Densho Visual History Interview
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Fusako Yamamoto Interview
Narrator: Fusako Yamamoto
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Sacramento, California
Date: October 19, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-yfusako-01

<Begin Segment 1>

RP: This is an oral history for the Manzanar National Historic Site. This afternoon we're talking with Fusa Yamamoto. And our interview's taking place at the Japanese United Methodist Church in Sacramento, California. It's located on 6929 Franklin Boulevard. The date of our interview is October 19, 2008. Our interviewer is Richard Potashin and our cameraman is Kirk Peterson. And we'll be discussing Fusa's experiences at the Tule Lake War Relocation Center as well as your relocation to Chicago and other areas of your life. Our interview today will be archived in the site library at the Manzanar National Historic Site. Fusa, do I have permission to go ahead and continue our interview?

FY: Yes.

RP: Thank you so much for coming down and sharing your stories today with us. I'd like to kind of get an overall picture of your family and some of their background starting with you.


RP: And can you give us your given name at birth?

FY: Yes, it was Fusako Miyasaki.

RP: Okay. Can you spell Miyasaki for us?

FY: Yes. M-I-Y-A-S-A-K-I.

RP: While we're in on the subject of names, can you also give us your father and mother's name?

FY: Yes. My father's name was Jiro, J-I-R-O, and my mother's name was Ai, A-I.

RP: It's so fascinating when you think about Japanese names and their meanings. Did your parents ever share the meaning of your name with you?

FY: Not really. But I know that my mother's name, Ai, means "love."

RP: Where did your parents come from in Japan, Fusa?

FY: Kumamoto.

RP: Did they both come from the same village?

FY: Yes, they did.

RP: And do you know what village that was?

FY: Osaka.

RP: Osaka?

FY: Osaka, yes.

RP: And have you returned to Japan to visit the village?

FY: Yes, I visited their families.

RP: And who's still left?

FY: Who is left? Let me see. My cousin.

RP: Tell us about your father in Japan, a little bit about his family background. Did he have brothers and sisters? What was the family doing for economic livelihood?

FY: My father came from a farm, and he had... let me see, one sister. And he came to U.S. when he was a teenager.

RP: So he would have been the oldest son and the only son.

FY: Yes.

RP: And normally the oldest son by tradition inherits the farm or the land.

FY: Yes. But he had a stepfather, and he just could not get along with him, so he decided to come to the U.S.

RP: And he came as a teenager?

FY: Yes.

RP: And do you know roughly the date of his arrival in the United States?

FY: No, I don't. It's very hazy. Let's see... it's hard for me to say. I think he, let me see now, I think he came about five years before I was born.

RP: About 1916?

FY: Yes, that's right. And then he went back to Japan to find his bride, my mother. So she came to USA, very unhappy when she came here, as you can imagine.

RP: Were there other members of your father's family that came to America over the years?

FY: No, they were the only ones. Both of my parents, they were the only ones from, who came to the U.S.

RP: And do you know if your father had plans to return to Japan after he made money here?

FY: Yes, uh-huh. He wanted to go back. He wanted to retire there, so he asked us, "Now I'm able to go back to Japan," and we said, "No, Papa, we are Americans, and we cannot go back."

RP: So the kids were firm with...

FY: Oh, I should say so.

RP: And speaking of kids, tell us how many brothers and sisters you had.

FY: Oh, I had, I had two sisters and one brother.

RP: Can you list them in order of the oldest to the youngest?

FY: Yes. Ayako Kumamoto. She was married to a dentist. And I have another sister, Setsuko.

RP: Setsuko. And how much older than you was Ayako?

FY: Let me see now. About three years older than me. And my younger sister is three years younger than me.

RP: And then your...

FY: My brother, he was a surprise baby, and he's, let me see now, he's about seven years younger than me.

RP: What's his name?

FY: Danny.

RP: Danny? Did he have a Japanese name, too?

FY: No... Takeshi, I think. Takeshi.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

RP: And you said that your father went back to find a bride.

FY: Yes.

RP: Do you know if they exchanged pictures early on?

FY: No. He went back, and then they came from the same city, and so they, it was arranged marriage.

RP: The baishakunin.

FY: The baishakunin, yes.

RP: And did they get married in Japan?

FY: Yes, they did.

RP: And you mentioned that your... well, tell us a little about your mother's background.

FY: Oh, my mother's background. In her generation, it was rare for women to be a high school graduate, but she was. And so when she came to the U.S., she became a teacher at a Japanese school in Sacramento.

RP: You mentioned that she had kind of a tough time early on adjusting to America? What did she tell you about that?

FY: Oh, she said that the shoe, suddenly had to wear shoes, and that was torture to her. And to come to a strange country and not have any friends was hard on her at first, but then another friend was living in West Sacramento, and so she became friends with her. And she decided that, well, this is not so bad with the friend, very good friend.

RP: You said also that your father had plans to return to Japan and the kids sort of vetoed that plan.

FY: Yes, that's right.

RP: Was your mother also adamant about staying in America?

FY: She adjusted to U.S. very well, but my father felt as though he had to go back to Japan. But, so he said, "Will one of you like to go back to Japan?" At least one child they thought would be nice. But we all said, "No, no, we are Americans." [Laughs]

RP: "And this is where we stay."

FY: Yes.

RP: You really drew a line in the sand.

FY: Yes, that's true.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

RP: What did your father do when he settled here? It was Sacramento?

FY: Yes. He had a restaurant, and his customers were cannery workers.

RP: From which cannery?

FY: Campbell, I think.

RP: Campbell soup?

FY: Yes, uh-huh. And they were his customer, and whenever they had a break, he would have a coffee and donut ready for them for five cents. [Laughs]

RP: So the restaurant was very close to the cannery?

FY: Yes, it was, very much. And his restaurant was open twenty-four hours.

RP: And so was the cannery?

