Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Amy Tsugawa Interview
Narrator: Amy Tsugawa
Interviewer: Dane Fujimoto
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: September 3, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-tamy-01

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

<Begin Segment 1>

DF: We're here this morning with Amy Tsugawa. We're doing an oral history interview here on September 3, 2004, Portland, Oregon, and I'd like to start the interview by asking Amy to talk about her family growing up in Hawaii.

AT: Well, I was very young when the war started, but we lived in a, my father was a Japanese school teacher. He was a principal of a school, and my mother taught also. They had a grocery store and a barbershop that they ran. We were never allowed to go to their school, so we never learned to speak Japanese because my dad didn't feel that we were ready to go to school, and so... all right. I suppose we need to do that one out. Okay. But they both taught school. And my brother and I, he's two years older than I am, and they both had families there. Dad's father and mother had come to Hawaii from Japan, and after three years, they had had my father who was then three years old. He was born in Hawaii, but they took him back to Hawaii, to Japan to live with family there, with my dad's father in Shikoku. And when they had another son in Japan, they left both boys in Japan with their grandfather to be raised and to be educated in Japan. His mother and father then came back to Hawaii and had three more children, and Hawaii was their home. My grandfather was killed in an accident at the, it must have been the sugarcane plantation in Punene, and then my grandmother raised the children alone. My father, after he graduated from high school in Japan came back to Hawaii on his own, and he was eighteen then, and so he spoke Japanese very well, so he had to learn to speak English again. But that was why he could become a Japanese school teacher. They continued to do that until the war. He was almost forty when the war started.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AT: And the night of Pearl Harbor, they took him to a jail in Maui, and they kept all the men of any influence in the jail for about six months because they had nowhere else to take them. My mother in the meantime raised us as best as she could with no income coming in because then all she could do was do the barbershop. My father stayed in the jail for about six months, then was sent to Sand Island off of Oahu, and there he stayed for another six months because by then they had built barracks out there and had put all of the men of any influence and any people who were not, who were "enemy aliens" there. We got, I think my mother went to see him once. There was a ferry between the islands then, and she had gone to see him once during that time.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AT: When they finally decided in 19, must have been '43 that we would be shipped to the mainland. By then, I guess there were ships that were available to ship all the families over to the mainland. Why, in January of 1943, we all gathered everything we had. Mom sold everything we had, took all the money that she could gather, put it in a bag, and that is what we carried with us to Honolulu. We stayed there in some kind of an internment camp there for a week and then were shipped on I think a ship called... oh, I can't remember the name of the ship, but we were shipped in January to the mainland. We were fortunate because I was ill at the time. The doctor gave us a little cabin. Everyone else had berths down below in the bowels of the ship. I can't remember any part of the trip because I was so young, but we did land in San Francisco and then were taken on trains to Jerome, Arkansas.

In Jerome, it was very bitterly cold, and we had snow there for the first time. It was a swamp when they decided to send us all there to have a camp there, and it was so cold, and it was muddy and miserable because the houses that they built for us there, the houses were built with wood that they had just cleared in that area, but it very green. So as it dried, it shrank. And so they had tarpaper up around it, but it didn't keep out the cold. We did have in each unit or each little apartment, there was a potbelly stove. My mother got, was allergic to, I think there my brother tells me that they found lots of ear fungus that was very popular with everyone in camp, and so everyone would go out to gather the ear fungus. And dad was ingenious enough to decide that rather than digging in the swamp, he could bring the logs home, make a little pond right under the house, and grow his own, which he did. He could grow his own miminawa which is what it was called at that time. And Mom then got poison oak or poison ivy. She got poison ivy, and it was so severe and she got so ill that they finally after about a year there in Jerome, they sent us to Arizona.

We went to Gila River, Arizona, and my brother was born there, my younger brother. I think it was much nicer there. The only problem with Gila, Arizona, was the sand storms. If we'd gone to the movies at night which they had out in the open, as soon as we could see that there was a sand storm coming, we'd have to run home as fast as we could because we knew it would be very painful to be out in it. Dad was a, he worked as a, everyone worked. Everyone had a job there. My dad was an ambulance driver and so, and he was very clever. He could build anything out of nothing. He built us a little cooling unit for our apartment because it was so hot, and then we got all the watermelon that we could eat because there were piles and piles of it in camp during the summer, and he would put it under the cooling unit and that cooling unit would cool the Watermelon, so we could eat it cold. He also built us, oh, when we were Jerome, we couldn't walk because it was so miserably cold and wet and muggy, and the soil was so swamp-like that he built us shoes to put under our shoes out of cardboard and nails. So he built, he nailed the nails through the cardboard and then strapped them to our feet so we could walk to school.

