Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kiyoshi Seishin Yamashita
Narrator: Kiyoshi Seishin Yamashita
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 30, 2009
Densho ID: denshovh-ykiyoshi-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today is Friday, October 30, 2009, and we are in Seattle in the Densho studio. On camera is Dana Hoshide, and I'm the interviewer Tom Ikeda, and today we have Reverend Kiyoshi Yamashita. So, Reverend, I'm going to start by just asking, can you tell me when and where you were born?

KY: I was born in 1920. According to my birth certificate, I was born in Kent, Washington, but I don't remember a thing about it. First thing that I recall, and the city name was Auburn, Washington, and that was when I was young. So I'm sure when I was one or two, something like that, the family moved to Auburn.

TI: Okay, so Kent is pretty close to Auburn, so it's just like...

KY: Yes, it's within, say, five, six miles.

TI: And so 1920, what about the date? What's your birth day?

KY: Birthday is February 14th, I'm a Valentine's baby. [Laughs]

TI: And so that would make you eighty-nine years old.

KY: Eighty-nine.

TI: And you'll be ninety in...

KY: Couple of months.

TI: ...couple months. And what was the full name given to you when you were born?

KY: Full name was Kiyoshi Yamashita, and no middle name, no English name.

TI: And do you know why you were given the name Kiyoshi?

KY: I have no idea. Kiyoshi means "clean and pure," for one thing, but I can't say about me as a person. [Laughs]

TI: So you never heard from your parents why they named you Kiyoshi? It's just that's what they...

KY: No.

TI: So I now want to -- because you came from a large family -- just to go through your other siblings, kind of in the birth order. So can you start with the oldest and just kind of work your way down?

KY: Yes. My oldest was a brother named Tokio, and he was born in 1912. And his birthplace, I have no idea, I didn't see any records, and he died a number of years ago, and not mentioned or discussed his background, where he was born and so on.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: Well, that's okay. You can just give me the names and the...

KY: And the next person was Shizuko, that was a sister, and she was born three years after my eldest brother, 1912. And following Shizuko was Masao, and he was four years older than I am. I was born in 1920, so that means 1916 he was born. And then I was born, following me was Harue, and she was three years below me, but she died at the age of twenty. And below her was Toshie, and she was a couple years younger than Harue. And then after Toshie was Kikue, and she was a couple years younger. And then the youngest was... oh, there was one in between, there was Yoshio. And then there was... Yoshio, Toshie, Yasue, she was the youngest.

TI: So nine. Nine total.

KY: Nine in all.

TI: So Tokio, Shizuko, Masao, then you, Kiyoshi, Harue, Toshie, Kikue, Yoshio, and Yasue. Wow, big family.

KY: Big family. So that's a total of nine, but two died in their infancy, and Harue was, died at the age of twenty. So there were actually six siblings that made it to maturity, got married and so on.

TI: Okay, so let me ask a little bit about your father. Can you tell me your father's name and where he was from?

KY: My father was born in Kumamoto, Amakusa is an island off of Kumamoto in Kyushu. And I'm sure he was born in the 1870s, '75, something like that. And his name was Iroku, so I imagine he was the sixth child, quite a large family, too, I guess. And the entire family was engaged in farming in Amakusa, Kumamoto.

TI: And do you know about when he came to North America?

KY: No, I do not know, but I would think around 1900 or around there. Yeah, that'd be about the right age, 'cause he was born in 1875, he'd be twenty-five years old. That's a good age, yeah, around there.

TI: And I think you mentioned earlier that he may have gone to Canada first?

KY: Yes, that's what I understand. He first went to Canada, and then he came to Washington. And after coming here, so this must be in the early 1900s, I guess just before 1910 or around there, because my eldest brother was born over here in 1912.

TI: Okay, so Canada, then to Washington State, then back to Japan...

KY: Oh, went back to Japan around that time, around 1910, I would think, and got married.

TI: And how did, do you know how he met your wife -- I mean, your mother?

KY: I'm quite sure it was one of those family arranged marriages where they say, "Well, you're a man this old and you need a wife." [Laughs] And the families got together, and they're both from the same area. So I'm sure that's the way it went, that it was what was called an arranged marriage.

TI: And what was your mother's name?

KY: Mother's name was Some Yamagawa.

TI: And how would you describe your mother? If someone would say, "What was your mother like?" Personality, what would you say?

KY: That's a good question. I would say she was a good mother, kind and loving, and wanted the best for her kids, so she's the one that kind of encouraged going to school and not missing school, studying hard. Plus live the "right way," in other words, go to church, be a good citizen, work hard, study hard, make of yourself something.

TI: And so the same question for your father. How would you describe your father? What was his personality, or what were some things he would say?

KY: I would say: work hard, diligently, do your best, and above all, be a good citizen and be very careful in choosing your religion. And Buddhism, as far as he's concerned, was most important. So be religious and be honest. In other words, be a good citizen.

TI: And what about personality? How would you describe him personality-wise?

KY: Father? He was good, kind, very generous, very, very devout Buddhist. That comes from the fact that we lived closest to the temple, church, I'll get into that later. But anyway, he was that kind of person who liked to smoke. I remember his fingers were all yellowed from nicotine from too many cigarettes. But he was involved, friendly, very kind, generous, especially for supporting the religion, Buddhism. I would say he was a typical Japanese immigrant type. Do well and work hard, be diligent. I would say those are the main characteristics of him. Kind and gentle like a Buddhist.

TI: Good, okay.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So let's, let's move now to Auburn. And what kind of work did your family do in Auburn?

KY: They were farmers, rented the land, because you had to be a citizen before you can own the land. So the early years, close to the war, anyway, there was nobody old enough to own land, I guess. So the farming was the principal occupation and such. Hard life. Because what I remember of farming in those days was... actually, it was one of those Great Depression... this is before the war, of course, between 1910 until 1920, '30, right in there, right before the war.

TI: So, I'm sorry, Depression, so like 1929, 1930?

KY: Yeah, that's the big Depression. So I spent most of my childhood days in that long period, you see. Times were rough. And if you're a farmer, somehow, you don't have to worry much about eating, 'cause you can grow most of the stuff. And we had chickens, butcher yourself.

TI: And so I'm curious, so you grew up, you were like a teenager during the Depression, so you were kind of --

KY: Right, right.

TI: And right now, we're going through what a lot of people call the "Great Recession." They don't call it a depression, but "Great Recession." How would you compare what you went through, or what the country was going through back in the '30s to what the country's going through now in 2009?

KY: The country was going through...

TI: I guess the question is, yeah, was it harder then, was it rougher then than it is now? I mean, what's your sense about how difficult things were?

KY: Well, I don't know what the legal systems and so on were, but the country was different drastically, radically, because of the living standards. So that most of the time you describe how are things, you think in terms of, you know, living conditions. And they're completely different as far as living. Material things you have, for instance, completely different. So when you say times are rough, well, for most people, I would say similar. It's hard to find a job and hard to get enough food for the table.

TI: But your family were farmers, so you said generally food wasn't that big of a problem for you?

KY: Yeah, food itself wasn't much of a problem, as I remember. Yeah, we grew vegetables of all kinds that was suitable for the weather and soil. And we had our own chicken. I remember Auburn was a town where there was a fish hatchery, and the salmon that they used to get the eggs, and then they throw away the salmon. They're left to die, you see, so they just throw 'em on the bank, actually. And we used to go get the salmon and had fresh salmon. [Laughs] And speaking of salmon, there's another quaint thing that I don't know if you've ever heard, but the Indians, even now, I believe, have a special right to get fish to eat anytime. In other words, if the salmon is readily available, you can go get 'em at any time. So even in the offseason and so on, some of the Indians -- this is illegal, of course -- if I say it, it doesn't matter much because it doesn't happen now. But they'd get the salmon and they would bring 'em to our house. And like most Japanese places, the Japanese would have sake. And those days, Indians couldn't go buy liquor, alcohol. So what happened was that we'd have barter. Indians come bring the salmon, give them some sake, I don't know how much they got. Bartering. So we're getting that. Plus, as I say, during the official hatchery time, we'd go to the hatchery, get the salmon and bring it home to eat, yeah.

TI: So I'm curious, when your father is bartering with the Indians, fish for sake, how did they communicate? How would they...

KY: I'm sure they, my father spoke some basic English, and the Indians spoke, of course, pretty good English, too. It's easy, "Give me this for this." I'm sure pidgin English, father's side, I don't know how the Indians... but I imagine it's the same thing.

TI: And so to make the sake, how... did your parents make this or was this someone else that they got it from, or how did that come about?

KY: I'm sure my mother was making it. Do something with the rice, let it ferment, and before too long... I really don't know.

TI: So, I mean, it sounded like, even though it was Depression, because you were farmers, there was food. I'm curious, when you think back to those days, can you recall what your favorite meal was that your mother would make?

KY: Oh, that's a good question. I never thought about it. I guess it would be, what I liked as a kid was generally rice and... besides the breakfast, we would have -- well, even breakfast, I think we had mostly, I guess it wasn't bread and coffee as such, but rice for the older children and parents. Rice and miso soup, miso shiru, and some sort of vegetable-like dish. I'm sure we had things like eggs and bacon at times to eat with the rice. Instead of bread, it's rice. That and kind of a sukiyaki type thing, mixed vegetables and meat or something like that. Pancakes we used to have, yeah.

TI: And how about like special events? Like on New Year's Day, was there like a special menu or dinner or, I'm sorry, I mean, spread of food on that day back in those years?