FY: I guess so, yes. I think so.

RP: And what type of food did he serve in his restaurant?

FY: American food.

RP: And do you know where he learned how to cook? Was it something he just picked up in his time in America?

FY: Yes, that's right. He worked as a cook, I think, for a family, and then gradually he began to... he enjoyed cooking, so that was nice.

RP: What did you think of his food?

FY: It was very good.

RP: What was your favorite dish?

FY: That he made? Oh, he made so many things, I don't know. He used to make pies, he used to make doughnuts and coffee for five cents. And he used to make stews and all sorts of things.

RP: Did you work in the restaurant when you were growing up?

FY: No. I was too busy being a student.

RP: Now, where did your family live? Did they live in the city of Sacramento?

FY: Uh-huh.

RP: Where?

FY: On P Street.

RP: P Street.

FY: Yes, on Fourth and P.

RP: And how far away was the restaurant from your home?

FY: Oh, let's see now. The restaurant was on J Street, so J, K, and P. So that's six blocks, is it?

RP: Did you own your own home?

FY: No, we rented a home because my father felt he wanted to go back to Japan. We asked him to please buy this home, we like it. But he said, "No, no, I have to go back to Japan."

RP: Give us a portrait of your father, his personality, his physical appearance, and how he was as a father to you and your brothers and sisters?

FY: Oh, he was very kind to us. He did not drink, and we loved him.

RP: Was he strict?

FY: No, he wasn't strict at all. Because we were very well-behaved children. [Laughs]

RP: And what values do you, did he instill in you?

FY: Oh, to be honest, to be hardworking, and I guess those two values, he wanted us to have.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

RP: How about your mother? What did you, when you have a mental picture of her, what do you remember about her the most?

FY: Oh. She was a Japanese school teacher, and she was very outgoing. My father was not outgoing, but she was. And she became a Christian, and very strong Christian. And so when we were born, we all, our life centered around the Christian church.

RP: And your father, did he also...

FY: No, he did not go to church. He was too busy making a living for us.

RP: Did either of your parents have a creative side, especially your mother being a teacher, did she also, was she involved in arts and crafts, or did you inherit any of that talent?

FY: Yes. My mother loved to sing, so she was in two singing groups. And she was always singing at home, she was always telling us some Japanese fairytales, we laid our heads on her lap and listened to her.

RP: Did she play an instrument at all?

FY: No, she did not. But we all had to take piano lessons. And let me see. She said as a child, her parents wanted her to learn Japanese dancing, but she hated Japanese dancing, so she said she used to hide when she had to go to take a lesson. But I liked to dance.

RP: So she had a, being a high school graduate and teacher, had a strong sense of refinement and culture.

FY: Yes.

RP: And she taught Japanese language school?

FY: Yes.

RP: And where was that located?

FY: That was on Third and O Street, I think it was.

RP: And was it a Buddhist church or...

FY: Christian church.

RP: It was a Christian church. Was it the church that you went to?

FY: No. the school was independent from the church. But there was a Christian school, and then there was a Buddhist school in Sacramento.

RP: Now, did you take, was she your teacher for Japanese language?

FY: One semester I was a student in her class, and that was horrible. Whenever she had a test or something, the other students used to come and step on my toes. [Laughs]

RP: So it was a little awkward.

FY: Yes, it was.

RP: So the next year you were, you were in another teacher's class?

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: Who else taught at the school?

FY: Oh, there was a Mr. Ono, was the principal, and his wife taught. And, let me see now... I can't recall the names of those teachers.

RP: How did, how did these Japanese language schools get established? Was it donations from...

FY: We had to pay, and I think it was five dollars a month or something like that.

RP: And that paid for your mother's salary and books and everything else?

FY: No, the books we had to buy ourselves.

RP: Oh, each student?

FY: Uh-huh.

RP: And how far did you get in your studies of Japanese language?

FY: Oh, I studied through, until high school.

RP: There were twelve books that you went through?

FY: Uh-huh.

RP: And you got through the end?

FY: Yes, uh-huh. And I was inspired to study in Japan, so I went to Japan and studied for two years.

RP: And when did you go?

FY: 1938 to '40. No... '40 to 1942.

RP: Were you there --

FY: Let's see, it was just before the war.

RP: You came back just before the war?

FY: Yes, uh-huh. I wanted to stay a little longer because I was just fascinated by the, especially the art, Japanese art. But my mother said, "No, war is pending, so you better come back."

RP: It's good you did. Life would have been very different.

FY: That's true. You've heard of Tokyo Rose.

RP: You might have been a Tokyo Rose.

FY: That's right. I knew some of the -- there was not only one Tokyo Rose, there were several. And one of them was Ruth Hayakawa, and she mentioned that over the radio one time.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

RP: Tell us what your experience in Japan was like.

FY: Oh, it was lovely. I began to learn of our culture. And at that time, there was prejudice against the Japanese. And so, you know, I was able to raise my head up high when I realized I could be very proud of my heritage.

RP: And did you stay with your family in Japan?

FY: No, I stayed in a dormitory of the school, and it was a Christian school, very rare.

RP: And was that in Tokyo?

FY: Yes, it was in Tokyo.

RP: And the people who ran the school, were they missionaries?

FY: No, that's another very unique thing about this school. The teacher was not a missionary, she was a strong Christian, and she decided that she wanted to open this school and let the children understand Christianity.

RP: And did you just have to volunteer for that, or did you have to be selected amongst a group of other...

FY: Oh, well, it was a private school, and so I went there and had to pay tuition.

RP: Your parents must have been doing well economically to be able to send you.

FY: Yes, my father had, the restaurant, it was doing very well.

RP: And what else did you learn at the school? You mentioned art.

FY: Art and history, and language, of course, and calligraphy

RP: Well, it's very interesting to hear that you really embraced your Japanese cultural background, whereas other Niseis sort of ran from it.

