Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hitoshi "Hank" Naito Interview
Narrator: Hitoshi "Hank" Naito
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: June 11, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-nhitoshi-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so the way I start this, Hank, is just the date and where we are, so today's Friday, June 11, 2010. We're in Honolulu at the Ala Moana Hotel. On camera is Dana Hoshide, and I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda. And so we have an interview with, with Hank Naito, but... so the first question, Hank, and actually I asked you before the, we started, but tell me where and when you were born.

HN: San Diego, California, April 20, 1926.

TI: And what part of San Diego?

HN: Well, my father, at the time, was in, he was a fisherman, so... I forgot the name of the street, but it was on the water, near the waterfront area, downtown.

TI: And when you were born what was the name given to you at birth?

HN: Apparently Hitoshi Naito. I asked my parents, "How come my English name is missing?" because my two other siblings, my older brother and younger, they have the English name... Paul Akira Naito, and my younger brother was John Isamu Naito. So I asked my parents, "How come?" They said, "We were really busy at the time." [Laughs]

TI: So they didn't pick a middle name for you. No, that's funny. But later on you got an American name, and that's Hank.

HN: Well, all my friends, yeah.

TI: So why don't you tell me, how did "Hank" come about?

HN: When I was young boy, went to, we used to play baseball, softball in particular, and I used to, I don't know why, but I used to hit home runs quite often, so other guy says, "Well, you're like Hank Greenberg," playing for the Detroit Tigers. They said, "Okay, we'll call you Hank," and it was almost seventy years ago.

TI: Now were these, when you say friends, were these Japanese friends?

HN: Yeah, Japanese friends. Yeah, living in Terminal Island there.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: You mentioned your father earlier. Tell me a little bit about your father. What was your father's name?

HN: My father's name is Yasutaro Naito.

TI: And where in Japan did he come from?

HN: Kambara-cho, (Shizuoka-ken).

TI: Okay, and do you know anything about the family, in terms of what kind of work they did?

HN: Oh yeah, my, okay, my parents' side, my father's side came... my grandfather on my father's side, the real name, their original name was Seki. And because my grandfather was from the Seki family, who owns a big brewery, sake, you know, brewery company in Japan, in Kambara-cho, Shizuoka, and... owning a sake brewery, factory, you need to own a big piece of land for raising rice and so forth, and that family was probably the biggest landowner for Kambara-cho. And my grandfather was about the third son of the family, so, in olden days Japan, the eldest son always take over the family business, so the other sons get part of that, of the assets and they go out and start their own family. My grandfather didn't like what he received from the family, so he told the family, he said, "If you're gonna treat me like this, I quit." Then he adopted the name of Naito, who, which came from my maternal side, my grandmother's side. Grandmother's side was Naito.

TI: Interesting, so he did this on his own.

HN: Yeah, he did this on his own. Crazy guy, I don't know why. [Laughs] And maybe then I got some of that from him.

TI: So he's a very proud person.

HN: Yeah, oh, yeah.

TI: And even standing up to his father, which was a very wealthy landowner, rather than be adopted from the family, he adopted another name.

HN: Yeah, another name, yeah..

TI: Interesting.

HN: Interesting, yeah. Maybe because my grandmother's side, at that time -- this was in eighteen, eighteen-something, maybe '70s, '60s -- at the time, my grandmother's side was a lumber company, and then they, they used to call it the chouja banzuke, it's the list of millionaire in Japan at the time, and that family, they were on that list during the time. So my grandfather, or my father always says, "We discarded Seki's name, but Naito is a good name," and he used to tell us about that. And it is. When I went to Japan, we checked our family background and that story's authentic.

TI: So you can, because they were fairly wealthy, there's a well-established family registry, generations and generations back.

HN: Yes, right.

TI: Okay, so that was your father's side.

HN: Yeah, my grandfather, my father's side.

TI: And your father... so how many siblings did your father have?

HN: My father? One brother and one sister, as far as I can remember.

TI: In birth order, where was he?

HN: The younger brother was in the U.S., too. He, my father called him over from, when he was in San Diego, my father brought him over. This must have been how he got here.

TI: So your father was the eldest son?

HN: Yes, the elder son for that Naito family.

TI: So why, and given that there was probably some land involved...

HN: Yeah, there was, when my father came over from Japan, that was a time when the Russian-Japanese War started.


TI: So he was essentially avoiding conscription?

HN: Yeah, conscription. Yeah, I think so. (It was not the only reason).

TI: Into the military. So that's how he got to... and so he came to the United States, ended up in San Diego. Why San Diego?

HN: As far as I can remember, they, I really didn't go into too much, but I know they were talking about living in Bay Area first. Then they went down to Imperial Valley. That's where... them days, the Japanese farmers were developing the area. He got down there, then -- he was not a farmer from Japan. He was more or less a business type, so he, I don't know how he got it, but he got a franchise for the beer distributing. It was Budweiser. He was saying "Meyer," so I looked it up. And it was, you know, Budweiser is Meyer's. Meyer's is a Budweiser... so he got that, and the beer distributing franchise, and was distributing beer all around the Japanese farming ranches and so forth. Then we, then his eldest son... well, my mother got pregnant. Then, in those days, Imperial Valley is a very hot area, and summertime it goes over hundred degrees, and so my father was concerned about a baby being born in a hot area, you know, and not able to survive and so forth. So they searched around and they found the Japanese community in San Diego, so he moved over to San Diego and a cooler climate. That's the story I got from my parents.

TI: That's good. So he started off in the Bay Area, went down to Imperial Valley, tried his hand at farming, realized that wasn't for him, became a beer distributor, and then when his wife got pregnant, your mom got pregnant, then decided to go to San Diego.

HN: Yeah, San Diego.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So you mentioned your mother. Let's talk about your mother a little bit. So what was her name?

HN: Kimi. Her maiden name was Kimi Oishi.

TI: And where in Japan...

HN: In Kambara, Japan. She was born in Kambara.

TI: And tell me a little bit about her family. What...

HN: Okay, let's see. Her father's side came from the town, Akabane suburb of Tokyo. When I went to Japan, met my uncle and cousin at the time. They were telling me the family has a history in the town by something like six, seven hundred years, and they took us to the Buddhist temple. In those old days, the only good records were maintained by the Buddhist temple, family by family. They called it family register. And we did find the family something like almost seven hundred years -- this happened when I was researching about fifty years ago, so it's about... they were telling me at the time it was six-hundred-seventy years, so it's seven hundred years by now. So that family came from Kamakura. When the Kamakura Shogun regime dispersed, they were taken over by some other, so the whole people disperse all around Tokyo and so forth. And that, so we know their family came from the Kamakura Shogun lineage, and the record on the Buddhist temple is there. We checked it out. And so if you go to that town Akabane, the name Ito is prevalent, because of that, you know. I guess that wasn't the only family, but that group, family, went, settled there and then they spread the name Ito.

TI: Okay, and that... so your grandfather's name...

HN: Yes, is Ito. On my maternal side.

TI: So a long lineage of --

HN: Yeah, right.

TI: And were they of the noble class?

HN: Yeah, noble class. Well, samurai, I mean, not the nobles, but samurai class.

TI: Good, okay. And so your mother... and so how did your father and mother meet?

HN: My father came to the States during the Russian-Japanese War. Then he was single and went back to Japan, and when he went back to Japan, maybe ten years later, then it was one of these meeting, you know, where they bride and the groom met at the family gathering, I guess. They called it omiai and they arranged it --

TI: Arranged a marriage.

HN: Arranged marriage, yeah.

TI: And before we move on to your siblings, tell me a little bit about your father. What was he like personality-wise?

HN: He was a very mild guy, but stubborn. And he --

TI: And how about -- go ahead.

HN: And he was, as I say, he was very mild, never raised his voice, you know.

TI: And your mother, what was she like?

HN: Oh, she was very active and very positive person, in her way of thinking.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So you mentioned how, when she was pregnant with her first child, they went from the Imperial Valley to San Diego. So let's talk about your siblings.

HN: Siblings. My, that older, oldest one, unluckily, passed away about ten days after the birth. And that was the thing they were trying to avoid, but it happens.

TI: Okay, so the first one, so it didn't live. And then after that, what happened?

HN: After that my, another, Paul Naito, he was born in 1923. Three years older, so I guess it's, it was 1923.

TI: Okay, so you were the second?

HN: Yeah, second.

TI: Okay, so Paul, then Hank Hitoshi,1926. And after you?

HN: It was John.

TI: John.

HN: And John, when was he born? I think it was 1930, '30 or '31. Maybe later.

TI: About four or five years younger.

HN: Yeah, four maybe.

TI: Okay, good. And you mentioned you were born in San Diego. How long did you live in San Diego?

HN: I was born, and by the time I realized where I was, I was in Terminal Island. So it was, we must have moved in my early childhood.

