Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga Interview II
Narrator: Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Torrance, California
Date: July 7, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-haiko-03-0005

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TI: So you were born in Sacramento, but you grew up in Los Angeles. Do you know when you moved from Sacramento to...

AH: Yes, 1933. When I was nine years old, my dad decided the pickings weren't good in Sacramento, so he wanted to try Los Angeles. When we first moved down, we lived for three months in Downey, California, where a cousin of my mother's had a strawberry farm. That was a delight for my mother, because she just loved picking the strawberries and getting in touch with the earth, she liked it. And then my father found this house in the uptown area near Pico and Western, so we moved there. And we lived there until the time that we were ordered to move out to go into the camps. So it was about almost ten years.

TI: Okay. So you were quite young, but do you recall kind of the differences between Sacramento and Los Angeles when you went? Was it quite a bit different or about the same?

AH: No, it wasn't. Because in Sacramento, apparently, where we lived, was populated by a lot of Japanese American families. And so when we moved to Los Angeles, we also were in the middle of an area called, we called it the uptown area then, where there was the St. Mary's Episcopal Church run by Reverend John Yamasaki, and the Buddhist church there, and then there was a Japanese school, Daini Gakuen. There were a lot of Japanese American families there. So I didn't feel that great a difference in terms of discomfort. It's just making new friends, you know how kids are. I had a lot of neighbors who were Japanese Americans. So it was all right, transition.

TI: And how about things like school? Was that about the same, from Sacramento to Los Angeles?

AH: Yeah, and I don't remember much at all about school in Sacramento. But I was, I think we were something like third grade or thereabouts when I moved to Los Angeles. And because at that time we stuck with our own kind, I still, I think didn't feel racial animosity until I got more in high school, junior high and high school, when I started to feel the difference between us Asians, Asian Americans, and the white community. That's when I started to feel -- I think that's when most of us young folks feel that when we start thinking about maybe dating or "going steady," you know, that's when usually the parents of the white girl or boy might object. Because I think racial discrimination was pretty prevalent, rampant at that time.

TI: When you look at your school, so elementary, junior high and high school, what were, like, the percentage of Japanese Americans in your schools or your class? Do you remember?

AH: Because of the fact that there was a pretty good-sized Japanese American community, I can't tell you percentage-wise, in grammar school or junior high school. But when I went to high school, out of the class of about three hundred in my high school graduating class in 1942, I believe there were, in my class alone, were fifteen Japanese Americans out of the three hundred graduating students.

TI: So only about five percent, one in twenty was Japanese.

AH: Yeah. But I think ours was sort of unusual. It was, my school was predominately white. The only other Asians around at the time were a couple of Korean kids. Very few blacks, very few Hispanics, it was primarily white. Whereas at the same time, in Roosevelt High School in east Los Angeles, it was a huge percentage, as I understand, of Japanese American kids. So it sort of depended on where the high school was located.

TI: Okay, good.

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