The Matsushita Family
In the tradition-bound Japan of 1912, parents demanded complete obedience from their children, and gave their unmarried daughters little freedom. But despite this, Kiyoko, daughter of an elite family, was determined to flee what she considered the oppressive culture of her native land and make a new life for herself in the wilds of America. She came to Wapato, in the midst of a vast dry dusty valley, and perhaps found more hardship than she was expecting. Things she had taken for granted in her privileged life in Japan were now luxuries, if they were available at all. But, like a true pioneer, she stayed.
And then she met and married Yasutaro Matsushita, who had arrived in Brownstown, near Wapato, in 1905. They settled on 80 acres of Yakama Indian Reservation land, which they cleared of sagebrush and rocks and turned into a farm where they raised alfalfa, grain, melons, and tomatoes. They had two daughters, Amy and Kara. This was the good life they had come here to find.
This comfortable life was destroyed when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Daughter Kara was in her 20s in June of 1942 when her family was transported, with the rest of the Yakima Valleyâ€™s Japanese-American population, to the assembly center in north Portland, Oregon. For the rest of her life, Kara vividly remembered the sound of the steel gates clanging shut behind them.
From there, they were sent to the relocation camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Of the years she and her family spent at the camp, Kara said, "I used to cry every night. Not because it was happening to me. But because it was happening."
She was one of the few allowed to leave the camp before the war ended. In 1943, she was released and allowed to travel to Chicago to marry Takashi Kondo. Now a soldier in the U.S. army, Tak had lived near Kara and her family in Wapato. He was stationed in Louisville, Kentucky; this is where the young couple set up their first home. They returned to Wapato once the war ended. Her parents, Kiyoko and Yasutaro, released from Heart Mountain, also returned. The family was hoping to pick up their lives where they had left off three years before, but her parents suffered greatly from the displacement and soon passed away.
Tak eventually became a pharmacist; he and Kara had two children. They moved from the lower Valley to a home in Terrace Heights, east of Yakima.
Kara Matsushita Kondo spent the rest of her years educating people about the Japanese internment. The experience left her with many memories but no bitterness, and it was always her wish that people would not forget that it occurred. She offers her experiences for you to listen to and remember.