TI: So really no memories of San Diego.

HN: No memory. If I really think back, look at some of the pictures, I used to remember vaguely, but that's gone. Now I can't pinpoint it. We lost a lot of family pictures, albums and so forth, because of the incarceration.

TI: Okay, that's fine. Let's talk about Terminal Island. You mentioned your father went to San Diego, did he start fishing then, in San Diego?

HN: Yes, he started fishing in San Diego. Because he knew friends from the Shizuoka -- he's from Shizuoka prefecture and there were some people, Shizuoka prefecture, who was in the fishing industry, and I think that's where, how he got it started.

TI: And in San Diego did he, at that point, did he own his own boat?

HN: That I don't know. I don't remember, but in Terminal Island he owned his own boat. It was a small boat, but, you know...

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So, let's move to Terminal Island. So what are some of the early childhood memories of Terminal Island?

HN: Well, it was a colony of Japanese and Japanese Americans, and many of the people came from Wakayama prefecture. Wakayama, I guess, it's a prefecture surrounded by ocean, so I guess there are a lot of fishermen. It's a peninsula, you know where I'm talking about?

TI: And so... I've interviewed other people about Terminal Island, but I want to get your perspective. So, like growing up, in terms of, what language did you speak growing up as a child?

HN: Half Japanese, half English. Terminal Island, the kids, they spoke Japanese in home and went to school in English school, and then we get together and we talk half Japanese, half English, and it's a unique kind of language in half, mixed language, Japanese, English put together and communicated. So it was that kind of, you know... (Narr. note: Terminal Island was a microcosm of the larger Japanese American community in Hawaii at that era. They also spoke pidgin and went to Japanese school.)

TI: No, I heard about, I mean, I actually hear about other people talking about the Terminal Islanders, that they almost had their own dialect, or their own way of speaking.

HN: Yeah, I think so, (spoke pidgin). It seemed that way. I never realized it until I got out of Terminal Island.

TI: Well, that's what I wanted to ask you, so when you left Terminal Island, did how you speak seem odd to other people?

HN: Yeah, but by the time I left Terminal Island, I was in my ninth grade in junior high school, so it wasn't that odd.

TI: 'Cause you would just speak English.

HN: Yeah, right.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: So going back to Terminal Island, what are some other, like, memories? If you talked about some strong memories --

HN: Well, Terminal Island, they maintained the Japanese culture very much, like Obon, you know, odori, the Bon festival and they had the odori dancing. They used to have that every year. Obon and other... how many, how many of those did they have? Anyway, they, every occasion, they had those.

TI: Well, when you think of Obon, so that's a Buddhist --

HN: Buddhist, yes.

TI: Now, were you raised Buddhist?

HN: I guess. We were... my family never took me to Buddhist, Buddhist church, but we maintained, the family maintained it and the Buddhist books and all this, the, what do you call it? There was a...

TI: The butsudan?

HN: A butsudan, yeah. All that. So I assume the family was Buddhist.

TI: And I guess what I was trying to get a sense of was, so like Obon, was that more of a community-wide...

HN: Yes, it was community-wide.

TI: And so even, there might be Christians there, they would still participate.

HN: Yeah, right. It seemed like the Terminal Islander, they were a mix. A lot of 'em were both, Christian and, you know, these people who follow the Buddhist teaching or the Buddhist practice. They'd go to Christian, used to go to Christian church, and my mother was that way, too. She was, sometimes, she wasn't that religious, but I guess her friend must have talked her into going to Christian church.

TI: Well, so for something like Obon, would things sort of come to a focus on the festival because -- like fishermen, would they still do their normal fishing that day and do everything, or would it change?

HN: They, it appears like they must have took a holiday, because there were so many people out there.

TI: So describe that. Where at Terminal Island would they have it and what, what was it like?

HN: Well, there was a certain area around the center of the Terminal Island where they had the school and they had this big, about half a mile long, circular type garden type area, and the street used to surround that circle. And they did Obon dancing around that.

TI: So all the way around that, that whole park.

HN: Yes, yes, right. It was not a half a mile continuous, but they went around it.

TI: So it sounds like hundreds or maybe even a thousand people were watching it?

HN: Were watching it, yes. Right.

TI: And how does the Obon back then compare with the festivals today? So I know they look like --

HN: The festivals today, I don't even, I don't even participate. You know, eighty-four, I don't know what they're doing. I see that in the paper.

TI: But, well, so today people are dressed up, you know, lanterns, lots of food booths

HN: Yeah, they do, they used to do it. It was similar, very similar.

TU: The odori music, the dancing. And they dance in a circle.

HN: Yes, right. Very similar.

TI: In a line, dancing, okay. What are some other kind of memories of Terminal Island growing up? Like your friends, I mean, what kind of activities did you and your friends do?

HN: Like any other kids, whenever we get out of school, instead of studying we put the book under the desk and went out and played baseball and football, whatever the season, you know.

TI: Well, how about Japanese language school? After regular school did you have to go to Japanese?

HN: Oh, yeah, we went to Japanese language school.

TI: And was this, like, after regular school?

HN: Yeah, right. You'd spend a couple of hours, I guess.

TI: And tell me about that. How'd you like Japanese language school?

HN: I wasn't too keen about it, but we have to go. [Laughs]

TI: What was the difference between your English or American school and Japanese school? How would you compare the two?

HN: You mean the emphasis placed on...

TI: Yeah, the emphasis, or maybe how it was taught. Was one more strict than the other? Was, you know...

HN: Well, the Japanese school was much stricter, yeah. And the American school was much... open. We used to talk to the teacher and teacher used to -- well, they used to, well, we used to get spanking a few times, but still, you know...

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: Now how frequently did you get off the island? So growing up as a child, did you go to, like, into Little Tokyo, like Los Angeles and other places like that?

HN: Yeah, it was a quite a distance in them days to have to go to Los Angeles. We couldn't, well, our parents had to take us there, so it wasn't that often. Maybe, maybe four or five times a year, going to Los Angeles.

TI: And what would be the occasion for you to go to Los Angeles?

HN: I remember a few times when relatives or friends were getting married. They had the wedding receptions and all that in Little Tokyo, so we used to, on those occasion, I remember, went to Little Tokyo.

TI: And how would you compare Terminal Island with Little Tokyo? What were the differences between those two communities?

HN: I thought the area was a place where they, and then there's nothing but concrete street and stores right next to each other, and those are the only memory I got. And one time when we went out my family was having a dinner at a Chinese restaurant, and my father was joined by a friend and they were talking and we were sitting, and I happened to sit on the end, so I sneaked off and I said, "Let me take a look at the outside." So I went to the door and it seemed interesting, so I pulled, I went out there and found the store and I was watching the, all go by, and a policeman came over, said, "What are you doing, kid?" [Laughs] I said, "Watching." "Where are you from?" I told him I'm from Terminal Island. "What? Terminal Island and you're here?" And I said, "No, no, my people, my dad is in there," so he took me in and found my dad, said, "You better watch the kid, because..." That's the thing I remember about Little Tokyo.

TI: Oh, so it's kind of like, where if you're on Terminal Island, for you to kind of go off and be on your own would be fine, but in the city, if you were alone then it was noticed.

HN: Yes, right.

TI: Interesting. Okay, good. Anything else about Terminal Island before we move on to the war? I'm trying to think, anything else that we want to talk about. Like, so school, how old, how far did you go before... so you're about fifteen when the war broke...

HN: Yeah, so I'm, as far as Japanese school is concerned, I must have been taking equivalent in, probably, fifth grade. And, as far as English, American school, I was, I was in ninth grade.

TI: Yeah, so middle school, or junior high school.

HN: Junior high school, yeah. In Los Angeles it was a three, three, six -- no, no, no, six, three, three. Grammar school from up to sixth grade --

TI: And grammar school was on Terminal Island?

HN: Yes, on Terminal Island.

TI: Was, and junior high school was...

HN: Junior high school was on San Pedro, across the ferry.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Okay, so let's move on, so let's talk about December 7, 1941. Tell me what happened on that day for you.

HN: Well, I, the only thing I remember is -- I don't know whether it was December 7th or next day -- my father was apprehended by the FBI... and I didn't know, we didn't know at the time, he was taken to some place, and that's the thing I remember. It was either December 7th or December 8th.

TI: And at this point he was a fisherman and he owned a boat.

HN: Yeah, he owned a boat.

TI: And my understanding was it was pretty common for all the Isseis who were fishermen and owned boats to be picked up.

HN: Yeah, right. Yes. That was the reason, I suspect, he was picked up.

TI: And so, for the community that was, like, a lot of men.

HN: Oh yeah. Yes. Either the father or the, the husbands, so forth, were picked up.

TI: What was the impact on your family?

HN: We were at loss as to what to do, because the leadership was just taken, and so it was basically younger Nisei and mothers and their children.

