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

<Begin Segment 1>

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.

<Begin Segment 2>

AI: Well, so you spent your early years in, very close to Loomis, was it?

HK: Yes. We moved to Loomis from Sacramento. Loomis is, was settled by Danish, and I don't know, people like that. And so they, they, it was forest, and they pulled up the trees and cultivated or made them into, into ranches. And by the time the Japanese moved in, they were ready to sharecrop with them, and they were owners of the land. And they had already planted the trees, so that the, the trees were bearing fruit, and so they were sharecroppers and some rented and some of 'em just worked. But we were there, I think, about two years. I remember taking the bus to school about four or five miles, and I was about six or so. And so I remember having missed the bus a couple of times, and the principal of the school, whom everyone was afraid of, drove me home. [Laughs] And he got one of the older boys to direct him, and one of the boys had worked on the farm in summer, so he knew where we lived, and he directed Mr. Gates. And Mr. Gates dropped me home. My parents couldn't believe that the principal of the school would bring this little kid home.

But after a couple of years, my father bought the store, and these people who had this fish market had made enough money, I don't know how much, but enough to go back to Japan. So they were selling the store and this, the fixtures and the stock. And we bought that, and so we moved to town, and the reason for the move was that my mother had developed hay fever, and she had gone to the doctor, and there was no cure for that. So they decided maybe she better move out of the ranch. And so the best, best solution they could think of was that we would all go to Japan, and my father would remain. And so we had, had our pictures taken in our new, new clothing, and we were all ready, we had the passport photos, and then he, he heard that the store was on sale, so he bought that. And so that Japan trip was called off. And really shaped my, my life.

AI: Well, and I think you said earlier, that was about 1928 that he bought the store.

HK: Yes, 1928 was a very good year, where they made quite a bit of money. I don't know, but for that time, it was good. And so they were able to consider move-, changing lifestyles.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

AI: I wanted to ask you a little bit more about your very earliest years. Some of your -- for example, I was wondering, do you happen to remember learning English? When you first learned English?

HK: Yes. I spoke Japanese, Nihongo, until I started kindergarten. And the Japanese Association had a, a kindergarten, and it was mainly Japanese kids with a white teacher. And it was held in the association hall, and I was sent there when I was about five-and-a-half, so that I would be prepared when I started school. And I, I spoke, I didn't speak any English. One time the boss came by, and he asked for my parents, I guess, and I said, "Huh?" [Laughs] And my brother, my siblings thought that was Japanese. And they, they thought, "Oh, you spoke Japanese to this, this hakujin." [Laughs] Well, I didn't realize it myself. I thought that could have been Japanese. But kindergarten was really a rather unhappy experience, because all these kids spoke English. They were, they had older siblings, and so they, they spoke English and they were very comfortable in school and with each other, and here I was, having a hard time with the language. And so I don't think I finished the six months. I think I dropped out, or they withdrew me. One time I ran home from school.

AI: So it was a difficult experience.

HK: Yeah, I guess it was. I, I didn't... and then there were bullies who would get into my lunch and take all the good stuff. [Laughs] And I write about that in the book. But that was --

AI: And then, then the next school you went to was the grammar school where you took the bus?

HK: Yes, we took the bus, yeah.

AI: And so by that time, then, you must have been adjusting and learning English and able to communicate.

HK: Well, I didn't feel comfortable until I was in the third grade. So that I don't know I managed the first two grades. [Laughs] It was just by luck that I wasn't held back. Because many Nisei were held back. One fellow, who was, he was, he's here at the pilgrimage, but his brother, who was in our class, when he was, graduated from grammar school, eighth grade, people said he finished his tenth grade -- [laughs] -- because he was held back a couple times. So yeah, I really didn't feel comfortable until I was in the third grade, and then suddenly something, yeah. And then it was easygoing, somewhat, but the reading was always difficult. Reading and comprehension was pretty difficult. We had one teacher who kept going with us, advancing with us. And we said, "Oh, Mrs..." what was her name? Mrs. Land, I guess, was promoted, too. And so she, she was our teacher, and she was very strict, and some of the kids said that she was anti-Japanese, but I didn't think so. She was just a good teacher, and was very particular about how we spoke. And she always said we spoke pidgin English. And so, yeah, we turned out pretty, pretty good.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

AI: Well, I also wanted to ask you, in your early grammar school years, what was the rest of the student body like? Were there very many Japanese American kids?

HK: I think there were about a third, a third of the class, yeah. It, the, the class was somewhat divided, and we were... I, I didn't realize it at the time, but by the time we were in the seventh grade, there were two, two classrooms. And one was made up of all the white kids, and most of the white kids were landowners, and then there were a few, few Japanese, I don't know how they got in. Whether they were more, more Americanized, or what. But then the rest, the other class was mainly Japanese, and a few Chinese, and a few Portuguese, and a few Spanish, and a few very poor white kids in bare, bare feet and so forth. And since it was right after the Depression, or during the Depression, yeah, there were a lot of poor people. So, and so there was a division there, and it continued year after year, and I guess some of us in this other, lower, supposedly B class, made better grades in tests. So I don't know, it wasn't based on grades so much.

AI: Well, so during grammar school, who were your friends? Were you mostly friends with Japanese Americans, or with some of the other kids as well?

HK: Well, when, in the lower grades, and being in town, we walked to school, and there were white kids who walked from home to school, and so I had several white kids with whom I walked, and were friends with. And yeah, that was in the lower grades. But as you go up, they, they drop you. And, but, you know, I always remembered the relationship I had with them. And then later on, when we were in high school or something, they would have their friends, I would have my own friends. But if we passed each other on the sidewalk, they recognized that we were friends once, long ago.

AI: So it was a friendly memory.

HK: Yes. And I have to mention that we had the store, and there was a trio of Spanish girls, and they were a grade or two ahead of me, but being Spanish, I guess, they were far more mature, mature than their years. And they had black hair, and very sexy. And they, maybe they had some gypsy blood in them. I don't know. But anyway, they were Spanish, and they spoke a bit of Spanish. Once, my mother caught them stealing potato chip. They came in little bags, they were about ten cents each, and they were hooked onto a little, little stand, and when you'd touch them, it would really make a big rattling noise. And we were living in the back, rear of the store, and we can hear. And whenever someone came in, the door would bang, or they would kind of quietly slip in, and they would take these potato -- and they were caught once, because of all the noise. And they, I guess, to, as a reprisal, they would torment me. I would be walking and these three buxom girls, they would band together and block my way, or... anyway, I was always terrified of them, and they knew that, and they wanted -- maybe they were having, just having fun, but anyway, that left a psychological impression on me, and I think it affected my relationship with girls later. Yes.

AI: Yeah, sometimes those young experience really last a long time.

HK: Yeah. So I would try to find another route and try to avoid them, or go a little later, but they would always be there. [Laughs] These three women, they're really, sometimes I dream about them, even now. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 5>

AI: Well, you mentioned about the economic times, and, of course, that was in the Depression, during the '30s, and you had mentioned in an earlier conversation that the Depression really affected your family and your father, because of President Roosevelt's works projects.

HK: Yes. Well, that forced us to leave. But even during the time that we had the store and operating, having the store, we had all the foodstuff, so that we didn't starve. We always had food, we could always raid the store. But some of the goods were bought on credit from the wholesaler in, in San Francisco. You know, like shoyu and rice and miso and things like that, Japanese things, imported things. And so my father had to kind of juggle his cash, so that they wouldn't stop selling him, and supplying him. So I think he had a hard time doing that, because meanwhile, the farmers, you had to wait until the crop was in, and then, were they able to pay, so they weren't, often. So it was a hard time, and somehow he made, made it go round, and until he became ill, and then the order to move because of the, the WPA project, and it was to rebuild the highway. Highway 40 ran right in front of our store, so that I would sit in front of the store and watch the cars go by. And the cars, I knew, were going up to Tahoe, spend their weekend there, and then I could even tell the cars that were returning on Sunday night or something. But we had to move for two reasons: that my father was ill in the hospital with pleurisy, and so we, we couldn't carry on the store. And then, of course, the building was going to be torn down. So a friend, the family friend took us in, and that was nice, the fact that we had a place to stay. It was a small cabin, three rooms, and well, it was kind of crowded, but in the summer, when it was hot, you couldn't stay in there, so we were always outside. But in the winter, it was nice and cozy. They had a wood stove, and I remember sitting and doing my homework and things. But the family was rather large. They had about five kids, and, but the father was the real authority, and so he told them that we were there, and that they should share everything with us and they did. It was very nice.

AI: And that was you and your mother, and you had a younger brother.

HK: And a sister. And, and then the little child was born just the year that we were moving out, 1933, and then we moved out. She died in about 193-, I think it was 1936, I was a freshman. And so there were, actually, three kids. Four, four of us, and my parents. My father was recuperating. And, and he felt obligated, and he started to work too soon, and pretty soon he was plowing. And plowing is very hard work. You follow the horse and over rather uneven terrain. So, and then he developed this funny noise in his breathing, and my mother was very concerned, but he's a very stubborn man. And gradually, I guess, that developed into TB. But he felt well enough that would restart the store, so the, Mr. Okusu was the name, he gave him, or loaned him some advance money. And, yeah. And we started again, and he ran that for about, oh, three years, then he became too ill to, to actually carry on, although he would not admit his illness. And I'm sure that people around knew, but no one said anything. And it was a very hush-hush thing. And I know that one time a social worker came, and she was certain that somebody in the family had TB. And so she really questioned us, and, but my mother and I, we pretended that everything was okay. And if, if we had said, told her that he was ill, then he would have been sent to the hospital, and maybe he would have recovered, but I don't know. Probably it was already too late. And he had, he smoked a lot, and he loved to smoke. And smoking made him cough, and my mother was very concerned about this, that it was the smoking. But, and so he would try to stop, and then he couldn't bear not getting a puff. And so he would sneak smoking, and then there was all kinds of tension in the family. And why he, he tried to do that -- and actually, he developed emphysema, and that contributed to his final, yeah. But TB played a big part, because in 1939, when I was ready for my senior year, suddenly he said, "You know, there's a friend down in L.A., and I want to send you there." So we went down to Los Angeles, and he took me around, as I said. And then we stayed at the friend's for -- he stayed for a week, and then, and then I was to stay in L.A., they advertised for a houseboy job and I got it, and he came home, and I was left there. And I finished my senior year in L.A.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

AI: Well, I want to ask you more about your year in L.A., but before we go there, I wanted to ask a little bit more about Japanese American community life around Loomis and Penryn, because it sounds like the store must have been kind of a, one of the centers of activity, because, of course, all the Japanese families would come to get their shoyu, and I think you mentioned in a earlier conversation that your father would sometimes peddle fish.

HK: Yeah.

AI: And so he, he must have been well-known to the community.

HK: Yes. You know, Loomis was actually a very Christian town, Methodists, and all my classmates were members of the Methodist family, so there, they would go to the Methodist church, which was in Loomis. Now, the rest, other families who were not Methodists were staunch Buddhists, who had the temple in Penryn, which was about three miles away. So that there was this separation, and my father, who was, came from a Buddhist background, would not let us go to the church, even for Christmas. Christmas, they had programs and parties and stuff, and we wouldn't, we wouldn't go. I don't remember that I ever went. Maybe once I might have stuck my head in and watched the show or something. But here we were, in Loomis, a Methodist town, and we were Buddhists, so that we didn't go to their... actually, we didn't associate, other than school, with the family or the, the kids. But, as a business, my father's best customers were the Methodists. [Laughs] So that when he went there, they were, they always welcomed him, and he was the fish man. Sakamaya-san. And that was kind of interesting. But talking of being the center, the store had a kind, the earliest owner of the store was a man from Kumamoto, so that the tradition was that the New Year party for the Kumamoto people would be held at that store. And so even after the next owner, who was Wakayama-ken, and then my father, who was from Wakayama, they, they were members of the Kumamoto group. And then on New Year's, all the Kumamoto men, no women, came to the store, and then they brought their chicken, and they made their umani. Do you know umani? It's a kind of vegetable stew with chicken. Very good with sake. And so they would have their party, that they would just cook their umani. Very simple, I make it myself, but they would cook it there in the store. And then they would have their sake and have their New Year party, and very much going on, and my father was part of that, because he was a member.

