Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: James A. Nakano Interview
Narrator: James A. Nakano
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 3, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-njames_2-01

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So today is June 3, 2009, it's Wednesday morning, and we're in Honolulu at the Japanese Cultural Center. And on camera is Dana Hoshide, and interviewing is me, Tom Ikeda. And this morning we have James Nakano. And so James, the first question is, can you tell me when you were born?

JN: November 12, 1933.

TI: And where were you born?

JN: In Honolulu, Hawaii.

TI: Now, do you recall, was it like a hospital you were born in, a house?

JN: No. My guess is, in those days, I think all the births were done by... what do you call those people who come in?

TI: Like a midwife?

JN: Midwives. I think midwives did all the deliveries in those days, my guess.

TI: Okay. When you were born, what was the name given to you at birth?

JN: I'm assuming it was James Akinobu Nakano.

TI: So before we talk about, kind of, your life, let me ask a little bit about your father. Can you tell me your father's name?

JN: Minoru.

TI: And do you know where in Japan...

JN: Fukuoka, Japan.

TI: And do you know anything about your father's family in terms of what kind of work they did in Fukuoka?

JN: My, by the way, my grandparents ultimately lived with us. So my grandfather, I'm not sure -- I'm sure they were on the farms. But my grandfather, early on, left, took off or had to run or something. He was, he had a reputation, I think, from what I hear from my older siblings, that he took off from Fukuoka, came from Hawaii. And supposedly he was to work in the cane fields as everybody else was supposed to. My guess is he did come with that contract. My guess is he... and the story I hear, and I haven't investigated that, is he went to the Big Island. He took off, off of the plantation, he didn't want to work on the plantation. What I heard was -- and again, this is from my cousin, older cousin said he worked as a bodyguard to gambling in the Big Island among the Japanese workers. And he was big, he was a big Japanese, basically, and I guess he was pretty tough. All I remember about him living with him was he never said a word. I don't recall him saying one word. But the only thing I recall is when I was young, he bought me my first bicycle for some strange reason. He's a, he was an interesting character who I never knew. Anyway, he came here first.

TI: Going back to that bicycle, so when he gave you that bicycle and you thanked him, you said he never said anything. How did he acknowledge that you got the bicycle?

JN: He probably just walked away. I don't recall at all. But my guess is, he just says, he just dropped the bike off and said, "This is Akinobu's bicycle." And then whoever gave it to me, I don't recall. But he was, he was that type of a guy. We had a veranda we called it, in Hawaii, because it's hot, right? All I recall most about him is he's sitting on the veranda, sitting down, and he wrapped his -- not cigarette -- tobacco, he wrapped it up and smoked. They wrapped their own cigarettes. And I remember him smoking there, and I think he used to spit over the railing. And that's all he did. Never said a word, and just sat there, smoked, didn't say a word. He was quite a character.

TI: And so you lived with your grandfather. Was your grandmother also there?

JN: Yeah, my grandmother came with... my, when he took off from Japan, this is when my grandfather took off from Japan, he had three sons with my grandmother. The oldest I never met. The story I hear about my oldest uncle is that he stayed back when my grandmother came here from Japan. She came her with her second son, who was my father, and her third son, who was my uncle. I forgot his name, Katsu-something. Then... where was I?

TI: Yeah, so your grandmother and, I guess, two of her sons came to --

JN: Came here. It must have been around, in the... very close to 1900, plus or minus, I'm not sure. My father, I heard about my oldest uncle was that he ultimately joined the army, and then he was killed in Manchuria, is what I heard.

TI: This was your, the oldest uncle.

JN: Yes. So I never met him and that's the story I heard of him. My father, who was the second son, they came with -- they came off the farm, I'm pretty sure. But they had apparently carpentry experience. Now, where they picked it up, I have no idea. They came here when they were like fourteen or fifteen years old. And where they both picked up, both my father and my younger uncle, where they picked up the carpentry, I have no idea. But they went into carpentry, and ultimately my father and later on my uncle both became general contractors here in Honolulu, Hawaii.

TI: And how did your father meet your mother?

JN: I don't really know.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Well, let's talk about your mother's family first. So what was your mother's name and where was she from?

JN: She, my understanding is she was also from Fukuoka. And it's even further on, I think my father was from Kyushu -- no, I'm sorry, from Kurume, and I think my mother was even further up in the countryside somewhere, up in the mountains somewhere. Her last name was Inouye. She had a younger brother here, I remember him, that Uncle Inouye. There was an older brother who went back to Japan early. Oh, my understanding is her parents and the older brother somehow went back to Japan. She was, my mother was already married, so she, of course, didn't go. And her younger brother, for some reason, also stayed. He may have also been married by that time, I'm not sure. But both of them stayed here. So her parents, the Inouye family, went back to Japan and I had very little recollection of them at all. But I remember my uncle because he was here.

TI: And what was your mother's first name?

JN: [Laughs] I really don't know.

TI: You just called her "Mother," "Mom"?

JN: In those days, "Okaasan."

TI: I wanted to go back. I forgot to ask about your father's side. You talked about your grandfather, how about your grandmother on your father's side? She also lived with you for a while?

JN: Yeah. She, in Japan, apparently when my grandfather came to Hawaii, she then moved back with her family, with the three boys, she then moved back with her family, with the three boys. And then she then came to Hawaii with the two kids. Like I said, my oldest uncle stayed back in Japan. So they came here to Hawaii. As I said, I'm not sure.

TI: And what was your grandmother like? You talked a little bit about your grandfather as being quiet and rolling the cigarettes, what about your grandmother?

JN: My grandmother was a social butterfly, she went around talking to everybody. And she... what I remember about her, that she just went around, talked to everybody, and she was a very outgoing grandmother. That's the best I can recollect of her. She complained a lot, and she talked a lot.

TI: Okay. So going back to your father and mother, you're not quite sure how they met, but they lived in Honolulu or Wailea?

JN: Yeah. I'm sure it was an arranged marriage in those days. I'm sure somebody arranged it. Whether she came from Japan and arranged, or it was arranged and she came from Japan, I'm not sure. But they were married, she was, I can see pictures of their marriage, and she had kimono on. And that was, it was in Hawaii, though. And I think from early on, they lived in Waialae until around, I guess, my understanding is that when the Depression hit in about 1929/'30, he must have gotten wiped out also, and then he had to move from Waialae to a farm... I'm guessing that he owned a farm in... oh, he may have bought a farm in, someplace in Kahala. And maybe for my grandfather, so that he could do some farming. But I recall that's where the whole family moved, and we moved out of Waialae. And if you know Hawaii, the land, the fee is owned by Bishop Estate, and that's true in Waialae, too. But what I remember is that we then moved from Waialae. I don't remember, frankly, because I wasn't born yet -- that they moved to Kahala. And while there, in 1933, I was born there, I think, in Kahala, on the little farm that they had.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So you were born in 1933. Let's talk about your siblings, and why don't you go in order in terms of your sisters and then your brothers in terms of kind of the birth order.

JN: My oldest, the oldest in the family was my sister, Tomiko. She's still alive. I'm not sure... she's in her eighties, obviously, pushing ninety maybe. But she's been in, she married a Japanese before the war in Japan. To back up a little bit, she, the family, my father sent half my family to Japan, and the other half, I think, stayed here with the intention that we would then also go to Japan. But the war intervened in 1941, so we weren't able to join them. So they went there, like, 1939, somewhere in that period.

TI: So Tomiko was one of them that went to...

JN: Tomiko and my other, the second was Sumiko, and she was the second oldest, and two brothers, two older brothers, my older brothers William and Henry. William is still alive, Henry has since passed away. So it was my grandparents and my two older sisters and my two brothers, Henry and Bill.

TI: And that was about 1939, you said?

JN: Yeah, somewhere before the war.

TI: So you can barely remember that. You were pretty young when that happened, you were about five or six when you were sent.

JN: Yeah. I was young.

TI: Okay, so the oldest was Tomiko, second was Sumiko, the third oldest was...

JN: Jitsuo.

TI: Okay, so it was a brother?

JN: Yeah.

TI: And then after Jitsuo was?

JN: Colbert.

TI: Colbert, known as Bert.

JN: Bert.

TI: Okay, and then came William and Henry, the next two brothers.

JN: Correct.

TI: And so that's one, two, three, four, five, six children. And then after that was you.

JN: I'm the seventh.

TI: Okay. Any other siblings?

JN: Twelve years later, in Tule Lake, the day the war ended, I think, August of 1945, my youngest sister was born. [Laughs]

TI: Okay, we'll get to that later. That's a good story.

JN: Her name is Joyce, by the way.

TI: Joyce, good. So there are two, four, six, okay, there was eight children.

JN: Yes.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So let's go back a little bit about your father and his business. So growing up, I was reading some of the background materials, he was a pretty successful general contractor.

JN: I would say yes. As I said, well, for one thing, I went through, I was sent to Mid-Pacific, which is a boarding school. In fact, one of these days, later on I'll tell you about why I ended up in Mid-Pacific. But anyway, I went through Mid-Pacific, which is a boarding, private boarding school. I went up to University, I went to University of Hawaii two years, University of Illinois another two years, graduated there, and then went to... I don't think you'll find too many, but I went to three different law schools. I went to University of Illinois first year, I went to Northwestern for a semester, took a break, went into the army for two years, and then I went to, I finished at UCLA. So I got my law degree from UCLA after three different law schools.