TI: Like, for instance, your mother, do you remember any, any kind of reaction, or do you remember how she reacted when he was taken?

HN: She, she didn't act too emotional, I think because she was, everyone was taken aback by, all of a sudden, December 7th and next day all the husbands and fathers were taken away. But she was able to manage the family affair.

TI: Now your, your older brother Paul, was he still in high school, or, yeah, high school?

HN: Yeah, high school, right.

TI: Do you remember him doing anything or saying anything during this time period?

HN: We were taken aback. "Gee," you know, "What gonna happen?" We're saying, "What gonna happen?"

TI: So what did happen? So your father's taken away, so what, what...

HN: Taken away. And a few weeks later -- we had a friend in Los Angeles, a family friend -- she came over and convinced my mother, said without husband or a father, all the community is at loss. So she said, "Why don't you come over and live with us until this thing settles down?" So we moved out to her home, house. And two weeks later after we moved, maybe a little more, but anyway, a few, soon thereafter there was that expulsion order of forty-eight hours to get out of Terminal Island for all the people living on Terminal Island, Japanese Americans living in Terminal Island. And we had friends there. We heard of their hardship. You know, no husband, no father around, and many of the family, the younger family, just baby, a lot of 'em had babies, just small kids, and to be ordered to be expelled by their government in forty-eight hours, and government didn't give them any place for a retreat. Normally, if government said, "Okay, we want to get out of here, but here's a place where we want you to go." That didn't happen. It was inhumane, inhumane act.

TI: 'Cause they were just expelled and left on their own.

HN: Expelled, yeah, left on their own.

TI: Well, in your case, or your family's case...

HN: In our case we escaped trauma.

TI: So your, it was fortunate that you had this friend.

HN: Yeah, we were, but our friends were all involved in that.

TI: Now when they had the, that order for Terminal Island, how did you hear about, you said you had friends there...

HN: Yeah, friends there. We heard when they moved on, they contacted us, what's happening, you know.

TI: And so where did some of your friends end up?

HN: The nearby Japanese American community, like Torrance, Gardena, all around there, heard about it and the family opened up their home to them. Oh, and the community church, Buddhist church, they opened that up, too, and that's how they survived.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Okay, so let's talk about, so all of a sudden Terminal Island is off limits, what happened to things like your father's boat?

HN: My father was a, had a good friend -- Italian, Italian guy -- who had a, who was a distributor of the fish, fish distributor, my father came in from the fishing trip, he'd go over to his market and unload the fish, and so they got to be good friends. And so my father got a hold of him and asked him to take control of the boat.

TI: When you say take control, what is take control?

HN: Oh, I mean watch and if possible sell the boat.

TI: Okay, but then when the government expelled people, my understanding is they took control of the boats, too, that were at Terminal Island, so was your dad's boat outside of that?

HN: That I don't know. We were already out of Terminal Island, but when we left Terminal Island it was not under the government control.

TI: But it sounds like this Italian friend was able to maybe either hold the boat or sell the boat.

HN: Yeah, sell it. He sold the boat, but he looked and says, "This is not the price that you should, it should not be sold," but the people, the market know that we were in, Japanese couldn't do anything, you know, so they really brought that price down. The boat probably was going for, when they were before incarceration, probably five thousand dollars, and he only got something like six hundred dollars for it.

TI: I'm curious, you mentioned an Italian friend, was this Italian an Italian immigrant? Or was it more --

HN: I think he was Italian immigrant, yeah.

TI: Which is ironic because we were also at war with Italy, also.

HN: Yeah, right, but Italians, as you know, many Italians and Germans, Americans, said, "We were treated the same." No, it was different. The Japanese American were incarcerated and treated completely, the whole community was treated as an "enemy alien." The Italians and Germans, they were selective, and the people who had strong connection with Germany, people who had strong connection with Italy were taken in by the FBI, but they were, they had the due process. They went through the hearing, you know. And some of 'em just released and some were put into... and that's entirely different from the Japanese Americans. They wholesale, everything. So that's the, so I try to explain that in Bismarck, and they said, "The people who were involved, yes, but the whole community, no." There's a difference.

TI: Well, what's interesting, too, is, was Terminal Island was targeted first because of the boats and the fishermen --

HN: Right, yes.

TI: -- but here you had an Italian, possibly immigrant, with access to the boats, and you would, you would think that there might've been restrictions placed on him if the government really was worried about security issues. You know, these people with access to boats.

HN: Yeah, I know. No, they weren't. The whole thing, as you know, it was racial and prejudiced and politic. Political shenanigans, and that's what it was. You read the history about -- I've been doing a lot of reading on this -- and it's Roosevelt really that had a, something against the Japanese. He didn't treat the Germans like they treated the Japanese Americans.

TI: Let's go back to your story, and we'll, at the end I'll ask you more about the politics and things. So you're with a friend who got you out of Terminal Island, what part of L.A.?

HN: West L.A. It's, where was it about now? It's around 37th and Normandy. I remember the junction. It was a few blocks on, don't know exactly what block.

TI: Now were there very many Japanese in this community?

HN: Not too many, but there were... I remember a Japanese grocery store, few blocks down, the store, but I didn't see too many Japanese family. Few.

TI: And what was the reaction of others towards, towards you and your family? Terminal Islanders, so they must have...

HN: No, there wasn't any reaction. No, there wasn't. But at the school, junior high school was Foshay Junior High School, the Korean Americans, the Chinese Americans had a big sign on their back, saying, "I'm not a Jap, I'm a Korean," and I was taken aback. "What the hell?" [Laughs]

TI: What was the name of the school, junior...

HN: Foshay. F-O-S-H-A-Y. Junior high school.

TI: And what, when you saw that, what did you think?

HN: I said, "Boy," I... at the, when I was, that was when I was fourteen, fifteen. "Boy, what a bunch of lousy people."

TI: Now did you ever get into any, like, altercations, any arguments or anything?

HN: No, no, never then. Never then.

TI: Did anyone ever call you names?

HN: No, not then. The, surprisingly, the Caucasian student, they didn't bother us. It was like normal school days.

TI: So what's interesting to me, so the, where you got perhaps the most negative reaction was actually from the Chinese and Korean students.

HN: Right. They want to make sure they're not classified as Japanese, I guess.

TI: Or, I guess, or maybe just protecting themselves, rather than negative.

HN: Yeah, protecting themselves.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: Well, so after they expelled people from Terminal Island, eventually they, they started removing people from Los Angeles.

HN: Yes, right.

TI: So talk about that period, when you started seeing, or knowing that you had to leave Los Angeles. Describe that time.

HN: Well we, at that friend's house on 37th and Normandy, we used to go downtown with him, just to Little Tokyo. We had a friend who used to have a sushi shop in Little Tokyo. They were from Shizuoka prefecture, too, and my mother knew them real well. So once we got... their family talked my mother into coming, moving closer to them because they're from the same prefecture, so my mother, we moved right into downtown Los Angeles, just before the Executive Order 9066 was proclaimed. And I don't know if it was February, was it February?

TI: Yeah, February. February 19th. Okay, so you moved from your friend's into, into actually Little Tokyo.

HN: Little Tokyo. A hotel, yeah. It was a hotel where most, a lot of the, most of the customers were Japanese Americans around there.

TI: Now, during this time, did you know where your father was? Was there any contact or communication with your father?

HN: I think so, yeah. I think he was in Montana. Missoula, Montana.

TI: Missoula, Montana. Okay.

HN: Then somewhere along the line, he was sent over to Bismarck, North Dakota, then Fort Lincoln, where I ended up. I don't know the timing there.

TI: Okay, so Missoula then Bismarck.

HN: Then my father was returned while we were in the camp.

TI: Right, okay. So you're in Little Tokyo for a little period of time, and then you get your orders to leave. And so describe Little Tokyo during that time. What was that like when people had to leave?

HN: Well, it was... we, since we were outsider we never, we didn't intermingle too much with the people, except for the people living in the hotel. And people living in the hotels were most of 'em bachelors and singles, so they, they weren't too much commotion. They would let us go and so forth. And at the day of the evacuation we went to the place where we designated to board the bus.

TI: And do you remember where that place was?

HN: Yes. You know where the Japanese American National Museum is? Right beside it, just maybe one block down. Right there. And the only people out there more or less trying to make us comfortable was the Quaker, the American Friendship Society, Friendship Service. They were out there serving coffee, you know. I remember that.

TI: And can you recall about how many people were out there when this was happening?

HN: People who were gonna be evacuated? I don't know. There were buses after bus, you know, way on line, so probably a few thousand from Little Tokyo. All of the people living in Little Tokyo, where they got on the bus from that particular location.

TI: And how about people who weren't leaving? Were there people just watching?