FY: Oh, no, I enjoyed being in Japan. And I wanted to stay a little longer to learn more about the arts, Japanese arts, but my mother wrote and said, "No, war is pending, so you better hurry up and get back here."

RP: Did you get a sense of that during your time in Japan, that there were... the country was gearing up for war? They had been fighting a war with China for...

FY: Yes.

RP: What did you see and what did you sense?

FY: Yes, they felt Japan was getting, preparing for war. There were soldiers marching down the street, and the emperor was, I remember, in Tokyo, the emperor passed down the street, and we had to bow our heads. Because there were policemen there, and if they found that you were raising your head to see the emperor, you would have gotten hit.

RP: Were there other Nisei men and women from Japan that you encountered during your two years in Japan?

FY: Yes, my family, my father's family and my mother's family.

RP: There were many kids who were sent over for education.

FY: Yes, quite a few.

RP: Let's step back just a little bit before your trip in growing up. What do you, what do you remember the most about your years growing up in Sacramento, just how your life developed.

FY: Oh, it was very pleasant. I loved to go dancing, and sports, basketball was my favorite.

RP: Did you participate?

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: And what, was that at school level?

FY: Yes, high school.

RP: And dancing, are we talking about Japanese dancing or ballroom dancing?

FY: At school they did have modern dance, and so I took that course.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

RP: What do you recall about the, I guess I'll call it Nihonmachi in Sacramento, the Japanese section? Did you spend much time down there?

FY: We lived in the Japanese town.

RP: Tell us a little bit about it. What do you recall about it?

FY: What do I... well, I enjoyed it, 'cause it was very safe there. There was not one case of delinquency there, and as I said, our life was sort of always around church activities.

RP: So you very rarely left that area?

FY: Yes, rarely. That's right, and then my mother wanted us to learn Japanese culture, so I took tea ceremony and flower arrangement, piano lesson, and this is all after school, so I was very busy.

RP: This was all in that community?

FY: Yes, that's right.

RP: And what activities were centered around the church? Can you tell us a little bit about that?

FY: Oh, I went to Sunday school every Sunday, but I really didn't know what true Christianity meant until I went to Japan. Because in Japan, I guess they were only about one percent of the population were Christians. But those Christians were truly Christians. So, and then I also went to, I went to a Christian school, and also on Sunday went to Dr. Toyohiko Kagawa. Have you ever heard of him? Well, he is a famous Christian person, and I went to church there.

RP: In Japan?

FY: Yes, in Japan. I would say that he was the most noted Christian, and he came to America to give lectures, too.

RP: So he had a strong influence on your life?

FY: Yes, I think the school and that church did influence me a great deal.

RP: What was the relationship like between the Japanese Christians and the Japanese Buddhists? Did they respect each other's tradition?

FY: Yes, they did. Because my family in Japan were Buddhists.

RP: There were never any major disagreements or problems?

FY: No, not at all. Because there's only one God, and all the different nationalities, it all leads up to one God. Don't you believe that?

RP: Tell us a little bit about your school, your time before you went to Japan. Which grammar school did you attend?

FY: Lincoln school.

RP: Was that in Japantown?

FY: Yes, most of... well, there most of the students went to that school, Lincoln grade school.

RP: It was predominately Japanese American?

FY: Yes.

RP: Then how about high school? Was high school a little more integrated?

FY: Yes, it was. It was Sacramento High School.

RP: And it sounds like you spent a lot of time with Japanese Americans, living in Japantown.

FY: Yes.

RP: What was it like to begin to relate to other ethnic groups, Caucasians, Mexicans, Chinese?

FY: I don't think, no, I did not relate to any of the Caucasians until college.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

RP: You mentioned that you felt very safe in Japantown.

FY: Oh, yes.

RP: Did you personally encounter instances of prejudice directed at Japanese in Sacramento?

FY: Yes, uh-huh, I should say so.

RP: What was the atmosphere like?

FY: We just knew that there was prejudice. But we did not encounter any bad incidents until the war. And then there were some nasty things going on.

RP: Can you give us a specific example of that?

FY: Yes. I think there was someone who was shot, and there was a curfew, we went through a curfew, we couldn't walk around after a certain hour.

KP: I have a question. So before the war, you said that you were aware that there was this racial dividing line.

FY: Yes.

KP: But it was more like there were places that you knew you couldn't go. How did that -- you said you didn't see any exact, anything targeted at you, but you just knew.

FY: Yes.

KP: How did you know?

FY: Because there was a Japanese, we call it Japanese town where we were all concentrated in one area.

RP: Were you supposed to stay in that area?

FY: We could go out of that area, but we just grew up there.

KP: [Inaudible] the boundaries, that made you realize it was Japanese --

FY: Yes.

RP: Some Niseis talk about living in Japantown in Los Angeles, and trying to go to other places and being restricted, places where you could live, certain theaters or swimming pools that were off limits.

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: That was very real in the time you were growing up.

FY: Yes, that's right. In fact, we built our own swimming pool. Because there was a place to go swimming, but it was very private, and we could not go there to swim. They did have a city swimming pool that you could go to.

RP: Sometimes the days or the hours might be restricted.

FY: But the private pools, they were not for the Japanese. So that's why we dug our own pool.

RP: Built your own pool?

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: How about another area of racial restrictions, was hospitals, medical care.

FY: Oh, that's... no, we were able to, there was a Japanese hospital.

RP: So you had your own hospital?

FY: Yes. It was called Agnes Hospital.

RP: So the community was extremely self contained.

FY: Yes, that's right.

RP: You had everything you needed.

FY: Yes. But a lot of us went to hospitals that were not Japanese hospitals.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

RP: What do you remember doing for fun? What was the most pleasing activity when you were growing up?

FY: We used to love to skate, play hopscotch, very simple things like that. We had clubs, too.

RP: Like what?

FY: Girl Reserves, which was a YWCA organization.

