Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jim Matsuoka Interview
Narrator: Jim Matsuoka
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: May 24, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-mjim-01-0025

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MN: You shared -- I don't know if you want to share the story, but who was "Kibei George"?

JM: [Laughs] Kibei George was, again, this friend of mine used to hang around in J-town. I didn't like that, 'cause I didn't want to hang out in these bars, 'cause I didn't like beer, and... man, them women were old. They were like retreads. Goodness. I should have had more empathy for them, but what can I say? But my friend used to like to go down there and drink, and we ran into this guy, and I called him the, sort of like the "King of the Kibeis" at the time. His name was Seri, Serizawa. If you weren't welcome in there, you would know it. 'Cause they had enough tough guys among the Kibeis and the expats, the people that got, they ran out of Tokyo. These guys were, they can hold their own. So whenever we went in there, Seri would always come over and say, "How are you? Hello, hello," and talk to us. As we sat there, he'd send over a couple of complimentary beers, so everybody knew that we were welcome, we're not to be screwed around with. And I think as an offshoot of that, there was this dealer in the Miyako Hotel. At that time, it wasn't the Kajima building, it was the Miyako Hotel, this old relic leftover. And he was the local dealer, and what I remember, I don't think he was dealing heroin, but he was selling weed. And the weed I'm talking about is very mild. Some of the stuff they today like Maui Wowie, Pakalolo and all those other stuff that they, I don't know what they called them now, are very strong. The stuff we had was very mild. And then you couldn't get an awful lot of the stuff, you know. They were just smoking these little tiny roaches and they were disgusting. "Man, I don't want to put my lips on that little thing you got there." But anyway, it was so scarce to get any of it. It was like a, I don't know, like looking for gold.

Anyway, apparently we probably got turned on to Kibei George probably from Seri. So we went up there, and apparently something had happened between my friend and him, and he had shined us on and said he didn't have anything when apparently he did. So my friend was curious saying, "He dissed us, and he's not going to get away with that." And I said, "Oh, come on." He said, "Well, come on up there with me." And I said, "What are you gonna do?" "I just wanted to get it straight with him, I'm going to talk to him and straighten this out." I'm glad to get out of the bar anyway, I don't want to be in the bar. "So let's get out of here and let's go upstairs." So we go up there to the fifth floor, and I'm like, "Well, yeah, go talk to him. I'll wait by the elevator. I don't want to talk to him, you settle what you have to do." So we looked down the hallway and I see my friend disappear, and all of a sudden I hear, "Boom, bang, boom, bang." And I ran over there and they're going at it. This guy has my friend in a headlock, and another fellow, I think somebody from Japan, well, he's terrified. I mean, I guess he was sleeping, 'cause he was in his shorts. And he was like... but he held a knife his hand. He had the knife. He's like, he's pinned against the wall, and he's got this huge knife. I'm looking at him, and then I, I see my friend, you know, who's in this headlock. So I said, "Oh, man, this has got to stop." And I'm keeping my one eye on this guy, 'cause if he moves toward me I got to jump back. And so I whacked at, I whacked Kibei George a couple of times in the head, "Wham, bam." That's when I knew I wasn't much of a fighter. If I was any good, I'd have knocked him out. I think I bounced off of his... so anyway, that staggered him anyway. So I pulled my friend out and I drug him out of there. And we went over to the elevator and my hand began to swell. I said, "Oh, god, what the hell did you do?" He says, "Oh, man, he was dissing me." I said, "Well, what the heck? Let's get the hell out of here." So that's the story of Kibei George.

But we, later on, my friend was still looking for the guy and he borrowed my rifle. We went home that night and he borrowed my rifle and he says, "I want to go rabbit hunting." I said, "Oh, okay." I was in such pain, said, "Oh, man, who am I gonna call to see about my hand?" And then the lightbulbs went off in my head. I just loaned this guy a rifle and I don't know where he's going. So I just jumped back into my car and I went back to Little Tokyo, and said, "I don't want to think it, I want to believe my friend took it home to go rabbit hunting." But sure enough, when I drove around and I looked in the (parking lot), pay phone over there, my friend's on the phone. In that parking lot over by the, it used to be the New York Hotel. It's the 3-2-1 Building right now, there's a hotel on there. And he's got this rifle and he's trying to talk Kibei George into coming down. I just rushed over there I just, "Give me my rifle back." I said, "That's all I need from you," and I just took it back and drove out of there. When Kibei George heard about all that, that's the last we heard of him. He took off somewhere. I don't blame him. That's the story of Kibei George. And I don't know whether my finger was broken or not, but so ended my fighting career. I just got other guys to do it. [Laughs]

MN: Okay --

JM: That was my same friend that kept saying, "People are staring at me." He had a, he had this thing. He got in a fight at Roosevelt High School. The day before, we were working on some things, 'cause we were in many ways very normal. We'd go fishing, hunting, so we went, we'd go fish, I'd do surf fishing, things like that. And (he made) this sort of like hook, sort of like the thing that we used to cut up bait and things like that. Then this fellow, he wrapped it around and made this little funny-looking contraption, you know, some little carving knives. So he made that, and I assume he was gonna use it for fishing. Next thing I heard, I said, "Oh, you know your friend so-and-so got in a fight at Roosevelt High School." Said, "Oh, is that right?" "Yeah, and he slashed somebody in the face." I said, I'm thinking, "Oh, yeah? And I think I know what he used, too. I know exactly what he did. He was the guy that also got his head broken up.

MN: But he lived.

JM: He lived, yeah, because... and the reason he got his head busted open, 'cause he wouldn't wait for the rest of the cars. 'Cause we got separated going down into... you know, because stoplights, you can't run 'em, there was about three or four cars we had there. And he got there early, and instead of waiting for everybody, I think he was with the Chinatown guys, he just went berserk. He says, "What are we in the car for? Just go out there." And the Chinatown guys said, "No, no, no. They're smart, wait for it." But, and he jumped out and apparently he told everybody, says, "I'm gonna show you how a Jap really fights." Next thing you know, somebody whacked him. It was the same guy. I ran into a lot of interesting people. [Laughs]

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.