Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Paul Yempuku Interview
Narrator: Paul Yempuku
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 4, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ypaul-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today is Thursday, June 4, 2009, and we're in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the Hawaii Hochi.

PY: Right.

TI: And on camera we have Dana Hoshide, and interviewing is Tom Ikeda, and today we have Paul Yempuku. And so Paul, the first question is, can you tell me when you were born?

PY: Oh, January 5, 1927.

TI: And where were you born?

PY: Kahuku, Oahu, on this island.

TI: And so where is that located on the island?

PY: It's the North Shore area, back of Honolulu.

TI: Good. And what was the name given to you when you were born?

PY: Shodo Yempuku, S-H-O-D-O.

TI: And Shodo, is that a special name? Why did they give you Shodo?

PY: Well, "sho" is, I was born in Shouwa Ninen, that's the first year of the Shouwa era. Because the last, before Shouwa was Taisho. Taisho has fifteen years, Taisho Juugonen has only five days because the emperor died on December 25th. So December 25th or January 1st was the last Taisho. And then, then comes Shouwa, so I was born in Shouwa Ninen. I guess Taisho -- no, I'm sorry -- Taisho Juugonen, emperor died on December 25th, so Shouwa Gannen, Shouwa Gannen means Shouwa First Year. Shouwa First Year has only five days, and come to Shouwa Second Year.

TI: Okay, good. And your last name, Yempuku, is that a common name?

PY: Well, it's not common name. When I tell, ask, talk to the Japanese in Japan, they realized right away this is some kind of temple or priest name. So they know what is Empuku. Actually, actually Empuku is E-M-P-U-K-U, not Y-E-M. In Japan, my brothers have E-M-P-U-K-U instead of Y-E-M. Why I have a Y in front of E is because my father put that Y. Because when he said "en" is, one en, two en, three en, the money en. So when you write yen, you know, you have a Y in front of it.

TI: Right.

PY: Yeah, so that's how he puts Y, and then N becomes M. When you have a P behind the N, so Y-E-M-P-U-K-U.

TI: And so pronouncing it, is it "Empuku"?

PY: No, Yempuku. In Hawaii we pronounce it Yempuku, in Japan it's Empuku.

TI: Empuku, okay, good. And so Paul, where did the name Paul come from?

PY: Okay. [Laughs] I came over here in 1961, and I had a, I stayed with my brother Ralph in Alewa Heights. And he had one little boy, my nephew, Roy. Roy is my name father. We called it name father, or what do you call that? He named me as Paul because he said, he told his mother that "Uncle Shodo" is very hard to pronounce. So he liked to have a little easy name to call me. And my sister-in-law asking, "What do you want?" Said, "Paul." So that's how Paul became... I started working over here, and I have to, my legalized, my name, Paul, that's how, right now, Paul is legal name.

TI: Okay. So your nephew gave you your name.

PY: Yeah, my nephew gave me my name, yeah.

TI: Okay, good.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: I want to ask some questions about your father.

PY: Okay.

TI: So tell me your, what was your father's name?

PY: Josho.

TI: And tell me a little bit about what he did, what his family in Japan...

PY: Well, he was born and raised in Atatashima, Saiki-gun, Hiroshima-ken. In the Seto Inland Sea, small little island, that's where he was. He was the only son. I know I have some aunties, I think he had about three or four sisters, but he was the only son. So he took over the, he took over the temple. But it's a small little island, and we had, he had a hard time. So before he got married, he went to mainland, mainland America and he, not as a priest, but he worked -- I don't know how long he worked -- but I think he worked in the California area. And then he went back to Japan, and he got married to my mother, and then he came back to Hawaii. So Hawaii was his second trip.

TI: Oh, interesting. Do you know about what year he went the first time to the mainland?

PY: I don't know, but I can, I can find out, though. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, that's okay. Now, at the small island where he grew up, how many generations did the family live there?

PY: I don't know. My brother once gave me the family tree, but I don't remember but it's quite, about ten or eleven, I don't know.

TI: Okay, but a long time.

PY: Long time, yeah, long time. And he gave me all the name of the family tree, but I don't, I have someplace but I don't recall all the names.

TI: And did the family always, were they always Buddhist priests on the island?

PY: Yes, yes. The original Buddhist priests came from Hiroshima, Hiroshima city, and then leaving Atatashima.

TI: So tell me a little bit about your mother. What was your mother's name?

PY: Gofuyo.

TI: And her maiden name?

PY: Yasuda.

TI: And what about her family? What do you know about...

PY: She is from Yamaguchi-ken. Yamaguchi-ken, Kuga-gun, Sakauye-mura.

TI: And do you know what her family, what kind of work her family did?

PY: Buddhist, Buddhist temple.

TI: Oh, okay. And was that common, for marriages to be, like, arranged between Buddhist priest and Buddhist priest?

PY: Well, it's not common, but I guess, you know, right now it's not too much different. But to run the temple, housewife, you've got to know all the, what you call the detail and everything. So for regular, regular lady from a regular family goes to temple, I think they used to get very hard time to adjust to the lifestyle of the temple, yeah.

TI: So your mother, growing up in a Buddhist family, she understood all that?

PY: Yeah, I think she knew everything. She was the oldest daughter of the Yasuda family, so she knew more about this temple thing.

TI: Good, okay.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So you mentioned your father first went to the mainland, came back, married your mother, and then they went to the, to Hawaii. So where in Hawaii did they go?

PY: Well, I really don't know exactly where. I guess he landed in Honolulu, but Ralph was born in Papaikou, Big Island. And then I don't know where Donald was born. I think Donald was born in Papaikou, Big Island, too. Toru was born, I think Toru was born in Kahuku, Goro and... three of us born in Kahuku. But other older brother was born in different place. So I saw one time my father used to ride a horse and go to the next village and this and that and ask for donations, and put a small little temple and moved to the next village. And before that, a new priest used to come from Japan to run the temple. So he used to go here and there, area to area, for the Japanese community. And then the last place was Kahuku.

TI: And he stayed there.

PY: He stayed there.

TI: Oh, that's interesting. But he went from horse, by horseback to these different communities, would set it up and then a priest would come and he would go to the next one.

PY: Yeah. But Kahuku was a little unusual for my father, because before my father went to Kahuku, they didn't have no priests over there, temple or priest there. When he went to Kahuku, I guess the Kahuku plantation asked Hongwanji to send one priest because, for the Japanese labor. If you have a Buddhist temple, it's a, they feel more happy and peace. So that's how they asked the Hongwanji to send one priest, and he was hired by the plantation, not Hongwanji. So he got paid from the plantation, not the Hongwanji. So when he got sick and went to Japan, he used to get a what you call pension from the plantation.

TI: Oh, interesting.

PY: Yeah.

TI: And so when you say that sounds unusual, did that make it easier or harder when the plantation was your, was kind of your employer?

PY: No, I think that was a big help for my father. And the plantation was still very, a successful plantation right up to the wartime. So when he got sick, he went Japan, but he used to get retirement payment or pension or whatever from the plantation.

TI: That's interesting.

PY: So I think Donald or Toru went to college with that money, yeah. But, so he lived 'til... actually, I don't know exactly when he died, but he lived 'til after the war. And then one time, I think my father asked Ralph to check with the plantation. Because during the war, he didn't get the money. So whether he can get the money now, even after the war, but it was a different plantation at that time already, so he couldn't get anything. But I found out that he did ask Ralph to check with the plantation.

TI: Oh, interesting.

PY: Yeah.

TI: So while your father was a Buddhist priest, what did your mother do?

PY: Oh, she was a schoolteacher at... those days, all the temple in the countryside, even in Honolulu, too, they used to have a, they used to run a Japanese school. Most of the temple has a Japanese school, and then she was one of the teacher at the Japanese school, teaching Japanese.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So in this town, how many Japanese were there?

PY: Kahuku?