RP: And that was in part of your church?

FY: No, it was part of YWCA.

RP: And did you, you left in to go to Japan in 1940?

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: So you were already a senior by then?

FY: Oh, I graduated from high school, and then I went to Japan.

RP: Did you have any ambitions at that point in time, what you saw yourself doing?

FY: My parents wanted us to understand our heritage. That's why a lot of Niseis went to Japan.

RP: How about after that?

FY: Coming back?

RP: Did your parents have plans for you?

FY: After, well, I was, I came back, and then I went to junior college, and then state university, state university, and got my master's degree.

RP: That was all during the war?

FY: No. Let's see now. Afterwards. My husband, I met my husband in Chicago. One of his colleagues said, "Come back to Sacramento because we need a good internist," so we came back to Sacramento. And then I said to him, "Well, it's my turn to go to college now." I sort of helped him when he was going to university. He got through university through GI bill, and I said to him, "Well, I feel like a unfinished woman, so let me go back to university," and I got my master's degree.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

RP: Tell us about December 7, 1941. You had just returned from Japan? How soon before the war broke out did you come back?

FY: I would say about two years later.

RP: Was it two years?

FY: Uh-huh.

RP: So seeing what you saw in Japan, in your mind, was it inevitable that there was gonna be a war between...

FY: Yes.

RP: And what do you recall about that day when Pearl Harbor was bombed?

FY: Oh, we felt terrible. It was disastrous.

RP: Any other feelings that you had?

FY: Fear. I would say we didn't know what's going to happen to us, because there was prejudice already.

RP: Now, just after Pearl Harbor, Issei community leaders were being rounded up by the FBI, and your mother was a Japanese language school instructor. Were you visited by the FBI, was she taken?

FY: No, she was not. Just the community heads were taken. Like Mr. Itano, he was one of the leaders of the community, and he was taken. And we were fearful at that time.

RP: Did you think your mother might be taken?

FY: No, I don't think so.

RP: Were there other, do you recall Buddhist priests and other members of maybe the Japanese Association that went, too?

FY: Let's see. I can't recall if the Buddhist priests were arrested, too. But if you were a prominent person in the Japanese community, you were taken.

RP: But your house was, you don't recall your house being searched or being visited at all?

FY: No, uh-uh.

RP: But it further sort of enhanced this fearful atmosphere, "What's going to happen next?"

FY: Uh-huh. We had a curfew.

RP: Did that affect your social life in any way?

FY: No, it didn't. We were very careful.

RP: There were also restrictions on, certain contraband had to be turned in.

FY: Oh, that's right. Oh, yes. I remember I was taking archery at college, and I just destroyed that 'cause I didn't want them to think that that was a contraband.

RP: Did you or your family have to burn other items like you were just mentioning? Were there pictures of the emperor?

FY: Oh, that's right. My mother used to read Japanese magazines, and they were very careful about not having a picture of the emperor or anything like that.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

RP: Do you recall the time before evacuation? Did you have a sense that something like that would occur?

FY: No, it was a complete surprise. And we were given one week to pack up. Well, my brother-in-law was a dentist, and so physicians and dentists had to, first to go to camp. And my mother didn't want us to be separated from my brother-in-law and my sister, and so requested that we go with my older sister and her husband.

RP: And where were, they were living in Sacramento?

FY: Yes, they were living in Sacramento at that time.

RP: So you joined together and went...

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: went with them to Tule Lake?

FY: Uh-huh. First Arboga.

RP: To Marysville?

FY: That's right.

RP: And that was about a month?

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: Where did you, where did you assemble to go to Marysville?

FY: Let me see now. It was... let's see. Did I write it down? Well, we had to take a train to go to all those camps.

RP: And what, what provisions were made for...

FY: What to take?

RP: What to take, did you have evacuation sales, did you store items, personal belongings?

FY: Yes. Our church became a storage place, and some of the things we threw away, some of the, a few things we had, we gave to friends, Caucasian friends. That was terrible time, when you have to get rid of all of your household... and since we did give up all those utensils and things, we survived on sandwiches. And the last night, we slept on the floor. But we were able to take one suitcase and your bedding, so that's what we prepared to take with us. And not knowing what kind of place we would be, it was very frustrating.

RP: Was there any very special item that you also took along with the necessities?

FY: Oh, well, I loved to read, so few paperbacks.

RP: How about your father's restaurant? Was he able to...

FY: He was able to sell it.

RP: At a... did he get...

FY: I think he sold it for a thousand dollars or something like that.

RP: Much less than it would have been worth?

FY: Probably.

RP: Did any Caucasian friends, you mentioned a couple, come to you and offer support?

FY: Churches did, Christian churches.

RP: What did they, what did they do to help you?

FY: Well, like we had a piano, and they said they will take that, and then they used it for USA... no, what did they call it?


FY: USO, yes. And when it was returned to us later on, it was in a terrible condition. Because the people in the USO, the soldiers would put the drinks on the piano and all that. So they returned it to us, but we got rid of it right away.

RP: Were there other expressions of support, too, besides storage at the church? Did people come by and offer their support?

FY: Yes, uh-huh. The Caucasians in our neighborhood, they were very good, and then the church people were just wonderful.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

RP: Tell us about your experiences at Marysville. I know you weren't there very long, but is there a certain sight, sound, or image of the camp, impression that you have?

FY: Yes. A lot of people who volunteered to work there, they were truly wonderful people. They tried to help us as much as they can.

RP: Were you visited at all by Caucasian friends while you were at Marysville?

FY: Yes, the Christian people who come into our camp to see what they could do for us. And then I remembered that they came upon some of these young kids, they said, "Well, you're in a concentration camp, so look fierce." So they stuck out their tongue and whatnot, to look fierce, I remember.

RP: Can you describe the housing that you lived in in Marysville? Was it...

FY: Oh, it was a barracks, and then the family just received one room.