TI: And so your father was able to help pay for all of this.

JN: He paid for the whole thing. [Laughs] I can't believe it. And I never, never occurred to me who's paying for this, and I never thanked him. Never thanked him. And then it occurred to me -- as a matter of fact, I was studying for the bar exam when I got the call that my dad passed away from a heart attack. I never... and to this day, that's my, probably my greatest regret, is not telling him. I mean, he was a character, but I never thanked him. In fact, I was... I looked at him through the eyes of my mother, I think, so I was always strict. After my mother died, I bossed him around, I told him, "Don't do this, don't do that." I remember lecturing him on his driving, telling him, "Don't drive too fast, you're too close to the car." I'm, like, twelve, thirteen years old. That was terrible. But I do recall all of that. But that was my father, he was a character.

TI: So let's talk about his business and how he accumulated some of his money. What did he do?

JN: He was a general contractor. And as far as I know, mostly he built homes in those days. And I know he built some commercial buildings because there were one or two on King Street that we used to point out and say, "My old man built that," like a three-story building there and that kind of stuff. But he, basically, he built homes all over. And I know he built home in Kahala and all over. So whatever he did, he knew what he was doing. And at home, I always remember trucks. We had trucks, we had lumber all over the place, we had saw machines. And our yard, we had a huge yard that we had nothing but... in those days, they were both home and business for him. And he had a number -- he had at least... there were like four or five workers, carpenters who worked for him. Like they were, I can't remember their names, but they were like family because they worked for my dad for so long.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: I think I read someplace where he also had, like, rental units close by, where you lived?

JN: Yeah, when we were in Waialae, as I said, it was all leased. So he leased a whole area, the whole area being, I'm not sure. But it covered, on Waialae, on those days, it was Oili Road and Waialae. And Waialae had commercial properties, he built commercial properties. There was a store, I remember the barber shop because that's where we went to a barber. And then there was a bakery, and that's one of our neighbors. And then there were a bunch of rental units he built. One of 'em was two stories, I know, There must have been at least eight to ten rental units in the area. Then he had, in the middle of that area, he had this big white house, and we were in the big, white house. And we were the Nakanos and everybody knew who we were. And I remember we had this big living room. But you know, it was big, but we had eleven, eight... two, four... seven.

TI: Yeah, seven, you had seven kids.

JN: So there were eleven people living in there. And big as it was, we had one, two, three, four or five bedrooms. But my parents took one, I slept with them. My sisters took one and my grandparents took the other, and the rest of the kids had to sleep in one room. [Laughs] But I remember the big living room we had. The thing I remember most was this huge, long table he built that was our, that we had dinner on. And I guess lunch, too, but everybody had to report in, that included me. We may be out playing, but then the call would go out to say lunch or dinner, and we were out in the neighborhood playing. And then it was like, "Come on home, time to eat," da-da-da. And we'd be all running home and everything. There'd be eleven of us sitting on that table. And I can't imagine the noise on it, but they were strict. My dad enforced strict rules about eating and not making noise. But my brother tells me stories about him dropping food on me and that kind of stuff just to get me going. There's all kinds of stories they told me, I don't recall, though. But all I recall is that table, and my basic position was right next to my mother because she fed me, I guess. But everybody else had to line up in the table.

TI: And who would do all the cooking for all eleven every meal?

JN: My mother and my grandmother. They did all the cooking for, three times a day, I guess, and they had to wash. And they cooked rice -- we had a special, he built a special building in the back that was made to cook rice. It was a rice cooking place. And so they would go outside, and wood, they used wood as heat to make the, to make the rice. So I remember outside they had this rice cooker kind of thing. So all the rice was cooked out there.

TI: You mentioned some of the carpenters were like family. Did they join you sometimes for meals?

JN: Sometimes, yeah. And then my dad, in this big living room we had, they'd move all the furniture and then they'd put down tables. And, of course, everybody would sit on the floor, but they would have parties all the time. My dad had parties for... I'm not sure who or what occasion, but there were a number of parties there. I'm not sure who did the cooking for that, though, to be honest, because there were a lot of people there. And who took care of the cleaning and everything, I have no idea. But I remember a lot of big parties in that living room.

TI: Describe one of those parties. I mean, I realize you were young, but you probably watched everything and, like can you get a sense of, was it mostly men or were there women there? Was there music? What can you remember?

JN: Most, well, for one thing, we weren't invited, so we were sneaking from the bedroom looking in, kind of thing. Mostly men, I think, is my recollection. I don't recall too many women at all, if any. I seem to recall even my mother and my grandmother going around serving. But there must have been other people serving because there were a lot of people. I don't recall, I don't recall the singing or the noise or anything, but I remember looking in. I just don't recall the specifics of the parties. But they were fun, we had fun watching.

TI: It would just, like, go late into the night? It would just happen, or during the day?

JN: It seemed like most of it was at night -- during the day, it seems like. I don't recall lights going on or off. I'm guessing that it was during the day.

TI: It sounds like an interesting, fun, colorful life during that time.

JN: Yeah, my dad was a colorful guy, I think, basically. As I said, while he was alive, I was always critical of him. It was afterwards...

TI: And your criticism came from, because you thought... where did that criticism come from? What was it about?

JN: My guess is, I looked at him through my mother's eyes, and he was not, he was a playboy, he wouldn't come home. One time, I seem to recall looking out the window and seeing him coming into the house drunk. They would, the contractors in those days were the, they were notorious for having parties at... what do you call those Japanese teahouses? But anyway, they would have -- there's one particularly in Honolulu at that time, I don't think it exists anymore. But he would have parties there, too, and he would go to parties or put parties together. And I remember him coming home once, I remember looking out the bedroom window, him coming home, and he's bringing in one of those women who work there, he was trying to bring her into the house. And I remember being upset because of my mother. But I remember... and I remember him coming home, and as I said, I used to sleep in their room. And he would come home drunk, and my mother would be yelling, screaming, and hitting him with something or the other. And he would duck under the futon and just hide and go to sleep kind of a thing. So yeah, that's the kind of, that's how I looked at him, that he was very, yeah, he was irresponsible kind of a guy. But he knew how to make money. Money he brought in, but as a father he was something less than model of a father.

TI: You described earlier how at meals, everyone had to be there and do this. Was that from your mother or your father that you would all sit together and have those things?

JN: I don't know, I don't know. But it was nice.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Talk about your mother, what was she like?

JN: She was so quiet, I cannot... in a sense, it was like my grandfather. I can't recall his voice. My mother, too, was very quiet and reserved. She was really reserved. So that's in contrast not only to my father, but to my grandmother who went around talking all the time. My mother was so quiet and reserved, I think she was uptight most of the time. And, of course, at age forty-five, she died of a heart attack or stroke. She died of a stroke.

TI: Well, so she had, with you, you were the seventh child, and plus, she had her in-laws staying in the house, too. So how did that, was that also sometimes stressful for her?

JN: It must have been, but I never noticed. It never occurred to us. All I remember was my grandmother walking around having a nice time, talking, talking. She was really a sweet old lady. But I guess like my father, she wasn't that responsible. But she helped around, I know, she worked around the house.

TI: Interesting, it seems like you see your mom almost -- a martyr is not the right word, but kind of the one who had to do, hold things together in some ways while your father was partying maybe a little bit, and your grandmother was out and about.

JN: Yeah, I think so. My guess, again, I hardly knew my mother because she hardly said anything. But I'm guessing she felt a lot of shame about my father, she must have felt like... I think she was, and I know she was embarrassed having her child, my kid sister twelve years later, because she was forty-something years old at that time. And yes, and she was uptight most of the time. And yet, I stuck to her like glue, because she was the only one I could feel safe with, I think. I didn't, couldn't feel I could rely on my grandmother or my father.

TI: Well, she must have felt a lot of comfort with you, too, I mean, as the youngest, just having someone that...

JN: Maybe. Maybe she was holding on to me, too, I don't remember.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Let's talk about your childhood memories in terms of play. Growing up before the war, do you have some childhood memories of some of the play you did, or activities?

JN: Well, riding, somehow I recall my first tricycle, my first bicycle. And the reason I say I remember is in those days, I was the first in the family to get a tricycle, bicycle. Nobody else had one. It was a big thing to get one in those days.

TI: So you had six older siblings, and they never got a bicycle or a tricycle?

JN: No, no.

TI: And how would you know you were the first one? Did they tell you? [Laughs]

JN: Oh, yeah. My older brothers used to say, "You get everything." Yeah, I was getting everything. I knew that and they let me know early on.

TI: Now, did you do much with your older brothers?

JN: Later on I did. When I was young... well, of course, when I was young, when I was about... gee, how old I don't recall. But I must have been five, six years old when two of my brothers who were right above me went to Japan, right? That left two older brothers who were too old for me to play with. So I only had my mother, really, at that point.

TI: So tell me why, how they chose the two little brothers. I mean, you have two older sisters, then you have the next two brothers, and they stayed in Hawaii, then they have the next two brothers, they went. Do you know why they did that?

JN: I have no idea. I have no idea. The grandparents, two oldest sisters, and those two boys. Why those six, I have no idea.

TI: I wonder if it's because they wanted, probably, the oldest son, they wanted to keep in Hawaii, maybe? But I was just curious why they did that pattern.