HN: No, I didn't, I didn't see. The Little Tokyo in them days was strictly Japanese town, you know. So when we vacated, there weren't anybody living there.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: And where did the buses take you?

HN: Took us to Santa Anita racetrack, horserace track.

TI: And tell me what, what your first impressions of Santa Anita...

HN: First impression we were, we were at loss to "what's this now?" And then we met some friends, some of the people who were out there and they were, we saw some friends over there.

TI: So at Santa Anita where was your, your...

HN: We were luckily put into a barracks, not at the horse stall. Some of the people who went in earlier were put into the horse stall, and they were telling the story, it was real bad. They, the horse manure still stank.

TI: Okay, and so give me, tell me some memories about Santa Anita. What did you do during your time?

HN: It wasn't too, but we... a half was living on one end of the Santa Anita, and some of my friends was living in the horse stall areas, so across that camp I used to go and meet them, every other day and play. Even play softball with them and so forth.

TI: And about how long were you at Santa Anita?

HN: Let's see, it must have been about a few months. Maybe three months, three, four months. We were waiting for the so-called "relocation center" to be built. That's why they put us into that temporary so-called "assembly center." It was three or four months, so it must have been summer, summertime.

TI: So eventually you are sent to one of the War Relocation...

HN: Yeah, we were sent to Heart Mountain.

TI: And do you know why Heart Mountain and not one of the other camps?

HN: People from the certain location like Little Tokyo and people from, who are... I guess they designate, so they, everybody from Los Angeles did not go to same camp. We were split up from district, different district. So people from Little Tokyo, downtown area were sent to Heart Mountain.

TI: Okay, so tell me how you got from Santa Anita to Heart Mountain.

HN: It was by slow train, on a old coach with a straight wooden chair. And I remember sleeping on that, days and night.

TI: Did you ever talk to your brothers or your friends about what was happening to you at this time? I mean, here you're, you're a U.S. citizen, you've taken all the history classes, social studies classes. Did you guys ever say you were U.S. citizens and this shouldn't be happening?

HN: Oh yeah, sure. You know, we were still young, but we... still naive about Constitution, but we did learn basics, that something was wrong. Definitely. When people, older people says, "Look, this is war," and the, they were... the older people saying that Japan attacked U.S. so we get that burden of all this response from the American government. So they were saying we have to take it, but younger ones say, "I'm an American citizen, though."

TI: No, that's why I was wondering, especially maybe your brother's age or something, where they maybe are in high school or graduating from high school, or even college.

HN: Oh yeah, they knew. They were saying this is wrong. I mean, this is crazy, but what can they do? You know, said, "What can I do?" They were, as I say, from Terminal Island, and most of the community, the leadership was cut off. So they're, they were evacuating leadership at the time, assembly... we were still in turmoil. People, individuals, said, "Something's wrong with us."

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Okay, so let's go to Heart Mountain. So slow train to Heart Mountain... what are your first impressions of Heart Mountain when you get there?

HN: Well, before we got to Heart Mountain the train was traveling slowly. When we got to Salt Lake, there were people, Japanese American people from Salt Lake -- I don't know how they got, knew that we were coming in -- but there were a bunch of Japanese American from Salt Lake there, waving at us and throwing us food and so forth. We, the train slowed down at the station, and I remember that.

TI: And what did you think when you saw Japanese Americans waving and throwing food?

HN: I said, "How come these guys are, you know, not on the train?" [Laughs] And then we moved on into Wyoming, and then when the train slowed down, I don't know how, but this Japanese family who worked for the railroad company, the wife came. She was quite old, but she was waving. And I remember that. I remember the family. I forgot their name, but I learned later on in my life, when I was in the Air Force, I met the son of the family who was a lawyer working for the U.S. government. I forgot the name, but I mentioned and he said, "That must have been my mother."

TI: Again you're probably thinking, "So why are they out and we have to go in?"

HN: Yeah.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So when you go into the Heart Mountain camp, tell me what that was like.

HN: Oh, it was this stark environment, and when we moved in some of the, part of the barracks were not completed yet. And it was still later part of summer, so we could take it. So they got all the carpentry people doing some carpentry. They put everything up. And putting everything up is just putting tarpaper over the wood and then nailing down, and that's what they did in completing that project.

TI: And so did you help them do some of that?

HN: No, I didn't. I, my friend got a job as a... distributing the grocery to each mess hall, so he got me on the job, too, and I was on the truck and distributing -- this was before the school started -- distributing food to each different mess hall.

TI: Now was this a paying job for you?

HN: Yeah, it was. No, was it? Yeah, it was, yeah.

TI: Good. And how about your older brother, what was he doing?

HN: I don't completely remember what he was doing, but he was taking it real seriously about this incarceration. That's because he was three years older than I was, and he must have understood much better than I did, you know.

TI: So when you say taking it very seriously, so he was more upset about it?

HN: Upset, yeah.

TI: Okay, so you mentioned you weren't really quite sure what your brother was doing, you know, one of the things that happened in the camps was the family structure changed. Because, probably at Terminal Island you were closer as a family, eating together, but now Heart Mountain, things changed in terms of eating patterns, where people ate, when they ate. So can you talk a little bit about that, in terms of how, what happened with your family?

HN: Well, we were still close-knitted. When I start working for these guys, by the time we finished distributing the food... when did that happen? It was during the day, so our family were still having meal together in the morning and at night, supper.

TI: Oh, so that's interesting, so who was it, was it your mother that really wanted everyone to eat together?

HN: Oh, yes, yes. Right.

TI: Okay, so three boys and her always ate together.

HN: And my father. He was back by then.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So talk about that. Tell me when your father returned. How long were you at Heart Mountain before your father came back?

HN: I don't know whether it was at Heart -- no, wait a minute -- or whether it was in Santa Anita. I'm trying... maybe it was at Santa Anita he came, or about the time we were gonna get shipped out to... yeah, it must have been that time, because I remember he was on the train with us.

TI: So he returns when you're at Santa Anita. How had your father changed during that time?

HN: He, as I say, he was very quiet guy, calm. So I didn't notice any distinct change, except he was a husky, kinda chubby guy, but when he returned he lost a lot of weight. That I remember.

TI: So you saw a physical difference, the weight difference.

HN: Yeah, physical difference.

TI: And then at Heart Mountain you all ate together as a family?

HN: Yes.

TI: Was that common for other families to do that?

HN: Yes, yes. They tried to, yeah. Like I say, it was more or less a tradition, Japanese tradition.

TI: Okay, good. That's interesting. Did your father ever talk about Missoula or Bismarck, or when he left?

HN: No, we weren't too much interested in that, so I didn't talk... but occasionally he mentioned about at Bismarck, you know, there were Germans there and so forth. That was about the, the thing I remember.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Well, so at some point, not too long after you got to Heart Mountain, they distributed, it was called a leave clearance, but a lot of people think of it as a "loyalty questionnaire."

HN: Yeah, a "loyalty questionnaire."

TI: Do you remember when that happened?

HN: Yeah, I remember that.

TI: So talk about that.

HN: It was an uproar in the camp because of the so-called "loyalty questions," and that's when my father, normally a quiet guy, he was very upset. And that was the first time that he expressed his emotion. "Why is this question posed to us now? Why wasn't this posed to us before the evacuation?" And that was the time he drew his line in the sand, and he said, "No more," and that's when he applied for repatriation to Japan. If it wasn't for that I don't think he would have applied for repatriation. And also he talked to my older brother -- he was by then seventeen or eighteen -- and told my brother, "It's up to you." But my father was telling him, "From the way my perspective is, when you go into the army, volunteer for the army, you got to realize you're gonna probably die." And in order to die for their country, you had to have some kind of... you know, feeling towards the country, affection towards the country, and how can you have affection towards a country when they treated you this way? And that's the point in our experience that we changed completely.

TI: So it was when this questionnaire came out it really pushed, it sounds like it really, it was like the straw that broke the camel's back for your father.

HN: Yes.

TI: Up to this point, you mentioned he was quiet, didn't really talk about this, but it was like when this came out, it just pushed him over the edge, that he said no more in some ways. And you mentioned, so he drew a line. Did he physically draw a line?

HN: No, no, he says, "This is it," you know.

TI: And do you remember where he had this conversation with your brother?

HN: Well, he had... the quarter we were living in is just the one room, separated by a little partition we made, you know, the beds, so when they, we were talking it was a family discussion.

TI: And so it was more than just your father talking to your older brother, you were there, too?

HN: Yeah, we were there, too. Of course, my younger brother don't know what we were talking about because he was only about six, seven years old.

TI: And I'm guessing that when you talk about your father being sort of a mild-mannered man, for him to be so upset, it really had an impact on you and the others.

HN: Oh, yes. Naive as we were, we knew it.

TI: Do you remember if your mother was there and her reaction?

