Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ruth Sasaki Interview
Narrator: Ruth Sasaki
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Ontario, Oregon
Date: April 22, 2014
Densho ID: denshovh-sruth-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So you take trains to Minidoka. And so what were your first impressions when you got to Minidoka? What do you remember?

RS: Well, first thing, when you get to Minidoka, you see these towers with soldiers. That scared me, I mean, because we had to be careful. And then come to think of it, even in Portland, too, they had service people guarding the place. And so you feel like a prisoner, you do. But at my age I didn't... I just let it go in one ear and out the other and what I see, all I know is that they were there for our protection.

TI: Oh, so you thought that they were there to protect you or to guard you?

RS: Well, yeah, first was guarding. And that's another reason, too, why first of all, you state where your allegiance is. Whether your allegiance to the United States, or are you anti and then you're from Japan. Because you know that, don't you, about the history of that?

TI: So you're talking about the "loyalty questionnaire" that was handed out?

RS: Uh-huh. Because the ones that were loyal to Japan, they had another camp that they went to.

TI: Now, many of them were sent to Tule Lake.

RS: Yeah, there was another one, too.

TI: And so tell me about your family. So when they had to answer the "loyalty questionnaire," how did your family answer it?

RS: I think I... they didn't say much, but I think that's what their allegiance, their allegiance was to this country.

TI: Did they ever talk to the kids about that?

RS: No.

TI: When that was going on, you were younger, so you didn't have to do much. Did you sense the tension in the camp when people had to answer these questions?

RS: Well, it kind of surprises a person, because you hear so and so's allegiance is to Japan, and right away they're taken out. And these were the older Niseis that a lot of 'em were for Japan. And that's why they were put into another camp.

TI: Did any of the people that you knew from the Gresham area, did any of them leave?

RS: Yeah, oh, yeah.

TI: So there were some of those families.

RS: I knew a couple of them. So I figured that's them, because they are known as, okay, you know the word Kibei?

TI: Uh-huh.

RS: And that's where a lot of those are. The Kibeis are the ones that were for Japan, because they're the ones that were born here, but they went to Japan to study. See, my brother-in-law, my late husband's brother was one that went to Japan, I forgot how old he was then, but he studied in Japan and all that, and came back, but then he joined the U.S. service. So he was one of them that was loyal to the United States.

TI: Now when families, when you heard that they were going to be removed because of the "loyalty questionnaire," did people treat those families differently when that happened? Did you ever notice anything, when they family said, "Okay, so we're going to go to answer the loyalty questionnaire," in a way that they're more, say, maybe pro-Japan. Did you notice any differences that happened?

RS: No, I didn't. Maybe I was too young, I don't know.

TI: So going back to your life, describe your living quarters at Minidoka. Which block were you in?

RS: Yeah, we were in this one block, and there were my brother and me, so there were six of us. So we have this one room, okay. It was small, and so we had to put a blanket to separate. So it was just like, it was just like a small area, that's all you could have.

TI: So just like one room that you shared using blankets to kind of partition it?

RS: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: And so tell me about the partitions. How would you partition the room?

RS: Well, they have rope, so you put your blanket on there. So me and my brothers and mom and dad.

TI: So they had like a, almost like a partition for your parents' bedroom.

RS: Uh-huh. So you used blankets for the partition.

TI: And so you had the sleeping areas.

RS: Yeah, that's your sleeping area.

TI: And then the other area was more like a living room type?

RS: Well, not really, because it was a small unit. Because we go to the mess hall. And then the laundry, we have a laundry room, and then you have a shower, but it was nothing like in Portland. You have that privacy.

TI: So the facilities were better at Minidoka.

RS: Oh, yeah, yeah. So if you have to go to the bathroom, you have to use the, it's a public thing. But that was okay.

TI: So let's talk about like a typical day at Minidoka. So you wake up, and what would you then do?

RS: You go take a shower.

TI: And when you took a shower, were there very many other people there when you took a shower?

RS: Sometimes. It depends on, you know, because it's come and go. And then you go to, you go to the mess hall for your breakfast.

TI: And who would you go to the mess hall with, usually?

RS: My family. Or by then, you know, I had friends. And so a bunch of us, we would go and have breakfast. And then school, we had to go to school.

TI: Back to the mess hall, how would you describe the food at your mess hall?

RS: It was good. That's one thing the government did, they fed us good. So you had your breakfast, your lunch, and your dinner.

TI: One of the things I heard from people at Minidoka, they said that some blocks have better cooks than others.

RS: Probably.

TI: So they would talk about how, like my parents were --

RS: But then you'll get the same food, whatever, but it's how they prepare it.

TI: Right, exactly. So my parents were at Minidoka, and my dad would say, so sometimes they would go to different blocks just to see the different food, and they noticed that some blocks had different food, or it tasted better than other places. The same ingredients, but how they prepared it.

RS: Yeah, yeah. I didn't complain. You didn't have to cook, you got fed.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2014 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.