JN: I'm guessing, though, he was, expected all of us to go back to Japan. But why he had felt they had to go first, I'm not sure. It may be that he wanted my oldest brother to first graduate from high school, maybe, McKinley High School. He was going to McKinley. He was almost ready to graduate when the war started.

TI: Now, how did you know that eventually your father wanted everyone to go to Japan? Did you talk about it?

JN: Not really. I'm just, I don't know. It's just in my head, somewhere along the line, the impression I had. But I don't recall anybody saying that. A lot of the information that I got, I got from my sister Sumiko. She was, became the closest thing to my mother after my mother passed away. She was in Japan all that time. She was a character herself. She didn't say much, but she was strict as hell, and she was having problems trying to control the rest of the boys in the family. Because the boys don't listen to her and she couldn't do much because they'd just run out of the house and say, "Go to hell," and that kind of stuff. And Jitsu was only a few years younger, he says, "Don't tell me what to do." So anyway, she had a hard time. But she was the closest thing to being the matriarch of the family.

TI: Okay. Before the war broke out, you did go to school. Can you tell me which school you went to and what that was like?

JN: I was, I think I was going to Waialae elementary school, I'm not sure what grade, second grade or whatever, is when the war broke out. And then we went to camp. And at camp, it was... I'm not even sure if we had an English school in Arkansas.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Okay, so before we go there, why don't we go to December 7th. So when December 7, 1941, that Sunday, do you recall that day and what happened?

JN: Yeah. For some strange reason, I seem to recall -- and why I remember this particular incident I have no idea. But I seem to recall there was a kiawe tree near my house and I seem to recall climbing that tree because I wanted to look at the, to see if I could see the smoke coming from Pearl Harbor. Somewhere, somebody must have told us there's some bombing or burning in Pearl Harbor, and for some reason I recall climbing that tree. And the other thing I recall clearly is although it was a Sunday, some of the workers were at our house where they were working. They worked, in those days, I guess, Sunday wasn't that big of a deal. I remember our number one carpenter who worked for my dad was there. And the one thing I remember was I think he listened to the radio, he must have heard what happened, that he was from Japan. And the story I hear, I guess, he just disappeared. He took off. I guess that shook him up a lot, he just took off, and we never saw him after that. That's what I remember about December 7, 1941.

TI: And reactions from your father or mother, do you recall them saying anything or doing anything?

JN: Not one bit. I don't recall reactions at all.

TI: How about your older brothers? Did they say anything to you, do you remember, or Bert?

JN: No, not at all. I don't recall.

TI: And do you recall thinking anything about, like, your brothers or sisters in Japan, and what might happen to them or you or anything like that?

JN: I'm sure it never occurred to me. I was too self-centered to be worried about them. [Laughs] No, I don't think I had any thoughts about that.

TI: So in the weeks following December 7th, did anything change in terms of the patterns of your life or the family life?

JN: The only thing I -- oh. The first thing I seemed to recall is we had to cover our windows, I think, or blacken it or something, so that a light wouldn't come out -- I think we had to blacken the windows, I seem to recall. I seem to recall... or was it something my father made sure he had to throw away because he was afraid the FBI might come after him or something, he threw something away. Probably a picture of Hirohito. We had one or two in the house, I recall that. He probably pulled it down and hid it. And the other thing I remember was the windows, we had to make sure that there wouldn't be any lights coming out. But other than that, I don't seem to have any other memories of that incident.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Well, in the, kind of, weeks after the Pearl Harbor bombing, the FBI went around and started picking up some of the community leaders. Did they question your father or do anything with your father?

JN: I don't remember at all. The only thing I remember was when they picked him up, which was in February of '42. And I remember them coming over to the house. But as I said, this is in February. Before then, I don't remember them coming to the house at all.

TI: Do you remember how many came to the house?

JN: It seemed to me there were, like, two or three. I think they had suits on, they came in. I'm not sure how much of this is accurate, but I seem to recall my father -- I called him "my old man" to most people -- but I seem to recall my father walking out of the house, like, with a cigar in his mouth and he's saying "hello" to the FBI guys like no big deal kind of a situation. That's, that's the recollection I seem to have of him walking around with a cigar in his mouth, and just talking to the FBI guys like, "All right, you guys are coming over, all right, I'll see you guys coming out." And he's dressed and ready to go kind of thing.

TI: Hmm. And does that, when you think back to that moment, does that surprise you that that was the reaction of your father? To come out with a cigar and just kind of be casual about this?

JN: Yeah, it must have been, because that's what I -- otherwise, I don't think I could remember. It wasn't -- and I don't feel, and I don't recall feeling, and my association with that image is I don't feel sadness or anything. It's like, "Wow, there he goes," he's having a good time and he's walking out the door and he has a cigar and everything. Because I was stuck to my mother, right? So I didn't feel it, but I recall him walking out, but I don't feel the loss, I don't feel sadness or anything. Obviously no bitterness. I didn't care, practically.

TI: And do you recall your mother's reaction when this was happening?

JN: Not at all. I'm sure she was stoic as usual, no emotions.

TI: So who took care of all the rentals and the property, do you recall? Was it like your younger uncle? Was he still around and able to help out?

JN: Yeah. But instead of that uncle, the one, the Nakano uncle, the one who, that moved into our house when we were to leave -- we left, my dad left in February of '42, we left in November of '42. The uncle who took over the house and the rental and all that kind of thing was my Uncle Inouye from my mother's side rather than my father's side.

TI: And the orders for you to leave in November, do you recall if... was it because all families had to follow their father, or was this a voluntary thing, that your mother wanted to join your father? Do you recall the circumstances?

JN: No, no. But the impression I had, I'm not sure why, but the impression I had was that it was voluntary. And I'm not sure why. It's kind of interesting because it's not like my mother was that close to my father, so why she felt she had to join them, I don't have the slightest idea.

TI: But the thinking was, if the family went to the mainland, at some point, they would be reunited with your father?

JN: Yes, yes. That was the whole idea.

TI: Do you recall if there was any communication between your mother and father during that time period from February '42 to November '42 to help her make that decision?

JN: Not at all. And I don't think we ever even visited him while he was at Sand Island. I don't think I did. Maybe my mother did or my brothers did, but I don't recall at all.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So let's talk about leaving for the mainland. So November of '42, describe the trip from Hawaii to the mainland. How did you get there and any memories from that?

JN: Yeah. I remember somehow -- I'm not sure where we got onto some kind of bus, I think. They must have sent bus over to our house or something. I remember us getting on the bus, and I don't remember -- no, I don't remember getting on the bus, but I remember being on the bus when we hit the immigration center that's still here. It's still located here in Honolulu. I remember getting off there, and then how we got from there to the boat, I don't recall. But my recollection was that we got onto the boat, the boat was the Lurline, which is in the Matson... what do you call it? Matson line, Lurline, which was a luxury passenger ship. And I recall I had a room with my mother. And so it was, it was a luxury kind of a trip from Honolulu to wherever we landed, Oakland somewhere.

TI: Do you recall if there were other families on the Lurline also going to the mainland? And if so, about how many?

JN: No, I don't remember anybody else. Well, I'm sure they were, I'm sure we weren't the only one. I assume they were all also going to be shipped to Jerome, same as we were being shipped. The one that... you know, on the way over... that's right, on the way over, I got the mumps. And we had a, there was a doctor on board who also went to Jerome. Miyamoto, I think, was his name, Dr. Miyamoto, I think. I think I just saw his name in the book I have, I saw his picture. And I remember him treating me. I still remember looking up to him because he was a doctor. Everybody looked up to him. He was the man on the trip. So I don't remember the others, but I remember Dr. Miyamoto. And then we got on the train after that.

TI: Well, so on this boat ride, so you were with your mother, and your two older brothers, Jitsu and Bert, where were they and what were they doing?

JN: [Laughs] I have no idea. Gee, I have no idea where they were.

TI: And so you don't recall seeing them very often on the trip.

JN: Not at all. All I remember is sticking close to my mother. I don't recall.

TI: And so you were... let's see, you were about how old? About seven or so? How old were you?

JN: Well, in '42, I'll be nine years...

TI: Nine years old.

JN: Pushing nine.

TI: And how old would Jitsu and Bert be about at that point?

JN: Well, see, he was close to graduating from high school, so he would have been sixteen, seventeen, Jitsu would be. And Bert would be, like, fifteen. Fourteen, fifteen.

TI: So they were older, they were probably just taking care of themselves.

JN: I guess. There must have been one common room they threw the rest of the guys in. But again, I stuck close to my mother, so I don't remember what happened to those guys.

TI: Okay. So you're, so you land in Oakland, and then you were talking about a train that you got on?

JN: Yeah, I remember getting on a train, and the train ride was, for me, it was a great trip. For one thing, the boat trip, I got seasick, of course, so I didn't like it. But getting on the train and riding the train, I don't know how many days it took us, but it was an enjoyable trip for me. I'm sticking close to my mother anyway. So that was a... I remember the train ride somehow, through the mountains and everything, was really a nice train ride. Although I remember soldiers. Oh, and the one thing -- I don't know why, whether I got this from a picture or my brother told me, but Bert is in the train, opens the window, and there's, the soldiers are outside and then he gives them the finger or yells at them. He does all kinds of things to the soldiers because they were the guys guarding us and everything. That sounds just like Bert.

TI: And then what happened after Bert did that?

JN: I think they tried to get him and he closed the window and took off inside. He was fast. So I don't think they ever caught up to him.

