Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mas Akiyama Interview
Narrator: Mas Akiyama
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Spokane, Washington
Date: March 15, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-amas-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today is Wednesday, March 15, 2006, and I'm in Spokane interviewing Mas Akiyama, and on the camera we have Dana Hoshide. Right now we're in the basement of the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture in Spokane. So I'm going to start, Mas, and just ask you where and when were you born?

MA: I was born in Eastport, Idaho, which is up near the Canadian-U.S. border. I was born on a little farm, and my dad, he worked for the railroad as well as at the immigration office. He was a, he was a janitor there, in both places.

TI: So they had an immigration office in Eastport, Idaho.

MA: Yes, right there at what they call Kingsgate.

TI: And, and when were you born?

MA: I was born in May 19, 1917.

TI: Okay. And what was the name that your parents gave you when you were born? What was your full name?

MA: What school?

TI: No, what was your full name when they, when you were born, what did your parents call you?

MA: Masuo, Masuo, and I had a twin brother, Makiyo. And we were identical twins. [Laughs]

TI: So who came out first, you or Makiyo?

MA: I was, I was the first one.

TI: So you're the older brother.

MA: Uh-huh. My mother was rather surprised that it was twins; she wasn't expecting twins.

TI: So how big were you when you were born? Were you pretty small?

MA: About four-and-a-half pounds. [Laughs]

TI: So pretty, pretty small.

MA: Yeah.

TI: But both of you were healthy, both you and Makiyo?

MA: Yeah. Well, I was the weaker of the two; my brother was more healthier.

TI: Well, so when you were growing up, so you spent, how long did you live in Eastport before going to Spokane?

MA: It was in, from 1917 to 1923. I went to school one year in Eastport, in a one-room schoolhouse, which I enjoyed going. Then I came to Spokane as I say, in 1923, because my father was in poor health, and we started a hotel in Spokane, Washington. The hotel's name was Spokoma Hotel, which was downtown Spokane, just right off of Washington and Main Avenue.

TI: Now, before we go to Spokane, I just wanted to ask one question about Eastport. Were there other Japanese families at Eastport?

MA: Not that I know of. There were some earlier that I, I think there were about two families, but they had already moved to Spokane when I was born.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So let's go to Spokane. So you're about six or seven years old. Can you remember what Spokane was like in 1923, 1924?

MA: Well, it was a nice, friendly town that I know of. I started school there, it was the Hawthorne School, but it's gone now. It was a nice school, and I enjoyed going there.

TI: So when you were going to Hawthorne School, what was a typical day for you? You would go to school and then you would play, or what would you do?

MA: Yeah, yeah, I'd go to school for regular hours, and we'd be dismissed at three-thirty. Then we had to go to a Japanese language school, which was set up by our parents, and learned Japanese for about an hour each day. And then, of course, from there on, we went on home. And that was kind of a typical day, it was almost over.

TI: So where was the Japanese language school? How far did you have to walk?

MA: It was about six blocks, up on Second Avenue. It was right next to the Central Methodist Church here. It was called Japanese Mission, set up by the Methodist Church there, but they allowed us to have Japanese language classes there.

TI: So as a student, did you have to go to the Methodist Church? Did you go to the church there?

MA: Yeah, I used to go to the Methodist Church.

TI: And so how many, how many Japanese kids were going to the Japanese language school?

MA: There were, there were quite a few. I assume there must have been about twenty of them, different classes.

TI: So I'm curious, when you're growing up, who were your friends? Were they all Japanese, or did you have hakujins?

MA: They were mostly Japanese, yeah. We were kind of a close-knit group, you know. We didn't associate too much with Caucasians or any other races.

TI: So what were some of the names of your friends growing up? Do you remember some people?

MA: Names of who?

TI: Of your friends, you know, when you played around.

MA: Oh, yes, there was Spady Koyama, there was Joe Okamoto, there was George Numata, he was Spady's wife's brother. There were quite a few of those, but I can't remember 'em all.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Now, do you remember any games or activities you did with those friends?

MA: Oh, yes. We played all kinds of games. There was a, there was a playground right next to the church there, and we used to play baseball and basketball and things like that, but that wasn't very often, 'cause we didn't have too much time. Our parents had all kinds of activities provided for us, they used to have picnics and they had memorial services, they had, oh, all kinds of different activities that we participated in. I got to be thankful for my parents for providing a lot of Japanese cultural ideals that benefited us after we grew up.

TI: So let's talk about that. So, like, the picnics that you would go to in the summertime, how many people were, were there? How large a picnic?

MA: Oh, there used to be about a hundred people, sometime a hundred and fifty.

TI: And so describe --

MA: The population at that particular time wasn't too large. I don't think we had more than, say, about five hundred Japanese people in Spokane at that time.

TI: And about what time? This is about the 1930 time period?

MA: Yeah.

TI: Okay. So at the picnic, you have a hundred people.

MA: Oh yes, there was at least a hundred. And they had all kinds of games.

TI: So tell me about the games.

MA: Oh, there were relay races for the kids where we would race and go after, pick up candies and things. [Laughs] There were games for adults, too, and there were all kinds of games.

TI: What would be a game that the Issei women would play? Do you remember any games that they would play?

MA: Nisei?

TI: No, the Issei.

MA: Issei women? They had shopping race, they were, they were lined up with shopping bags, and then they have all kinds of fruits and cookies and things at the other end, and they have a list that they had to pick up certain things, and then they'd rush there and pick these sort of things, but they'd come back, and then there were prizes for them, that had the best of the bunch.

TI: Oh, that's funny. So it was almost like a race to shop, they'd pick up these things and then...

MA: Bring them back.

TI: ...bring them back. What about the men, the Issei men? What kind of games would they play?

MA: Nisei men, I remember the kids used to participate, the men would be on the other side, and we would go race and go after, you know, I'd grab my dad's hand and then we'd come racing back.

TI: Oh, so it was like a kid-parent or kid-father race.

MA: And then we'd get little prizes for that, but there were prizes for all the kids. But it was a lot of fun in those days. But that was an annual event, and it's still carried on even to this day, the Niseis carry that on.

TI: So today, how many people go to the Japanese picnics?

MA: Oh, I think there'd be close to a hundred still.