And so I'm very, I know Kumamoto dialect, and as I say in my, in my birth certificate story, I discovered, during, just before the war, when we had to carry around our birth certificate for identification, I found that our last name was pronounced, written "Kashiwaki." And that's different from Kashiwagi. And then I later realized that the, the midwife must have been from Kumamoto, and she made the report, and she says Kashiwaki, because all the Kumamotos, I remembered, pronounced (our) name Kashiwaki. [Laughs] Kashiwaki-san, Kashiwaki-san.

AI: That is so interesting.

HK: Yeah, that was an interesting, so I used it in the story. Yes. But, and then we had our picnics, and for that, my father was a supplier of kamaboko and chikuwa and ebi and things that they cooked for, fixed for that picnic, as well as for New Year. He would take orders from everyone, and then we would wrap the orders and have them ready, and all these people would come, and, his customers on the route, and there were many of 'em, Methodists.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

AI: Well, also, you were telling me that you were also sent to Japanese school as a youngster.

HK: Yes.

AI: So tell me a little bit about the Japanese school.

HK: Well, Japanese school I started when I was in the second grade, seven years old, and we had a kind of carpool. In the morning my father was busy with his work, so this family, farming family would come by and pick me up, and then take me to Penryn. Penryn was the place where we went, three miles away. And then in the afternoon, around four o'clock, when my father was through with his deliveries, he would come and then take us home. And we would all pile into the back of the old delivery van, fishy smell, you know, and then, and then go home that way. But sometimes, something held him up, and he didn't show up. And then we'd have to walk home three miles. And I didn't mind the three miles, 'cause it's sort of downhill, but the kids from the farm, they had to walk maybe three or four more miles, so they remember. Says, "Your father sometimes forgot to come." [Laughs] They tell me even now. But I did that for about three years, and then the parents in Loomis decided they would make, build their own, start their own school. So they built this little building, and, and we went to this Japanese school in Loomis. And we only went on Saturdays, so that it was a Saturday school, and we took our Japanese kind of bento, onigiri and stuff on Saturdays. We didn't dare take it during the week to the other school.

So I had Japanese when, since I was seven, and my father would read the texts for me every Friday night. He would read it, and he would only read it twice. Once, and then twice, and then I had to read it back. And so I had to really concentrate so that I, he wouldn't have to... well, he never read it more than that. So that I got so that I could remember everything, and next day, I practically could recite it without looking at the text. So Japanese came somewhat easy to me, and you have to practice learning the kanji, but so that, yeah, I had a pretty good background by the time war started, yes.

AI: And also, you mentioned that in addition to the, the Japanese language school, that you also took some kendo?

HK: Yes. Kendo I started when I was eight, nine, yeah. And there was... I don't know what it was. Some of 'em were sent from, by the Japanese government, but they spread kendo all over. Every town had people learning kendo. And even people, Methodist Church people were taking kendo. And, well, some of us continued it after the original intense practice, and we took it for about two years after. But he felt that kendo would be good for me, because I wasn't boy enough. And I didn't really like it. I liked the sport of it, but all the yelling and screaming and hitting and everything, I didn't like. But funny thing, I used to win at tournaments. [Laughs] And I wasn't at all the best -- sometimes probably you're matched with, overmatched, and so you win, and then you win, and if you win about three, then you're given a little, a little gift, usually towel or something. But that's my experience. And then we would have tournaments in different towns, and so we used to go to these different towns, and I recall that. We didn't become very, I don't think we ever came to the Bay Area, but some of the outlying towns we went.

AI: So by the time that you started high school -- now, let's see. You graduated eighth grade in 1936, was it?

HK: Yes.

AI: So then by the time that you were in high school, you had had quite a bit of Japanese language school --

HK: Yes, I did.

AI: -- and you had been doing the kendo, and so you were feeling fairly comfortable in the language.

HK: Yeah, pretty comfortable, yeah. And then, of course, I spoke Japanese to my parents since I was very small, and, and then also I was the, the chief translator, interpreter, even when I was about seven or eight. And that was another experience, yeah. It was a very adult thing to do. And then you get pressure from both ends. [Laughs]

AI: What do you mean when you say you "get pressure from both ends"?

HK: Well, you know, they feel that I'm just a kid, and that I'm not really serving them, either of them. My parents, because they, they really depend on me, and then I might interpret correctly, but I would be afraid to say anything unpleasant, because they're adults. And then they, in turn, wouldn't trust me because I was a kid, and, yeah. [Laughs]

AI: Oh, difficult position for a kid.

HK: Yeah, it was a difficult position, and I remember doing that. I even wrote business letters for my father. He would tell me, and then I would write it in English. Somehow we got by with that. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 8>

AI: Well, you know, at that time, when you were starting high school, about that age, how would you, how did you consider yourself? Did you consider yourself fairly Japanese, or did you think of yourself as Japanese American, or what was your...

HK: I think, probably I felt more Japanese, yeah, considering all the background I had. Even at school, we were, as I say, we were separated, and... and friends were Japanese. So, yeah, I think I considered myself Japanese more than Japanese American, though we would hear that we, we were citizens of this country, and so we had certain rights and so forth. But the parents were strangers, outsiders, and they had to kind of maneuver with the, the racism and pressure and so that, yeah, I felt more Japanese, I think.

AI: Well, I wanted to ask you, did either of your parents ever talk to you somewhat directly about the discrimination, or about being Japanese or being American?

HK: Well, they, they told me that this is the way it was in this country, and that we are, we are not accepted, I mean, we are considered foreigners. So that even though I was an American-born, I felt that, yeah, I was part of the, that foreign family. So... yeah.

AI: And when you were in high school years, did your father, or your mother, talk to you much about what they thought your future was going to be in the United States, or how you might make your way?

HK: I don't, I don't know whether... you know, they trained me, you know all this Japanese culture, and so that it felt that even though I was born here and an American, I didn't have the, the same opportunities, or I wouldn't, and this was already true of people who had gone to universities, they had, they couldn't get jobs, and many of them went to Japan, where they got jobs or... you know. And so I think that was the, the feeling that the Issei had. And so I'm sure I got some of that. And so, and I was confused. I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I knew they wanted me to follow up with their business, carry on their business, but, yeah. Beyond that, I didn't know. I mean, I knew what I liked to do, but I wasn't sure, because, whether that would, yeah, I wouldn't be able to carry it on.

AI: Let's see... and so, in your high school years, what high school were you attending when, still in the Loomis area?

HK: Yeah, from Loomis, we were bussed ten miles away to Placer Union School, which, which served all the communities in, in that Placer County, starting from Loomis. Loomis was the southernmost town in the county, and then it served all the rest of the northern part of... and then at one point, they did, changed the boundary, so that people who lived closer to Roseville, which was the next town south, went to Roseville. And so they transferred from Placer to Roseville, and they said that Roseville was a completely different school. They felt very different, they were accepted, they didn't have to fight all that prejudice that we did in Placer and Auburn. So yes, we took the bus to Auburn, and we took it home, so that we weren't on school campus, and so we didn't participate that much. We were bussed home right away, otherwise we have no way to get home. And people who were on the baseball team or athletic teams, they would have to hitchhike from Auburn down to Loomis, which was about ten miles.

AI: Well, you just mentioned that there, that you faced some prejudice there, in the high school there, in the Auburn area. What kinds of incidents were there, or how, how did that become apparent to you?

HK: Well, I don't know of any specific incidents. We always had to be careful, "know our place." And so, if we didn't, then we would get the "Jap" and that sort of thing. And so to avoid that, we always were very quiet, and even when they provoked us, we took it. Because otherwise, there would be a lot of trouble, and I don't know, probably they would get the best of us anyway, 'cause we'd be outnumbered. I don't know. It was kind of subtle, but even among the other students, there was a group called the 400s, and these were all prominent families in Auburn. So they had their own clique, and so other, even whites who came from, from the outlying districts didn't belong, and they were considered outsiders, too. So yeah, certainly we -- and then we, as I said, we didn't participate in any activity, because we were, we were gone. And I don't recall anything overt that happened. But it was a kind of an accepted thing, yes, through the years.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

AI: Well, also in high school, it's a time when you were saying that your parents wanted you to continue on with the business, with the store, but you were starting to get some other interests. So what kinds of things were you becoming interested in?

HK: Well, I was interested in, in your sophomore year, second year, one of the required courses was public speaking. And this was dreaded. People, they had to pass it, and it was a one-semester course. And they had to take it, and they had to pass it. [Laughs] And then they always talk, "Ooh, public speaking is hard." Well, I took it, and it was, it was real easy. I enjoyed it. And as it turned out, the teacher turned out to be a racist during the war. But while I was taking the course, she knew that I was, I was good. So she was one of my favorite teachers, and yet, I didn't know that she was such a racist. Well, maybe the war brought it out, but anyway, and then I discovered that writing came to me rather easily, so I took courses that involved writing. English was always a good class for me, and book reports were always, and I could do those things and get good grades. And... what else? Well, you know, I was planning to go to college anyway, even though my father never thought that I would, and I was taking all these courses, language courses, that were required for college preparatory. And then I didn't quite take science because that's kind of hard, hard, so that was left for later to make up. And then math, too, I don't think I took any math. Maybe I took math as a correspondence course, algebra.

AI: So, but in your mind, even earlier in your high school years, you were already thinking of going to college?

HK: Yes, I was. Yes.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

AI: And then, as you mentioned, then, for your senior year, you were sent, your father took you to L.A. to live, and to work.

HK: Yes. And then by then I was busy writing extra things, essays and stories. Because I had a teacher who was very encouraging, and then I took drama, I mean, you know -- [laughs] -- when no one would think of taking drama in Placer County. And here, I took it and liked it, and they thought that I had some talent, and yeah, those are things I did in L.A., yeah, which opened up a lot -- and then I used to go see movies a lot. Being a houseboy, you have weekends, Sundays off, at least, and what can you do? You go to movies. And then you get one evening off, and sometimes I went to movies, yeah.

AI: So, so tell me a little bit about this high school in L.A. Which high school was it?

HK: It was Dorsey High School, which is now in that black neighborhood, Dorsey, Crenshaw and that area, where they had the riots. And, but at the time that I was going, it was a new school. I think we were the first class to graduate, you know, three years. I only went one year, but you go three years, and that was the first class to graduate from, graduated from that school. So as I say, it was a new school, and made up of many Jewish students and a few Japanese, about twenty-five, not too many. And, and then I tried to be very active, getting into activities, though I was busy with my work, I did some things, yes. And, and the courses, I guess, well, as I say, I had the English, spent a lot of time with that, and then drama -- oh, I took music because... I don't know whether it was required, but anyway, that was fun. I don't have any musical ability, but listening to music, and some recognizing. And the test was they will play a piece, and then you try to identify it. And just by listening for certain things in the piece, you could identify it. [Laughs] And I got so that I could do that.

AI: Well, it sounds like your life in L.A. was completely different from your life...

HK: Yes, it was. Yeah, uh-huh. Yeah. Well, I was stuck in this house, I was a houseboy, and then I had to take, look after these two kids, and they were eight or, eight and six. And when I first went there, I heard one kid, one of the boys saying, "There's a Jap in the house." [Laughs] And then the father must have told them, because they never said that word again. I stayed there nine months. And then they would play with the kids in the neighborhood, and they were very racist, of course, it's natural. And these kids would defend me. [Laughs]

AI: Is that right?

HK: Yeah. So I tried to look them up after the war and years later, but they had moved away somewhere, and so I couldn't... they weren't that much older, they were eight and six, but I was about seventeen, sixteen, seventeen, so that years later, they're only a few years ahead. But yeah, that was... and I got ten dollars a month, and that was more than enough to go to all the movies. [Laughs]

AI: Well, so then you graduated there from Dorsey High?

HK: Yes, I did.

AI: That would have been 1940?

HK: 1940, June, 1940. And, did I go to the graduation? I guess I did. Yeah. It was a pretty big class for high school.

AI: And then after that, did you return right away?

HK: Yeah, I came right back, because my father was ailing, and he needed help, so I came back. And so I started to do the ranch work, and was doing that, and in the summer my brother was around, he was, he was really the work horse. And so we did that for a couple of years.

AI: And your brother is two years younger than you are?

HK: A year.

AI: A year?

HK: No, no. He was two years behind me, a year and a half. In school he was two years behind me. So he was quite different. He's very athletic, and into all the sports in high school, which helped him, I'm sure, because he was considered one of the biggies on campus. And so even during the war, I don't think he suffered that much. After the war, that is. After the war started, there were, there were feelings, and sometimes overt. But teachers tried to be fair, and because of his status, I think he, I think he was very popular, even with the white girls. And my sister, also, well, I don't know. I think she might have felt the pressure a little more, because... yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

AI: Okay, so just before the break, you had mentioned that then you had returned from L.A., gotten back home, and at that point, your father, father's illness was getting worse, and so you were helping your brother with the, the farm work. And was that working with tree pruning, or sharecropping?

