October 14, 2012 by Admin
By Yvonne Nimnitch
Author’s Note: The following is based on an interview and written from the narrator’s point of view.
I can still hear my mother’s voice calling out, “Okaerinasai (Welcome backhome)!” from the top of the stairs as my siblings and I ran up and, in unison, shouted, “Tadaima (We are home)!”
My mother was born in Fukuoka, Japan, and came to Stockton, California, when she was a little girl.
My mother married my father who is also from Fukuoka-Ken.
My father came to America when he was 19 years old, and the go-between felt heand my mother were a good match after checking their family lineage, a customary thing to do back then.
I was born in 1918 and grew up in Berkeley. I attended Whittier Elementary School, Garfield Junior High School, and graduated from Berkeley High School.
College education was out of question, since I was a girl.
When I turned nineteen, my relative suggested I meet and possibly marry a man who was 30 years old. He was too old, and I refused to meet him.
My mother said, “Atoga tsukaeru (You are causing a bottleneck),” meaning since I was the oldest, I needed to marry so my younger sister could follow.
Introduced by Nakoodo-san (matchmaker), I met my husband in 1938. He was tall and handsome, had a car with rumble seats, and he was a year older than I.
He called on me for dates after he cleared his requests with my family. He was studying to be a Buddhist minister but decided not to pursue it.
Just before World War II, we became engaged and married. I was 24 years old.
When the executive order was issued, I had to get ready for the pending move. I remember packing kimonos, dishes, and pots and pans into a koori container. We were sent to Tanforan Assembly Center and stayed in one of the horse stalls that
lined the race track.
I remember being told, “Do not lean against the wall. The whitewash will stain your clothes.”
In our stall, a bachelor shared the room with us. I was young and did not feel the suffering the elders felt.
We accepted and made the best of the situation. I was, after all, a newlywed.
For our meals, we each took a cup and a plate, lined up, and were served bland food under the grand stand.
As time passed, many shacks were built on the grassy field in the middle of the horse track.
We, along with my parents, were then transferred to a prison camp in Topaz, Utah. Once settled, I found out I was pregnant with my first child.
At some point, my parents were sent to Tule Lake along with my sister and her husband. We were to be transferred to Tule Lake as well, but because of the pending birth, we stayed in Topaz, a remote desert that stretched for miles into nowhere.