Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Akio Hoshino Interview
Narrator: Akio Hoshino
Interviewer: Stephen Fugita
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 11, 1997
Densho ID: denshovh-hakio-01-0013

<Begin Segment 13>

SF: When you were in McNeil, did... what did you think your life was gonna be like after? Were you pessimistic or optimistic just waiting to get out or...

AH: Of course wanted to get out. I did not know what the community reactions to me would be. I really had no idea what the future held for me. Looking back, I would say I must have been apprehensive about getting loose out there in the community again. Meeting all kinds of people, but nothing, nothing drastic happened. I started to work for a gardener and we never talked about the past. Everyone was trying to make a living back in Seattle again. And, that's all it was. I joined the -- well, not really joined the church, but I started attending Buddhist Church again. Because at church I didn't think there would be any direct confrontation, and there was none. And I became fairly active in church, and that's where I stayed, mostly. Church friends.

SF: Did you go into gardening or work for this particular guy because it was harder for you to get jobs in other areas? Or it just happened...

AH: I didn't really think that there were job opportunities open. Especially for someone like me who does not have formal education. And so I took the first job that was available, which was gardening. And stayed with the gardener for oh, a year or so. In the meantime, I was told that there was a opening for a janitor in one of the hotels downtown. And so I decided, well, that'd be a little better work where during the wintertime, I'd have a job. And so I quit gardening, which made the gardener mad -- to quit him at a peak time when he needed help -- but I was thinking more of myself. And got a job as a janitor and gradually I upgraded to become a maintenance man, repairs. And the owner of the hotel that I started to work for sold it to another owner who eventually bought the Roosevelt Hotel -- one of the largest hotels that Seattle had at that time, where Western Hotel started from. And he wanted me to come along with him, and I went along as the so-called chief engineer, building engineer for the hotel. Took care of all the mechanical maintenance and upgrade of the hotel. And that's where I stayed until I retired.

SF: When you first got back from McNeil and you had to start working with white people, how did you feel? Was there something difficult doing that?

AH: Of course, immediately after I came back was gardening, and that I didn't have to... no interface with white people, except that they were customers and every so often they would come out to see how we were doing. But it was all Japanese. Then when I started to work for the hotel, of course, initially I would be under the... the housekeeper, the managing housekeeper. She was a white woman, and I felt... I don't know whether I would say scared, but I had very little communication with the hakujins and I felt a little, I guess you could say inferior. That's been my life compared with hakujins. But she was very friendly and very helpful. I still remember that time when we... she said, called me Tom -- I always used my English name when I worked outside. "Come on Tom," she says. "I gotta go get some, order some sheets and things. Let's go up and see what they have." And she wanted to go out to the wholesaler up the street. And I had to walk along beside her and I felt so conspicuous walking with a hakujin woman. It was all on my part. Because she didn't make me feel that way at all. And gradually I got to learn to live in, more in the hakujin world. Where I became very good friends with the owner and the different managers that they had. And visited their homes and got to know them pretty well. Got a little more relaxed with the hakujin community.

SF: With regard to the Japanese community, when you first got out of McNeil, did the, did the resisters get together socially because they felt that the larger Japanese community might reject them or feel hostile or that people would feel uncomfortable, or something like that?

AH: Well, individually I think we felt that way. There was no signs to show that we would be rejected. But, we... at least I felt that I didn't want to put myself into a position where we could be confronted. You never know when you go into a group, there might be one person who would antagonize you, and that would put us in a very inferior position. So, I think it was the feeling that we'll stick along with each other. We formed investment clubs and things like that, and did things our own. I think it was when I, really not helped, but I was with JACL committees to -- like the redress committees, and things like that -- that I started to interface a little more with the Niseis and Sanseis. And never was I confronted or accused of anything. Of course, I would stay away from any controversial subjects. Got along very well. Better than expected. I had dire feelings in the beginning that I'd get spitted on and confronted, and things like that. But no, nothing like that happened.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 1997 Densho. All Rights Reserved.