TI: Now, do you play any of the old, the old traditional games?

MA: Yes, uh-huh. We still play those games. Nisei women play that shopping game now. [Laughs]

TI: And this is --

MA: There were all kinds of different kinds of races. Two-legged races and sack races where you, gunnysack race, you get, hop. [Laughs] It was a lot of fun.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So it sounds like the Japanese community in Spokane was pretty, pretty close-knit.

MA: Close-knit, yes, it is very close-knit.

TI: Now, if someone, if someone in the community had difficulties, like an illness, or someone perhaps died, did the community come together to help that person?

MA: Oh yes, yes. We, especially at funerals, we'd all get together. Of course, the tradition is to have, you know this stuff called koden, where you put money in to help pay for the funeral expenses, you know. Years ago when the Isseis first started that, they didn't make much money, and a lot of 'em didn't have funeral expenses, so they all, all pooled their money and helped pay for the funeral expenses and burial expenses. And the Isseis, they gathered enough money to start their own cemetery area at Greenwood Cemetery, and we always go there for memorial service once a year.

TI: So the Issei started that, in terms of that, that cemetery area?

MA: Yes, they started that back in about 1904 is what I hear.

TI: So are all the Japanese buried in that one place?

MA: Yes, they're all buried there. All the people, there were a lot of railroad workers that, they were bachelors that, you know, have died, and they had nothing to leave, so we provide stones for them.

TI: Oh, so if someone couldn't afford to be buried there, the community would pay for it and put a stone there for them?

MA: Oh, yes, uh-huh. Those that can't afford it, we had a cemetery association that accumulated funds to help pay for that, for the poor people.

TI: So I'm curious, today, are Japanese still being buried there, or is it now being moved around more?

MA: Yes, they're still buried there, but it's almost filled up now. So about ten years ago, we bought a new plot and this is a little bit further away from it, not too far, two blocks, and we call it the Cherry Blossom Lane. And the people are being buried there, and even I have my plot already bought there.

TI: But when you say "we," so the community buys a whole area, or reserves a whole space so that they're always together?

MA: The community buys that whole space, uh-huh.

TI: Interesting, okay.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: I want to talk about, a little bit about the Japanese community and other races, like hakujins and Japanese, how well -- this is before the war -- how well did they get together, or get along?

MA: We never got together too much for, with hakujin groups, Caucasian groups. We never got along with Chinese groups either, and the Koreans, they never liked us anyway. [Laughs]

TI: Well, talk about Chinese, because Chinatown was right next to Japantown.

MA: Yeah.

TI: So was there, like, friction or fights, or you just didn't talk to each other?

MA: Oh, no, there wasn't much friction. The only thing I didn't like about Chinatown is they had a lot of gambling places, and some of the Isseis, they'd go over there to gamble. But I'm a kind of a reformer and I don't like that kind of stuff. After I grew up, I was kind of what they call a vigilante, and I used to write articles in the newspaper about that gambling going on in Chinatown, and I got a lot of threats over that. [Laughs]

TI: So how old --

MA: That was in the...

TI: Yeah, when was this?

MA: ...'40s and the '50s, you know.

TI: And because you saw that back in the '30s and, lots of this gambling?

MA: Oh yes, uh-huh.

TI: Well, how about in Japantown? Did they have gambling in Japantown?

MA: No, no, just Chinatown had gambling. There were other groups had gambling, too, but mostly in the back rooms.

TI: Well, how about, I mean, earlier you, I saw this article you sent me about prostitution. Like in the '30s, did they have prostitution in Japantown or Chinatown?

MA: No, no, not that I know of.

TI: So that was, that was much earlier.

MA: That was much earlier, way back in the turn of the century there was a lot of prostitutes from what I hear. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, because back then it was much more open and they had it then.

MA: There's only one case that I know of in the early, late '30s, one Issei lady, which I don't mention names, was charged with being a madam for a couple of hakujin girls, but that was all.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So I want to go back to talk about the church, the Methodist church. When I go to different cities, usually Japanese communities have a strong Buddhist church and then maybe a strong Christian church. But it seems that in Spokane, it was more a strong Methodist church and not so much Buddhist.

MA: Yes. The Buddhist church didn't start 'til after the war. See, some evacuees from Seattle came, and they did start a Buddhist church in a small house not too far from the Methodist church, and they finally got started. There, there are quite a few Buddhists now, even among the Caucasians.

TI: But I'm curious, so when the Isseis first came over, most of them were probably Buddhist.

MA: Oh yes, I'm sure.

TI: And I'm surprised they didn't start a Buddhist temple or church in Spokane.

MA: Yeah, I'm surprised at that, too. I don't know. The Methodist church here was, was very helpful to the Isseis, teach 'em how to wear clothes, how to sew clothes, and they taught, they taught Isseis American customs, how to handle... you know, they come, they don't know anything about handling chop-, I mean, knives and forks. They had to learn because they always used chopsticks. [Laughs] But they were very helpful in that sense, and that's why I think a lot of 'em become Methodists.

TI: Now, was there a particular person at the Methodist Church that really led this, like a minister or...

MA: Yes, there were several Caucasian women, Mrs. Ellis, Mrs. Butler, Mrs. Henderson, I remember all those because I went to Sunday school there and they taught, they taught us all about Methodism and Christianity. After the war started, though, and the Buddhist church got started, quite a few did change back to the Buddhist church.

TI: And why do you think that? Why do you think they --

MA: I'd say about one-third of the population.

TI: And why? Why do you think they did that?

MA: I don't know. Because I guess they were Buddhist to begin with, you know.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Okay, so I'm going to jump to when you were sixteen years old. Because when you were sixteen, you and your parents and your brother took a trip to Japan.

MA: I was, that was in 1933.

TI: Right.

MA: And that was during the Depression, you know, at 1929 we had that so-called crash, and my father lost quite a bit of money in the banks, because the banks went bankrupt. And were able to struggle for a couple of years, but he decided he just can't make a living here, so we pulled up stakes and went back to Japan.

TI: So was the thinking that you were going to go back for good, your family? Your father, mother and you, the two...

MA: Yeah, my father and my twin brother, we all went back to Japan.

TI: Now, were other Japanese families doing the same thing?