KY: Yes. I'm quite sure that most Japanese families would have special foods, special foods for the occasion, suitable for the occasion. New Year's would be more of mochi, rice cakes, but all sorts of vegetables, cooked vegetables.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Earlier you mentioned how you lived close to the Buddhist Temple in Auburn. And your father used to talk about the importance of Buddhism. Can you, how was your family associated with the Buddhist temple in Auburn? How close were they to that?

KY: That is a very important thing in my entire life. In fact, it could have been the basis for my knowledge and experience and desire for doing this language type work, and in particular, religion, Buddhism. I think that's been kind of a line, general line that throughout my, stretched throughout my life. Main thing was that the influence came from the fact that this local church was called the Auburn Buddhist Church, and we were a branch of the White River Buddhist Church, which was our main temple, and which had the resident minister. So ours was a branch and we did not have a minister, and that was in Auburn. And Auburn was, I would say, three, four miles away from the White River Buddhist Temple. So in one sense, you could think in terms of, say, the White River being the Betsuin and the other temple is kind of a branch type thing. But our branch, Auburn Buddhist Temple did not have a resident priest. So the White River minister used to come to our church on Saturdays and hold services, and the regular Sunday services would be held at White River. But, quote, kind of a "pseudo Betsuin" kind, we were the branch.

We didn't have a minister, so what happened was that we had this old -- well, actually, I think it was a new building, I'm sure it was built by donations from the members, back in the, I would say close to 1920. Two story structure, wooden, and there was two facilities. The bottom floor, the main floor, was the Japanese language school, Auburn Japanese language school. And right next to it, kind of like an attached apartment was the house for the teacher, Japanese language school teacher. So he would go from his living, which is right, which is attached right to the main school, he just went to the school. And so that was that. And then on the second floor was the Auburn Buddhist Temple, the branch temple. And from the ground level to the second main temple area, which I guess would hold about maybe a hundred people, there was a long stairway, staircase to the ground level. And I would imagine that would be about fifteen feet up. And there was a landing area. In other words, it didn't lead right to the front door of the temple, but there was kind of a landing area, maybe about twenty-by-twenty-something, something like that. And there was some... not fences, but there were railings around that area, kind of landing area, long stairway and then landing area. And then the entrance of the temple.

And right below the stairway which led to the landing area, there was this, what I call the woodshed. In those days, we didn't have central heating or anything, we used to have woodstoves. So what was in there was firewood. And the chopped wood would be in there, and I used to help, remember help getting the firewood from under this long stairway here, the other room here, and carrying it up the stairs and then take it to the, I think they called 'em Franklin stoves or something like that, kind of potbellied, huge thing in the middle of the church area. I remember doing that, carrying wood from about, carrying it to the Franklin stove. I remember that, doing that.

And then I also remember helping with the... since our temple did not have a priest, my father acted like a, kind of an assistant -- not even an assistant -- kind of a helper. I guess right now they call 'em assistant ministers, they help out with the, not with the service, per se, but at least for the housekeeping and maintenance and cleaning the altar area. The altar area has a lot of, I think bronze decorations and fixtures and so on, ornaments that needed polishing and that sort of thing, I remember doing that. And every temple has rice offering, offering of rice in a little raised cup. And my family was responsible for making that and bringing it to the temple every day. And I remember helping my father... well, my mother had to cook the rice, and she made sure that it was a specially made rice that was put into this special offering. And I remember taking what we call obuppan, it's rice (offering) for the Buddha, in a special box like, container, and carried that to the church. I remember doing that in a wooden box. So in many ways like that, I really had the experience of being around the temple. And a lot of people these days say, boy, they can't stand the smoke and the smell of the incense. They say, "Oh, it gets in my eyes, makes it hard to breathe," and they cough. To me, incense, "Oh, this is like home. I like this smell." So I was different in that sense, that smell of incense got into me, I think.

TI: Wow, thank you. I mean, that was a wonderful description. So your family was very involved.

KY: Very involved, very devout, and oh, we never missed a service, of course. The father was one of the main benefactors of the church.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Well, you mentioned on the main floor was the Japanese language school. Tell me a little bit about that in terms of, like, how many students would attend that language school?

KY: Oh. This is a guess, but we had, I think, eight classes in all, but then the eighth graders could actually attend some extended class. So I think up to about ten years' worth of language school training. And the number, that's a very interesting question. There weren't too many going to that school, but they were all, most of 'em were farmer's kids, 'cause most of us were farmers. But we'd go to that school six days a week. Number, number, number. I would guess maybe ten, fifteen per class.

TI: So that's quite a few. So you're talking about seventy, eighty kids?

KY: Yeah.

TI: And how many different instructors were there?

KY: There was only the main one there, so he must have, he must have gone from one section to another section, moved right along, I guess.

TI: Do you remember his name?

KY: Yeah. The first one was named Tomioka. I don't know his first name and I don't know just where he came from. But he was an old gentleman that, very kind, gentle, strict. But the next one was named Hirata. Hirata, I don't know the first name. But he had a family, two kids and a mother, and the kids were roughly our age. I don't know where he was from. But he was the one that really affected me in the language training in the sense that he was the one that said, "Yamashita, you're a pretty smart kid, but if you just do what the other kids are doing, you'll just be so-so. So if you're supposed to learn ten kanji every day, new kanji every day, you learn eleven. Learn one more kanji and then you'd be all right." Somehow I remember that from him.

TI: And when he said that, did you learn the extra kanji?

KY: I really can't say, but I imagine I did. Because I was a studious kind. I liked to read a lot. In fact, when I graduated high school, in my school album, it said either a "true student" or "truly a student." [Laughs] That was my description, you know, under that picture they'd have this, couple of words description of the guy. So they considered me a student. One other reason I think was that I was a skinny one. I was a small guy. Well, I am still small, you see, and even when I graduated high school I was, I believe it was around 115 pounds or something like that. So for a farmer's kid, that's not very much. So I think that's what happened.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: But going back to your regular school, in my notes I have that you were the salutatorian?

KY: Yeah.

TI: Which is like the, what, second highest?

KY: Second, yeah. I was second, yeah.

TI: And so you were quite studious, because that's a high honor.

KY: Yeah. I was, I guess, a pretty good, at least I earned some pretty good grades, I guess. And that was, I guess, what prompted me and the family to say, "Hey, this kid, he's not gonna make a good farmer, 'cause he's kind of puny. Puny little kid, and it's rough work, farming." So I'm sure my brothers and father said, "Yeah, let's give him a chance to go to college." In those days, going to college was something else because -- this is 1930s, you know.

TI: And before we go there, I just wanted to just finish up a couple things. Was it common for other Japanese Americans to have such high honors at the high school there? Is this Auburn High School?

KY: Yeah. Well, I don't remember much about other classes and so on, but I guess Japanese in general were pretty good students compared to other people. I think that... what do you call, one of the valedictorian or salutatorian, I think his name was Shimasaki, Shimasaki or something like that. But that's the only one. But, you know, in those younger days, and you're moving around a lot, I really don't remember too much, yeah.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: And the other question, before we go to college, what else was nearby your house? I mean, just farms or were there other kind of like businesses or other...

KY: Oh, the significant thing about Auburn was that it's actually an agricultural town in those days. Now it's the, kind of a bedroom town for Seattle. But those days it was agricultural except for one industry, and that was the railroad industry. And it became a railroad town in the sense that this particular facility we used to call the Auburn Roundhouse became the biggest employer, had the biggest number of people working for it. So if you say, "What kind of big business?" that was it, 'cause it employed, I'm sure, many, many hundreds, yeah. The thing about Auburn and this roundhouse was that I remember going to this roundhouse. And, of course, a roundhouse is where they maintain and repair these locomotives. So roundhouse is I guess what they called it because there was this big circular type thing, and they had the turntable and a lot of tracks coming in and the move the locomotive in and out of there for refurbishing and removal of cinders, burnt coal. And they used to have a cinder pile, and I remember going -- of course, not me myself, but my brothers and me -- we'd go over there to cinder pile and get piles of cinders and load it into the truck bed and take it to our farm area. And we had, the farm area, of course, in those days, remember that there are no roads, really, inside the... your farm you've got these little, your own private little roadways, and dirt. And as you know, it rains a lot here, so that roads would get very bumpy and there's be ruts and holes. What we'd do is get the cinders from the roundhouse, which is, I would guess, within half a mile of our house, go get it, and fill those potholes in. And use it as a roadbed and smooth the road, and you don't have to fix it as often as not. So that I remember about getting the cinders from the cinder pile. And there was one huge smokestack for the, I guess for the, powerhouse for the whole thing.

TI: That's a good story.

KY: Yeah.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: So you graduated what year from Auburn High School?

KY: Graduated in 1937.

TI: So I'm doing the quick math, so that would only make you seventeen when you graduated. So how did you graduate when you were seventeen? Most people graduated when they were eighteen.

KY: Oh. I skipped a class in the early grammar school, below sixth grade, maybe third grade, fourth grade, somewhere in there.

TI: So you skipped a grade, and still you were the salutatorian. So that was a... not only did you get honored for good grades, but you actually were younger than your classmates.

KY: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. I guess I graduated, yeah, a year earlier than my age people. That's right.

TI: So you decide to go, so your dad and your brothers talked, and they decided to send you to college. Were you the first one in your family to go to college?

KY: Yes, I was the first one. And the way it happened, I stayed out a year probably to earn money, and started the first year. Otherwise, I figured out later that, yeah, that I should be a year older. I went to eighteen, I should be graduating in, when I was eighteen would be 1938. Instead I graduated in '37. And '38 is when I started college, so, yeah, I stayed out a year. 'Cause '38, '39, '40, '41.

