Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Arthur Ogami Interview
Narrator: Arthur Ogami
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: March 10, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-oarthur-01

<Begin Segment 1>

AI: So today is March 10, 2004 and I'm Alice Ito with Densho. Dana Hoshide is the videographer. We're here at the Densho studio in Seattle with Arthur Ogami. Thanks very much for being with us today. And I wanted to start with a couple basic questions. And when and where were you born?

AO: I was born and raised in Whittier, California, April 10, 1922.

AI: And what name were you given when you were born?

AO: Arthur Mitsuru Okami.

AI: And maybe I would just ask you a little bit about your family background. What was your father's name and where did he come from in Japan?

AO: My father's name was Nintaro Ogami, is his correct name, and he was born and raised in the city of Fukuoka. And at that time, the village he was born in was Hibaru. And that was the, outside the city limits at the time.

AI: So he grew up more in the countryside at that time?

AO: Yes. His father had rice paddy, approximately four tan at the time. And my father came to United States 1917, and he worked as a houseboy in Whittier. And then he started a gardening, landscape gardening business and that's what he (was) doing up to the time of the evacuation.

AI: Did he ever tell you why he decided to immigrate to the United States?

AO: I think he didn't tell me exactly, but the main reason, I think, was to earn money to be used when he returned to Japan. And he had a brother, younger brother that went to Peru and then -- which would be my uncle -- and my uncle went to Peru approximately during the year 1926 and he remained there until he died. And also he taught the Japanese language, but his main source of income was raising chickens in Peru. [Narr. note: Later I was told that my uncle was sent to Crystal City, Texas.]

AI: And was your father the oldest son in his family?

AO: Yes, he was.

AI: What about your mother? What was her name, and where was she from?

AO: My mother's name was Tane. T-A-N-E, and her maiden name is (Shinozaki)

AO: Yes, Shinozaki. It slipped my mind at the moment. [Laughs]

AI: And she's also from Fukuoka area?

AO: Yes. She's from Fukuoka. And I believe that she's from Itoshimagun, and that's, that's where she was born.

AI: Do you happen to know how your parents met and got married?

AO: Evidently they were sort of -- and most marriages in Japan are matched marriage. And in my father's case it was not a picture bride. She's... lots of bachelor, Japanese men in the United States were picture brides.

AI: So were your parents married before immigrating to the United States, or did your father go back to Japan to get married, do you happen to know?

AO: That's correct. My father did go back to Japan to get married and then after the marriage they both came to the United States.

AI: Well, and so then, you were saying that they were in the Whittier area in their early years in the United States?

AO: Early years when they first arrived from, to United States, they lived in nearby town of, I think, Wintersburg, that's just next to Fullerton in the Anaheim area. And I really don't know what kind of work he was doing there, but later on he did do houseboy work. And I think when we moved to Whittier he was, had already established a gardening route.

AI: So tell me about your sisters and brother.

AO: I have a --

AI: When they were born, and their names?

AO: Yes. My older sister was, Anna was her English name, and Masako was her name at the time -- that's, was given to her at the time she was born. And my younger sister was Grace Kiku and my brother was Benjamin, I can't quite remember his... it's quite... I know it. It'll come out in time. [Narr. note: Mizuchi.]

AI: And I think you said that your older sister was born the year before you, is that right?

AO: Yes, just --

AI: In 1921?

AO: Yes, 1921. And my younger sister 1923 and my younger brother was (1924 or 1925), I think.

AI: Or, let's see, your younger brother was 1920... 1925?

AO: Oh, I'm sorry.

AI: Benjamin --

AO: 'Cause my sister was '21. Yep, '25, that'd be correct.

AI: Right.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

AI: Well, now tell me about your name. You said that your name was...

AO: Arthur, I was born as Arthur Mitsuru Okami.

AI: And do you know how you got the name Arthur?

AO: My father was a Christian man and he believed in Christianity. And that's why each of us children were given a Christian name. And I think that's through, the decision was made through his Christian friends that he knew.

AI: Do you happen to know if he was a Christian when he was growing up in Japan, or did he convert later after coming to the U.S.?

AO: I'm not quite sure, but possibly when he arrived in United States. That's why he would... he read a lot of religious books that I know of.

AI: Well, so then, tell me, how did you communicate at home with your parents? When -- I'm talking about before you started grade school. Did you speak mostly in Japanese?

AO: Oh, it was very mixed, yes. It was like my mother would say, "Sutoa ite pan katte kudasai." And then she would give us some money to buy the bread. And so the subject will be in Japanese and the verb -- Japanese and English -- but the verb will be in Japanese, like, "You go to the store and buy meat," or whatever.

AI: And how would you answer back? Would you answer in Japanese or English or both?

AO: As much Japanese as we understood to say, but mainly in broken Japanese and English.

AI: Well, and then, so your older sister would have started school the year before you did?

AO: Yes.

AI: And do you have memories of when you started going to school?

AO: I do. I remember kindergarten very well. And my kindergarten teacher's name was... oh, I'm gonna have to think again. It'll come up. I remember her definitely because my father did take care of her yard... Miss Cook, Lydia Cook was the name of my kindergarten teacher. And I remember going to her house. She had a nice, beautiful house in East Whittier. And she did own a orange grove. And the man that was helping her taking care of the orange grove was Joe Stritmatter. And we were, known him for a good many years. And Vinci, the Green family was also associated with Joe Stritmatter. And Joe Strimatter married the younger daughter of the Green family. And the Greens had a hundred-acre or ninety-acre ranch in Fallbrook. And Joe Stritmatter, after marrying, marrying Green, had, looked after the ranch for the Green family. And we'd been at the farm. And we used to stay at their ranch house on the trips that we used to make to San Diego and Tijuana. And I was probably around eight or nine years old at the time.

AI: So why would you be going to San Diego or Tijuana? Was it a vacation?

AO: Yes.

AI: Or work for your father or...

AO: Yes. No, it's not work, it was just going on a vacation. And I remember my father stopped -- we'd go down with another families. And the other family was (Kanno) in Santa Ana. And they grew asparagus. And so we'd get together in a Model T Ford, go down Highway 101, and we stopped in Tijuana one time and our friend didn't have a passport with him so they couldn't go into Tijuana, but just outside in San Ysidro. And my mother was looking for a place to buy ice cream and there was no ice cream available at that time.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

AI: Well, so you were saying that you communicated with your parents in mixed Japanese and English.

AO: Yes.

AI: And I'm wondering, as a child, did you do much interpreting for them or did your mother and father speak enough English to get along?

AO: Evidently they were able to make themselves understood. But there were times as we grew older, if we were in the store we would tell the clerk what my mother wanted. And she did tell me one time she was giving us a birthday party so she asked the clerk for balloon. And the clerk came out with a broom to sweep with. And she says, "No, not a broom, I want a balloon." So finally she had to hold up her hand, "Balloon, balloon." [Laughs] [makes blowing sound]. And so finally she was able to buy some balloons to use at the birthday party.

AI: Oh, that is funny. Well, I also wanted to ask if you recall yourself as a young child, having any trouble with English or learning English in your first early days in school.

AO: I didn't have that much difficulty speaking English because all my friends, school friends were all Caucasians and we lived in an area of Whittier where it's just all Caucasians. And most of the Japanese families were living in an area called Blue Hill and that was farming, mainly farming, vegetable farms, truck farms, and flowers. And they had a Japanese school there, Japanese community where you can go to learn the Japanese language there. But my parents didn't have enough income for us to go to school, and beside, it was quite a ways from our house to Blue Hill.

AI: So, we're talking about the 1920s now.

AO: Yes.

AI: And in those days the area where you lived and around Whittier was, looked quite a bit different than now. When you think back to the 1920s and you were in grade school, what do you recall about the way your neighborhood looked?

AO: As I recall, at the time when I was growing up in Whittier, and the way it looked today, the only change that I saw -- I did go back couple years ago to see how our house looked -- and the house is still there but it had been remodeled inside and the outside had been painted sort of a pink. And I wish they would have retained the exterior white paint that it originally had. The neighborhood, there were some houses were completely demolished and rebuilt and they put apartment buildings and it doesn't look the same.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: Well, now moving into the 1930s, that's the time of the Great Depression. And I'm wondering how did, or did the Depression affect your family and you?

AO: Depression did affect my father, because due to his income he did lose quite a few clients, I mean, customers as... and so, so he quit doing the gardening and moved to Montebello. And in Montebello was a nursery called the Star Nursery and Mr. Uyematsu was the owner and he was quite successful so he worked for them, working in the nursery for twenty-five cents an hour. And my mother also worked and her pay was, I believe about twelve cents an hour. And we, as a kid I would pull weeds in the pots and put 'em aside. I was paid two cents an hour. I do remember that. And that was, see, I was about twelve at that time. So that would be... 1934, '35. And then I was... I went to school in Montebello.

AI: And when you were going to school in Montebello, was that a junior high school or a... were you still, did you have a grammar school through eighth grade?

AO: Yes, elementary school. I was, I went to seventh grade and eighth grade, and from eighth grade I did go to Montebello High School freshman year. And I was there for about, about six months, then my parents moved back to Whittier.

AI: Well, when you were in Montebello, what was the ethnic composition of that area compared to the all-Caucasian area that you had lived in before?

AO: In Montebello there was lot of nurserymen. I remember the Mori family. They had a very successful nursery. Zima and the Zima, the daughter had a florist shop on Beverly Boulevard. I do remember that. There was other large nurseries called Wilcox and there was a street named after the Wilcox Nursery. And there was a Howard and Smith Nursery and they were very successful. And they had large areas where they grew bird of paradise, that were huge clumps of bird of paradise. I remember that.

AI: The color must have been really vivid.

AO: Yes. It was beautiful. Then in the hills of Montebello were oil derricks and it was pumping oil out of that area. And I remember one day I went, climbed the top of the oil derrick and it was, I was quite nervous walking around on the top, but I did come down okay.

AI: Well, so tell me, at these nurseries in the Montebello area, did they employ very many Japanese?

AO: They were run by, owned by Japanese.

AI: Oh, they were?

AO: Yes. And they hired, if they could, Japanese. But I do remember using the, they hired Mexican laborers. I remember talking to them and...

AI: Had you met very many Mexicans or Mexican Americans before then?

AO: Oh yes, even at school back in Whittier. And then, in 1936 we, my parents moved back to Whittier. In the meantime they did, rented, rent the house out that we had in Whittier. But we moved back. And then we stayed at the house. The address was 333 South Noland. And...

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

AI: And then, so you continued your high school in Whittier?

AO: Yes. I went through freshman and graduated in 1940.

AI: Well, I wanted to ask you about high school because in high school years, that's a time when a lot of kids are, well, you're growing up. You're a teenager. And I was just wondering, how did you think of yourself at that time? Did you consider yourself an American or Japanese, or both?

AO: Well, I would say I'd considered myself both, 'cause my mother always talked to me about, as a family. And she talked and said that, "I'd like you to preserve the family name. Do not smear the name because the name is important and money cannot buy your family." And so she said that if you lived in Japan, and if you commit a crime, that crime will be registered on the family register in red ink. She called it akaji. And so I still remember that. And I would never do anything to smear the Japanese, our Japanese name.

AI: Well, tell me more about what was important to your parents, things that your mother or your father wanted you to know about or emphasized to you.

AO: I learned to work and not depend on the community for welfare. And that, being the oldest son -- the oldest living son -- my mother did have a boy earlier and I think he was born, I think the year 1919 and died probably about a year later. And his grave is, still is in Anaheim. And we did go and visit his grave. Then my mother died later of... and she wanted to be buried near the first-born son. So she's buried in the same cemetery, but in a different area 'cause the baby is buried in the baby section. And then we have other friends that we have made, also have, there's a baby there. And a close friend of the family during that time while I was growing up was Obas, and they have a baby buried there and we visit that, that site, too.

AI: So you grew up knowing that there was a baby who had died but you actually were then the oldest living son.

AO: Yes.

AI: So you had some extra responsibilities.

AO: That's true. And they kept telling me that chonan is responsible for the family name. And I had also thought to myself that I would take care of the family when they needed.

AI: Well, as you were growing up, did you have an -- or did your parents plan to return to Japan? Seeing as your father himself was an oldest son. So, as you were growing up, did they talk about going back to Japan or moving the family there?

AO: They had, my impression is that they did want to go, return to Japan, in time. And since my father had -- he did buy back the mortgage on the farm. So he felt that he could go back and reclaim the farm.

AI: But it would've been difficult to do that in the '30s as you were saying earlier.

AO: Yes, that's true. His income with his gardening route was not sufficient to be... short of being well-off and that's why I went to work. They asked me --

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

AI: Tell me about that, about the work you did while you were in high school.

AO: My parents asked our friend, who had a fruit stand in uptown Whittier, and so I began working for him. I would work an hour before going to school and that's -- the school was dismissed at 3:15 and that took fifteen minutes to get to work, which was about four blocks that... and 3:30 until closing time I would work in the, after school, and all day Saturday. And my salary was eight dollars a week. And my homework, I couldn't do my homework because I'd be home late and so I couldn't study too well. My grades weren't the best, but they weren't that bad. [Laughs]

AI: Well, considering you had very little time to study.