HK: Yes, tree, tree pruning.

AI: And then at that time, I think you mentioned in an earlier conversation that you were, you and your folks were somewhat aware of the war in Europe and the war in Japan, partly because your parents got their news from the Japanese newspaper.

HK: Right.

AI: And so that would have been, you graduated in 1940, so the news that year would have been probably a lot of Japan's military actions.

HK: Yeah. And all of the goings-on with Washington, and I remember that Kurisu came, then Nomura, I think, came, and then by that time they were in Washington, and then Pearl Harbor happened. [Laughs] So that, yeah. People said that they were there just to occupy them and distract them while Pearl Harbor was... but, of course, Roosevelt had already planned the whole thing. [Laughs]

AI: Well, before, before you heard about Pearl Harbor, did you have any sense yourself that perhaps the U.S. and Japan might be at war with each other eventually?

HK: I, I didn't expect a war to happen, yeah. So it was a surprise.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

AI: And so, tell me about December 7, 1941.

HK: I don't know what I was doing. Maybe I was chopping wood. I often had to chop wood, we burned wood in our wood stove, and being December, it's time for chopping wood. And so I think I was chopping wood when I heard it over the radio. And then a neighbor would come by and tell us, and then we had access to the Sacramento Bee, which the boss gave us one day late, so that we could read about in there, too. But on the radio, it was all over the radio. And so yes, what, what to do, what's going to happen? And yeah, we had to consult with our friends and neighbors.

AI: So what was some of the thinking? What was some of the talk about?

HK: Oh, gee. I mean, she would talk with the neighbor, with friends, and I don't know. Just to wait and see what happened. Yeah, we weren't sure.

AI: Did you have a sense that you might have problems as a result of this, the Pearl Harbor?

HK: No, I don't think so. I don't know, we, if things happen, we would, we would deal with it. And so, yeah, we didn't panic, but we talked about it, and there was, as I say, we were planning to move out early, voluntarily, so the friend came by and said that they were going to do this, and if we were to join them, we would have to get a car. So we went out looking for a used car, and bought one. And it was a bigger car, so all four of us could, could travel at one time. And then it turned out we couldn't move, so that we were stuck with a car, and we had to return it. And I took it back to the dealer, and the dealer said, "Well, just leave it, I'll sell it for you." And I didn't quite believe him, because he had sold us the car, said, "Runs like a jackrabbit." [Laughs] Scared jackrabbit. But it ran all right, but it smoked a lot. Lots of exhaust, heavy exhaust. So we had this car and we had to return it, and that was that, and we lost money. We figured, we had paid cash, maybe about seven or eight hundred dollars, and it's another loss. And, but we were now not going on our own, which was kind of scary thing to do, because we didn't know what was out there. And the man who was -- he was not the father of that family, he was the uncle or something, but he was responsible for, for the family, and he was determined to move voluntarily. But he, I guess, needed some support, too, so that he came to ask us. And so we were glad that we weren't going on our own, and that there would be a whole mass of people together with us, and so in that sense, we liked the idea of moving out together.

And then we had to figure out how we're going to dispose of our things, and some things we, we sold, and some things were stolen, and I remember Mom always talking about losing a ring. Yeah, she had left it somewhere while doing the wash, she would do the wash by hand, and some people came by looking for things and saw the ring, and I'm sure, because it wasn't there anymore. And we sold other things cheaply, and got rid of things. But we had moved several times since moving the store, so that we didn't have too much of the store fixtures. We did have some, some old things I wish we had kept, but we had these huge, sword-like knives that my father used to cut the fish. And we buried those in the ranch. About three of 'em, three about this long. [Laughs] And after the war, I tried to look for them, but I couldn't. I've forgotten where, where I had buried them. That's what we did, we burned some books that we had. But otherwise, we didn't have too much furniture. A few things we left, and I guess people used them and then took them, or, they weren't there when we got back. Maybe a Coleman stove that we had left with the boss, they had put in the barn, and they... I think it was in the barn. Anyway, it was there, so we were able to recover it and use it. We used it for a while.

AI: Well, during this time that you were getting ready, when you knew that eventually you were going to be moved out, your father wasn't at home at this time, was he?

HK: No, he wasn't. He was in the hospital. And we would visit him, the car made it possible for us to visit him as a family. So that that was useful in that sense. So we visited him about three or four times before we left. And, and then returned the car. But yeah, we were on our own. Yeah. So we had to get rid of our flock of chickens; we had these beautiful, red New Hampshire or whatever, kind of chickens, that we had raised from day-old chicks. And we bought fifty, and I think about thirty-seven survived. And incubated them with a little lantern to keep the heat, maintain the heat, and they grew and they were huge, beautiful chickens. And we had to slaughter them all, and then Mother made tsukudani, the shoyu and sugar, and then put it in Mason jars. And all that chicken was in about three or four, maybe have five jars, which we put in our duffle bags. And that's another story; my father, to isolate himself, before he went into the hospital, bought a tent, a rather heavy tent, and he, and he built a floor for it, board foundation, and then went out and, near the pasture, and built it. And set up this tent, and he, he stayed there for maybe a month or so. So we were stuck, he went to hospital, he hemorrhaged, so that was good that he, it shocked him into going to the hospital. But when the war came, we were stuck with this tent, you know. And my mother thought that that would make a very good duffle bag, so she cut them and then hand-sewed into three, I think three or four duffle bags, which we took. And that, those bags hold a lot, especially clothing. But we, we stuck the Mason jars of chicken in among the clothing. So that's how we took those things to camp.

AI: And that was in May 1942?

HK: Yes.

AI: And you went to Arboga?

HK: Arboga, yeah. Assembly center. And that's where we ate all the chicken. [Laughs] Because the food was not good at the beginning.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

AI: Well, tell me more about the conditions at Arboga.

HK: Arboga? Well, it was makeshift. It was a pasture, so that they brought in bulldozers, and leveled the land. So that it was rather flat, and somewhat even. You could play baseball on it, made good baseball fields because it was leveled over. But it had been, it had been swampy, and just covered over, so that the mosquitoes and gnats came up, and it took care of all the exposed areas. And so women, I think, wore pants just for protection. Pants were not in style then, and, but many did because it was protected. And then we had outhouses which filled up right away, because of all the people. And so I decided I would work at the hospital because they had flush toilets. [Laughs] And so I did that, and it sort of helped. And then people tried to go late at night or something, but then everyone had the same idea. [Laughs] So, and then, as people said, the walls were not up to the top, so that you could hear everything. Throughout the barrack, you could hear. And, but, I was having a good time.

AI: In what way? What kinds of things were you doing?

HK: Well, I was just meeting new people, and sharing common interests, and joining the newspaper, I was on the staff writing those things. And I even tried to start a drama group in assembly center, of all places. And there was no response, and I wrote to my drama teacher, my speech teacher, who was also the drama teacher, hoping that she would remember me, and help me with materials and suggestions. But I -- [coughs] -- but she never responded. So, yeah. And then later I found out she was a racist organizer or leader or something. And, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

AI: So you were in Arboga for several months, then.

HK: Couple months, I think. We went during May...

AI: And then, and then was it about August that you went to --

HK: Yeah, I think maybe it was earlier. We there a couple months. I'm not sure when we moved, I think it was July. And we looked forward to going to Tule, because we heard that they would have flush toilets. That was the most important thing. [Laughs] And indeed, they did have, but then there were no partitions at all.

AI: Well, so what about the trip? You were, you took the train.

HK: Yeah, we were taken to the train. I was the monitor of this one car.

AI: Oh, so what did you do as monitor?

HK: Well, actually, nothing. [Laughs] I had some sandwiches and supposedly lunch for the, for the passengers in that car, and then milk or something for the mothers with babies. And I passed those out, and that was it. And to see that no one was looking out the window. And it, if there was some complaint or something, then I would listen to them. But there was nothing. And, yeah, it was real easy.

AI: So, you didn't have any difficulties, then, on your trip to Tule Lake.

HK: Actually, yeah. Everyone was sitting there very grim-looking, and it was not a fun trip on this, on the hard wooden benches. But no, it was not, there's nothing special happened, you just came, and it was morning when we got here. And people today said that they didn't remember that it was in the morning, but I thought it was. Early in the morning. And then we got on this army truck and they took us into camp.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

AI: So then, at that point, what happened? Were you kept together as a family unit?

HK: Yes. We, there were four of us, and we got the end apartment, and it turned out that we were close to the bathrooms. Just run out for my mother and my sister, because it was right across, and then we would just go to the left. It was very close. And that was pretty important, because in the winter it was kind of cold, and snowy sometimes.

AI: What block were you in?

HK: Forty, forty. Forty was second block, it was on the corner, that block. And four was across the, the firebreak on the other corner. So we were... yeah. And Ward 5, Block 40.

AI: So that, that first few months, or that fall, in Tule Lake, what kinds of things were you doing? You got a job, and...

HK: Yeah, I looked for a job, and the only job available then was carpenter. And Jimi was saying that we became daiku-san. [Laughs] But that's carpenter, actually, we were just putting up plasterboards. Because they hadn't finished doing that, and so we went around to each of the apartments, and put up all the plasterboards and the ceiling and the walls. And we were not carpenters at all. I mean, we could barely pound the nails straight, and I was the youngest among these people. And, and then people welcomed us, because we were improving the quarters, and they would move out all their, whatever they had inside, not too much. Some home-built furniture, and then they would give us sodas and treat us royally. [Laughs] But, yeah, it was kind of embarrassing, because all we did was put up these boards. Yeah. And that was my job for about three months, and then we were finished, and then I had to look for something else, and I think after that I worked in the mess hall, which was another easy job. I mean, easy to get. I didn't go beyond easy. [Laughs] I could have worked on the newspaper staff, that would have been fun, and I should have done that. Then I would have met different people, but I didn't. I don't know why, but... but I soon found the theater, little theater they were starting, and they were recruiting, and so I joined that, and I thought, "Oh, this is for me." And I was in several plays, and the director was a rather, kind of old Nisei woman, rather sophisticated.

AI: So what kinds of plays, plays would you produce?

HK: We only did American plays, the old sawhorses, one-act plays that most high schools did, or it was available and you didn't have to pay royalties on these. So, yeah, we just did plays that were fun to do, and at first, this director didn't think that I was much of an actor, some country hick, and so I got some uninteresting parts. But by attrition, some guys got sick, or they went out of camp early or something, so that for the first production I was in two plays. [Laughs] And I was playing one of the lead comedy parts. And then in the other play, I was cast in that originally, and Yuki Shimoda was in that play. He became an actor. And he was a dancer, and it was a play about dancers, and then I was, I don't know, I was the dream-maker or something. Huge hat. Kind of fun, but...

AI: So it sounds like you had a lot of fun doing that.

HK: Yeah, I did. Especially doing the comedy act. So they realized that I had some talent, and then I was put into better parts and I really had fun.

AI: Were you also doing some writing during this time?

HK: No, except that I was in a writers' group, and that again, being just a high school kid, it was made up of people who had gone to college, UC, and I don't know what else. I doubt that there was any Stanford people. But mainly, you see... and they were not graduates, they were, they had been students. And they were not exactly writers, either. I mean, they were college students. Interested, maybe, in writing, and the activity was to write something, bring it to the session, and then maybe you read it. And so different people read their stories or whatever, and they were writing things like, Dos Passos was popular then, and Steinbeck, and Hemingway, and some of the hard-boiled writers, detective. So, some of these people were trying to copy their styles, and it was just very impressive. And there, the room was pretty full, and I assumed that they were all college students, and they were all interested in writing. As it turned out, they were only there -- [laughs] -- as a, not as a participant, but to observe, I guess. I learned this later.

AI: So, so while you were in this writing group and where, where many of them were college students, did this affect your own thinking about what you might be doing, or whether you might have a chance to go on to college later? I mean, here you were, stuck in Tule Lake, but at the same time, you were with a bunch of, of other young people who already had been to college, or had begun college.

