And I remember one night, she and my dad, for some reason she took me also, but we got in the car and Dad drove us down to this neighbor. I think he was a bachelor, a Portuguese neighbor, and he lived by Satos. But anyway, he had a shortwave radio, and Dad drove with the lights off so we wouldn't be seen leaving the property and all that. And who's gonna see us, we're out in the middle of nowhere, but he drove with the lights off. And I remember her sitting there listening to the shortwave radio broadcast.

KL: What did she think had happened?

MS: I have no idea. But I know her idea of what happened was not the same as what we were hearing over here. She was always, she always seemed to be very much up on what was happening.

KL: When you went to the neighbor's, she was listening to Japanese radio?

MS: Yeah.

KL: Do you have any idea what she heard? Do you remember, could you understand enough to...

MS: I know she said she knew something about some ambassadors having gone to Washington. And apparently they didn't get seen or whatever, and I know she... that's about all I remember. Because I was, what, seven, so I don't really remember too much, but I do remember the sneaky trip down in the car. [Laughs]

KL: What did the neighbors think?

MS: Well, I guess, they didn't... thought much of anything at that time. Nobody was ever mean to us or anything. I remember there was only one person...

ST: Steve Ponce.

MS: Yeah, apparently he had a gas station and it was way on the other side, so it didn't bother us. But apparently he had a sign up that said "No Japs," or something like that.

ST: We used to do a lot of business with them.

MS: Oh, yeah?

ST: Oh, yeah. Our equipment, he used to weld it and repair it.

MS: I didn't know that.

KL: How did that feel then, when you heard he put that sign up?

ST: Well, kind of strange. Never ran into anything like that, you know.

MS: Everybody else, they were so nice to us, you know. Nobody was mean to us or anything. The Monday after the World War II incident, I went to school, and everybody's talking about the "Japs" and this and that. And I didn't know I was a "Jap." [Laughs] And I don't think anybody in my class, 'cause it was, what, the third grade? I don't think they knew I was a "Jap," you know, that they were all talking about, the bombing and this and that. And the day that we had to, the last day at school, we had to leave early for some reason. I'm thinking we probably had to go to Satos for more shots or whatever. But I know we had to leave class early, and when I went out in the hall, there was this guy who... he was maybe a year or two older than me. And he came over to me and he shook my hand and he said, "Good luck to you." And it was something I remembered, because it was... obviously he had... I mean, I didn't even know what was going on yet, you know. I knew we were leaving, but I didn't know why. I thought it was just very touching that he took the time to come and say that to me. I don't even remember his name, but he was kind of a chunky kid. [Laughs]

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.