TI: Yeah, Kahuku.

PY: I don't know. I don't know. But Kahuku was not that big town, but they had a high school. They had a high school and the middle school was combined, I think. So I don't know exactly how big, but...

TI: Because you were quite young, you were...

PY: Yeah, I remember I went to the kindergarten or something, at Kahuku.

TI: Do you have any memories of Kahuku growing up?

PY: No.

TI: 'Cause you were quite young before...

PY: Yeah. Only thing I remember is I know we were, we came to Honolulu quite often, my father and my mother drive to Honolulu and go to the market or something, go to the shopping. And then when I came back from Japan in 1951, when I passed the Chinese market in downtown, I remembered the smell, the Chinese market smell. I said, "Hey, this is the smell that, I don't know, so many years ago, I went through." And I felt so funny, I don't know why I remember only the smell.

TI: And was it a, when you think of the smell, was it like a fond smell, or it just brought back memories? What kind of things did you think when you had that smell?

PY: Well, it was Chinese markets, now. [Laughs]

TI: Okay. How about your home in Kahuku? Do you remember what the house was like?

PY: Well, yeah. And I told Ralph to take me to the Kahuku to see the Kahuku area. And I was so surprised that the house was so small. I thought the house was a little bigger than that, I remember the house. But I guess I was a small boy, so the house, at that time, house was, when I played in the house, it was kind of big, to me. But after the war, when I went back, I was surprised that the house was so small. But the house was still there, though.

TI: And like how many rooms did the house have?

PY: Oh, about four or five rooms, I guess.

TI: And so with five boys, did you share a room, or where did the boys sleep?

PY: I guess, I guess we shared the room, I guess, yeah. But Ralph and Donald was in town because at that time, we didn't have no high school in Kahuku. So Ralph and Donald went to McKinley High School in Honolulu. So they were at the Hongwanji dormitory, I guess.

TI: Okay. So when you were about six years old, your parents decided to go back to Japan.

PY: Yes.

TI: Why did they decide to go back to Japan?

PY: Well, my father got stroke, and he felt that he cannot do the job. So we went, we went back to Japan, and we stayed in Hiroshima city about one year, and after that, we went back to Atatashima.

TI: Okay. And before we do that, I realize I didn't ask this question. Let's talk about your siblings. Can you tell me the names of your brothers, starting with Ralph and just go down the list of brothers that you had?

PY: Well, we had another, another brother. The oldest brother was Shizumayo, but he died, I don't know how old when he passed away, but we had another brother, yeah.

TI: Okay. And then after him came...

PY: Ralph.

TI: And then after Ralph?

PY: Donald, Kazuyuki.

TI: Okay, and then after Donald came...

PY: Toru.

TI: Toru, and then after Toru?

PY: Goro.

TI: And then after Goro?

PY: Is Paul, Shodo.

TI: Okay. So there were actually six brothers but the first one died.

PY: And then I think, I think we had one sister. I don't know in between where, I don't know, but she died really early, too.

TI: I see. Okay, so with the family, there was your mother, father, and then five boys, and then two, a brother and a sister died.

PY: Yeah, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Okay, so going back to when you were six, when the family went back, so it was your father, your mother, and four boys went to Japan, and then one brother stayed back.

PY: Right.

TI: Why did Ralph stay in Hawaii?

PY: Well, I think he was still attending UH. And then he wanted to, he wanted to graduate, he wanted to stay in Hawaii. So we left some money, and he lived in the Hongwanji dormitory or this and that. But after he graduated, he did come back. He was doing some kind of assistant of the football team or whatever in athletic department.

TI: Okay. But was the thinking that when he finished University of Hawaii, that he was going to join the family in Japan?

PY: I don't think so.

TI: Okay, so it was always that he was going to stay in Hawaii.

PY: Yeah, he was planning to stay in Hawaii instead of going back to Japan, yeah.

TI: Now, do you remember the trip to Japan when you were six years old?

PY: Well, yeah. I know that, not too clear, but yes.

TI: Do you remember your first impressions of Japan, when you got to Japan?

PY: No. I think it was, that ship was Asama-maru, I think, yeah.

TI: So when you went to Japan, where did you go live?

PY: We traveled, we went to Kyoto, I know we traveled a little, and then we arrived in Hiroshima. And my father rent one house and then we stayed in Hiroshima for one year. And then after that, went back to Atatashima, because Atatashima, that house was so small, I think, we couldn't go back and live over there. But during the one year, I guess they went, expanded a bit.

TI: So describe the island, Atatashima. What was that like? How would you describe that?

PY: Oh, it's a small little Seto Inland Sea island, and oh, I think those days we had only about two hundred people or... two to three hundred people living over there. Mostly, of course, fishermen, and they had a farm, too. It was, I enjoyed the island. I went to school on the island and I graduated primary school over there, and then I went to Hiroshima to, for attend the middle school chuugakkou.

TI: And so when you go to middle school, do you board in Hiroshima or do you go back and forth?

PY: Yeah, board, right, yeah.

TI: Because the island's so far away that it's too hard to go back and forth.

PY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: So how long does it take to go from Atatashima to Hiroshima?

PY: Hiroshima, well, the boat take about forty to fifty minutes. And then from station of Kuba to Hiroshima take about one hour train ride.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Now, do you have any, like, childhood memories of Atatashima in terms of playing or activities, the type of things you did?

PY: Yes, I do.

TI: So what, describe some of those.

PY: [Laughs] Well, you know, I did, I did many things, and my mother... it's an island, so my mother bought a little boat for me. And on the boat, on the side, she put the Shodo-maru, named the boat. But this side, she put Shodo-maru, the other side, she put it the other way around, so Maru Dosho. [Laughs] So some of my, children used to call me "Maru Dosho" instead of "Shodo Maru," you know. Those things I remember. But I really enjoyed living on that small little island.

TI: And, like, tell me some of the games you played with your playmates. Do you recall games?

PY: Well, you know, there's no big flat land, only at the primary school there is a little flat land. But, well, baseball or things like that, we played. But fishing and swimming, that was the main thing that you, summertime, from morning to... summer vacations, from morning to evening, we used to swim and catch fish or this and that.

TI: Now, when you came from Hawaii and you're growing up there, were you, did people treat you differently because you lived in Hawaii for so many years, or did, you would just be treated like everyone else?

PY: Yeah, I don't remember too much about that. But I know that I couldn't speak Japanese, yeah. But because I stayed in Hiroshima one year, I think that helped me. And when I went back to Atatashima after the one year, I guess I was okay. You know, when you're seven or eight years old, you don't speak too much, all kind of same language, Japanese you speak. Not too fancy Japanese.

TI: That's interesting. So when you were in Hawaii growing up, what was the language spoken at home?

PY: English.

TI: It was English?

PY: Yeah.

TI: That's unusual, isn't it? I would have guessed that it would be Japanese.

PY: We speak little Japanese, too, but mostly English we used to speak.

TI: So your parents spoke English also?

PY: Yeah, I guess so. Well, it's not that good English. But when you go to kindergarten, you know, you have to communicate. That's how I got more used to the English than Japanese.

TI: Okay. So growing up in Hawaii you learned English, and now you're in Japan, you have to now learn Japanese.

PY: Right, right.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: And then you went to middle school and you went to Hiroshima. What was that like? Was that hard for you to be away from the family?

PY: Yes, living alone was very hard. And those years, we didn't have enough food. That was, and I was growing up, and that was very hard. Because always, you feel hungry. And when you are sixteen, seventeen years old, you know, you want to eat. But it was very hard to leave. Not only myself, but everybody was, they had a hard time.

TI: So when you're hungry, like, always hungry, what do you do? Is there anything that you think or do to kind of distract yourself from the food?

PY: Well, somehow, we used to go out and illegally, we used to get some food, yeah.

TI: Like what? How would you do that? What would be an example?