MA: Oh yes, there were quite a few that left. Yeah, there was, oh, at least five to six families that I know of.

TI: Now, was there a particular bank that all the Japanese had their money in that failed, or was it lots of banks?

MA: Oh, one bank a lot of Japanese had money in was your Seattle bank, Furuya Bank. You know, they went bankrupt, too, and then even here, the Washington, there used to be one, the Washington something, they, well, there were at least two banks that went bankrupt, and they would only give us so much out of a dollar back.

TI: So how did you feel? You're a teenager, sort of American teenager, how did you feel about going to Japan to live?

MA: Well, at that age, I don't think I had much choice. [Laughs] Yeah, the parents wouldn't leave me behind, we had to go. And well, we went to Japan because, well, as I say, poor living, and of course, my father was kind of ill, too. And when we got to Kobe --

TI: Well, before we go there, so you said you didn't really have a choice to go to Japan, but how did you feel? Were you excited about Japan, or did you want to...

MA: No, I wasn't too excited. Yeah, I was a sophomore in high school here at that time, and I had a lot of, I had quite a few friends, too, even among Caucasians, and I hated to leave, but I had no choice.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Okay, so let's now go to Japan, and tell me what happened in Japan.

MA: Well, I went to school there. [Laughs] But you know, my poor Japanese, I had quite a time. And so I decided I'd better learn Japanese, and I went to Japanese grade school. Of course, I had a, I had a suit on, and the kids looked at me and they all started bowing, saying, "Oh, Sensei, Sensei, oyaho." That means, "Teacher, Teacher, good morning." [Laughs] And then I had to sit next to them, and they were really surprised. [Laughs] But I learned Japanese pretty fast. In a year's time, I gradually got out of grade school and into high school. And I attended high school there two years. And one thing I majored in was calligraphy, Japanese writing. And of course, being, being like, I love art, so I enjoyed that. And I achieved, I achieved a pretty good ranking in that, and before I left Japan, they did give me a certificate of teaching. Imagine that, at my age?

TI: For calligraphy?

MA: Yeah. I was surprised. Oh, I should have shown you that picture, but I didn't.

TI: When you were in Japan also, your father became ill? Can you tell me what happened to your father in Japan?

MA: Well, my father got ill in Kobe, and we had quite a time because he couldn't move. He was paralyzed from a stroke, and we had to carry him to the train station, we had to carry him from, well, take care of him all the way to Okayama, and then in those days, they didn't have many cars, so we had to carry him, oh, a good three, four miles to the village where my grandfather was. And in about two years, he passed away, and that's when I decided to come back to Japan -- America.

TI: Okay, and before we go there, I just want to know, what was your father's name?

MA: Manjiro. Manjiro Akiyama.

TI: And do you know about when he was born or how old he was when he died? I'm just, like, how old was he when he died?

MA: He was fifty. Fifty years old, and he died at fifty-two.

TI: Okay. And your mother, what was your mother's name?

MA: My mother's name was Rin, R-I-N Akiyama.

TI: And how did your mother and father meet?

MA: It was an arranged marriage, Japan had arranged marriages, and she was a very kind person; I loved my mother. Strict in a way, but my father wasn't very strict. He never said very much.

TI: So it must have been very difficult for your mother when your father got ill and then died in Japan.

MA: Oh, yes.

TI: Do you remember anything about what she said to you or any, any memories of that time, about your mother?

MA: No, no, not much. I don't know how she got along, but we were able to get along. Of course, we had a grandfather there, so she was able to get along with what little savings she had, I guess. Then we had a little farm, a rice farm.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Now, when you were in Japan, did you and your brother ever talk about coming back to the United States, back to --

MA: Oh, yes, yes.

TI: So you both wanted to come back.

MA: We didn't like it, no. And my brother, he, I don't know how he arranged it, but he was able to contact an uncle in Gardena, California, and he was able to go down there. And I wanted to come back to Spokane, because that was kind of hometown for me. On one of my travels, I met a, I met a man named Hirata, and he was from Spokane and he had this little farm north of Spokane. And I asked for a job, and he said, sure, he would give me a job. And he was kind of a father to me.

TI: And so you came back, you were about, what, about eighteen, nineteen years old?

MA: I was about nineteen years old. I was kind of glad that I was able to come back, because in Japan, they have military conscription, and they were about ready to take me into the army, and I didn't want that.

TI: Oh, so that's interesting. So if you had stayed in Japan, you probably would have been drafted by the Japanese.

MA: I think I would have been drafted, yeah.

TI: Okay.

MA: Because a year later, Japan invaded north China. They had already invaded Manchuria, and one of my friends in Japan, next door, I heard that he was conscripted and he was killed over there.

TI: Interesting.

MA: So I was kind of glad to get out of there.

TI: So when you came back to Spokane and you started working for Mr. Hirata, did you ever think about going back to school and finishing your high school education?

MA: Yes, I thought about it, and I did take a correspondence course. I forgot what school it was, but I was able to get a GED, high school diploma. But this Mr. Hirata, he was real good to me, he taught me how to drive a car and how to farm, and a couple years later, me and Spady and a couple of Isseis, he gave us that farm to run. I don't know whether Spady told you that or not.

TI: No, so Mr. Hirata gave you the farm?

MA: So we run that farm until, until the start of the war.

TI: So how many other Japanese were working on the farm?

MA: Generally about six. Two we hired.

TI: So why did Mr. Hirata have, give the farm to you to run? Did he get sick or did he get too old?

MA: No, no, no. He had a business, he had four other hotels downtown Spokane, besides this farm, and it was kind of too much for him to carry out.

TI: So Mr. Hirata was one of the leaders in the community?

MA: Oh yes, yeah.

TI: Okay, so we'll ask more about that later.

MA: Yeah, yeah, he... he was a father-figure for me. Yeah, I loved him very much for the help he gave me.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So it was when you were at the farm that, about that time, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

MA: Yes, uh-huh.

TI: Can you tell me what, what you thought about that when you heard?