But I can't remember much more about Arizona. Dad didn't stay there long because he was asked to go to Boulder, Colorado, to instruct the army in the Japanese language to speak and to translate and to write and read. He stayed there for a while, then he was sent, he got, I think he got his normal school degree so he could teach and then he went, we went to Oklahoma A&M in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where we lived for, oh, until the war was over. But we were able to leave camp because we now had a home, and we had a job outside of camp, and he taught there. He taught at the school until the war was over.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AT: As soon as the war was over, we were given notice that we could all go back home if we chose to and we did. We chose to go back to Hawaii and lived in Hawaii for about a year. My father, as soon as he started looking for a job happened to run into a friend of his who eventually became a federal judge there, and he had taught him at one time. And so he had said that, "If you need a job, take this test, and you could get a job as a Japanese interpreter," so he did and he passed quickly and he was immediately sent to Japan after the war. And there he interrogated, I thought he was, worked in the post office. I thought that was what he, that was his job because no one ever told us what his job was. We just assumed he worked at the Tokyo post office, downtown Tokyo, and I thought he just shuffled papers. But he was a Japanese interpreter, and he interrogated all the Japanese men who came back, prisoner of war soldiers who came back from Manchuria. He worked there for many, we were there for almost I'd say thirteen years. He worked for the navy. He worked for the army. He worked for, I think that was where he stopped when he worked for the air force. No, I don't think so. No. I think he worked for the army then. But we lived in Tokyo. We finally went over, we were shipped to Japan after the war to be with my father, and we went over on a troop ship, and it was a very small troop ship and very, very unstable. We were very ill all the way over. We finally got to Yokohama, and of course my dad wasn't there to pick us up right away, and we had to discard all of our goods, everything that wasn't absolutely necessary, and comic books was the first thing to go. We had to throw them overboard because we couldn't take them with us if Dad wasn't there for take care of us. That was our biggest loss. We, he finally got to Yokohama to pick us up, and we drove to Tokyo where we had a home in a Quonset hut when we first got there. It was right downtown Tokyo next to the Imperial Palace, and we lived there for about, oh golly, a very short time, and then they moved us into housing right a block away from the Diet Building in downtown Tokyo.


AT: I was about nine or ten when we moved to Japan, and we lived, the first house that we were given was a Quonset hut. The Quonset hut is a, my brother calls it the kamaboko house because it was shaped like kamaboko. It was, the roof is tin, and it goes all the way around the house, and it was very, very hot in the winter and very cold in the summer, very cold in the summer, very, excuse me. It was very hot in the summer and very, very cold in the winter. Fortunately, we didn't live there long. They found us other housing in a regular apartment, and we lived right next door to the Imperial Palace then, and we had the metropolitan police station in front of us, and in back of us, it was the, the military chapel was right next, right in front of us and the Diet Building was right next to that. So we were right, situated right downtown Tokyo. We could walk to the Ginza. We could walk to the Ernie Pile Theater. We could walk to the Imperial Hotel because it was so close. We went to school at Meguro. Meguro was a school that they had had in Japan before the war for children who were from other parts of the country, other parts of the world. They had missionaries there, but it was an English speaking school, so they had lots of missionaries there and lots of children from all over the world. Well, once the occupation moved into Tokyo, the occupation took it over. And so all the children who were in the occupational forces were sent to Meguro, and it was a long, long bus ride to the school because we went from all over Tokyo to that one school. It was a beautiful school. It was all brick and had a wonderful arbor, wisteria arbor. It had playfields. It had tennis courts. It was just a beautiful school. We went to school there until, oh golly, it was until my junior year, then we were sent to a military school outside of town. But while we were there, we lived in Lincoln Center which was in Tokyo right in the center of Tokyo.

But then my father, with a promotion, we then had to move out of there and move into quarters that were set up for the military officers. So we had nicer quarters by moving over to Yoyogi which was, it was called Washington Heights then. Then when they had, Japan had the Olympics many years ago, it became the Olympic Village, so we visited that area many years ago and found that everything, all of our houses of course were gone, and what was left was just a village from the Olympics. It was, we were self-contained, it was a self-contained living area. We had our grocery stores. We had our gas stations. We had the movie houses, officer's club, teenage club. Everything was there for us. We didn't have to move out of the center at all. But we had to be shipped to, sent to Naramas which was about, oh, about an hour away to go to school. You didn't dare miss the bus because if you did, it took you two hours to get back home again. But we still have, I still have people that I correspond with who went to school with me there. It was a very small school. There was all the different, all the grades were represented there. We had tennis courts, we had football games, we had football fields. We had football games against, our opponents were from Yokohama or from Tachikawa Air Base, so it was like living in the United States only as soon as we left the base, we were in Japan. On the base, it was as if we were living right here in the United States. We lived there for... oh gosh, we moved a lot while we were in Japan.

As soon as Dad, the military decides where you can stay and how long, and they decided that he was there, they needed his quarters for someone else, so they moved us out. So we had to move out to a home that Dad built outside in the Japanese community. So we lived, then we lived in our own home in Tokyo right in back of the American Embassy in Azabu. It was a very, very small home, but we had a little bit of grass because I insisted we had a little lawn, so we did. And we had all of our neighbors were from the embassies. All the different embassies were right around us. We had the Dominican Republic right across from us. We had the Chinese Embassy down the street from us, but all the different countries were, located their embassies right around that in Azabu. We then had to be bussed to school the same way only this time it took us two hours to get to school because we all had to be gathered from our different areas and then taken to Washington Square where we then had to be bussed to Naramas and that took forever. Then I never missed the bus because that, you'd never get home from that area. I didn't learn to speak Japanese only because my father said we didn't need to. There I needed to speak English because I was Japanese. If I didn't have the right ID, I couldn't get into certain areas. I couldn't get into our housing area if they thought I was a Japanese national. So Dad said just speak English, so we did. My brother, my little brother, however, was raised outside of the military compound, and he had Japanese friends, and so he learned to speak English very early, or speak Japanese very early. He was, oh, about eight when we moved out to our own home, and he had all these Japanese boys for friends, and he did pick it up right away. When I was, my brother was, my older brother Dennis was sent to, when he was old enough, he was sent to college, and he chose Hawaii. And because we were from Hawaii originally, he was able to go to school at the university without paying out-of-state tuition which was very nice. We had, all of our friends were from the mainland, so we had very few Japanese friends while we were going to school. Everyone was from the mainland, and they were all Caucasians, and there were, oh, about three or four of us who were Japanese but Japanese Americans.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

DF: At that point, did you consider yourself Japanese American or Japanese or an American?