AO: Yes. But I did learn to type.

AI: How did you, how did you come to take typing and learn how to type?

AO: Well, I thought that, I knew the college prep would be difficult for me. So, I thought, "Well, I'll learn to type," because I took the commercial courses in high school, accounting, bookkeeping. And so that was one thing, I thought, well, if I typed, could type, I might be able to make a living. And, but my typing teacher was very good. And her name was Patricia Ryan. And that was her first year, 1936 was her first year to teach it for the high school. And she later on became very famous.

AI: And who did she become later on?

AO: After --

AI: Not who did she become, but what happened to her later on?

AO: [Laughs] Well, I graduated in 1940 and after graduation I went on to continue working in the fruit stand. And I didn't know about Patricia Nixon until after I came back to United States, and that was 1953. So I went, my first attempt was to see my school buddy. And so I knew where his house was because people at that time never moved. So I went to his house and his mother was still there. And then I asked about different teachers that I had at Whittier High School. And I mentioned about Patricia Ryan. And says, "Don't you know?" I says, "No, I don't know." And then he explained to me that she was Vice President Nixon's wife, married to, and living in Washington, D.C. and then he mentioned to me that in order to write to her, all you need to do is put "Residence of the Vice President" and it would get there, just say "Washington, D.C." And so I did write, and she responded in handwritten letter. And I still, I had that and I donated that letter to the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles. They have it now.

AI: That's quite a story, quite a coincidence. Well, I want to take you back to that time, back in high school and you were saying that you thought if you took typing and you took a commercial course that you might have some way to make a living. Did -- in high school, a lot of kids, that's what they're thinking about, how they're gonna make a living.

AO: Yes.

AI: And did you have anything in particular in mind or any particular hopes for your future work?

AO: Not at that time. But when I was studying bookkeeping, my bookkeeping teacher, Walt Wagner, liked the Japanese people and so he told me, he said, he says, "Art, if you want to succeed in bookkeeping, become a CPA." And I thought of that, but after graduating my parents moved to Glendale. I went to Glendale City College and I, I went to night school there, but it was so close, I didn't know, but the war broke out, Pearl Harbor. And so that stopped my education.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

AI: Well, before we get into the war years, let me ask you just a little bit more about Whittier High School. I'm wondering, in high school, were there very many other Japanese Americans, or other ethnic minorities beside yourself?

AO: Yes, there were some minorities. There was two Koreans, Florence Pak. There was one or two Chinese. Their last name was Wu. I remember Jimmy Wu. And I believe the girl was Helen Wu. Very few blacks, I don't remember any black students. There were a few Japanese. They came from their farm in Blue Hill and they would drive. They had, they had money enough to buy automobiles. And I remember one of 'em, the Nishio family. They were quite wealthy and they had this huge Chrysler Air Flow. They were rounded on the front and rounded on the back so you couldn't tell whether it was going forward or backwards. And I remember riding with them in that car. And, but, I still remember that they, the family. I did meet one of the Nishio brothers, lived in Pasadena. I did meet him. And I did meet Roy Nishio, which was the, one of the older brothers.

AI: Well, I was wondering, while you were at Whittier High School, did you ever feel prejudice against you because you were Japanese American?

AO: I didn't feel that. No. There was no prejudice at any time.

AI: So really, as you were growing up, you didn't face too much direct discrimination?

AO: No.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

AI: And then, as you were, say a senior in high school, I guess that would've been 1939 to '40, of course the war in Europe was going on.

AO: Yes.

AI: And the war in Asia. I was wondering, as a high-schooler, did you, were you very aware, much aware of the war, or had any thought that the U.S. might get into World War II at some point?

AO: No, I didn't. I was very much surprised... all the times I was growing up and in high school, I had no, no prejudice feeling towards me, and all my friends were mainly Caucasians. And then when we moved to Glendale, then I worked part-time at a fruit stand in Glendale. Then on Sunday, September -- December 7th, one, one man came up to me and says, "You know we're at war with Japan?" And I was very much surprised. He says, and he says, "We're at war with Japan, bang, bang." [Laughs] So I still didn't apprehend that we were, that Japan was at war with the United States. And then when I went home, then the radio, it was announced that U.S. was at war with Japan.

AI: What was your reaction when you heard that on the radio?

AO: It's just that, I didn't know what to do. I was devastated. And so all I could do was to, any instructions from the government, that's about all I had to wait for. And at that time we were living at 711 South Glendale Avenue in Glendale. And that's the main boulevard. And so we just waited for instructions, and the borderline was Glendale Avenue. On the east side I couldn't cross. There was a little momma/papa store across the street and we couldn't cross to that, to go to the store. And then my father was working, still had a gardening route in Whittier so had to go to Los Angeles at the attorney general's office and get a permit to go beyond the ten-mile radius. And so we would have that permit to do some work in Whittier and also he had some gardening routes in Glendale.

AI: Well, let me ask you, even before December 7th, do you think your parents had any idea that war between the U.S. and Japan might be coming? Maybe they read Japanese newspapers or heard through Japanese radio that diplomatic relations were getting worse. Do you think they had any idea that this might happen?

AO: I don't think they realized it because they made no preparation because of that incident. And I had no indication that there'd be a war.

AI: Although, let me ask you, I think, let's see... so before you graduated from high school you turned eighteen. Did you have to register for a selective service draft?

AO: Not at that time. And all I remember is that soon as, soon after Pearl Harbor attack, we had to register our cameras and any firearms that we had. And we had to discontinue our shortwave radio. And I don't think they confiscated our knives yet, but when we went into camp they took away all of our knives if you had 'em.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

AI: Well, in addition to registering your cameras and so forth, at some point you had to register as a family and get a family number?

AO: Yes.

AI: Is that right? Do you remember anything about doing that?

AO: Yes, I do, definitely. At our church we would -- I would volunteer to type. And each application of family, I would type their name and every item that was necessary to type in. And each application there was a number. Our family number was 3663. And that stayed with us all the way until we, we entered Japan.

AI: So, since you were active with your church, you were actually very involved in this family registration process.

AO: Yes, and we did fill out all the applications for every family in the community.

AI: What church was this?

AO: The church was named Mikuni Christian Church. It's a independent church.

AI: And were you active in other ways with the church before, before the war started?

AO: I would go to the service every Sunday, but there was a very nice elderly lady who volunteered to come to the church and she would have a Bible study at her home. Her name was Ms. Baker, Marie Baker. I do remember her name distinctly. And she was really good in teaching the Bible, I can remember. And then we had one little girl named Mariko and she couldn't say "Mariko," she said "Mary-ko." And this girl was a ticklish girl. She would giggle. And once she started giggling she couldn't stop. And I could still remember that. And I remember, at the last dinner, we had it at her home, and she prepared mutton. And when, this is first time I ever eaten mutton, and I looked down at the meat, lotta fat on it. And so I cut the fat away and I tried to eat the lean meat. And I took one bite... there's something about the odor of the mutton and I just couldn't eat it. But she was good enough to have the gathering and it's more like a family. And she was, she just wanted us to have the last meal before we departed. It was something to remember.

AI: Well, in fact, about when was it that you... well, when you were doing the registration, at that time that you were actually helping the families register, did you already know at that point that you were going to be forced to leave your homes?

AO: Oh, yes. That's the purpose, registration, is that it was preparing to keep track of all the families. And then after we all registered, then we got the orders to go to the point of assembly in Burbank.

AI: And before you went there, what did you and your family do to prepare?

AO: We were given orders to "carry only your belongings" and we were permitted to have one foot locker and one duffle bag, and that was all you could carry. So anything, your furniture or anything that you could not put in the duffle bag or foot locker had to stay behind. But we were fortunate enough to gather up all our furniture and we had Caucasian friends in Whittier and we took -- I had a trailer, so I pulled a trailer with all our household goods in it and took it to Whittier and stored 'em in the barn or garage which was available. And they were stored there. But when we, when I returned to United States, I couldn't find them. I couldn't locate 'em. And it didn't matter, but some our photograph albums were transferred to one fellow from this Congregational Church and I was able to retrieve the photo albums and I still have some of the pictures that were prewar pictures.

AI: Well, now what about the house in Glendale? Did your family own the house or renting it?

AO: We rent the house in Glendale, but the house in Whittier we did, were able to sell it, and minus the mortgage on it, I think my parents received about eleven, twelve hundred dollars. And at that time that was quite a bit of money.

AI: And why did they decide to sell? Were -- they must've been discussing what they thought was going to happen and --

AO: Yes. Well, we were already in Manzanar at the time.

AI: Oh, I see.

AO: And so, through our Caucasian friend, was a realtor. They took care of everything, even, even the car and trailer, they took it and kept it themselves. And then in time they felt that they should pay for it so we received money.

AI: But actually, before you left, at that time you had not yet sold the Whittier house?

AO: No.

AI: But you basically packed things up and left from the Glendale house.

AO: Yes. See, we had already moved to Glendale, evacuated there. The house was rented to a tailor, I remember. And I can't remember his name, but a man, I think he was Hungarian. And the name started with a "W" but I can't remember the name now. And they were good. They paid us the rent.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

AI: So you were saying that your gathering point for leaving was in Burbank?

AO: In Burbank, possibly the Department of Motor Vehicles parking lot.

AI: Tell me about that day that you're actually leaving and what happened and, where you went.

AO: We had packed all of our duffle bags and suit-, foot lockers and whatever we can carry on the trailer. And when we arrived there we unloaded everything from the trailer and then our friends, the Greens, drove the car away. They stayed there until we actually left. And then the bus, before the bus arrived there was a truck, and we loaded everything on the truck. And then after everything was on the truck, it left. Then the bus came, then we loaded, we got on the bus. And then after we were all on the bus, then we started out. And the route to Manzanar was going north to San Fernando and then little bit beyond San Fernando was the highway to Mohave and Lancaster, Palmdale. We went through that route which is now State Highway 14.

AI: What was your feeling as you were being loaded onto this bus and being taken away?

AO: Well, we're on the bus and moving. We didn't actually know where Manzanar was. We knew it was in Owens Valley, we heard about that, but we didn't know what we're gonna expect. But en route we all have to go what nature calls. So out in the middle of the desert the bus stops and they, they were announced that, "You can get off the bus." And as we got off the bus they handed us a roll of toilet paper. And then we went out and found, looked for a nice bushy sagebrush or whatever. And you can see... I don't know how many there were, went out in that area. You see heads of Japanese, black heads, hair, all over the place. And, but we had to be careful walking back. [Laughs]

AI: I'll say.

AO: It was humorous, but yet sad, because they couldn't stop at a service station. They couldn't accommodate all that people. So they, the military knew this, and that's why, I think, it was roll of toilet paper, each one, and then we got back on the bus, then we were handed a box lunch. And so we, I don't know about how clean our hands were, because there was no water to wash, but we ate our lunch. And I think the area was in what they call the Red Rock Canyon. And Red Rock Canyon is still there. And as you go through the highway it looked the same, there's no change in the viewing of the area. Then we continued north to Manzanar. And there was a police escort, MPs before and in front. I don't know how many buses, but I imagine it was probably, probably around ten buses. Then, when we entered Manzanar we go right through the, there's a firebreak and the bus stopped and then we all got off the bus in single file. And then we had to register. As we approached the registration table, they'll take your name down. And then they, the next table they give us two blankets and a bag. And the bag was heavy, it wasn't exactly canvas but real light canvas type of material. Then they say, "Over there is a pile of straw, so fill your bag with straw." So we go over, stuff the straw in the bag. And then we were assigned the rooms, barracks number, and I believe ours was 16, Block 16, Barrack, probably 3. And we had a middle, middle barrack. See, they have two apartments on each end that open, double doors that opens, and between they were larger. And each family was allotted one beam to so many persons. And so the middle, middle apartments were larger, so we had a family of six. So we went in there and there were canvas cots, and so we laid our bag of straw on the canvas cot and we had to pat 'em down so that they'd be even. And then later on a man and a little girl came and joined us. So, in our apartment, temporarily, we had eight. And so they hung blankets to separate the two families.

AI: So, really, you had one room --

AO: One room with eight people.

AI: -- with eight people.

AO: And, that particular room were, the maximum that they figured should have been for six. But we asked the gentleman about why he and this little girl. And he says, "My wife is, was left in Los Angeles because she was having a baby." And then as soon as she was able to be transferred to Manzanar they had more barracks completed so they were soon transferred.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: Well, that day that you left from Burbank and went to Manzanar, when was that that you entered Manzanar?

AO: April 28, 1942. That has never disappeared from my mind. The gentleman, the gentleman that we had to share the room with was Henry Yuge. He has now passed away. And strangely enough, I met a man named... was, his name was, I can't think... (Ted Hopkins) but anyways, I talked with him and he kept telling me that, about his father. And so I kept thinking, asking more questions about his father, and it turned out that his father was named Yuge and he was a brother to Henry Yuge. And in time, this man's name, and this man lives about half a mile from where we're living today.

AI: What a coincidence. Oh, my.

AO: I'll keep thinking and it'll come out.

AI: Well, April of 1942 you also turned twenty, twenty years old.

AO: Yes, I was twenty on April 10th. So I had turned twenty at the time I entered the camp.