TI: And so what college did you go to?

KY: University of Washington, Seattle. That was the closest.

TI: And so from Auburn, that's a, you know, even today it's a pretty long commute.

KY: Yeah, about twenty-something, a little over twenty miles, yeah.

TI: And so when you went to college, did you live in Seattle or did you commute?

KY: Yeah, thinking about that, I'm sure commuting all the time would be most difficult because of the distance, and to have a separate car from... I remember batching with three other Nisei kids in Seattle, one of these rooming houses, we lived in the basement.

TI: I'm sorry, the term you used again was "batching"?

KY: Yeah, you used to say batching. In other words, group living in the sense that whoever was there, we'd take turns cooking evening meal. And breakfast, I guess, we'd eat whatever we wanted. But evening meal, you wanted something more solid, hefty, so that we'd take turns cooking the evening meal.

TI: And who taught you how to cook?

KY: I guess we all learned from our mothers, I guess, and cooked whatever we liked the most and the easiest to make and the cheapest to make, I guess. Yeah, nobody really taught anybody.

TI: That's funny because I interview lots of Nisei men, lot of them don't cook at all. [Laughs]

KY: Oh, in those days, you took turns cooking, yeah, I remember that.

TI: And what kind of things did these young men cook? I'm curious, what would be a typical meal back then?

KY: [Laughs] Once you ask like that, I'm really not sure. And I don't remember what I cooked, either.

TI: Okay.

KY: In those days, we didn't have instant ramen, so I'm sure we didn't cook instant ramen, but we probably cooked noodles, bunch of noodles, somen or udon. But not too much of that either, I guess. I guess mostly fried stuff, I would guess. I don't remember cooking one... I don't remember one dish that anybody cooked, including myself.

TI: [Laughs] That's okay.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So when you were at the University of Washington, what was your field of study? What did you study?

KY: My field of study was, I started out a political science major. And the reason for that was that I had dreams of working in a consular office overseas, foreign service, or in the embassy. And ultimately to become one of the employees in the consul office or the embassy in Japan, and help promote U.S.-Japan relations through my knowledge of the Japanese language and then love for that type of a thing.

TI: Now, where did you get that idea, to become a foreign service officer for the U.S. government stationed in Japan? Where did that dream come from?

KY: Now that you ask that question, hmm. Other than thinking of my future and the future, say, in the language field in the U.S., I couldn't think about anything other than government service. So that would give me a good job, a good life, and doing what I like, doing language work and helping to preserve the Japanese-U.S. relationships. Now that you mention it, it's surprising, but I still remember, when I graduated high school, my message to the audience was -- you'll be surprised -- "Japanese national spirit." I still remember that, to an American audience.

TI: I'm sorry, say that one more time. Japanese...

KY: Japanese national spirit. In other words, the Nihon damashi or tamashi means the "spirit."

TI: And that was the topic of your speech.

KY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: To not a Japanese audience, but a general...

KY: General American, yeah. To make them more aware of what the Japanese people were like and the country was like.

TI: And do you...

KY: I don't remember any details. [Laughs]

TI: Do you recall any reactions? Did people like the speech or anything?

KY: A lot of 'em didn't like it, I'm sure, but I didn't hear anything. I heard no comments, pro or con.

TI: Now, would that have been a controversial thing to have done back then?

KY: I don't think so, 1930s. But I don't know, 'cause the war came soon after that, huh?

TI: Well, because 1937...

KY: Yeah, and 1941.

TI: That's a time when Japan is fairly aggressive.

KY: In overseas expansion, yeah. Yeah, going into China, yeah. Well, it was, I guess what I meant was understanding the Japanese mind and spirit. I really don't what made me choose that, but I did. I remember the topic, but I don't remember the contents at all.

TI: And back in those days, in high school and college, did you follow pretty closely what Japan was doing in Asia?

KY: I don't recall making any special effort. I guess general knowledge from newspapers and stuff. Of course, I'm sure I was sympathetic and had a kindly mind toward Japan. One thing was my father was a soldier, of course, this was the Japanese draft, but he was a soldier.

TI: Did your father ever talk about his service in the Japanese military?

KY: No, I don't remember a thing other than the fact that he said he became bald -- maybe I mentioned earlier -- but became bald because of wearing a steel helmet during the couple of years that he served, drafted.

TI: So the helmet was so rough, or it just would scratch all the hair off his head, is that what he was thinking?

KY: I think it's more of a... suffocated. Suffocated, sweaty, anyway... he was bald, and I'm bald.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Okay, well, this is interesting. So we were talking about, you were, your first field of study was political science, and you're thinking of being a foreign service officer.

KY: Yeah.

TI: So what happened to that, that path? What happened? Why didn't you become a...

KY: Oh, I didn't become a Poly-Sci major because the faculty advisor... his name was Skinner? Anyway, this professor says, "Yamashita, you're a Japanese." "Well, I'm an American citizen, I was born here." I don't think he meant that I was a Japanese national, but anyway, he says, "You're a Japanese. I don't know about that major, mainly because our government, the American government has never had, and I don't think it will ever have," or at least he thinks and he lives and so on, "but we'll never have anybody other than a white American. And you're a Japanese national, minority, in a sense, 'colored,' non-white. Never been an ambassador or a consul. And you won't get very far in the foreign service, so I wouldn't advise that." And that's what really turned me off. Because if that was the case, then why should I stay in this? There's not much future, there's a limit. "You know, you can maybe become an employee of the foreign service, but you wouldn't get where you want." So I said, "Well, I better give this up." So I turned into what they call business administration, economics.

TI: But when this faculty advisor advised you to switch, to switch majors, do you recall how you felt about that? Yeah, how did you feel?

KY: At that time, I don't recall a strong feeling, but I'm sure I felt, "What the heck is he talking about? I'm an American." I don't feel it now, but my feeling must not have been very strong 'cause I don't have any particular reaction. I'm sure at the time I was disappointed and all this. Kind of sad, but America is America.

TI: So you switched majors to business.

KY: Business administration, economics. And I entered majoring in foreign trade.

TI: So what did you do with your Japanese language during this time? Did you continue studying Japanese language, or did you just focus more on business?

KY: In college? I knew that the more Japanese I learned wouldn't hurt because, well, not only my parents, but in some way, I thought I could promote relations between Japan and the U.S. And I guess I could have, I really don't recall how strong it was, but feeling that maybe Buddhism would have Japanese language involved. In other words, the priest as well as the scholars would write in Japanese. So might help me in Buddhism. So I continued that, and I took two years of advanced Japanese language study at the college, and actually, that became one of the important things that happened in my life because I got employed in the following years by a former professor who was teaching this advanced Japanese. He said, "Hey, here's a guy that knows Japanese." But that's a...

TI: Yeah, we'll come to that later.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So you took two years of advanced Japanese.

KY: Yeah, Japanese language.

TI: At the University of Washington.

KY: At the university.

TI: I'm curious, who were your classmates? Were they other Japanese or were they white, or who...

KY: They're... I would say maybe half and half, half Nisei types and half others. I would think something like that, yeah.

TI: The other thing, when you're going to the University of Washington, so you're in Seattle. Did you attend any of the Buddhist churches in Seattle?

KY: I don't recall during those years, going to a Seattle church. No recollection of anything. If I stayed in Seattle, you know where the university is located, I would think I would go to the church but I don't remember going to the church.

TI: Or on weekends, sometimes, would you go back to Auburn?

KY: I believe I went back and tried to help out the farmers. I would think so, yeah.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: And during the summertime, what did you do?

KY: Yes, I worked on the farm. Worked on the farm so that my father and my older brothers would have an extra hand.

TI: Now, you mentioned during the break, we were talking about how in 1940, your father and mother and three younger sisters went to Japan to celebrate the 2600th anniversary of the founding of the Japanese empire. Do you recall that? Do you remember that time period?

KY: I don't remember much about them other than at the time, I don't know if I really spoke to my father much about that. But then I know that the year 1940 was the 2600th anniversary of the founding of the Japanese empire. And Father being an ex-draftee, said, "Hey, I gotta go over there." And the Japanese government was encouraging people from overseas, "Come help us celebrate." So my father, at the time, mother and three sisters went.

TI: But it sounds like your father was very proud of being Japanese.

KY: I believe he was. I believe he was one of these gung ho types, you know.

TI: So I'm going to... so you started the University of Washington in 1938. So 1938, '39, '40, '41, you were almost ready to graduate when December 7, 1941, happened.

KY: Exactly.

TI: You were within months from graduation.

KY: Right.

TI: So let's first talk about that day, Sunday, December 7th. Do you remember that day and what you were doing?

KY: Not that vividly. Not that vividly. At that particular time, end of my... I was living at the Japanese Students Club on campus. Yeah, Japanese Students Club building, in the dorm, I guess. I don't remember too much about the building, exactly where it was, what floor I was living on, I don't know. But I was at the JSC, we used to call it, Japanese Student Club.

TI: But do you recall when you first heard the news about...

KY: Lot of people say that, and they say, "Yeah, I was doing this and I heard the thing and I didn't believe it." I don't remember. Of course, my memory is real bad, especially the last couple of years. My wife keeps telling me, "Hey, your memory is terrible."

TI: No, that's okay.

KY: But even before, I don't think I remembered much about December 7th as such. I knew I was in Seattle, yeah.

TI: Well, yeah, during this time, I was wondering, had your father and mother and sisters, had they returned yet from Japan?