MA: Well, I was quite disappointed that Japan would start a war with a big country like this. And I didn't like it at all, I decided to enlist. My brother was already in the army, he was already at Fort Lewis. So I decided, well, maybe I should join with Spady, Spady Koyama, and there was this Roy Funakoshi. And somehow, the newspaper got the wind of that -- I don't know how they learned it -- and they came and interviewed us and took pictures of us three. And it appeared in the Spokesman Review sometime in the middle of December.

TI: And so what was the reaction of the Japanese community when they saw your picture and Spady and Roy's picture?

MA: Oh, they had no objections. They thought we were, we were heroes. [Laughs] Volunteering.

TI: So what did the Issei call you, the three of you? What did the Issei, when they called you heroes, what did the Issei call you?

MA: Oh, Isseis called us sanyuushi, "three heroes." [Laughs]

TI: So do you think the Isseis were proud that you did this? Even though they were gonna fight, you were gonna fight, possibly against Japan, they were still proud that you did this?

MA: Yeah, they were proud of us. I don't know, I haven't heard any objections.

TI: Like Mr. Hirata, do you recall him saying anything to you about, about what you should do?

MA: No. He, he had left for Japan in 1940, and he wasn't able, he didn't come back until after the war.

TI: Okay, so, so you went down to the office to enlist, and then what happened? So the three of you went down there...

MA: Well, they sent us to Fort Lewis, all three of us. Yeah, they had no objections here. At Fort Lewis they were a little skeptical of us but two, two of my friends, they went on in the army, but I was rejected because I had a spot in my lung at that time.

TI: And so, and so you came back to Spokane?

MA: Yeah, I came back to Spokane.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So when you were back in Spokane, did you ever come across any, like, anti-Japanese sort of sentiment?

MA: Oh, yes. Yes, I went down on Main Street there, right off of Bernard, and I run into a great big Norwegian fellow. Oh, he must have been a good six foot tall. And he says, "Oh, you dirty Jap," and he started to beat me up. And I got a bloody nose and fell to the ground, and there was a great big Russian, he saw me laying there and he came rushing over and he started beating up on this, on this Norwegian. And he knocked him down and he, and kicking him, and I said, "My God, don't kill the guy." So, so we took off and left, you know, and he was still laying there. Then we were around the block, we saw all the police cars there. They were picking him off the street there, so we didn't get near there, we just took off. And I was very thankful for this Russian person -- I can't remember what his name was. He was from Ritzville, Washington, and I was very thankful to him.

TI: Did you ever know why he helped you?

MA: I don't know why he helped me, but I guess he felt that I, he shouldn't have been beating up on me.

TI: Did you ever see him again after this?

MA: I never saw him anymore.

TI: Were there any other kind of incidences or events similar to this?

MA: No, not, no incidents that I know of. There was one incident... 'course, this happened in Walla Walla. You don't want to know anything about that, huh?

TI: No, go ahead, you could tell me.

MA: This Ishikawa family had a restaurant in Walla Walla, and they had a Chinese cook, chef there, working for them. And when the war started, he got mad and he shot and killed this, this man.

TI: He killed (Mr.) Ishikawa?

MA: Yeah, Ishikawa. That was, (...) daughter was Ada Honda and she still lives here. And I felt sorry for her. (In 1937, Japan invaded China.)

TI: Yeah, I didn't hear about that.

MA: That was a bad incident, yeah.

TI: How about... let me think. Let's see. Oh, in terms of the FBI, do you recall the government, like FBI, coming through the community and picking up people in Spokane?

MA: I didn't have any trouble with the FBI.

TI: How about others? Did you know others?

MA: Well, I used to work a tavern with a Issei partnership down on Bernard Street there called Mount Fuji Tavern. And we had a liquor license of course, and when the war started, they took the liquor license away and closed our shop. They said it was subterfuge, that they shouldn't, "You should have never gotten a license to sell liquor." That's the one bad incident I ran into.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Now, how did, how did the Japanese American community change? After Pearl Harbor, did, like, Caucasians, did they still come down to the area, or did anything change after that?

MA: No, no, we were discriminated quite a bit. Jobs weren't easy to get, and even restaurants, some of 'em boycotted us. There was a barber shop, too, said, "No Japs allowed," even all the, there were, oh, about five Chinese restaurants, they would put up signs: "We are Americans, Chinese, no Japs allowed." We used to eat there all the time, we'd get noodles, but after the war, they wouldn't allow us in there.

TI: So the Chinese restaurants wouldn't let Japanese in there?

MA: They wouldn't let us in, no.

TI: How about restaurants owned by Caucasians? Was it the same way?

MA: We kind of stayed away from 'em. Because there was, there were quite a few Japanese restaurants anyway. But once in a while, we used to like Chinese food, you know? [Laughs]

TI: So how did it make you feel that the Chinese restaurants didn't let Japanese in after being such good customers all these years?

MA: Yeah, we didn't feel very good about it. [Laughs] Yeah, it was quite a deal.

TI: Now, the community, the Japanese community, did they still have things like their picnics during the war? Did they still do community events?

MA: No, no, not for a couple years. Not 'til about 1944 or, I think about '44 they started it.

TI: So right after the war, for a couple years...

MA: Yeah, a couple we didn't do anything, no.

TI: And did people talk about why, or was it just, they just knew that it wasn't a good thing?

MA: Yeah, uh-huh.

TI: Now I'm curious, were any of the Issei, did they, were any of them sort of pro-Japan, that they wanted Japan to win the war? Did they talk about that?

MA: No, not that I know of. There may have been a few, you know, especially Kibeis. There were a few.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So after the war had started, in places like Seattle and Portland, they started taking Japanese Americans and Japanese and putting them into camps. What did you, what did you know about that? Did you hear about that, and what did you think?

MA: They're being placed in internment camps, yeah, I, well, I thought that, well, that's unconstitutional, but there wasn't much we can do. So we had to be pro-American, I did, anyway. You mentioned Gordon Hirabayashi, he was here, you know, during the war. And he was kind of, he objected to... what was his, he objected to something...

TI: Yeah, he objected to both, well, to the removal, the exclusion order.

MA: Yeah, yeah.

TI: And so he was in Spokane kind of waiting...

MA: Yeah, he was in Spokane and...

TI: ...waiting for the...

MA: ...he waited for the, to be...

TI: The decision from the Supreme Court.