AI: And with you were your parents and your older sister, a younger sister and brother, younger brother.

AO: Yes, at the time we entered the camp was, my father, my mother, older sister, myself, my younger sister and brother, younger brother, that's six.


AI: So, just before the break you were telling about a coincidence about a person who turned out to be the nephew of Mr. Yuge, who shared your room for a while in the beginning of, when you were first at Manzanar. And this man's name was Ted Hopkins?

AO: Yes, it was Ted Hopkins. And I met him in the neighborhood. And he was trying to find evidence of his father and his father's whereabouts. So during the conversation is that, it was quite a coincidence that his uncle was put in our room at the beginning, at the, the day that we entered Manzanar. And he told me that his wife was having a baby in Los Angeles so she was held back until the baby was born. And Henry Yuge had a little girl with him, their first daughter and so they stayed with, in our room until there was time a when Mr. Yuge's wife and baby were transferred and entered Manzanar. At that time there was more spaces, apartments ready for them to move in to, so they left and we were all to ourselves again.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: Well, tell me more about the early weeks and first few months in Manzanar. What were the conditions like for you? You described the room you lived in, what about other aspects of the camp?

AO: The other aspects was that we had a mess hall, a kitchen. And that's at the designated time they would ring a pan or anything to, because they didn't have a regular bell to ring, and so you'd hear a clatter of garbage cans clanging to tell us that it was time to go eat, so we all rush to the mess hall. But before the mess hall was open there was a long line anyways because everyone was pretty hungry. And so we lined up, go into the mess hall. They would hand out was the metal mess kits, we called 'em mess kits, and a metal cup to drink out of. So we have hot coffee and everything and then we'd try to drink out of that metal cup. [Laughs] It was kinda unpleasant, 'cause it's too hot to drink out of it.

AI: I bet it was.

AO: And I don't quite remember what kind of silverware we had, but they were metal so we'd scoop it out and... and then we'd sit down at these long bench tables and then when they said, ask for salt or pepper, instead of passing it down they'll throw it to you, so... [laughs] so there's a lot of humor at mess time. And as they stand in line to be served there would be the server standing there and they would scoop up something and instead of just tap it into your plate, just comically they would toss it in there. So we had fun and it wasn't all that bad in the camp.

AI: Were you living near other people from your neighborhood, or from your -- or people that you knew at all? Or were they mostly strangers to you?

AO: In the camp, majority of them were strangers. Some of the ones that were evacuated from Glendale, they were, they were pretty close, but entire camp, I never realized that there were so many Japanese people living in the area. In Manzanar the total population at the peak time was a little over ten thousand.

AI: So that's a fairly good size town.

AO: Yes, and one square mile.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: Well, tell me about, I know you had mentioned earlier that at some point you got a job and you were working in Manzanar.

AO: My first job was working in the freight department. And the freight department was, responsibility was any personal items that were shipped in from the outside to the camp, and they were addressed to the evacuees. So we get on this truck, load up with personal belongings and deliver to all the recipients. And the freight office, one of the chief clerk in the freight office was Yoshiko Mikami from Bainbridge Island. Maybe you might know her, or knew of her. And she would boss us around, but we had time, we had fun kidding back and forth. And, but, that was one reason why I come to Bainbridge Island because I knew them and I was hoping that I could reunite with 'em. And some of 'em I did. And liked the... I liked the island so much that we looked around, looking at houses for sale. And we purchased one. And we still have it on, to this day.

AI: Well, I wanted to ask you, since you were doing this delivery work, did that mean that you got to know the camp fairly well and going out to the different barracks and delivering the items around the camp, because that was a very large camp.

AO: Yes. It did help to meet other people and where they came from and what they were doing before the evacuation. I did other work, too. I did work at the hospital as an orderly. And that was my longest period of time and I worked as an orderly after going on the work furlough in Montana.

AI: Oh, well, tell me about the work furlough. How did that come up and what did you have to do in order to go out?

AO: Evidently the farmers needed help topping the beets. and so most of the young boys were inducted in the military service, so the sugar company had come to the camp to recruit help from the young boys. And so I volunteered. And the group that I volunteered with were six boys from Bainbridge Island. And there was another boy from Sacramento, and I was from Glendale. And we were the only two non-Bainbridge boys. There was Tosh Sakai, was one, there was one other one name of Sakuma, Ray Kitayama, and I don't remember the others offhand, but there were six from Bainbridge Island, a group of eight. And we went to Fairfield, Montana, to top beets. And that farm didn't have the best quality of beets. They were mixed from medium size to smaller size. And we would top the beets and throw 'em in the trough because this farmer had a beet loader. And their beet loader was, didn't work too well because of the beets were small and when they're loaded up it was pretty difficult, and beside, even though they could throw the beets, the farmer's truck broke down, the drive shaft broke so they had to go into Helena to get it... pull it back but that type of weld would not hold so it constantly broke down. So eventually we had to load it by hand. And that was my first experience on the farm. The Bainbridge boys were all farmers so they were used to laboring as a farmer.

AI: That must've been tough for you getting used to that.

AO: Oh, my back was really bad. And the beet knife has a hook on it and then at the handle it has a strap so you strap it to your wrist so that it won't fall off. And by the end of the day I was, I was pretty tired.

AI: So was that, probably the end of the summer or early fall, that you went out to Montana?

AO: No, it was fall, close to winter.

AI: Fall or later fall in 1942?

AO: Yes.

AI: About how long were you out there?

AO: We were out there at least a month, maybe a little longer. But it did snow and we were not too far from the Canadian border. And it's probably one of the first times I ever been working in the snow and it was cold.

AI: Well, why had... why did you decide to go out in the first place? Not everyone went out to work from camp.

AO: No. That's true. I went because I wanted to make a little bit more money. In the camp, a skilled worker was sixteen dollars a month, a professional was nineteen dollars a month, and a non-skilled worker was twelve dollars a month. So it was a time, a chance to get out. But I had fun.

AI: Was, you know, when you had, you had first come to Manzanar and you were describing the routine, the mess hall and the lines and the so forth... and I was just wondering, what, what was your feeling or reaction to being in the camp like that, before you had the chance to go out? What was your feeling?

AO: My feeling was that we were confined. And there was no way of going out of the camp at any time unless you were being relocated to go to a different, even go to school or some occupation. So I felt that while I'm in the camp I will do something, just to be doing something. And that's why I chose to work as an orderly in the hospital. I'm helping some people out. I met a boy that wanted to work in the hospital so, so I joined him and worked in the hospital.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

AI: So about when would that have been that you returned from the beet fields and then started in the hospital? Would that have been around Christmas time of '42? Or...

AO: Yes, it would be around that time. And when I came, returned from beet topping, I met this boy and he told me about the riot and that there was a few patients still in the hospital at the time.

AI: Who had been wounded --

AO: Wounded, yes.

AI: -- during the riot? So what did you hear about this riot?

AO: I heard about it after I returned from the beet topping and so this boy told me about the riot and the patients and some of 'em that were, that they were able to hide in the attic of the hospital so that they, the one that induced the riot would not get to them. And there were, I don't recall the number of persons that were transferred out to Death Valley and so they were protected there. And most of those were ones that were trying to help the government to reason with the people about what they need to do. And so those were the ones that were removed. And I don't think they ever came back to the camp.

AI: So, they were removed from Manzanar mainly for their own safety --

AO: Yes.

AI: -- because they had been helping the camp administration and there were some other people in camp who were very angry.

AO: Yeah, they were opposed to whatever, anything that the government wanted to do to them.

AI: And when you came back from the beet topping and you heard about this riot and about the people who were wounded, and the conflicts, what did you think?

AO: Well, I let whatever settled. I just wanted to start working as an orderly. And there were a few that, they used tear gas, some of 'em were, were, had effects of the tear gas, some had buck shots. And so I treated 'em, took care of them.

AI: Did you ever talk to them about what happened or how --

AO: Well, to me, I didn't ask them about what had actually happened because it was all over with and there were still problems in the camp. I would always hear from my parents about the, what we called, they called 'em inus, stool pigeons. That's, the Japanese call 'em inus and, but I didn't let that affect me. And whatever my parents wanted me to do, I did. So they wanted to go to Japan anyway. So...

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: Well, tell me more now about what your parents had been doing in camp because you had gone out to Montana and then you came back and then you were working in the hospital. During this time, these months in Manzanar, what were your parents doing?

AO: I don't recall my mother working in the... let's see, in Manzanar. My mother worked, got a job in the hospital mess hall. She was a, so she was considered kitchen worker. And for the convenience of the kitchen worker employees and the nurses, they were, they had Block 34 which much nicer barracks. They were newer barracks in Manzanar. So the whole family was transferred to Block 34. And my father was the landscape gardener and he had the responsibility to design and make the hospital garden at that time. And Anna Tamura, who works for the Department of Interior, National Park Service, has... I met her in Manzanar, one of the Manzanar pilgrimage. And she said that she had been assigned to restore the garden in Block 34 and the hospital garden. And I met her at the Manzanar pilgrimage, it will be about two years ago.

AI: Well, I heard that the garden at the hospital was quite beautiful, very nice. What's your memory of it?

AO: At the time that my father created it, I didn't think anything about it, just another garden. And I do remember he had a crew and they provided truck for him. And he'd go out to the foothills of the mountain to pick up rocks and trees, shrubs to use in the garden. And before the war I used to go with him in Whittier and he would, we'd go to different places to pick up rocks to use in his garden at that Whittier house.

AI: So to you, this was a normal procedure and it wasn't anything special to you because you had already worked with him?

AO: That's correct, yes. And he likes to pick up rocks and place 'em in a garden. I would watch him and he would look at it. And I feel that his knowledge of landscaping, he wasn't licensed here in the United States, but there was feeling in placing rocks. And there is, in a Japanese form of placing rocks, there is a meaning for it and you had to have your own feelings to place it.

AI: Well, I think it's quite interesting that he was actually provided the truck and the transportation to go outside the camp --

AO: Yes.

AI: -- to obtain these items for the garden.

AO: That's correct. And I went one or two times, with him, just to get out of... go outside.

AI: So this was quite a project that your father was in charge of.

AO: Yes. And Anna Tamura used all that information and my interview in her thesis for her master's degree in landscape architect. And I had, she gave me, she sent me the copy of the thesis, so...

AI: Well, is there anything from, in fact about the landscape work there at the camp that you wanted to mention now, anything else that comes to mind?

AO: I think, just mention that my father has credit that he was the foreman to create the garden and Anna Tamura has been assigned to recreate the, all the, all the rocks are still intact. They haven't been damaged but the trees, some of the shrubs are not there, but the larger trees are still there. And when I walked with Anna at the site, there were some areas where you could sit down. And I think that the patients come there and sit and meditate because nature is that close. And my father, being a Christian, had thought of to sit and meditate.

AI: Well, for people who aren't familiar with that camp layout at Manzanar, maybe we should mention that the hospital, I believe, was in the far northwestern corner?

AO: Yes, far (northeast) corner.

AI: And you were saying then that your family also was moved to a barrack much closer to the hospital?

AO: Yes, it's right across the roadway, and as you cross the roadway will be the garden. And then the hospital would be set up, the administration in the front and the hospital wards to the back on each side.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

AI: Well, now your father being associated with the, in charge of the garden project, associated with the hospital, and then your mother working in the hospital kitchen also, I was wondering, did they hear information at all that you heard from them about goings-on at the hospital or the aftermath of the riot, anything that...

AO: They never talked about the riot. All they did say that the riot did occur, more so about the inus was after we were transferred to Tule Lake.

AI: So what did they say about the inu, the informer or suspected informer people?

AO: Well, about the inu, the, see, inu were the pro-Japanese. So what it is that they were against any action of the government to us and this is what they're trying to resist. And, but I didn't, I wasn't too concerned about what the action of the inu and most of the, most of the inus, so-called inus were violent. And they would say that they were... well, inus, the ones that were against the inus, the inus had to be protected so they would mention names. And I didn't know any of them.

AI: Did you get the sense that your parents were afraid or worried that they or other, you or your family members might be the targets of violence or that you might get... innocent people could be hurt. Did you ever get that sense --

AO: Yes.

AI: -- that they were worried?

AO: I really don't know, actually. So they were interested only in the opportunity to be included, to be transferred to Japan. That's the only interest.

AI: So tell me what they said about that.

AO: Well, as long as there was information about going to Japan, they were satisfied.

AI: So, at some point, during Manzanar, they were definitely interested in returning to Japan?

AO: Yes.

AI: And what was happening with your sisters and your younger brother at this time? They also were in Manzanar, and were they also working? Or your brother was younger, so was he still in high school in Manzanar?

AO: Yes, he went to Manzanar High School. My sister worked in the hospital also as a lab technician and she became quite experienced in lab work, so she continued lab work in Tule Lake. And after we were, went to Japan, she worked as a lab tech in the military hospital in Fukuoka.

AI: And this was your younger sister?

AO: My younger sister. And she liked it. And even to this day, she worked at Kaiser Hospital in Panaroma City and retired as a lab technician.

AI: Now, what about your older sister?