HK: Well, I hadn't thought of it. I, I just assumed that I was not college at that time. And so I was very, feeling very self-conscious and intimidated and so forth. And yet, when it came my turn to write, I wrote a story based on some, something that happened to me, and it was handwritten, and it was not too long, but decent. And I read it in the group, and there was not word of reaction, response. No response. Yeah. It was amazing, and I didn't, I didn't dare to ask for any, any kind of comment. And so I decided, "Well, the story wasn't much, and so what?" And so I set the story aside and probably lost. And then that, few months later, Jobo Nakamura, who was sort of writing for the paper, Tulean Dispatch, he was one of the leaders of the group, and he came around and he says, "We're doing a collection of things written in camp, and I was interested in printing your story." [Laughs] By that time I had thrown the story out, and I couldn't reproduce it. So, but I don't know why there was no response. Maybe it was just too close to everyone's experience, or, I don't know. [Laughs] But that was my story experience, I don't think anyone came out of that group who continued to write. They were, they became scholars, maybe, sociologists or something. Jobo wrote a few things later, but he didn't pursue writing.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

AI: Well, so then, for most of 1942, and it sounds like you were very busy and active, and, but then things changed in early 1943.

HK: Yeah, February 1943, with the, when they issued the registration order, the army came in to recruit, and then the WRA wanted to, to move us out, so they needed clearance, and they combined the two, and they had these stupid questions, and we refused to register.

AI: Well, tell me how that came about. Tell me about your, you had some discussion with your family members and friends?

HK: Yeah, we had discussions, and we also gauged what was going on within the block, as well as within the other blocks. And we felt that -- and then we certainly didn't want to register, or answer those questions. And the first feeling was that everyone would, would refuse to register.

AI: Well, tell me about that. Tell me, what was your feeling? You didn't want to, you didn't want to answer the questions because...

HK: Oh, yeah. Well, you know, the way we were treated, as non-citizens, and then to be, to ask, "Are you loyal?" questioning our loyalty. I mean, we certainly were loyal. Had we not been in camp, I mean, there was no question. And I remember the Nisei who were being drafted before the war, and I was in this men's group, young men's group, and we would have little parties, going-away parties for them. And was picked to give a little speech. And so I would make this funny old patriotic speech, urging them to serve their country and so forth. And, yeah, so, but once we were treated like we were, then, yeah, I couldn't register and say, "I will serve in the army wherever sent," and so forth. I really couldn't. And I think the, the kind of life that we had before the war, some of the abuses that we, we had, I think, played into that decision. The fact that my favorite teacher did not respond to my letter, and then to find out that she was a racist, and those things. We wrote to our boss, in fact, my mother sent some things out of yarn. She made flowers out of yarn -- this is one of the crafts that they did in camp -- and she sent this package, sent it to the boss. And there was no response. She was too busy harvesting the fruit, I guess. I mean, she felt put-upon, because she had to do that, and because we were moved out, we were not there to do the work, or something, she blamed us for it, or blamed Japan, or what. Anyway, she never responded. And there went all that work, and yarn and goodwill and all that. So, yeah, I think all that helped in making my decision.

AI: And at that time, as I understand, there were quite a few people who were deciding that they would not answer the questions at all, they would really not fill out the questionnaire, and they would refuse to register altogether.

HK: Yes, and we were close to Block 42, and there were a bunch of young men who asked for repatriation. And then because of that, they were first to be ordered to register, and they refused that. And so the army came in, and at bayonet points, they were all put on the trucks and taken away.

AI: Did you know some of those fellows?

HK: Well, I knew them later. Yeah.

AI: Did you think that something similar would happen to you, because --

HK: Oh, yes. We were all ready. We had packed our suitcases and we were ready to go, because we had refused to register. I mean, we thought that we would be next, because we were, this was Block 42, Block 40, Block 41. So we were close, so we were ready and determined to do, to oppose it. And...

AI: What -- excuse me -- what did you think would happen to you if you, you had your suitcases ready, you thought you would be taken away, but what did you think would happen after you were taken away?

HK: I don't know. I mean, we were ready to go anywhere. [Laughs] Because, yeah. Opposing that meant that much to us. We would, yeah, risk all of that. And these people thought that they were risking, but actually, they were taken to the county jail, and then the WRA was told that they couldn't hold them. And the whole registration was not compulsory, although they never told us that.

AI: At the time, you believed it was compulsory.

HK: Yes. They made us believe that we had to do it. And they said that if we didn't, we would pay, and we would be fined and sent to jail, or something. And so we thought we had to. But then when you read about it, the administration was told that they couldn't do that. But they never told us that.

AI: So at the time, you believed that you might have, you might be taken away, and you might be thrown in prison and fined a large penalty.

HK: Yeah. Yeah, we were ready, ready to take all that consequence. Yes. So I, I remember it very vividly, they started to beat the mess bell, and all the mess bells were ringing, and then they came, and then everyone rushed as the, as the men carried their suitcases out and got on the truck, and left. Yeah, that, that's a very dramatic, memorable scene.

AI: Were there, were you attending large meetings discussing this registration? Or was it --

HK: Yeah, I think I was. Yeah, different meetings, but everyone was pretty worked up, so I don't know if that helped very much, yeah. Maybe it just helped to raise the... yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

AI: So at this time, when this commotion was going on, and these men had been taken away, and you were, had decided to refuse to register also, what about regular daily life in camp? Had some things been suspended, or...

HK: Yeah, I think they, the recreation department suspended a lot of things, and I think the theater, they discontinued that. I'm not... I didn't feel that I wanted to continue. I was in a play, and we were rehearsing, and I told them that I didn't want to continue, and I think that's when I stopped.

AI: What, what was your feeling about that? Why were you deciding not to continue?

HK: Well, it seemed odd that I would be enacting, or trying to portray, parts were all Caucasian, and be white, American, when, when we're going through all this loyalty business, yeah. So I didn't think that it was right, yeah. And then, some of the people who were in the rec. department were pro-, pro-America, pro-registration, so that there was that conflict, political conflict, too.

AI: Do you happen to remember, at that time, were people actually being called pro-American, or was it just more you could see what their actions were?

HK: I think maybe there were some people who, who volunteered. And so they were definitely loyal, "yes-yes" type of people. But the registration brought out certain people, or made it clear that some people would answer "yes-yes" to the, without any question, and others would maybe on condition, and others, "no-no," flatly, and so, yeah, there was a... and there was, those who were "yes-yes" would try to convince others to join them, there was that, and this brought on a lot of heat between them, and they would write "pro-America" on their walls, you know. And then some of 'em called 'em inu, and they would, the mess people, if they were very anti-American, or anti-registration, would set aside a separate table for these people. All this sort of very bad things happened, yeah.

AI: It sounds like it became very visible, to that extent, that even people would be set aside at different tables in the mess hall.

HK: Yeah, yeah. Yes. And I didn't think that was good.

AI: It sounds like -- I'm, I just wanted to make sure I'm understanding you, because it sounds to me like you decided that you would just not answer the questions at all, mainly as a protest for they way you had been treated. Is that right?

HK: Uh-huh. Right, yeah. But then, basically, I didn't want to risk my life, serve in the army, the way we were treated. I just didn't want to do that. I mean, when you agree to serve in the army, I think, as a Japanese, you feel that you, you're giving up yourself. You'll do anything to, to serve. And so I couldn't get into that kind of mental attitude.

AI: Whereas before you were put into the camps, you felt just as patriotic as --

HK: Oh, yeah.

AI: -- as the next American. And at that time --

HK: There was no hesitation. Yeah, and then my father lectured me that I was an American, and so as an American, I knew we'd have to act like an American, serve the country. And he, of course, was an alien, and Japanese.

AI: So even though he was an alien and was not allowed to become a U.S. citizen, he still lectured you on your duty.

HK: Yes. So that, yeah. Well, maybe those who served remembered that more than I did. I mean, over the fact that we were treated like non-citizens, yeah.

AI: Well, also during this time, about mid-1943, something else happened, and I don't know if you heard about it, but around June of 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Hirabayashi and Yasui and the, I was wondering if you had heard anything about that in camp.

HK: Not, not really. I wasn't too concerned about that. Yeah, I don't think so.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

AI: Well, there were, of course, many other things going on, because in July, there was that official announcement that Tule Lake would become a segregation center.

HK: Yes, that we heard. Yes.

AI: So what went through your mind when you heard about that?

HK: Well, I thought because we opposed the registration, and we were regarded as "disloyal" and "no-nos," same as "no-nos," yeah, we would have accepted that, yeah.

AI: So, did you --

HK: Another thing is that we weren't being forced out of the camp. My mother's concern was that we stay together within the camp, because there were a lot of rumors about all kinds of things outside. [Laughs]

AI: Well, of course, in 1943, you were turning twenty-one, and your younger brother would also be draft age.

HK: Yeah.

AI: So I'm sure your mother must have been very concerned that...

HK: Yeah, she was, yes.

AI: Well, so then, as 1943 continued, there was getting ready for segregation, and lots of things happening. Can you tell a little bit about those changes that happened as some people moved out of Tule Lake and others came in?

HK: Well, the atmosphere changed. All these recreational things were stopped, and so we were confined more within our own block, too. And then new people came in, and we were eyeing each other, because we couldn't, we didn't know each other, and it took a while to get to know these people. And they, having come from another camp, they were more aggressive, and they felt that all the good jobs had been taken, and so they were stuck with all the bad jobs. And so they were resentful of that, but they, they also looked at us as being rather strange. Because we were living in Tule Lake, and yet, we were stuck here. And they had come from another camp, and so they, they were more pro-Japan, and they all spoke Japanese, for the most part. They were mainly Kibei, but even the Nisei... we didn't have too many Nisei families. A Nisei with -- the parents were Issei, but there were Nisei children. The others were Kibei, four or five of 'em together in one, in one apartment.

AI: Oh, so single Kibei.

HK: Single, yeah. And so they were very, very aggressive, and very arrogant to our eyes. And by living together and working together, many of them worked in the mess hall, where they could only find jobs. We got to know them, yeah.

AI: Well, did, did they come from particular camps? The ones that were near to you, the ones that you got to know?

HK: Yeah, I think there were two, two groups that came from Topaz. Bay Area people went to Topaz, I believe. But they, I don't know whether they were from Bay Area. But yeah, and then there was one from Arkansas, one family. I don't know if there were other families. Maybe some Hoshidan, later Hoshidan members, older, more Issei type, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

AI: Well, so as I understand it, it was the fall of 1943 when quite a few things happened. There was that truck accident where someone died, and I, and I understand that there was a protest because people wanted to, to have a large funeral, which was, I guess, was denied. And then I understand, at about the same time was when there was -- because the work stoppage and strike, then strike-breakers were brought in from some of the other camps.

HK: Yeah.

AI: Do you recall that time?

HK: Well, I remember going to the funeral and hearing all about how it happened, and it involved the farm, farm workers, I think. Because we had a friend who was a farm worker, so he had, he knew closely what had happened. So I, I knew about that, and I went to the funeral, it was held in the firebreak, and there were a lot of people, thousands, and I think the administration, yeah, they might have tried to stop it or something, but it went on, yeah, had the funeral. And as for work stoppage, I, I heard of that, but I wasn't involved personally. And had something to do, something to do with people stealing meat or vegetables or something. They would, the personnel staff taking it, and then trying to blame it on guards or evacuees. I don't know.

AI: And, well, and apparently, there were many rumors like that going around, that, food supposed to be for the families, being taken and used for some other purpose.

HK: Right. I, we never knew for sure, but people, even today, they say that this was happening, so I don't know.

AI: Well, apparently, there was also, in November, there was quite a bit of activity, and that in early November, that some young men were beaten in an, in the WRA office, and then soon after that, that the army came in and put, held, had martial law.

HK: Yeah.

AI: What was, what do you recall from that?

HK: Well, I remember the army coming in, all the tanks and teargas and all that, yeah.

AI: What did you think was happening?

HK: Well, it was scary, yeah. We tried to stay within our block and not go out at night, and we had a friend who was always drinking and would come over, and then there was curfew, and so he would have to be home, or out, not out, and he was caught one time, and then he must have said that, "I was visiting," our place. And we were so scared, that we said, "No, we don't know him." [Laughs] So he got hauled in. But, you know, it was a mean thing to do, but why get us involved in it, you know?

AI: So it sounds like it was a pretty strict curfew, though.

HK: Yes, it was. I mean, in jeeps, they go around and question people wandering around, and probably drunk at the time.

AI: Well, did you know anyone who, who was injured or beat up or hurt?

HK: No, I don't, no.

AI: But it sounds like it was something that the news traveled very, very quickly.

