Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hiroshi Kashiwagi Interview
Narrator: Hiroshi Kashiwagi
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Klamath Falls, Oregon
Date: July 3, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-khiroshi-02-0001

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AI: Today is July 3, 2004, and we're here at Klamath Falls at the Oregon Institute of Technology, for the Tule Lake Pilgrimage. And I'm Alice Ito from Densho, on videography is Steve Colgrove, and Hiroshi Kashiwagi, thanks very much for doing this interview with us. Also sitting in with us today is Chizu Omori. And as I mentioned earlier, we just wanted to start at the beginning, and I guess I'll ask by, begin by asking, when and where were you born?

HK: I was born on November 8, 1922, in Sacramento. Actually, my family, parents, were living in Florin, which is just a few miles away. But Sacramento is where I was born, because my mother went to a midwife, and she sent in the... the birth record, for records.

AI: Right. Well, I also wanted you to tell a little bit about your family background. So about your father and where he came from in Japan, and your mother?

HK: Well, my father came from Wakayama, and this was, and then he came... well, I don't know where he landed. I think San Francisco, but he worked on the railroad, and worked up in Utah or somewhere, Wyoming. And since he was bigger than most of the Issei men, he got all the heavy work. And so he didn't really like it, and so he drifted into other farm work and things like that. And he did other, many things, one of which was to fish in Terminal Island. And this was before he was married, and they had this small boat, and they would fish for tuna. And they had no help from the Coast Guards or anything, no radio, it was strictly on their own. And they tried not to go very far out, but usually they kind of drift pretty far out. He had many stories, adventure stories about fishing. And then from there, he, I think, went into truck farming, and working on a truck farm. And he drove a team of horses to, to cultivate and so forth. And after that, I think I heard that he, he operated a small cafe. And once, in 1939, when I went to L.A., he took me to that very cafe. And, of course, it was run, run by somebody else, but we went inside and had a meal there. And it was interesting because that's where he had worked.

And I, in 1920 -- no, about 1918, he sent for my mother, who came as a "picture bride." So she came from Wakayama, and when I was back to visit my uncle, who is about two or three years younger than my mother, he accompanied her to, from Wakayama to Kobe, where she boarded a ship to come to San Francisco. And he was telling me that he was about fourteen or so. And my mother was seventeen, I think, maybe eighteen, almost eighteen. And so she was twenty when I was born. And so we were always twenty years apart, and sometimes she would pretend that I was her brother. [Laughs] Vain, vanity. And she kept her youth for a long, long time, until she had this teeth, dental problem. And then she had to have them all extracted, and then suddenly, her youth went. But...

AI: And excuse me, what was your mother's name?

HK: Kofusa. Kofusa Hai, H-A-I, which is a very odd name. And since the, the uncle's son died, there is no one to carry on the name now. So there were other daughters, but they were married.

AI: Did, excuse me, did you know much about what her family, your mother's family did in Japan?

HK: They were farmers, I think. But her brother was a bureaucrat. He was a postal employee. And I heard that he was up for promotion to become postmaster, but the person who was... well, in the post office working with him, wanted the position. So somehow, I think it was my mother who, when she was visiting her, him, suggested that the position was rightfully his. And so that he should not give up. And my mother, having lived in America -- [laughs] -- felt that they should press to, to get the position. And they made some sort of arrangement, where this man, who was rather wealthy, exchanged his house for the position. So that my uncle got the house, but not the position. [Laughs]

AI: How interesting. So your mother's experience in America influenced what she, her advice to her brother.

HK: Yes, uh-huh. And then when they made this exchange, there was something not clear about the possession. So she insisted that she, they, they register everything, and made sure that it was theirs. And so when we visited, the house was rather nice and modern, somewhat, and the bathroom was indoor and they had flush toilets and stuff.

AI: Interesting.

HK: And so it was nice in that way, and there were many rooms were we could sleep.

AI: And what about your father's side? What was your father's name?

HK: Fukumatsu. Very Meiji-type name. And so that he adopted the name "Frank." And this name we gave to our son, but he, he does not use it because he doesn't like that name. But my father thought that that was a much better name than "Joe" or "Charlie" or something like that. So he was Frank to his American friends. I think they also were rice farmers. They had a little patch of land, and he was one of the lower, younger siblings, so there were older sisters and brothers. And he had several brothers who came to America, I think they came before he did, and (my grandfather) also was here, and he went back. And the other -- the brothers, I think they, they died here before they went back. But as I mentioned the other day, one of the brothers had a white common-law wife, I guess, and he spoke good English, and my father always said that when you spoke to him on the phone, he sounded very American. I don't know, I guess he picked this up from his wife, or... but he also died, I think. So I never, of course, I never saw him, and I've wanted, wanted to check on his grave, grave marker, but I've never done that. I think he's buried in Sacramento.

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