History of Japanese Americans in Texas: Mas and Lily Yamasaki

Mas and Lily Yamasaki

Mas Yamasaki was born in Sacramento, California in 1919. After winning the 1938 Northern California JACL District Council public speaking contest, he advanced to the national contest, where Lily Egusa was working for the JACL president. While he did not win the national prize, he began a relationship with Lily and in 1941, convinced her to move to Monterey. They married in 1942.

Not long after, Mas and Lily were interned by the U.S. government along with approximately 120,000 other Japanese-Americans during the Pacific War. The newly married couple was sent to Tule Lake camp, where Mas Yamasaki served as social activities director, organizing concerts and beauty pageants, while Lily worked as a dance teacher. Despite their efforts to enliven the community, the Yamasakis still looked back at the camps with horror. In a 1995 interview for the Houston Chronicle, Mas Yamasaki said, “We were young, we could have done so much. It was quite an experience. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.” A more in depth retelling of the 1995 interview is viewable below.

In 1943, Mas and Lily left the camp and moved to Dayton, Ohio, where Mas would eventually become a distribution manager for Borden Dairy while Lily worked as a secretary for the Church Federation. The couple helped found the Dayton chapter of JACL and played golf with their friends from the chapter. In 1984, they moved to Houston, where Mas launched a local golf tournament named the Houston Caper. To see further information on the golf tournament, there is an article below which discusses its creation.

Yamasakis and WW2

"Inside the Houston Caper"