Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tom Akashi Interview
Narrator: Tom Akashi
Interviewers: Tom Ikeda (primary); Chizu Omori (secondary)
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 3, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-atom-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today's date is July 3, 2004, and we're in Klamath Falls for the Tule Lake Pilgrimage, and we're taking the morning of Saturday, while people are, are doing the camp tour, to spend a few hours doing your life history. And before I start, I should ask you, do you want to be called "Tom" or "Motomu"?

TA: Well, really, I used to tell people that only my mother gets to call me Motomu. But I had a heck of a lot of trouble with my name, especially in the service or anyone, they said, "Motobo, Moromo," or whatever it was. So I says, "Hey, to make it easy for people to understand and remember, I just truncate it: M-O -- M-O, and then last "U," and then came up with "Tom," and I've been Tom ever since. And all my friends and people who know me as Tom.

TI: Okay. Well, that's going to be easy for me, because my name is Tom Ikeda, and I'm interviewing, and co-interviewing with me is Chizu Omori, and on camera is Steve Colgrove. And so we're, we're just so happy to be here. So I'm going to start from the very beginning of your life, and if you could just tell me where and when you were born?

TA: Well, I was born in (Merced), and that was June 7, 1929.

TI: Okay, good. And then what was, what was the full name that was given to you?

TA: Motomu Akashi. Yeah. There's an interesting thing about Motomu Akashi, is that my older brother is named Paul, and my younger brother's named Raymond, and here I'm Motomu. And where's, what happened to my English name? And I never found out what, why I was never given an English name.

TI: Your older brother, but they were given both an English and Japanese?

TA: Yes. My older brother is Paul Toshikazu Akashi, and my younger brother is Mitsuru Raymond Akashi.

TI: Did you ever ask your, your mom or your dad why?

TA: You know, I never did. I, I wish I did, but I didn't. I just said, "Okay." And some of the, my, well, even my wife says, "Hey, you must have been an orphan. You don't have a first name." I says, "Well, I have one now." [Laughs]

TI: That's funny. So, what were your parents doing? When you were born, what kind of work were they doing?

TA: They were, they were farmers. Especially my father, he graduated the University Farm School, it was part of the University of California. And he majored in husbandry, and he did a lot of experimenting, farming, he experimented with apricots, tomatoes, and he was, he farmed. He was quite successful at the beginning, but like everything else, the Depression, and also his crop failed and as a result he was dead broke like the rest of the people, I guess.

TI: So, so it was hard farming. How about your mother, what was she doing?

TA: Housewife and helping my father out. Like all, all Japanese wives, taking care of the kids and out there helping out on the farm.

CO: Now, I know that your mother was born in the U.S.

TA: Yes, she was.

CO: She was a U.S. citizen. Yeah, uh-huh. So she was bilingual? She spoke English and Japanese?

TA: Yeah. She was bilingual, she was born in Isleton, and she went to Japanese school and also English school, or the public school. But, of course, her education was cut off short because of, she was second to the oldest of eleven children and she, she devoted most of her time taking care of the kids.

TI: Well, let's talk about your, your mom's side. So about when did your grandfather on your mom's side come to the United States?

TA: Yeah, he, he came early. I don't, I can't recall right now the exact year, but he came early, alone.

TI: But in like the 1800s sometime?

TA: Yeah, because my mother is considered an older Nisei, and so as a result, he came much earlier than my father did. And he came and what he did is he farmed in, in the Delta area, and he went to Hawaii and met my grandmother, and must have been one of these arranged marriage, because he didn't stay long, he just went there, got married, and came back. And they farmed in the, in the Delta area along the Isleton.

TI: So your mom was born, like, around turn of the century, or probably pretty early?

TA: Yeah.

TI: Probably, okay.

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