HN: Well, it's the same thing. My mother says, says, "Why should you give your life to a country that didn't treat you justly?"

TI: And so was your brother of age that he had to fill out this questionnaire, too?

HN: Yeah, he must have been seventeen or eighteen years old.

TI: So you were still young enough where you didn't have to?

HN: Yeah. I was just, I think, sixteen at the time.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: And so how did your, your parents and your brother answer the "loyalty question"?

HN: It was "no-no." He says, "You know, I could say 'yes' and put a condition. No, I said, let's make it either black or white, and I said, 'No-no.'"

TI: Okay, so "no-no." And when your father and brother did this, was it with the thinking that --

HN: My mother, too.

TI: -- and your mother. Was it with the thinking that, that they would want to go to Japan?

HN: My father, yeah. He says he, as I was saying, he was from a family that was passed on a lot of the asset onto the, it's a heritage thing, so he, as the oldest... he was the oldest son of the family, so he inherited property, house, some farming land and some orange groves up in the mountains, so he was...

TI: So he knew there was something in Japan for him.

HN: Yeah, he was, he knew something was in Japan. Where, on the other side of the coin, he didn't have anything in the U.S. It was all taken away.

TI: But how is that for, like, you and your brother, because all you really knew was the United States, and, although there might have been land in Japan, you knew the United States, but not Japan. How did you feel about going to Japan?

HN: At the time, how do I... gonna feel in Japan? Now, those things never came to my mind. I knew, I was just thinking that issue, whether my father was reasonable, in my naive thinking, and I said yeah, they threw us in this camp and took everything away, and I said, "I wouldn't blame my dad for getting mad."

TI: And when your dad was explaining all this to you, this talk, was he speaking in Japanese or English?

HN: Japanese.

TI: Okay, so your Japanese was good enough so you could understand what he was saying and all that. So when you... Hank, a few minutes ago, when you first told me about this, you got pretty emotional talking about your dad doing this. Tell me why. What's the...

HN: My emotion?

TI: Yeah, about your father and, and his anger, I think, about this.

HN: Yeah. Well, the audacity of the government, you know, to ask questions like that to the people they had incarcerated. That's an insult. Even now I feel that way.

TI: And it's, just strikes me, I mean, this is something that happened almost seventy years ago, and how powerful this still is for you and others when you think back to this. And it's almost, what I'm sensing, was it was more, like you say, the audacity. It's not so much even the physical hardships that you suffered, it was what the government did, or the distrust and then sort of putting it into your face that, that...

HN: Yeah. And the questionnaire was death or life type of question, will you volunteer and go to combat.

TI: And you mentioned how, if it weren't for the questionnaire, your father wouldn't have reacted this way?

HN: No, I don't think so.

TI: In the same way, how about you and your brother, how do you think that would have... if they didn't do the questionnaire, you stayed at Heart Mountain, what would have -- and then just released -- how would that have changed, do you think? In terms of your feelings. Do you think that would have been as emotional, or, or...

HN: If we were older?

TI: Yeah, if they didn't do the questionnaire, if the questionnaire didn't come up?

HN: Oh, didn't come up, no. We would have waited out and see how everything would've developed. And that was the position my dad was taking. He says, "Why fight this? It's a, there's no way we could, nothing we could do really. It's between two governments," and that was his thinking, says... but when the government start intruding into the life of the evacuees, then it's an imposition, you know, that he couldn't take it anymore.

TI: Thank you, for sharing that. This is really powerful. So your parents and your brother answer "no-no" on the "loyalty questionnaire," and the government used those questionnaires to determine, in their own way, what they consider loyal and disloyal, with those deemed disloyal sent to a different place.

HN: Yeah, right.

TI: So can you talk about that?

HN: Well, as you know, the questionnaire came up because the government wanted to screen the people who could, who they could release from the camp to be settled in the other part of the country. So they screened it, they identified who were the resisters, who were in confrontation with the government, so we were classified "disloyal." And we, we got a notice to be shipped to Tule Lake, I guess, a few months later.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: So, Hank, in the first part you got us all the way up to Tule Lake. So your parents, your brother answered "no-no" on the "loyalty questionnaire," so they along with you and your younger brother are sent to Tule Lake. So describe the first --

HN: Also, with the "no-no" and also the fact that my father applied for repatriation at the same time.

TI: Okay so he applied for repatriation.

HN: My family, my father did that.

TI: And did your father discuss that with you and your brother before applying for repatriation?

HN: Repatriation, I don't think so. I don't remember. Maybe he talked to my brother, but I was still in my minor, you know, fifteen, sixteen years old.

TI: So he applied for repatriation, also "no-no" on the "loyalty questionnaire," so family is sent to Tule Lake. Tell me what Tule Lake is like. What are your, what happens first when you get there, how is it different than Heart Mountain? Just talk about that.

HN: The barracks were much more depleted than Heart Mountain. I don't know why. The laundry room there is a community laundry, community bathroom. They were much more depleted than one in Heart Mountain. That's the impression I had.

TI: Kind of rundown, not as nice as...

HN: Rundown, yeah. Older, put it that way. And the weather was... it seemed like it was colder than Heart Mountain, but I don't know why. Oh, yeah, that's 'cause we departed, we were living in Heart Mountain most of the time during the summer time, from spring to summer, and by the time we got to Tule Lake it was winter, so it felt colder in Tule Lake.

TI: So towards the winter of '40, 1943.

HN: Yeah, '43 I think. '42 we...

TI: You were probably Santa Anita.

HN: Yeah, Santa Anita, then moved to Heart Mountain in late summer '42 and stayed there until next summer.

TI: So you had one winter in Wyoming, which must have been pretty cold.

HN: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: So you, summer, Wyoming, then you go to Heart Mountain, and you talked about it seemed you said depleted or rundown. How about security? How would you compare the security at Heart Mountain with Tule Lake?

HN: Oh, Tule Lake we hardly had any contact with the army people or the civilian guards and so forth. I don't know why, because we were distant, away from that. But at Tule Lake --

TI: Okay, so at Heart, at Heart Mountain you had very little contact.

HN: Yeah.

TI: Now, but Tule Lake...

HN: At Tule Lake we, their army guards and so forth seemed to be much closer. Like, I volunteered, whether, I don't know whether I got paid or not, but I was helping the baggage coming in for all the people who were shipped into Tule Lake, and sort the baggage, deliver those to the, their barracks and so forth. And in that area, too, we saw the army guards standing by. We never saw that in Heart Mountain. Maybe it was because of the segregation.

TI: And how about the demeanor of the guards, Tule Lake versus Heart Mountain. Do you have a sense of any differences?

HN: I didn't, I wasn't that close enough to, you know... but some of them were, they... like, observing some of the people that intermingle with the guards, they seemed to be very friendly at the time, yeah.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: You mentioned going to Tule Lake towards the end of 1943, and there was a period in Tule Lake from November 1943 to, like, February 1944, so several months, when Tule Lake was under martial law. Do you remember that?

HN: Yeah, I remember that.

TI: So what was that like to be under martial law? What was that, what did that mean to you and the others?

HN: Well, we were restricted. I think we were restricted from going too far out of our area to another part of the camp, so there were a lot of restrictions there. Restriction of movements, you know.

TI: And were things like, was there curfews also?

HN: Yeah, there were curfews, yeah. As far as I can remember. My memory may not be that accurate, but the impression at the time.

TI: And what, why did they put Tule Lake under martial law?

HN: Because there were riots. I learned later on, reading the book, that there were riots before, before the segregation. That's the reason why they have more troops in there. And after we got in there were, there were incident where the camp, the Caucasian workers, you know, were trying to smuggle some food out of the warehouse to be sold at the black market. That was the information I was given. And this is where the riots started, where some of the internees tried to stop that, those trucks from getting out.

TI: During the, when this was happening, how much of this did you know when you were at Tule Lake?

HN: I didn't know too much except, you know, the food, the Caucasian workers were trying to take some food out of the camp, and that was about the extent of the information I remember.

TI: Okay, so martial law, but in terms of day-to-day activities, how did it change for you, being at Tule Lake versus Heart Mountain, say? Were there any changes in your routine?

HN: Yeah. In Tule Lake they had the Japanese language school, and I used to go there.

TI: So at Heart Mountain there was no Japanese language school.

HN: No, no, there weren't any, as far as I know.

TI: And tell me about the Japanese language school. Who taught it and who was there?

HN: The class I went to, I remember the teacher was from Hawaii. It was a Kibei, I guess, Nisei, and... that's about everything I remember.

TI: Now, in addition to the language, did they also talk about going back to Japan and anything in terms of the customs?

HN: Not at the school. Not that much except only the language part of it.

TI: Now did Japanese school take the place of American school, or English school?

HN: No.

TI: So you went to both.

HN: Yeah, we had both.

TI: Any other activities that were different at Tule Lake than Heart Mountain?

