Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: Lilly Kobayashi Irinaga Interview
Narrator: Lilly Kobayashi Irinaga
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: April 27, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-ililly-01-0010

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TI: So you come back to Portland, and then Sunday, December 7, 1941. So tell me about that day for you. Where were you, how did you hear about it?

LI: Well, some people said they didn't have a program, but as I recall, we did go to the Norse Hall, and there was a contingent from Japan. And we went to see it, and we saw part of it, and all of a sudden these FBI (agents) had come to take away these men, their names were called. And I was just shocked when my father's name was called, 'cause I thought, "Oh, my goodness, they said the FBI (agents) were here to take them away," but we didn't know to where or anything. But I was so sad when he was taken, I didn't know why or when or (where). And later on, I thought maybe it was because we had (just) come back from Japan, or maybe he was working on the railroad or something. I really can't tell you.

TI: Now was your father involved with very much in terms of community leadership?

LI: Well, I don't know if he was a leader, but he was with some social groups, and I knew that he was going to meetings occasionally, but he never said anything about the war. Well, actually, I don't even know why we stayed at that program knowing that the war had begun that morning or afternoon. And, well, my mother didn't know where he had gone. We knew that he was taken, but later on we heard that he was at the Portland police department. But she didn't know for a few weeks, actually, where he was taken.

TI: Going back to when they picked up your father, I'm curious to get a sense of how that all happened. I mean, was there lots of confusion, was it quiet, was it noisy? Describe that...

LI: Yeah, it wasn't noisy or anything. All the men's names that were called went to the door or whatever. And I don't know if there was one agent or more, but they all took them, and we all didn't know where they were going. And later on, my mother wanted to bring some clothing, because they went just as they were. And she found out probably in a couple of weeks that they were at the police station. So we brought a few clothes and a little food for him, that was about it.

TI: Now when they called your father's name, were you nearby him?

LI: We were all sitting together.

TI: So did you...

LI: Yeah, I went with him, actually, when his name was called. And I thought, "Gee, where's Dad going?"

TI: So when they actually called his name and he started walking, you walked with him?

LI: Yes, I did. And I said, "Dad, where are you going?" He said, "I don't know." And it was a big surprise to him as well as our family.

TI: When he said he didn't know, was there, could you sense concern? Or how would you describe...

LI: Yeah, I think there was concern. He didn't realize what was actually going on. He knew the war had begun as far as that went, but he didn't really mention much else after that. All I know is my mother was extremely upset, and she didn't know where he was going either.

TI: And so when you say your mother's extremely upset, what does that mean? Was she crying?

LI: Yes, she was crying. She says, "I don't know where he went." She didn't know too much about the FBI either at that time. But just to be taken from this place that we were at, and she didn't know where he was going to be taken, it was tragic, really.

TI: And so I have this image of you walking with him, and you're asking him where he's going, and he doesn't know.

LI: He doesn't know.

TI: So at what point were the two of you separated?

LI: When they took him. They were handcuffed, as far as I could remember, and he was taken out. But I never went outside, I went back to my mother. And of course the program had stopped by then, so we all went home. I don't even know how we got home. But like I said, we didn't know where he was for several weeks, and I don't know who clued my mother in as to where he was. But by the time she went there several times, the last time she went, they were already (sent) out to other camps.

TI: So again, that must have really upset her.

LI: Oh, yes, yes. He first went to Missoula, Montana, from there he went to various other camps as well. I don't know why that was, either.

TI: When the FBI picked up your father, were you able to see any of the FBI agents and see their treatment of your father or anything like that?

LI: Not at all. I don't know whether they handcuffed him... I don't know.

TI: And so after the FBI leaves, and your mother is obviously upset and you're probably also upset, what was the reaction of people around you, the people that maybe knew you? Do you remember hearing or seeing anything?

LI: No, I don't remember. All we wanted to do is go home to the hotel that we were in. But that's about all I remember.

TI: So tell me, how did you and your mother cope without your father? It must have been difficult without him.

LI: It must have been. I think to myself, I was almost thirteen in half a year, and if I can remember a lot more things, it would have been good, but I don't really recall a whole lot of things at that time. Just my father being taken, and that was it.

TI: And then what was it like the next day? I mean, so Monday, did you go to school that next day?

LI: I must have. I don't remember staying at home. And everybody at school seemed to be fine with me. There wasn't any animosity or anything, just because Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. We were young enough, I guess, that they weren't angry at me or us, I'm sure. But it was hard to take.

TI: Did people at school know that your father was picked up by the FBI?

LI: Probably not. I didn't say anything, and they didn't mention anything either.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.