HK: Oh, yes. And they, they, yeah. Curfew was, you had to observe it.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

AI: Well, then, also, and you mentioned earlier about the Hoshidan and the Hokokudan, that began being formed, and what kinds of things did you hear about those groups? Did, did people try to recruit you to the Young Men's Association?

HK: They felt that Japan was going to win the war, and that they were Japanese, and they were going to act like Japanese, and prepare themselves so that they would do their exercises, I guess. I mean, all that whooping and hollering. And they carried on, and they tried to recruit people, force them to join, I know a friend who was asked to join, and, yeah, and...

AI: How about you or your brother?

HK: No, I didn't get any direct... yeah. But my brother might have. There, it was kind of subtle, indirect, but yeah, it was there. There were members who were, the purpose was to recruit, and these were older, older men. And there were a few in our block, and they were operating, and every chance they got they would say, "Are you Japanese?" or "Are you going to go to Japan?" and so forth. And if we acted too American, then, yeah, we stuck out, I don't know what, what would have happened. So we, we tried to be somewhat Japanese.

AI: Well, so describe that for me. When, when you say, "act too American," or "try to be Japanese," what would be the, some of the differences and how --

HK: Well, the difference is that you're, you're careful about what you say or do. I mean, Americans, as an American, you, you're free to do, do whatever, laugh out loud, and move around, and dance, and do all these things. But, and, of course, speak English. We tried to speak Japanese as much as possible. In fact, yeah, lot of, lot of us learned to do that, and it was not natural, and it wasn't fun, but, yeah, you do that because it was expected.

AI: So really, in your daily life, as you were going about your business, every day you would be trying to speak Japanese.

HK: Yeah, yeah. I mean... well, among friends and people we know, we would speak English, but yeah, if there were people who came from other camps, we'd speak Japanese.

AI: Or if you were out in public at... where there were some of these other folks who were more Kibei, or more Japanese-speaking.

HK: Yeah. If they were Kibei, certainly we would. Yeah, we speak Japanese. And it was hard, you have to think in Japanese, too, to speak it. [Laughs]

AI: Were you able to make yourself think in Japanese?

HK: That was uncomfortable, yeah, unnatural, and that didn't help.

AI: What do you think might have happened if you, if you hadn't tried to fit in?

HK: I think you, eventually, would have been forced out. I think you would say, "I don't want to stay here, face all this," and just leave. And I think the administration would have been very accommodating, if you change your mind. Because in my record, it says, "If he changes his mind," has a change of mind, just allow that to happen.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

AI: Well, we haven't quite gotten to that point, but, but actually, it was, as I understand or had read, that in the beginning of July, 1944, that's when Congress passed a law that changed the law about citizenship so that you were, U.S. citizens were allowed to renounce U.S. citizenship.

HK: Yes.

AI: And what do you remember hearing about that in camp?

HK: Well, I heard that there were groups of people requesting renunciation, and I thought it was something that was happening to them. I didn't bother becoming concerned with it. And yet, gradually, it came closer and closer to us, and then we had all these other frustrations, and my mother and the family situation, and the influence of her friend, and I guess the pressure that my brother was having to face, I guess one day he said, "Let's make up our minds. Are we American or are we Japanese? And if we are Japanese, if we think we are Japanese, then we should renounce our citizenship." And, and he's kind of like black and white. I was going to let it drag, and it'll blow over, I was hoping that it would. And, but when we had this family meeting, and he set up this decision, then I, I went along, and we, we decided we would request the forms for renunciation. And then, as it turned out, they were underage, my sister and my brother, so that their citizenship was void, their renunciation. Early on, I think they -- although from the records that I looked at, it was, the dates were pretty similar to mine, so that either I was with them, or they were with me. But I think, in one of the decisions, those who were under eighteen or something like that, didn't count.

AI: Whereas you were well over eighteen.

HK: Yeah, I was about twenty-one or so, twenty-two. So...

AI: So as a family, you decided to make this decision.

HK: Yeah, and as a family, we said that we would go to Japan and leave my father behind.

AI: Still in the sanitarium.

HK: Yeah. And I don't, I can't understand that, that we said that. But that, we had to say that, too, to have the renunciation accepted, I guess, approved. So for the longest time, I thought that we had not said that, that we were not going to Japan, and that my father, because of my father. And, but there was a little bit of confusion there, why did we renounce? And I think we, because, we had to say that we were going to Japan, says, this person says he's going to Japan after the war, and still, but his father is in the sanitarium, but the fact that he, they declare their intention to go to Japan, that they would approve the renunciation. So I think we were forced to say that, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

AI: Well, so tell me what happened with the renunciation, the process there. First you, first you requested to renounce?

HK: Yes. And then they sent us a form, and we filled that out, and I don't know if we had a hearing at that point. Probably we did. Yes, and then the approval came. But the whole process was very quick, yeah. I mean, there was no time to, to think it over, or to change your mind. Although we weren't about to change our minds. I heard that one guy at the hearing, he was a Kibei, and he couldn't understand the questions too well. And he got so frustrated that he tore up the form, and then saved himself because that stopped renunciation.

AI: Well, when you say that you weren't about to change your mind, what, what do you mean?

HK: I don't think so. I mean, we already made our decision that we would renounce, and I don't know if we would have changed our minds at that point. Because we were so determined to, to go through that process. We thought that we would, it would be difficult, that there would be opposition, but there wasn't. [Laughs] That was the problem; there wasn't much.

AI: What made you think there would be opposition to renouncing?

HK: Well, I think they would value our, our citizenship, and try to impress us that we are doing something foolish. I'm sure they said that, but we weren't even listening.

AI: So then after you had gone through this process, and you had renounced your citizenship, then what was your feeling after that?

HK: Well, it was... I had a funny feeling that I had done something, something wrong, yeah. Something drastic, I think. But it was done. And it was, we were glad it was over, because we, we expected a lot of difficulty, obstacles to overcome in, in doing this. And yet, it was so easy, it just went over, and was fine. They, they were accepting. Yeah. And it wasn't too long after it happened that I felt I had, that no, I didn't want to do that. I really didn't want to do it, actually. I was just going along, and I don't like to talk about my brother this way, but I think he forced the issue, and I gave into that. I regret that most of all. I should have opposed him. He, he's a kind of black-and-white person, has to be one way or the other, and so we had our conflicts through the years because of that. And he had his way.

AI: It sounds like in the interest of family harmony that...

HK: Yeah, uh-huh. Yeah.

AI: You were trying to find some way that --

HK: Yeah, well, yeah. I feel that I should have stood my ground.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

AI: Just before the break, you had been telling about after your decision to renounce, after going through the process, actually.

HK: Yeah, it's hard. [Laughs] It's still a non-resolved issue, I guess, with me.

AI: Well, so then sometime after that then, you heard about Wayne Collins?

HK: Yeah.

AI: And tell about what, what you heard, and what you decided to do at that point.

HK: Yeah, well, I'm going to talk about this on my panel, but we were all concerned because we, we felt that we had made a big mistake. And then we heard that this attorney from San Francisco was coming in, and he was coming in to, to close the stockade. He had heard about the stockade men being held in the stockade. And so he was there, and then we, we approached him, because he also heard about us, and that we were close to being deported, and we weren't even aware of that, but he knew, and that we would be deported. So he, he was also interested in us, and so some of us met with him, and that's when he became very, pretty involved, that he knew how we felt, and that we were, we did it under duress and pressure, and so he said, "Well, I will, if you feel that you want to change your mind and cancel it, then I'll write you a letter," and so he did, and we copied it and passed it around and sent it off to the attorney general. And then I think we asked him to be our attorney soon after that. And, of course, he said that you needed an attorney, and we couldn't get anyone, so he agreed to be our attorney. And I think Tets Nakamura, I don't know whether he was an attorney or not, but, and I don't know whether he was a renunciant or not. I don't think he was. But he was very involved with the committee, and I, I became involved in forming this defense committee, Tule Lake Defense, it was to recruit people who felt the same way about canceling the renunciation. So that's how we got together, and I think he came to Tule Lake a couple times after that, yeah.

AI: Well, it sounds like you had quite a change in your thinking and actions, whereas before you went through the renunciation process, you were really saying how you had tried to fit in with speaking Japanese, you tried to make yourself think Japanese.

HK: Yeah.

AI: But then you had quite a change after going through that process.

HK: Yes. I think the, the end of the war, Japan lost the war, I think that had... I don't know the date, the sequence, but I think that changed my mind.

AI: So after, fairly soon after you finished the renunciation process, then in 1945, then, August was the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and then Japan surrendered.

HK: Yeah. So by that time, yeah, I think it was clear to me that I had done wrong, done something wrong, and that I, I quit my Japanese language class, I dropped it and I said, "What's the point? Japan lost the war." And I took up tailoring. [Laughs] There was an old man who did some tailoring, and so we hosted the class at our apartment, and the women came and I was about the only male, and we learned how to make buttonholes. We cut up the small sample... I guess we, it was a pair of pants, men's pants. But beyond the buttonhole, I didn't learn too much more. [Laughs] But I can handle a needle a bit. So that, for their mending and hemming, I do that because it gets done. [Laughs] If I depend on my wife, it never gets done. So I do all hemming.

AI: Well, so, your daily life and your daily activity really changed quite a bit then?

HK: Oh, yeah.

AI: And your thinking, and...

HK: Yeah.

AI: And tell me more about getting the Tule Lake Defense Committee together.

HK: Well, it was mainly contacting like-minded people, and I think everyone felt that they, they did something, they made a mistake, and they wanted their citizenship back. And it's funny, I don't know whether, I guess, the loss of the war in Japan had something to do, although I had no intention of going to Japan at all. I mean, even though we had said so, we only said so because we had to. And I don't know, Japan losing the war didn't affect me that much. People went to, into all kinds of trauma over that, Issei. Camp was very quiet the day after the surrender. It was really quiet. No movement, nothing, no life. And we just went along. I mean, how could... yeah.

AI: Well, as I understand it, there had been some other changes, too, even before Japan surrendered, that a number of people at Tule Lake, who had been very active in the Hoshidan and the Hokokudan, were removed to other camps. So some of those people had left.

HK: Oh, yeah, I guess that's true. Yeah.

AI: And so maybe for some of these reasons, and then eventually Japan's surrender, it changed the atmosphere quite a bit.

HK: Yeah, the atmosphere changed. But once we got the movement going, then I think Mr. Collins came again and arranged some sort of hearing, and why we renounced, and the fact that we wanted to remain here. And so the, the WRA released us in March.

AI: March of 1946?

HK: Yeah, after the, after the hearing, yeah. March of 1946, yeah. And, and then there were years of uncertainty, not knowing whether we had our citizenship or whether we could go to school, we were fortunate that President Sproul was very understanding, I think, that he allowed us to attend as regular students.

AI: At University of California.

HK: Yeah, yeah. Residents. And so we were able to, to go.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

AI: Well, before you went back to school, immediately after you were released from Tule Lake...

HK: Yeah, immediately after, my mother came out first, and she went back to Loomis, our hometown, and she stayed with a family, three other families in this one cabin. And one family was up in the attic-like, upstairs, and then one family down below, and I don't know where my mother was. There must have been another floor. Anyway, we couldn't move there, I mean, there was no room. So we went, we didn't go to, to that house. Maybe I spent a day or two, and we went to work, and so right away -- and they came recruiting to the camp, that they needed people to cut asparagus, and it was around March when asparagus, they come, start to come up. So they promised us big money, twenty dollars a day, or something. [Laughs] And so we all went, agreed to go, so we went to the asparagus camp, and did that hard work. And asparagus takes warm weather to, to really come up, so we were there and we were paying for board and stuff, and going in the hole, actually, because we weren't really making, it was piece work. And, but as we stayed, they, they started to come up, and the work, we felt, back-breaking work, but we managed to stay there for, we were there hundred days, and we made two thousand dollars. So net, we paid for our board, (the money) we took, we went to town to see movies and come back, have dinner there, and then we had to come back on a taxi, and we'd share rides, several of us would hire a taxi.

AI: Where was that?

HK: In Sacramento, right near the river. And...

AI: Well, I'm curious; this is still fairly soon after the end of the war, how were you treated?

HK: Well, this was a Japanese camp, so it's just like camp. [Laughs] We were in the bunkhouse.

AI: So you really didn't come in contact with the mainstream Caucasians?

HK: No, we didn't. No, we didn't. Across the, there was a... stream, but anyway, across in the next ranch, there were German POWs, just fifty, hundreds of them. And they're huge Nazis, and they were cutting the, they were working there, right at that time, yes. So we were there a hundred days, and then I think I went to work at the grape, grape vineyard, and did two seasons of that. So we worked on the farm again, for one summer, one year, and then the second, after the second grape season, I went to L.A., and I enrolled at LACC.