PY: Well, you know, once in a while I go back to Atatashima. And Atatashima doesn't have too many rice field, but my mother's side in Yamaguchi-ken, me... myself and my brother Goro, we used to go to what you call black market things. Go to my mother's temple and get some rice and then come back to Atatashima. And that's what I used to bring to Hiroshima, or when I went to college, I'd take it to Tokyo. In a suitcase, nothing but was rice, instead of book. [Laughs]

TI: Because at school you wouldn't have enough food, they wouldn't give you enough food, so you would bring extra food from home.

PY: Yeah, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So I guess next I want to go to when you were about fourteen years old, and this is about when the war started.

PY: Uh-huh.

TI: And I wanted to ask you, what memories do you have or how did you find out that the war had started?

PY: Well, you know, I think I was a middle school, second grade, I think, when the war started. I heard that war at, we were forced to go to one sports area. The government, they called it Hiroshima Grounds, and they used to have all kind of sand bringing in and make it flat and have a sports ground. And not only from my middle school, but so many other middle school, all the students came to help. And at that place, I heard the announcement that the war started.

TI: And so when they assembled all the students, was it like a big field that you were, or a flat field?

PY: Yeah, big field. The government was making the big field, sports field, for the Hiroshima city. And all the middle school students participated to make the field.

TI: And so you were all, like, lined up in rows?

PY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: And so how did they make the announcement? What did they say?

PY: I think first they had a music, and then after that they announced that war happened in Hawaii, they attacked the Pearl Harbor, this and that.

TI: And what was the reaction of the people assembled there, all the...

PY: Well, we weren't too much concerned because we were little boys, you know. And I guess I don't think we felt any, anything.

TI: Well, how did you feel? Because this was, you'd lived in Hawaii and you knew that your, that Ralph lived in Hawaii.

PY: By then, I was really a Japanese, not a Hawaii-born Japanese, but I was a Japan Japanese. Because we were all Tojo doctrine, I think, yeah. We were what you call forced to believe in Japan Japanese. And that's how, I was one of the student like that, too.

TI: Okay. Because you had been there now almost eight years, I think, or more than eight years.

PY: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So after they make the announcement, what happened next as students? Did you just go back to your schools?

PY: I guess I went back to the school, yeah.

TI: And how did your life change after the war started?

PY: Well, we were all forced to do more at the high school military training. But it didn't change too much, though.

TI: How about just in general like how things would run? Would there be more military people around after the war started, or would it be about the same in terms of just day-to-day life like in the streets and things like that?

PY: Well, about the same, but I knew that, I know we went to the, what you call a training and help the factory that make the military things. We were forced to go to that, mainly military outfit to help the military people.

TI: Oh, so the students eventually had to go help at these factories.

PY: Yeah.

TI: Where would, the factory that you went to, where was that located?

PY: Oh, in Hiroshima. But my fourth and fifth year of the middle school, we were forced to go to Kure, Kure Navy Base. And at that time, from Hiroshima to Kure is, it's kind of far, so we lived in Kure. We didn't have no class or anything, and worked the whole day, seven days a week at the Kure Navy Base, just like Pearl Harbor.

TI: And what kind of things did they have you do at the Kure Naval Base?

PY: Well, we used to make the little submarines. You know, it came to Hawaii.

TI: Yeah, so a two-person, two-man submarine?

PY: There were all kinds. The name was different, but two-person, three-person, four-person, five-person. There's many, many little submarine that they used to make. Not only submarine but little boat, very fast boat, and the wooden boat that they can keep American ship. So things we used to make at the Kure Navy Base. And the high school students didn't participate, but the Yamato was built in Kure, too. You know the well-known...

TI: The battleship?

PY: Yeah, battleship Yamato?

TI: Yes.

PY: Yeah, the Yamato was built in Kure Navy Base, too.

TI: So it was a major, major shipbuilding place.

PY: Yes, major shipbuilding, yes.

TI: And then like your job, what kind, do you remember what you had to do?

PY: Well, I used to handle parts, all kind of parts of the, at the office, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Earlier you mentioned how when you were in school, you didn't get enough food sometimes and you were always hungry. How about when you were working as, in these shipyards? Did they give you more food then?

PY: Well, I guess we had more food, but the food wasn't good at all. But we had every meal, some kind of food.

TI: And how did you communicate with your, your family? Did you write letters or did you see them very often?

PY: Well, I guess we communicate with letter, but I didn't communicate too often.

TI: And so how were they doing? Like for, if your food wasn't very good, how were the families doing? Did they get enough food and how were they doing?

PY: I guess in the countryside it was okay, but not in the city area. The city area, we had a very hard time to get enough food. So we ate all kind of food. Normally you don't eat that kind of food, but we used to, you were forced to eat whatever you can eat.

TI: What would be an example of something that would be hard to eat that you would normally not eat?

PY: Well, some kind of seafood that you don't eat now, those seafood, but we were forced to eat seaweed, like. And the pumpkin, pumpkin leaf and the pumpkin stem or whatever you call that, all those things. Normal pumpkin, you eat only the meat. But other place we used to eat, too.

TI: What were some of the other memories you have from this time? Anything else that was hard, or was there some times when there was fun things to do also?

PY: Well, although I was a student at that time, but I think we were all very geared to win the war. The military trained us like that, and even though we were young boys, we were willing to give our life to win the war. This was, I guess everybody felt that way, young boys and girls.

TI: So what did that mean? I mean, so then were people more serious? Would you describe them as serious, or how would you describe that? When you're being trained to, as a young boy, to fight in a war, what kind of things go through your mind?

PY: Nothing special. Everybody felt that way. So it's not, it's not a special thing, but that's how we were trained.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So the place where you worked in terms of making parts for the submarines, eventually the Americans would start bombing those areas because they would want to try to stop that. Do you have any memories of that?

PY: Yes, I do. You know, that's when I felt that, hey, this is something wrong. The government, military tell us that Japan is winning the war, Japan is winning the war. But we were forced to get into the air shelter. To build the air shelter was the most important thing than anything else, build the submarines, small little submarines. Because in the air shelter, they used to have a factory. And to make the air shelter was the number one job for the students. Then I felt that, "Hey, this is something fishy. They're not telling us the truth. Maybe we are losing the war." And when I saw the American planes hit the Kure city, then we used to go out and see the air battle. And I felt, yeah, something wrong.

TI: So let me make sure I understand. So before you would make submarine parts, and at some point, instead of making submarine parts, they had you making these air raid shelters?

PY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: And then you thought, well, something must be wrong here because you're going, you're now not making weapons, you're now making more protective places.

PY: Yeah.

TI: And then pretty soon, later on, then the bombers would come.

PY: Right, right.

TI: So describe that. When the bombers came, what was that like for you and the others?

PY: Well, you know, around twelve o'clock or midnight, twelve o'clock, B-29s used to fly over Kure Navy Base and then drop the bomb. So at the beginning, we used to get up because, with the siren, we used to get up and go to the air shelter. But during the day we worked so hard, and when you have that every night, you come so sleepy. So at the end, we didn't go to the air shelter and we just keep sleeping. And, but one night, they dropped the air, the bomb, the B-29 nearby where we were living. And the lady said, "You have to get up and run to the air shelter because this house is a danger." So that's how I got up and I wear my uniform and then I went to the air shelter.

TI: And then when you come back, I mean, is there lots of, like, destruction or devastation from the bombs?

PY: Yes, yes. I think the city of Kure was maybe, about eighty percent was burned. Only the high area was okay. And then the air shelter that we ran into, plenty of people died in there because the fire, fire went into, quite inside, and we were so hot in there. And I think many people died in the air shelter also.

TI: And when you have fire like that, the fire takes all the oxygen, too.

PY: Right, right.

TI: And so how would people breathe?

PY: Well, we had a hard time, yeah. That's why we used to dig the ground and then put our face into the ground and then breathe, yeah.