TI: Because you had the mumps, how did they treat you on the train? Were you with everyone else, so where were you when you had the mumps?

JN: Oh, you know, I think because I had the mumps, they had to kind of isolate me and my mother. And maybe that's why I don't remember where my brothers were, but I think we were on the special, special room. I mean, you know, the special, whatever you call that area where we practically had a room for, like a... nobody else were in that area.

TI: Oh, maybe like a sleeper car type of situation?

JN: Must have been, I don't recall. I really don't recall. But no, I don't recall the sleeper car, I recall sitting and watching also. But we had special... yeah, because of my mumps, that's right.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So eventually you end up in Arkansas, Jerome, Arkansas.

JN: Right, right.

TI: So describe that. What did Jerome, Arkansas, look like when you got there?

JN: Well, the thing I recall the most for some strange reason is this is my first encounter with kotonks. These are the people on the mainland, grew up on the mainland. Where the name came from is interesting, but the thing I remember first is when we got there, it wasn't... it doesn't look like it was completely done yet, it looked like it was muddy. They were digging, they were still kind of building ditches, I think, around each block as a drainage system. Because I remember falling into the drainage ditch, or being thrown in there or something. The thing I remember of my first encounter with the kotonks was because we, from Hawaii, we didn't wear shoes, and we would walk around without shoes. And the kotonks kids who had shoes on would say, "You barbarians." [Laughs] That was the beginning of my relationship with mainland Japanese. And I think we called them kotonks because it had to do with striking them, and then impact would be "kotonk," on hitting a Japanese American. I think that's what, that's my recollection of being called a barbarian, was the most, thing I remember. And being muddy, and I remember even being thrown or slipped into that ditch. And I remember everything was muddy.

TI: Well, so I'm guessing, from what I've heard about you and particularly your brothers, if they're called "barbarians" by the mainlanders, they didn't take too kindly to that, to that kind of treatment. So what kind of friction, or what happened after those kind of, sort of, verbal altercations where they call you names? What happened next?

JN: Well, insofar as the relationship between the Hawaii people -- well, for one thing, the Hawaii people were in three, we called them blocks. They were Blocks 38, 39 and 40. We were in Block 40. And... I lost my train of thought.

TI: And so I'm thinking, so the relationship between, especially amongst the boys, between the mainlanders and the Hawaii boys, how did they react during that time?

JN: There was always... the one I recall is that basically -- we call them kotonks -- the mainland Japanese, they were basically nice farm people, came from Sacramento areas and every other thing. A lot of the kids from Hawaii like my brother were more gang-oriented from growing up in Hawaii and in the high schools and intermediate schools here in Hawaii. And so they were more accustomed to gang fighting. And so when there were fights between, the tension between the local, I mean, the Hawaii people and the mainland people, kids, they weren't... kotonks, the mainland people weren't accustomed to having physical fights. They were more, basically, just nice farm kids. And here comes these people from, kids from Hawaii, and they were more gang-oriented, so they'd gang up on some nice farm kid, basically, is what. That's the impression I had, and Bert was one of the leaders all the time of this Hawaii gang and they would... in fact, there was one... oh, this is, I'm sorry, I'm jumping. It was in Tule Lake, actually. Japanese school, we had to go to Japanese school, and it was both kotonks and Hawaii people. And this Japanese teacher was -- we were all going back to Japan -- was teaching us Japanese in Japanese. And one of the Hawaii kids got cocky and talked and everything, and the teacher came up and hit him, and the guy turned around and whacked the teacher. To me, it was indicative, only the Hawaii kids would strike back a teacher, especially a Japanese school teacher. But anyway, that stuck in my mind all the time from way back. Again, indicating the difference between the Hawaii kids and -- the guy was, he was from the areas in Hawaii that were known for gang fighting.

TI: So it sounds like the Hawaii kids, especially the boys, were a little rougher, a little...

JN: Yeah, yeah. I always had the impression the kids from the mainland were more farm kids. There were some, in fact, who were, like, from San Pedro, and they were kind of, they were more citified. And I got close, I remember getting close to one of those guys. And he was closer to the Hawaii people, like, because he was kind of gang-oriented and every other thing. That was kind of interesting situation, he kind of took me under his arm.

TI: So in, going back to Jerome, did, pretty much, the Hawaii kids stuck together, and then the kotonks or the mainlanders kind of stuck together? There wasn't that much mingling?

JN: That's the impression I have, yeah, that there was tension between the two, basically.

TI: That's interesting.

JN: Yeah.

TI: 'Cause that kind of mirrors some of the stories I hear from some of the, like, 442 veterans, when the kotonks and the Hawaii boys met, there's that similar kind of friction.

JN: Probably, yeah. It wouldn't surprise me.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Now, I'm curious, you're now in Arkansas. And one of the things that Hawaii doesn't have are snakes, but in Arkansas there's lots of snakes there. Did you guys have any stories or experiences with snakes?

JN: Yeah. I remember there was a... we had to, in Arkansas, we had to go into the wooded area to get our own lumber. And I still remember, in the middle of the block, we had this huge lumber that everybody would then take home to their homes to have -- and we had a, we had a stove that warmed the house, that we needed wood for burning, for purposes of heating the house. And so there would be, everybody would go out to the woods. And I remember -- not that we were cutting any wood, but we were drawing the young guys that would go out there, and the older guys, too, I guess, they would go in to cut lumber and bring it back to the, to the block. And the reason we went out there was we wanted to look for snakes, we'd never seen snakes before, yeah. And then we saw... I don't know why, I'm not sure if this is true or not, actually, but it seems to me the first snake I saw was a water moccasin in the water out there. I'm sure we didn't catch 'em. We caught some harmless snake, as I recall, somebody caught it with a stick. Oh, with a forked stick, and there was a technique in doing that, as I recall. Somebody did it, caught it, and then we brought it back to Block 40, we brought back a snake. And that was our first exposure to see a snake. And this was a harmless snake; it wasn't poisonous or anything. Yeah, that was my experience with snakes.

TI: And so having grown up not seeing snakes and your brother's not having seen snakes, what was your feelings about snakes? Were you more frightened of them or just curious? How would you describe that?

JN: More curious, I think. Anyway, I was. I'd never seen one, and then of course I think, even by then, snakes were something slippery and something as a young boy you want to see and feel and touch and everything. So it was more for curiosity and saying, "Wow, this is a real one."

<End Segment 12> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: And how about, like, day to day life at Jerome? So it's three boys and your mother, and can you describe the room that you lived in?

JN: Yeah. I remember walking into the room we had within Block... and how they segregated one room from the other, I don't know, within the barrack. But within that room, we then segregated into rooms by hanging sheets, I think, between rooms, is what I recall. And then we had these bunker beds that was issued out, so we had beds issued and then we had rooms built, I mean, hung up with sheets, I think. And, of course, the center of the room was the stove. The stove was the thing that kept us warm.

TI: And what would be a typical day at Jerome? I mean, when you wake up, what would be one of the first things you would do and what would they be like?

JN: Okay, I get up in the morning, I think, and I'm not sure if it's because my mother is so introverted or not, but I remember going to the cafeteria in the morning and picking up food. And we, somebody built a wooden box with a opening on the top to put the drinks, so the drinks would stick up from there. It's so clear in my mind. And then we put food in there, and I would bring it home. And I think, I think it's just my mother and myself ate that, because I think the boys went to the cafeteria and did their thing and they just, I never saw them. I don't recall too much other than them coming home to sleep, I guess, but they weren't home that much. Bert was off, I'm sure, in trouble someplace.

TI: So it's interesting, so you never really ate in the big mess hall very frequently, you usually ate at home with your mother.

JN: Yeah, the only time I recall going, eating at the cafeteria would be on special occasions, Christmas or -- not Christmas, probably, I'm not sure. And they had performances and people would sing and that kind of stuff. That's the only time I recall going to a cafeteria to eat. But I remember bringing it home most of the time.

TI: And after you would eat and get the food, eat, and then what would you do during the day?

JN: Let's see. In the block, of course, it was all people from Hawaii. I remember there was a picture of them, the Kimura family was right next door to us. And they had sisters and brothers, and there was a boy my age, I think, so I played with him, too. When we first came back, I played with the doctor's son, because he was taking care of me and then the boy, I think the boy got the mumps, too, I think. That's right, he got the mumps. [Laughs] So I was the only boy who could play with him because I had already, I was over with my mumps, so I was the only boy who could play with the doctor's son. And then, of course, it was, as I said, the family I remember most was the Kimura family, they were next door. I'm sure there were others, but I just probably called... what we did, I don't recall exactly, but I remember pictures, I think. And that's what is in my mind, is the, there was a basketball court. So we must have played basketball, but I don't recall exactly. My brother played football because I see pictures of him, both of them playing football. And what else we did, I don't, I don't really recall.

TI: Well, you're now in Arkansas, you're more in the South. Did you have any memories or recollections of, like, African Americans, blacks, in the South? Did you ever see them when you were down there?

JN: You know, I have one, again, specific memory of somehow, of this black guy was delivering goods at the cafeteria. Why I was standing around that guy, I have no idea why. But my memory of that was -- and the reason I guess it stuck in my mind was I had food or something. The guy was delivering, I think, food to the cafeteria, or he was taking, maybe, garbage out from the cafeteria. And he looked different to me, right, he was black and everything. What I recall doing was giving him food, and he was so happy to get it. I'm not sure if this is, I made it up in my mind or what, but that's what I seem to recall. Why I would do it, I have no idea. But I seem to recall I gave him food, and he seemed to be very happy that he got it. And that's the, my memory of... it's a strange memory I have of that.

