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2-Preparing for Internment
Do you recall the day that you learned that you were going to be interned?
Yeah. About April 2nd we learned because we had five days in which to leave. We had to figure out what to do. My father had already been taken by the FBI and so my sister Misako, who was twenty-four years of age, she really took care of all of that. What would we do with our things? We didn't have very many things, but we did have things like photographs, books, and all. We gave most of things away, but we did keep the photographs. Unfortunately our place was open and many of our things were damaged. It was difficult because what could you do in five days to get your affairs in order. My sister had to go to the banks and had to pay up all the bills. She was running around and she kept saying "stay at school". See I didn't come back till almost five days. She did all the work. To say good-bye—we went over to say good-bye to people because we didn't know when we were ever going to meet them again.
We were very upset because we were first in San Francisco. People in Chinatown went first and we didn't know where we were going and we didn't know whether we would meet our sisters who lived in Japantown who had been married and live in Japantown. We didn't know when we would see them again. It was a hard time during the five days, but it was rushing around and trying to sell whatever you have. We had so few things that were really sell-able. So we left almost everything.
How did some of your friends react when they knew that you were going to be taken away?
We went over to see our friends. All the Japanese who were in Chinatown all left together because we were all part of that same area and they put us into places like Santa Anita. But we had friends in Japantown, and my best friend was in Japantown. We went over to see her too. We didn't have cars, so we would have to take Muni to get out there to see people. It took a long time just to get there to see them. But we did spend time visiting and saying good-bye to our friends, never knew whether we would see them again.
I want to know more about the moment that you heard you had to pack up. What did you do for the first half hour after you found out?
Well, let me tell you. First of all, we didn't get any notices from the government individually. What we did was to see the posters that were all around the town, especially around Chinatown because this was specifically aimed at the people who were going to be leaving first. It says to gather at a certain place, what to bring, and things of that kind. When we first saw that we knew that it was coming. We knew that there was going to be some movement. We just suspected that things were going to happen, but the first moment when we read it we saw the posters and it was just like, "oh my God, here it is. This is our order". Because we were so lawful we followed and obeyed orders. You know today I don't think I would, but in those days the Japanese as a whole were very law abiding and we listened to our parents, which today people don't listen to their parents very much. But we used to listen to our parents, obey our parents, and every thing else so it was kind of natural for us to read it and then think, "Oh wow, what are we going to do?".
So the first thing that came to us was, "What are we going to take? What are we going to take with us, where are we going, is it going to be cold, is it going to be hot?" My mother said take old clothes, but we had nothing but really our clothes were not exactly the best. But she said, "Leave your good clothes behind." We said, "Why?" I think I mentioned before that my mother said that she thought they were going to kill us that we were going to be slave labor. We kept saying to her, "No, no, they're not going to do that". But inside we weren't sure that that was really going to happen. We tried to persuade her. She was so distraught. My mother was the most distraught. The rest of us were young and we said, "Okay this is long, but we can survive this". But my mother had been protected by father. She never went out. My father was the one who did the shopping and she would shop for our clothing, but he's the one who did the shopping in Chinatown. She began to really cry and it was hard to see my mother cry about what was going to happen, and she was very distraught. It was difficult, but because we were three girls who were going to be going and two brothers, we were able to pick up fairly easily even though we didn't foresee our future.
Can you imagine seeing that sign right now? Do you remember exactly what it said? What's your memory of exactly what it said?
Well actually I really put a lot of faith in the American government. I really did. I knew that things weren't going to be as bad as what my mother said. This was a Roosevelt government. This was under Roosevelt and we had learned, while I was at college, that he was very liberal, and open, and he did a lot of good things. So I kept saying that this is our government and it wouldn't be that bad. It was hard later to read about what happened, where they made the decisions and all. Then you realized that Roosevelt was not the great liberal that we thought he was. The Japanese would say, "akinameta" which means "Okay this is what's going to happen, let's make the best of a lousy situation". As a family we picked up and went. My mother cried, but the rest of us were —actually it says, another experience is what we were talking about. That this was going to be another experience.