TI: And so there was like more air, more oxygen in kind of the dirt area.

PY: Yeah, yeah, I guess so. I guess so. That's what we did. And then I had one hat one, so I put the hat on the, what I dig, and then I used to breathe, yeah.

TI: And you said even in these air raid tunnels, shelters, many people died?

PY: Yes, many people died. And then so in the morning, the, some of the people yell at us and told us that, "The young people, please go in there and maybe some of them are still living. So get them out from the air tunnel or air shelter, and then take them out so they can breathe more freely and they can leave." And I know we had one little, not river, but a stream, and that we took them out to the stream and they used to drink the water over there.

TI: And so there were quite a few people who were just too weak and you brought 'em outside and they were okay?

PY: Yeah. So, they used to say, "Young people, please go in there, because some of them are dying. So take them out and get them to drink the water."

TI: And so that's what you would do? You would go in there and help?

PY: Yeah, yeah. So I didn't, I forgot... I didn't wear my shoes and go into the tunnel. So I remembered that I found one gentleman was dead already, and I took his shoes and I borrow his shoes and went inside and helped people out.

TI: So as a boy, you're not that old, when you come across death like that, what do you think? Is it hard, or what, are you thinking about that?

PY: No, I didn't think anything. I thought they had -- well, I didn't think that I was doing the right thing or wrong thing or things like that, I just, just did it.

TI: Now, did any of your, kind of, schoolmates, classmates, were they injured or killed in these bombing raids?

PY: No, I don't think so. At that raid, no. But many of my classmates died in Hiroshima, though, with the atomic bomb, yeah. That's a little further down.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Okay, so we're still kind of in Kure, so pretty soon the bombs come, so you can't make any parts or something. So what happens next? Where do you go next?

PY: At that bomb, at that raid, the Kure Navy Base, I don't know, I don't know why they didn't, they dropped quite a bit of bomb on the navy yard, but wasn't too much damage.

TI: Oh, so you were still able to keep working.

PY: Yeah, yeah, so we went back over there and worked. But, of course, where I was living, that house was burned down. So I went back to Atatashima for a while, and then I came back to work again.

TI: Okay. And just in terms of timeline, my notes say that it was about the end of 1944 is about when that bombing happened, or beginning of '45?

PY: I guess beginning of '45, because the atomic, the war ended August, right?

TI: Right.

PY: Yeah, so yeah, so the beginning of '45.

TI: So you just mentioned that you, because your house, the house that you lived in burned down, you went back to Atatashima. What did you see when you went back home? Was it anything different or was it the same? What did you see?

PY: Well, we were still, they told us that we were going to win the war, and we believed that. Although we were kind of losing, hiding or this and that, but we felt that we would win.

TI: How about your parents? Did you, when you went back to Atatashima, did you talk to your parents about what was happening?

PY: Yeah, I did, I did. But they just told us, told us to do whatever you're doing for the country.

TI: 'Cause I was wondering, because they had spent some time in the United States, and so they saw how large the United States was and whether or not they, I guess, would have more information about how the war would probably end. Because they were thinking, because most Japanese had never been to the United States and they didn't know what was over here. But your parents had seen maybe Pearl Harbor and all the different places. And so did they ever talk about that, whether Japan really was going to win the war or had a chance?

PY: Yeah, I think, I think they knew that they were living in America, so how big America is, and we shouldn't fight against America. But once the military said the war started, then everybody, everybody have to, even in the losing cause, you have to fight for Japan. So that's what, I think my parents felt that way, too.

TI: Okay. So you go back now to Kure after spending a little time with your parents, and then what happened? What do you do next there?

PY: You mean after I went from Atatashima?

TI: Yes.

PY: Yeah, I went back to the factory and worked, yeah. In the shelter, though.

TI: And again, still making parts in the shelter?

PY: Yeah, yeah, and supplying the parts to the, to make the little submarine.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So as we get closer to the end of the war, my notes show that you went up to Tokyo.

PY: Uh-huh.

TI: Can you tell me why you went to Tokyo?

PY: Oh, to attend the college. Those days, they had about, about three or four exam. The first exam, second exam, third exam or something like that. And then I passed the first exam. The first exam was not, not written exam, but just like an interviewing kind of exam. And I passed that, so now I have to go to Tokyo to get the second exam or third exam, I forgot. But that's why I went to Tokyo.

TI: So it's interesting to me that in the midst of this war, with bombs coming and even Tokyo, bombs and everything, that still, that the university was still giving these tests, these exams, and doing all this?

PY: Well, you know, not too much of the liberal arts class, but the science class, yeah. They wanted, they wanted the young boys to get into the engineering or things like that. That kind of course was... so if you go into the liberal arts, arts class, they would postpone or whatever. But if you go to engineering course, then you were, the class was open.

TI: Okay, that makes sense. And so, were you taking these exams specifically for Waseda?

PY: Uh-huh.

TI: I'm curious, when you went to Tokyo or even Hiroshima, the cities, earlier you mentioned that those people had harder times getting food and things. When you traveled to the city, did you see examples of people struggling, that it was hard for them?

PY: Yes.

TI: And what would, what would be examples of that? What are some things you saw?

PY: Well, we had a food card, something like food card. Everybody had food card and so in order to get the food, you have to show, use the food card. And then for young people, food card was not enough to fill up your stomach. Yeah, but we had very hard time. So many black market was going on, yeah.

TI: And so you went to Tokyo in August, around August of 1945?

PY: To take the exam, that was a little earlier, I think, around May.

TI: Okay, May.

PY: After they accept me, yeah, I went... you know, actually, the school started in May or so. But many military outfit where I, where you were forced to go, Kure Navy Base never allow us to go. So we went around, I think around, it was July, I think. That was 1945, July, some people did go to Waseda in May. Every place was different time, and we were allowed to go to Tokyo to attend the college in around July.

TI: Okay, so July. So you went earlier in May to take the exams, and then later on you, in some ways, started a little bit later, but in July of 1945, you were attending classes in Waseda.

PY: But, you know, not too long, though. From Waseda, I mean, yeah, we went to the class a little while, I don't know how many days. And we were forced to go to Nagoya again, to another factory.

TI: Oh, so they needed more workers, so --

PY: Yeah, yeah. So they told us to go Nagoya, I forgot the factory name, but they had the number of factory, 201 or 205 or something like that. And then that was early August, I guess, and we were going to the Nagoya to go to the factory and help the military. But August 15th arrived.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Well, first, before then, what about August 6th, when the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima? Did you hear about that?

PY: Yes, yes.

TI: And what did you hear?

PY: Well, they didn't tell us exactly what, and they didn't know. The government didn't know that was atomic bomb. But they said that was very, very strong bomb, but very unusual bomb. I guess maybe the government knew atomic bomb, but they didn't tell us exactly what. So we knew Hiroshima was -- and there were many rumors going around. Maybe you cannot live in Hiroshima forever, or something like that. So what you call August... and then we knew that this is it already. Japan can't continue war anymore.

TI: So you knew, or you heard that when they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, that it was such a powerful bomb that Japan probably could not keep fighting.

PY: Right, right.

TI: And then did you hear about the second bomb, too, at Nagasaki?

PY: Well, I didn't hear too much about the Nagasaki bomb, no.

TI: And were there concerns? When you hear, because lots of your classmates were from Hiroshima and you knew lots of people there, did you have any special concerns about that?

PY: Well, you know, right away I didn't know how many people, my classmates died. But later on, I found out he died, this and that. I felt, hey, I was lucky that I went to Tokyo, otherwise I will be there. In fact, I passed one of the tests in one of the Hiroshima college. And so instead of Waseda, if I never passed the Waseda, then I would be in Hiroshima.

TI: So it was a good thing that you were a good student, that you passed that exam.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Well, so after the bombing of Hiroshima, August 15th is the date that Japan surrendered. So you remember what happened, where you were when you heard that?