RP: And who was there? You had your family, and you had your sister's family.

FY: Yes. Just my younger sister and my brother and my mother were there. Meanwhile, my father had, came down with tuberculosis, so he had to stay in the hospital.

RP: Back in Sacramento?

FY: No, in camp.

RP: In Marsyville?

FY: Yes.

RP: Anything else about Marysville?

FY: Well, we were very young, and it was sort of delightful for us at that time to meet other young people from different states.

RP: There were people there from Oregon and Washington?

FY: Yes, uh-huh, that's right.

RP: Now, did you work at all or volunteer your services for that month that you were there?

FY: Yes, uh-huh. I worked, let's see, where did I work? Since we were there early, let me see, I worked in one of the office, and they asked those who were there earlier to help some of the other evacuees that, who were coming in.

RP: And what did you do to help them?

FY: Well, like writing down, like the Isseis, they couldn't write English, so we were able to write down their names and things in the forms that we were given.

RP: So you did some interpretive work.

FY: Yes, that's right, yes.

RP: Did you get paid for that?

FY: Yes. How much was it? I forgot. Was it about seven dollars or nine dollars a month, or something like that.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: So after a month, you were back on a train again.

FY: Yes, Tule Lake.

RP: You went to Tule Lake?

FY: Yes.

RP: Was that a trip that you took at night?

FY: No. I think it was daytime, but we had to, on a train, and they told us to close the blind so people won't see, see us.

RP: How did you feel as you were going up on that train? What was your mindset like about...

FY: Well, my parents kept on saying, "We did no wrong. So all this will be righted sometime in the future." They were very encouraging. Our parents were very, very encouraging.

RP: Did you feel somewhat discouraged?

FY: Yes, uh-huh. We were all very discouraged and frightened.

RP: What were your impressions of Tule Lake when you arrived there?

FY: Oh, there was not one tree there, but the ground was covered with, it was a lake before, just covered with shells. And Japanese are very artistic, and then they -- you've heard this before, I'm sure -- they gathered the shells and made pins, ornaments, out of it, necklace.

RP: Did you make some of that jewelry?

FY: Yes, I made some of those. Everyone was making little pins and things like that.

RP: Do you still have some of that?

FY: No, but let's see. My father, I think, was carving some birds, and I think my daughter still has that.

RP: So he took up some hobbies in camp?

FY: Yes, that's right. We all did. There were a lot of talented people, so they decided to share their talent with us. So I remember I took knitting, knitted myself a warm sweater.

RP: For people like your father who had worked really hard and probably...

FY: Yes. He had tuberculosis, he came down with... tuberculosis was very rampant at that time.

RP: And he accompanied you on the trip to Tule Lake, or did he come later?

FY: He... let me see now. No, he was already isolated, and those sick people came, came in a different train, and they were put in the hospital right away.

RP: And how long was he isolated in Tule Lake?

FY: The whole time.

RP: The whole time?

FY: Uh-huh. Well, we weren't in the camp that long.

RP: About a year.

FY: Oh, two years.

RP: Oh, was it two years?

FY: Uh-huh.

RP: So...

FY: But I, they said that after about a year, they announced to us, "If you have a prospective job offer someplace, then you could be free to go there." And I did have a, I had a friend who was from Hawaii, and she was settled in Chicago. And so she said, "I found a job for you," so I left camp to become a dental assistant.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

RP: Let's talk a little bit more about your camp experience at Tule Lake, and then we'll move on to Chicago.

FY: Okay.

RP: What did you do for work in Tule Lake?

FY: Yes, uh-huh. As I said to you, I was working in the recreation department. And my job was to establish some teenage clubs, so that's what I did. And that was delightful.

RP: Tell us a little bit more about that. What did these clubs participate in?

FY: Yes. And so there were a lot of talented people, and so we had lectures by a lot of these talented people, like physicians and artists. And we had church, we had church there, too, in Tule Lake, and I was teaching Sunday school.

RP: And were the kids receptive to all that you tried to share with them?

FY: Yes. There was a cross, I don't know who put the cross up on the mountain, I remember. And I used to take my Sunday school students up on that little hill, and they used to look up at the cross and they would say, "Is God looking down at us?" I said, "Yes, he's looking down at us and taking care of us."

RP: That was Castle Rock.

FY: Castle Rock, yes. There was, yes, somebody put a cross up there.

RP: How often would you go up there?

FY: Oh, not that often.

RP: That was the, one of the few times you could go out of camp.

FY: Yes, uh-huh. That was sort of a nice thing, 'cause we could go up there and have a sort of picnic-like, you know.

RP: Can you give us an idea of some of the clubs that you helped establish that were in camp?

FY: Yes.

RP: Maybe some of the more colorful names, too?

FY: Oh, what do you mean "colorful names"?

RP: Oh, the names of the clubs.

FY: Oh. No, we didn't have any names, but I remember they used to have dances, and they used to make invitations out of paper. And my younger sister has a collection of those. And the dances were ten cents.

RP: Were there bands, music, live music?

FY: Yes, uh-huh. There were a lot of people who had instruments, and so they established a band, live band.

RP: This would have been sort of a, like swing music of that time?

FY: Yes, uh-huh, that's right. That's right.

KP: Did the band have a name?

FY: I think they did. I can't recall, though. And also, there were some people who knew how to do Japanese dances, so they had program for the Isseis, too.

RP: They did?

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: But your mom, your mom didn't go to those, did she?

FY: Yes, she did, yes. It was remarkable. There was a man, he was very artistic, he took a white piece of material and painted beautiful designs, and made kimonos out of it. The archives have, I think, still has the picture of that.

RP: Did you have any type of Japanese theater at all, like kabuki?

FY: I think they did have that, yes. Because there were a lot of young people who knew how to do Japanese dance as well as perform classical plays.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

RP: Did your mother and father work in camp?