AT: I considered myself an American. I never once thought of myself as being Japanese because it was not a good thing. The war was over although I knew I was Japanese. You weren't treated quite the same being in Japan, being Japanese. You were denied a lot of things, and I couldn't afford not to be like my friends. You choose to be like everyone else that you're with all the time, and I chose not to be Japanese at that time. It was not a good thing to speak Japanese although I did. I could, my mother and father both spoke Japanese at home, and we spoke English in return. We always answered in English.

DF: What was the difference that you noticed? What things, aside from speaking English, what things were different from things that you did at home to things you did with your friends in order not to be Japanese?

AT: Well, I don't know. You were just an American. I just chose to be an American which I was. And if you were Japanese, you spoke Japanese. You ate Japanese foods which we did at home of course. But we were as American teenagers as we could be. Everything we did was as a teenager. We wore jeans. We wore peacoats. We played basketball. We played baseball. I never had a Japanese friend while we lived in Japan. My little brother did because he was raised in that area, but I didn't and my older brother didn't either. All of our friends were from the mainland, or from the United States.

DF: And how did your parents feel about that?

AT: They were fine with it. They didn't ever feel that we needed to speak Japanese. My brothers both learned to speak because they wanted to. My older brother was asked to help a Japanese businessman learn to speak English, so he would go over to their home and help him or speak to him in English, and he did pick up some Japanese, but he didn't really learn to speak Japanese until he left Japan, went to the University of Hawaii, and took some Japanese classes. My younger brother on the other hand learned to speak Japanese as a child because of his friends, and he continued, well actually, he didn't even take it in the university because he spoke fluently, and he still does, and that's his business is to, he's an attorney and he speaks Japanese. He has lots of Japanese clients because of it.

DF: So back in Tokyo, do you remember what it was like as being rebuilt?

AT: Oh, yes. Oh, my goodness. When we got there, everything in Yokohama, of course, was a disaster. It was bombed heavily. In Tokyo where we were, it was not because the United States decided not to bomb certain areas, and that was the area where we lived. They decided not to bomb around the Imperial Palace. They didn't bomb the Diet Building. They didn't bomb the downtown area, the Ginza area, very little of it was gone. But as soon as you got out to the outer areas of course, that was all in rubble. It was hard to get around. If you stayed on the main streets, that was easy. But anything outside of the main areas, the streets were very, very bad. In Yokohama, it was just heavily, heavily destroyed. But the United States in all its wisdom chose not to bomb certain areas, and they didn't. They didn't touch it. They didn't touch Osaka. Osaka was built so that if there was a fire or if it was destroyed, they had wide enough streets so that it would save everyone on the next street. Well, in Tokyo, they just didn't bomb these areas. They left the Imperial Hotel. They left the Takarazuka Theater. All that whole area was left intact. As soon as you got out a little ways of course, then they were destroyed. But most of the areas that we saw were still intact.

DF: What were your thoughts when you were looking over Yokohama?

AT: Well you know I was perhaps eight, nine. All I could think of was darn, I lost my comic books. That was my only thought. I'm sorry, that's how shallow I was. [Laughs]

DF: And what kind of comic books were they?

AT: They were classic comic books. We were devastated to lose them.

DF: And by classics, you mean --

AT: Well, they were the classics like Jane Eyre and The Kidnap and all these wonderful books that if I'd had them now, I would be so thrilled to have.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

DF: I think you stopped, we stopped the conversation last with Dennis going to UH.

AT: U of H, uh-huh. He left and I went to school. I continued to go to school at Niramasu, graduated from Niramasu High School, spent another year there because I couldn't decide what I wanted to do with myself and, because in those days, the boys were sent to college but the girls were not. Well, after a year, my father decided perhaps he better send me to college because I was doing nothing. And I did work at, I did work as a typist at, in a very, oh goodness, I wish I could remember, but General Ridgeway was the commanding general at the time, and I worked there as a typist, and I was given the job of handling or documenting classified information. So I was to destroy, type, destroy some things and not destroy others and keep track of where they all went. Well, I destroyed everything. I had no idea what I was doing. They didn't tell me that this took some skill to know what was top secret, what was classified. I destroyed it all, but I don't think they cared. But I only worked there for about three months, and I decided I better go back to school, get a skill, get an education, and so I did. I spent another year in school so I could go on to college. When I finally decided to leave, I chose rather than, I went to Hawaii and spent a year there going to school there, decided I really didn't like it. It wasn't, in Hawaii at that time, Japanese people weren't treated as well as I had been accustomed to being treated. I was not a second-class citizen. The kids in our school accepted that. I wouldn't. We had a Caucasian instructor, and he kept telling us how crude and rude and ignorant we were, and I just couldn't, I just didn't think he needed to tell us that. That just was not so, and so I decided that after I told him off a couple of times that I didn't need to go to school there. It was a very small community college.

And after a year, I left that school and went to the University of Hawaii, no, Oregon State University. I decided I could do that trip by myself and flew to, in those days, the military gave you the transportation to go from, if you were going to school, they would fly you anywhere you wanted to go, and that was part of their way of educating their kids. As soon as everyone graduated from high school in Japan, they all left and went home to the mainland, to the United States to school, so I did the same. I left and chose Oregon State because that was the school that was close to the coast, and it was something that, oh, I know. I didn't have to pay out-of-state tuition because it was reciprocal to the students from Oregon State, Oregon, the State of Oregon to go to Hawaii without paying out of state. I could go to Oregon State without paying out of state, so I chose Oregon State. At the time that I was leaving, someone asked me where I was going and I said well I'm going to Oregon State. You know, it's a little city outside in Washington. I had no idea Oregon was a state of its own. That doesn't speak well for my education, but I learned, and it was the most wonderful experience to come to Oregon.