KY: No. What happened was, in 1941, my father had become ill. And he was in Japan and he, what we called inaka, in rural area, that is Kumamoto. And, of course, this is during the war as far as Japan was concerned, so they didn't have much medical help or medicine for the populace, 'cause it went to the military first, priority. But he was, became ill, and as a result of that, they were in Japan, and then in 1941, the U.S. and Japan relations became very strained, and there were very few passenger ships between the two countries. Before they knew it, the war began and they were stranded, stranded in Japan. So had my father and three sisters in Japan at the beginning of the war. So during the war they were there, and we got no word from them, except that my father died two years later. And I learned about it through an International Red Cross postcard. And apparently the postcard made its way from Japan, went to Russia, and then across Europe, and then went to England or someplace. And then it crossed the Atlantic, which was in Allied hands, so went thataway and then came to Tule Lake. Where in the heck did I learn about it? Must not have been Tule Lake, must have been after that. Because this is '43, yeah. Anyway, I learned that my father had died during the war. Found out about it through International Red Cross.

TI: And that had been, what, two years after the war had started, and that was the first word you had about...

KY: Yeah, about my family and about the fact that my father died. Yeah.

TI: And do you recall what your thoughts were when you received that postcard?

KY: No. But I'm sure I had some strong thoughts and so on, but right now I can't say.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Okay, so let's go back. So we're now, the war has started, your parents and your three younger sisters are in Japan, you're almost ready to graduate from the University of Washington. How did the University of Washington handle you and other Japanese American students who were so close to graduation? Were there any ways of, for you to finish courses early or anything like that?

KY: I don't remember any particular decisions except that fact that this was in May, so we got word that we had to evacuate and get out of here. Well, the end of May, and then there'd be graduation for us, but this happened during early May. So I don't remember what four classes or five classes I was taking at the spring term of 1941, or I should say '42. No, '41 when the war started.

TI: Well, actually, by then, May, it'd be May of '42.

KY: Yeah, '42, I don't know exactly what courses except for one. All the other professors said, "Okay, you've done fine work and we'll give you credit for this course," except for one course. I don't remember what that was, maybe labor relations or something. Anyway, this professor says, "You haven't passed your final exam. So you're still an incomplete course here. You haven't earned enough credits, so can't let you graduate." So he says, "Sorry, you're not going to graduate with the June class." And so that was the way it ended at the time. And the professor says, "Well, to give you a chance to get a degree, we'll send you a final exam, written essay type thing, and if you pass that, then we'll let you graduate." I mean, "you'll have enough credits and you can graduate." So I did not graduate as a, month of June, regular graduating class, but I took the final exam in camp, and it must have been Pinedale or maybe Tule Lake. Must have been Pinedale, 'cause this is right after... yeah, Pinedale. Took the final exam in Pinedale and then a few weeks later, I got word that I had passed. So since I did not graduate in June, they considered me August of 1945 graduate. 1940... '5, yeah. '46, 1946.

TI: And so when you completed this final paper, final test, sent it in, he gave you credit.

KY: Yeah.

TI: So how did the University of Washington acknowledge that you were now a graduate?

KY: The only evidence, shall we say, or fundamental proof, I don't know if that's even the right word in the sense that last year, they had this special ceremony for honorary degree, Bachelor of Arts degree, from University of Washington, and this special ceremony in May of last year. So they sent me one of those letters, too, so he said, "Come get your honorary degree." But actually, I had received my degree in August.

TI: So they mailed it to you.

KY: Yeah, they mailed it to me during that period. So a lot of the people attending the university, and I don't know who they actually gave it to, whether the juniors got it, too, I don't really know. But anyway, honorary degree was given to us. And I was very fortunate to have the president of the university, I was seated in the front row in a wheelchair type thing, shook my hand and I received it.

TI: This is the one that was last year at the University of Washington, so President Mark Emmert, I believe.

KY: Emmert, yeah.

TI: Acknowledged you.

KY: Yeah, so that was an honor. Technically I didn't deserve to be in the group, 'cause I had received a formal degree.

TI: So you didn't need the honorary degree, because you had the real degree.

KY: Yeah. I have all of the paraphernalia that goes with it.

TI: So Reverend Yamashita, I won't tell anybody. [Laughs]

KY: Anyway, that's the way it happened, yeah.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Okay, so Reverend Yamashita, we're going to start the second hour. And where we left was we were just about going to talk about Pinedale and Tule Lake. But before we go there, during the break you mentioned your younger sister and the importance of that. And so I want to go back, and we're talking about your younger sister Toshie?

KY: Toshie, yeah.

TI: So can you tell me, earlier you mentioned that she died when she was quite young.

KY: Yeah.

TI: But you said she had an impact. And so I'm trying to understand, how did she have an impact?

KY: Well, she had this impact and it's that she died real young, five years old. And since we lived close to the temple, she used to go to what we called, now we called the Dharma school, but I guess "Sunday school" -- actually, it was held on Saturday -- for kids. And normally the preacher would just give kind of folk tale type things, so anecdotes about Shinran, that sort of thing. And then they pass out candy for attendance, and at the end of the year, they'd get some -- not the year end, but the school year end -- they'd get some stamps, stickers to show how good their attendance was, that kind of thing. So there was nothing serious in these things, in other words, they didn't talk about death or heaven, or, in Jodo Shinshu we call it "Pure Land," and none of that kind of heavy stuff, especially about dying or going into Buddha's land. Anyway, the impact is that she died at the age of five, and at that time, there was an epidemic of, I think it was flu. And kids were dying, people dying, and a bunch of us, all the family members and then a couple of relatives, both relatives, were at her bedside. And the things that I recall is that she asked, "Why are you people here and why are you crying?" And I guess we all kind of mumbled something about, you know, good to see you, and you seem to be in good spirits. It was going on like that, and all of a sudden, she said, "Daddy, I'm going now. Daddy, I'm going now." And my father, being very devout, and a good Pure Land type person, says, "Do you see that road before you, and it stretches onward?" She said, "Yes." He said, "Go straight on that without any fear, go straight on that, and you'll be fine." And she said, "Okay." In those days, the word "okay" just started, is the way I remember. But she said, "Okay," and then she died. So those words, "Daddy, I'm going now." "What's that? Going where?" You've got to remember, this came from the lips of a five-year-old kid. Preacher didn't talk to her about Pure Land or heaven or going to another world to be with Buddha, nothing like that. She said, "I'm going now."

TI: And so when you think about that, what's the impact on you? When you think about, what, your younger, so you were about twelve, you said,

KY: I was twelve at the time, yeah.

TI: She's five. When you think about that, what does that mean to you?

KY: Well, it gave me utmost confidence that it's not... okay, you're living now, when you die, that's it. Nobody ever went to heaven and came back and said, "There's a heaven, look for it, it's beautiful," nothing like that. But here it was, if you're a religious person, you believe in your own particular religion, that there's another world and God or Buddha. Somebody's waiting for you, and it's a wonderful, beautiful world that you never imagined possible, and everything is perfect. No more worries, no more sickness, no more problems. Here was a kid that knew nothing about that, and said she was going to another place. So that, to me, it meant that definitely our lives just don't end here, there's another life. Another life. To me, it means that there's another world, another realm for sure. For sure, now. Not that, "Oh, what are you talking about? There's nothing else. You die and that's it, man. Nobody ever told me that there was a heaven or a hell." Here it was, another realm. She's a kid, now, had nothing, had done very little that's dirty or sordid or a crime, no nothing like that. Little kid, "I'm going now." So to me, Jodo Shinshu believer, teaches me to be confident. There's another world. To me, there's another world of the Buddha. That's what it's like, don't know for sure, 'cause nobody ever went there and came back and said, "This is it," but I believe there is another world. And if I keep on believing what I am doing now, good hands.

TI: Did your, did your father react to those words or this experience? Did you ever, did he say anything?

KY: Other than the fact that he said, "No, just go straight." Because in our religion, we say that there's a straight path directly to the Jodo. So that makes sense to me, and I think that had an impact on me as a religious person, that here's a kid that knows nothing about dying or going to another place, another world, she said, "I'm going now. So why are you people crying? I'm fine. Look."

TI: Thank you for sharing that. That was nice.

KY: Anyway, I believe that that was the, one of the roots for my belief in Buddhism and wanting to promote Buddhism. Because I think it's a great religion.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: So now I want to go back to first, going to Auburn, now to Pinedale. Can you tell me who you went to Pinedale with?

KY: I went to Pinedale with the people that were living in a particular area, and that particular area was Auburn, Washington, people, were sent to Pinedale, California, near Fresno. Of course, we were in the Pacific Northwest, it's wet and cold and those type of weather. Of course, this is May, so it's not too bad this time. Anyway, I went with some relatives in the area, 'cause my folks were in, parents were in Japan, and my two older brothers were in Idaho farming. They had what we call evacuated... actually, after the evacuation order was passed, they went, gone there, so that they went to Idaho because it was just past the line of demarcation or wherever people were forced to be removed.

TI: Do you know where they went in Idaho? Was it like with a friend or relative?

KY: They had some friends. My next brother Masao went first and then Tokio went, the eldest, went to Nampa, Caldwell, that area.

TI: So why didn't you go with them, too?

KY: I guess I could have gone, but they were farming, and I guess I didn't... well, I guess I didn't want to farm. I guess I could have gone there, although I'm not sure, 'cause once the evacuation order got precisely set, I don't know if they allowed people to go to the so-called exempt area or the free area. I really don't know, but I said, "No, I'll go with the relatives."