PY: Yes. I got sick around August 13th or 14th, and, you know, we didn't have enough food and I didn't know what to do. But before, before, I don't know, one or two years before August, August 15th, my father, my parents told me that we have a relative in the Tokyo area. He went to the, he graduated from medical school in Osaka, and he's staying in the Tokyo area. And he gave me the address, Tokyo address. It's not in the city of Tokyo, it's outskirt of Tokyo. His name is Kazuo Yanagawa. He was a medical officer, about captain in military rank. So I didn't have food to eat, I was so sick. I remembered his address, so I went to his home. And Mrs. Yanagawa was so nice. They didn't have no children, but, you know, you can't buy milk in town. But because of, that was a little outskirt of Tokyo, she had all kind of better food than what we had in middle of Tokyo. So she fed me, she got the milk and beef or whatever, and I became all right. And then on the day of 15th, Captain Yanagawa told his wife that he got to go downtown today because there is a very important message, he got to go to his company and wait for the message. And that was the message from the emperor, that they're going to surrender.

TI: And so did you hear from Captain Yanagawa about the message, or did you hear through a radio?

PY: I guess I heard on the radio, I guess, yeah.

TI: And what was the reaction that you had when you heard?

PY: Well, we knew before that Japan was, they didn't tell us the truth, we were bombed so much, and then the atomic bomb or the Hiroshima bomb, this and that. We knew that we have to, to survive, we have to surrender. So I was, in a way, this is it. This happened, and it really happened. So I thought, "Hey, I better go back to Atata, Hiroshima." So right after that, I told Mr. Yanagawa and his wife that I'm going to the Tokyo station and buy the ticket. And I went to Tokyo Station but I couldn't buy the ticket. I stayed at the station about two days, I think, to get the ticket.

TI: And why couldn't you get a ticket? What was the problem?

PY: There was no plane -- no train. And then because the train was used for emergency or military purpose, so for regular passenger to ride the train, we had a very hard time get it. So you have to line up overnight, this and that, and finally I got the ticket. And those days, right now, from Tokyo to Hiroshima take only about four hours or so, but those days, it was overnight, more than twenty-four hours.

TI: Do you recall -- because Japan had surrendered, the mood of the people, what people talked about? Because Japan had just surrendered, do you remember talking to anyone about this on the train or waiting for the train?

PY: No. I guess by then, we gave up already, yeah. We knew that we cannot because we didn't have enough food, and many thing was very hard to live in Japan. So in a way, we felt that this is it, we've gotta surrender.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Okay, so to get home to Atatashima, you have to go through Hiroshima, and that's the main city. So what did you see when you got to Hiroshima?

PY: Well, you know, I lined, to get the ticket took me two days. But when I, after twenty-four hours of trip, when I reached Hiroshima, nobody was in Hiroshima station to get the ticket. I didn't have to buy the ticket, get the ticket, I can just walk away from the station because nobody was there. And I was surprised that I can see the whole city. And smell, funny kind of smell. Because people -- I don't know exactly how many days later, but August 6th is the atomic bomb, and the war ended August 15th. So I must have passed Hiroshima city around 17th or 18th.

TI: Okay, about eleven, twelve days after the bomb.

PY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

TI: And so the smell, describe the smell again? What was it like?

PY: I don't know. I really don't know.

TI: But it was a strong smell.

PY: Yeah, strong smell. And, you know, when my mother died at Atatashima, they have a, they have a place that you cremate the bodies. At that place, you can smell the, when they do that. I smelled same kind of smell when they passed the Hiroshima city. And you can see the, the other end of the city. Why I went to Hiroshima instead of go straight to Atatashima, because I lived in Hiroshima for a while and I felt that, I went to visit and tried to find out what happened to that Ogawa family. And one of the Ogawa sons was my classmate. So I knew where the Ogawa family lived because I used to live over there and it's kind of far from Hiroshima station. But I went to the Ogawa family to see the old lady, whether she's okay or not. My classmate, Ogawa, was attending college in the Miyazaki area, in Kyushu island, so he wasn't home yet. But I met the Mrs. Ogawa, and she was so happy, but she said that she lost one son from that atomic bomb. But one of, daughter was still living. They had three children.

TI: You know, when you walked from the station to the Ogawa house, were there very many other people walking around?

PY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: And what was, what was that like?

PY: Well, that was just like you walk into the hell, yeah. And the smell and still was burning although it's more than ten days late. But still, some people was living, though. Some people was living, they make a shelter.

TI: And the people who were walking around, were they there searching for people or were they living there? Who were they?

PY: I guess some of the Hiroshima city people was living over there, and they tried to live. So they were building a shelter or whatever.

TI: And how about government or military people? Were there any people around helping people?

PY: I don't think so. I don't think any government people was around.

TI: Okay. So after you visit Mr. Ogawa, then where do you go?

PY: After that, I went to the, from Hiroshima station there's a Yokogawa Station, little more near to the Ogawa house. So I went to the Yokogawa Station and tried to catch the train and go back to Atatashima. From Yokogawa to Atatashima, it's a train ride about one hour, take one hour. So I was waiting, waiting, waiting, but they said no train. No passenger train to go to Kuba Station where I get off and go to Atatashima. I said, "Why there is no station, I mean, no train, passenger train go back to Kuba Station?" Said because the rail was bombed around Iwakuni area, little further down, and they were carrying some what you call sand or, to fill up the, to fill up the...

TI: The craters?

PY: Yeah, bomb crater like that. So, but whenever that kind of train comes around, at the station, they slow down. When they slow down, I jump on the train. And I was still young, I had only one bag. And then the same thing at the Kuba, Kuba Station, the train slow down so I throw the bag and then I went down, and that's how I went to, back to Atatashima.

TI: Oh, that's a good story. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So you had brought us all the way, you had gone through Hiroshima, and you told that great story of how you took that train to the train station near Atatashima. So let's pick up the story there. So now you just get off the train, and how do you get to Atatashima?

PY: Well, there's a little boat from Kuba to Atatashima, and only twice a day, those days, go to Atatashima. That take about one hour, to reach Atatashima.

TI: And so when you go to Atatashima and you go to your home, was your mother and father there?

PY: Yeah, my mother and father, yes.

TI: So describe for me the, kind of the meeting of your mother and father and you. 'Cause they must have been worried about you, 'cause they didn't know what happened to you, right?

PY: Well, maybe I did communicate with them. But they were happy that I came back, and then they feed me good food. [Laughs] I enjoyed that.

TI: Now, do you remember what kind of food they had to feed you?

PY: Well, typical Japanese food, I guess. So that was already end of August, end of August, and I didn't know what to do. I thought that Japan lost the war, and no sense I go Waseda again, because I didn't know what's going to happen from now on in Japan. So I thought, "I have to do something to look for job." And my father's sister, older sister, used to run a big fishing company. So I approached my auntie and said, "Yeah, come and work for this fishing company." So I did one year, the fishing.

TI: And so when you say fishing, what kind of, describe what kind of work that you did.

PY: Well, at the beginning, it was sardine, iwashi, you know, the iriko, that small little fish they use for taste or this and that. Yeah, I did that, and I did all kind of fishing.

TI: And so how did you catch those little fish? Is it nets?

PY: With big net, yeah. And those days, now they do with a machine, but those days we have to do it with all hand.

TI: And that was hard work.

PY: Yeah, very hard work. And then you got to get up around five o'clock in the morning or this and that, and then go to the big boat, and then they take us, go out and get the fish. One fishing group, I think, had about twenty or twenty-five people, yeah.

TI: Now, I'm curious, so this is the end of the war. Were there very many fish left in the sea? I'm thinking that during the war, every food was so precious that they had the fishermen fish as much as they could, and I was wondering if there still was enough fish in the ocean.

PY: No, there weren't fishermen during the war. Everybody went to war. They couldn't get the fish.

