Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ryo Imamura Interview
Narrator: Ryo Imamura
Interviewers: Stephen Fugita (primary), Erin Kimura (secondary)
Location: Olympia, Washington
Date: August 3, 1999
Densho ID: denshovh-iryo-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

Erin Kimura: Today is August 3rd, and we're doing a Densho interview with Ryo Imamura and I'm Erin Kimura and our primary interviewer is Steve Fugita.

Stephen Fugita: Okay. I'd like to start, Ryo, with a question about where you grew up and what your, where you were born, and kind of your family background.

Ryo I.: Okay. Let's see if I remember that far back. [Laughs] I was born in the Gila relocation camp, camp number two. This is in Arizona. This is on, well for a long time I thought it was April 29, 1944. That's the former emperor's birthday. I think they thought it'd be convenient to say I was born that day too. So I went with that for most of my life, and found out about eight years ago that it was actually the twenty-eighth, the day before. So all my records are kinda split between those two dates. But I think it's April 28, 1944. And, 'course I didn't stay there very long. The war ended soon after that. And my parents, Reverend Kanmo Imamura and his wife Jane, they were worried about where all the displaced Nikkei were going to go after the war, especially those returning to California. And so they, with two other priests, opened up a hostel at the Senshin Buddhist Temple, in, near Watts in Los Angeles. So this is where I spent another year and a half or so of my early childhood. And then we returned to Berkeley, California, where my father was still the resident minister there at the Buddhist temple. I think he had started there right before the war, around 1939. And like all the temples, they were a kinda like repositories for the belongings of people that were taken off to camp. Of course this is where they came back to after the war 'cause they didn't have homes any more. So I think they did the same thing up in Berkeley for people coming back, until they were resettled. And so it's a big part of my early life was living with a lot of, lot of different Japanese Americans who I didn't really know, who just stayed for varying lengths of time. And always seeing my parents running off and serving others, so really had to learn to entertain ourselves -- by ourselves, I mean my three sisters and me. And so I was raised in Berkeley mainly. And the early part of my childhood from about three, oh, until about fifteen or so was spent inside the -- at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple where my father was the priest. I keep using priest or minister -- interchangeable here. I'm not sure... is that what you're asking?

SF: Yeah.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1999 Densho. All Rights Reserved.