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6-End of War & Reflections
Once you go out of the camps, did you feel isolated from the Japanese American community because you were a "No-No" boy?
Yes, we tried to hide the fact that we were "No-No's". Certainly, I never told anyone that I had renounced my citizenship. Even today, I rarely say that. But, it was enough to have been in Tule Lake and that we were "No-No's." Once you've mentioned Tule Lake then, "Ah, you are one of those." As I say, I tried not to tell anyone that I was at Tule Lake. But it would always come up. You talk about what camp you were in and when you mentioned Tule Lake, that was it. I mean, "Oh, yeah, yeah".
To get around this, some people, when we were released, they gave us $25 dollars each, and they said we could take a train, or bus, or whatever, anywhere in the U.S. So some people took a trip to the East Coast, and went to New York, or Boston, or something. Then they stayed there for a while, and worked maybe six months. Then they came back. Then they could say, "Well, I went out East", you know, from Tule Lake of course, not from Tule Lake, but they had been East. So they say, "I was back East". And they got away with that.
I was on a panel earlier in February, I guess, and I said when I was at UCLA, I tried to avoid other Japanese- American students. And to do this, I made myself very eccentric. One thing I did was to wear a hat. My father had a hat. He bought it at J.C. Penny and he wore it for years. Then he gave it to me, or somehow I got it. It was a brown hat, felt hat. And I pushed it and made it into a pork pie hat. And I wore that to UCLA, and I was the only one wearing a hat in the whole school. That was in 1950. So I isolated myself from other Japanese-Americans. Certainly they would not come near me. But one bad thing was that I missed social life, I wasn't socializing with other Nisei, which delayed my marriage and so forth.
That's how I got around it, I made friends with veterans who were there, and they were not interested in wartime stories, or anything like that or anything like that. They wanted to forget it. Their experience was as bad as ours. I mean they were only interested in getting a degree. They were on the GI bill. I made friends with them, and here I was from Tule Lake, and they were the veterans, and we got along that way. I didn't have many Japanese-American friends for a long, long time. Certainly not during college years. But, one thing I did was to write a story, which got published in the college UCLA humor magazine, of all places. This was not a humorous story. It was not even a college story. They got around that by putting a rather sexy cartoon right with my story. It had nothing to do with the story. It was a magazine called SCOP. That's what I did at UCLA.
Did you meet up with your father after you got out of the camps?
Yes, yes. That I did. I was living in L. A. and he was in a sanitarium in Weimar, which is in Northern California. I made quite a few bus trips at night, Greyhound bus trips. Every time I see a Greyhound bus, I remember those days when I used to ride the bus at night, sleep on the bus and wake up in the morning and be in Sacramento. Then I'd take another bus to Weimar, which was another couple of hours, maybe an hour and a half, hour. But yes, I met and visited him and he came out one time and stayed for a week or so.
Do you recall the first time you saw him after four years?
Yeah, yes, I do.
Can you tell us about what you remember?
Well, I have a picture of him as we left and the patients there always wore a bathrobe. So there he was in a maroon bathrobe as we drove off. That was the last time we would see him for four years almost. I have a visual memory of that but when I met him, I don't have a picture. Yeah. He wished that we had been in the army and we could come back on a furlough and visit him, you know, and he could tell people, well I have a son who is serving in the U.S. Army. But we weren't. So he missed that, I think, at least to make it easy for himself. I mean, here were white doctors and white nurses, and how they treated him, I don't know. It couldn't have been great, it wasn't, probably. He had a smoking habit and he finally got emphysema as well as his TB and that's how he died.
Did you tell your children about your story?
Yes, we did. They were hardly attentive about it for a long, long time until they were probably out of college and then they realized what we had been through. We talked about the camp and now they admit that we always talked about it. Some people didn't. They never heard about the camps, I mean the kids, because the parents never talked about it. So they hear it through others like us. We've been talking about it for a long time. No, we always talked about it. That's maybe because in 1975 when the students at UC Berkeley wanted to know about the history of the camps, and so I was asked to speak in December of 1974. I went over there and I gave a talk and that was the beginning.
After that I gave the same talk to a community in San Francisco. Then after that in 1975 I went to the second pilgrimage to Tule Lake. That's when I wrote my long Tule Lake poem. I've been talking about it, and reading the poem. The poem, I'm pretty tired of it, I've read it so many times. My son, who writes, did the play, wrote the play by doing research, by interviewing people like us, and by reading. It's amazing what he's done, built a story around the songs of the period, the 40's songs. The point of the show is to thank those of us who went through the experience and went through the experience of post-war. That's another period where we had to struggle to rebuild our lives. And we could go into that now.
Unfortunately, we are going to have to pick that up the next time we get a chance to meet.
The best if yet to come!
Unfortunately we have to stop, it feels like we are stopping in the middle but we hope to be able to continue at some point next year.
That's fine - I hope I'm still living!