FY: No, my father had tuberculosis, so he was in the hospital. And my mother did not work because my brother was very young yet. I think he was, let's see, he was much younger than, about... let's see, seven years younger than I am, so he was just a child.

RP: So you were, you were the only member of your family that was actually working.

FY: Oh, and my younger sister, yes.

RP: What did she do?

FY: Let me see now. She worked in, she worked in the administration office.

RP: Being part of the recreation department, did you come in contact with, close contact with administration, WRA officials?

FY: No, not at all. Harry Mayeda, who was the head of our department, of our recreation, he was the one that got in contact with those people.

RP: So you never developed any relationships at all with the staff of the camp?

FY: No, I didn't.

RP: And how were, how did you receive materials and supplies, or uniforms for baseball?

FY: I really don't know about baseball, but that was a very active sport there.

RP: For both Nisei and Issei.

FY: Yes, uh-huh. But I was not into baseball, so I really don't know much about the baseball.

RP: Did you participate in any sports in the camp?

FY: No, not at all, except dancing.

RP: That's a sport.

FY: Saturday night was our dance program.

RP: And was that for the entire camp?

FY: Yes, anyone who wants to go could go to those dances. I think, however, you had to pay ten cents to be admitted.

RP: And where were the dances held?

FY: In the dining area.

RP: Of the mess hall?

FY: Yeah, mess hall.

RP: Did you have an auditorium while you were there?

FY: No, we didn't.


RP: This is tape two of a continuing interview with Fusa Yamamoto. And Fusa, we were talking about some of your experiences at Tule Lake, and you just, we'd like you to share that story you just brought up for us.

FY: Oh, I see. All right. There was a person who was going to get married, and she sewed her wedding gown by hand.

RP: And did you attend that wedding?

FY: No, I did not.

RP: Was there a place in camp where she could get material, or did she mail order for it?

FY: Yeah, everything was mail order. And then like in our room, camp barracks, they did not have any chairs, just cots for us to sleep on. And so we, we used to write to Sears Roebuck for a lot of things.

RP: Like chairs?

FY: Chairs, uh-huh, canvas chairs and clothing.

RP: That was a very popular book.

FY: Yes, I should say, very popular book in camp.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

RP: Is there any particular person or event at Tule Lake that really sticks in your mind?

FY: Oh, yes. There were some agitators, they were very pro-Japan. And any leader who sort of stood up for U.S., they would call that person a dog.

RP: Inu.

FY: Inu, yes. Oh, you heard about that?

RP: This was before Tule Lake became a segregation camp?

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: So there were already divided loyalties, did you sense that?

FY: Yes, that's right. Because did you hear about the "loyalty"...

RP: Questionnaire?

FY: Uh-huh.

RP: And tell us a little bit about what you remember about it, and how it, what effect did it have on you in your family, or friends in the block?

FY: Of course, we said that we are loyal, we want to be loyal to U.S. And that sort of divided the, there were some radicals in camp. But when the time came for them to be shipped to Japan, they decided not to go, too. There were a lot of people like that.

RP: Now, early in our interview, you mentioned that your father had a desire to return to Japan, but the kids were firm in saying, "No, we are Americans and want to stay in our country." Did, when did that all happen? When did you take a stand? Was it before the war?

FY: Yes, uh-huh, before the war.

RP: Did, I know your father was in the hospital. Did he, did the camp experience and losing a business and being excluded from life during World War II, did that prompt any feelings about going back?

FY: Yes, he was depressed.

RP: Did he want to go back again?

FY: Yeah. He was very depressed.

KP: Can I ask a question? You mentioned earlier that when you returned to Japan in 1940, that you kind of were able to embrace Japanese culture and take pride in it. You know, the "loyalty questionnaire," all this stuff that was going on, how did that affect you? They're basically saying, "You must decide." How did you feel about that?

FY: No, I always felt I was American. And when I went to Japan, I remember I went to the, what did they call that? Oh, there was a diet building one time, and there was a member there, and he said, "Well, you may feel sort of divided, you may want to, you may feel as though you want to be loyal to Japan or to America," but he said to us, "You know, you were born in America, so you are an American."

RP: So you had no major conflict over which world you really belonged to?

FY: That's true. And this is a Japanese person.

RP: Person.

FY: Yeah.

RP: The diet was sort of the legislature.

FY: Yeah.

RP: So he was very prominent.

FY: Yes. And that's what he said to us.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

RP: So you, you decided to leave camp, your friend had arranged a job for you?

FY: Yes.

RP: Were you ready to leave camp, mentally?

FY: Yes, I went to Chicago and worked for this Dr. Tashiro. And he decided that he's going to make his office a stepping stone for us to...

RP: Oh, a Japanese doctor.

FY: Doctor, yes, and he had a, his private office had a huge U.S. flag. [Laughs]

RP: Show, show loyalty.

FY: Yes, loyalty.

RP: Was it tough to leave your dad in Tule Lake, and the rest of your family? You traveled alone?

FY: Yes, I traveled alone. All of us were, my parents, they still wanted to stay in California and go back to, back home. That was their wish. But the young people said, well, if there was better opportunities elsewhere, well, we'll go there.

RP: This decision to leave camp, how did it... how did it, the timing work out with Tule Lake becoming a segregation center?

FY: I went before.

RP: Do you remember what, roughly what month you left?

FY: Oh, I can't remember what month I left.

RP: But it was just before it became a segregation center?

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: And tell us about traveling from... how did you...

FY: By train.

RP: And where did you pick up the train?

FY: There were trains, where is that... closest town to Tule Lake. From there, I...

RP: Did you go to Reno?

FY: Let's see.

KP: Klamath Falls?

FY: Klamath Falls, yeah. Klamath Falls.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

RP: And then from there, you traveled to Chicago?

FY: To Chicago, yes.

RP: And can you tell us a little bit about that trip? Do you remember anything about that?

