Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hiro Nishimura Interview
Narrator: Hiro Nishimura
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: April 28, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-nhiro-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so Hiro, today is Tuesday, April 28, 2009. Running the camera is Dana Hoshide, interviewing is me, Tom Ikeda, and we're here this morning with Hiro Nishimura.

HN: Oh, yes. I know the Ikeda family.

TI: Okay, but Hiro, before we go, let's get some basic background. Can you -- and you've done this already, but can you tell me when and where you were born?

HN: Seattle, Washington, August 8, 1919.

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

HN: Hiroyuki Nishimura.

TI: How about a middle name?

HN: No middle name.

TI: And let's start with your father first. What was your father's name?

HN: Hisao.

TI: And do you know where Hisao was born?

HN: Oh, yes. Hiroshima, Asa-gun, Shiraichi. I've been there myself several times.

TI: And do you know what his family did in Japan?

HN: Yeah, they were landowners. They were landowners.

TI: And do you know how much land they owned?

HN: I don't know how much land. All I know is when I went there, I was told that they were, they loaned money out. So I assumed they're landowners.

TI: And with their land, did they do things like rice and crops and things like that?

HN: I think they owned property. So they must have lent out, leased out land to farmers and people. That's my assumption.

TI: So it sounds like the family was pretty well-off. And so why, why did your father decide to leave Japan?

HN: Being the second son, inheritance, first one gets everything, right? Second and third, you get nothing. So that's it, like other Issei parents, fathers.

TI: So why did he decide to come to America and not --

HN: Well, his reason, well, number one, he has no obligation to the family, right? He came to America legally, the form letter said he came as a student. He came as a student with a fellow student, a high school student, Dr. Ishibashi, classmate, they came as a student. That's his visa. And that's why his English was so great, surprised me. I didn't realize he was an English... well, that was his purpose, study English. He was good in English. I never told him that. I don't know why I didn't. [Laughs]

TI: So where did he first go? When he came to America, where did he go?

HN: My official residence, first residence, was Panama Hotel, everybody knows that. 501 1/2 South Main Street, I know that. I lived there.

TI: And so when your father first came to Seattle as a student, what did he do? Do you know...

HN: Yeah, he was working at that Sorrento Hotel and then I think he was working there as the elevator boy, this and that, but I think he was a co-partner of the Panama Hotel. Because I lived there five years when I was born. That was the first business.

TI: Oh, so he also ran the Panama Hotel?

HN: Oh, he and Mr. Maeda, they were co-owners. It's all in my birth certificate. And then in the meantime, he was working in the Sorrento Hotel.

TI: So back in those days, when he ran it, did that mean that he owned the property, or did he just lease the property?

HN: I assume... that I don't know, but I assume that he and Mr. Maeda were, well, they were co-operators or co-owners. Because Mr. Maeda's name is on my father's Hiroshima albums, photo album. I have the Hiroshima Kenjinkai, prefecture's photo album. All the biographical data, and Mr. Maeda is named in there.

TI: Now, by any chance, do you recall about what year this would be when he came to Seattle?

HN: Yeah, gosh. I was born in 1919, I think it was year, but... gee, I have the forms at home, but I can't tell you that.

TI: Okay, that's fine.

HN: Yeah, but I have the records at home, all his immigration, alien registration papers and all that. My mother came later, of course, because they got married in Japan, Yokohama.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.