AO: My older sister married a boy from the, in the camp. And he was born in Hawaii and he was also educated in Japan and also educated at the University of Hawaii. And before the war he was stationed in New Orleans, Louisiana, and he worked at the Japanese consulate office in New Orleans.

AI: So he was a U.S. citizen --

AO: Yes.

AI: -- working as a civilian in the consulate office.

AO: Actually, probably he was a dual citizen. So he was, his term was Kibei/Nisei. That's what we used to call the born in the United States but educated in Japan.

AI: So they were married in Manzanar?

AO: In Manzanar, yes.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

AI: Well, then, let's see, we're, as far as what's happening during this time in Manzanar, we're talking about, kind of, now at the very end of 1942. You were working at the hospital. And then going into 1943, sometime in the early months of 1943, I believe, is when the so-called "loyalty questionnaire" came out. It was sometimes also called "registration" in camp.

AO: Yes.

AI: And I'm wondering, I think -- oh, before we go there, I think you also said that you also went out again to do beet thinning in Idaho.

AO: Yes, that was in the spring.

AI: And that would be spring of 1943. So maybe, before we get into the loyalty questionnaire, tell me a little bit about Idaho and where you went in Idaho and what you did there.

AO: I was assigned to a farmer in Blackfoot, Idaho, and he wasn't actually ready to thin beets so he had some work to do and so he taught me how to hook up the horse to a wagon. And then we would go into a corral and we had to shovel horse manure. So we, several, Shig Kusuyanagi was my partner. So he and I were assigned to this farmer. So Shig and I would go out and hitch up the horse to the wagon and then both of us would scoop up the manure onto the wagon. And the wagon is a spreader. So Shig wasn't very comfortable doing manual labor and driving horses, so I would drive the horse. And then there was a lever to start the manure spreader. So I pull the lever and that would spread the manure in the back and then we still come back and get another load. That was our first job to do at that particular farm. And, but we didn't like it. So Shig and I left the farm. We didn't even tell them. So we hitchhiked to Rexburg and I knew a fellow I used to work with at the fruit stand in Whittier named Ted Kaisaki. And he lived with his wife, and his wife's parents lived in Rexburg. So we hitchhiked to Rexburg and I joined him for a while. And then I went to the labor office in Rexburg and then I got a job at the grain mill. So I worked there for a while cleaning grain and sacking it.

AI: How are you, excuse me, but how were you treated in Idaho? Did you come up against prejudice?

AO: No. No, not at all. And Idaho especially was all Mormons and they needed help on the farm. And so we joined a farmer, name of Hershey and then, I believe he was the younger brother, the older brother had his farm. And then his older brother also ran the labor office, employment office in town. And so we stayed on at the younger brother's farm and did the work. And then when time to eat, we all go to the older brother's house and they fed us. They fed us good. There's no, no problem of eating. And the younger brother had his farm across the road and there was a little house but it didn't have a toilet. And so he took some boards and over one of the branches of the Snake River, and there was a tree that went, leaned over the river, and there was a fork in it, a "Y." So we cut a hole in a board and laid it in the fork and that was our restroom. [Laughs] And so he put toilet paper, we had to carry part of toilet paper so we just... then we just sat on there and self-flushing because the river would wash it down. I remember that, definitely.

AI: So you were in Idaho for a couple months?

AO: Several months until, until the time to top beets. But I think I left early to go back to the camp.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

AI: And then when you returned back to Manzanar, to the camp --

AO: Yes.

AI: -- then what was happening then? I think you said earlier that that was about that time that the loyalty questionnaire had come out.

AO: Probably the loyalty question and...

AI: And so what kind of -- did you have a discussion with your parents or your sisters or brother about the questionnaire and what to do about the questions?

AO: Mainly my mother, she was determined to go to Japan. And she was determined to be included to qualify to be used as a civilian exchange. And in order to qualify us younger ones to renounce our U.S. citizenship. And that was the main reason that she wanted us to answer "no-no."

AI: So she clearly explained that to you.

AO: Oh, yes.

AI: That she wanted...

AO: She was definite. And, but I don't know Japan. And I didn't know what to do there. But my mother did discuss with me about going to Japan and what she expected us to do. And so I had in mind that, possibly, I could return -- I mean, not return, but go to Japan with my parents. And eventually go to Singapore and find work there. And I figured that Singapore is very, very humid and hot. And I had ideas that installing air conditioning. That's what I had in my mind, but I didn't know whether I could pursue it or not. So I agreed with my mother that if I had to go to Japan with the family that I would go there.

AI: Well, if it had just been yourself, if you didn't have to think about your mother and your father and what they had decided about going to Japan, what do you think you would have done on the questionnaire? Or did you have some thoughts about answering it differently?

AO: Well, I was, I was mixed in my feelings at the time. So I definitely answered in my own way to answer that I would not volunteer, that I would be willing to be inducted, and that's the way I left it. And then my mother found out how I answered, so she immediately went to the reviewing officer and asked to have my answers "no" and "no." And that's the way it was.

AI: So did you find out whether she actually got them to change your answers?

AO: Oh yes, definitely.

AI: They did?

AO: Yes. They, she definitely said that she had it changed and that was it.

AI: Because by then you were over twenty-one?

AO: Didn't matter. It didn't matter. [Laughs]

AI: And what about your, your older sister was married already?

AO: Yes.

AI: So she was living with her husband?

AO: Yes.

AI: And, but what about your younger sister and brother, what were, did you talk to them at all about how they felt about going to Japan?

AO: No. That wasn't necessary because they would do as their, as the parents.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

AI: So, at this time then, were you, what was your state of mind? You're thinking that you, you really may be -- as a family -- be taken to Japan. You had never been there. What was it, what were you thinking about?

AO: I was thinking that alright, my mother wants us to be intact with the family, so we're going to Japan. And so my mind was made up that I would be with the family to go to Japan.

AI: In your mind, that was your main responsibility?

AO: Yes. That's true.

AI: Well now, at this time, as I understand it, many families were going through these difficult decisions --

AO: Yes.

AI: -- about how to answer the questions and questions about some family members wanting to go to Japan, others possibly not. And, did you hear from other people or talk to anyone else about the situation? Was there much conversation about what to do or how to deal with these questions and conflicts?

AO: Myself, no. I just kept that out of our conversation, because my mother's mind was already made up. And I already decided to join them. So it wasn't necessary to discuss what to do. So if any of my acquaintance said that they were going to volunteer for the army, then that was their preference to do so. If I wasn't in the predicament of my parents wanted the whole family to go to Japan, it would have been different. If they said that I could do whatever I wanted, wished to, I probably would have volunteered with the 442nd. I would've, probably. But that probably did not occur to me. So I did what my parents wanted me to do.

AI: So, at that time then, as I understand, there were some fairly negative comments made by some people about those who had answered "no-no." Did you ever face that? Did anyone ever show a negative attitude to you or your family because you were, answered "no-no" or because you were planning to move to Japan?

AO: I, I do have feelings that some of my acquaintances were objectionable about answering "no-no." And I do know that ones that did answer "no-yes" also were transferred to Bismarck. And some might have answered "no-no" and transferred to Bismarck but hadn't, in the final stage, did not go to Japan. They were still here, and some of 'em had to answer it "no-no" and had no intention to go to Japan. And they're the ones that took a long time to get their reinstatement. And I know of one acquaintance from, were evacuated from Florin, and so... but most of 'em that did go to Bismarck did not go to Japan.

AI: Well, before we get to Bismarck, let me ask you a little bit more. We, you're still in Manzanar and your family has already made the decision and answered "no-no" and your parents are planning to go to Japan. Did you feel that anyone understood your decision? Or, did you talk to anyone else, you said really you didn't talk too much about it, but was there anyone that you talked to or was there anyone who you felt respected and understood a family's desire to do this?

AO: After my decision was made, I didn't talk too much about it among my acquaintance because there's no need to. 'Cause they have their mind made up to stay or go to Japan, so there, I felt there wasn't any need to discuss it anymore.

AI: And I was wondering also, did your mother ever say much about why she was so determined to return to Japan?

AO: My mother, I think she felt that since my father had a place to stay, is that there was a good reason to return to Japan because the farm was enough rice to live for a whole year. And the, when we did return to Japan, my father did the farming but he did not have the equipment so we had to use friends' or relatives' equipment and pay to have the farm work done.

AI: So in your mother's thinking, she probably thought the future for your family, for making a living, perhaps she thought that would be better in Japan than staying in the U.S.?

AO: Most likely. At least we have food and enough to eat on, even though what little rice that my father produced had to be divided for rationing. There's a certain percent had to be given to the government for rationing.

AI: Well, so we'll get more into that when we actually get to that point when you're in Japan.

AO: Right.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

AI: But there's still many things happened before then and, let me see here... I think you were saying then that your parents were transferred to Tule Lake before you and your younger sister and brother.

AO: That's correct.

AI: So they were sent ahead and that was in 1944 that they went to Tule Lake?

AO: It'd be '43.

AI: 1943. And then when did you and your brother and sister go to Tule Lake?

AO: Probably later, latter part of '43.

AI: So maybe before Christmas time in 1943?

AO: It was very possible because we were approximately two years in Manzanar. '42 and most of '43 and '44 in Tule Lake and '45 in Bismarck.

AI: So tell me, what do you recall about leaving Manzanar and going to Tule Lake?

AO: Leaving Manzanar, we had to be bussed to, I don't know whether Lone Pine or San Bernardino, I can't remember. See, from San Bernardino up to, through Manzanar was a narrow gauge, see, it's a different gauge railroad. And so we did go by rail to Newell, N-E-W-E-L-L is the name of the train station. And we disembarked there 'cause that was the main railroad up through that particular area to Klamath Falls, and there we joined our parents. See, my older sister, her husband had already, was there.

AI: And what had you been told about Tule Lake, if anything?

AO: Not really. We just, it was, we were in Block 82 and that was the newest block and they had better-constructed barracks and we were quite comfortable there.

AI: Well, my understanding was that Tule Lake was even larger than Manzanar.

AO: Yes.

AI: Had more people and more, and spread out, physically more spread out, also. What impression did you have as far as other differences or similarities to Manzanar?

AO: Just another camp. And I went to work at the hospital there.

AI: And what were you doing at the hospital?

AO: I don't remember what I was doing but possibly in the outpatient clinic. And I don't exactly remember exactly what I was doing there. But there was one nurse and when the nurse found out that I was gonna be transferred to Bismarck, and I think she asked me why. And she was surprised that I was one of the agitating group. I can remember she has tears in her eyes.

AI: Tell me about that. You --

AO: I think that nurse had a feeling that I belonged here in the United States, and that was the reason. But she never, she never discussed about it after that. She said just, "Why?"

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

AI: I'm sorry. I need to back up because I forgot to ask you, while you were still in Manzanar, about the "Wassho Gumi" group.

AO: Oh, the Wassho Gumi was in Tule Lake.

AI: Oh, oh, I'm sorry.

AO: Yes.

AI: I made a mistake. So now you're in Tule Lake.

AO: Yes.

AI: And there were quite a few organizations that the administration of the camp allowed--

AO: Yes.

AI: -- to operate, including several organizations of people who were planning to go to Japan.

AO: Yes. I, in our block, Block 82 and that ward -- this had different wards. And Block 82 we were, we were called Hokoku Seinendan.Are you familiar with the word Hokoku?

AI: Please explain it.

AO: Yeah "Hoku" is "north country," young people, seinen, young people's organization. And that's what our number represented. And we had hachimaki and it had a symbol, their logo on the hachimaki. So we had to wear that, and we did calisthenics, military-style and when we form in formation, four abreast. And I don't recall how many boys in one section. And so we march around the roads there in military-style, "Wassho, wassho, ichi, ni, san, ichi, ni, san." And that's what we had to do.

AI: Well, tell me, how did you get involved in the Hokoku Seinendan?

AO: My mother told me to sign up for it. And we drilled just like the military. We'd march and turn military-style, "Hidari, migi, kiyotsuke." [Laughs]

AI: Well, so what was the attitude among this group, the Hokoku members?

AO: Well, when they get in a group like that, we get very enthusiastic and perform because we're, we have given military orders, so to speak, to march, turn left, right, about face, mawaremigi, and we did it military-style and that was calisthenics training.

AI: I had read that some of the leaders of this Hokoku Seinendan group were very anti-U.S. and --

AO: Yes.

AI: -- that not all the members were, but that the leaders were quite vocal in supporting Japan.

AO: Oh, yes.

AI: What kinds of, did you get lectured or some kind of teachings, that, as a member of the group?

AO: We did go to studies, Japanese language, and the teachers that my brother and I had in that class, he was very pro-Japanese. And he would tell us about, about "shedding blood for the sake of the Japanese country."

AI: And what did you think when you heard that?

AO: Well, I just listened, but I wasn't that pro-Japanese feeling myself. I just listened and I studied Japanese language as much as I can, as I could. And then at the final when we were to be transferred to Bismarck, he would, I think he wrote to all the students that were going to Bismarck and he signed it and he cut his finger and put his thumbprint in blood on the correspondence that he gave us. And I don't know whatever happened to him, whether he went to Japan or not, I don't know.