MA: Yeah, but they didn't come after him, so he went to prison. He went by himself. [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, so I interviewed him, so he actually had to hitchhike down to Arizona.

MA: Yeah, he hitchhiked.

TI: But then when Gordon was in Spokane, how did you and the others feel about him? Did you guys ever talk to him or see him much?

MA: Oh yes. Yes, I talked to Gordon, yeah.

TI: So how did you --

MA: We, see, he was in, he was a Quaker, and I've been to several of his meetings. And I felt that he had his rights. Even that Korematsu case, he had his rights, too, you know. We have our own opinions.

TI: So did you ever get into a discussion about how you felt versus how he felt?

MA: No, no, I never discussed it much.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So when you think about the camps, what did you, from what you could tell, from what you heard, what did you think they were like?

MA: Well, all I could gather was that there was a, kind of like a prison with guards and barbed-wire fences and things. And they were having a rough time in there, and I actually wanted to go see just what these camps looked like. And I did request the War Relocation Authority for me to visit a couple of camps, and they wouldn't give me an answer until the War Department decided it was okay. So I was allowed to go visit Manzanar, because my, my brother's wife was there, and I decided to go there.

TI: Because your brother at this time was at Fort Lewis?

MA: Yeah, my brother was already back in the service, and he was at Camp Shelby. And I got as far as Reno, and then they wouldn't allow me into California. [Laughs] That's where I had to have a special escort come from Manzanar and take me into the camp there. And that was, I kind of liked Manzanar in a way because it was in an apple orchard, and they had paved streets. The shacks were terrible where they lived, but it wasn't too bad. I kind of liked that place. And then from there I got permission from the government to go to Camp Shelby in Mississippi, which was very unusual for them to allow it. And I took, I took my wife...

TI: Now, you had to get permission for yourself, or for your brother's wife?

MA: My brother's wife.

TI: Because you were free, yeah, because you were free to move around the country, but she was in the camp, so you had to get special permission to...

MA: Yeah, she was in the camp, and she got special permission to go there.

TI: Okay, so you took your brother's wife to Mississippi.

MA: Right, Mississippi, and we stayed in a little town called Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which was just, just a few, oh, a few miles from Camp Shelby, and we were able to go visit. And here I was in civilian clothes and all the 442nd soldiers, they kind of razzed me, even 100th Infantry was there. But we had a good time there, while we were there almost a week, I guess. Yeah, it was a nice place.

TI: When you were there also, I think you told me you also visited the camps in Arkansas?

MA: Oh yes, there was a camp in Arkansas, and they also had a USO there, uh-huh, yeah, I noticed that. And I met several Spokane people there, especially Miya Koyama's sister was there, and she took us all around there.

TI: Now, why were there some Spokane people there? Why weren't, why didn't they stay in Spokane? Why were they in the camp, the Spokane people, why were they in the camp?

MA: They're not in camp. I don't know, they were married to the soldiers, so they were there, there was a USO there and they were working there, I guess, helping out. I didn't meet any Spokane in the internment camp itself.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So why, why did you go to the camp inside Arkansas? I mean, why did you, did you visit somebody, or did you want to see it? Why did you go look at it?

MA: I didn't quite...

TI: You know, like the internment camp?

MA: Yeah.

TI: Why did you visit it if you didn't know...

MA: Well, I wanted to know what those camps were, were like, you know. And there were, there were guards on them to keep the people in, there were barbed wire. Some people were, said, "No, no, that's not true," but I saw the thing myself. I, on the way back, I dropped off my brother's wife at Salt Lake City and she went back into Manzanar, and I got special permission to visit Minidoka because I had friend a there, Frank Yamasaki.

TI: Who I have to explain is my father-in-law, so it was a surprise when you mentioned that.

MA: Yeah, that's right.

TI: So tell me why you, how do you know Frank Yamasaki?

MA: Well, as I say, he had tuberculosis, and I think, as I recall, he was in a sanitarium in Spokane. And when I went to visit a friend there, he was there, and I kind of liked him, and I felt like be a big brother to him. [Laughs] And he was, oh, he was a very likable fellow, yeah.

TI: And so what was Minidoka like, when you went to Minidoka?

MA: Well, Minidoka there, oh, I had a terrible time getting in to get permission. But finally I had a friend and said, I told him I had a friend in Block 42, and he said, "That's way down there." [Laughs] So this security man, I forgot his name, was Onodera, I guess. He got a jeep for me, he took me down there. And that day, oh, it was dusty and windy and dirty, dirt roads. And that night it started to snow and by morning it was raining and the roads were muddy, and oh, I had a terrible time. And I was able to eat there in their mess hall, and they used to serve... what did they serve? Sheep, you know. What do they call, lamb?

TI: Mutton or lamb.

MA: Yeah, mutton, and nobody seemed to like those things. [Laughs] But that was the worst camp that I visited.

TI: Was Frank surprised to see you?

MA: Yeah, yeah, he was surprised to see me, but yeah.

TI: Now, I want to ask you, I mean, how did it seem to you that you were able to travel around the United States, travel, go to these camps, and then there were all these Japanese Americans who were just kind of like you, but they couldn't do that; they had to stay in the camps. How did that make you feel, or what did that make you think?

MA: I don't know. I'm rather surprised that the government gave me all that permission to go. I think primarily maybe because my brother was in, in the service, and I had a lot of friends, too, that were in there. And of course, maybe they looked up my record and I was a volunteer before. I was rather surprised but thankful in a way.

TI: Because it seems odd that you have all these friends of yours who were in the camps, and then they couldn't, they had to stay there. Like your brother's wife, she had to go back...

MA: Yeah, she had to go back.

TI: Manzanar. And it just, it doesn't seem like that was, that made sense.

MA: [Laughs] Yeah, everybody's surprised that I was able to get into the camp, get permission, when everybody's trying to get out.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Okay, so Mas, we're now, we just took a break, and now we're in our second hour of the interview. We had just talked about, oh, visiting, you visited all these camps. But now let's go back to Spokane because I wanted to ask you about, during the war and after the war, lots of Japanese Americans from Minidoka came to Spokane. And so the population of Japanese increased in Spokane during the war, and I just wanted to ask, how, how did that change Spokane? Did that change the community very much?