I got into, they flew me, it took forever because of course we came in a propeller plane. We had to stop. We flew from Japan, Tokyo to Guam, Guam to Midway, Midway to Hawaii, Hawaii to San Francisco, San Francisco to Oregon. It took forever. Once I finally reached, when I got to San Francisco, someone was to meet me. Well, they weren't there because they had gone to a different airport, so I sat there thinking, "Now what am I going to do?" I didn't know how to use the telephone because we didn't have telephones with the, what are they called, ABCs. We just didn't have that. I had no idea how to use it, so I just sat and waited. And while I waited, here were all these young kids around me. I'm sure they were fine, but to me, they didn't seem fine at all. I was very threatened all by myself sitting there. Finally, my friends came. It was the most, it was the biggest relief to have them there to take me home to their home, give me a shower because I was just a mess, and then I finally, they then the next morning got me to the airport again to send me on to Corvallis. But the most wonderful thing was I got to Eugene, Oregon, got off the plane, and took a bus to Corvallis, and it was the most wonderful sight I'd ever seen. There were apple trees and fruit trees everywhere. It was the most thrilling sight in the world to me because in Japan whenever we did that, we'd go, in Japan when you wanted to pick fruit, you went to a farmer's orchard, and every fruit you picked was covered with paper to protect it from the insects and the weather, and every fruit you picked, you paid for, dearly. And so here you were in Oregon, and it was everywhere. There were fruit trees and pears and apples everywhere. It was truly the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen. I finally felt at home there.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AT: I studied elementary education at Oregon State, had a roommate from Hawaii there, and it was very comfortable. I met Jim there after my first year. He called me and asked me for a date. I had no idea who he was, so I said of course not. I don't date on the weekday. I have to study. Of course, I always tell him I was holding out for dinner. He wanted a coffee date. I wanted dinner. So dinner was only on the weekends, so I held out for a weekend date. I made wonderful friends there. I did surprisingly well and graduated early because Jim had asked me, he had said after the first year that we had met that he was getting serious, so I was too. So I went home to Japan after my first year at Oregon State and told my dad I'm getting married. I don't have to go to school anymore. I can sell all my books, and so I did. I sold all my books, went back to Oregon State, and Jim says, oh, no. He says, "We're not getting married until after you finish school." I thought, what? Why would I finish school if I'm getting married, but I had to and I did. I spent, my husband Jim went off to dental school, and I stayed at Oregon State until I graduated, and then we were married.

We lived in... you want me to go on? We lived in Portland in a basement of a home. When we first moved up here to Portland, and the rent was $50 a month. It was so wonderful to have this huge basement apartment for $50 a month. However, with it came a big fat girl, a girl who was only, oh, six years old, but she weighed over 120 pounds, and she ate everything in sight. We had a box of chocolates that came from Hawaii, chocolate covered macadamia nuts. That girl came down, and every night we'd look at that box and we'd say now, Jim have you been eating candy, and he'd say no, have you? No. And we finally decided when it came down, we thought well, Shirley must have come down here to eat candy. And we finally decided well we'll see how far she'll go. So we left the candy, and every night we'd check it. Every night, there were at least two left, two gone, and we thought when it finally came down to the last three, surely she would not take anymore. She'd leave it, but she didn't. She took the whole thing. [Laughs] She ate the whole box of candy, bless her heart. But we lived there until Jim graduated from dental school, and I taught while he was going to school. I taught second grade at Ainsworth School and spent three years teaching. And as soon as he was through school, we had a child, Lisa, so I could quit teaching and settle down as a mother and a homemaker.

DF: What year did you and Jim get married?

AT: We were married in 1959 in Beaverton, Oregon. His mother and father were both gone at the time, so we just had his brothers who took care of us. Mom and Dad came from Japan to be at our wedding. Then when they left Japan, then they moved, came here, they moved to Hawaii to live and came here for our wedding then went back to Hawaii and made a home there in Honolulu.

DF: So you were still living in Portland when Lisa was born?

AT: Yes, oh, yes. We were still in, well actually, we moved to Beaverton then and lived in apartments there in Beaverton. And then before she was born, we bought a home in Beaverton on Baker Street. And when I think about it, it was about a 1200-square foot home, and it cost us $14,000 I think at the time. It was a great home to raise Lisa. It was a great area. We lived there until we decided we wanted to live in the country. So then we moved out to a little farmhouse off of Kaiser Road in Cedar Mill and had a horse and did a little, lots of gardening and lots of, we raised a lot of vegetables. We had a fruit orchard. But we had a well for water. That didn't do well. We decided we needed to move back into the city, so we'd get away from the well and moved here to Cedar Mill in 196, oh, golly, '3, I think, no. Must have been '63 because we lived here for thirty-two years or thirty-three years.

DF: Where was Jim's practice?

AT: Jim practiced in Beaverton. Jim was raised in, was born in Hillsboro but raised in Beaverton. So all of his friends and all of his family were living right here in Beaverton. So when he graduated, we decided we wanted to come back here. And he had a little office built on Farmington Road, and he practiced there until eight years ago. He's been, he retired eight years ago, so he practiced for over thirty-something years.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

DF: Can we go back to a little bit about your childhood?

AT: Sure.

DF: So growing up in Hawaii and moving to Sand Island, what, do you remember what your parents had told you why you were moving?

AT: No, we just moved. You just moved when they told you to move. And Mom was told, she was given notice that she was to get rid of everything and put it in her suitcase, a little bag, and move to, it wasn't Sand Island. It was a little area outside of Sand Island. My dad was in Sand Island, but the families moved to another little area where they kept us for, oh, until we could get the families together, they could get the families together and move us to the mainland. They just weren't set up to keep us in any area for very long.

DF: And why was your dad taken?

