Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Eiko Yamaichi Interview
Narrator: Eiko Yamaichi
Interviewers: Larisa Proulx, Kristen Luetkemeier
Location: San Jose, California
Date: July 15, 2015
Densho ID: denshovh-yeiko-01-0008

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LP: So it sounds like Pearl Harbor and the news of that was disseminated while your family was working and staying at the mill area. So could you talk a little bit about that and how the news was disseminated to your family and what you recall about that?

EY: Going to camp you mean? Or before?

LP: Just the news of Pearl Harbor and maybe even leading up to that, was there an atmosphere at all of worry about war?

EY: Well, there really wasn't, internally within the family there wasn't really that much discussion. We just, because we were Washington and everything mostly was happening in California, and the Life magazine had several pages of photos about people in California being rousted from the house and the luggage and all that thing, and when we'd go to school, we'd talk about that, gee, too bad. Right after December 7th when it happened, it never occurred to us that it would affect us. We figured we were in Washington, they were in California, so two different states. And we were commiserating the fact that, gee, it's too bad that they have to go. And before long, it affected us because the notice 9066 was posted and we came to the camp and looked at that and said, "Oh boy, that's us," and "non-aliens," too. Well, who's "non-aliens"? Well, it was us. So anyway, the fact that we thought we would be spared and not have to go, then to be surprised at the fact that we had to go, I think it's kind of unbelievable for us at that time. And I don't know, I guess when we heard December 7th, we all kind of went outside to see what was going on, and most of us gathered on the lawn over there and, gee, what's going on, kind of thing. Of course, the discussion, oh, it's not going to affect us because we're up here, they're down there kind of thing. But helpless, and wondering what the future was, really. Especially when we got the notice. And I think it was the hardest on our parents because they were finally able to say, wow, we finally could see ourselves getting ahead a little bit after the Depression, and then to have that happen and then find out that you could only carry what you could take with you. How can you discriminate what you're going to take with you? Because we had the outhouse, all the things pertaining to Japan, each family took it there and dumped it. The other day we were talking about that one time, he said, "Yeah, my folks had an outhouse too, you know," and they were saying the same thing. It's too bad we lost of things that way, but that had to be... but I think on the whole, it made us wonder why the government could do what they did, that they had the power to say okay, military people, go out there and make sure that the Japanese people made our, to be all rounded up together and sent to wherever they were. Those were the days.

LP: Do you recall the news on Pearl Harbor being bombed, like, over the radio or anything, or does that seem just real fuzzy to you?

EY: Yeah, well, for me, I heard it, because I was doing my homework, and I had the radio on, typically teenagers. And interrupted, so the President came on and he said that. So right away I just put my pencil down and I ran outside the door to see if anyone was doing the same thing I was, and sure enough, most everyone came out of the house, "Can you believe that?" No, we can't believe it. How stupid can they be to come all the way over here to Pearl Harbor, you know.

LP: Was your mom or dad home at that time, or your siblings home?

EY: That was Sunday, so my dad was off work, too, yeah. I remember looking for my father and I said, "Hey, Papa, you know what?" We were all speaking in Japanese, right? Couldn't believe it.

LP: Was there any concern before Pearl Harbor of any, with World War II being what it was, or did it seem just like a general concern about what was going on, but nothing of that magnitude or gravity would have happened.

EY: Our parents didn't talk about that to me, so I had no idea about that. But I'm sure they must have had some kind of discussion between the two of them, if not shared with us, because I didn't hear anything about it. Just that first day we went to school on a Monday, already there was a tension, as if to say, "Okay, you Japs go back home," kind of a thing. But to this day I wondered why the principal of the school didn't even come to the area and say, "Gee, I'm sorry to hear about this," nothing like that. And so there's this thing of, for me, anyway, of feeling like, well, actually, the principal didn't even care whether we were there or not. And we were just a student making money for the school. We were there to get education, but at the same time, he's getting paid to hire a teacher to teach us, right? So in the same time, okay, the teachers were there to teach students and we're of a Japanese nationality, so whoopee, kind of a thing. At that time, didn't think anything of it, but as I talk about it now in my mature years, that does come up, and I think, gee, he really never cared. Some friends said that some of the teachers, if not the principal, made a special effort to come to the house made a special effort to say that they were sorry about this whole situation, and had hoped that nothing like this severe thing would happen. But in our case... [shakes head].

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.