TI: When you think about that memory, was it a sense that he needed the food, that you actually had more than he had?

JN: Yes, yeah. That kind of struck me, I think, more than anything else, saying here's this adult, and he has a funny-colored skin, and I have to give him food. That somehow didn't sit with me, I think, it bothered me. That's probably the reason I remember.

TI: Oh, interesting.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Okay, so James, we're going to now go into the second hour. And we had just, we were talking about your growing up in Hawaii and then going to Jerome, and we talked a little bit about Jerome. And so I just wanted to finish up with a couple things. So the reason you came to the mainland was to get reunited with your father. So, and I think I read someplace where a decision was made to go to Tule Lake. But right before you left for Tule Lake was when you met up with your father. Can you describe that or tell me what you can remember about your father and sort of reconnecting?

JN: Not... I really don't recall that much. I somehow recall a train and him either getting on or off. I just don't recall. I think, though, it was all of us getting on that train to go to Tule Lake, and some he boarded with us or what, I just don't recall. But I just, I don't recall seeing him, like you would think I would have a memory of him, meeting him after a year and a half of not seeing him or anything, but I just don't recall that at all. But I recall him by the train, I think, boarding to go to Tule Lake.

TI: Now, do you recall why or how the decision was made to go from Jerome to Tule Lake?

JN: Not at all, other than they called it the "no-no" camp, I presume somebody in the family put "no-no." I'm not sure... it must have been my father. It must have been he said to my oldest brother, "As the oldest, you gotta go to Japan." I think, my guess again is he had to go to Japan to find the other half of the family, the only thing I could guess.

TI: Okay, so any memories of the train from Jerome, Arkansas, to Tule Lake, California?

JN: Not really. I don't have that good... I have a fond memory of the time from Oakland to Arkansas, but I don't have that much of a memory other than boarding somehow, but I don't recall the trip itself, the train ride itself going to Tule Lake. I don't recall even getting off at Tule Lake.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: How about, sort of, first impressions of Tule Lake?

JN: Gee, I have first impressions of Jerome, but I don't have that... I remember, I guess, us being way high up in the camp area. We were, I guess we were latest ones to get there, but we were way up there, Block 80-something, I think. And again, I think the Hawaii people were put, bunched together up there, up in the higher area. Higher being the way the landscape was. It wasn't that high. So I remember the, somehow the ground was not muddy, it was sandy kind of a ground, kind of grayish. I seem to recall... you know, for some reason, I think in Jerome we didn't have any barbed wire fences around the camp. But certainly there were barbed wire fences in Tule Lake, with armed guards in the, what do you call those towers? That stuck in my mind.

TI: How about, like the size of the camp? Was it about the same as Jerome or did you get a sense...

JN: Somehow it felt like it was much larger. I'm not sure why, but I just got in my mind that this was a larger camp than Jerome was. But it might have been just the fact that I'm higher up and I could see the whole, the rest of the camp.

TI: How about when you came across the kotonks, the mainlanders? Did they seem any different than the mainlanders in Arkansas, to you?

JN: No. I think by that time already, there were not, they weren't anything new to me anymore. So I don't have any, particularly, impressions of them being any different.

TI: Now, with your father joining your mother and your brothers, did the family pattern, life, change from Jerome to Tule Lake?

JN: No, not really. I don't think it did. I remember -- why I remember this I'm not sure -- but in camp, again, my father must have been a very enterprising kind of a guy because as soon as we got into camp, he became, he had, I know the most important thing was, prestige thing was he got a bicycle. So mode of transportation, he had a bicycle. So his job had to do with the cafeteria, maybe making sure people, the cafeteria's got enough food or whatever it was, but he was riding around, going to different cafeterias, I think, riding around the block. But I was thinking, gee, he's got a bicycle. That was a matter of big concern for thirteen, twelve, thirteen year old saying, "Wow, my father got a bicycle." And then I remember barbed wire fences, I remember the soldiers on top. And of course, there was one time -- and the other thing about the camp was they had birds, I don't know what kind of birds did we call them? Anyway, we bunch of us were on the second floor, we, bunch of us little boys, twelve, thirteen years old, went out, and my memory is that we went out to capture the birds, and they had large wings, and they were white. And we were gonna put the Japanese hinomaru.

TI: The red dot or circle.

JN: Red dot on it.

TI: Right.

JN: On the bottom of the, on the bottom, and we would paint it onto the bird and it would fly, let it fly, and hope the guard would look at it and get upset and shoot it, because we'd never seen the guard shoot a rifle, right? I don't think he ever did, but I seem to recall that was our purpose. And then we went out and... the way we captured those birds, by the way, we put bread or something to eat, we made a hook, and we had a string or rope or whatever it is. Oh, and the other thing was, common in camp was this rolling, dried up, what do you call them? Bushes.

TI: Sagebrush?

JN: Yeah, they were all over. So we'd line up, get a whole bunch of it, we'd hide behind the sagebrushes, and we're holding onto that rope for that bird to come in to go after the bread and then we'd hook it. And then we'd run over and catch the bird, flip him over, and we had the red paint, put the paint on it, hinomaru paint or mark on it and then fly it up and hope the guard would shoot it. As I said, my guess is he never did, but it was a big disappointment that used to let it fly. But anyway, that was one of my memories of what we did when we were there.

TI: During this time period, there were activities like from the Hoshidan or Hokokudan in terms of early morning exercises. Do you recall any of that?

JN: Yeah, as a matter of fact, yeah. We then dropped out of school, English school, of course, and we went only Japanese school. My guess is, again, we were all gonna go back to Japan, so we only had Japanese school. And then we had those exercises, that's right, and we would put the, what do they call the headbands on, and we would be going and saying, "Wasshoi, wasshoi," or whatever it was that we had to sing aloud. I'm not sure if we did that or I saw my brothers or others, older people do that. I may have done it myself, I'm not sure, yeah. And then, so we went to only Japanese classes. And I already relayed the incident of Hawaii kid punching back the teacher. I'm not sure.

TI: That's good.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: I want to, before, I didn't ask this, but think about your two older brothers that were with you, Jitsu and Bert. Tell me a little bit them. How would you describe, first, your oldest brother Jitsu in terms of what kind of guy was he, what was his personality like?

JN: Jitsu was more uptight. He was, the one thing I most remember about him somehow was that he apparently was bright, and he had good grades. And the teacher, there was a, I think a haole teacher who came in to teach, wanted him to go to college, go out of camp and go to college. Of course, my father said, "No, you're going back to Japan." To this day, I always felt like he should have gone to college, that he was the brightest in the family, instead of me. I got all the breaks, and I always felt little bit like, again, things turned out badly for him and luckily for me. But it was almost like at his expense that I got these things. He was kind of an uptight guy, a straight-shooter, everything had to be done the right way, which was, of course, in great contrast to Bert, who was like, did whatever came to his mind. So there was a conflict between Bert and Jitsu all the time, from the time they were young. And the thing I remember most about Jitsu telling Bert is, "I know you, Bert." Like, "Don't pull anything on me, I know you. Whatever you say, I don't believe you anyway," kind of a thing. And every so often, Jitsu would knock the hell out of Bert. And Bert was, among others, he was supposed to be the gang leader and the guy who everybody was afraid of. But Jitsu would beat the hell out of him without any problem. Again, younger brother can never beat on older brother, no matter what. Anyway, that's what I remember about Jitsu. Jitsu was really uptight, upright, but he was bright.

He went back to Japan and got married. Then he went back, again, I don't fully understand how that program worked, but he went back, and I think he got to Japan before the war ended. No, after the war ended, he got back to Japan, that's weird to me. And I think my father was supposed to go back, and my guess is we were all supposed to go. But when the war ended, my father said, "No, I'm going back and clean up my assets in Hawaii," sent my brother to look for the rest of the family, I think is why he went. I think that's why, even though the war ended, my brother Jitsu went back to Japan.

TI: So Jitsu was, again, separated from the rest of the family.

JN: It seemed like again he had to make the sacrifice. He had to sacrifice all his life, I think. So he went back, he could hardly speak Japanese, he had to find his way to get on the train -- this I'm getting from him. He fortunately said one of the guys who came with him, Nisei guy, could speak the language and knew generally where Kurume was and where the rest of the family was, so he found them out there, out in the farm land in Kurume. And so he stayed there and he then worked for some American company because he could speak English, and he did well.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Going back to Tule Lake, I read someplace where at some point, when you're at Tule Lake, your father and your oldest brother Jitsu were removed from Tule Lake and sent to another camp.

JN: Oh, that's right. Yeah, I forgot, that's right. From Tule Lake, as I said, I think they were... and I don't quite understand what the circumstances were, but they were then sent to Santa Fe, I think. And then from Santa Fe, he was, Jitsu went to Japan, and then my dad decided he's going to come back to Hawaii because the war ended.

TI: Do you know why your father and Jitsu were separated and sent to Santa Fe?

JN: I think it's because they said they want to go -- they must have had a program where they were gonna send people back to Japan, those who want to go back, I guess.

TI: Well, but then many of the families could go directly from Tule Lake to Japan. I mean, generally when people were sent to Santa Fe, it was because they were somehow singled out because they were viewed as "troublemakers."