AT: My father was a Japanese schoolteacher. He was a principal for the school. They felt that he was a threat to them, to the United States. He had some influence, they felt he had some influence over the community. And anyone with any kind of influence, school teachers, newspaper publishers, priests, ministers, anyone of any influence was taken. They couldn't take us all because there were so many Japanese people were living in Hawaii at the time, so they took only the ones with some influence.

DF: Do you remember how many people were there?

AT: I wish I could remember. I know I have an article that tells me exactly how many, but I can't remember how many.

DF: Did you have friends there that were with you at the time?

AT: No, none. My father knew the publisher of the newspaper from Maui, and he had a lot of friends, but no. There was no one that I knew who went to camp with us because there were so few of us who went to camp.

DF: What effect did living in so many places have on your childhood?

AT: Well, I don't know that, because I'm such a poor correspondent, I've lost track of so many wonderful friends that I've made along the way. You can't keep friendships long. You don't accumulate anything because as soon as you move, you throw everything away again. My education suffered I'm sure because we moved from when they first started the camps. They didn't have schools set up right away for the children. That came as they could accumulate things. I've never regretted it because I remember so little of it. I didn't seem to suffer because of it because I was too young to suffer through it. My mother and father may have. But even to this day, my father has always said our life has been blessed because all this happened to us, and he could, and we could do a great deal, and we lived in Japan for a long time in a great deal of comfort. He's never regretted any of the things that just happened to us.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

DF: What do you remember about activities you did in camp, mealtimes or were you --

AT: Just going to meals and showers. You know, I can remember there were things there that I could not eat because they were given --

DF: Like what?

AT: Well, because you get a lot of organs. I cannot eat an organ. There's heart, liver, none of those things, and that's what we were served a lot of. I know that when they found the miminawa, the ear mushrooms, that my brother was telling us that Dad would trade ear mushrooms for chicken. And with the chicken, then you could have chicken with the ear mushrooms, and it was very tasty. I have no idea. I don't know because I can't remember doing that. I can't remember our meals other than having to walk to the cafeteria for our meals. Washing I didn't do because my mother did that.

DF: Where did she do the washing?

AT: In an area that was set aside for all the washing. We were in a hut, we were in a block of, in Jerome where that was situated right next to the elementary school. I don't know where our mess hall was. I remember walking to it, but I don't remember it.

DF: How would you describe the space that your family had to share?

AT: Oh, it was very small. My brother tells me that it was, Mom and Dad had a cot, so they slept off the ground, but we slept on, the children slept on the floor. But he said that was fine because we were accustomed to sleeping on the floor. That's what we did at home in Hawaii, so that wasn't a hardship at all other than the cold. The cold was the most miserable thing, the cold and the dampness in the swamp. That was probably the worst thing.

DF: So you had cots, you had a wood stove, anything else?

AT: Oh, yes. I'm sure my father as clever as he is, he could build anything, and he did. He built us chairs. He built us a cooling unit. I don't know that we had a vegetable garden, but many people did in camp. They would grow their own vegetables, but I don't know that we did.

DF: Can you describe the cooling unit?

AT: It was made of chicken wire, and Dad had some kind of contraption where the water ran over the wire, and there was a fan in back of it. So as the fan went through the wire through the water, it cooled our apartment. The water then fell to the ground in a hole that Dad had dug. And in that hole, Dad put logs so he could have his own mushrooms growing rather than going into the swamp to get them. I guess going into the swamp was kind of frightening because there were lots of water moccasins, lots of snakes in the water, in the swamp. And so if you didn't have to do that, you were much better off. So Dad realized that he could do that himself, so he built a little garden of mushrooms by just digging a hole and having the water coming off of the cooling unit.

DF: What activities did you do in camp? What kept you busy during the day and at night?

AT: I have no idea. I have no idea what we did. We listened, we listened to the radio. That was the one thing that we did have. We had a radio that worked. My mother earned money by, she made chenille flowers, and she also sold the materials to make them so everyone in camp had little hobbies. Well, Mom's hobby was to make flowers. She was very clever with her hands, and so she would make flowers and sell them. And my father was very clever with his hands. He would carve birds, and I wish I had some of the birds he carved because they were just little birds that you could use as pins. Then he'd put a pin on the back of it. But he'd carve them and then paint them, and they would sell them. Now, I don't know who bought them, but I think it was someone outside of camp because they could get out and go to Phoenix. They could go out. If you chose to go out into the city, you could. You could go out.

DF: What was it like having your brother born in camp?

AT: I don't know. He'd probably tell you he knew nothing about it. I don't remember that it was any more difficult than just living there daily. They had a hospital there, so Mom was, delivered in the hospital. They had a doctor. I don't think he suffered for it. I don't think any of us suffered for it. I can only remember that it was not a hardship for me because I was too young to remember any of it. My father many years later when they had the, before reparation, and they featured my mom and dad in the paper, and they had a big meeting. They had a conference about reparation, and they wouldn't allow, my brother would not allow my father to speak. They wanted my dad to speak to tell them how he felt about it. My brother said, no, you're not going to say one word because you were one of the few people who have always felt that this, although it was a hardship while you went through it probably helped our family more because we had so many advantages because we went to camp. Because we went to camp, he became a teacher. Because we went to camp, he taught the military. Because we went to camp, he was able to go back to Japan with the occupational forces, and we lived a good life there. So he's never regretted. He never regretted any of it. He said we suffered while we had to, but then our life turned, and it was such a good life. He would never, he never felt that he was harmed by any of it. He only looked at the good side of it, and that's the way I feel about it because I was too young, and we lived a good life that, he says if we had lived in Hawaii all of our lives, we probably never would have had the advantages of going to the mainland to live, going to Japan to live. He says, "I'd probably would never have been able to afford to send all of you children to school, to college." He probably would have sent the oldest son, but he would have not sent the rest of us to school. He says, "As it turned out for us, it was a good thing."

