Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community

Packing and what students think – Matsue Watanabe (OH0063)


I felt a little strange thinking, wondering what our friends in the class were thinking about it. And, because we felt quite humiliated that we would have to leave when we didn’t do anything. And, but it was… and of course, Bainbridge being the first groups to go, it was a very new experience for everyone. And, so leaving school was very difficult because you were worried about what the other students thought about you. And I guess that’s the main thing that was foremost in my mind, that we hope that they didn’t think we were bad people. Whereas we were placed to look like bad people.

We only took what we had to take, ’cause we only had one suitcase that we can take. And, of course, in that suitcase you’re trying to put maybe a sheet or so, that you can have for sleeping. And the rest is your clothes and your shoes. And so you’re not taking any toys or anything like that. You might — and I don’t recall if I put any books in there. Like, it would be only schoolbooks that you would put in there if you did take any books because one suitcase for the rest of your life, that we thought, isn’t a lot of space to put things. And that’s the way we traveled, and with a tag on the suitcase and a tag on our body. And of course everybody wore their best clothes because they didn’t want to put it in their suitcase. And I remember, you know, my girlfriend, one of my girlfriends now, she sees the pictures of my sister and us walking down the dock and she could see that they’re dressed up and they have hats on and everything. And she says, “Why did you dress up to go to camp?” And I said, “Well, we had no place else to put it except on our body, because you had one suitcase to carry.” So, the good clothes you wore.

Video Interview — October, 2006
To see this interview in its entirety, go to the Densho website archives. You will have to register to be allowed access to their archives. Once in the archive, visit the Visual History Collections: Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community Collection.

Matsue Watanabe

Matsue Nishimori Watanabe was 15 years old, in the 9th grade, when she was evacuated. She is the second youngest of six children. The Nishimori family did not move with most of the Bainbridge Islanders to Minidoka. They stayed in Manzanar. When the government started to allow the Japanese Americans to leave camp to travel east, Matsue's older brother and sisters moved to the Chicago area. When she was 18 years old, she moved to Evanston, IL to finish her last year of high school. She lived with a sponsor family.