JN: Could be.

TI: And I was wondering -- and it's almost like after you described, it almost seemed like Bert would be the one who would be sent to Santa Fe, not Jitsu. And I was just curious if you had a sense of why, why either one was. 'Cause generally they were the leaders of various groups that oftentimes were sent. I was just curious.

JN: That part I don't, I don't quite know why exactly they were picked. But you know, come to think of it, though, I seem to recall my brother Bert being disappointed that he wasn't going with them. I'm not sure why, but I get that feeling, impression, that he felt like he should be going, too, not just them. He was a leader, again, of a whole... I think he was too young. But he was... I think I remember Jitsu saying later on that it was because Bert was such a troublemaker, they mistook him and he went instead of Bert is really the story, now that I recall, the story that I heard from Jitsu, I think. He said, "Oh, Bert, you're the one that got me into, sent back to Japan," kind of thing. I think so.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Well, while your father and Jitsu were gone from Tule Lake, so now it's your mother, Bert, and you. And your mother, you mentioned earlier, she was pregnant?

JN: Yes.

TI: And she had your sister, Joyce, who was born, like, the day after the war ended. So describe that. What was it like to have a baby sister? How did that change the family dynamics?

JN: Quite a bit, I think. Because now, for the first time, I don't have my mother. And then I have, instead, an older brother Bert, and now my older brother Bert is the oldest in the family. And all of a sudden, he has responsibilities, and he can't go running around doing his own thing, kind of thing. And now, he and I were going to take care of two-week-old baby?

TI: Now, why were you going to take care -- why wasn't your mother there to take care...

JN: Oh, I'm sorry. She got sick. She became ill with something or the other, she was very ill, apparently. She couldn't come out of the hospital. In fact, there was some question as to whether or not we were gonna get on the boat to come back to Hawaii because she was so sick. But because she was -- why they didn't keep... well, apparently she was so sick that she couldn't take care of the baby, either. So we, Bert and I, took her back to the barracks for I don't know how long, but it was pretty clear -- well, for one thing, we were making milk to feed her, and Bert's idea was to make a lot and put it on the side so that we can feed her as she got hungry. And of course the milk spoiled, so the baby was getting all, throwing up and everything. Finally, we found a couple, and how and who did that, I don't know, took care of Joyce until we were ready to leave. And I remember going down to see that couple because my kid sister was there.

TI: That's amazing that the camp administration would allow two teenage boys to take care of a two-week baby.

JN: That's incredible. That's incredible. I have no idea how that worked out, who would permit something like that to happen. But they were, I guess, pretty loosey-goosey when it came to doing things up there, saying, basically, "We don't have the facilities to take care, so you do it," kind of thing.

TI: Well, so with Joyce now with this other couple, it's just you and Bert. And so what would you and Bert do with no adults around?

JN: I guess basically we just... nothing, really. Because we got the cafeteria, right, food was always there, and I'm not quite sure whether or not we were bringing it home or whether he was taking care of me or whether he ran off and had a good time after that. Because, let's see, that would be... she was born in August. So it wasn't long, right before the war ended. Oh, that's right. We left in November, I think, September... so about three months, yeah. That's right, it was about three months before we came back and before my mother was well enough also. What we did in those three months, I haven't the slightest -- I remember visiting my kid sister, though, at the home. But other than that, I don't recall.

TI: By any chance, do you recall the couple's name that took care?

JN: No.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So November of '45, you're going to return to Hawaii. At that point, did your father rejoin you or did he go separately to Hawaii?

JN: You know, I don't remember. I think he came separately, I think. Or he may have joined us, I just don't recall. No, I think he came later because what I recall now, going back -- that's right -- going back to Hawaii, we had a troop ship. So Bert and I were down in the, down in the bottom of the... sick, and we were, I mean it was, I got seasick really bad. And my mother, because she had a baby, had nice facilities up somewhere. I took off and went to stay with my mother and my kid sister because I couldn't take the, being seasick. And I'm pretty sure my father must have come separately; I don't remember him at all on the ship.

TI: And do you recall reaching Honolulu or what that felt like or what you saw?

JN: Very little. I can't seem to recall who came to see us or what.

TI: Okay. But then when you returned to Hawaii, where did you live when you got back?

JN: Oh, my Uncle Inouye, who was taking care of... he wasn't very good at taking care of, according to my father. But anyway... was still at the house, so we moved back in and he went back to his house. So the family moved in, we moved back into Waialae. I seem to recall a short time later, though, already, '46, we moved, I think the lease was expiring of that whole Waialae area. So we moved to Palolo. I remember him... I don't think, well, he may have sold it. That's right, he may have sold whatever remaining time there was on the lease, and then we moved to Palolo. By that time, before we moved, in fact, I think, he remarried, and my stepmother was someone, not a very nice person to this day. And she threw us out. Again, the luckiest thing that happened to me was I had a stepmother who couldn't stand three teenage boys and threw us out. And the only place my dad could throw us into was a boarding school, so we ended up at a private boarding school in Mid-Pacific.

TI: Okay, and before we talk about that, so coming back to Hawaii, you mentioned earlier your mother was ill, so she wasn't that strong. And so your father, you mentioned, remarried, so I'm taking it that something happened to your mother? Can you describe what happened?

JN: Yeah. I remember we went visiting my uncle, the Nakano uncle. He lived in Moiliili, this neighborhood. And my father, we were in his car, and I remember my mother coming back to the car and she collapsed right at the, right before she got into the car. This, as I said, we came back in '45, that was in '46. Rushed her to the hospital, she never came out of the hospital. She died within... she was in a coma for a month and died.

TI: And that must have been difficult for you because you were pretty close to your mother.

JN: Yeah, but I look back and, you know, I don't feel the helplessness that I should have, I think. And I'm thinking, "What was I thinking?" I really don't know. All I remember out of this, as I said before, was all of a sudden I took my mother's role and then I started lecturing my dad about, "Don't do this, don't do that," and that kind of stuff. Until he got remarried, and the best thing happened when he got remarried, when we got thrown out.

TI: Okay, so your father remarries. But before we even go there, looking back, did you notice any changes in, like, your father or your brothers from the war experience and being in camps in the mainland and then coming back? So when you think of how life was before the war and then after the war, did you see any changes?

JN: Okay, yeah. We came back... okay, we came back in '45. And then... oh, yeah. That was the tragedy. My mother died before the rest of the family could come back from Japan. That's right, she died... they came, they'd been, my grandparents, including my grandparents -- my grandparents, my two sisters and my two brothers came back in, must have been '46, but after my mother died. So they never saw my mother again. After my mother died and before the rest of the family came back, before my oldest sister Sumiko, Sumi, would then be like the matriarch of the family, before then, the conflict between my dad and Bert became really bad. And ultimately, my brother said, "Go to hell," and Bert just took off from the house and then joined the army. That I remember clearly. I remember the fight between the two.

TI: And do you think Bert was, perhaps, more frustrated or bitter, and was he a different person?

JN: Yeah. He was bitter, I think, at this point. I think he was bitter at my father. He felt -- and I think I did, too, that it was my father who caused my mother's death, I think. I think that was the feeling we had.

TI: Well, how about your father? How had, do you think, he changed during the experience?

JN: He... the thing I guess we held, I held against him, too, was he's able to recover so fast and get remarried, and remarried this person I called a bitch, and she was really bad news. And she told... and because of her, though, we... I tell everybody that if she didn't throw us out of the house and send us to MPI, I'd never go to college, I'd never be a lawyer. I'll be driving a truck is really what I tell everyone, and I think that's true. But then in '46, the rest of the family came back and, of course, there was an immediate conflict between my sister Sumi and my stepmother. Basically, through like an arrangement, I think my sister married this guy Jiro Akashi, who was really a nice person. I really owe a lot to him. But anyway, he, then she was able to then get out of the house, basically. Tomi was already, Tomi-chan was already married so she didn't come back, and so there was three teenage boys back in the house with my father and my stepmother. And again, as I said... I remember when they came back... oh, then my brother, the three of us all went to MPI at the same time. They dropped back a year because of the language problem they had with English, they had problems. But, so the three of us went into MPI the same year. Frankly, it was through, not because we were able to get through any exams or anything, but my father knew somebody. I think it was a payoff or whatever, the three of us got in. Within less than a year, Henry got kicked out and ended up in Kaimuki, so then two of us graduated from MPI, Bill and I graduated from MPI.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: And tell me a little bit about MPI. So this was a private boarding school. Who were the students at MPI?

JN: Mostly they were people from the countryside. In those days, now, Wahiawa, Waipahu, that was so far away, they had to board for them to come to Mid-Pacific. Or they were from the other islands, so they were sent over from wherever, Maui, Big Island, even Lanai, one guy was from Lanai. MPI was a private school. In those days, I think it had only from ninth grade on. It's a private school, all boarding. You had to board there. Our graduating class was, of '51 was seventy-five, I think, in that area. So it was a small school, half were girls, half were boys. But at least we started to learn, we started studying, which, Kaimuki, which was a public school, I didn't even bother bringing my books home. My father had third grade Japanese education, couldn't speak or read English. So he didn't know what we were doing. So I know when I went to Kaimuki, we had books but we never took it home. We just left it, hid it somewhere so we could find it when we got back. It was really bad. I'm sure if I had stayed there, if my mother-in-law didn't throw us out of the house to MPI, I'm sure I'll be a truck driver. I wouldn't have gone to college. No thought of going to college. But going there and then having the teachers and everything take interest in you, small school, then I went to UH because everybody else did. Just drifted into UH, got there two years. And by this time, I'm living with my sister Sumi, who was, like I said, head of the family now. And as I said, Jiro, she was married to Jiro Akashi.