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

DF: When you were in Tokyo, did you ever hear stories from Japanese nationals about the wartime experiences?

AT: No, we didn't. We had, my father's brother lived in Japan, but he lived in Hokkaido. And it was very hard, but he really didn't feel it until they moved to Tokyo. They did move to Tokyo after the war. But he was a president of a ship building company, and so he did very well. He rode around in a, I think it was a Rolls Royce, so he did very well. But when we first moved there, my dad would always take food to them because we could get the food from the commissaries, the military bases, and we were able to share with our family, things that they could never have gotten on the open market.

DF: How often do you go back to Japan now?

AT: We've only been back once. We went back once, oh, about twenty years ago, and my mom and dad took us, and they, I can still remember. We went to Hiroshima because we wanted to see the memorial there. But Mom and Dad had already been there, so they decided to stay at the train station to wait for us. So he told us, I said, "How are we going to get there?" He says, "Well, you tell the cab driver exactly what I tell you," so I did. I got into the cab and I told him exactly what my father had said in the very best Japanese that I knew. And as the cab driver was driving away from the train station, I could see him looking at me through the mirror, rear view mirror. Then he'd drive and then he'd look at me again. And then he finally said, "You look Japanese," in Japanese. He says, "You look Japanese, but what are you?" because obviously I had an accent that made me not Japanese. He didn't know what I was, but he knew I wasn't Japanese. I also had the same thing happen to me at the Noh play. Jim and I went to the Noh play alone. I was speaking to one of the ticket takers or someone there, and I was just chattering away in my Japanese. He finally said, "What are you? Are you Chinese?" I said, "No." [Laughs] I do my best. But my father has always said, "Don't speak Japanese." Don't speak, speak English. I don't care what. Speak English because your Japanese is so terrible that it's an embarrassment, so I've always spoke English. I never speak Japanese unless I'm absolutely forced to.

DF: How did it feel being asked, "What are you?"

AT: I realize that I was not Japanese. I realize that I was an American.

DF: So what did you say to the cab driver?

AT: I said, "Amerikajin desu."

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

DF: So can you talk about your life now and your family?

AT: Well, we have, in retirement, we do a lot of, it's a very comfortable life. We do all the gardening that we, we have two acres here, so we do all the gardening here which keeps us very, very busy, and we do some traveling. We do a lot of traveling. And my husband and I both play tennis. We still are able to play tennis, so that keeps us very busy. And we have grandchildren who live very close by, just a mile away, so we see them quite often, and that's a real joy. That's the most joyful thing in our lives.

DF: What's your biggest worry at this time?

AT: Worry, I suppose getting old, Alzheimer's, illnesses, just as it is for every elderly person having to move out of a house that you've loved all your life. This has been the best thing in the world because for once, we've not had to move, I've not had to move every year of my life. As we were growing up, we moved almost every year of my life because we had to move as we were moving through the mainland and then moving in Japan. Even in Japan, we moved to seven different homes while we were there, so we've never been really settled. So once we moved here and I was married, I said I'm not moving. Once we buy a house, that's it. I'm staying there and we have. We lived in this house for a long time, and we don't plan to move unless we absolutely have to. Unless we can no longer take care of it, then we'll have to move.

DF: That must be nice to have family close by.

AT: Very. It's very nice. Jim has lots of brothers. He still has two brothers and a sister who are still living, and it's wonderful to have family here. My brothers both live in Hawaii, but we see them quite often. We're able to go over to Hawaii or they come here, so that's very easy, and the telephone is easy.

DF: So how often do you talk with your brothers about camp, and how much does your family know about your experience, your grandkids?

AT: Oh, probably not at all. We never discuss it. We never discuss camp because we don't think about it. My older brother remembers everything about camp, but my younger brother and I don't remember a thing about it, so it's not important to us to bring it up. It happened and it's over. For us, it is. For me, it is.

DF: If there was no war, what would your life be like?

AT: I would probably be barefoot living on the beach in Hawaii with a zillion children, zillion grandchildren, and zillion aunts and uncles all around us which wouldn't be so bad either.

DF: So are you active at all in the Japanese American community?

AT: Not very. My husband is. Jim does work with, goes to the Legacy Center and he does the tours and he does the talks there. I don't do that. I don't want to. We helped when the Legacy Center was being rebuilt. We helped then and that I was happy to do. But as far as giving talks and... I don't need to do that.

DF: How do you see your experience fitting in with the, America's history?

AT: It's always a part of history, and we do now have that part put into our history books for the children to see, and there are lots of books about it now where there weren't any. There was no mention of it for many, many years. It was a small part of history, a big part for me, for the Japanese Americans who were caught up in it, but I don't see that it's any more important than anything else that's happened. Our grandchildren, of course, are very young, and Jim, my husband, has gone to speak to their classes about internment and what he did. But really he told them that as a child, actually, it was our grandson's class, and he was exactly the same age as the children that he was speaking to. So he told them what kinds of games he played and what they did in camp and that was, of course, much more interesting than knowing that they had very little of, that they were in a barbed wire area. He just told them that he went swim. He played football. He played baseball and the same things that they would be doing except that he was in a barbed wire area.

DF: If you were to give advice to the young people of today, what would you say?

AT: About?

DF: About current events, about the state of where we're at now?

AT: I guess I would say they should get involved. We sat back because that was our nature to do exactly what someone tells you to do. You didn't question it. You just did it. Now you can question things. Now you can say, "Why? Why am I having to do this?" But in those days, you just did what they told you to do. And being Japanese, you do that even more.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

DF: So we talked about your dad.