TI: But how about your older sister, Shizuko? Where did she go?

KY: Oh, she went to Japan. She got married to a Japanese national and went there before the war. She didn't go with the family when they went back.

TI: And so you went with other relatives.

KY: Yeah.

TI: And what relatives were these? Who would they be?

KY: They were cousin types, Miyoshi in Auburn. And, in fact, the eldest son Henry is the one that was at Toshie's bedside. 'Cause I was talking to him, he says, "Yeah, I was there. I'll vouch for that," that she said these words. [Laughs] Yeah. He's still here, he's older than I am.

TI: So you went to the Pinedale center, and then from there you went to Tule Lake?

KY: Tule Lake, right. They sent us all to Tule Lake. Going to Pinedale was an experience, too, in the sense that we were sent there by World War I Pullman cars, these were coal-fired locomotives, and it was smoky, and the windows didn't close right, old cars. Had the curtains drawn, in the daytime, shades down. We went to Pinedale, I don't know how long it took from Auburn to Pinedale.

TI: During this time, do you recall any of your thoughts? I mean, because you were a little bit older, you're essentially a college graduate.

KY: Yeah.

TI: I mean, did you kind of think about what was happening and have any recollections of those thoughts?

KY: I don't know. I probably did have earlier, but don't remember anything about getting angry or, "What's this? I'm a citizen, and yet they're doing this to me." Or like a fellow, not a classmate, but a schoolmate, he was a year older than me, but Gordon Hirabayashi from Auburn, the one that became famous, went to Canada, that one. But I didn't ask. Of course, he had Friends, literally, they were the "Friends," quote, that religion, Friends that said, "Oh, you're an American citizen. Stand up for your rights and go to jail," and he did. They packed him up.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Okay, so let's go to Tule Lake now. Any memories from Tule Lake that stand out?

KY: Tule Lake stand out? Not very much. I was in cost accounting, I think, employed in camp life. I lived in the bachelor's quarters in Ward 7, which was way off in the distance. We called it "Alaska" in camp. I think it was the northwest corner of the camp. Anyway, lived in bachelor quarters there.

TI: Was there anyone that you met at Tule Lake that kind of stood out in your mind?

KY: Not really, except for this incident where there was an army recruiter, military, U.S. Army recruiter came looking for Japanese linguists, because of the big war on with Japan, and they needed Japanese-speaking and Japanese readers of text and letters, and understand Japanese being broadcast or radiocast or whatever. And they needed Japanese linguists. Says, "Hey, I'm looking for, recruiting for Japanese capable young men." And so he gave me some tests and, "Oh, you're the kind we're looking for," told me to join the group. I guess this is the Presidio that became quite famous in MIS, but to join that group. And this was, happened just before. In other words, I could have gone into the, drafted into the army right then. Of course, in camp, there were people that said, "Hey, you're crazy doing that. Considering you're an 'enemy' and you're going to be helping the guy that's calling you an 'enemy'?" Didn't think anything about it, I guess. It was one way to get out of camp. But just before I got drafted and the orders came out for this type of thing, Professor Tatsumi from the University of California, who was a professor of Japanese, and that's the professor that gave me the training in advanced Japanese language. So I took two years of advanced Japanese language from Professor Tatsumi.

TI: So Professor Tatsumi taught you two years at the University of Washington?

KY: Washington.

TI: And then he went to...

KY: And then he went to Colorado University in Boulder, Colorado, and he was the ranking Japanese linguist-type instructor who spoke Japanese, whereas other were Issei, older people, too. But he was the ranking English-speaking type professor. He was the recruiter, I guess, too. And he said, must have said, "Hey, there's a good Japanese studies, language speaking able-type among my students, and that's Yamashita. Get in and recruit him as a teacher." So he was the one that recruited me to come teach at Boulder, Colorado, at the Naval Intelligence Language School.

TI: Now, when you say recruit, did he actually go to Tule Lake to talk with you, or how --

KY: No. That happened by letter, I don't think phone, letter. He didn't come to camp, he wrote a letter.

TI: So you had, in some ways, an option. You could have gone to the...

KY: Yeah, yeah.

TI: ...Army intelligence school, Japanese language, or the Navy. Why did you choose the Navy?

KY: Well, the Navy one, you're a teacher of Japanese language, and you're a U.S. government employee. The other one, you're a draftee, man. [Laughs] Private. So I said, "Oh, heck, I've got a chance to draw a salary and so on, live a safe life, comfortable life." I'd say there's no real choice there.

TI: Okay, so it was kind of an easy choice for you.

KY: Right, easy choice. "Oh, I'm going to Boulder." So that's the way I got to Boulder and the army, maybe they should be glad that I didn't go and raise any trouble for the army. But anyway, I did not get drafted.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So tell me about the Boulder, sort of, the U.S. Navy Japanese language school. What was that like? I mean, how, like start with who were the students at this language school?

KY: Students at this language school for naval officers and marine officers, in other words, connected with the Navy side of things. And, of course, naval intelligence, so get to learn about, I'm sure, naval affairs, maybe little tactical things. Maybe some tactical things that some officers might have done in active duty aboard ships. Anyway, I do not know anything about that in the sense that what we were teaching was basic Japanese language, and did not get into military. As an instructor, now. I'm sure there were some that got these.

TI: Now, when you say "basic Japanese," so did these students come in knowing Japanese, a little Japanese already, or did they have to start from the beginning?

KY: The vast majority, aside from a few that were either born in Japan or had lived in Japan some time and knew some Japanese. The vast majority were, didn't know a thing about it. So there were some very, very smart people that knew Japanese language. In other words, I couldn't teach 'em much myself at my level, but there were others I'm sure that could have taught them.

TI: Well, for the ones who were beginners, and they would go to the school, at the end of their training, how good was their Japanese? What could they do with their Japanese language?

KY: I'm not in a position to say, but I would assume -- since I wasn't involved with the higher grades -- I assume that for one thing, if they were to serve in the occupation forces, they'd know basic Japanese, conversed with them, and read most of the newspapers and some of the letters. But letters mostly were written in cursive Japanese so that it's not as easy to learn as printed Japanese. But I'm sure they'd be able to do that. But most important, I think, in occupied Japan would be the spoken Japanese, speaking with counterparts, Japanese people in the government, and serving as public employees.

TI: For like a typical student, how long would they stay at the Navy language school?

KY: One year.

TI: So it was a real intensive...

KY: Yeah, very intensive. And to begin with, they were very intelligent. They had high IQs, and I think most of 'em were language-oriented. There's people that can absorb this type of thing, whereas other people said, "Oh, language," especially if you had to learn kanji. Kanji's not easy.

TI: Now, were the, so these were naval and marine officers, and they're going off probably in the early part to even fight against the Japanese.

KY: Yeah. Could be fighting, and then later occupation.

TI: But the early part, when they were getting ready to possibly learn the language and then go fight, was there any animosity towards you or the other Niseis or the Japanese national instructors?

KY: I know of no incident, where I personally had no such occasion to hate any student. I think they were all...

TI: Or the other way. Did any students sort of show dislike to the Japanese there?

KY: I can't say that I experienced anything. They might have been, or maybe some of the higher administrative staff of the school could have known of such incidents, but I know of none. Plus, I wasn't at that school that long either, about a year and a half or less than that.

TI: But a few more questions about the school. You mentioned, you were talking about the instructors, and Tatsumi recruited you. But when you were talking about that, you also mentioned that there were some Japanese nationals, Isseis, who were also instructors. Can you give me a rough breakdown, like about how many were Nisei versus Issei?

KY: Boy, I really can't give much with accuracy, but I would reckon less than a quarter were Japanese nationals.

TI: And how about men versus women? Were they all men, or were there some women instructors?

KY: There were some women instructors at the Navy school, some women, Nisei women as far as I can recall.

TI: And in this environment, how much freedom did you and the other instructors have? Were there, like, any restrictions placed upon you in terms of what you could do, where you can go, things like that?

KY: I know of no particular restrictions. You mean in associating with these students?

TI: Yeah, students or maybe even the other instructors. I mean, did the other instructors get together and have parties or go out to dinner, things like that?

KY: There might have been some, but I personally did not experience much of that either. Family, there were a number of families as a group that were in the teaching staff, but I don't know of any particular family that got together or parties. Of course, the bachelor instructors, we went drinking together and so on, but I don't remember a single thing about special drinking or partying, getting together as a group.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Now during this time, did you, how much did you know about the Minnesota army language school, Camp Savage, Snelling? Did you know much about what was happening up there?

KY: Very little knowledge other than hearing about Camp Savage. Snelling to a degree, but I don't know if that came a little later that I learned about that. Savage I heard about, yeah.

TI: And so there was no sharing of, like, curriculum or lessons or anything like that, that they were pretty much kept separate, the two schools?

KY: There could have been, but I'm not sure. Could easily have been from basic stuff, whereas then you'd specialize, you'd get up and get more of this education maybe, dividing into the service army or navy. At the time, there was no Air Force. There could have been, but if you're in administrative staff, you probably know about these things. But it could have been, but I know of none.

TI: When I talk to some of the men who went through the army language school, part of their training was to learn sort of military specific language. And I'm wondering, in a similar way, did the Navy also do that in terms of maybe specific language that maybe a Naval officer might need? Do you recall any of that?

KY: I personally was not involved in teaching any of that. There could have been, very well could have been. I would assume that there would be, but I was not involved and did not get into it. I served on the administrative staff or if I had actually talked with a lot of the instructors, I probably would have learned. But I know of none. I assume that there would be, or there should be. [Laughs]

<End Segment 18> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Well, you mentioned you were here not too long, maybe a year and a half or so. So why did you leave the Boulder school?

