page 1 of 10
Please report errors to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1-Introductions & Family Background
Hi I'm Whitney, I'm Sam, and I'm Sophie. We're here on April 19th, 2005 at the Urban School of San Francisco to interview Janet Daijogo.
Can you please state your name, your birthday, and your birthplace for the camera?
Janet Daijogo. I was born on March 21st, 1937. I was born in San Francisco, California.
How many members are in your immediate family?
That would have been six. A mom and a dad and I was one of four children.
What were your parent's occupations?
They were both, actually, farmers. My mother was mainly a housewife and helped on the farm. My father grew sugar peas in Pescadero, California down the peninsula, on the ocean side.
Can you state your occupation for us?
I am a kindergarten teacher at Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera.
How many children do you have in life?
I have two daughters. They are forty and thirty nine years old.
Can you talk about what types of schools you went to as a child?
No kindergarten. In the internment camp I went to first and second grades and then we were released, I think, in the summer when the war was over—World War II—and we went to Oklahoma for the third grade. Fourth grade I was in Richmond, California. Then we went to Japan. My father had a job on an army base as a translator, so I went to the fourth grade—no that would have been the fifth grade. Part of fourth and fifth grade, sixth grade, in Japan. I finished junior high school and high school on an army base, in Japan, also.
What years were you at the internment camp?
I was there from five through eight years old, so you'll have to do the math. I'm very bad at this part.
Which camp did you go to?
We were in Topaz, Utah. I learned later that many of the people who were considered leaders in the Japanese-American community went further inland, were put further inland. My father and many of the people of the people that we were interned with had been to college and were supposed to be the intellectual leaders of that community. I guess they wanted us in the desert, where we wouldn't be running away.
What were your earliest memories as a kid?
Well, I have fragmented, because when you are five you just don't remember everything. I think that my parents were happy doing their farm. My Father—in those days they grew sugar peas, and, apparently, they didn't even have to irrigate cause it was just the right amount of fog. He also, because he was a citizen, he leased land for other farmers who were not citizens in order for them to be able to make their livelihood. He, in a sense, he was like a foreman only he could do that because he was born in Hawaii. He had the wherewithal to fill out the right pieces of paper and things to make it legal for the other people to be farmers in that area.
I remember the fog. I remember being left by accident—I think maybe, when I was two or three—in a patch of sugar peas and they, for some reason, they left me and just screaming so that they heard me blocks away, apparently, and they came running back to get me. I don't know, I mean that would be pretty irresponsible. But I was safe I remember that. I saw a picture of myself at that age and I would say that I was probably closer to maybe two and a half, not even three.
I remember the vines growing. I remember my dad was a zoologist, that's what he studied in college and he would gather certain sugar peas, from the little peas, so he could re-seed and try to grow a sturdier crop, I found later on. When he died there was still a little jar of peas that he always intended to do his research, but you know, things interfered in his life, so he never did that.
I remember my first experience of death when we went to see a neighbor's horse being buried. I remember the horse being pulled kind of by a tractor and it was a white horse and just being absolutely terrified that this thing—this big horse—was being dragged and they were going to dig a hole and put him in the hole.
I also remembered my being in that little crib when I was I guess this would've been way—just being in the crib and the little bars. And then my brother when I was two was born in the city too and in those days they had the birth in the city in here, in San Francisco, and that meant I had to go somewhere, because they kept mommies in the hospital for two weeks then after childbirth. I went to live in Sacramento somewhere with other people of the family and after two weeks my mother came back with this new baby boy and I looked at her, and apparently I said, "Who's that?" because I had already forgotten who my mother was.
I also remember the beginning of the war, in a weird—in a strange—way, which was I would've been five or near five and I remember the neighbor boy running across the farm land through the patch of peas I guess, screaming "Uncle Saiki!"—which was my father's name—"Uncle Saiki! The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor." Which had no meaning to me, of course, except I knew something really, really, really bad had happened because of the feeling. Because, as a five year old, it's through your guts you process a lot of the information that you don't understand. You may not understand the content, but you understand the feeling of what's happening. That that was not a good event.
And, I remember the military police coming—and searching the house. And understanding for sure that my parents were basically helpless and were not going to be able to protect me, which is sort of an interesting and fairly horrendous, traumatic thing. I remember sitting on the side of the bed while they went through my father's drawers, and on the top drawer he had photographs of his life in Hawaii. And now that I think about it, these military police were probably eighteen and nineteen year olds, and they didn't know what they were doing in a sense. I mean, they were not mean. They were not going to shoot us on the spot, even though I thought they were.
I remember sitting on the side of the bed, with my knees together, and thinking: "I cannot scream. I cannot make any motion." And this is a child telling it to herself. And holding my fist very tight, so that my fingernails dug into my hands and into my knees, so that I could focus on pain rather than what was happening. Because I didn't know what was happening, but I knew, in a sense, I felt I was in mortal danger. And that's a five year old. You know, I didn't know, but it felt like I was. And that's how I took care of it. Is to be very silent, which was actually what I did for most of my life, is to keep things in rather than express emotion or outrage.