AT: Oh, my father. My father was a very interesting man. He was very innovative. He could do anything. There was nothing the man couldn't do. He always felt as if he wasn't, he didn't achieve what he was meant to. He was very bright, but he could not go on to college, so he sent his younger brother to college. He helped him to get through the University of Tokyo. He came back to Hawaii when he was eighteen after high school and just to be with family. He was so different when he came back. Of course, he was an adult, and the family couldn't accept him as an adult, so he went off on his own. He worked in a grocery store and met my mother, sent her to Japan to be educated. It was, in those days, you sent the bride to be to Japan to be educated in the ways of, to learn all the different cultural things in Japan. I can't think of the word. So she went to Japan and learned to do, she did the piano. She did doll making. She learned to sew. She learned to cook. She learned all the things that she and I, what is the term for that? Anyway. And she came back then an equal to my father so he could marry her.

They settled in Punene or in Lahaina. They actually settled in Lahaina where my brother was born, and then I was born there also. We went back to Lahaina not too long ago, and it's now a prison where we used to have, well, no. We were right next door to a prison. He had a little school there. Then they moved to Punene because that's where his family had lived, and my grandfather was gone then. My grandfather was a luna. He was one of the, he came from Japan with his wife to make a new life in Hawaii because there was nothing in Japan for them. He was a leader in the community. And after they realized that they were doing all the hard work and the plantation was earning all of the money giving them very little, he decided to grow their own sugarcane as a group. So he gathered all of his friends, and they invested in land and planted, and they spent all their own money. Well, in doing that, they had a crop failure that year. Everyone lost all their money, and one of the crazed men never forgave my grandfather for having lost all that money, and he was, he was not himself, of course. And they say that he fixed it so my grandfather would have an accident. And he did and he died which left my grandmother to raise the children alone. My grandmother was just a tiny little lady, but her daughters worked as housekeepers. They worked at the stores. My aunt was a wonderful seamstress, so she worked in a dress shop. My uncle was a, worked while he was going to school, and my father of course was older then, but he was already married and had a family of his own, and they were struggling to make ends meet. He was, my mother could cut hair. She was a beautician, but she could cut hair so she did that, and they ran a Japanese language school. And my father also ran a little grocery store. He was very ambitious. He wanted to do everything.

When he was sent to camp, he was taken right away the night of Pearl Harbor and was there being guarded by his brother-in-law. His brother-in-law was one of the guards at the camp, at the jail in Maui. After six months, they were sent to Sand Island, but Dad was very clever. He could do, he met the right people, so he was given advantages that others were not. He worked as an interpreter in Japan as I had said. And after they no longer needed the interpreters in Japan, of course, they were released and that was in 1959. He came back to Hawaii, and he still had a few years left that he needed to work, so he went out to try to find a job. Of course, he was older then. No one wanted an older man working for them, so he decided he would, he needed a job to do something. He needed to do something, so he applied to be a dishwasher. Well, to be a dishwasher in Hawaii, you had to pass a test. The test was if you had, if you were going to wash your dishes, did the dishwasher, did he start with hot water and end with cold to rinse or did he start with cold water to wash and hot water to rinse?. Of course, he just took a guess because he had no idea that it was so complicated that there was a certain standard, and he guessed wrong, so he was not hired. He then found a job on the army base again. But this time because they didn't need interpreters, he worked as a janitor on the base, and he did that until he could retire which was, oh golly, about five years which he hated. He hated that. He was a very fastidious man. He just hated the fact that he had drop to such a level. He played go a lot for his enjoyment. He and my mother both played go which is a Japanese chess game. He was a, he wrote poems, Japanese poems. He belonged to some, a group in Hawaii that did that. He would come here to visit with us. And when he came, when they'd come, they would, we would take them mushroom hunting for matsutake which was a really joyful event for us all.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

AT: My mother now came from a very poor family. Her father was an alcoholic, so he was gone very quickly and, but she was very clever. She could do anything with her hands. She did beautiful dolls. She did flower arranging. She became a master flower arranger in Japan and arranged flowers in Hawaii for the big hotels. When they moved back from Japan to Hawaii, she had to bring the children to after, when the war started and Dad was taken away, I'm sure she was, had a very difficult time just getting rid of all of our possessions. They had a car which they had to sell. Mom says that there was a time when people would throw vegetables and a chicken perhaps over the fence for them. I'm sure it was a kindness, but that fed us because there was not much left after Dad was gone. She said that once she looked in the car and hunted high and low for some money, she finally found a dime, one dime, on the floor in this little car that we had, and she said that was such a godsend just to have one dime to use for bread. She gathered us all together after she had sold everything. Dad had told her she had to sell everything, so she did, and I can remember that she said he had said to put everything into silver. Everything was silver coins, and so she carried this bag filled with silver coins, not a lot but enough so that it was quite heavy to Honolulu with the children, with my brother and I. There were just two of us. But we were old enough that we could walk and almost take care of ourselves. But I'm sure it was very lonely and very difficult, and you never knew, we never knew when we would see our father again. We didn't know if we would see him in Honolulu or if we'd see him on the mainland in camps. We just were told what to do, be here, be there, and we did it. My father built, after they, while he was working as a janitor after we came back, they came back from Japan, he built their house. They had a home, and they bought a lot in Saint Louis Heights, and the boys helped Dad to build their home. Then they sold that home and moved to Nuuanu and fixed that up. But Dad was never prouder than to have his children who all graduated from college. He used to tell his workers, his, the people he worked with in Japan, he'd always say, "You know my son, I don't know what he's doing in college. He got this grade. I'm not sure what it is." Do you suppose he's, the fellows would say, "Well now, what was his grades?" He got something like a 3.8. I don't know if that's very good. Of course, we knew that he knew that it was good. It was his way of saying, "Aha. See how well my son has done?" He was very proud. Of course, he didn't do that with my grades ever. [Laughs] But he had two smart sons so that was a good thing.

