Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Yuri Kochiyama Interview
Narrator: Yuri Kochiyama
Interviewer: Megan Asaka
Location: Oakland, California
Date: July 21, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-kyuri-01-0002

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MA: And tell me a little bit about San Pedro and what that was like, what your neighborhood was like growing up.

YK: San Pedro is a seaport town, and there weren't that many Japanese. Most of the Japanese were living in Terminal Island where the Issei went out fishing and the wives worked in the cannery. On the San Pedro side, the Japanese were also in fishing. There were those who were in farming, and then those who were in fishing. And my father and relatives owned a fish market, and they just seemed like, of that time, typical Japanese. Well, to us Niseis, they seemed, you know, quite Japanesey. And, well, we kids, you know, I think we were very, we grew up very American, but at home we had to speak Japanese and learn a few, you know, the cultural things. But I think we were quite American.

MA: What do you mean by "American"? Can you explain that a little bit?

YK: Yeah. Well, that we spoke English, and at least where we compare ourselves with other people of our age, I think we had the same kind of interests as our peers. I mean, thinking back, way back then, I mean, I really didn't know too much about anything, really, you know. We're growing up in a small town. The town was, well, it seemed like San Pedro, many people were in fishing. Most of the people, I think, the majority were Italian and Slavonian, but we think of them as being white. Well, I don't know if we even thought of it that way back then. They were, we thought of more being Slavonian and Italian. Their, those of our peers, our age group, their parents, like our parents, were immigrants, too. They came from Europe. And I think, just like us Japanese, they probably spoke their own language, the parents' language, Italian or Slavonian, but they were just like any Americans. And it was a nice town, people were very nice. I didn't think there was any racism, but years later, as I look back, there were. But, you know, at the time you're growing up, you're not aware of a lot of things.

MA: Was there a divide in San Pedro among the Japanese community, like a class divide? It seems like maybe Terminal Island and...

YK: Oh, in San Pedro?

MA: Right, was there a divide there at all?

YK: Yeah, there probably was. But we kids, I mean, I don't think we felt... but there must have been. I mean, 'cause Japanese people anyway, I think, are sort of that way. You know, they're... what's the word? There's a word for that, you know, where the class thing seems to make a difference. The difference was that, okay, Terminal Island people, the men, as I said, went into fishing, and the women worked in the cannery. I think their lives were a lot more, what's the word? Confined, living on an island, and they're mostly all just Japanese people. We were in San Pedro proper, where there were people all different background, not many Japanese or Chinese. Mostly whites, but they were, but I think there were a lot of similarities because our parents were immigrants and they were mostly in fishing, except the ones in the hills who would be in farming. I'm sorry I'm repeating a lot.

MA: Oh, no, that's okay. So your father then, when you were growing up, was also involved in fishing. You said you were involved with the fishing industry?

YK: No, but first my mother said he was, he worked on the farm picking fruits or something, and then he went back to Japan to pick a wife, and then came back. And when he came back, there were other relatives of his, and they started a fish market. So then they were in fishing after that.

MA: And how many siblings did you have?

YK: I only had two brothers. One was a twin brother, and the other was two and a half years older.

MA: What are their names?

YK: Peter is my twin, I used Mary, now I use Yuri. But, okay, Peter, and then my older brother was Art, Arthur, or just Art.

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