And again by luck, after two years, I was kind of not -- I wasn't going to classes at UH, I was a straight C-minus student, wasn't doing anything. Wasn't interested, I didn't know what the hell I was going to do. By luck, my brother, my brother-in-law, Jiro, decided, well, he's going to go get his MBA from University of Chicago. Went to Chicago, I had no place to go. I had nobody here, my dad had gone back to Japan and took my kid sister with him. So I had no family here, I had to go with them. And boy, that was the best thing that happened to me, again, being thrown into MPI, now I'm forced to go to Chicago, to Illinois. And I think for the first time in my life, when I went to Illinois, I started studying. I started studying. I decided I'm going to start studying and I started to get good grades after that through Illinois law school, became relatively -- I had to work hard, though, actually, because of my lack of high school education.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: Why did you decide to go to law school? After you finished your undergraduate, you decided to go to law school. Why law?

JN: I think the one guy, he was a 442 guy, he was a friend of my brother-in-law, Jiro. And I remember that when we were here yet, in Hawaii, that this guy came back. And he was, I think he went through law school, but he was a 442 and he was in Italy for a long time, after the war ended and everything, then he went through law school and he dropped over at the house, I remember, at Jiro's house. I was living with them. And he came back from law school and he was talking about the law and every other thing. It somehow must have caught my imagination. So when I got out at University of Illinois... by this time, as I said, I'm putting an effort to study, and I'm getting good grades. So I'm not sure where, how... somewhere I decided that's what I wanted to get into. I wasn't sure I wanted to be a lawyer, and I didn't even have the slightest idea what lawyers did. But it's just that, all right, I don't know what to do with what I... I think I majored in economics, only because they told me to be practical. Because I love history, any kind of history. I love history. But they told me to be practical, so I took economics but I took as many history courses as I could. Then when I -- then after I got out of Illinois, I decided, okay, I don't know what else to do. I didn't like sciences, so that left out... if I want to continue school, that left out going to dental school or medical school. My classmates from MPI were in dental school, medical school, that didn't interest me. So I said, all right, then I guess I have no choice, go to law school. So that's why I ended up in law school. It's elimination.

TI: Okay. So you started law school at the University of Illinois, then you transferred to Northwestern.

JN: Yeah, I finished my first year there, and frankly, I did well. But, oh, I decided I wanted to move back to Chicago because my whole family was there. My other brother, Bill, had come back from the army, Henry was there, too, Bert was there. Sumi had moved up there, so my whole family was in Chicago. So I said I want to live with my family down in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. So I moved... so I transferred to Northwestern because they had the reputation of being a better law school. But Illinois, at that time, when I went there, the University of Illinois, they had a whole bunch of new young law professors and they were good. I didn't realize how good they were. I didn't realize how good of a law program they had. And then I went to Northwestern because they had the reputation at this point in time. They were the oldest school and they were well-known, so I transferred. Of course, I didn't realize I'm using my father's money, right, it's going up every time I go to a private school, right? But anyway, I went to, I went there. And the thing I recall was my disappointment. I mean, I made good grades, but it was, it wasn't as good as Illinois. It was really a disappointment. And then I think I was also running out of gas, I didn't know what else I wanted to -- and I didn't know what the hell a lawyer did. And I decided I think I'm going to take a break. And I think I was also worried about using up my dad's money, too, at this point in time. So I then joined the, I volunteered for the draft. In those days, the draft was for two years. And that was a good two years of doing nothing, idleness, enforced idleness. And I thought, "Gee, this is just what I needed." So for two years... I was hoping they'd send me to the Far East or two Europe. [Shakes head] Two years in Fort Riley, Kansas. But that was... as I said, a good period of time of doing nothing. Of not striving for anything, being forced to do nothing, idleness. And I thought, "Gee, this is good."

And then in the meantime, I met my ex-wife in Chicago, she came from Hawaii. She was a friend of my sister-in-law, and I was old enough, and I said, "I think I better get married," so I got married. And then...

TI: And how did you meet your ex-wife? So you said you met in Chicago but she was in Hawaii? What was she doing in Chicago?

JN: She went, she herself, I think, got, wanted to get away from her family in Hawaii, and so she went up to work in Chicago because her friend, who was my sister-in-law, worked in Chicago. So she came up here to work in Chicago for, temporarily then. So while she was there, I met her. And I think at that point I just wanted to get married, felt like I should get married. I don't know why, I just got married. So she didn't -- after we got married, she went to Los Angeles and started working there in an insurance company. So I decided, okay, I've been to Illinois, I've been to Northwestern, so I figured I better go to UCLA. [Laughs] I wanted to go back to L.A. to finish my school, I didn't want to go back to Illinois or Chicago. So I started bargaining with the people at UCLA, and the guy at UCLA said, "We can't give you a degree unless you... why don't you go back to Illinois and get your degree, and then you can come to UCLA for a year, but Illinois will give you the degree." I was kind of back and forth. Finally, I said, "Why don't you let me go, I'll go there for two years, which means I'll go two and a half of law school instead of, I mean, three and a half years of law school instead of the regular three." He said, "Okay." So I said, "Okay, I'll go two years." So I went there and graduated there. And for one year, I took classes that nobody else would take because I fulfilled all my requirements already, after the first year. So I'm taking classes in international law and all this other kind of, fun kind of classes. But anyway, I graduated from UCLA. And the luckiest thing happened to me, I guess I'm just lucky. I went looking for a job.

I graduated in February of '61, that's when my father died. I went looking for a job, and then in 1960, Nixon lost to Kennedy in the campaign. The guy who was his manager, I guess, was a guy named Bob Finch. And Finch came back to Los Angeles after they lost, and he decided he would open a law office, but it was just a cover to do his political thing. For some reason, I applied there, and I'm not quite sure why. I'm sure it was through UCLA. Why he hired me, I haven't the slightest idea. I think I was the first Asian hired by a white firm. I think somebody told me that, because he said, "I don't know of any other white firm hiring an Asian." In those days, they didn't hire Asians, certainly not a lawyer, because what are you gonna do with an Asian lawyer, right, in a white law firm. But he hired me because he was in politics. I think he foresaw in the future that race is going to become a political issue. And this was before, what was it, Watts? Was it in Watts, in '63 or somewhere. So he, I think he foresaw that that was gonna happen, that race was gonna become a problem, I guess. In any event, he couldn't teach me anything about law, because he didn't know anything about law himself, he was a politician, basically. He graduated from SC law school. So I was goofing around and doing all kinds of funny things. And one of the things I did was I went down to Watts because he would send me down to Watts. And they had these black organizations that were successful black businessmen after Watts had erupted, trying to find, trying to help the other blacks get out of Watts, basically, go to school. And so they had this organization set up, and for political reasons, he sent me down. I was the only guy on the board who was not a black. I was the only, obviously, I was the only Asian down there. So I was in that organization for a while. That was an interesting experience. It's scary, frankly, going down to Watts in those days.

TI: And how did the blacks treat you when you're the non-black there?

JN: I guess, I don't recall exactly but I think they treated me like something of, kind of a funny little interesting guy kind of a thing, no threat. I'm not a threat to them and so... but, "What the hell are you doing here?" kind of thing. There was one black guy I knew that I went with, guy named Norm Hodges. I don't know why I remember his name. But he was a black guy that went into the group and I went with him, basically.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: Well, what would your observations -- growing up in Hawaii, you mentioned earlier it was a pluralistic where perhaps there was no dominant race and people kind of got along with each other. Then you come to the mainland and you have sort of this white or dominant culture, you have the black culture, you have Japanese Americans, I mean, it's very different. As kind of an outsider seeing this, what were your thoughts about all this?

JN: One is I felt the mainland Japanese were too timid, that the Hawaii kids were more... because, as I said, because of how we were raised and how we grew up, we were a plurality, right? And so my feeling was that they had to get out of their timidity, they had to get out there and start asserting themselves, basically what I felt. In fact, that's the reason I brought my kids back to Hawaii. I didn't want the growing up to be members of a minute minority. I wanted them to grow up to be members of a plurality. And for that, I gave up on my partnership in a law firm to come back here, and it's the best thing I ever did. And my kids are... I don't want to brag, but I'm bragging. They're both doctors, one's a medical doctor, the other is a PhD from Yale and Stanford. [Laughs] Can you imagine? I can't believe it. Anyway...

TI: And part of that is it's hard to grow up on the mainland if you're a small minority group, that there's just more pressure or whatever, more discrimination or whatever, just makes it harder to succeed.

JN: I think it gives them, to me, I felt like they had to have a shield-like to protect themselves really from the... because I lived there for, like, ten, fifteen years, right, on the mainland itself. And I felt like I don't want to be in a position where I keep, I would have to keep asserting myself and protecting myself kind of thing. I wanted to come back here, relax, and be a member of a plurality. And I wanted them to grow up the same way. Same time, though, once they grew up in high school, I wanted them, I don't want them to become provincial, I wanted them out of the islands and stay on the mainland, and get to school on the mainland. And one of 'em never came back. [Laughs] She's in Hong Kong. But anyway, that's the main idea that I see.