DF: Did your mom share with you what she was feeling as she's gathering up the belongings or getting rid of the belongings and bringing you to Sand Island? Did she share any of those thoughts?

AT: You know, I don't remember her ever sharing any of that, and we never asked. There's some things you just didn't talk about, and we never asked. We should have. She's gone now. She's been gone for about two years, so we'll never know. My brother probably knows, but I don't know. She was a very obedient wife. My father demanded obedience. He was a very strong man. We didn't have to do anything. He did it all. If we had a job at school, he would do it. If my mother had a job, Dad would do it, so it was, she was just a very obedient Japanese wife.

DF: Do you remember what you were thinking, you know, being separated from your dad and wondering when you would see him?

AT: No. You know, you just, I'm sure it was very lonely for us because our dad was our life. He bathed us. He put us to bed. He did all these things for us when we were growing up. He was the one who bathed us at night. He was the one who put us to bed. He did everything, and of course then it was left for my mother to do. So he was a very, he was the strong arm of our family, and I'm sure it was very lonely for us all to be without a parent.

DF: Can we talk a little bit postwar, your experiences of going back to Hawaii and maybe seeing the grocery stores, seeing where the barbershop was and what did you come back to?

AT: We didn't ever go back to Maui after we returned. We stayed in Honolulu. We lived with our aunt, with my mother's sister, because my father had already gone to Japan, and we had to stay in Hawaii for about a year before they would ship us to Japan to be my father. So we went to school right in Honolulu, lived in our auntie's home. She had, she was, she had no children. She collected angel fish, and that was her pride and joy, and we'd sleep in the rooms with all the large aquariums. And when they died, she was certain that we were the cause of their death because of the noise that we made and the lights that we turned on. And of course, the food was so wonderful in Hawaii that I could still hear her screaming at me, "Ah, come back here with that," she'd say. I'd grab something out of the kitchen and run away, you see, and she'd be screaming at me. Of course, I knew I had to go back to the house eventually, but that was all right. But we lived with her for almost a year, and that was, we were accepted because we were Japanese. There were all the Japanese people around. There was no problem fitting in again.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

DF: And if we jump ahead to your teaching career and your experiences?

AT: You know, I was very fortunate. I was offered a job when I graduated from Oregon State. I did student teaching up here in Portland, and I was offered, I graduated in the fall, in the fall of 1962 or '60, '60. And so I was offered a job right away, but it was in an area where another teacher told me I probably would not be very safe. It would not be a very safe school for me to be at. It was across town. And she said, if you have a problem, I said, "But these are little children." She says, "It doesn't matter." She says, "If there is a problem with a little child, they always have older brothers, and so you probably would be better off to just substitute until you could get a better offer," so I did. I waited. I substituted on the west side because that's where we lived. We lived on the west side of Portland, and I substituted up at Ainsworth School up on Vista Hill. And I met the principal there and he liked me, and so I was able to finish out a year for third grade teacher there, and he hired me for the next year which worked out very well for me because the school there, I was Asian, but the people there didn't seem to mind that I was Asian. It was, actually, I was bringing another culture to the children, and they appreciated that. It was, the children were encouraged to learn to study at two years old. In conferences, they were already asking me, now what kind of career will she have unless she learns this and this and this in the second grade, and I'm thinking, but we're not talking career, we're just trying to get her through the second grade. She's just a child, but they were already talking careers. But this is the type of clientele we had up in Ainsworth. And it was, the children called, they couldn't say, they all couldn't say Tsugawa, so they called me Mrs. Cigar whenever they saw me which was fine. I could answer to anything. It was a very easy school to be at. It was very comfortable. I had substituted in other schools before then, and I was not appreciated because I was Asian, and I was told so. But at Ainsworth, it was very easy. All the parents were very, very accommodating, happy to have me, so it was very easy.

DF: What about out in the community, grocery shopping, doing errands?

AT: It wasn't a problem. Actually getting back to teaching, I wanted to apply in Beaverton because that's where my husband had his practice, but they wouldn't have me. They wouldn't hire Asians in Beaverton at that time. It was an area where they wouldn't have an Asian family living in the area in Beaverton at that time. So we lived in Beaverton, but I couldn't teach there. The community was fine. Jim had been raised in Beaverton. He was a very active politically and very active in all the sports at Beaverton High School, so everyone knew him here. He was, his family was from here right in Cedar Mill, so we had no trouble in Beaverton at all other than the fact that I couldn't teach there, and I couldn't live in Cedar Hills. Other than that, everything was wide open to us.

DF: During the time returning or leaving camp, any gestures from people, positive or negative, for the family that you can recall?

AT: You know, I can just recall that we went through Texas on the train, and they were so happy to see us, and they were so gracious to us. This was of course after the 442nd had saved the troops in Europe, and so they were wonderful. We could go into any restaurant and feel very comfortable. We never, I can't remember that we had a problem. When we lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma, when my dad was teaching, I had lots of friends, and there was never a problem about my being Asian. I think perhaps it might have been more of a problem if you lived on the West Coast. But further in, there wasn't a problem. There weren't that many of us there. I think I only had a little prejudice when I lived here because the principal was embarrassed to have me in his car with him. I can remember that someone said something about my sitting with him and he was so embarrassed and I felt so sorry for him because I thought he was a man, a gentleman, an educated man, and he still felt this embarrassment by having an Asian sitting next to him in a car, and that was sad for him. That was his problem.

DF: Do you recall what he said or how he handled it?

AT: He just blushed badly. He just, and I knew it was an embarrassment. And you see, you still, when we first moved here, you have people screaming at you, but that's fine. You just ignore that. That happens. They're ignorant. What do they know and don't worry about it.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2004 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.