AI: That was Los Angeles City College?

HK: Yes, uh-huh. And I went there for two years, two-and-a-half years maybe, and I worked at Bullock's department store at night, porter, cleaning. I used to buff, buff the floors with that buffing machine. People are afraid of that machine, so if you don't know how to use it, but once you master it, it's, it's a lot of fun. It's like dancing. [Laughs] And I did that every night. No social life.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

AI: What kind of treatment did you get in L.A.? That would have been, what? 1947 or '48?

HK: Yeah, in L.A., it was better than being in Placer. Placer was a hotbed of racism after the war, when veterans started to come back early, early in 1945. You know, they were crippled or they were veterans, and they would be refused service at the stores, and there would be signs, "No Japs," and all that. So that, and they kind of paved the way so that by the time we came out, there were more, more, at least there were no signs. So it was a little better by that time, but in L.A., I mean, there are a lot of people, and you're anonymous. Even though you were Japanese, but there were other Asians. And yeah, it was easy. And then I was in Japantown, Little Tokyo, right above Atomic Cafe, famous Atomic Cafe. And we stayed in this hotel for a while, and my brother wanted to go fishing, and so he was determined to get on a boat, and fishing was not good at that time, and so he finally decided not to do that. And, and he, he got work in a market, produce market. And, but meanwhile, I was, I started LACC, and I, I worked so that I wouldn't have to spend the money I, the hard-earned money. And I worked at Bullock's for a couple of years, maybe more, three years, porter. Cheap wages. And then I also worked at the library as a page. I think, I don't know if I had two jobs, maybe not. And I was going to City, and then after a year and a half, I was out maybe a year, and then I transferred to UCLA, and I finished.

AI: And what was your major?

HK: Well, I was an English major to begin with, and then when I transferred to UCLA, I was an English major for one semester. And then I wasn't doing too well, lots of paper to write, and lots of reading to do, and the bus travel every day, one way was one hour, so I would have to spend two hours a day on the bus, and I'd try to read, do my reading on the bus, and then I'd fall asleep, so I decided, well, I better, if I wanted to graduate, and I thought it was important to graduate within the two years. So I transferred, or changed my major to Japanese or Oriental language, as they called it then. I don't know whether they call it, still call it that, but in a year-and-a-half, I finished all the requirements, because I had a, I could go into intermediate Japanese and advanced. So I took all the Oriental language courses and then I graduated, got my B.A., and the only person who came to my graduation -- and I was going to attend the ceremony, because I just wanted to experience it. And my mother was, she hardly cared, so she didn't come. She was, she thought I was wasting my time -- [laughs] -- going to school. And meanwhile, she was working at the fish cannery. And my brother was getting married or was married, and they didn't come. So my, the only person who, who saw me was my Chinese teacher. [Laughs] He says, "Oh, I didn't know you were graduating." [Laughs]

AI: And that was 1952?

HK: Yes. My father died in 1951, so while we, we were living in L.A., he died at Wiemar, and so we had to come up and take care of that.

AI: But he knew that you were going to be attending UCLA?

HK: Yeah, he knew, he knew, I'm sure he knew, but I don't know if I visited him when I was a student there. I used to take the bus and ride at night to visit him, and I made that trip several times. But... yeah.

AI: So then what did you do after graduation?

HK: Well, I graduated from UCLA and I looked for jobs, and as I told you, I applied at the Benihana Japanese company, and I was hired there, because I could read the, the memo that they offered me. And they said they would hire me, and, but then, I realized that I had to drive them around, I was their actual driver. And I have to go to the airport, to go after their big shots coming from Japan, and I thought, "Oh, I don't want to be doing that." [Laughs] So I didn't take that job, and there were other jobs that I would go for interviews, and not get it. This happened many times, "Well, gee, something's wrong here." And I'm sure they were checking back at my record, maybe. And civil service was not the place to apply. So I came home to Berkeley, because UCLA didn't have a graduate division in, in my field. So I came up to Berkeley, and then I talked to the advisors there, and they said, "Oh..." they didn't like the UCLA courses, and they, they told me I would have to repeat some of them. So I said, "If I'm gonna repeat the courses, I might as well take up something else." And I had a friend who died recently, Gompers Saijo, we would talk about art, he's a painter, and he, he said, "Well, why don't you take up Oriental art?" And so I switched my major to art history at Berkeley, and took some Oriental art and Renaissance and Greek, and I don't know if I took Roman art. But I did all that preliminary work, and then I was in the graduate division and I was doing my graduate work. And I was starting my thesis, and then my advisor took a sabbatical, and that gave me a chance to not work on my, my graduate degree, and I was doing theater, also, on campus, so I kind of dropped out. My thesis title was in the catalog, we used to have card catalogs, and it was there for years, because they would maintain it for about six years, and after that it's no good. And my friend would go there and look and say, "It's still there." [Laughs] I had a title for it. It was something to do with, I don't know, three centuries of Chinese art or something. But I...

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

<Begin Segment 26>

AI: But in the meantime, you were mentioning that you had continued your interest in theater and drama.

HK: Yes. Well, I had done theater in L.A. In 1947, I think, we formed a Nisei experimental group, and I had a friend who was taking drama at City College during the day, and then at night, he would bring it back to our group, and then he would share this, what he learned at the, at the class. So we had our acting classes that way, and then we thought we would do something, and then I thought, "Well, maybe we better do something original." So I, I wrote a play. I was working at the library, I think, so I had access to books on playwriting, and I read a few, and then I wrote the play, and that was our first production, yeah. And the fellow who directed that play was a student that, or graduate of Pasadena Playhouse, and then he was working with a theater in Hollywood, and we went, we happened to go see the production, and we talked to the actors, and he was one of them. And he said, we said that we were looking for someone to direct our play. And so he, he volunteered, and so I got to know him, he directed my play. And we've known each other since, and that was in late '40s. '48, '47-'48. So he, he says that he met me before he met his wife. And I've known them both through the years, over fifty years.

AI: Well, tell me about that, that experience of writing a play, and then seeing your work produced.

HK: Oh, yes. Yeah, the first play is, you remember it the most. Well, I write it, I wrote it from a standpoint of an actor. Some playwrights, they forget about the actor and they write impossible things, you know, so that you're forced to change your costume in a second -- [laughs] -- because the playwright never thought of that. But as an actor, you think of those things, and I thought I wrote it from the actor's point of view because I also acted in the play, and that's a hard thing to do; to act, concentrate on one part when you, you've written the whole, other parts. But yeah, it's, it's fun, yes. It's the reaction you get from the audience, that is good, and then the way the actors interpret the part. It's very satisfying, yeah. But writing for publication is satisfying, too, and one of that is I read it back to myself, and that's like, somewhat like you getting reaction from the audience, too. But, and then to see it in print, after you see it in print, then you want to read it again. You've read it many times already, but then you want to read it again. Yeah, it's, it's a good, good feeling.

AI: Well, tell me a little bit about the nature of this first play.

HK: Well, it's based on something that happened to us. As I said, we worked on the farm right after we came out of camp. And we first worked, my mother moved into that cabin with several families, and then gradually, they moved to, settled into more permanent places, and then one summer we worked that farm, the people who owned that farm hired us for their harvest. So that, we worked that farm, and then we went to Lodi, I think, to harvest the grapes, and then after that, we didn't have anyplace to go, so we had to find a place. And we found a place way in Lincoln, which we had never been to. It seemed like way in the forest, way out there. And we worked this place, and they had a cabin and an inside toilet and all that, bath they'd set up for us.

And so we worked there for, 'til about the time that the fruits were ready to be harvested, and then we had a little conflict. I think my mother was speaking, talking with another woman, who came out to work, to pack the fruits. And they were speaking in Japanese. And the woman claimed that she understood some Japanese, but I doubt it. But just the fact that they were speaking in Japanese in front of her, and she had, she had lost someone in the war or something. And so she, she was not very pleased, just by the fact that these people were speaking in Japanese in front of her. And I, I don't know. She complained about my mother and me, and my brother was supposed to be the, the "good person," you know, who worked hard and was very... [laughs]. But I, I was, I was just spending my time there, so that I could get away and do something. So we, we had this conflict, and we decided that with her attitude, we didn't want to stay there, and we were, we made a decision to move out. And then the boss came, because the fruits were about to be picked, and he couldn't lose his workers. So he came and offered us a little raise in pay, to entice us, entice to stay. But we refused that and we moved out.

Well, that was the basis of the play, and it's called The Plums Can Wait. [Laughs] And it's really very close to what happened. Some of them, the dialect is verbatim, as I recalled it. And so when it was, I was able to, I was asked to publish it in a collection, and I knew that this woman was still alive, and knowing her, I didn't want to take a chance, so I, after I had promised that, that they could publish it, I said, "Oh, I better withdraw that." So it hasn't been published. But that, the conflict is of the two brothers, my brother and myself, and as I said, we always had that, he's very straight. And he wanted to stay. He thought it was wrong to leave, to leave these people with their plums hanging. [Laughs] And I was, I said, "Well, we don't have to take that nonsense." And then the, my brother is quite like my father, who is deceased in the play. And, and so he represents the, the father's side, and then the... so I win by moving the family out. And then there is this boss character who comes, and he was, I called him Mr. Brown at first, and then I changed it to Mr. White. [Laughs] And my friend, who directed the play, also played Mr. White, and he says he remembers how the audience hated him. [Laughs] Wouldn't talk to him.

AI: Well, this must have been quite interesting as far as for the actors, and also the audience.

HK: Yeah. And it was bilingual. Mother talked in Japanese. And then the kids would, in their response, would, would let the audience know what she's saying. And so it was a bilingual play, yes. And the kids would speak to the mother in English, yes.

AI: So, and your theater group, was, was it mainly Nisei?

HK: Yes. Except for these people who had to play white parts.

AI: The other parts?

HK: Uh-huh.

AI: Well, what kinds of reaction did you get from the actors about this play, because it must have been quite unusual for them to have a play where they were playing parts, roles, and acting out a drama that had some relevance to their own life?

HK: Yes. I think... yeah. I think, yeah, they, they really got into it. But the audience more so, because they were seeing something real to them, the Nikkei audience. And especially later, when we did it again before a larger audience, at first, in those days, people were too, were too busy to, to come to theater, so we only got a few people, and we did it in a small room like this, in a hotel, Miyako Hotel, the old Miyako Hotel there. And we got a few people sitting around. It was in the round, sort of, and... yeah. But historic because it was in (1948-1949) or so, I think.

AI: That, that sounds like one of the beginnings of Asian American theater.

HK: I think so. Yeah, way before the one in San Francisco. This is 1973 or so. And then, later, East West was a little earlier, and then later Northwest had, had theater. So yeah... uh-huh.

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

<Begin Segment 27>

HK: And then after that I wrote another play that we did at UC Berkeley, as Nisei, Nikkei students did it, and we performed it in their studio theater.

AI: And what was the nature of that play?

HK: Oh, that was about camp, but more about the moral breakdown of the Japanese in camp, where they thought nothing of stealing pork, bringing back pork, if they worked in the hog farm, or when the coals were delivered, you'd go out and you get the best coals for yourself, and not sharing, and all these underhanded things that happened. And bribery, you bribe everyone to, to get a service. And it was called Laughter and False Teeth, and it's based on my mother's travail about her teeth, dentists and the teeth, and how she tries to get a false plate made, and then people bribe the dentist, so that he would treat them. And, and my mother, or the mother character doesn't realize what's needed, so she doesn't have her false plate. And things like that, it was a comedy, but very serious. [Laughs]

AI: I've read the, I've read the play, and I, although I knew it was a comedy, I haven't seen it performed. And so although I knew it was a comedy by the way you wrote it, I found it extremely depressing.

HK: Yeah, yeah, because of the, yeah, all the...

AI: And I was wondering about the character of the Boiler Man, because at the end, the Boiler Man dies.

HK: Yes.

AI: And my, my reading of it was that the Boiler Man really stood for the decency of the --

HK: Exactly.

AI: -- of the Nikkei people in camp.

HK: Yes, yes. But all this... influence by the camp situation, decency just is out the window. And so the Boiler Man has to go. But the little boy comes and takes over, so that there is some, some positive note at the end, yeah.

AI: Right. Some small bit of hope.