MA: Well, I don't think it changed too much. Quite a few people came from the various camps, even Heart Mountain, some from Minidoka. I'd say it increased pretty close to two thousand people, I think.

TI: So what was it --

MA: From about five hundred, prewar was about five hundred people.

TI: So that's, that's a lot. That's going from five hundred to two thousand.

MA: And then started various businesses, you know.

TI: And where did they live?

MA: Mostly downtown. They had all these hotels, and they bought, bought a lot of hotels and restaurants and barber shops started. There were three, three pharmacists started a pharmacy here, we got doctors from Seattle that came over.

TI: Now, how did the people, how did you and the other sort of Spokane Japanese, how did you feel about that, having all these other Japanese coming?

MA: Oh, I felt good to meet new people and to help them out. A lot of 'em came, they needed help, I had a home up on Fourth Avenue and we used to put up people. This one lady, I forgot what her name was, I never did see her again, we put her up for about a month. Help 'em out and she finally found a job, job and moved out. I enjoyed talking to all the people. And that's, then the Buddhist Church started about that time, too.

TI: Now, how did the other Spokane people feel? You know, like the Caucasians and people with all these new Japanese coming to Spokane?

MA: Well, Spokane was known as a friendly city, you know, and Caucasians helped us quite a bit finding jobs, which was hard to find, even, even with myself, I had a hard time finding, finding good job. I worked in a greenhouse, I worked on a farm before, then at that time I was taking various night school courses, and that's how I found this job illustrating and painting and painting signs. But I think as a whole, they were all accepted well in Spokane.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Earlier you said that Spokane was a friendly place. Why, why do you think Spokane was so friendly?

MA: Well, all these Caucasian Methodist people, they helped us quite a bit, see, all through Sunday school.

TI: Well, you're lucky because lots of, lots of places weren't friendly.

MA: I think we're lucky, yeah. And even our, our preacher was a Caucasian... oh, I forgot his name, but he was very helpful and he helped all the people that moved over here. (His name was Reverend John Cobb.) And the only, right after the war started, we were having a reception, wedding reception at the Desert Hotel, and at that time we were just surrounded by police, and they took away two, two Japanese leaders, Issei leaders, and they were sent to Montana, internment camp there, and they were not released 'til after the war. That was the only bad part that I know of.

TI: Now, how did that make you feel? So you were there, you were at the reception?

MA: Yeah, oh, yes.

TI: So this was the wedding for the Okamotos.

MA: Yeah, Okamoto.

TI: And their reception was on December 7, 1941.

MA: December 7th. Oh...

TI: And so that day, the police surrounded...

MA: Police surrounded, they took away the two, two leaders.

TI: While this was happening, how did you feel? Were you frightened, what were you thinking?

MA: Not very good. [Laughs] We were kept there for oh, over an hour, I guess. That incident still is in my mind. I felt awfully bad about it because I don't think the Issei leaders did anything wrong, except that they were the leaders of the community. That's the only thing I objected to. Otherwise, everything went pretty well, even after the war.

TI: So tell me about that reception. Who, who else was there? Was it just Japanese, or were there other people like Caucasians also, or just Japanese?

MA: A few Caucasians, but not too many. Mostly Japanese. Okamoto, Sumi Okamoto was the bride, and Sumi, well, it was Yoshida then, Joe Okamoto, he died quite a while ago. That's a day they'll never forget. You heard about that, huh?

TI: Yeah, I did.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: So I want to ask you, it was during the war that you met your wife, and your wife wasn't from Spokane. Can you tell me how you met your wife?

MA: Well, my wife as you say was, she was born in Seattle and lived there until evacuation, but she voluntarily evacuated over to Minneapolis. But her parents evacuated into Spokane and I knew the parents real well. Not 'til, well, her mother got sick, and she had a stroke. So she came back from Minneapolis and started helping her mother, and she was, started nursing at the Deaconess Hospital. And at that time, I got, I had tonsillitis, so I had to go in the hospital and take it out, and that's where I met, I met her, she took care of me. So I decided, well, that's the girl I wanted to marry. So I courted her for two years and we got married in 1945.

TI: So it sounds like it was almost love at first sight. When you first saw her...

MA: I think so. She kind of resisted me first, though. [Laughs]

TI: So what was it about your wife that attracted you to her? What was it that...

MA: I don't know. I just thought, "Oh, I think I want to marry that girl," when I first saw her. [Laughs]

TI: And so what's your wife's name, her maiden --

MA: Miyo, Miyo Yamaura. Yeah, her brother was Gordon Yamaura who was in the service, 442nd. He died in Italy, he was killed.

TI: So you were, you were at this point dating your wife when her brother was killed?

MA: Yeah.

TI: How, how did that, how did that impact her?

MA: I don't know. It kind of affected her quite a bit, but... he was a very nice person. I met him before he left. But all out of the people who volunteered in our Spokane area, thirteen of 'em had died, killed.

TI: And were you friends with --

MA: 'Course, they were, they were people that evacuated, too, you know, to Spokane.

TI: But the, the Spokane people, did you know some of the ones who volunteered and were killed?

MA: Oh, yes. One was Mon Takahashi, he used to work here, he was killed over there. And of course his grave was here. Those two are the original people that were killed in Spokane. The other twelve -- eleven were evacuee people.

TI: And so when a Spokane soldier was killed, what kind of services were there in Spokane? Did they have memorial services...

MA: Oh yes, we had memorial services.

TI: Can you describe what that was like when that happened, when, say, one of the boys were killed?

MA: Well, there wasn't much to it except that they did have an honor guard and present the, presented a flag to, to my wife, because my mother, the mother had already died, and the father was there, too.

TI: So did they have the services, like, at the Methodist Church, or do you remember where they had these?

MA: Yeah.

TI: And then would the whole community come out?

MA: Yeah, the whole Japanese community.

TI: Yeah.

MA: Mon Takahashi, I don't remember his funeral. I don't remember going to his, but he was a good friend of mine, too. And my brother knew him, worked together one time.

TI: So I want to ask, in Spokane, there were Japanese American students who had come to attend places like Gonzaga or Whitman, they would be students to come to Spokane. Did you know any of the Japanese students, Japanese American students who came for school during the war?

MA: No, no, they didn't come during the war, not the Japanese students.