FY: Well, it was wonderful to be free again. [Laughs]

RP: Were there --

FY: And then there was a hostel there. But I think that was established by the Friends.

RP: American Friends Service Committee?

FY: Yes, uh-huh, and they were very kind to us.

RP: How long did you stay in the hostel?

FY: And then when I went to the hostel, I met a Sacramento friend there, and she said to me, "Fusa, let's rent out an apartment together," and so we did.

RP: And you, well, you came from a city life environment in Sacramento, but Chicago is a huge city.

FY: Oh, I loved it. Suddenly, you know, you were able to go to concerts with the top stars there and all that, and I loved the theater, so it was great.

RP: And this was during the war.

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: So your world really opened up.

FY: Yes, I should say it certainly did open up my view of a lot of things.

RP: The other element of Chicago that appealed to many Niseis coming out of camp was that there seemed to be a lot less prejudice than where they grew up.

FY: Oh, yes. Oh, that's so true, I was amazed.

RP: So you worked for this dentist.

FY: Yes. And then my brother-in-law, who was a dentist, came out, and then he established a dental office. So he said, "Why don't you come and work for me?" so I did. And then my husband happened to have a toothache or something, so he came to the office, so I met him. [Laughs]

RP: That's how you met him?

FY: Yes. Well, another person who came from -- oh, who was going to Ohio State, my husband was going to Ohio State, told me that, this friend of mine who is at the University of Chicago now, and, "I want you to meet him." So that was how I met my husband.

RP: And how did he end up in Chicago?

FY: Oh, he never did go to camp. He went from Ohio, he was stationed in Ohio.

RP: In the military?

FY: Yes, uh-huh. Yes, he was in the military. And then he decided he wanted to become an M.D., so he went to University of Chicago.

RP: And did you marry in Chicago?

FY: Yes, we did. And did you sort of reorient yourself to a Christian church and a religious life there?

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: And what was the community, the sense of community like in Chicago. Did you feel part of a community?

FY: Yes. Yes, and then he was, he was very ambitious, he said that he wants to become an internist. And so we, he wanted to go for training at the state University of Iowa for his residency, so we went there. Met some wonderful people there.

RP: So you basically supported him through his work there?

FY: Yes, I helped him a lot. He was on the GI Bill of Rights, so he was able to get his medical degree there. And that it was just wonderful. I guess the soldiers today, do they have the same provision? I think they do, don't they?

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

RP: And then you came back to California?

FY: Well, one of his colleagues was in Sacramento. He said, you know -- he was a surgeon -- and he says, "I need a good internist, so come to Sacramento." And I said, "Sacramento? Gosh, I don't know if I want to go back to Sacramento." But the opportunity was there, so we came back, and there were several physicians who helped him establish a practice.

KP: So how had Sacramento changed, or had it changed?

FY: Then... better.

RP: In what way?

FY: In what way? I think there were a lot of people -- Sacramento has changed. Of course, there's a lot of people who came from different states, and I felt as though it was much better. We no longer associated with just Japanese. Lot of our good friends were Caucasians.

RP: How about the Japantown area, specifically...

FY: In Chicago?

RP: Yes, in Chicago relative to the one that you knew here in Sacramento?

FY: I don't know if they had... I don't think they had a Japanese town in Chicago. If there were, I wasn't conscious of it.

RP: I think you were creating it.

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: How about the Japantown that you came back to in Sacramento?

FY: In Sacramento? We didn't come back to Japantown, 'cause there just wasn't any Japantown in Sacramento. There were a few stores, but it wasn't Japantown anymore, as it used to be.

RP: And you said that you attended college?

FY: Yes.

RP: Where did you go?

FY: California State University.

RP: In Sacramento?

FY: Yeah, in Sacramento.

RP: And what did you take there?

FY: Humanities. Since I didn't have to, since my husband already was established in his practice, I decided, "I'll take humanities, 'cause that's fun." And so when we studied about Egypt, we went to Egypt. When we studied about Germans, well, we went to Germany.

RP: Did you maintain your interest in Japanese culture? Did it continue to be...

FY: Yes, I always did enjoy Japanese art, especially.

RP: I saw you came in with the Art of Gaman book.

FY: Oh, yes, that's right.

RP: Did you get a chance to see that exhibit in San Francisco?

FY: No, I didn't. I love opera, and so we used to go to San Francisco to listen to operas and things like that, and symphonies.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

RP: Tell us a little bit about the rest of your family at Tule Lake.

FY: At Tule Lake?

RP: What happened when that became a segregation center? Did they transfer, did they transfer to another camp?

FY: Yes. I think my mother, I think, went to Amache until she came back to Sacramento. And my brother was very young then, and so he came back to Sacramento, went to dental school, and established a practice in Sacramento.

RP: And your father?

FY: My father passed away.

RP: After Tule Lake, or during?

FY: Shortly after Tule Lake, he passed away.

RP: Did you think, what did you feel about the care that he received in the camp?

FY: In camp?

RP: Yes. Do you think it was adequate?

FY: Oh, yes. I have no complaint whatsoever. Some people used to complain about food and all that, but when you're young, anything tastes good. I had no complaint about food.

RP: Your other brother in Chicago who established a dentistry practice there, did he remain in Chicago, too?

FY: Yes, he did, and then he had two sons, and they're both dentists now.

RP: In Chicago?

FY: Yes. One is teaching at University of Illinois.

RP: Tell us about your reaction to the Civil Liberties Act that passed in 1988, signed by President Reagan at the time issuing an apology and a reparations payment.

FY: Yes, uh-huh. I received, how much was it?

RP: Twenty thousand dollars?

FY: Yeah, that's right.

RP: How did you feel when you saw that letter?

FY: Yes, I felt as though, well, see, it all turned out okay.

KP: That's what your father had said.

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: How do you think the camp affected your family relationships?

FY: Oh, we were very close.