KY: It so happened that this was a Navy contract with the University of, they called it Colorado University. Anyway, at this school, it's a Navy program, and they had asked for, they said, "Hey, we have an opportunity for some bachelor teachers to go to New York City to go to Columbia for a special naval intelligence translation project. We're looking for bachelors because bachelors are a lot easier to move than family units with all their baggage and more people, need bachelors." "Oh, I'm a bachelor." Here was a chance to go to the Big Apple, so I raised my hand, and two other volunteers were bachelors and willing to go to New York City and get into a special intelligence project of the Navy at Columbia. "Hey, I'll go." So, "Okay, you're one of 'em." So here I was, had a chance to go to the Big Apple and be associated with Columbia University and the atmosphere and all of that, that was a famous university. So I said, yeah, chance to go to East Coast, not only that, go to Columbia and get into that program there. So I volunteered and went. And that was for about three months in the summer. Must have been '44, I guess.

TI: And who were the students at this Columbia?

KY: This was not a student, teaching thing, it was a special intelligence translation program.

TI: Oh, so you were the actual translator.

KY: Yeah, yeah. We were translator because of our language capability, and they said, "Hey, you bachelors will do fine." [Laughs] I'm sure there were better qualified linguist types, but with our background and they looked at our background, I'm sure, and said, "Hey, you guys will do."

TI: And what kind of translation were you doing?

KY: A special Naval project, intelligence project, and I don't know just how much of this was releaseable info or so on, but it was tactical type thing. Tactical type thing more than as an occupying force after the war. Tactical.

TI: Okay, so lots of documents that you were...

KY: Yeah, looking at and...

TI: ...translating.

KY: Anyway, that didn't last long, roughly three months.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: And so after three months in the Big Apple, New York City, what happened next?

KY: Well, at that time, they said, "Hey, there's a language training type thing going on at Harvard, and it's called the Civil Affairs Language Training Program at Harvard. And you guys' background shows that you're capable, qualified to join this program." So it was a chance to go to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Harvard, of all places. Said, "I'll go." So of the three of us, I was the only one that went to Harvard.

TI: And did the other two return back to Colorado?

KY: I have no idea after that.

TI: Okay, so you went to Harvard --

KY: At the time, I probably knew, but...

TI: And so what was it like at Harvard? So back, now you're a teacher again, you're an instructor.

KY: Teacher again, right. Right.

TI: And so who were your students at Harvard?

KY: Students at Harvard were Navy and Army officers, probably Marines, too. But the intent was that we, the U.S., were very confident that we're gonna win the war and we're gonna occupy Japan. In order to do that, and do it successfully, we need leaders, officers type people that could co-relate and understand the Japanese, work with them, gain their cooperation, confidence, and do a good job in occupied Japan. So, in other words, the general term, civil affairs, all sorts of... and then good for, in other words, general Japanese things, cultural things.

TI: So you were essentially helping to train the leadership of the future occupation force in Japan.

KY: Right, right. In Japan, yeah. That's why it was called general Civil Affairs. So, and we were teaching, as I say, primarily Army, Navy, Marine.

TI: And how long did you do this?

KY: This was for a year.

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<Begin Segment 21>

TI: And during this time, did the war come to an end or was it still going on?

KY: It came to an end. Well, the war ended in August, so that's all, I recall staying in Harvard until the end of the war. And I guess, at that point, the administrators of the school said, "Okay, now it's time to pack your bags and go to Japan, gonna be an occupying force."

TI: Did that include you? I know students they all had to, they were sent to Japan.

KY: Oh, yeah.

TI: How about you? What did you do?

KY: None of, as far as I know, none of us teacher types, employees ever went. I'm not sure, though. I'm not sure. As far as I know, I don't know.

TI: Okay, so the students pack up, they go to Japan, and then the... what did you do next?

KY: Well, my choices were kind of limited 'cause what I did was I started out for Harvard from New York and I had kind of a, quotes, "base" in New York City, so I went back to New York City. And then I said, "Well, here I have no job, and I'll continue my studying and possibly get an M.A. degree at Columbia. So I started school at Columbia, and I was there for a year. And then during that time, I said, well, I didn't get my master's, but this is in '46, so by that time and during that time, I learned about my... I shouldn't say I learned much, but I thought about my mother and sisters in Japan. My father had died during the war. And my sister Harue died during the war, so I had two sisters, one married sister, Shizuko, in Japan, and my mother still living. And this is in postwar Japan, and the country is in economic shambles because of all the bombing that we did, burned out cities. But my folks, my mother that is, and her daughters were living in the inaka, in the rural area, so they didn't suffer from the bombs and so on. But still, times were rough because of the economy and medicine and so on was very limited because the military had taken all of that. And they were in dire straits and suffering, so I said, "Hey, I'm quite sure," well, mentally, more or less, I should go there to Japan and see how I could help them out. Now, in that year, particular year, and in those early years, there were hardly any civilian communication exchanges, passengers and so on. In other words, it's, occupied Japan and the country was in dire straits, and the economy's struggling, everybody's struggling, trying to rebuild. Because most of the cities were all bombed out. And everybody was suffering, particularly those in urban areas. But my mother and her kids were in the inaka, so they weren't really on the point of starvation or anything, but still they were suffering.

So I said, I better get to Japan and see what I can do. And the only way that I can see was if I can get a, there was no civilian jobs to be had or at least I didn't have the necessary technical skills for rebuilding Japan in the technical sense, how to help out with construction or urbanization. So I said, "Hey, I got to look for a job, and the only way is through the government." And, yeah, they were looking for U.S. types to serve in the occupation forces, to help out the military. And they needed a bunch of linguists to help out. So I was one of those civilian types that joined the U.S. government effort to occupy and rebuild Japan. So I got a job with the Army. Army, what they called the Civil Censorship Detachment.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: And when you went to Japan, this is your first time, wasn't it, to Japan? Or had you been there before?

KY: I think it was my first time, yeah. First time.

TI: Do you recall what your thoughts were the first time you saw Japan?

KY: Yeah, I realized how small the country was, in a sense, that you can go the length of the thing by railroad in two days, you've covered north and south. And it was so narrow in the sense that there was no land mass, the continent. And how devastated the country was because of the bombing, fires. So all the urban areas that the railroads passed through would be bombed because they were rail centers. And then to get to inaka, Amakusa, Kyushu, from Tokyo, entire way, that's the central line running the north-south. So these cities that the railroad went through, you could see how devastated it was.

TI: And when you got to Japan, when you saw your mother and your sisters, tell me about that. What was that reunion like when you found them?

KY: Well, we were both overjoyed to see each other, and that we're still surviving, that is. Because two died in Japan. They were happy to see me, very happy. I can't remember any special thing we did or anything, but I had made purchases of things I thought would, they would enjoy. We had privileges with the U.S. military, so we had the post exchanges and we can go and buy some goodies that they thought we'd enjoy, that kind of thing. I remember that. But other than that, I don't remember anything special. I said, "Well, okay, I can see how you are, and this is not the place to stay. So somehow, gotta get you back to the States." So the first chance we got, I bought them ship passages back to the States, and they went to join my brothers in Idaho. So that's the way it was that I was able to help.

TI: And so this was your mother and your two younger sisters.

KY: Yeah.

TI: Your older sister stayed in Japan?

KY: The oldest one got married to a Japanese national, she stayed in Japan, in Yokohama, and the other one died during the war.

TI: Okay. So they returned to the United States, to Idaho.

KY: To Idaho, yeah.

TI: With your older brother. You know, when you first saw them, what changes did you notice in them, like in your mother or your sisters? Was there anything that you noticed that had changed?

KY: Not that I recall. Not that I recall. For one thing, they did not go through the bombing of urban areas, so physically and so on, I don't think they changed.

TI: Earlier we had talked about when you were at Harvard, and probably even Boulder, you were training people who were in leadership positions for the occupation. When you made it to Japan, did you come across any of your former students?

KY: Japan former students? No. Of course, my circle of people that I would meet during travel... of course, I was in, yeah, I was with the occupation forces for a number of years, but surprisingly, no, I don't remember a single student type.

TI: Did you ever hear about former students of the program and what they were doing either in the press or something in terms of their work in Japan?

KY: There were a few, but I don't quite recall the names. There were culturally inclined people that were writers, novelists, journalists, especially those that were either born in Japan or really knew the Japanese. There were a few, but I don't recall the names. And there were some, I'm sure, in the academia. I'm sorry, but I can't give any names.

TI: No, that's okay. I was just...

KY: I'm sure there are... I mean, at the time, yeah, I recognized names that were...

<End Segment 22> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: So let's go back to you. You mentioned, so you're now, I think you called it "civilian censorship" in that area. And where were you based when you did this work?

KY: The work actually was done at the Central Post Office, a huge structure in the middle of Tokyo, Central Post Office where all the mail and electronic... well, telegraph, telegrams and so on. They were looked at, censored for possible anti-Japanese or anti-occupation or something that might really be dangerous or deleterious to the U.S. forces or Japan as a country, be harmful. We were looking for that.

TI: And I'm trying to get a sense, so the war's over. How, I guess, what would be a typical type of message that would be dangerous?

