Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Junkoh Harui Interview
Narrator: Junkoh Harui
Interviewer: Donna Harui
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date: July 31, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-hjunkoh-01-0001

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DH: I'm talking with my father, Junkoh Harui for the Densho Project at Bainbridge Gardens, and today is July 31, 1998. So we'll start with when your father first came to America. What year did Zenhichi come to America?

JH: 1908.

DH: And first he arrived in San Francisco.

JH: That's correct.

DH: And then Bainbridge Island. What was his reason for coming to America?

JH: Basically, it stems from way back in the history of Japan. As you know, Japan was an isolationist philosophy for many years, until Commodore Perry came to visit Japan in 1954, or 1854, excuse me, and they met with the Emperor and they made a treaty. And the isolationist philosophy ceased from that period.

DH: And then, your personal history is that, Zenhichi was one of many brothers. How many in the family?

JH: There were five brothers in the family, yes.

DH: And, how did he decide to come to America? What were his personal circumstances?

JH: Well, of course, with the Meiji Restoration period in Japan, they went into heavy industrialization. And my father and his siblings were orphaned during a great flood in Japan, and so they were, all of 'em were farmed out to different families. And of course, with the Meiji Restoration there was a thought of heavy industrialization, so they taxed the farms very heavily, which caused a strain on the farm family. And so a lot of the young men that lived in Japan could not find work, especially orphaned men, so they discovered the fact that they could seek their riches in this grand, great country called America. So there was a tremendous exodus of young men that left Japan, and they left and primarily arrived on the shores of Hawaii, but quite a few of 'em went to America, and to South America.

DH: And what was your grandfather's brother's name, your uncle?

JH: Zenmatsu.

DH: Zenmatsu Seko.

JH: Seko, yes.

DH: And why was his last same Seko?

JH: Because when you marry the eldest daughter of an all-girl family, then in order to retain the family name they took the woman's name.

DH: So Zenmatsu Seko came to America first, and then as I understand it Zenhichi followed him.

JH: That's right, he preceded my father. I think, basically the reason they arrived in Bainbridge Island was because of the Port Blakely mill, which was the largest mill in the world at one time. And the reason it was the largest mill in the world was there was huge timbers that existed, the virgin timbers, that were well over 6 feet in diameter, and it was a great source for lumber. And of course, it was sited on the north side of the Port Blakely harbor, and ships from all over the world would come in, including ships from Japan.

DH: So they both were employed at the mill for a while?

JH: Yes. They were both employed at the mill for rather a short period of time. They became disenchanted with the working conditions and the wages, and so they started to farm near New Brooklyn Road, which is only about a mile from the Bainbridge Garden site.

DH: Did they, did he ever describe what life was like at the mill for a couple of bachelors from Japan?

JH: I never had a conversation about the mill itself, or his role in the mill, but I have some documented photographs that he did work as a laborer in the mill. But I never had any conversations about his life at the mill.

DH: My understanding from what I've read is that it was a pretty rough place.

JH: Yes, it was.

DH: The mill was rough for Japanese, and even the living conditions were pretty rough. A lot of 'em took to gambling and those sorts of things. Did he ever comment on that, or have you hear stories about that?

JH: Yes, I have heard stories about gambling going on practically every night. And I don't know whether it was a source of entertainment or what it was, but my father was dead set against any type of gambling, so he didn't partake in that.

DH: Was he Buddhist?

JH: Yes, he was.

DH: Very religious man?

JH: To some extent. I think in most cases those individuals spent most of their time working, so they had very little time for any other religious studies, or for education, or any of those types of activities. They practically worked seven days a week, and many long hours per day.

DH: So after working at the mill for a short period of time, then what did they do?

JH: After the mill life? Well, they started a farm in nearby New Brooklyn Road, and they raised produce basically, but they had a great crop of what they call Olympic berries. And they would sell them to the Olympic Hotel in Seattle, and that was one of their big cash crops. But otherwise, they raised vegetables and they sold them in a produce stand. In fact, they even went to the Pike Street Market to sell their produce as many farmers did, and then they branched out into a greenhouse operation.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.