HN: No, not that I remember.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Now later on, after Tule Lake was a segregation camp, so this is a little bit later on, there started to be activities, in terms of, I won't say martial arts, but exercise...

HN: Hoshidan, you're talking about.

TI: Hoshidan, for young men it'd be Seinendan, and so do you recall those activities?

HN: Yeah, I joined at my, my father made us join that because we were going to Japan, and then for us to go to Japan as we were, we're gonna have a lot of problems, not knowing what's the custom of Japan is and so forth. So that was the primary reason my dad told us that we should join the Hoshidan, to become familiar with the culture and custom and so forth.

TI: So how would they do that? What kind of things would they teach you?

HN: Well, in the morning, we used to get up, have callisthenic exercise and then do the marching, as putting the band around, we didn't know why had to put that on there, but they wanted to show the unity of the movements. And looking back now, the reason why, I feel, maybe was not expressed at the time, but it was, I feel, a... organized confrontational symbol that those people wanted to express against the U.S. government. I think that was the main unspoken objective by the movement. Until then it was each individual person confronting the government and so forth, but there were no organized confrontation, expression of unsatisfaction. So I feel, that's the way I look at it, talking to some of these, when I was in Japan, talking to some of these older guys, 'cause we had to express, we had to, at the time, express our dissatisfaction and the injustice, and so that was one way of showing the organized expression. And that's the way I look at it. Not at the time. That was we were all trying to get accustomed to Japanese way.

TI: Now, and so these organized activities, did the camp administration or any of the guards ever react to some of the things you were doing?

HN: Not that I know of. Seeing how I was still in my teen, minor if you're under eighteen, you were, I was a follower, not the organizer, but I didn't see any, except that they kept a close eye on us when we were exercising and so forth. There were always a patrol guard somewhere out in the distance, keeping an eye on us.

TI: So they, the guards were always watching when you were outside.

HN: Yeah, always watching.

TI: You mentioned, during the break we talked about your father. He was mild mannered, but that he became a little more outspoken, so tell me about that. How did he become more outspoken?

HN: Outspoken in the sense that he wanted us to learn the, like joining the Hoshidan to accustom ourselves to, to the Japanese way of living, so that we were prepared, we would be prepared to go to Japan. And, like, expressing the fact that we were called disloyal and troublemaker, and he was expressing to us, "No, we're not the troublemaker. They are. The government is." He never said, spoke that way before.

TI: Did he talk more about Japan to you and your brother, about what Japan was like?

HN: Now, see, when we, I was four years old during the Great Depression in 19...

TI: 1929, 1930, '31...

HN: 1930, somewhere around there. We were in Japan. My father decided, "Why try to stay in business when nothing, we can't even do anything? Let's go to Japan, stay there for a while. When the economy start recovering we'll come back again." So he, we still had friends in the U.S., so we went to Japan sometime during the period, and when the economy or the fishing industry start picking up he came back. So we stayed in Japan for a little over a year, maybe a year and a half, when I was about four years old. And I remember going to kindergarten in Japan. It was, so I was in Japan before being expatriated.

TI: So you knew a little bit about, you remember a little bit...

HN: Yeah, I remember a little bit about it. My grandmother and so forth.

TI: Okay, good.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: Now, in terms of timing, so April 1944, you turned eighteen, right?

HN: Yes.

TI: So you go from a minor to an adult. And so did that change anything for you, now that you're an adult?

HN: Yeah, because the "loyalty question" was posed to me. It wasn't posed to me until then. Then I knew my family were returning to Japan, and the informal information that was passed on to us was that if you decide not to, if you say "yes-yes," then you would be, probably be separated from your family, because your family is returning to Japan and you were, you're staying here and be drafted or... and then if you choose "no-no," then you probably could stay with your family and go to Japan. So that was the option that was in my mind when I answered the "loyalty question."

TI: And so how did you answer the questions?

HN: I, well, my psyche at the time was, "Wait a minute now." All this time, my formative years, only thing I remember is camps, and traveling from Santa Anita to Heart Mountain, from Heart Mountain to Tule Lake. And when, as I say, my father's worry, I don't, I didn't have that... normally when you volunteer for armed forces to combat you need to have some kind of affection toward your, and sense of belonging... so I didn't have that feeling. And the option is, if you say "yes-yes," you'll probably be separated from your family, which was, family was the only thing I had left. And if you said "no-no" then you may be able to go with your family and face the future together, so I said "no-no." First of all, basically because I lost that sense of belonging and affection toward the country, and secondly, the only thing left was my family. And regardless of what, I was determined to stay together with the family. That's the reason why I answered "no-no."

TI: So when you answered "no-no," what happened next? Did anyone talk with you or did anything happen to you?

HN: No, nothing happened, they just took it.

TI: Okay, so they just took it and they... what was the reaction of your family when, when you told them you went "no-no," what reaction did you get from your family?

HN: Well, they said, "Good, you're gonna stay with us."

TI: How about your friends? Did you tell your friends how you answered?

HN: Yeah, and all my friends had the similar family background and ideas, so, you know, we said, "Okay, we're gonna be together."

TI: And then just others, did you get any reaction from other people about your decision?

HN: No, not at Tule Lake, no.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: So you answer the questionnaire, then what happens next?

HN: Sometime later, I don't know how soon or how far later, how later it was, but we were ordered to be shipped to Bismarck, North Dakota.

TI: So, why? Why would...

HN: Because -- oh, yeah, before that... then, in conjunction with the "loyalty question" they posed a question, "Do you want to renounce your U.S. citizenship?" And this also goes back to, if I renounce, the only thing I had is my family. I want to stick together and face the future together, so I got to stay with the family and they're going to Japan. If I don't renounce I probably won't be able to go to Japan. That was my way of thinking, some of my friends' way of thinking, so we said, "Okay, if government is gonna put us in this position, I'll renounce." All these are responses to the government, putting us in that position.

TI: Explain to me how the government presented this option to you about renouncing your citizenship. Was it a piece of paper? Was it an interview?

HN: Well, it was interview and a piece of paper.

TI: So an interview?

HN: Yeah, and sign off.

TI: And who interviewed you, do you recall?

HN: Yeah, I think it was a guy from Justice Department. Anyway, he identified himself as an attorney.

TI: And was this at the same time you did your "loyalty questionnaire" or was this after?

HN: I think it was separate. Or maybe... I don't, I don't remember.

TI: But it was a kind of one-on-one interview...

HN: Yeah, one-on-one interview.

TI: Was that pretty much the only question he asked, will you renounce, do you want to renounce your citizenship?

HN: Yeah, right.

TI: And do you have any kind of sense of was he, was he trying to lead you one way or the other?

HN: No, he didn't. It was... he just read it, and he asked why. So at the time he said the information never circulated and if you don't say strongly that you want to renounce -- "Don't just say, 'I want to renounce.' You got to give them a reason why you want to renounce, so you have to say you want to go to Japan and you want to be Japanese and, 'I will work in, work for Japan.'" Says, "If you say those strong, announce your strong opinion, then they will accept your renunciation." Those are the info that was going around, so I said those things. The attorney says, "Okay, you want to do it, sign that statement."

TI: And your thinking was you didn't really have much other choice. If you want to stay with your family, then...

HN: Yeah, right. Yes, that's the reason why I did it. You know, that family, at that point, that's the only thing I had. Just think about it. Eighteen years old.

TI: Yeah, I mean, what a difficult decision to put on someone that age. And so they went ahead and they accepted this, and did they do a similar thing with your brother, your older brother?

HN: Yes, he did. Well, my older... yeah, he did. Same thing.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: So at this point, you and your brother who were U.S. citizens renounced your citizenship with this, this paper.

HN: Yes, right.

TI: Then explain to me what happened after that.

HN: My brother was first sent to -- after the renunciation -- he was sent to Santa Fe, alien internment camp. And then, one month later, I was sent to Bismarck.

TI: Was there ever any consideration to send you to the same camp as your brother?

HN: There were, we... I don't know whether they considered that or not, but we were separated. We didn't have any option or choice.

TI: So you were eighteen years old, and they sent you to Bismarck. And the only way they could do that was if you had renounced your citizenship, because Bismarck was an internment camp for --

HN: It was alien, enemy alien internment camp.

TI: -- "enemy aliens." Who else went with you to Bismarck, when you went to Bismarck?

HN: Oh, my friends. That's about, you know... it was no relative. Just by myself, and my friends.

TI: Before you left Tule Lake, before you left your parents, did you have any conversations with your father or mother about leaving and going to Bismarck?

HN: Bismarck? Yeah, I says, well, the only thing I remember is, "Well, let's hope we'll be able to get together sometime in our life."

TI: Did your father tell you anything about Bismarck, because you mentioned he had been at Bismarck?

