Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Irene Najima Interview
Narrator: Irene Najima
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: August 4, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-nirene-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

MA: Okay, so today is August 4, 2008, and I'm here with Irene Najima. I'm Megan Asaka, the interviewer, and the camera person is Dana Hoshide. And also in the room, listening in, is Scott Najima, Irene's son. And we are in the Densho office in Seattle, Washington. So Irene, thank you so much for coming all the way up to Seattle and doing this.

IN: My pleasure.

MA: So I wanted to start by asking, when were you born?

IN: August 9, 1927.

MA: And where were you born?

IN: Petaluma, California.

MA: And what was the name given to you at birth?

IN: Miyoko Nakano.

MA: And a little bit about your parents. What was your father's name?

IN: Juhachi Nakano.

MA: And where was he from in Japan?

IN: Fukuoka. But a small village, Ishikaki. Ishikaki (now part of the township Tanushimaru, Fukuoka-ken).

MA: And what type of work did his family do in Japan?

IN: They were rice farmers.

MA: And do you know what his motivations were for coming to the U.S.? Why he decided to come here?

IN: I think he felt that, by that he could financially make a better living, take the money, whatever money, and return to Japan.

MA: And did he come over to California on his first stop?

IN: No, originally, as a young boy, fifteen, sixteen, he worked in the coal mines in Japan. And made money there and then went to Hawaii. Honolulu, and worked there for a while, on the plantation. And then made enough money there, and then came to California.

MA: Okay, so he worked on the plantations in Hawaii, sort of saved up money and then...

IN: That's right.

MA: ...was able to come to California. Where in California? Did he go to San Francisco right from Hawaii?

IN: No, he went to the more rural areas, which is in, I think he went to a place called Healdsburg, which is near Santa Rosa, California.

MA: And what type of work was he doing around, in Healdsburg?

IN: I think initially he worked as a cook for a gentleman who owned a large house. Initially, I think he was a cook.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2008 Densho. All Rights Reserved.