AI: So, do you think that this teacher and other leaders of the group expected you and other members to be very pro-Japanese, expected you to be willing to fight for the emperor in Japan?

AO: [Laughs] I wasn't willing to fight for the emperor at heart, but whatever the others thought, well, I imagine they thought the same way, is that it was, we were instructed to study Japanese to go to Japan.

AI: So part of this was a practical preparation for life in Japan?

AO: Yes, get used to the language and the feeling, because I know, lot of young boys in my situation did not go to Japan. Later, after returning to United States, I did become acquainted with a young boy and his brother that were living in San Gabriel at the time, that I met them and (his name was) Frank Tsujima, he was one of my mother's students. And when he talks, he talks very violent situation. He says he hated my mother's teaching the Japanese language, that he was about to tear her eyes out. [Laughs] That was just a expression of the way he felt. And, but I believe he did go back to Japan.

AI: Well, one other thing I was wondering about, in this, the training of the young people in preparation to going to Japan, I had heard from one other person that there were, that some of the teachers were abusive to the younger people. Did you ever see anything like that?

AO: I didn't see anything, but I can imagine that some of, even the students themselves, like myself; were very bitter about the U.S. government. And, but this one student of my mother's saying that she's, he would, had the feeling that he wanted to tear my mother's eyes out, he's not that violent at heart, but just an expression like he liked to talk big and important.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

AI: Well, you were just saying that perhaps not talking about it, but just quietly and inside, people had some bitter feelings. What were your thoughts about the U.S. government at this point?

AO: I didn't blame solely on the government of this situation, even to this day. And I do feel bitter about the General DeWitt. He was the commanding general of the 4th Army. And I saw in the paper when he passed away that he was not even on the first page, not even on the second page or the third page of the newspaper. It was way in the back and it was a uneventful situation that he demanded that the, all Japs were no good Japs that they should be eliminated, excluded -- not eliminated, but excluded. And he was very anti-Japanese. And there were many of the, even the Chamber of Commerce, they wanted to take away all the wealth of the Japanese that were in business. And I think you probably have read different stories about successful farmers who were booted out of their corporation and when they came back to their farm, have gone so they had to start all over again. And it was political, very political. Even, I believe Chief Justice Earl Warren, at the time, he didn't care about the Japanese. And so there were quite a few high-ranking government officials that I do not respect. You know of Walt Woodward? He sacrificed his newspaper to help the Japanese that put their things on the island. Yes.

AI: Right. Quite an example.

AO: Yes. There were very, very few people of his caliber to stand behind to protect the property of the Japanese.


AI: Before our break we were talking about some of your experience in Tule Lake, you and your family members. And I wanted to ask you, was your younger brother also involved with the Hokoku Seinendan?

AO: Yes.

AI: He was younger than you were.

AO: Yes, he was about, about maybe two and a half years younger than I was.

AI: But were you together most of the time in the group activities, the training and the schoolwork?

AO: Yes, but he --

AI: With your brother, or separated out because of your age?

AO: I was in one age group in the learning Japanese language and he was in another group. So we were all divided according to our age in the language school.

AI: And then I think you mentioned earlier that each ward had its own group?

AO: Very possible. I'm not really familiar with the different group or organization that was in the camp. I'm only familiar with the ward in which we were living in and that group was the Hokoku Seinendan.

AI: Well, you know, I also wanted to ask you about this time in Tule Lake. I guess it was in 1944, fairly early in 1944 that the administration announced that the Nisei were going to be drafted into the U.S. army. Do you recall hearing about that?

AO: Not particularly. The only time that I had to answer the loyalty question 27, 28 was in Manzanar and so most of the boys who answered "yes-yes" to the questions were definitely, would volunteer for the military.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

AI: Well, now also, you had started taking some steps to renounce your citizenship. And, could you tell me, when did you first discuss that with your parents and what did you have to do to start that process?

AO: My mother said, told me that she had requested through the Spanish embassy to be included in the transporting to Crystal City to be qualified to be used as civilian exchange. And knowing that we were still classified as U.S. citizenship, and that in order to qualify, the Spanish embassy had requested my mother, or my parents to change the spelling of our name from "Okami" -- to "Okami" from "Ogami," just the word, just the word, spelling. So we had to change our name and have it notarized. And I'm trying to recall... and I'm positive that it was changed in Tule Lake because the county that had to certify it was in Modoc County and that's Tule Lake.

AI: Do you have any idea why they requested that this, that name change?

AO: The spelling?

AI: The spelling?

AO: Because the, the Chinese character of our name is correctly pronounced "Ogami." And, but at the time my father was living in United States, Ogami was a little difficult for the Caucasians to pronounce so they just changed the "g" to a "k." And our name from thereafter was pronounced all different ways, "Okami," "Okamee," "Okame," but it didn't matter to us, a name is a name.

AI: But for the purposes of your parents returning to Japan, they needed to make this change.

AO: Yes, so correspond with the Chinese character.

AI: And so then the family name, the spelling, the Romanized spelling was changed to "Ogami."

AO: Yes, and it still remains Ogami.

AI: And what did you need to do for the citizenship renouncing?

AO: It was, I don't remember whether we signed documents to renounce, but as to the loyalty oath -- I mean the loyalty question, probably they just regarded us as in favor of giving up our U.S. citizen rights. Probably we did sign documents to that respect.

AI: I did read that supposedly, if a proper procedure was done, that each person renouncing United States citizenship was supposed to have an individual hearing. Do you recall anything like that, meeting with somebody, probably in Tule Lake to discuss renouncing your citizenship or signing anything in front of an official person?

AO: At the time of answering the questions it was the individual hearing officer. And I don't recall whether that was in Manzanar or Tule Lake but I'm pos-, I'm pretty positive that I answered 27, 28 in Manzanar and that qualified me to go to, be transferred to Tule Lake.

AI: Right. Well, while you were in Tule Lake, there were some incidents at the Tule Lake camp that were pretty serious. I read that in May of 1944, that James Okamoto was shot and killed by a guard. Do you have any recollection of that?

AO: No particular recollection but I do know that incidents did happen in Tule Lake. I wasn't involved in any organizations that were extremely violent. The only organization was Hokoku Seinendan and that was the wishes of my parents to be in there in name only, but I did participate in military-type of calisthenics, marching, and we did march around there military-style and military command. And marching, that we had to march and that there's a trot-type of marching they call, that was called kakeashi, ashi, kakeashi. And to make a right turn, left turn, turn about, that's all in Japanese military style.

AI: Well, another thing that happened in Tule Lake was that there were some rumors spread that families would be separated and that possibly parents might be sent one place and children to another. Did you hear any of these rumors or did they affect you or your family in any way?

AO: I don't recall that rumors. Probably the, anyone, any of us that were, answered the question 27, 28 "no-no" and some in the family may have "no-yes," they might be, presumably separated.

AI: But you, yourself, and your parents, you weren't worried that you were going to be separated?

AO: No, I was positive that we'll be intact and be, and go to Japan if that was possible.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

AI: So, then when did you find out that, that in fact, you and your brother were going to be separated from the family and sent to Bismarck camp?

AO: We were notified, and soon as we were notified then we had to prepare to leave the camp.

AI: So you got a very short notice before leaving Tule Lake?

AO: Yes -- no, that's true. The notice was given to us and then we just have to take our personal belongings and be transferred out of the camp.

AI: Were you surprised that you were going to be taken from Tule Lake?

AO: Not particularly, because that was the one step positive that we would be, that we would go to Japan. So the separation's there.

AI: So, it was explained to you that this was part of your process to going to Japan?

AO: I don't know if I could say that it was, that we knew that would be part of the process of going to Japan, but it meant closer of qualifying to be deported, so to speak.

AI: And was there any explanation given as to why you and your brother were taken to Bismarck and your parents and younger sister were left in Tule Lake?

AO: There's no explanation, but actually, the government was trying to separate the immediate disloyal persons, and divide, separate them from the ones that are loyal. And, but I didn't feel that all of us that went to Bismarck would be going to Japan.

AI: What gave you that feeling?

AO: That all of 'em were... I felt this, that all of the ones that went to Bismarck, the parents weren't really planning to go all the way to go to Japan.

AI: What gave you that idea?

AO: I don't know, I really don't recall what made me feel that way, but I just followed the orders to prepare to leave Tule Lake. And then I finally, brother and I and the rest of the group went, were transferred to Bismarck.

AI: When was that?

AO: This was in early '45.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

AI: I think I read that it was in February that over six hundred people were sent to Bismarck?

AO: Yes. That's true. I can confirm that. I bought a book of all the camps, all the activity and I was thumbing through it last night and it was mentioned that month of February, in the first week or two, and that there was some six hundred, it did mention six hundred some-odd young boys were transferred to Bismarck, North Dakota.

AI: So, do you think probably you and your brother were a part of that group?

AO: I'm positive.

AI: Tell me about the trip, when you were transported, when you were moved.

AO: The trip was, to me, it was exciting because we were traveling through country, states that were not familiar to us. I remember the train going along the Columbia River and then to the Continental Divide, and then following the Missouri River all the way through, I believe it was from Idaho through Montana into North Dakota. And there was snow. And I looked out the train window along the river and I knew it was impossible, but I was looking to see if I could see the fish in the river. [Laughs] And I'd never seen a river that large. And as we approached Bismarck they came to the bridge across the Missouri River and it was frozen over and there was a wagon, and a horse pulling the wagon with the farmer on the wagon, driving the horse and wagon on the frozen Missouri River.

AI: What a sight.

AO: And it was just before we entered into the city of Bismarck. And then we've gotta, we disembarked from the train. And then they bussed us to the Fort Lincoln and we were assigned rooms. It was a old brick building and, with a large room, so... and the large room was, I don't remember the name of the building, but the room that we stayed in was Room F. And there was a smaller rooms, G and H, and one of those rooms were the boys that came from San Fernando Valley. And I can remember some of the names of the boys, last name, Tanaka, Tamura. And Tamura I knew that George, Barry, and... now, George, in the camp, was a shortstop and a very good baseball player. Barry was the catcher on the San Fernando ace baseball team. And the other one played position of pitcher. I can't recall his name right at this moment, but the three brothers all played baseball. And the Tanaka boys, Shig, he was well-built, more like a wrestler, and most of 'em lifted weights, in the sport league in camp, center. And in Bismarck, they did have a indoor pool so we, we were permitted to swim. And there was one person in our group who was a excellent swimmer and also I believe he was a lifeguard. Either at the beach or some recreational swimming pool. And he would demonstrate how he would, to save people from drowning, rescue them. And we enjoyed it. We had swimming.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

AI: Well, tell me, now, the camp at Fort Lincoln was different from the Manzanar or the other WRA War Relocation (Authority) camps because Fort Lincoln was part of the system of camps that were for "alien enemies."

AO: Yes.

AI: So, they first held Issei, the Japanese immigrants, and some Germans.

AO: Yes.

AI: And some of them had Italians, also, and other citizens of other countries. But when you were arrived with this large group of other young men, it sounds like most of you had been U.S. citizens but then had renounced citizenship or were in the process of renouncing. So, so it was a different kind of a camp and as I understand it, a different system.

AO: Yes.

AI: When you got there, what kinds of differences did you notice, if any, between Fort Lincoln and the other camps?

AO: I didn't see any difference as far as the camp was concerned. Now, Manzanar and Tule Lake, they're under WRA, War Relocation Authority's... Fort Lincoln, Bismarck, North Dakota was under jurisdiction of the Justice Department, and that's the difference. And when we arrived, there were already Romanians, prisoners. And they were actually prisoners. Most of 'em were in the air force of the Romanian country. And by conversation with the Romanians there, that they were captured and transferred to South America. And then from South America they were transferred up and ended in Bismarck, North Dakota. And they were good to us. We got along well, although they were separated in a separate section of the camp. And there were musician among them and doctors. And they were very talented in music, so we had the privilege of listening to their music playing, violin especially. They were string instruments.

AI: It sounds quite interesting to be in a camp now that wasn't all Japanese Americans.

AO: Yes. And they also conducted, they wanted to make sure that we didn't have athlete's feet to go swimming. And so among them was a doctor that would check your feet before you went in. And I had slight case of athlete's feet, so before I went in I showered and scrubbed my feet and I would put lotion or jelly type of cream on my feet so it wouldn't show, vaguely. It wouldn't show exactly what I, what my feet was athlete's feet or not. And so I passed and I was able to swim. [Laughs] I wasn't a very good swimmer 'cause I never learned to swim well, but I enjoyed getting in the water.

AI: Well --

AO: It was a heated pool, too.

AI: So it sounds like in some ways, the conditions at Fort Lincoln were a little bit better, that you had the pool and you had a different kind of a living quarters arrangement. What else do you recall about the conditions there at Fort Lincoln?

AO: They had steel cots. And they have a lower and upper cots. And I slept on the bottom and my brother slept on top. And so all the others in the, in that room, someone had to choose to sleep on top.

AI: And during the time that you and your brother were there, were you able to correspond with your parents at all?

AO: Yes.

AI: And what did you hear from them, or how...

AO: Well, we were able to write letters and mail them out, but they were all censored going out. And incoming mail was also censored. And some of the mail, letters that were received, they couldn't distinguish what the message was all about because they cut it out. They didn't block it out, but simply cut out. And there was a translator and we would see him walking towards his office. And he was the one that would read the letter and remove what they thought that was the, important to remove.