HN: Yeah, he mentioned that it was very cold place. That's about the only thing he mentioned.

TI: But before you left they said somehow, or, "We have to get back together."

HN: Yes, right. "Let's hope we'll be able to get back together."

TI: Before your brother had left for Santa Fe, did you have any conversations with him about getting together, or anything else?

HN: Well, it's the same thing. Hope. "Let's hope."

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

TI: So tell me about Bismarck. What was Bismarck like?

HN: Funny thing. When we went to Bismarck, we got off the train outside of Bismarck. We never saw the town itself. We're taken from the train, covered train in the shade, we got off the train, got into a truck that was covered, so we never saw the town of Bismarck. Then when we enter Fort Lincoln, then that was the only time that we saw the sky. And the impression I had, my impression of Fort Lincoln was much better than Tule Lake or Heart Mountain or Santa Anita. They had a permanent type building, brick building, two story, two... yeah, two story, and we were put into those. And they had the latrine and shower, it was community for the building. It was much, well built. And we learned those buildings used to be occupied by the "enemy aliens" and, because we went in as a group with five, six hundred together, they had to vacate all the German aliens out and they put 'em into the barracks and we got the permanent type structure.

TI: Okay, so you're in this permanent structure, how large, I mean, how many people were able to be in there?

HN: Well, there were, there were three buildings, and the center building had two wings. The two other on the outside were one single building, so one, two, three, in four actual buildings, they housed five, six hundred Japanese Americans in there, with two story, you know... but, as I say, the facility was much better. And they even had an indoor swimming pool. [Laughs] Can you imagine that? We were surprised. We couldn't believe it at first. "You mean to tell me we can swim in there?"

TI: Tell me who the other prisoners were.

HN: They were German aliens who were, a lot of them were the seamen who got caught during the war, when the war started. And there were a lot of academics, you know, the professors who were researching in U.S. universities and so forth. There were some musicians. We had a lot of music. We used to hold a little concert during the evening, and so there were musicians.

TI: So these were all Germans?

HN: Germans, yeah.

TI: And do you know, roughly, about how many were there? Like, in terms of, relative to the Japanese, was it --

HN: Probably about four hundred. A little, a little less than the Japanese Americans.

TI: And describe to me the Japanese Americans. Like, age-wise, were there a lot of others that were about your age? Or...

HN: Predominantly they were younger. Well, they were older Nisei, but starting anywhere from eighteen to, if it were Nisei, probably up to about thirty-five, after that it's Issei. But predominantly it was the Japanese Americans there.

TI: So Niseis.

HN: There were probably fifteen percent Nisei.

TI: I'm sorry, Nisei or...

HN: Fifteen percent was Issei.

TI: Issei, okay. Fifteen percent Issei.

HN: Issei, yeah. That's my observation, guess.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: And so all these Niseis, similar to you, had to renounce their citizenship?

HN: Yes, right. Yes. But one of them I know personally, I'm not gonna name him, but he was one of the guys who said "yes-yes," but he wanted his mother -- it was a single parent family -- mother says, "We are going back to Japan." So he had to renounce his citizenship, but he did renounce his citizenship because he was the eldest in the family, he had the responsibility to take care of the siblings, younger, much younger. So, although he said "yes-yes," ready to go to volunteer, he renounced his citizenship to stay with the family. But that was the only guy I remember doing that.

TI: Now what was, what was the thinking, in terms of... I know some Niseis legally had dual citizenship, Japanese and American, but not all of them did. And so there were, I'm sure there were some Niseis who essentially by renouncing their U.S. citizenship were individuals without a country.

HN: Yeah, without a country.

TI: Like in your case, did you have dual citizenship?

HN: Yeah, my folks, I learned that later, but in them days, old days, folks would just report the birth and it got on the family register.

TI: Okay, so you had dual citizenship --

HN: I didn't know that, either.

TI: -- but there must have been some who knew that they didn't, and so what were they thinking? They were literally...

HN: Well, they were... as young as we were, but we were sarcastically remarking, living here in Bismarck, it seemed like being an "enemy alien," you get a better treatment than being Americans. Because it is true, because the "enemy alien" had the, were under the Geneva Convention oversight, by the Swiss government, or the Spanish --

TI: The Spanish, right.

HN: It wasn't for the, like, the Tule Lake, there were nobody to oversee the legality of the movement. The government itself was breaking the law. We used to make sarcastic... "Oh, hell, maybe being an alien, 'enemy alien' is a better way of getting better treatment."

TI: Because, ironically, you're being treated as a prisoner of war would be, which was better than what U.S. citizens were being treated in the camps.

HN: Were treated, yeah, that's right. It's really ironic.

TI: So tell me --

HN: Nobody told me, you know. Unless you experience that, like in Bismarck, you would never be able to make that observation.

TI: Right, because if you, all your experience was, say, at Heart Mountain or Tule Lake, that's all you know. But then you went to Bismarck to see how a prisoner of war would be treated, and that was better than the U.S. citizens.

HN: Yes. Food were better, swimming pool, indoor swimming pool. Can you imagine? [Laughs]

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: Now, you mentioned that people would say sarcastic things or see the irony of things. Did, was there very many, like, discussions or bull sessions where people would just talk about the circumstances, what's gonna happen next? Do you recall?

HN: Yeah, we'd say, "What gonna happen next?" Says, "How can we know?" And there's no nothing, no clue because the government elected to disregard the law of the nation. There were a lot of educated guys, too. There were a few Cal Tech assistant professors there. They taught us all the mathematics, math and so forth. And they say, you know, we'd ask them, "So what do you think is gonna happen to us?" "No clue," they says, "because we don't come under any constitution, so how can we guess any? We may be, all get killed." And we didn't bring it up in our discussion, but I'm sure each of us, in a way, must have... was ready to, for the eventuality, you know, maybe get wiped out.

TI: Was there much discussions about just how, what was happening with the war between the U.S. and Japan and who was gonna win and things like that?

HN: No, we were hoping it ends, soon. To us it didn't matter which one, which way it went. And it didn't matter when we heard that... the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And there were many people from Hiroshima. Their families were still in Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. And that event brought everybody to a real different outlook toward life.

TI: So tell me about that, when you say different outlook on life. So here are men whose families, or ancestors, were from Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and they're devastated.

HN: Yeah, devastated. They... and until then they were hoping this would end not in that manner, you know, with a surrender and a peace treaty and so forth, and everybody eventually go back to normalcy. When that happened people said, "Oh, this is a different world. This is a different world. We don't know what gonna happen."

TI: And that gets back to something you said earlier, that there was some discussion that some people were talking about possibly all being wiped out.

HN: Oh yeah. We didn't discuss it too open, you know. And I knew, by indirect discussion. I say most of the people were ready for that.

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

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: In Bismarck, I'm guessing you had lots of time, so what would you use your time? What would you do?

HN: We... they had Japanese language course. They had these assistant professors from Cal Tech teaching us science and math. And some, a few from, who were educated in Japan, the commercial university, they were teaching us the soroban, the abacus, how to mentally calculate. And we were so good at that, all these big numbers, we could solve it like that. And we were spending our time doing those things.

TI: And earlier you mentioned the German prisoners there. Did you have any interactions with the Germans?

HN: Oh yeah, they were very fun, friendly people. They were there before we were, and they knew the ins and outs, what to do, what not to do, you know, and how to take best advantage of the government facility and so forth. They used to take us in, you know, "Don't do that, do this." And they, since they were there they used to operate the canteen and the dispensary and there were some German doctors in the hospital, so we intermingled with them. But these Germans were much older than we were, not eighteen, no. They were twenty-five, over twenty-five, so they didn't intermingle, I heard later, with the older Nisei. Like I didn't know they had the bar for the adult in Bismarck. They used to, you could go over there and have drinks and so forth, and they have all these different pictures and so forth. It was off-limits to anybody who was underage, which meant anybody who was under twenty-one. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, so you couldn't go there?

HN: Yeah, I couldn't go there.

TI: But this was actually operated by who?

HN: The Germans. German internee. When I went this time they were talking about it. "Is that what happens?"

TI: So you didn't get to do that. But you said earlier, so the Germans didn't interact with the Isseis, or not as much?

HN: Not as much.

TI: But more with the Nisei, so when the new group came there's more interaction.

HN: With Nisei, yeah.

TI: How about --

HN: Well, Issei, before we were there they weren't there. By the time we got there they were sent to other places.

TI: Like to Santa Fe or other places. How about, did the Niseis have much interaction with the soldiers, the guards?

HN: No. No, I didn't see any. They were distant. They were on the tower, guard tower, so those are the only times we saw 'em. Outside the fence, patrolling. They never came in. The only people that were in was the immigration patrol. They were not soldiers. Civilian guards.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: So you're at Bismarck, your older brother is at Santa Fe, and your parents are at Tule Lake with your younger brother. How did you stay in contact? How did the family...