My relationship to the -- I call them haoles, right? And then with it carries kind of a lot of imageries and feelings already that we looked down on the Caucasians here, we called them haoles. The word that went with the name haoles was "dumb." "Oh, the dumb haole," "Dumb haole, dumb haole." So we go to the mainland and we run into these haoles, and we think, "Gee, dumb haole, what is he talking about? What's he asking me about Hawaii, 'Do you do this in Hawaii?' What a dumb thing to ask," kind of a thing. That's kind of the attitude I took towards the haoles basically. The blacks, I guess I felt like they were, they were hard luck, basically. They couldn't get out from where they were. I didn't know how they can... I just felt helpless, frankly. They were stuck where they were. I just didn't know how else to get them out of there. I felt... like this guy Norm Hodges I knew. Even though he had, he could mingle among the haoles and everything, but he could never become less than what he was, I felt. He couldn't reach out and reach for the sky. Anyway...

TI: So it's interesting to hear you say this, because recently we had an African American become president, and he grew up in Hawaii. So it's kind of a different place, I mean, a whole different way of thinking. Versus growing up on the mainland, where if you're African American, you're more of an oppressed minority.

JN: I have no doubt that if Obama had grown up on the mainland, he would be president. To me, anyway. I mean, I don't have any illusions that he also had prejudice against him for being a black. But they're such a minute minority here, you don't see that. You don't get treated badly. You get treated like you're a funny guy, "who are you?" kind of thing. But you don't get treated discriminatorily, I don't think. But you don't get treated as part of the group. You will, ultimately, though, I think. But don't forget, Punahou also is basically, we always looked at it as a "white" school anyway, right? Although my two kids went there. [Laughs] It's a good school, but it's still not...

<End Segment 22> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Let's go back, so we were just kind of finishing up with, you were with Bob Finch or his law firm. So what happened there? You talked about these funny projects, that he was more interested in politics. So how long did you stay there?

JN: I'm not sure. A year, two years, maybe? But I remember they also had an office down in Inglewood, that's where the main office was. That's where he had his partners there. And his partners were, they were basically just lawyers. I remember one of his partners came in one day, I don't know how long I was there, but he looked at me and he says, "What the hell are you still doing here?" kind of thing. Yeah, he was nasty. And I felt like, "Wow, this SOB." And I talked to Finch, he said, "Yeah, yeah." So I said, "I'm leaving," basically. And the two people I joined, at that time I knew two guys.

TI: But going back to that incident, so when the guy said that, why are you still there, referring to you because of your race and saying, "What's a Japanese American still..."

JN: He didn't say that, but that was clearly... I mean, he was just saying, "What are you still doing here?" basically, but for me, it was pretty damn clear that as an Asian, I had no business in a white law firm. I said, the hell with it.

TI: Okay. So you're now talking about these two other guys you were talking about?

JN: Yeah. Art Katayama and... oh, gee, I just saw him the other day.

TI: Jim Mori?

JN: Jun, J-U-N.

TI: Jun Mori.

JN: I just saw them not too long ago. But anyway, Jun and Art were in practice together, and I remember -- and they were down at, I forget the name of the...

TI: Was it Crenshaw?

JN: Crenshaw. And then I went to, I joined them. We were basically, at the beginning, just independent, then we became partners and everything. I was more interested in Jun's background because he was a graduate of Waseda and also of SC Law School. And his English was, he spoke English so well, it was incredible. No accent. And his Japanese was no accent. I think he just had a good command of languages. And he was, he was bright. So he was the guy I was more into. Art was more, he wasn't that bright, and he was, well, he was a nice guy, I liked him. Jun was a little more... he was always aware of everybody else. That's what made him such a great public relations guy. He was good. He got, ultimately, the reason I wanted to join up with him was to get into this international law thing and represent Japanese companies. And my god, he got Sumitomo Bank, Mitsui, I mean, he got some big clients. So we... and that's where we were practicing law, in Crenshaw, and then we moved when Kajima built that building in J-town, so we moved there. I forgot when that was.

TI: And that's that building on First and...

JN: San Pedro.

TI: San Pedro.

JN: But after a while, I guess my kids were two and a half, three years old, maybe a year and a half to three years old. I had two girls, and I decided I wanted them to grow up in Hawaii like I did, a member of a plurality.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: So let's go to that a little bit. So tell me the names of your daughters, sort of in birth order.

JN: Okay, my older daughter, I think she was born in '83. Her name is Lynne, L-Y-N-N-E. What was her Japanese name? I can't remember her Japanese name.

TI: And the second one is?

JN: Is Erin, E-R-I-N, and her middle name is Akemi. That's my kid sister's name, is Akemi. Joyce's name is Akemi.

TI: And your ex-wife's name was, or is...

JN: Nellie, N-E-L-L-I-E.

TI: And so you're now back in Hawaii, so what kind of practice do you establish in Hawaii?

JN: I joined... well, one of the guys I met up with in... well, I met a guy named Herb Ikazaki in Illinois, University of Illinois. He was from Hawaii. He came back to Hawaii to practice, and then when I was in L.A. -- in fact, in L.A. I told him to join us, but he was a CPA attorney. So he went back to, when he came back to Hawaii, he called me and said, "Why don't you come back to Hawaii and practice with us?" He was in practice with a guy named Richard Lowe. And I forgot the name of the other guy, Korean guy, local Korean guy. So there were three of them in practice, so told me to come back. So had to take a pay cut, but I wanted my kids to come back, to grow up in Hawaii. So I came back here and struggled for a while.

TI: And about what year was this?

JN: '69. I came back in 1969.

TI: And so, I'm sorry, so what year was your daughter born?

JN: '83 and...

TI: But that would be later, though, because they were born in Los Angeles, right?

JN: Oh, I'm sorry, they graduated from high school in '83.

TI: Yeah, so more like '65?

JN: Yeah, somewhere around there. '65/'66.

TI: Good, I just want to get these dates right.

JN: Yeah, yeah.

TI: So '69 you come back, your daughters are young girls. Okay, so you're struggling for a little bit...

JN: Oh, yeah. Then I bought a house up in Waialae, something or the other, up in the hills somewhere. It was too high up, so then I ultimately bought a piece of property in New Valley, built my dream house there and the whole family moved up there. They still live there, my younger daughter lives there with her kids and everything, grandkids, my grandkids. But I've since remarried, got divorced, and now I live by myself again. [Laughs]

TI: But talk about some of the work that you did in Hawaii. I mean, we talked earlier, you did, like, real estate, you worked with Japanese...

JN: Yeah. Especially during the bubble. I forgot when the bubble was, but during the bubble, again, I did mostly, I didn't go to court. I wasn't a, what you call litigating attorney. I did mostly real estate transactions. And so when the bubble hit here, the Japanese clients started coming in, and that was a fun time for me, the best time for me, representing Japanese clients. And they went out and were buying things like crazy, we tell 'em, "Don't buy, it's too high," they buy it anyway. But that was, that was an experience, representing Japanese clients.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So I'm curious, as a Japanese American, American of Japanese ancestry, what role do you think AJAs should play with, like, U.S.-Japan sort of relations and business? Or is there a role for Japanese Americans?

JN: Oh, I think so. I think so. Because at least in my case, because my parents were from Japan, I kind of have a feel, at least, anyway, to some extent. But I have to keep in mind that my experience and my parents are basically from farm area, lot of the businesspeople coming in are from Tokyo. They're born, raised in Tokyo, they're city people. So although I have a feel for what the Japanese values are, my values go back to 1900s, right? Farm 1900s. These guys are different, it's a little different values and everything. So I got to watch myself. And yet, I think I learned a lot about their values being a little different. They're still Japanese, so they have a certain kind of... there's a common element in all their kind of values. I guess...

TI: I'm curious, so you have the Japanese values, whether it's Tokyo or farm, and then you have the American values. I mean, are they compatible or do they sometimes conflict?

JN: The area, to me, that has the, that I seem to recall, the greatest contrast, is the area of the American individualism is something that's very strong in American life, and it was supposed to be you were an individual and you do your own thing kind of thing. And the Japanese were more group-oriented, so you do things for the group. My own feeling is I tend more towards the Japanese feeling of a group, because you're more, you're not as selfish. To me, the matter of individualism is a selfish kind of a value that says, "I'm in it for myself and the hell with anybody else." I like more the group, whether it be family, family first, obviously. Of course, the individualism still is not as simple as that, they have families, too, right? So their individualism is still connected to a family kind of thing. But I'm closer to the group kind of thinking. You've gotta, when you're a member of society, you gotta think group-wise, and that's very strong. And sometimes, though, to me, the Japanese go overboard and it's too much group and not enough individualism. You know, you gotta go and do your own thing, too, kind of thing. So that's the, that's the area I'm between, basically.

TI: And that's where being a Japanese American is useful, because you can see both sides.

JN: Yeah, yeah.

TI: Good. Well, I finished all my questions. Is there anything else that you wanted to, that perhaps I didn't ask or that you wanted to share?

JN: No. Frankly, I'm running out of gas. [Laughs] I think my mind is -- I'm not clear anymore and I'm beginning to wander around a bit.

TI: Yeah, it's been over two hours.

JN: Yeah, I didn't realize I'd be wearing down.

TI: Well, so James, thank you so much. This was really an excellent interview. I really enjoyed this.

JN: Thank you very much, I enjoyed giving it.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright ©2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.