AI: So, were you worried at all about what might be happening to your parents and sister while you were separated?

AO: No, no. We weren't worried because we knew that the outcome will be to go to Japan.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

AI: Well, now you had mentioned earlier that during the time you were in Bismarck, that you were questioned. Could you tell about that? What kind of questioning was this and what it was about?

AO: Yes, we heard words that... the word that we're going to have... I think the word was hoso, which could be regarded as broadcast, or vaccination -- I don't know which it was -- but that was what was mentioned that we're gonna go and see about hoso, but it actually was, we were gonna be questioned. And this question, question interview was prior to, to leave United States. And so actually they were gonna determine who would go and who would stay. And later on I understood that they were, the government was trying to reduce the number of people that will go to Japan. And I think that was the purpose. And they would question you, talkin' about what you did before the Pearl Harbor. And then now, you decide to go to Japan, and the reason why you want to go to Japan. And they asked, they asked me -- and I imagine they asked each individual -- about joining the Imperial army. And my answer was I would not volunteer to join the military, but if I had to, to be inducted, same as I would have had to in United States, that I would have to agree to be inducted. The other question was asked that if I confronted a U.S. soldier, that I would shoot to kill him. I said, "No, I could not do that." Actually, I owe my life to the United States because I was educated and grew up there and I have never been in Japan. So I said I would, if I was assigned to a prisoner of war camp and there's a American soldier in the camp, that I would not see them harmed. And that's all I could say that, what my intent will be if I met with a U.S. soldier.

AI: So, with this kind of questioning, did you discuss with your brother or any of the other fellows there what was going on, why you were being questioned in this way, or what you think the result would be of this questioning?

AO: Through hearsay is that I believe it was mentioned that they were, the government was trying to prevent as many of us not to go to Japan, to refuse to go. And later on, after I, even after I came back, returned to the United States, that there was a purpose of our interview to refuse, because to refuse to go to Japan. But I have already made up my mind, because my parents made up my mind for me and they said, "Regardless, whatever happens, you wish to go to Japan." And that's where I ended up, going to Japan.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

AI: Well, before we get there, I wanted to ask just a little bit more about any memories you had of Bismarck camp, or Fort Lincoln camp, actually, is the formal name, and for example, what might be a typical day in Bismarck? What might it be like, like from the time that you were woken up?

AO: I didn't know what to expect. But there were activities. The Romanians had made a skating rink ready and they had skates available. So we were able to borrow the skates and skate around this rink that they had made already. See, the Romanians are good skaters. And we, we never had skates before. And so we had fun. And during the warmer days we organized softball team and so we played softball. And I wasn't a very good baseball player so they put me in left field, let's see... I believe it was right field, yes, right field, it was right from the batter. And so I had problem judging the ball to catch, but I did alright. And occasionally I had forced a hit with the baseball, and I did get on bases and I was... and it was fun. It was a good pastime. And there's one pitcher, younger pitcher, and he was good in the windmill pitch. You know what a windmill pitch is? And his balls would come by real fast. And he needed someone to catch for him. And I had the courage enough to sit behind with the catcher's glove to catch it. And I was kinda worried about not catching his balls. [Laughs] But I managed to catch 'em. And he and I was a pretty good team for his practice. And he would show me how he could pitch a riser and pitch a inside curve and outside curve. And he'd place his knuckle on the ball so that it would spin certain ways. See, the spin of the ball will determine which way the ball's gonna go. And so that was fun, good pastime.

AI: What... did you have very many other organized activities? For example, you mentioned in Tule Lake there were the Japanese language classes and there were the exercises and so forth. Did you have similar kinds of activities at Fort Lincoln?

AO: At Fort Lincoln we had to study Japanese language individually, but there was some help. They had books. So I spent most of the day studying the Japanese language. And I went from one book to the next book, lesson book. And I would copy what I read. And I would practice writing the kanji. And within the few months, which is approximately one year, from early, from February to December. Then the month of December we got our notice to board a train. And the train was, destination was Portland, Oregon.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

AI: Well, I'm gonna ask you, before, before going to Portland, this was then the end of 1945?

AO: Yes.

AI: And in the meantime, while you and your brother had been at Bismarck, the war had ended. World War II had ended.

AO: Yes.

AI: The U.S. put, bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki --

AO: Yes.

AI: -- with the atom bomb. And how much of this news did you get while you were at Bismarck? Did you hear about the atom bombing?

AO: Atom bombing, I don't remember. But when President Roosevelt died, it was announced. And everyone in the room "hurrayed," they praised that he died because he's the one that signed the executive order and... that was not real -- and I can remember the guard coming in and he wanted to quiet us down because when you have six hundred boys yelling, "Hurray," or something, whatever... but I think that's said because they're the enemy country of Japan, that's the reason why they said that. But I don't think we really meant it.

AI: You yourself, didn't really feel that happy --

AO: Yes.

AI: -- on the death of the president?

AO: But the bombing, I'm not quite sure if it was announced over the public address system.

AI: And then, what happened when the end of the war was announced, the surrender of Japan?

AO: That, I really don't recall. It was sort of a, to me, very quiet announcement if there was announcement. But, see, that was August 14th. And then there was the preparation of, to prepare to be transferred to Portland, Oregon.

AI: You know, I'm wondering about when Japan surrendered, it must've been quite a shock for some of the men who were planning to go to Japan.

AO: Yes.

AI: Some of them who were very much pro-Japan.

AO: Yes.

AI: Did you ever hear anything from them or was there some talk that you heard of their reactions after they finally realized that Japan had actually lost the war?

AO: My father was transferred from Bismarck and -- I mean, transferred from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Bismarck because we were already there. And so my father, my brother and myself were in the same room. They placed us there. And he knew; he knew about it more than I did, that Japan lost the war. And so he was telling me that Japan actually did not lose the war. That's their feeling. That was his feeling. And I was preparing myself to go, to go to Japan. And I said, "Japan has nothing left. That they're short of food, they're short of supplies." And he says that since he felt that Japan was a stronger nation, that they will be sending ships to United States to carry the Japanese people back to Japan. This is what he actually told me. And I said that he was, he was not correct.

AI: But he, your father was really convinced.

AO: Oh, yes. He was convinced that the, his country, Japan, was a stronger nation. And there were people in Brazil that I have heard and read about that were climbing up on top of hills to watch for ships from Japan to come and take them back to Japan. Have you heard that?

AI: No, but I can imagine that.

AO: Yes. They actually were convinced that Japan was the stronger nation, just like my father thought.

AI: So, did your father... he, at that point, he still did not believe that Japan had surrendered?

AO: I really don't think so, but he still believed, until he arrived in Japan, that Japan was totally devastated.

AI: And how did you... it sounds like you were already convinced that Japan was really low on supplies and food and everything. How did you get that impression? Or how did you learn about the condition of Japan?

AO: Well, I just thought in my own mind that Japan was, had lost and that their supply of food was very, very low and I told my father I was prepared to live on tsukemono and rice, that I was preparing for that. And, but knowing that he has a tanbo in Japan, little patch for vegetables, that at least we can survive with food.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

AI: So you were mentioning that your father had been transferred from Tule Lake to the camp at Santa Fe, New Mexico.

AO: Santa Fe, yes.

AI: And about when was it that he joined you and your brother in Bismarck? Was that --

AO: It was just prior, prior to being transferred to Portland.

AI: So tell me about that. How, were hundreds of you shipped out of Bismarck to Portland, Oregon, or how did that happen? A few at a time?

AO: The one, the one that were positive to be, to go to Japan, they were among them, and mainly to meet their family. So when we were transferred from Bismarck to Portland, and then we were... I remember getting off the train, onto bus and going to the pier where USS General Gordon was berthed. And then we walked to the ship and we were assigned where to go. And so we went on the gangway, onto the deck and there were directions to where to go. So we went down, step down. We were at the very bottom. And they, they had, the bunks were canvas bunks. And I was on the very bottom. So they were six high. In other words, there's six persons sleeping on top, on top of each other and it was very difficult to get in and out. There was not, very little space. And in order to, the bottom person to get out, the top person has to get out first. So it was kind of uncomfortable. But those were troop transport and so even the soldiers being transferred from United States or war zone and back were in the same condition. And it was a huge ship. It was a troop transport general class, ten thousand troops was the capacity.

AI: And were your mother and sister on the same ship?

AO: Yes.

AI: Were you aware of that, that they were going on the same ship?

AO: Oh, yes. We would have joined them, but one section of the ship were for females, one section for the males.

AI: So your mother and sister had been brought directly from Tule Lake to Portland?

AO: Yes.

AI: And tell me about the actual trip from Portland to Japan.

AO: From Portland, the ship came down the Columbia River and that was in, during the daytime. And then when it reached Astoria they anchored overnight. And then next morning they set for sail through... and the mouth of the Columbia River there's sand bars and so they had to have the pilot to guide the ship out to open sea. And I don't know what it was, but there was one time as they headed to open sea, the ship took a, the bow just took a deep down. And I didn't know what it was. But I met a doctor and he asked me to assist him in sickbay. And he says, "Art, you can stay up here, it's more comfortable." So I spent most of my time in the sickbay area. It was nice, clean, roomy and bright. And occasionally I would go out on the deck and sit in a bench, outside deck and an MP would come out and says, "Sir, you better go inside." They didn't want us out. But I'd sneak out and get out there again. And at high seas it was pretty rough. The bow of the ship would go into the water, and it comes out. As you'd notice in the pictures where the ship would go in real deep and come out, and that was... and then we, the doctor would make inspection of the ship and he would go from one section of the ship to the other and I would follow him. And then we'd look down at the bow and at the bottom of the bow there was room for seventeen boys, and the bow would come up at least fifty-six feet up and go down sixty feet down, so that's a hundred feet of up and down. And I look down there, I never seen such seasick persons, but they survived it. [Laughs]

AI: Oh, my goodness.

AO: I think it took probably fifteen days, sixteen days. They were going the Great Northern Route, going up close to Alaska and they hit this storm. They headed into a storm so they went south and I believe we sailed up possibly 400 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands, we couldn't see them. I was sick for three days. But the meals on board the ship was good. I liked the navy beans. It was real good.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

AI: Well, you know, while the ship was underway and you were actually on the seas on your way to Japan, what was going through your mind? Were you relieved that finally you were actually going to Japan? Or worried? Or both?

AO: Well, I was wondering what it was going to be like. And I was busy assisting the doctor and I was busy going to the mess hall and that, what they called the galley to eat. So there was a lotta activity on board the ship. And they would have a man overboard drill and I'm sure they had a drill... what do you call it? I don't know what they termed that. We had to do that on our cruise ship that we went on to Alaska and, and the Panama Canal cruise -- lifeboat drill, that's it, lifeboat drill. And so we had to put on life jackets and go through the drill. And when the ship is dead stop in sea, it would roll, the swells are so huge that you would almost think that you would slide off the ship. But those are some of the activity that we had to do.

AI: So, I was going to ask you, had you or your parents had any communication with any relatives in Japan? Did anybody know that you were going to be arriving?

AO: I really don't know. Because we were approximately four years in the camp and there was no communication by mail during the war because there was no mail served between United States and Japan.

AI: Why, I understand that some people were able to communicate through the Red Cross but that it was very difficult.

AO: That's very possible that... but time-consuming, too.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

AI: So what happened when the ship arrived in Japan?

AO: The ship arrived in Japan, everyone disembarked and...

AI: Oh, excuse me. What port was that where, that you came into?

AO: I believe it's Kurihama. See, there's different centers, military centers and I remember Kurihama, and there were military barracks there. So we were housed in rooms in the compound. And since I was able-bodied, I had to stay back to unload the cargo ship with all of our belongings. And so I had to go out with the landing craft and then with a crew we would unload the ship and load the landing craft and then bring 'em to the compound and put 'em in the warehouse. And we, and I had, I was requested to stay until they were loaded into freight cars to the destination where they were going. And I was in charge. There was all the belongings going to Fukuoka and so I had to stay and make sure all the baggage and the belongings of all the people were loaded in the boxcar. And as you know, all the freight cars, they just have a piece of wire to hold it shut. And that I didn't, I knew that anyone, as the train is stopped at a siding, that someone could come and cut the wire. So I had two padlocks of my own. So I locked 'em with the padlock and kept the key. And fortunately, my father's relative worked at the freight yard at Fukuoka. And he notified us when that particular car arrived. So I went down and unlocked it and notified all the recipients of their belongings to go to the Fukuoka station and claim their belongings.

AI: So, while you were doing this, this labor, what was happening to your parents, your sister and brother?

