Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: James Yamazaki Interview
Narrator: James Yamazaki
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Van Nuys, California
Date: February 4, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-yjames-01-0035

<Begin Segment 35>

TI: Yeah, now that I mentioned your parents, let me think. At this point, while you were in Cincinnati, were they back in Los Angeles?

JY: Yes, they were.

TI: And so what was it like for them back in Los Angeles? What kind of stories or what kind of word did you get about being back in L.A. at this time?

JY: Well, my father, before the, they returned to the Los Angeles area, had come to see what the situation for Japanese might be if they returned. And so he felt that there were enough people that would not prevent them from returning. And there still remained, where were all the people going to live? And so when he returned, the house became a hostel for the evacuees. So for a year or two, the house was filled with people that were looking for places to live in. So we did visit them after we got our one trip, and went by train. And then on our way back, we were constantly harassed by conductors that would wake us up every few hours during the night.

TI: Just to be mean?

JY: Yeah.

TI: Because you were Japanese?

JY: Yeah.

TI: So it still remained.

JY: Oh, it still remained.

TI: This was in, at this point, a couple years after the war.

JY: Yeah, it reinforced my doubts about the feelings toward Japanese in this country or to any race.

TI: Going back to the church, and so your dad was able to reestablish and get things going back with the church. And he was using, when you say the house, was that the same structure that also the church was in, that you shared?

JY: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: So it was a fairly large place.

JY: It was the... there was an American Friend, when this church building was going up, that he said he would build a new home for my dad. It was a two-story house, quite well-made, and he was very, the architect was a very well-known architect by the name of Allison who designed several of the important buildings in town including some at UCLA. And he said, told my father, "For your church, I never had a client that came to my office so frequently to comment on my design and building of the church."

TI: Oh, so was your dad like a very, perfectionist or detailed?

JY: Yeah, he was. And wanted to know everything that was going on.

TI: I'm curious, when you saw your dad after these couple years, had the war experience changed here? Was he pretty much the same as he was before the war, or did you notice a change?

JY: I think about same, yes.

TI: And your mother? How about her?

JY: I think so. I don't think she changed too much.

TI: And when you come back and look at the Japanese American community in Los Angeles, how did that change from prewar to postwar?

JY: Gee, that's a hard thing to say. Well, I think especially when the... well, they still continued with all the problems they had before the war about discrimination. And from the doctor's standpoint, of course, we couldn't get staff privileges. So they faced all of these things they experienced before the war.

TI: In terms of like the size of the community, was it about the same prewar, postwar, or did that change.

JY: I wasn't thinking too much about that.

TI: So you didn't really notice the difference?

JY: And I was at UCLA thinking that I must follow my academic career with continuing my interest in Japan. And the doctor, the Nisei doctor says, "You got it all wrong, Jim. You're supposed to take care of all the kids." And I somehow was reinforced in that when one of my pediatrician friends says, "Oh, your Japanese patients are so good." And I said, "How's that?" He said, "They always pay their bill." [Laughs] I sort of cussed under my... if that's what he meant by being good, I thought maybe the Japanese, my friends were right that I should practice and take care of the Japanese. So I retained my connection, what they call clinical staff, where you help out the university but it's on a voluntary basis. But they afforded all the research facilities and help that we asked for, and helped. So that's kind of...

TI: Well, when you came back, did you notice anything different amongst your, maybe, Nisei friends in terms of opportunities? Like in prewar, postwar, you said the medical field is still kind of bad, but I'm just thinking of the postwar boom, and L.A. must have been just thriving. And were Niseis able to get different jobs and different opportunities after the war?

JY: Well, it gradually developed, but not immediately. It was a gradual thing. Maybe it took about a generation, gradually developed. At UCLA it was from the very class they had, in a class of forty, there was two Nisei doctors, two students that were admitted. Yeah, so that was great, I thought.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2005 Densho. All Rights Reserved.