KY: You've got to remember that Russia had entered the war, and they were acting as conquering types, too. And Japan was afraid of Communism, so we were looking for possible Communist activity against the Japanese government, or to disrupt the civil economy, assassination, maybe. So communism was the main thrust, watching out for that.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: Something else that happened about this time, or maybe a little bit later, was there were quite a few Niseis in Tokyo, many of them actually soldiers with the MIS and the occupation forces. And you did something interesting. You became a Jodo Shinshu minister, Buddhist minister during this time. Can you tell me about that, how that came about?

KY: Yes. It's kind of a long story, but this group was called International Buddhists Association, IBA, and it was formed primarily because, among the occupation forces, there were quite a number of Nikkei people, Niseis, at the time, mostly, and some other Japanese-speaking friendly to Japan type people that were interested in Buddhism. Mainly because in Japan up to that particular time period, there's no such thing as Sunday services. Every Sunday, people say, "Okay, better go to church." Nothing like that. Whereas in the U.S., as you know, every Sunday, we go to church. Sunday, church, Sunday, church. But in Japan there was no such, shall we say, habit, custom to do so. All we said was, here's a huge, well, in our sense, a huge number of Nikkei or Buddhism oriented types in the U.S. forces, occupation forces, that don't have a place to go or to observe their religious services. So we said, "Hey, we ought to form a group of Sunday-going religious groups could have services." It so happened that in 1949-'50, there was a ex-BCA minister that was rinban at the Tokyo Tsukiji Hongwanji.

TI: So I should mention, when you say "ex-BCA," ex-Buddhist Church of America.

KY: America.

TI: So he had served time...

KY: He had served a couple of years in California down south. But anyway, his name was Nakagami, Nakagami, Bunyu, I think his first name was, Bunyu Nakagami. Someplace down south in California couple of years. So he knew the custom and what the Nisei type people wanted, Sunday services, Sunday school. Anyway, Sunday services. So I'll give him a chance to have this kind of a place, so here's Tsukiji Hongwanji. It's a big, if you've been there, you know how big it is, but if you don't, well, it's a huge Indian architecture type building.

TI: And this is the one right by the large fish market.

KY: That's right, the world's largest Tsukiji fish market within a block, half a block.

TI: And I walked by it.

KY: And it's close by, and good-sized parking lot for cars and so on. Anyway, they have a huge, main worship hall, and they can put a thousand people in there. I don't know if a thousand means sitting on the floor or chairs, but they seat a thousand people. So it's huge. Anyway, this Rinban Nakagami says, "You can have your services here. Main worship hall." Imagine, that huge place, and here we are, a small group of around fifty, usually, fifty to a hundred using this place, getting a chance to use that place. Plus, (Rev.) Nakagami says, "I'll give you office space," he set up an office for us. And about that time, Reverend Seki, Hozen Seki from New York Buddhist Church, he also came by and he reinforced our desire, 'cause he was in New York, he knew what our needs were, he spoke to Rinban Nakagami. He agreed, "What you're doing is fine." But Reverend Seki wanted us to form a branch of the New York Buddhist... what did they call it? American Buddhist Academy, he's got an organization group in New York. He had that started, so he said, "Say, how about a branch? (Please) form a Tokyo branch of this American Buddhist Academy." But the leaders of our... too closely, I don't remember all of the negative type things that they kind of pointed out, but they said, "No, that's (not) independence, and we'll call it the International Buddhist Association, IBA." So this was an all-volunteer group, and Reverend Seki was one of the helpers in organizing, and we had Reverend... it'll come to me, but a couple of Nisei reverends that were already reverends, and they became the leaders of this group in 1950. And they came back to... oh, yeah, the two Nisei were Reverend Fujimoto, Hogen Fujimoto, BCA, he passed away. He worked with headquarters for a while, but I forget just exactly where. But he and Reverend Takemoto, they were the two that were ministers when we formed this organization, and they were our leaders at the time. And then subsequently, I went to the Tokyo Buddhist Seminary to become ordained. So I and David Iwamoto were both ordained at the same time, and we became the leaders of this group. And later on, there were others that joined the group and then came to the U.S., they were students at Tokyo University or ex-students at Ryukoku University. And there were people like Tai Unno, Tetsu Unno.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: I'm curious, were you ever asked to return to -- because of your English ability -- return to the United States and be a Buddhist minister at one of the churches or betsuins in the United States?

KY: From BCA?

TI: From BCA.

KY: Nobody ever said that, nobody encouraged me, nor was I that eager at the time, because I was a civil service employee. And you retire, you get a nice pension. [Laughs]

TI: So your regular job was still working with the government as a civil service, this is the United States government. And then on, like, weekends, you would...

KY: Weekends you went to Tsukiji Hongwanji, and carried on the weekday services purely on a voluntary basis, no pay involved at all.

TI: So during this time, did you think that you would perhaps live in Japan the rest of your life?

KY: That never came to mind.

TI: You mean you never thought that, thought about it or you didn't think that you would stay in Japan?

KY: I would not in the sense that there's nothing that would hold me there. What happened was that I have two sons, Dennis, who stayed in Seattle, and I had one son in Japan. And I was married before I married my current wife, and she was a daughter of, eldest daughter, no sons in the family, of a temple called Myoenji. And that used to be located in Tsukiji, right near the fish market where you're talking about visiting. And that area, in other words, even before the fish market thing, here was a big main betsuin. Now, a betsuin has sub-temples under it, even over here. But in Tokyo and in Kyoto, if there's a betsuin, then clustered around there are other temples, sub-temples, kind of like spokes running out. And Myoenji was one of those temples. And the head priest of that Myoenji said, "This is no place to be for a temple," once the fish market came. "This is no place for a temple," so he moved the entire temple, moved it since the facilities moved, including the tombstones from the cemetery they had. Moved it all to right near Kawasaki, present. And that's where the eldest daughter of that temple, I married, and she died when she was thirty-nine. And my son then went to take over the temple in the sense that that temple had no sons. And there's a blood connection, you see, to that temple by my son. So my son became the... and he got to be the head priest of that temple. So by the time I left Japan, he was there. So actually, I had no temple or anything. So I had nothing to really hold me back in Japan.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: So let me, let me back up a little bit, so I get all this. So your first wife, about when did you marry her?

KY: Married her in 1953.

TI: Okay, so you married her in 1953, and you had two sons. Dennis, is he your oldest?

KY: Oldest.

TI: And then your second son's name was?

KY: Kenneth.

TI: Kenneth. And Kenneth is the one who stayed in Japan and is running this temple.

KY: This temple, yeah, Myoenji Temple.

TI: Okay, good. And your wife, you said, died when she was thirty-nine?

KY: Yeah, she died here.

TI: And so do you know about what year that was, when she died?

KY: (1969).

TI: Well, that's when you were married.

KY: Oh, married?

TI: You married in 1953...

KY: She died when she was... let me see. She was born in... maybe (1930).

TI: About ('30), okay. And earlier you mentioned that you had thought that you would return to the United States. I'm curious, when you think you're going to return, and you have two boys, when they're ready for school, did you send them to Japanese school or to American school?

KY: I was a member of the U.S. occupation forces, civilian component. And the military had their own school system. And so they went through the occupation forces, military U.S. schools, so they had a curriculum like in the U.S. And my present wife, Marrie, she used to teach in this school system for a couple of years in Japan. I don't know exactly what years they were, but about two years in Japan. That's where the connection came in. [Laughs] Met her back at Berkeley, so...

TI: Okay. So your sons went to this American school run by the occupation initially. And did you work at or did you do anything so that they also learned Japanese? Did they go to, like, Japanese school also, language school?

KY: They did not go to any special schools, special Japanese schools.

TI: And how did they learn how to speak Japanese?

KY: From their parents. I spoke English most of the time, my first wife spoke English and Japanese. And weekends associated with Japanese local people. Plus home study, diligence, I guess, in the language. But my son, our second son, of course, the one who became a preacher, he went through seminary school. But Dennis, I don't know exactly, he's pretty good now. [Laughs] I guess self-study more than anything else.

TI: You mentioned how your first wife died when she was only thirty-nine.

KY: Uh-huh.

TI: What happened? How did she die?

KY: She died of lymph cancer disease.

TI: Oh, like lymphoma or something?

KY: Yeah, yeah. Hodgkins? Anyway, it spread throughout her body, lymph system is all over the body. What they do with radiation, they conquer wherever. But it spread by that time to the lymph nodes. So she suffered a number of years. A number of years, and it seemed like she couldn't conquer it, and it got to her in the end.

TI: And so that was around 1969.

KY: Yeah.

TI: And you're still in the civil service.

KY: Yeah.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: At what point did you retire from the civil service?

KY: I retired in 1982. So I was able to receive a pension annually, monthly they sent me a nice check, so anyway, I was set for a comfortable living. And this was in '82. I said, "Well, I'm going back to the U.S. to become a preacher in BCA. But hadn't been to a Buddhist seminar type thing, seminary type thing for a number of years, I'm gonna go to Kyoto and study." Some graduate school type courses, refresh my memory and so on and so forth, so I went to Kyoto. I did not attend Ryukoku University, had a choice for Ryukoku, oh, they have a special advanced Buddhism type thing in Takatsuki. They call it Gyoshin Kyoko, and Takatsuki is right near Osaka, between Osaka -- anyway, it's in that vicinity of Kyoto, special seminary there. I went there for close to two years and that became 1984. And at that point, then I got this offer to come to the U.S. not as a BCA minister but Mr. Numata for this translation thing. That's how I got involved.

TI: And how did you meet Mr. Numata?