AO: My mother and sister and younger brother went on to my father's place. And my mother knew how to find the way to there. And my older sister and her husband and the baby went on to Kumamoto. And actually, after all the goods were loaded on the train, then they gave us a third-class ticket to get on board the train to go to Fukuoka. And so we walked to the train station and waited for the train to come by but we didn't know what train it was. It was a chaos. And so finally a train came and we boarded it. No one else boarded it, just a very few people. Then it went to next station and a few more people got in. And then as it went down it was packed later on. And when the train stopped, it stopped at the port of Fukuoka and Fukuoka didn't have a port so they called it Hakata, see, Hakata is the business section of Fukuoka and so all the train station and port is called Hakata. And so we got off the train at the very end. We heard later that it was the train to transport the Korean evacuees. See, they were transporting all the Koreans back to Korea and that's the train that we were on. And everyone is surprised that it ended in the port of Hakata. So, from there my father and I walked to a trolley stop and then he was asking different people how to get over to Ropponmatsu. That's where he knew how to walk from Ropponmatsu because the trolley, trolley stop section. And we arrived there and then we went along this, there was a river, and the river's named Hikawa, and he knew how to go on the river bank. There's a road and go to Nagao, which was a little village, and from there we go east to his birthplace, Hibaru. And we walked and we walked and he hadn't been to Japan for forty years and so he had to inquire from different people how to get to Hibaru. And we made a... I was carrying my suitcase; I was tired. [Laughs] Then we finally arrived at his home and my mother and my sister was already there. And it was, no bus. See, lot of the transportation were, were destroyed. And I can tell you something about the transportation: they had a shortage of fuel so they're running cars on charcoal. And, this is quite an experience. And I can explain a little bit later on how they run on charcoal.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

AI: So, before our break you were just telling about arriving in Japan, and when was it that you arrived in Japan?

AO: It was about January 15th.

AI: 1946?

AO: 1946.

AI: And you were saying earlier that your father really didn't believe that Japan was devastated by the war until he got back to Japan. What, as you were making the journey through the area to, back to his home, did he start realizing what the situation really was?

AO: Yes, he did, because as we were traveling south is that... he liked to read books, so he went out to see if he could find some books to buy and, but he came back with no books. I asked him, "Try to find something for, to eat," and there weren't any vendors because they had, they didn't have anything to sell, and beside, they were probably, been told that, "This train is carrying evacuees of Koreans," and that's why no one came. But all during the traveling south, they didn't, there was no conductor to check the tickets and so no one even cared who was aboard the ship, aboard the train. And there was one man that boarded the train that was sitting across from me, and he had lunch. He opened up a nice white nigiri sushi and then they were eating peanuts, too. And here, we were given hardtack and Japanese hardtack is small little biscuits, and they were hard. They didn't taste too bad, really, but the military hardtack was much better, much more nourishing. And so this man was eating this white sushi and, but he did share some, something, too, as I remember. I don't remember what.

But after long hours we finally arrived in Fukuoka. But before going back to, going to the train station, I had been told by other boys that whoever stops and say that they will carry your baggage for them, don't let them because they will put 'em on these three-wheeled vehicles and they put on their -- they're called sanrinsha, which means three-wheeled vehicle. You put it on there and they'll take off with your belongings. We were warned about that. And then also, one man stopped and he says, he motioned to put it on top. And I looked at it and what he was carrying was what we... what is known as night soil. You know what night soil is? And it's all messy on top of the covers. And I didn't want to put my belongings on that. But for him it would've been fine because he would have run off with our belongings. And that's what I, I experienced that. And my first impression when I arrived and walking, I felt that I have entered an area twenty years behind the present age and so I went back, backwards.

AI: So, in other words, the Japan that you saw in 1946 reminded you of the 1920s in the United States?

AO: Yes, because they didn't have anything and no modern transportation. See, the cars were very, very few and the trucks were quite old.

AI: And you were saying earlier that some of the vehicles were run using charcoal?

AO: That's after I arrived in Fukuoka and going to work. And the reason why they could run on charcoal is that they have a big tank that's like a heater. And they would put burning charcoal at the base of it, and they have a little opening to put it in. Then they have a crank to blow to make the charcoal hotter. And the fumes would go over a tube and go down to the carburetor and so the fumes, I believe they were mixed, mixed with water. And so with the vapor of the water and the fumes of the charcoal would act as the gasoline, power, fuel to go to the carburetor of the car and it was very, very crude. And as they would get up speed, sometimes it'll pop and like backfire and make noises and just barely move the vehicle. And some of the, like a Chevrolet, sedan are also converted to burning charcoal. And then they have this big tube over the roof of the car. And every now and then they would have to stop and crank up the blower and make the charcoal hotter. It's quite a sight. [Laughs]

AI: That's incredible.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

AI: Well, so now tell me, as you were approaching your father's family home, was he talking to you about his impression or did he... he must've been quite shocked by the situation in Japan.

AO: En route to the house, it was probably just about what he remembered. There were people farming, working in the field, and people on bicycles, and people with pull carts, and that... but he had to inquire, different times, talk to people where his village was. And we were going the wrong, right direction until we finally arrived to his house and his brother was living there, occupied. So he had to ask the brothers to leave. And so eventually his brother and his wife moved somewhere else. And he had lot of, some, some sisters living nearby and they would come and visit.

AI: So tell me, what did the home and the area there look like?

AO: The home had a area, homes in the area were typical Japanese construction, Japanese home. His home was constructed for his father and evidently, his father had mortgaged the property and then they built the house for him. They used used the material. And eventually my father bought the mortgage back so he felt that that house was his, he deserved it. As we entered the front door, his house was so crude that the entrance was dirt. And then the, there were two rooms to the right, and those two rooms were raised and they had the tatami mats. Then under the room to your right, underneath, they had dug out a pit and filled it with rice hull and that's where they would store the sweet potatoes and a few of the items that were preserved, kept from spoiling. And sweet potatoes, you can keep for quite a few months without spoiling.

AI: And then, was the rice farming area right, very close to the house, or farther away?

AO: His rice paddy was quite a ways from the house but the neighbors, they had rice paddy almost adjacent to their lot. And then, in front of the house was area where we could grow vegetables, strawberries, daikon, onions, watermelon, strawberries, and so there's where we could grow a few things. And then he has another area where he could grow sesame seed, and that could be made into oil, cooking oil. We could grow other vegetables, sweet potatoes. So we had plenty of area to grow necessary vegetables.

AI: So when you, you know, when you and your father then arrived there at the home, what were some of the first things you did? How did you start living there? Or, your mother and sister were already there?

AO: Yes, they were there already. And we managed to have enough blankets so that we were comfortable. We had to sleep on the floor. There's no cooking range, it's all wood-burning stoves and there was no running water, so in the corner we had a well. And the well was about ten feet deep. And in order to raise the water up we had a little bucket and a rope tied to it so we'd drop the bucket down, pull it up, and then carry the bucket into the house for cooking. And they had a furo, so we had to carry buckets of water at a time and fill the bath, furo up. And then outside we had to make a fire to heat the water. And the toilet, outside, it was a open pit for the men and the closed pit, they had a door and that's where we went to the bathroom for the other part. And the pit for the men, that was used on the vegetables to grow because there's ammonia, makes it green and the other was put into another pit out, away from the house and that was used as they would call night soil. Have you heard of night soil? Or jinpun is another term. And that was used for fertilizer. Now I believe that's not permitted anymore. So they're using chemical fertilizer now.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

AI: So, in the first month or so that you were there, this is still winter because it's January --

AO: Yes.

AI: February.

AO: It was cold. And, but we survived it. Fortunately I was able to work at the military hospital.

AI: Well, before that you had applied for a different job, didn't you?

AO: Yes, the first job I applied for was at the 5th Air Force Base. And I worked there for a couple of days and I was called in and was told that they couldn't use me anymore, and I didn't know why, because all my records follow me. And then I applied for interpreter work at the military hospital in Fukuoka. And there they didn't, they didn't care. And so the labor office sent me to utilities office. And the sergeant in the utilities office looked up and saw me and I told him that my name was Arthur Ogami and I was sent here to work, to report. And he looked at me and jumped up. And there was already an interpreter in the office so he says, "Dr. Shuin, could you stand up, please?" So he stood up, moved his desk way in the corner, and then he moved another desk in another position. He says, "Art, you sit here." Dr. Shuin says, "Where shall I sit?" And they put him way in the corner out of the way, poor thing. And he was very elderly and he had knowledge to speak English but it was the Japanese English so they had a little difficulty understanding, and he had difficulty translation, interpret. And so eventually he was sent back to labor office to be sent to another place. And Sergeant Teage, I remember his name. And he's from Colorado. Then I was introduced to Lieutenant Kitchen and he was from Colorado also, Loveland, that's where he lived. He was born and raised there. And he wanted to go to school of veterinary medicine, and that was his wishes, but Lieutenant Kitchen and the sergeant were, worked real well together and so any orders that were needed to be given to the utilities section, I interpreted for them, translated for them. And they had, they had charge of plumbing department, electric, carpentry, painting and whatever had to do with construction and repairs. So I had a good time. I learned quite a bit about how to maintain and repair different minor repairs of the hospital. And he also had responsibility of the contractors coming to do contract work and I had to do interpreting to them.

AI: So, excuse me, just, I want to make sure I understand this right. This was a U.S. military hospital --

AO: Yes.

AI: And the utilities section employed Japanese civilians to do --

AO: Yes.

AI: -- some of this work and also some of the contracting, also, to Japanese --

AO: To the Japanese contractors.

AI: -- laborers, or, right, contractors.

AO: That's correct.

AI: And so, so you were the one who was translating and bridging the communication back and forth between the sergeant and all these workers?

AO: Yes, I was the liaison. And so that the contractor or the employees knew what they were supposed to do. And so each department had an enlisted man in charge, generally they were sergeants. And it was a good job and my responsibility was very high so I treated them, I was equally with the employee and with the, with the military.

AI: So that's interesting, you were really in the middle --

AO: Yes.

AI: -- then between the American military and the Japanese civilians?

AO: Yes.

AI: And you, yourself were technically, were not a U.S. citizen anymore but it sounds like that didn't make any difference to your boss or to the other personnel.

AO: No. He liked me so much that being a renouncee didn't matter to him. Being labeled disloyal didn't matter, and also the commanding officer knew this because they were informed what my character was. And I remember the first officer that I worked, commanding officer was Colonel Woolgard and he was sort of an old grouch. No one liked him. But from GHQ, from Tokyo would come colonels who come and make an inspection. And so one time in the boiler room, Colonel Woolgard was there and the inspector from GHQ was asking Colonel Woolgard -- it was kind of messy in the boiler room. And I just stood back and so I was listening to the inspector and I was taking notes down. And Colonel Woolgard was listening to the inspectors. And after they finished, then I stepped in and I said, "Okay, I will take care of this," so Colonel Woolgard, stand back. So I took all the information from the inspector. And then when they left I went back to the utilities office and assigned necessary personnel to take care of the problem. And from then on, whenever the inspectors come down, I went with 'em. So I took a lot of responsibility away from the commanding officer. And he was happy and the utilities officer was happy because he didn't have to spend all of his time.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 36>

AI: Well, so then as time passed, I understand your sister also was able to get a job. And was your brother also working?

AO: No, my brother went some other way and I don't know where he went to work. My younger sister was working with the military government as, in a typing pool and my wife Kimi was also working there. And in time -- this wasn't immediately when I arrived in Japan -- it was several years. And then my sister asked me if I would be interested in meeting a Japanese girl. And so we made a date to, for my sister to bring Kimi to a trolley stop that's near the front of the hospital. And that's where she introduced me to my wife, Kimi. And things led to one from another and now she's here. [Laughs]

AI: So when did you get married?

AO: It was, she introduced me to Kimi, it was sometime in 1949, and we were married in 1950.

AI: Well, so then at some point, did you start thinking about returning to the United States, or regaining your citizenship?

AO: Not at that time because there was talks that Wayne Collins, the attorney, was preparing a class-action suit against the government to restore our American citizenship. And he was asking for four hundred dollars, more like a deposit or retainer. And they said that if you pay the four hundred dollars that they would arrange for you to go to United States to stand trial or have a hearing, but that didn't come about. I did not pay it because I knew my chances of being reinstated would be very, very slim. So I didn't pursue that.

And, but I was very loyal to working for the, working at the military hospital, that the commanding officer kinda put me under his hand and, and he and I was very friendly, we were very close. And even after office, after work I would go on the way to Kimi's parents' home, was nearby his residence, and I would stop there and visit with him. And he liked to drink so I would be sitting there and his wife would be sitting and we'd always talk together. And then his name was Colonel Duryee. And he said, "Art, you want a, you want a highball?" I said, "Okay." So he asked this, "Mini-san, bring Art a highball." And that was the housekeeper for them. And so she'd go out and bring in a highball, a big glass. So I drank it. And after I drank it down and finished visiting, then I'd walk over a few blocks to see Kimi. Then Kimi's mother would say, "Ogami-san, nonda ne?" [Laughs] My face would be flushing red, but I wasn't a drinker, but I managed to find my way over there. [Laughs] And later I found that Mini-san was a sister to a babysitter that we arranged to have her come from Japan to baby-sit our baby after it was born. And the sister is here today in the United States, married to -- Mini-san, that was the housekeeper, was the former husband of Yasuko-san, the babysitter. She'd passed away, so she married her brother-in-law. And they're -- they lived in Walnut, where we live now. It's a coincidence that Yasuko-san was our babysitter and now the wife of this retired minister. So, we're fairly close friends now.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 37>

AI: Well, so at -- what did cause you to start thinking about your U.S. citizenship and seriously thinking about returning to the United States?

