June 6, 2018 NS: Nuiko Shimozaki, Stockton, California TC: Tilden Chao, Ithaca, New York
TC: Where were you interned during World War II? NS: Tule Lake. TC: How old were you when you were interned? NS: Eight years old. TC: Were you at Tule Lake because your family responded "no; no" to the Loyalty Oath? NS: No, we just were shipped there originally. First of all, we were in Walerga, California, for a few weeks, and then we were shipped to Tule Lake, California, on a train.* *Walerga, California is located very close to Sacramento. Around 4,984 Japanese Americans from the Sacramento area were interned at Tule Lake, more than from any other region. (1)
The Tule Lake internment camp is located just south of the California-Oregon border.
TC: What were you allowed to bring with you to camp when you were taken away? NS: Very little clothing because we were only allowed two suitcases per person. That I know because my Auntie used to tell me this. TC: Do you remember what you did when you were interned? Did you go to elementary school? NS: We went, but it wasn't right away. There was a lapse. I can't remember what the time lapse was. What we did was we played a lot, because we were just kids. TC: You mentioned that you went to Walerga before Tule Lake. What did you do there? NS: There was a Relocation Center there, right near Sacramento, California. Then we were shipped to Tule Lake. The train ride to Tule Lake was during the night and we were required to keep our shades down. That's all I remember. I don't know why we kept the shades down, but I think that they were afraid that we would see things. TC: When you arrived at Tule Lake, what were living conditions like? NS: Well, it was just one room, and that was it. It had a furnace. That was it--only basic necessities. TC: Was it well-built? NS: Some of the floor panels had some gaps, and it wasn't insulated by any means. I think they call it tar-and-paper on the outside. It would be very cold, so we were constantly burning this huge--not a furnace--but a stove. TC: Do you remember if the officials and teachers at Tule Lake were kind to you? NS: Well, the teachers were. And there were guards all around the facility. TC: Could you tell me a little about this school? NS: Well, our teachers were also interned in the Relocation Centers, in the camps. They taught us according to our grades. They were Japanese-American. We learned in English. We went to Japanese school to learn Japanese. I think that they were qualified teachers. TC: Do you remember the climate at Tule Lake? NS: It was very cold during the winter. We had snow. During the summer, it was rather warm. It wasn't hot, but it was very warm*. *It is interesting to note that many Americans would consider Tule Lake's climate to be rather harsh. Summers were hot, and winters were very cold. However, on the whole, the climate could be considered only moderately harsh compared to other concentration camps. (1) TC: During the winters, you said that it got very cold. Were you supplied with blankets and jackets, or did you have to buy those things yourself? NS: We were given blankets for our beds, but that was it. It was a green, very rough blanket. I didn't think it was very comfortable. TC: Even from that young age, did internment feel wrong to you and make a significant impact on you psychologically? NS: No, it didn't. I had fun because there were a lot of kids. We were on what you call "blocks." On every block, there were families with kids. We played a lot. We played games like--you probably don't know--Eenie Einie--was where you'd throw the ball over the roof and catch on the other side. TC: In general, what do you remember about life in camp? You mentioned the conditions and the games you played--do you remember anything else? NS: Well, there were guards all around the camp. Some days, it was very windy. It was very windy in Tule Lake. We didn't dare go near the guard towers because we were told that we would get shot*. *Tule Lake was commonly considered to be one of the most heavily guarded camps in the United States. After the Loyalty Oath that separated "no; no" Japanese from those who said "yes; yes," guard towers at Tule Lake increased four-fold and military battalions with armored cars appeared for the first time. Since Tule Lake was segregated and housed only "undesirable" and "unloyal" Japanese internees (determined by their responses to the Loyalty Oath), the government decided to suppress any thought of uprising. (1)
Internees arrive at Tule Lake. (2)
TC: Do you remember what the mess hall was like? NS: I don't remember that, but I know we went. I thought that all the cooks were Asian, but that I don't remember for sure. TC: When did you leave camp? NS: Let's see: when I was 11. TC: What did you realize you missed the most when you were given back your freedom? NS: You know, I really don't know! I was too young to realize many things. TC: Let's transition to your experiences after camp. Did you feel a stronger connection to other Japanese people after you were released? NS: No, because even in school, we went to this country school, and it was predominantly Japanese. We didn't feel any discrimination there, you know. TC: I imagine that you had a house and maybe even a business. How did your family deal with property loss? NS: My dad was a foreman on a farm, so we had a house. It wasn't there when we came back because it wasn't a house that we had to sell because it belonged to the farmer who owned the farm. My father then went to this farm [after the war] where he was a farm foreman, where they provided us with a home. TC: Did your dad stay in agriculture for the rest of the years after internment? NS: Yes. TC: Do you feel that your family experienced significant property loss from internment? NS: No, not property loss. But financially, my father used whatever savings he had in camp to buy little things for us. TC: What were those little things? NS: Well, like clothing, and you know, there was a store that sold candies and ice creams, so he would, you know. TC: Do you blame FDR for internment? NS: I know my husband did, but I can't say. I think that it was the general atmosphere, you know. Of the time. And they felt that we would do harm, I guess, because we were Japanese and we'd do harm to the nation. TC: Did you receive reparations in 1988? NS: Yes, my husband and I did. But my folks--it was too late for them, so they received nothing. TC: After you received that $20,000 from the government, did it influence your opinion about the government? NS: No, it didn't influence it. TC: Do you think that was a decent apology for what the government did, or did you feel that something was missing still? NS: Well, you know, I don't think it was enough, just to supply us with money. There was President Reagan who apologized. But, right now, I feel that kids in school should be taught more about what we went through. I'm quite aware that it isn't taught in school because my grandchildren were not taught at all, as far as I can remember. TC: How old are your grandchildren? NS: One is out of college and working; the others are in college now. They went to school in California. TC: Have you forgiven the government for interning Japanese Americans? NS: Yes, there's no sense in continuing to carry around bitterness. I see the Japanese Americans doing well today.
"There's no sense in continuing to carry around bitterness."
TC: Well, I've asked this question a lot: Asians have risen to a very high place in society on the whole. They have the highest per-capita income, longest lifespans, and highest graduation rates, of all racial groups on average, in the country. What part of the culture was conducive to success? NS: Well, I think that the Japanese worked very hard and worked to get a good education. TC: Are you a part of any organization for Japanese Americans? NS: Well, I have joined the Japanese-American Citizen's League (JACL). It fights discrimination. I'm not really active, but somewhat. I kind of donate sometimes, and I help with whatever they're doing. TC: Are you proud to be American? NS: Yes. TC: Do you feel appreciated by other Americans? NS: Yes, I think so. TC: What can the United States learn about Japanese internment? NS: Well, I think they learned that the Japanese Americans were very loyal to the United States. TC: Did your family have strong cultural connections to the United States? NS: No. My dad was an Issei and my grandparents were Issei, so we had a more Japanese cultural influence. TC: Would you like to tell me anything you found interesting about your own experiences? NS: Well, not really, but my sister-in-law says that she has some materials, and if you'd like them, she can send them to you. They're about Japanese internment. TC: That would be really wonderful. Thank you so much!