TI: Oh, so there was lots of fish because there was no fisherman.

PY: Yeah, yeah. [Laughs] You know, all the young people went to the war.

TI: That's interesting because lots of people were hungry, and yet you had all the fish, but they didn't have fishermen.

PY: Yeah. They didn't have enough fishermen to go to the ocean and get the fish, because they were forced to go to the China or all over, south. So they had a hard time getting the fish from the ocean.

TI: Well, like, so in Japan, like during the war, in the United States, when the men went off to the war, sometimes the women would take the place of the men in some jobs.

PY: Yes, yes.

TI: So did that happen in Japan, too?

PY: Yes. There were many women fishermen, fisherwomen, yeah.

TI: Okay, so some women took the place.

PY: Some women took the place, right.

TI: But still, there were still lots of fish.

PY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: Okay. So you worked as a fisherman.

PY: Yeah. And you know, now, everything is improved and faster to get the fish. But those days was still, then, all labor, hand work. So you couldn't catch that much fish in those days, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: And so this must have been, for you, kind of a different time. You had just, you were working hard during the war to help Japan win the war. And then the surrender must have been a big letdown, and now you're back home doing this kind of work. So what were you thinking?

PY: Well, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it, you know, I enjoyed the freedom and I didn't think about, too much about going back to school again. I thought this is, maybe I'm going to do it forever.

TI: Okay, so you thought maybe this would be your future.

PY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: Oh, that's funny. That's interesting. [Laughs] So what happens? What makes you change?

PY: Well, I really don't know. But one day, I guess I thought I better -- oh, yeah, okay. Three people, I knew two people in Hiroshima, and they didn't go back to school, too. But I used to, I don't know what they were doing, but I used to communicate once in a while with them, and they said they're going, next term, they're going back to school even though we were one grade drop in there, because we didn't go to school at all. So they said they're going back to school, so okay, I'll go back to school, too. So three of us did go back to school from Hiroshima. Of course, there were many, but those people I knew.

TI: And so they were going to Waseda also.

PY: Yeah, Waseda also.

TI: So same place.

PY: Same school.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: But before you went there, your oldest brother, did he come home or when did he visit the house when Ralph came? When did Ralph come?

PY: Ralph came, I think... I think it was around October or so.

TI: Okay, so a little bit more after a year after the end of the war.

PY: Huh?

TI: So October 1946, or '45?

PY: '45.

TI: Okay, just so... August, so two months after.

PY: Yeah. You know, my brother, he tried -- because he didn't know where is Atatashima. He knew only the name of Atatashima but he did know where is Atatashima. Hiroshima prefecture, Hiroshima-ken is a big place. So he went to Hiroshima city and asked the people, "Take me to Atatashima." But those people didn't know where Atatashima is. So he had a hard time. But I think second or third time, they found one guy that know where Atatashima. That's how he came to Atatashima.

TI: Okay, so this is October, so this is just maybe two months after the war --

PY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: -- has ended. So describe that. What was it like for him coming to Atatashima?

PY: So he... you know, those days, the people were saying that, they called it shinchugun, shinchugun, American military personnel, they are very bad. So when the shinchugun come, you've got to hide your ladies, girls in there. Don't, they will... very bad people." That kind of story was going around. So and then, on that Atata Island, many family lost not only one but like two sons or whatever, you know. And they found out that, from the Atata temple, one of the son is coming back as a shinchugun, and American soldier. "We cannot, thing happen like this. Let's kill him." So later on, my mother found out that people were saying that. But anyway --

TI: Well, when your mother heard that, what did she, she do?

PY: Well, this was after, after my brother went home, so it was okay. But when my brother came, the island people were surprised, because he didn't have no gun, he wasn't, looked like a wild guy, wild American soldier. So everything after he came back -- and he had some gum or candy like that, he used to give to the children. So everything was okay.

TI: Now, when you saw him the first time, did you recognize him?

PY: Yeah, I recognized him, yeah.

TI: Because it had been many years since you saw him.

PY: But funny thing, funny thing happened is he had boots, and he wear the boots and coming, walk inside the house, on the tatami. Japan don't do that. But he's a military man, and he wear boots, even with the boots on. And my mother was surprised. [Laughs]

TI: When you say surprised, did your mother get mad at him? [Laughs]

PY: No, not mad, not mad at all, yeah. And he had an attack that night, malaria. But, so he brought his sleeping bag, though.

TI: So before, the first time he comes to the house, what was the reaction of your mother and father when they saw Ralph the first time?

PY: Well, I guess they were... I guess he's the second son. I went back to Atata first after the war, and he was the second one. And we had another, three more brothers. But I think he was the second one. Of course, we didn't know that he had hard time locating Atatashima, but when we saw him, I think the parents was so surprised and happy.

TI: Now, was Ralph able to speak very much Japanese? Would he just...

PY: Yeah, he'd understand, because he was the oldest one. I guess we used to communicate with my parents.

TI: So you mentioned, so one thing he did, he came in with his boots on the tatami, but he also, you said he had a malaria attack that night.

PY: Yeah.

TI: And you also mentioned, you were just saying, he brought a sleeping bag?

PY: Yeah, a sleeping bag.

TI: And so that must have been different for you to see.

PY: Yeah. Because he knew that he had malaria, I guess, but he didn't wake my mother up. He didn't sleep that night with a high fever or something, I don't know what malaria do to human body. So next day, my mother found out that, she was mad.

TI: Oh, she was mad that he didn't wake her up?

PY: Yeah, yeah, he didn't wake her up.

TI: And Ralph was probably used to taking care of himself.

PY: Yeah, that's why he had this sleeping bag. I guess he had some medication, too. But he caught the malaria in... what you call... I don't know.

TI: Like in Burma?

PY: Burma or someplace around that area, I think.

TI: Okay. Because Ralph -- for people who are watching this -- Ralph actually joined the OSS, the U.S. Army, and so he was doing sort of counterintelligence work and would oftentimes drop behind enemy lines and things like that. And he was, I believe, an officer? He was like a captain?

PY: Yeah, he was a captain.

TI: Captain, so, which was pretty unusual for a Japanese American to be an officer, so he must have been a really good soldier for him to be an officer. But I'm curious, now, for you, here you were being trained to fight for Japan, and then you see your older brother come through the door in a American uniform, something that you were trained to kind of fight against. What were you thinking when you saw that?

PY: Well, I guess because I was young, you turn around fast, yeah. During the war I was thinking, "Japan, Japan, Japan." I was, we were going to win the war. But once we lost the war, and I found out, yeah, Japan did something wrong, I started turning around, and that was pretty fast, yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: And how did Ralph treat you, his little brother, how was he...

PY: Oh, well, that's what he told me, "If you wanna come back to Hawaii, I'll support you so come back to Hawaii." And those days, going to America or foreign country is very hard, although, even though you have a money. And then for the young people to go America or Europe or whatever, that was a very prestige.

TI: So that offer meant a lot because it was going to America.

PY: Yeah.

TI: But going back to when he visited, American GIs would often have candy, gum, things like that. Did he share some of those things with you?

PY: Yeah, yeah. And not only, I got a shirt like that, too. And I used to wear that shirt, I was very proud of wearing that shirt.

TI: You mean this is like an American army shirt?

PY: Yeah, it was, I think, American shirt, yeah. Army shirt, yeah.

TI: And I think you said, so the first time when Ralph came, you said the townspeople were maybe suspicious or afraid of him. But then he came again, and how, in future visits, how did the townspeople...

PY: Well, nothing happened. Nothing happened after that. The townspeople knew that I had one brother living in the... and some of them knew my brother name, too. So at the first time, when they said, "Let's do something to the Yempuku son," of course, my brother, my mother didn't know. Afterward she found out. But I didn't know those things happened, too. But later on, we just found out. So from the second trip, nothing was wrong, everything was okay. And then around that time, second trip or third trip time, I think the Japanese changed their attitude and mind, too, toward the American soldier.