HK: Yeah, yeah. Oh, you read it in The Big Aiiieeeee!?

AI: Yes.

HK: Ah, yes. Uh-huh.

AI: I read it, I think, when the book first came out, and then I read it more recently.

HK: Yeah, uh-huh. Yeah, it still works a bit.

AI: What kind of, tell me about the audience reaction when you were first producing that in Berkeley?

HK: Yeah, it was an experimental play. It was a series of plays by people in the playwriting class, so that it was taken as an experiment, and a work-in-progress. And they really liked our play; people liked it because it was different and had Asians in it playing Asian parts, and it wasn't as political as it turned to be. It became more and more political as I rewrote it through time. And when I wrote it, it was in the '50s, '54, '53, so that it wasn't, there was no move-, student movement or anything. But in the '60s when I revised it and we performed it, even '70s, I rewrote it, and it became more and more political, yeah. Uh-huh. So that the one in the book is the later version, yes. But people were a little confused, because it's not so much a comedy after all. [Laughs] Yeah, Frank Chin, I think, really understood the play, when he explains it. I think he did a good job for the play. Yeah.

AI: The way he summarizes it at the beginning of the book.

HK: Yeah.

AI: I mean, at the, in the book.

HK: Explicates, yeah. So it makes it seem like a good play. [Laughs] Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 28>

HK: So, and then I wrote another play called Betrayed, which is about the, 27, 28 question, and then the conflict of the two young people who fall in love, and because of the questions they fall out, and then they have forty years of life on their own and it didn't turn out too well, and they come together again and they work, try to work for the reparation.

AI: So when did you first start working on that play?

HK: Well, it started as a short play, and it was called Question of Loyalty, and it mainly dealt with the conflict of the, brought on by the two questions. But I wanted to develop it into a full, full play, so I was with a theater group, I think it was a theater group... anyway, where we would write a play, develop a play, and it was in that group, I think, that I, I really started to work on a full, full, more realized play.

AI: Would that have been maybe in the late '70s when the redress movement was really going strong?

HK: Yes, it was, I think, over. It was already past. But I...

AI: Then in the '80s, maybe.

HK: Yeah. It was in the early '80s, I think. But I didn't want to go into the, the actual passage of the, the law. And so that it's up to a point where they're working towards it, and we read the play, and I think it still works, although maybe I should do something a little bit more. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 29>

AI: Well, I wanted to fill in just a few gaps in-between what happened, the time that you were at UC Berkeley, and then, and then up from that time. Now you, you got married. You met your wife-to-be while you were living in Berkeley?

HK: In Berkeley, yes. Yes. I was... well, I was in Berkeley even after I had dropped out of school. I don't think I was attending classes, but I was still living in Berkeley because of my job situation, and she had moved to Berkeley because she got a job as a home economics teacher at a continuation high school in Berkeley. And one of her job was to, to prepare the lunch, the public as well as the staff and the faculty and the students and whoever, could come and have lunch. But she would have the students work on the lunch, and she would be in charge of that, as well as she, she had other classes to teach. But she was in Berkeley, and that's where I met her, and we were going to church service, and I knew that she was from my hometown, and so I knew the parents somewhat, and family. So, yeah, well, it was, I was thirty-four, I think, and she was about twenty-four, twenty-... twenty-four. And so were both ready to, to be married, and so we did. And then I got a job just before being married, in '56, early '57, we were married in August. So in early '57 I got a job, so that... [laughs]. Yeah. It was very simple, we had a, we didn't want to invite anyone, and so we had our two witnesses, my friend and her sister, and we had a friend who, who was a photographer, I mean, who took pictures, so he took all our photos and then the minister and his wife, they were our guests, actually. And then their children, they're all adults now, but they were children, there were three, two or three. Anyway, they kind of were in the background -- [laughs] -- being our guests or something. And then we went to lunch at this rather first-rate Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, and we had our wedding lunch, with all the... you know, it was a simple lunch. And in those days, it didn't cost very much. It was very... and on our limited budget, we managed. My wife bought her dress, I guess she had more money than I did. [Laughs] I bought her a ring, and it was, she liked it, but it was, didn't cost very much. [Laughs] And she bought me a ring, and this probably cost more than hers. And then we had our ceremony, very simple Buddhist ceremony, and then there happened to be a Buddhist meeting at, in Monterey, Asilomar. And so there was a guy who was driving over there, so we got a ride with him. And we spent our honeymoon in Monterey. [Laughs] And it was on, over the Labor Day weekend, so we married the 31st, we were there during the Labor Day weekend, we came home on the Greyhound bus, and that was our wedding. [Laughs]

AI: What's your wife's name?

HK: Sadako. "Sadako of the thousand cranes," yeah. And I didn't even... I went to see her parents, but I never, I forgot that, or didn't think to ask the father if I could marry her. [Laughs] Of course, they had checked on me, that I was okay. But I realized I should have done that. [Laughs]

AI: Well, also, in an earlier conversation, you mentioned that you knew of her father from earlier.

HK: Yes, because he was active in Tule Lake. He was a radical leader, very articulate, yeah, and a good speaker.

AI: So, when, when he would speak, what kinds of things would he, would he speak on?

HK: Well, anything political. I remember when the carpenters were about to strike, he was the leader. He was urging them to strike, and what was wrong with everything, the administration, this and that. So that he was, he had the whole group following him. And then during the registration, he said too much, that the administration figured he was a leader and he should be taken away, so he was sent to Santa Fe. And he spent many months there, he was the last to come out. But I liked him, he was a good father, father-in-law. I really liked him. And it was mutual, he, he liked me, and I just regret that I didn't ask him. [Laughs]

AI: But it sounds like in any case, that he wouldn't have objected to you on the basis of any of your decisions at Tule Lake, or at...

HK: Oh, no. No. And he had already kind of asked around, "How is he?" [Laughs] And he was given pretty good report, and so, yeah. So we, they didn't come, because they weren't invited, and I guess they, it would have been a hardship for them to come, on everyone. That's what we thought, so we didn't, and we couldn't afford anything elaborate. So we had a very simple wedding, and it's worked out well.

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

<Begin Segment 30>

AI: Well, and then you had three children.

HK: Yes. Three boys, and one, the oldest, which gave me the most thrill when he was born, because he was the first, and the, a boy, he was riding a bicycle when he was about twenty, or eighteen, or twenty, and he was hit by a car, and he had brain surgery and a broken leg, and whether it was caused by the accident or not, I don't know, but he developed mental problems. Schizophrenia, I think, and so he, he's under medication, he's disabled, and he lives by himself, but he's under, he gets state compensation and Medicare and so forth, so that he lives and because of the whatever he gets, he pays (his) brother rent, and (his) brother owns the condo. He bought the condo and then he set him up, so he pays (his) brother rent, and he has a caregiver who, whose own brother is also disabled. So he's a caregiver for his brother and also for our son. So he gets paid for that from the state. So he's off of my hands, our hands. My wife continued to work, because she couldn't take him around, and then, so I was his caregiver for many years, over ten, I think, and I would cook for him and would see that, look, check his medication. And yeah, I was taking care of him, because whenever he went to a halfway house or boarding care, it's a business for them. And they skimp on food and everything, and they live in very crowded quarters, and so he didn't like it, we didn't like it, he would come home. So it was much easier to have him home and take care of him, and so right now I don't have to worry too much about him, although he calls us once in a while. But the caregiver is good, and, yeah. So he's fairly independent. He does volunteer work, and goes to adult care place, and that's how it is with him.

And then I have two others, one who owns a home himself, and then owns this condo, and into other things. He climbs mountains and he's climbed Mount -- we saw that mountain coming. Shasta, I guess. He's climbed that several times. He's climbed Kilimanjaro and Kenya, and I don't know whether he's gonna do anymore of that, I hope not, but he has a dog, a boxer, which keeps him very close to home. [Laughs]

And then I have another son, who has taken up writing, and is a writer and producer of a very successful musical show. And it's been traveling from town to town in Northern California, all over California. He got this civil liberties grant to do this, to travel, and he's worked all the L.A. area, and now is doing the show, four shows at East West Players, and it's been sold out for weeks. And every, shows that they have done is sold out, packed to capacity. And so it's a very successful show, and it's called The Camp Dance, the dancing that the Nisei did in camp, and then the songs that they listen to, of the '40s, and some of the Japanese songs that were popular then. They have a couple of singers who can do Japanese songs, and Nisei really like, like all those songs. And then the message is that these Sansei and Yonsei people really acknowledge the, the work that the Nisei and the struggles and the, the experience in the camp that they went through, and they're saying thank you to them. And this really hits them hard. And so they cry and they laugh, and it's a really, a very wonderful show for Nisei audiences. And he's had great success. I've never been in a show that was that successful, ever. I don't think any actor has. So these actors are so happy, you know, every time they play it's a full house. And they have a great musician, piano. And so he's doing very well. He works, day job he has, he works for an Asian Pacific healthcare venture. And it's to provide health insurance, health coverage for Asians, Southwest Asians who don't have insurance. And they get, his job is to get funding from any, any place. And he puts out a newsletter, but that's his day job, but he's working hard on this other... so he and his wife -- he's the only one married, his wife is the lead singer in this group, and she's a wonderful singer. So they work very well together, and the whole group works well. So that's a big success story. [Laughs]

AI: Well, that sounds wonderful. I'd like to see it myself.

HK: Oh, yeah. They want to bring it up to Seattle, and he got another grant from civil liberties, and I don't know whether that, that must be for California towns, California, limited to. But Seattle they would have to have some fundraising. So if you, my wife gave you the sheets. She's the biggest promoter. [Laughs] And there are people in Seattle who are related to some of the performers and have friends, and they, they would like to see it, too. Yeah. So maybe you will see it. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 31>

AI: Okay, so, well, I wanted to go back to your, your work situation changed in 1966, because you, that was, was that the year that you were hired at the library?

HK: Yes. Well, I worked at the Buddhist Churches of America headquarters, and I was, well, English secretary, I took notes at their meetings in English, and then I was translator, they would write their reports, and then I would translate that. And also, what else did I do? I answered, well, I edited the English publication, monthly publication. So I did that for 1957 to '65, I believe, then I, I decided I would go to library school, and so I commuted from San Francisco to Berkeley, and I started in the summer of '65, and went through June of '66, I think. Took me three, three terms. And I got my master's degree and, and I was promised a job at the library as soon as I got my master's.

AI: At the San Francisco?

HK: Yeah, public library, and they, they were interested in my Japanese background so I could start their, their Japanese collection, but then when I was interviewed, well, the head librarian thought that I had, I had a good background in literature, American literature, especially, so I was hired for the literature department as staff of the literature, which covered foreign language collections, I also worked on the Japanese collection. So that I selected Japanese books and got them for the library. And then as part of my assignment, I also did Gaelic -- [laughs] -- which I never knew, but selecting books in the library, you catalog, so I don't know, I kind of managed that. I don't know if I was doing much good, but there weren't that many Gaelic readers. [Laughs] You learn, you learn a few prominent writers, and Japanese, too. You don't, you have no time to read the books, even glance through the books, but you go through magazines and they're, they list the publications, their ads, and you soon learn the prominent writers of the, current, contemporary writers as well as past classic writers. And so any work that's under their names, you select it. And then there are Akutagawa Prize and Noma Prize, so anything that wins those prize, automatically you select. So it was fun and easy, library work was so easy for me. [Laughs] I really enjoyed it. And it was always a challenge because we were doing reference, and we would get questions over the phone and in person, and you have to know the answers real quick, or know exactly where to go. And I got very good at that. [Laughs] Yeah, it was, it was fun. Literature was, I had background in literature. I mean, things were in my head that others would have to find, and so I was good doing that, and then I was transferred to science and documents, which is a little different, I didn't have the background, but more challenging. And documents meant government documents, the San Francisco Public is a repository of... or is it a depository? Anyway, we get all the documents from, from Washington, or from Denver or wherever, and it's kept there, and so we look up bills and laws and stuff. And it was, it was really a challenge.

Every, every day I, I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed going to work. Just that sometimes it was hard to get along with some of these women librarians who were heads of departments. And so although I had a background in art and music... not in music so much, but art, my, my major was art history at Cal, so, and we had a music department, and music I would have to learn, because... but I didn't work in that department because of the department head. I mean, nobody liked her, and I wouldn't want to work for her, unless I want to be a slave to her. [Laughs] And so I, I didn't work that, and so I felt that I didn't use my art background. As a librarian, reference librarian, you use whatever you have. The more you have, the better, and the idea is to help the patron in any way possible.