TI: Not Japanese, I mean, Japanese American.

MA: Oh. Oh, yes, several. Oh yes, there was a couple of 'em. One went to, couple of 'em went to Gonzaga, I can't remember their names. But both become podiatrists, one was practicing in Dalles, Oregon, and the other was in Portland, Oregon. Then there are several others, but I just can't remember who they were.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So I wanted to go back to the Spokane Japanese community. Who were some of the, the leaders during the war? Do you remember who was sort of the community leaders, you know, the Issei leaders?

MA: Issei leaders? Well, as you say, these two who were interned, and after that there wasn't many Isseis that took... well, they kept quiet, so you know... and it wasn't 'til after the war that they started to become active members of the community.

TI: Oh, so during the war, the Isseis sort of were, kind of kept low-profile?

MA: Yeah, low-profile, uh-huh.

TI: But then after the war, then they started being more involved.

MA: Yeah, they started participating, yeah.

TI: And so after the war, were the Isseis still the community leaders, or were there Niseis? Who were the leaders in the community after the war?

MA: Well, mostly Niseis, yeah. Like Denny Yasuhara, oh, he was a good leader all through '50s and '60s. Yeah, Denny Yasuhara, and then there were several, several others. I can't, just can't remember, my mind is... [laughs]

TI: Well, how about the Isseis and their businesses? Were there any Isseis that had big businesses that they were able to grow after the war, that they did well?

MA: Isseis or Nisei?

TI: Isseis.

MA: Nisei?

TI: No, Issei, the first generation.

MA: Isseis, no, there weren't, except for barbershops and... but this pharmacy is Kibei, so you know... and the Nisei, one Nisei, three pharmacies. Most of 'em run hotels. I'd say there were about a half a dozen hotels run, run by Issei.

TI: So then how about the Nisei? Did, were there some successful businesses run by Niseis after the...

MA: Niseis?

TI: Yeah, Nisei.

MA: Oh yes. As I say, pharmacists, doctors, lawyers, (George) Numata, I forgot his name, first name, who was an attorney. Oh, there was a dentist, Kondo, Mark Kondo, he's a JACL member and very active person in the community.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So how, how about housing? After the war, were Japanese Americans, did they start moving outside of the downtown area?

MA: Yes.

TI: And was that, was that difficult for Japanese to live in different neighborhoods?

MA: Yes. There were more real estate companies, more or less had a "color line." You can only buy houses up a certain street. First it was up around Seventh Avenue and Cowley, around there. And then a little later on, they extended that color line past Sherman and up to Fourteenth Avenue. And at that time, I was looking for a house, and I bought a house on Sheridan, which is one block west of the color line, and I was able get away from that color line. And from there on, they did away with that color line.

TI: Well, how, how did they enforce the color line? How did you know where that line was? I mean, what would happen?

MA: Well, your real estate says, "Well, you can't buy a house over there."

TI: And did people ever ask why or really want --

MA: No, they just said that's, that's as far as you can buy. You know that they're discriminating, but...

TI: Now, was this, you said "color line," was this true for Chinese, Korean, blacks and other people like that?

MA: I think so. Blacks, blacks and Orientals. But they were able to extend that after, oh, I think they, well, into the '60s they were able to do away with the color line. Like I was able to buy a house up on Thirty-ninth where I live now, that was in the '70s.

TI: Interesting.

MA: People didn't like us up there, but I got along real well with the people there.

TI: So when you moved in the '70s, you were one of the few sort of people of color to live up there?

MA: Uh-huh, yeah.

TI: Like Asian or black.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Now, after the war, what kind of community activities did you get involved in?

MA: Oh, I was, as I say, a maverick. [Laughs] I used to hate discrimination and I used to write, write about what the... they have a newsletter to the editor column and I used to write about what the 442nd did in Europe. And then I used to write about discriminatory practices around Spokane. And the police, police didn't quite like that, and I used to write about Chinese and some of the other racial gambling going around in Spokane, and the police hauled me down to the police station one time in a police car. And I says, "If you got anything against me," I says, "charge me." And they couldn't find anything against me, so they released me. [Laughs]

TI: Now, so why did they haul you down? Because you, you were talking about the people who were gambling, so why would they...

MA: Yeah. That was because a lot of Isseis, bachelors used to go. And then even Issei husbands go down there and the Isseis used to complain that, "My husband goes gambling there," so that's why I took it on myself to make charges. They did, they did close the place down.

TI: Yeah, but why did the police pick you up? Why didn't they just go down there and close --

MA: They said they have a right to entertainment and that I shouldn't be too strict on 'em. [Laughs] Oh yeah, and then I was active in the Republican party, too, in the '50s, and I worked on the election board, I also went to Republication conventions. And the only Nisei that I ever met in the Republican party in the state of Washington was, was a guy named... oh, shucks. I keep forgetting names. (Clarence Arai) There was a...

TI: Was he from Seattle?

MA: ...Nisei, yeah. Nisei. He was an active Republican. And...

TI: Now, why, why is it you think that there were so few Japanese Americans, Republicans? Most of them are Democrat.

MA: I don't know. They never, Spokane especially, they never involved in politics. You know, I was the only one for a while. Even Ed Tsutakawa, he never got involved in politics. But I don't know, I always, I liked to get involved in things. [Laughs]

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Well, what about other, like, organizations? You mentioned like Boy Scouts?

MA: Oh yes. I, I was very active, volunteer in the Boy Scouts. I served on the committees, served as scoutmaster and chairman of various committees, and I also was involved in getting people, I mean, Boy Scouts in this "inland empire" to go to Japan. We did a lot of advertising and recruiting. And I was able to get together seventy Boy Scouts, and we were able to take 'em to a Boy Scout jamboree in Japan, and we camped right at the foot of Mount Fuji there. The bad part there was the next day, we ran into a typhoon. [Laughs] And it blew all our tents down and flooded the place, and we had to evacuate out of there for, for three days and able to return later.

TI: There must have been thousands of scouts there, right?

MA: Oh yes, there were thousands of scouts, even from Seattle and all along the coast. As I say, I met one friend in Seattle, I think it was Nishimura.

TI: So when you did Scouts, was it with a Japanese American troop, or was it a more Caucasian troop?