TI: And how was it changed? When you say changed --

PY: They felt that they are good people. In fact, the Japanese army personnel was more worse than the American army personnel.

TI: Well, let's talk about your other brother. Because Donald, he was a key interpreter for the Japanese military. And actually, there was an interesting, kind of, meeting. Actually it wasn't a meeting, but when Donald was an interpreter for the Japanese and Ralph was with the Americans, that your brother Donald saw Ralph during this time. Can you describe that meeting a little bit?

PY: Well, they didn't tell me too much, though. I really, I don't know. I don't know.

TI: Okay, that's okay. I just, I read about this in a book so I thought maybe you would have more.

PY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: So let's go back to your --

PY: You know, they didn't, they didn't... yeah, they didn't tell me. But Ralph did help Donald afterward introduce to some important people, things like that. Because Donald start doing business with a American company. I think Donald got some help from Ralph.

TI: Okay.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: So let's go back to your life.

PY: Okay.

TI: Because after, you said after you worked as a fishermen, some of your friends decided to go back to school, so you also went back to school. So let's pick up the story there. So you went back to Waseda?

PY: Uh-huh.

TI: And what was Tokyo like after the war?

PY: Well, those days it was still hard to get enough food. I had a hard time, you know, from Hiroshima, summer vacation or winter vacation, I used to really like to go back to Atatashima so I can get enough food. And then when I, after that vacation is over, when I go back to Tokyo, what I had in a bag is nothing but food. Yeah.

TI: You said you had no books, just food. [Laughs] So finally you graduated from Waseda in about 1946? Or no, you went to, I'm sorry, you went to Waseda in '46 but then you graduate...

PY: Around '51, I guess.

TI: '51, that's right. And then I think you remember Ralph's invitation to go to Hawaii.

PY: Right, right, right.

TI: So tell me what you did after you graduated from Waseda.

PY: Oh, you know, even those days, they had so many restriction to go, to go America. Once they ask you whether you join the military or not, you have to bring some kind of certificate saying that you never joined the American, Japanese military, and then whether you participate in election or not. No, I didn't vote or anything. Those certificate you have to show them. Well, I didn't do all those things, I wasn't in the military, government. And the good thing was I was still holding the birth certificate of the Hawaii, birth certificate. So I brought that to the Yokohama consul general, American consul general, and they okayed me right away.

TI: So they recognized you as a U.S. citizen.

PY: Yeah, U.S. citizen, right.

TI: Because not only you had a birth certificate and you could show that you did not participate in the military or vote in their, in elections. And so they said because of that, you're still a U.S. citizen, and it would be easy for you to go back.

PY: Yes.

TI: Okay, so that's good. Versus your brothers, your older brothers, because they were conscripted into the Japanese military, they lost their U.S. citizenship? They became Japanese citizens?

PY: I guess so, I guess so. And by then, they were married to Japanese national, so I don't think so, they had intention to go back to, come back to Hawaii. I was young so I was still single yet.

TI: Okay, no, that's good information.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: So you returned to Hawaii, so tell me what Hawaii was like for you. Could you remember anything?

PY: Well you know, I lived with my brother, Ralph, for a while. But they were very nice, but because I graduated from college already, and you know, you cannot -- although they said okay -- you cannot forever live like that. You have to start working, you have to earn money and you have to take care of yourself. So that's what... I went to UH for a while, but I start looking for a job. And because, those days, of course we had many Japanese language jobs using Japanese language, but not too many Japanese from Japan was here like we have now. So I went to the radio announcer and television announcer, and also Japanese schoolteacher, many thing like that I did.

TI: And so, like, the TV station announcer, this was a Japanese language?

PY: Yes, Japanese language, yeah. Radio, too, is Japanese language. That was Channel 4.

TI: So because of your Japanese language abilities, you were able to get jobs.

PY: Right. But the TV station wasn't every day. Japanese language was only on Saturday, about three or four hours.

TI: So at this point, how much English did you remember?

PY: Well, I had a hard time with English, yes. I had a very hard time. Even now, my Japanese is better than my English, yeah.

TI: And so how did you re-teach yourself English? What did you do?

PY: Well, I did many things, but I read the English newspaper and try to learn the vocabulary or whatever. But sometimes my grandson laugh at me, my English. [Laughs]

TI: So you came back to Honolulu in 1951 after you graduated. In 1952, that's when your father died, so right after.

PY: Right, right.

TI: And so do you recall what happened, why he died?

PY: No. I guess exactly, I don't know how old he was, but the... he had a stroke, that's why we went Japan. But after that, he had stroke twice, yeah. He had stroke twice, and then I guess high blood pressure and stroke, I think, that was his cause, I think. But I couldn't go back to the funeral because I was still not established yet.

TI: Right, okay. And then a little bit after that, my notes show that you were drafted into the U.S. Army?

PY: Yes.

TI: And was that surprising for you, that you got drafted?

PY: No, no, no. But they found out that I had an old scar, you know, in my lung. So I was classified as 4-H, yeah.

TI: And that scar, was that tuberculosis?

PY: Yeah, tuberculosis, yes. In Japan I had that. So I went a little while at the hospital.

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

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about some of the other jobs you did. So earlier you talked about, because of your Japanese language, you did radio and TV announcing, a Japanese language teacher, what were some other jobs you did?

PY: Well, I got one time liquor salesman job, I did one year of that.

TI: Now, how did you get a liquor salesman job?

PY: Well, like I said, I don't drink. But I found out from the newspaper advertising that Hawaiian Oak, the company was Hawaiian Oak, and Hawaiian Oak was looking for a liquor salesman. So I applied that and they hired me. I enjoyed that job, but you know, liquor salesman, you have to drink. Because you drink, and whatever you drink, they give you a bar allowance. So you have a bar account, and you try to sell the liquor at the bar, but if you don't drink, the buyer don't buy your liquor. So after one year I said, "Hey, this is not my line." So I gave up. And then I went into the carpenter helper job, because one of my friend's uncle was a contractor. So I applied for that job and I was a carpenter helper for a while, about, about one year, I think.

TI: And then after that... or why did you quit doing that?

PY: Oh, that was a, that was so hot one summer I couldn't stand the heat. And then I asked my friend that used to work at the Hawaii Hochi whether there is a job or not, and they said, yeah, they're looking for one guy for advertising salesman. So I said, "Okay, I'll apply for the job," and they hired me.

TI: And about what year was that when you started at the Hawaii Hochi?

PY: Hawaii Hochi, Hawaii Hochi, let's see now. Hawaii Hochi was '59. I started '59, that's the year that Hawaii became a state.

TI: And so that also means that it's almost your fiftieth anniversary here.

PY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: That was fifty years ago.

PY: Yeah, this year, this year around October I celebrate my fifty years in Hawaii Hochi.

TI: Wow. Is there anyone else here that's worked here longer than you?

PY: No. [Laughs]

TI: Fifty years.

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

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: Before we talk about Hawaii Hochi, I want to ask you about your wife. How did you meet your wife?

PY: Oh, okay. My wife was just like myself, a Kibei-Nisei born in Hawaii but educated, raised in Japan, and then come back to Hawaii just like me. And you know, we are second generation, but this Kibei-Nisei and the regular second generation like my brother or so, we have something different. The culture or whatever, the things that we eat, the entertainment, many things, it doesn't, sometimes doesn't click. So this Kibei-Nisei group, we form a, called a club, Sakura-Kai, and once a week we used to meet at the YWCA and we talk and then dance or this and that. And my wife was one of the member of Sakura-Kai, that's how I met her.

TI: And what was it about your wife that attracted you to her? What made her kind of stand out for you?

PY: Well, I was looking for a wife in those days, already. I forgot, I was how old now? I forgot. But yeah.

TI: So I think you met her in, like, 1954? So you were probably about twenty-seven maybe? Twenty-seven years old?