AO: As commanding officer liked me and trusted me so much, and I worked very loyally for the hospital. So he arranged with the American consulate in Fukuoka to interview me and fill out application for reinstatement. And so I went to meet the American consulate. And his name was Johns Ainsworth, a very nice gentleman. So I filled out the application for reinstatement and he looked it over. And he said, "Art, you don't have to tell everything about your experience." I said, "Thank you." So they forward that to the State Department in Washington, D.C., and just about within a month the reply came and I was reinstated. And the U.S. consulate notified Colonel Duryee. And as soon as he received it he called me in my office and he says, "Art, I want to see you immediately." So I hobbled over to the, to his office and headquarters office knew that I was very close to the commanding officer, so as soon as I appear the door is wide open for me to go into Colonel Duryee's office. And as soon as I entered he stood up and said, "Art, I wanted to be the first to congratulate you," so he congratulated me and he was hoping that I could return to United States and go to OCS school. That's Officer's Candidate School. But after he realized that there would be no possibility of that, even if I did become a noncommissioned officer that I would not be able to be assigned to his unit. And so he says, "Probably best thing for you to do is to return to the United States and start all over again and work." And that's what I did.

AI: Wow. How, how did you feel when you got this...

AO: I felt good. I says, "Now I could return to United States and start over again." To make sure that I would not have any difficulty to live the first few months, he sent me a check, his personal check for a hundred dollars to start with. And when I arrived in United States I had less than three dollars in my pocket and the hundred dollar check of Colonel Duryee. At that time he was commanding officer of hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas. And I did communicate with him there, write letters, and he would write back. And my sister had married a soldier and was living in Los Angeles at the time so she met me at the pier in Wilmington, California, and I stayed with her for, I think just about a month, then I found a place to stay in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.

<End Segment 37> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 38>

AI: Before we go any further about your return to the U.S., I wanted to just ask a little bit more about your time in Japan. And it sounds like you had a very responsible and satisfying job there at the hospital.

AO: Yes.

AI: And you also had gotten married and started a family.

AO: Yes.

AI: Because, was your first child born while you were still in Japan? Or...

AO: Yes. Our son was born March 14, 1952 and that was the year I received my reinstatement.

AI: And in the meantime, your parents were still living on their, your father's family property?

AO: Yes.

AI: And you just, you said also that your sister had gotten married and eventually moved back to the United States.

AO: Yes.

AI: So, did you have any mixed feelings about leaving Japan?

AO: No. I knew that with my knowledge of reading and writing Japanese language, would hinder me from any good position with any company. So I didn't regret leaving Japan.

AI: Was there anything else about your time in Japan that you wanted to mention? Oh, you had mentioned, excuse me, you mentioned earlier a little bit about there were some things that you hadn't known anything about that you were confronted with, such as the black market system.

AO: Yes, we had a contractor that was building a boiler system on the property. And they were a big contractor. And I was, I needed some money for some occasion, I don't quite remember, but I asked for ten thousand yen if they would loan it to me. And they were glad and presently loaned me ten thousand yen. So I spent that money and then New Year's comes around. New Year's, I understood that anyone who owed money would pay it back or make arrangements to pay back, even on installment, that that was customary. So from my pay I accumulated ten thousand yen, put it in an envelope and when I met with the supervisor of the project I handed over to him. I said, "I borrowed this money from you," and it's customary to return any money owed to the person that they borrowed it from. So I gave it to them and they, they were shocked. They said they never experienced that before, that they refused to take it back. And I thanked them for it. They told me that there were other interpreters that were, that were Japanese, that they would demand bribe. I didn't know this. And they told me that they knew I was going to return to United States. They said, "When you're on your way, do stop at our headquarters office in Fukuoka -- Osaka," and, which I did. And, but they said that any of these others, persons ever come to their office, they would tell 'em to move. They would not receive them. I didn't know that. I didn't know that there was, that other interpreters took advantage of their ability to speak English to take bribes, people in black market. I didn't know what black market was. And I had all opportunity to sell items on black market. And that's why I wasn't a very popular person in Japan, in that area.

AI: Because you did not participate in that?

AO: No, no. But I was fair with the Japanese government and the military. I didn't favor either one. I was equal. So on our way to return to the United States, I stopped at the main office of this contractor and they showed me their, they gave me a tour of their factory. See, they built locomotives, bridges, boilers, and so they were real happy for me. Then I asked them where there would be a hotel where we could stay. They said, "Oh yes, we have a place where you could stay. We'll find one." And so my wife and I went out and they put us in a car. It was a company car. And the personnel of the company that knew me were walking beside the car going to this hotel. Then it stopped and we got out. Then my wife looked at the sign on the side of the hotel and it's for, I think it said Kisha Gaisha Shiyo, which means that it's for the use of the company that built the boiler. And so we went in and the receptionist accepted us and showed us our room. And they even brought food for us. And then when we checked out, there was no charge. So it pays to be fair.

<End Segment 38> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 39>

AI: Well, so then you and your wife then departed from Japan and was this, you said, in 1953 about was it in early --

AO: March.

AI: March of 1953.

AO: The first of March I left, boarded ship, left Japan and it's about the middle of March that I arrived. [Narr. note: OSK Line. Name of the ship Hawaii Maru, 10,000 ton freighter, 12 passenger. Ten days from Yokohama to San Francisco, then to Wilmington, California. Ship fare was $400 -- 1st class service.]

AI: And your sister greeted you?

AO: Yes. She came after me.

AI: And you had to start all over, so --

AO: Yes.

AI: So how did you do that? What did you do?

AO: Sunday I disembarked from the ship. Monday I went, I used my sister's car. I went to DMV for driving test and I passed. And then that same morning I went to Department of Employment, State Department of Employment on South Flower, 525 South Flower. And they sent me to what you call an interview. And the supervisor for billing of the company looked over my employment application and then he asked me when I wanted, wished to start work. I said, "I need money. I'll start today." He says, "Come in at quarter of eight tomorrow morning." That was Tuesday and I worked there for nine months. And then I met my friend that was in the internment camp in Manzanar. And he had a radio, TV and appliance store. So I went to work for him. See, I started billing at three hundred dollars a month. Then my friend offered to pay me $325 dollars a month. And I went. And then when my wife came in November of 1953, she came, then I was renting a room in a hotel on San Pedro Street, and then when she came I, the friend that I worked for in the fruit stand in Whittier had apartments in East L.A. And so I rented apartment there when my wife came. We stayed there for a while and then she said she'd like to work. And so I took her for interview with the same company I worked as a biller typist. And they said, "Yes, we'll try her out, put her on trial." And she worked there for over thirty years. So the timing was right for us and so we saved and invested in real estate. Then we bought an apartment for us to rent. So we have comfortable income now.

<End Segment 39> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 40>

AI: And in addition to your son you also have two daughters?

AO: Yes, we wanted to have a girl. And a girl wasn't coming, so we decided we heard about adopting babies from Japan. So we became in contact with Dr. Differgrado. And he was an attorney and he was determined to adopt, have people adopt at least, I think there was two hundred babies that he wanted to be involved in with adoption. So we corresponded with him. And he lived in Yokohama. He had a Portuguese name but he was Japanese. And so he found a girl baby, baby girl in Fukuoka and the girl was, I think, six months or eight months old. And he sent us the picture and we accepted. And so soon as we accepted we sent the money and then, as a deposit, that's what I believe. And then the girl was transferred from Fukuoka to Elizabeth Sanders Home in Yokohama. That's where all the babies or children that's gonna be adopted would be. And then about, it took, it took ten months. By the time that all the papers were all prepared, the name of the girl, we'd named her Charlene, and it was... well, Charlene was eighteen months by the time we received her. So we went down to the airport, picked her up and brought her home. We lived in La Puente at the time. And in order to qualify for the adoption, the, I guess the immigration office would come in and inspect your home. They also questioned the neighbors and we were, we qualified, so now we have Charlene, now living in Ohio with two children. And we're very happy with her.

AI: And then, and then you had your youngest daughter.

AO: Our youngest daughter came as soon as we adopted Charlene, and then Kimi became pregnant, then we had Patty and she was born December 5, 1963, and she's now forty-one. And she's a registered nurse at Los Angeles County Hospital. And she's been working there for going on fifteen years. So, we're happy with them.

AI: Well, I wanted to ask you about, as your children were growing up, and let's see, and your son's name is Eugene?

AO: Eugene, yes.

AI: Did, do you know if any of them ever faced any kind of prejudice or had any difficulty because they were Japanese American when they were kids growing up?

AO: I don't think so. We, our son Gene went to elementary school from kindergarten on in La Puente and he made friends with the kids there. And one of the parents of one of the boys that he made friends with was Larry Kaimer and his parents are our close friends even today. And so that's, I guess good fifty years. And our fiftieth anniversary, we invited them to our fiftieth anniversary dinner and that was April 2001 when we had our anniversary dinner. And we had the Kaimers there and the son. And then we made friends with a retired airline pilot that lived on Bainbridge Island and we made friends with him during the time that we owned a house on Sunrise Drive on Bainbridge Island. And we invited him to come to our anniversary dinner. We had a number of friends that we made.

AI: That's wonderful.

<End Segment 40> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 41>

AI: Well, so, as time has passed on I was wondering, did your kids ever ask you about World War II and your experiences, or did you ever talk to them about anything that happened during those years?

AO: Our grandchildren in Ohio, they were studying about the evacuation and internment so they asked me to give them information about the, my experience in the internment. And so they used the information I gave them. And they had sort of like a panel discussion and they got good grades towards that. And they were happy about it.

AI: Well, was that the first time you had talked about your World War II experiences?

AO: No, one time in Walnut in elementary school, our daughter Patty mentioned that her father was interned and had the World War II evacuation experience. And so her teacher asked me to appear in the classroom so the, I could tell my experience to the students. And then they would ask me questions. So I'd answer them and tell them my experience as I answered the questions.

AI: What was that like for you, going into a classroom like that and having kids ask you questions?

AO: I think that was good. They were interested in knowing the condition, the treatment. And so what availability I had in information I was glad to talk about it. And then another time there was a teacher. We were living in West Covina at the time. And she was telling me that one of her student's parents were interned but they wouldn't talk about it to the boy. And so she was asking me if I wouldn't mind talking about my experience to the boy so that he would understand. And I said that I'll be willing to.

AI: Well, during these times when you talked to students and younger people, and even your own grandchildren, I'm wondering how they reacted when you told them the part about renouncing your citizenship?

AO: I don't know what their reaction was, but I just explained to them why I renounced my citizenship and that my parents were the ones that requested me to. My mother eventually came back to the United States. My father could have, but he had property so he didn't want to lose his property. See, the laws of owning property changed after the war and if you could not manage to grow rice on your property, then you would have to give it up. And that's probably one reason why he stayed, to keep his property.

AI: Do you have any idea why your mother decided to come back to the United States?

AO: Well, actually, she didn't realize the future in Japan and so there was practically no future for her even though my father had the property, and so she wanted to come back. And one thing, she did have a baby that's buried in the Anaheim cemetery and so that was one good reason why she wanted to come back. But she wanted to come back and be with her first baby. Why did she want to leave the baby in the first place? She wasn't thinking about that. But as years goes on it changes. But she's now deceased now and she's as close to her first baby as possible.

<End Segment 41> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 42>

AI: Well, I just had a couple more questions. Again, as time had passed, of course, the redress movement got underway and eventually the redress legislation was signed. And I was wondering, when you finally got your apology in the mail -- or did you receive an apology in the mail?

AO: Yes.

AI: Well, and your check, what did you feel? What was going through your mind when you received that?

AO: Well, I received apology, it was signed by George Bush Senior. He's the one that signed the apology. Well, that's another piece of paper. And even to this day, in the move, we've moved several times, so I really don't know where that document is today, it may come out. And I received my $20,000 and I said, well, that's fine, I'll just deposit that in savings or invest it. My brother received it and he wasted it. My mother received it and she had a little bit of savings and she added the twenty thousand to it, then when she died my sister that took care of her most of the time while she was in the nursing home, so she said that she wanted to divide that among the three of us. I said, "Since you took care of my mother and I didn't, that I will, I wish you would give my," I wouldn't receive my share. But my brother wanted his because he didn't have much money. He didn't save any. So I don't know what happened to my mother's $20,000.

AI: Well, for yourself, did you really, did it seem like the United States really had apologized to you or did it make much of a difference to you?

AO: Well, actually, it didn't make that much difference. The apology is just a piece of paper and it wasn't President Bush that had to apologize, it's ones that already had deceased, especially General DeWitt and a few others behind him. I can't tell which one, are strictly behind the evacuation. But as long as the people are good to us, that's what I like to know.

AI: Well, is there anything else that you'd like to add that we haven't talked about?

AO: Really, nothing's coming to my mind at this moment.

AI: What --

AO: But I do feel that United States is one of the rare countries that, that abused our privileges but still we can come back and live normally. That's all I ask, that I can live in a normal condition.

AI: Well, we really appreciate your speaking with us.

AO: Yes.

AI: And thank you very much for your time.

<End Segment 42> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.