I always knew deep down that I was going to go onto graduate school, so I brought books. We had two suitcases, and in one suitcase I brought inadequate clothing because we got to a very hot place and then to a very cold place. The other suitcase had books. I had a lot of my books from the university, most of which became outdated by the time I went back to school. I lugged these books with me. We also had to bring things like utensils for eating, like dishes, cups, and all. My mother went out to get tin cups and we went to the Five and Ten and got some stuff there to bring with us. I hate to say it, but it was rather exciting also. We also felt the excitement of something new going on, you know it was wrong but you know that you can get through it. We also helped each other. We used to talk a lot. My sisters and brothers we used to talk a lot about how we felt, what we thought was going to happen and things of that kind. We had a sharing, a feeling in our family.
Can you explain how the notice looked like and what it said?
Yeah. I have a copy of it. I should give you a copy of that. The notice said to all Japanese. In that notice they didn't say citizen they said aliens and non-aliens is what they called us. They didn't say citizens. I'll send you a copy of that because it's an interesting piece of document. We read it and we obeyed. Today we would challenge.
You mentioned having a lot of faith in the government. When did you lose that faith? Did you lose that faith?
/23I didn't lose that faith—I never lost that faith. I still believe in our American way of life. But after the camps I turned very political and I fought for the kind of country that I would like for it to be. So that I was very active and fights against discrimination and fights for justice and for peace. One of the first things that I went into was a campaign to stop the development of a nuclear bomb and nuclear agencies way back in the 1950's, because we were so committed to the concept of a peaceful world.
Santa Anita Relocation Camp
Do you remember the day before you left for internment and what was it like?
The day before we left was frantic. We were trying to get everything into the suitcases, trying to get everything on, and trying to comfort my mother. People would come drop in to say good-bye. I mean it was just very frantic period with lots of things going on. I didn't even have time to sit and think about how I really felt. Just doing one thing after another and talking to people. We talked to the people around us and said good-bye.
5It was hard to remember all the details, but I guess I was going through my books, trying to figure out which ones I was going to take and which ones I was not. All I could say is that it was a hectic period one-day before. It was also sad when we left. When we left it was very sad because we didn't know if we were coming back—if we were coming back and when we were coming back. Again the uncertainty. We didn't even know where we were going. They didn't tell us where we were going, they just told us get onto the train. We got onto the bus that took us to the train station. Got to the train and got onto the train. We were off and we said, "Where are we going?" Then everybody said, "We don't know where we're going. Nobody told us." We were so surprised the next morning, when we found ourselves inside Santa Anita. We said, "Where's this," and it was a racetrack. It was near Los Angeles. It was a place called Pasadena. Then everybody said, "What's Pasadena? Who's Pasadena?" I guess the uncertainty was very difficult to deal with. If they had told us, "You're going to go here and you're going to be here for a certain amount of time". We went to these assembly centers because they were building the permanent camps and they were not ready for us. They left us there for about six months and then one of the camps were ready. By June, most of the camps were ready. Then they began to slowly take people out from the assembly camps into the permanent relocation centers.
Can you describe the train that you were in? Was it dark?
The train trip? I guess I said something about it before, but one of the things that we found is that people are young, the soldiers are young, the American soldiers who were suppose to be guarding the train were there with their rifles. We had some pretty young girls who went with us at the same time and they were busy flirting and talking with the American soldiers. Which you would expect and the older people, like my mother would frown upon them. Why are they talking to the white soldiers? It was a long, uneventful journey. They did give us a lunch or give us some food. I think we got food once—in again paper bags. We also had a lunch. We had the water from the train, so that we were okay. I think that other than that the fact the uncertainty of where we were going was so difficult. The curtains were pulled down so that we couldn't look outside and they said because they didn't want people to see us being moved. We would try to peak, and when people weren't looking we would open it up a little to see where in the world we were. We didn't know where we were going east, west, or where. East or south I should say—we couldn't go west from San Francisco, but we were going down.