PY: I don't know, I forgot.

TI: Okay. What was your wife's name?

PY: Florence Kiyoko. Florence Kiyoko Honda.

TI: And so, good, so you met at this Sakura-Kai YWCA, and in terms of children, tell me how many children you had.

PY: I have, I have three children. The oldest is a son, and then next one is daughter. The son is Wayne, the daughter is Ann, and then the second daughter is Lynn. Wayne and Ann live in Honolulu and Lynn living in Sacramento.

TI: Good, okay.

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

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So I want to go back now to the Hawaii Hochi.

PY: Okay.

TI: So you've been here now almost fifty years.

PY: Right.

TI: And so you've seen so many changes in all these years. When you first started in 1959, Hawaii just became a state, and you've seen the newspaper industry change a lot. So I guess the question is, how has the, sort of this Japanese newspaper business, how has it changed from 1959 to now? What are the big differences, you think, when it first started and what it's like now?

PY: Well, the newspaper itself, Japanese newspaper itself, I don't think we change the content. I guess it's, right now it's easy to get the news because of Internet or whatever, so we get the news from Japan with Kyodo News, and we use the AP. When I started, we had a hell of a time to get the news from Japan, Kyodo or Jiji or whatever. But now... but it's still same content, Japanese news. Little faster and easier, but the main thing we're getting a hard time is the circulation. Japanese reading public is getting less and less and less, and then right now is very bad because of advertising. We're not getting advertising, not only the Japanese paper but this is everything, the English paper, too. But the advertising, we're getting hard time.

TI: And are your advertisers kind of similar to what it was fifty years ago? Are they the same kind of companies, same kind of businesses who advertise?

PY: Well, we had more established Japanese American company. But you have less now. But I guess for a while it was okay, because we have so many Japanese business from Japan. So like L.A. or San Francisco, I think they have quite a bit of Japanese company, strong Japanese company. But in Hawaii, it's getting less and less and less. Now, even Sony, we've got to get the ad from -- we have a Sony -- but all coming from the mainland. The agencies, they consolidate. We used to have an agent in Hawaii to take care of the Sony, but they have only one big Sony advertising agency on the mainland. So we're getting a hard time, things like that. So that's the main thing, change.

TI: So what's going to happen?

PY: Huh?

TI: So what will happen to the Hawaii Hochi when you look in the future, if the circulation is dropping, advertisers, what will have to happen?

PY: Well, when I came back to Hawaii those days, we had Hawaii Hochi, we had Hawaii Times, we had many other Japanese paper. Those days, they were saying that, "Hey, the Japanese paper is not going to last that long." But look, fifty years already since I started the Hawaii Hochi. Those days, they were saying, "You're foolish to work at the Japanese paper because you're not going to live that long," I mean, "the company's not going to last that long." But I feel that we will be here for a long, long time more. It's maybe... Japanese language paper will be smaller and smaller and smaller, but with some kind of new area like an Asian American, it's going to be more English than the country language. But I think we have some area to advance.

TI: Because you run two, at least a couple of publications. You have the Hawaii Hochi, which is more Japanese, and then you have the Hawaii Herald --

PY: Herald, right.

TI: Which is English. And you think that one is going to more, evolve maybe more Asian?

PY: Yeah, I think Hawaii Herald should be, Hawaii Herald is only twice a month we're publishing. But I think the circulation, I mean, the frequency, we should increase more. But right now, the time is very bad. You need the advertising, and everybody getting a hard time to get the advertising. And you have a new media, Internet, or many other new media. So I think we have to struggle.

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

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: Now, when you first started the Hawaii Hochi, did you think that you would be working here for fifty years?

PY: [Laughs] No, no, no. I thought, you know, maybe three or four years. I used to, I used to go see my brother Ralph so often, and they had one secretary, Ruth. And Ruth used to tell me, "Hey, what you doing now? What you doing now?" Every time when she see me, I have a different job those days. So she used to ask me what I was doing, that was my, greeting to me. So I thought I would be in some other business.

TI: So what was it about the Hawaii Hochi that made you stay all these years?

PY: Well, I guess Mr. Oishi, Shizuoka Shimbun... Shizuoka Shimbun bought the Hawaii Hochi in 1960, '61, somewhere around that area, age. And he appoint me as the president of this company in '67. And I thought, you know, I was just a regular employee. And then one morning he called me. He used to stay every, about three months over here from December to March. He called me one morning and he said, "From tomorrow, you run the business." I was all, I was all shook up, and then I told Mr. Oishi, "In America, normally you have to give me one day. I'd like to talk to my wife." So that's what I did to him. But I didn't talk to my wife, I went to see my brother. And he said, "Oh, if you're going stay, you might as well stay," I mean, "be able to run the business. Take the job." So that's how I took the job in 1967. And then, well, once I knew... those days, the other Japanese newspaper, Hawaii Times, was bigger paper than Hawaii Hochi. They had more circulation, they were bigger paper. But I thought now it's my responsibility, I got to do something. So I put my effort in the printing business.

TI: And that's been a profitable side of the business.

PY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

TI: But going back to that decision, when Mr. Oishi made you president, why did he select you? You said you were one of many employees, but he chose you. And so why do you think he chose you?

PY: I don't know. I don't know. We had, we had those, plenty employees, young people, too, but I don't know why he chose me. I don't know.

TI: So why do you think he chose you?

PY: Huh?

TI: Why do you think he chose you? There must be something about you that he saw that said you would be a good president. What do you think it is?

PY: [Laughs] Well...

TI: I know it must be hard for you, but just, I mean, if someone else were to talk about you...

PY: Well, I guess, I came from Japan and I have a good education, I graduated from Waseda. And I was still young. Because he never interviewed me. He never interviewed me. But suddenly he told the staff that was attending the meeting, "Call Yempuku," and then they called me, and then he told me, "From tomorrow, you run the business." Those days, we had a vice president and many other old-timer. But some of the other old timer refused because they don't want to be a president and then Hawaii Hochi bankrupt and go down. And they thought that Hawaii Hochi don't have any long life anymore. Why they got to take the job, responsibility, and suffer? So like one of the vice presidents, Mr. Yoshida, used to tell us he doesn't want to take over, even Mr. Oishi tell him to run the business, he doesn't want to take over because he doesn't feel that Hawaii Hochi going to last that long. So in fact, I took over the risky job. But, well, like my brother said, "Well, if you're going to stay there, might as well do whatever you can, so that's how you gotta operate."

TI: But he made a good choice, because by choosing you, you were younger, you had more ideas, you sort of diversified, you started the printing business.

PY: Yeah.

TI: And that has helped, really, the Hawaii Hochi survive all these years, by having these other, other streams of revenue coming in. So he probably chose you because he thought you'd be a good businessperson.

PY: Huh?

TI: He probably chose you because he thought you'd be a good businessperson, too. Don't you think?

PY: [Laughs] Well, maybe so, but... I'm getting old, and I guess I have to... you know, when you get old, it's very hard to go into new things. I think printing business as-is, this is too old the way we do. We have to get into a new area, and I don't know whether I'm able to do that or not.

TI: So in the future, who do you think is gonna, what type of person do you think would be successful?

PY: Well, we have a vice president now, Derek Yamashiro. I'm recommending Derek to take over my place when I retire, yeah.

TI: And so he's younger and has more...

PY: He's younger and he's a UH graduate, yeah.

TI: Yeah, so it's a whole new world, kind of. Well, so Paul, I finished all my questions, and so I'm wondering, is there anything else that you wanted to share or maybe something that I didn't ask you that you would like to talk about at the end here?

PY: No. I guess, I guess I said everything. Yeah.

TI: Okay, good. This was a fabulous interview.

PY: Oh, yeah?

TI: I really enjoyed it, I learned a lot. Your life is very interesting. So thank you so much for taking the time.

PY: Thank you, thank you.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.