So it was a challenging job, and I enjoyed it. And it made possible to support the kids, not too well. Our kids would finally say nowadays that, tell each other that, "We were deprived." [Laughs] But at the time, they didn't know that. [Laughs] Yeah, well, I stayed away from Boy Scouts. Scouting? None of that. [Laughs] I didn't have the time, I didn't like the scouting program, and, and luckily, our kids were not into athletics so much. When the middle son was to some extent, but not so that he was on teams, and I had to be there and take him and this and that. So I was spared of all that, and it seemed like they didn't miss that so much. Certainly they didn't miss scouting, because they know nothing about it. [Laughs] So that was it, and whenever we went anywhere, they came along with us. So we didn't go anywhere, really. Sometimes meetings would be combined with social evenings, and then we'd bring 'em back and they'll be asleep, and I'd have to carry them up. But, yeah, they didn't seem to mind, and they wore hand-me-downs, and my wife bought day-old breads, and we got along. And we did without a lot, and found that very challenging and fun. So that was our, our early parenting life, yeah.

AI: Well, I also wanted to ask you about some of your earlier years at the library. You must have been one of the very few at that time, one of the very few racial minority people on staff.

HK: Oh, yes. I was probably the first, I don't remember that there were any... there might have been a Latin, Latino, maybe, although he claimed not to be, you know. [Laughs] But yeah, I think I was the most visible minority to be hired.

AI: So, did you feel any extra expectation or pressure being in that position?

HK: Not really. Not really, because I was in my specialty. And I was hired for certain skills I had, and then as I worked, I learned that there was nothing that I couldn't learn to, to do, master in library. I mean, it's not all that complicated. Some librarians make everything so complicated, they're so busy. [Laughs] Used to make me laugh, because I, I was able to do things quickly in my... I developed so that I knew the answers, many of the answers in my head, and then I knew exactly where to go, and then you get it, or on the page. I had a kind of visual memory. When I took tests, I knew exactly where in the book the answer was, and then I'd just lift it from there, so that when I studied a part in my play, I knew the lines exactly where on the page. But if they rewrite it and retype it, then I have to learn the whole thing over again. [Laughs] I can't picture it on the page.

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

<Begin Segment 32>

AI: Well, in fact, I wanted to ask you a little bit more about your acting, because you told about some of the very early work that you did with the Nisei theater groups.

HK: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

AI: But then, a little after that, in the, in the '70s, the new Asian American theaters started forming, as you mentioned. And I was wondering if you could tell a little bit about your early involvement there, and beginning to act with that group?

HK: Yes, I was in Lonny Kaneko's play, and I think that was the first production I did at Asian American theater. Frank Chin directed it, and the fellow who was playing the leading part got cold feet. And as we moved towards production, I mean, opening, he really got so nervous that he decided he would drop out. And nobody would be able to take the part at that point, so Frank Chin took over, and he played it. [Laughs] It was very odd, you know, Frank Chin is Frank Chin, and nobody else. I mean, he playing Frank Chin. It became Frank Chin. But that was the part that I played, yeah, and then I had this...

AI: Oh, excuse me, Lonny Kaneko's play was Lady is Dying?

HK: Lady is Dying. And he co-wrote it with someone, yeah. And that was fairly successful, not, not that successful. But that was when my nephew committed suicide. Yeah. And so... yeah, and I had to play that night, and somebody noticed that I, I wasn't myself. They could tell, I guess. And that was the tragic part of that. But I was in Hito Hata, which was a movie, first Asian feature, Asian American feature. And had experience working with Mako, who was very unkind at first. [Laughs] Thought I was a rank amateur, and oh, it was something else to win him over. And I, I guess just by performing, he, he came to my side. But now we are good, good friends. And I had a part at the Eureka Theater production of The Wash, with Nobu McCarthy, and Mako was to play the part that I did, but he had a film, film role, so he couldn't make it. You know, these movie actors, when they get a part, they drop everything else. So I was the stand-, what do you call that?

AI: Understudy?

HK: Understudy.

AI: For which role?

HK: For, for Mako's role. And then I was given the part because he couldn't do it, and so I was working with Nobu McCarthy. And that was quite an experience, yeah. [Laughs]

AI: It sounds like you had a good time.

HK: Oh, yes. She's wonderful. She was great. You know, one time we were rehearsing our scenes, and he was, she was married to Bill, it's her second husband, and he was very devoted to her, and he would call, call her apartment and chit-chat with her. And I would be there, we would be rehearsing, and she would not indicate that I was there. [Laughs] And, of course, I wouldn't make a noise. That was funny, but poor Bill, he died of cancer, and then he died a few years later, I guess.

AI: Well, that play, The Wash, was also, made a certain mark of its own, I thought, because I, as I recall, it's one of the first plays that really had quite an in-depth look at a relationship, a Japanese American relationship, and how it changed and, and also because it addressed negative experiences in family life.

HK: Yes.

AI: And to have it in a play that was produced in public, for goodness sake, I thought it caused quite a ripple. But how did you experience it?

HK: Oh, yes, it was quite a, an experience playing in it. Yeah, and it was wonderful acting with Nobu McCarthy. She would, every night, say, "Give it to me." [Laughs] Yeah, it was funny. You know, I had to sing a lullaby, and I had to learn this lullaby. And that was so hard for me, I don't sing. I don't, I can't carry a tune, but you have to fake it. [Laughs] And yeah, that's what we did. I didn't hear any, any complaints, but, yes.

AI: So, would you say that was one of your more memorable roles?

HK: Yes.

AI: Or I should ask you, which are your most memorable roles?

HK: That, probably, I thought. What else have I done that was... I did some, some others, but... I did one about samurai, Zatoichi, the blind samurai. I did that, and I used my kendo background in that. I did work on... Henry, Henry Hwang? David Henry Hwang. He had a play about, short play about a woman and man, I forgot what it's called. I was in it, but anyway, the production wasn't too good. Henry or David...

AI: The House of Sleeping Beauties?

HK: Yes, that was it, yes.

AI: And you were playing opposite of Amy Hill?

HK: Yes, yes. Oh, you have that? Ah, yes, Amy Hill, before she became a movie, movie star. Well, we played together, and actually, we weren't too good. I mean, I wasn't very good. We had a bad, poor director, and I don't know. It was not a good show, yeah. But I was in Zatoichi, and I was in, oh, that song, I mean, play by Sakamoto, Ed Sakamoto, about Shadow or something. Voices in the Shadow, yeah. That was fairly good, but I remember the coldness in theater. That was very cold. It was one of the coldest winters in San Francisco. And I did Emiko Omori's Hot Summer Winds, it's a film. And that was fun, although I should tell Chiz -- [laughs] -- actually, I should have played the young, romantic part, who brought the prize to the lady, he was a newspaper man, and oh, I loved that part, and I wanted to play it, and I read for it, and they chose this young guy. And actually worked well in the film, because he was young, and it was a romantic relationship, but I could have been the very good newspaper man bringing the gift. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 33>

HK: The testimony was, well, I was encouraged by the people in the NCRR, I guess, and the point of the testimony was that the government had betrayed us again when they told us to register, and they made it seem like it was compulsory. In fact, they, they ordered us to register, and we refused and they went into all sorts of things. They threatened us, and I don't know, they arrested some, and so forth. And we suffered through all of that, and then years later, I read in a book, I guess it was Michi Weglyn, that, that the government was told that they could not force us to register. And I discovered this, and so that was the point of my testimony, that having gone through all of that suffering, you learn years later that it was not compulsory, and that the government, in order to save face, never told this to anyone. And very few people know, know this, and they don't believe me when I say so. I said, "Well, I saw it in a book." And some people, for example Nikki Bridges, said, "Why didn't, didn't you know that? I knew that, I worked in the office." In another camp. And it was different in another camp, but at Tule Lake, it was, it was not revealed at all. So that was my testimony, and I was facing the panel of all these distinguished people, including senators, and judges, and other people, and I was directing my, accusing them, and I told them, finally that, "Unburden yourself." And what got me was that after I had presented this powerful, to me, testimony, and they were quite shaken. And senator, a black senator from Massachusetts said, "Oh, that was a very moving testimony," and so forth, and then there was a little bit of silence, and the next guy came on, and he was a joker. And he broke the whole spell, and I never forgave him for that. He was a good man, a good community man, but at that point, he did not do me justice, and I never forgave him that, for that. And I don't think he, he ever realized what he had done, but that was my testimony.

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

<Begin Segment 34>

HK: And as for Tule Lake pilgrimage, in 1974, towards the end of the year, I was invited by a student group from UC Berkeley to, to make a presentation about my experience at Tule Lake. And that was the time when I first came out with the fact that I had opposed the registration, that I was a "no-no" and so forth. And then soon after, they had a community program, I think, and I repeated the same message, and came out with the whole story about the camp. And to that point, I don't think anyone ever publicly said anything about the camps. And then in 1975, they had a pilgrimage, so naturally they had to have me go, and I came as a guest with Toshio Mori, and they, they specially drove us, both of us, to the pilgrimage. So Toshio spoke, and then I came to that pilgrimage, and it was mainly college students from State and UC Berkeley. And there were a few Nisei, and Edison Uno was a prime mover of that pilgrimage. So he was there, and he was going to publicize it and so forth. And in those days, people brought their own bedrolls, and they slept on the floor in the fairgrounds, building. And we were, we came in, early in the morning, I think. We started out at night, and then we got there fairly early in the morning, so everyone went to sleep. And I was, I had been writing my poem on the bus, coming, so that partly it was half-written, and I wanted to finish it, so as everyone slept, I was sitting writing the poem. And by nine o'clock, when the program began, I had a draft, second draft, I guess, so that I could read. And so I read the poem then, that was the first time that I read the poem, and I changed it a bit, but not very much, from the original. And so that --

AI: Excuse me, so that was your poem Meeting at Tule Lake?

HK: Yes, it was, uh-huh. And it was directed to the students, so that it seems kind of odd that I'm talking to the students, but that was the, the makeup of the group at that time. These activist students brought us out, and they were there. And so that was the second pilgrimage, in 1975. And then I've been to several after that, once when we were staying at a motel, and then couple of times here. This is the second time. And I don't know if I've missed one before this one, I think. No, no, I came to the one before, but I missed the one before that. So I've been to about three or four pilgrimages.

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

<Begin Segment 35>

AI: As you started speaking more publicly about your experience with the registration and talking about the renunciation program, what kind of reactions did you get? Did you get any negative reactions?

HK: No, I don't remember getting any negative reaction. There might have been and I never heard it, but I think it tended to bring out more people, and they would speak out. I don't know, I just felt that I, I wanted to do it, and wasn't gonna, I wasn't on a crusade or anything. It was more to get it off of my chest. But this renunciation, I've held back. I held back for years and years, and now that it's out, yeah, it's really nothing. Nothing to hide. [Laughs] And so yes, I've learned a lot coming to these programs, pilgrimage. I think, yeah, it's good that it's held, and we have a real good crowd here, better, I think, than the last one. And the programs are more diversified. Draw you more...

AI: Tell me, I wanted to ask you, what was it that kind of made the difference to you in your decision to become more public about the renunciation experience?

HK: Well, I think I, I've written about it, and... I don't know. I guess it's just the, the changing climate, where people are more accepting, and they want to understand why and how and things like that. And not the judgment of it. Yes, and, of course, I can't hold it in me forever, you know. So it's, it's good that I have talked about it, brought it out, and also, the interest that others have taken on this, in this subject, and then, of course, the Heart Mountain resisters, yeah, their story's been told a lot. And then Emiko's and Chizu's film, that brought out a lot of it. And so I thought it was time, time to speak about it.

AI: Well, I wish we had more time for this portion of the interview, I wish we could continue it, but since our, our time is just about at an end, is there anything else that you wanted to comment on?

HK: Let's see. I had thought about something. Hmm. I don't know. [Laughs] Somebody said that, "I'm not so angry." Who was it? On the bus, somebody said that, "I'm not angry. Now that I'm here, and back to Tule Lake, we see all this," and he was seeing the sights and everything, and he said he was angry all the time, and he's not so angry. And yeah, I don't feel anger. I don't know if I had such anger, but anyway, I feel much better, yeah, with people's interest in the subject, and understanding of the circumstances, yeah, and all these things, yes. But this interview has been very enjoyable for me, yeah. I really enjoyed doing it, and I think it's a good project, and I'm glad I could be part of it.

AI: Well, thank you very much. We sure appreciate it.

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