MA: Mostly Caucasian. We had about four or five from our church, and they were very, very good scouts. Some of 'em made Eagle rank, and they still keep in touch with me, these, some of these Sansei scouts.

TI: Now did, were you very involved with, like, Japanese American organizations like the Methodist Church and things like that?

MA: Oh yes. I was, I was quite active, various, chairman of various organizations and we used to have an old church down on Cowley and Fourth Avenue and we got too old, so I've become building chairman, me and another Issei, Mr. Kuroiwa. We got together and raised funds from the Japanese community to build a church where it stands now on Garfield, on Garfield and Hartson there. We were able to build that church in 1950, about 1955, I guess it was.

TI: And you were one of the, the, oh, I guess campaign chairs for that?

MA: Yeah, I was a, I was a...

TI: The Nisei...

MA: ...chairperson and finance chairman.

TI: Wow.

MA: And we built that church. And we raised seventy-five thousand dollars, which at that time was a lot of money. But oh, we got started building, we had a Nisei contractor build it, you know, but it went way over estimate, and by the time it got built it was $125,000. We had to borrow twenty-five (thousand) dollars from the headquarters of the Methodist Church, and they gave us that money. [Laughs] And then, and about five years later, we paid that all off.

TI: So now when you look at today, 2006, the Methodist Church, is it still a large, thriving Japanese American church, or is it changing?

MA: It's changing fast, yeah. A lot of your chairmen are Caucasians, at least three, three of them. Four of them are Japanese. Gary Saiki, he's an architect, he's, he's the lay leader and chairperson right now. Yeah, Buddhist Church is, too, prospering right now. And they too, it's not all Japanese, but there are Caucasians getting involved, especially Christopher Marr, (a Nisei). I don't know whether you know him, he's a businessman. He runs an auto dealership on Northshore Drive that he's a very active, he and his wife were both active in the Buddhist Church. He has a Caucasian wife, and she's a very strong Buddhist. And they're able to, I think, almost half are Caucasians now at that Buddhist Church. Yeah, it's thriving.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Well, so I'm curious about, when you think about the Japanese American community in Spokane, what do you think's going to happen to it in the future?

MA: That's hard to say. I think like our church, it's going to be what they call a community church, just for all people, rather than an ethnic church.

TI: But then how about the Japanese American community, just the community itself? Do you see, how do you see that sort of changing?

MA: Well, they're kind of accepting it. Some people don't like it, but that's the way it is. See, all the... the Niseis are getting old and they don't, they can't, like me, I quit, quit being active. And the Sanseis, they get married, they intermarry, and they go to other churches. You know, like my daughter, you met her, they go to another church, they go to an evangelical church. I wish she would go to our church, but she won't. And they intermarry, and they go to other churches. Especially younger people, we're getting too old, they want to go to a younger church.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: Okay, so here's another question. On September 11, 2001, remember when the terrorists (attacked) the towers in New York City?

MA: Oh, yes.

TI: Some people have said that that's very, it was kind of similar to when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in terms of a national tragedy. And I was curious, when you heard about the, the attack on 9/11, what kind of things were you thinking about when that happened?

MA: Well, I was surprised. I said, "Oh no," especially when I, you see it on television where that one airplane hits that tower, and then another one comes and hits the second tower, and then that tower blazing and it all collapsed. And oh, it just shocked me, yeah, to see that happen. I especially don't care for this Iraqi war. I think, personally, we should pull out of there, although President Bush doesn't think so. [Laughs]

TI: So, but how about in terms of, like, how we are perhaps suspecting certain people, like if they're Arab American, if that... do you hear, do you sense that the United States might be doing some similar things with Arab Americans that they did with Japanese Americans? Do you ever feel that?

MA: Yeah, we thought about that, especially people of the Muslim religion, especially that minority. I hear there were some being boycotted. You know, they have businesses here, too, you know, there was one up on Hamilton, I forgot the name of the restaurant, but they finally closed. And then there was a gas station on Seventeenth that's owned by a... well, Arab originally, I can't remember. But they're still operating, but some people boycott them. I don't believe that should happen, but what are you going to do? Complain, well, that's about all.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: Now, in terms of children, I met your daughter, what are their, you want to tell me about the rest of your family? Can you tell me your other family members, like do you have other sons and daughters and grandchildren?

MA: (My daughter's name is Laura.) My son (Paul), he's in Tacoma, he's an architect, and he was involved in Tacoma redevelopment downtown area, and he's doing fine. My (son-in-law) works for the Washington Trust Bank, and he's a vice-president there now. I have two grandchildren... no, no, what am I saying? Two grandchildren from my son. One is a teacher in Raymond, Washington, and the other is in the air force, and he just got through duty around Turkey and Iraq and Afghanistan. And fortunately, his plane wasn't shot down. He hauled cargo, a cargo plane. And now he's going to be stationed permanently in Hickam Field in Hawaii. My daughter has four sons. [Laughs]

TI: So you have six, six grandsons?

MA: Yeah.

TI: Wow, okay.

MA: But they're, they're all in school yet, and two is in college. And then I got (five) great-granddaughters and (...) great-grandson. [Laughs] And they're very little, real small.

TI: Well, so when you see that, and they're gonna grow up, are there any kind of words that you have or thoughts that you have for them as they get older? Especially your great-grandchildren, when they grow up, what would you tell them about life?

MA: Well, I tell 'em to live the best you can, and there's a lot of good things in Japanese culture that you should remember. You know, like gaman, you know what gaman is? And yeah, and you know, my son's married to a Caucasian, so they're all half-Japanese. [Laughs] Yeah, and the grandchildren, they're, you can't tell, they're all blonds. [Laughs]

TI: Well, good, so that's all the questions I have.

MA: Yeah, but I said...

TI: Do you have anything else you want to say for the, the tape?

MA: No, I don't.

TI: Okay. Well, I just want to thank you so much. I've learned so much by doing this interview. Because you're one of those rare people who can really remember way back before the war, what Spokane was like, so this was really good.

MA: Yeah, that's a long time ago. Well, I'm eighty-nine years old now, borrowed time, hey.

TI: No, it looks good.

Mas Akiyama Interview - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved. - <End Segment 25>