KY: I met Mr. Numata in 1984, early in 1984. One day he called me, maybe it was in '82 that I first met... probably '82 is when I first met Mr., I think it was '82 when I quit the U.S. government service. At that time, yeah, I think it was '82, first time I met Mr. Numata. Mr. Numata is the president of Mitsutoyo precision measuring instruments operation, Mitsutoyo. And they manufactured precision measuring instruments, and the trade name is MTI, Mitsutoyo, MTI. And he says that, when I was going to Kyoto to study, right after I quit the U.S. government work, he called me to his office in downtown Tokyo. "Mr. Yamashita, I want to thank you." "Thank me?" "Yes, I want to thank you because you volunteered to set up this organization of civilian, for civilian workers and so on, and services at the Tsukiji Hongwanji, IBA. It's wonderful, and you did it on a volunteer basis, and I like that spirit. I want to congratulate you and I want to thank you," he said," for doing this job, spreading Buddhism." He seemed to like that, and he thanked me. Of all people that were that were important, and active person like that, he was the only one actually... of course, like the betsuin and the Hongwanji Kyoto, they thanked me for it, too. You know, those certificate type things and (citing things) that he did (...). (But Mr. Numata invited me) to personally come into his office and thank me. Anyway, that was that. And then in 1984, when I was through schooling over there, and about that time he appeared in Kyoto one day suddenly. And from his hotel, he called me at the dormitory where I was staying. You know the Honzan area in the International Center? (Narr. note: The name of the building was "Kokusai Senta.")

TI: Not very well. I've been there a few times, but I don't know that area that well.

KY: Anyway, international house type thing there. Anyway, he called me at the dormitory place where I was staying, and he said, "I want to come and see, talk to you," in the dorm area. I said, "No, no. I'll go to where you are at the hotel." He said, "Okay," he's staying right near the Kyoto station, so I went there, knocked on his door, he was there in one regular room, style room. And he didn't have any help, he was the president of, chairman of a firm that employed I think at the time about thousand people. It wasn't that large, nor was it too small. Anyway, he said, "I'm thinking of, and I'm going to, planning to set up this translation, publishing of the English Tripitaka," that's the Buddhist canon. "Gonna set up an office in Berkeley, and I want you to go over there and set it up." I said, "What, we go to Berkeley?" And set something up. So I've never had an experience like that, and I'm not really academically qualified, 'cause I have no PhD in Buddhism anyway. Said, "No, that doesn't matter. I want you to go over there and set it up." "I don't know what to do." "Nobody else done it, they don't know. Will you do it?" Said, "Well, I sure don't know if I can do it or not." But anyway, "Tanomu," meaning, "I request you," and he goes like this to me -- [bows head] -- and sticks out his hand. And before I could answer much or anything, we didn't discuss any contractual thing or how long, or any real responsibility other than, "Okay, go over there and set it up and publish these things and try to sell 'em." [Laughs] Nobody's done it before. He said, "Well, nobody's done it before, I can't tell you how to do it." Okay, so without a contract, nothing in writing, just all, "Will you do it?" like this. So here's the president go like... we shook hands. And that was that, agreed. Gentleman's agreement. So I said, "Well, since we agreed like that, I better do it." Shortly after that, I packed up and went to Berkeley.

And by that time, he had already bought a house, it's a two and a half story building, wooden structure, but it was a nice, big residential house, formerly owned by a very famous chef, I don't know what they call it, woman, what they call 'em. Anyway, the restaurant is called Chez Panisse, it's a famous restaurant in Berkeley. The owner of that, she owned it. But that thing had turned into a, she had sold it apparently to somebody, a group of people or something, investing it, probably. Anyway, it was up for sale. And you can tell that it was owned by this Chez Panisse woman, I forgot her name now. But it had a huge kitchen, and the table where they prepared the stuff was huge. The table was this, about this long, and it was about this wide where she did her cooking, I mean, dicing up stuff and stuff where you just, hole where you just put in the cuttings and extra things down the thing, and a huge range. Anyway, you can tell that it wasn't an ordinary house before it became a dormitory. Mr. Numata said, "It's walking distance to the university, it's about ten, fifteen minute walk to the university campus." So he said, "Good building, I'm going to buy it and set up this Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. And in the summers I'd like to come here and spend maybe three months of the year and learn something new at the university." And can you imagine, this is a... he was born in 1897, and then he's talking now, in 1984.

TI: So he's eighty-seven years old?

KY: Yeah, and starting something brand new and he says, "I'm going to go over there and do summer studying. I like this school." That's where he got his M.A. degree. Tremendous man. He's an old Japanese national now, not an Issei type person or a Nisei. Anyway, tremendous man. He's the man that says, "Go over there and set it up and do it." So that's how I got to Numata Center. And still engaged in this project, translation and so on.

TI: And so how many years were you active at the Numata Center? So you started like '84, how long did you go?

KY: '84, and I was the president of that until 2002.

TI: Okay, so eighteen more years that you were working.

KY: Yeah, working.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: And it was during kind of this time that you met your second wife, and we talked a little bit earlier, Marrie.

KY: Oh, after I went to Berkeley, that was '84 I went to Berkeley, and a year and a few months later, I got married. "I recognize her." [Laughs]

TI: 'Cause you remembered her from the school back in...

KY: Yeah. She was coming to our IBA, International Buddhist Association services.

TI: I see.

KY: So it was a renewal, meeting of former friends.

TI: And this research center was, focus was the translation of the Buddhist canon.

KY: Canon.

TI: And how far did you get before... or how far are they now? How much more work needs to happen?

KY: The (Taisho) Buddhist canon is 2,000, close to 3,000 texts, sutras and commentaries and so on. And that's in, mostly in the Chinese language. And to translate it all would take many, many decades, many decades. But there's what's called a group of text called the First Series. And this First Series has only 139 out of close to three thousand texts. So there's a tremendous amount of things that's got to be translated. But the first 139 texts were selected by a group of Japanese Buddhist scholars, professors and so on. And this group, at the urging and sponsorship of the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, which is a group formed by Mr. Numata for propagating Buddhism in Japan. Under their sponsorship, they're the ones that selected 139 texts out of the close to (3,000). And, again, this group formed what they called the Editorial Committee for the Tripitaka Translation Project. And they then contracted with roughly a hundred international -- international meaning from different countries -- Buddhist scholars. And they translated it into English, and their work then comes to us and we have it reviewed by all the scholars, then finalized into English, published in English, and then we're in the process of selling it.

TI: Well, so I'm looking at... so Reverend Numata originally sort of financed this to make it happen. But based on his birthday, he must have passed away years ago. And I'm wondering, how is this work now supported?

KY: His work is still supported by the same organization, Mitsutoyo, (maker of) MTI products.

TI: Oh, so he gave instructions for the company still to support...

KY: Right, right. So the sponsorship funding comes from Mitsutoyo, and that's called BDK, meaning, Buddhist Promotion Society in Japan, and they have, they're called BDK America. And that's what sponsors directly in dollars this project.

TI: Okay, good, so I was curious.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: So Reverend Yamashita, we've gone through starting from Auburn, Washington, and your life is just amazing. You've had so many different experiences that you've shared with me this afternoon. Are there any last or reflections or thoughts about your life and what's important? I mean, you've, you've lived such a rich life and seen so many different things. What, in your mind, would you like to end with in terms of any reflections or any thoughts?

KY: I have been most fortunate, very, extremely lucky. And I'm most grateful, most grateful. Not only for this long life, I didn't expect to live to ninety or anything like that, but I'm extremely grateful for this long life, and the opportunity to work for and add even a little bit for the promotion of spreading Buddhist religion, in particular, Jodo Shinshu, Pure Land Sect. I'm most grateful for that, and for all of the circumstances and opportunities, conditions that enabled me to do this. In other words, each person has a karma that allows them to do certain things, and it runs throughout their life. And in mine, I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to do this. I never really, I never really was unemployed in all my life. One thing led to another. Conditions, circumstances, karma enabled me to go through life this way. In relatively good health, I'm doing this at the age of ninety. My doctor was kidding about, "Hey, we got to learn how you live so long." [Laughs] So I said, "I've got a bad heart." "Don't worry, you've been lucky." He didn't say "lucky." "I'd sure like to know so I can tell my other patients how to live to be ninety." [Laughs] Anyway, I am indeed grateful for all of the conditions, circumstances, all the friends, this opportunity. So I'm grateful for the community, all the services, medical, health, all the insurances and benefits and medicine. I'm extremely grateful. So from the bottom of my heart, I consider myself really fortunate. Really fortunate that I've been able to believe in Buddhism, being able to help to promote it, propagate it, and I certainly wish everybody could be able to live the type of life that I've been blessed with, live long life, that is, and in good health. So to live in good health, you've got to observe the healthy methods of living, like always teach, promote, TV and health experts and so on. In other words, don't eat Big Macs and so on, but eat some healthy food. Eat fish like the Japanese do, or Okinawans, the most long-lived people on earth. Anyway, live a life where you could laugh easy. Don't get mad. Be patient. I think that's most important, to be grateful. Grateful that you're living this life and being able to really not worry much. Do your best, live for your fellow men and live in peace, happiness. And don't overwork. Be able to relax and laugh, not monku, monku, monku, complain, complain, complain. It's easy to complain. Easy to see the bad side, negative side. So I say "accentuate the positive," the good things. Be grateful what's happening to you.

TI: Very good. Well, thank you so much for spending the afternoon with us to share your story.

KY: Oh, you're most welcome. If my life could help others understand and appreciate their own life, I'd be extremely grateful.

TI: Very good. Thank you.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright (c) 2009 Densho. All Rights Reserved.