RP: Did it bring you closer?

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

RP: Have you been involved with pilgrimages or reunions relating to Tule Lake, Fusa?

FY: Unions?

RP: Reunions or pilgrimages.

FY: Reunions, oh, yes. They were very good. Yes, I went to several of those reunions.

RP: Did you meet friends or people that you remember from camp?

FY: Yes, that's right. It was just wonderful to see some of those people that I became friends with in the camps.

RP: And how about your... did you have kids?

FY: Yes, I have two boys and two girls.

RP: Do you speak about your camp experience with them?

FY: Sometimes I do.

RP: Are they curious about it?

FY: Not, not too curious. So I decided that maybe I should write all this down and give it to them.

RP: Well, we might be able to help you with that.

FY: That's true.

RP: We can, we'll be sharing a copy of the interview with you.

FY: Oh, I see, okay, thank you.

RP: So they can just put it on a DVD player and watch it.

FY: That would be lovely.

RP: That would be a good way of sharing it with them. Have you been involved at all in sharing your story with school groups?

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: Tell us about that.

FY: That's... the archives, the Sacramento Archives, State University of Sacramento Archives, they began to collect the Japanese history. And so, and also, they also had fifth grade history students come and listen to what we had to say. And I always participated in that.

RP: You still do?

FY: Not anymore, but I did for many years. Time of Remembrance, it was called.

RP: Time of Remembrance?

FY: Uh-huh.

RP: And what did you share with the students? What was the most important things that you wanted to get across to them?

FY: Well, each one of us were assigned to say certain things, and I was assigned to talk about our barracks. And they did have a model barracks, and so I used to tell them how we lived, how our family lived in the barrack.

RP: Well, just another couple of questions about camp. You mentioned the barracks, and you, when you got there, you had the cots and you had a few other, lightbulb, and that's about it.

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: What changed inside your barrack over time?

FY: Oh, let me see now. It was just a bare room with just cots. And some of our, some of the young men, when they wanted to date us and all that, would say, "You know, I could make a closet for you." So I said, "Oh, great." Or, "I could make," let's see, "I could make some chairs for you." "Oh, wonderful." Then we could have a party at our barrack. And so we did have parties in the barrack.

RP: That's how you got furniture?

FY: Yes, uh-huh. But some of the women were very clever, they made some furniture, too. So when I returned to Sacramento, I enrolled in a woodwork class that they had.

RP: What did you make?

FY: What did I make? Oh, I made... our front of the house, we had to have a light, I made that light cover, I made a lazy susan, and let me see, what else did I make? Oh, some of those things like that. I learned how to do carpentry for the first time in my life.

RP: What do you recall about the changes that took place outside the barrack in terms of the landscape? When you first got there, you mentioned very poignantly that there's not a tree around.

FY: Yeah, that's right. Very bare.

RP: What did it look like before you left camp?

FY: There was some artistic people who decided to make a rock garden right in front of their barracks, and things like that.

RP: Did you have plants and flowers around your barrack?

FY: No, we did not. But what we did, young women did was to collect all those shells that's around, and made some corsages and whatnot.

KP: Art of Gaman had some great pictures.

FY: Yeah, that's right.

RP: You said that your father carved birds.

FY: Yes, uh-huh, we still have those. I gave it to my daughter, and she wears it every once in a while.

RP: Do you remember watching him make the birds?

FY: Yes. They used to whittle around making those birds.

RP: And then he'd paint them, too?

FY: Pardon me?

RP: Would he paint them?

FY: Yes, uh-huh. I'm sure you've seen some, haven't you? Aren't they lovely?

RP: Beautiful. Beautiful birds.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

RP: I'd like to ask you, in thinking about these children, if you had a chance to offer them any insight or a lesson about your camp experience and your time as an American citizen in Tule Lake, what would you share with them?

FY: Oh, my own children?

RP: Any, any children.

FY: Uh-huh. So, yes, a Time of Remembrance, every year, fifth grade history students would come to the Archives, so we were there to tell them about our experience. And then we had some of those things made in camp displayed, too.

RP: What insight would you offer the kids based on your experience at Tule Lake? A lesson or something that --

FY: Yes, uh-huh.

RP: -- something that's really shaped your life.

FY: Uh-huh, that's right. They learn our... there are so many things I could say. But anyway, we wanted them to know the, our basic U.S. history and U.S., about the...

RP: Constitution?

FY: Yeah, Constitution. That was emphasized a lot.

RP: Their rights?

FY: Yes, rights, that's right. And thousands of, thousands of children were bussed in to learn about our experience, and they would relate that to the Constitution and all that.

RP: One final question. What was your feelings about... I asked you about Pearl Harbor, what about 9/11 and the repercussions of that towards the Muslim and Arab communities?

FY: Oh, yeah. Oh, I hope that nothing will happen to them. I hope that history will not repeat itself again. So I think all of us tried to help them as much as we can through JACL.

RP: And you're a member of JACL?

FY: Yes, we are.

RP: How long have you been?

FY: My husband was a life member. Well, we still are members of the JACL.

RP: What type of issues have you dealt with locally through the JACL?

FY: Well, as I said, I was more involved in this program, Time of Remembrance.

RP: Oh, that's a JACL program?

FY: Well, no... well, JACL was involved, yes. So I worked for years, I used to work for, I used to participate in this program, Time of Remembrance through the history students in their fifth year, I think, came and asked us about what we went through about the American Constitution and all that.

RP: Is there anything else, any story or memory that you'd like to share with us that we haven't already touched on?

FY: I think it was pretty complete.

RP: Thank you so much, Fusa.

FY: Oh, thank you.

RP: I thank you, Kirk thanks you, and the National Park Service was well.

FY: I hope that I was helpful in some way, 'cause I hope that this will not be repeated again, this, being put in a relocation camp.

RP: That's what we're all hoping.

FY: Yes.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2008 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.