HN: Well, you know, just letters. That's about it.

TI: Because when the war ended, how did you plan? How did you make plans in terms of where you would meet, where you would go, all that?

HN: We didn't have any choice for how we gonna go, where we gonna go. We... the letters that we exchanged was, "Eventually, let's hope that we meet maybe in Japan," and hoping somehow we'll be able to regroup again.

TI: So were you give instructions that when you go to Japan you should go to a certain place?

HN: I had a good idea as to where my grandparents' home was, so I didn't worry about that. But my brother in Santa Fe then went to Japan before my family and I did. He was on the army troop transport one month before we did. We departed Bismarck on late December and got to Portland --

TI: Is this December 1945?

HN: '45.

TI: Okay. And, just to establish, your brother had left, had already left from Santa Fe? And was...

HN: Yeah, right. Probably a month and a half before that.

TI: Okay, so December '45 you leave Bismarck, you go to Portland...

HN: Late, yeah, Portland. And we got to Portland on the twenty-fourth of December, and next day we departed. Christmas Day, 1945. And that's where I met, got back together with my family, on the ship.

TI: On Christmas, Christmas Day.

HN: They were on the ship, yeah.

TI: So describe the reunion.

HN: I was so surprised. My kid brother, he was still young, maybe eleven, running around on the, and he said, "Oh, Hank," and this is where we... and then he led me to my parents' location. Then we knew we were on the same ship. And I was, we were younger, were way down in the bottom of the ship.

TI: So you were kind of like in bachelor's quarters.

HN: Right, yes.

TI: But that must've felt good for you, to know that your parents and brother were there.

HN: Oh yes, yes. That was a great relief.

TI: And do you recall the name of the ship?

HN: General Gordon. G-O-R-D-O-N.

TI: So that was, I guess in some ways, a Christmas present, to be with your parents.

HN: It was, yes.

TI: At that point did you know, or did your parents know that your older brother had left already for Japan?

HN: Yeah, I think so, because he, before he departed Santa Fe he must have sent them a letter saying he's leaving.

TI: Do you recall any discussions with your mother or father when you got reunited? Any, anything said?

HN: Nothing significant, except, well, you know, "We finally got together, and let's, let's work together to have a semblance of future in Japan."

TI: So on the journey across the Pacific, any memories, anything that stands out?

HN: I was, volunteered to be a, do some dishwashing for the mess hall. And funny thing was one of my friends, we were dumping the garbage in there, and some garbage get big, so we had to take a knife and chop it, and this guy, joking said, "Here, you white bastard." [Laughs] And this soldier was looking behind me, and this guy looked back. He didn't know what to... and this guy, the soldier was old enough and... what is it? Great enough to tap his back and say, "Okay, you guys," and walked away.

TI: Okay, so he didn't, he didn't make any trouble for you.

HN: No, no.

TI: But was that pretty common, a lot of hostility or anger towards either the government or the people who had done this to you?

HN: Not physically, but deep inside they had the feeling of resentment, pretty good resentment, yeah.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: Okay, so you take this journey and you reach Japan, so tell me what you saw when you got to Japan.

HN: We landed at Port Uraga, near Yokosuka, Japan, and the way we landed, there was a troop transport, so troop, when they land, get off the boat, they got these big nets hanging on the side, and we had to climb down the net to go in this small boat to go to the landing pier.

TI: So everybody on the ship had to do that?

HN: Yeah.

TI: Your mother had to do this?

HN: No, except for, you know, except for female. I guess they had a special ship, but it wasn't big enough, they didn't have enough capacity to get all the guys off, so it...

TI: But, like, your father would have to do it, too?

HN: Yeah, I think so. But we, I had to do it. And we got off, and then it was toward the evening, so then when they were unloading whatever we carried on the back. They were bringing that in. They were bringing that in to the warehouse, and we were there and waited until baggage got all unloaded. Then I think we carried the baggage on our backs and walked probably about three miles, three miles on the street, Uraga and Yokosuka, and we got there to the reception center, center there and stayed there for about a few days. Then we, everybody went their own way. Scattered.

TI: So was that the point that you were officially free?

HN: Yeah, right. Officially free.

TI: So when you left reception you were now a free man.

HN: Right, but at the reception, one thing I remember, still in my mind... they also were receiving the Japanese soldiers from the Southeast, Pacific area, I remember. A lot of 'em were starving to death. When they got to the reception center a lot of them had died because of the starvation, so they piled up all the dead, the corpse in the room, and we were housed right next to it. The Japanese government, they didn't have other facilities, so we stayed there for one, maybe one or two nights to get everything organized and went our own way.

TI: So I'm guessing the smell must have been really, really strong.

HN: Yeah, yeah. But it was, good thing it was winter, so it wasn't that strong.

TI: And when you would see that, when you'd see these Japanese soldiers starving, some dying, what were you thinking?

HN: Oh, Jesus, the country must be in real trouble.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: Well, talk about how it felt to leave the reception area as a free family now. You're now...

HN: It was, we still, we were still were carrying the baggage, still had the nagging feeling of, you know, still under the internment. Until we got on the train and it was about four hours, late, slow train, to Shizuoka, and we got that, got to our grandparents' home about, at night, maybe about eight o'clock. And that night, when every, a lot of relatives came over to see us, and everything calmed down, was ready to go to sleep, I felt something different, you know. "Wait a minute, something, am I missing something?" And I looked around and opened the window. There was no barbed wire, no tower, and it's been about four years to ever live in a place where there weren't any confinement. And my cousin was there, and I yelled out, "Freedom!" [Laughs] My cousin was surprised and so forth. That's, that's how I felt. That's the first time I feel, how you feel to be free.

TI: So you actually yelled "freedom"?

HN: Yes, yes. I don't think... you would never feel that because you have never been in confinement like that, but a lot of people who were, maybe they feel as I did. No fence, no guard.

TI: That's good. Thank you for sharing that.

HN: And I was wondering, why in Japan? Why in Japan? This is Tojo country. I feel so free. I'm so happy that I'm here, and how come I didn't feel this way, feel this way in the U.S.? How come I didn't feel so free? That's the feeling I had that night. I never forgot that.

TI: Now, your brother had preceded you, so was your brother also at the house?

HN: Yeah, he met us at the reception center.

TI: And when you saw your brother, how was he doing? How was...

HN: Oh, he was, he was eager to see us. You know, join the family.

TI: And now that you're free and you can move about and, and maybe even your mind is probably freer, what did you see? I mean, what was, what were the conditions in Japan?

HN: Oh, it was terrible conditions. The thing is -- I have to qualify that -- is the place we, Shizuoka, the town my grandparents were living in, was never affected by the war. It was a small town. They were never bombed. They still maintained their farmland, their food. They didn't have any extreme situation for food shortage or anything like that. So when we first got there and the first... we stayed, I stayed there at grandparents' for maybe a month and a half, so I didn't feel the suffering of the people living in the city. And I saw, I felt the suffering after I moved out of the grandparents' home and went to Tokyo.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: Okay, so before we go to the city, let's talk about your family property. So it sounds like it wasn't that affected.

HN: No, it wasn't.

TI: And it was more in a farming area, so there was food for people.

HN: Well, it was a small town. It's not a... like when you talk about farming in the U.S. you talked about isolated, and another one way out. Over there they have a town and they have, on the suburb, they have their own land and so forth. But that area was, luckily, was not damaged by the war.

TI: Now, were people curious about you and your family? Did a lot of people have questions, or...

HN: Yeah, a lot of questions, but I didn't feel it there, feel that, feel that kind of influence. My kid brother did, though. He was in school, must've been about ten years old. So living in a concentration camp, Tule Lake, he were, he was wearing, for the kids, jeans and those cowboy-like boots and had this knitted snow cap, hat, and went to school and everyone in the school went around to look at... made a circle around him, saying, "Who is that?" As if he was a person from Mars. [Laughs]

TI: 'Cause he just looks, his clothes were so different.

HN: Yeah. So different, yeah. And he later told me about it. "Boy," he said, "what a, what an experience."

TI: So, so you mentioned after about a month and a half you left the family place. Why did you leave?

HN: Well, because there were, we were looking for work, you know. The future. And the future wasn't there in the countryside, and people, my father said, "Look, maybe you should go out to Tokyo and find a job," and that's what we did. Our uncle was living in Tokyo, and we went to uncle's house and our cousin helped us find some job, you know, locate a job.

TI: Okay, so earlier you mentioned that when you, you really saw the devastation when you went to the city.

HN: Tokyo, yes.

TI: Tell me what you saw.

HN: Oh, my uncle's house... they were bombed out, too, see.. They built a shack, like, you know, structure, just a roof on there, and they were living there. And other places completely flat, bombed out. They used to let me -- you know where, do you watch Japanese sumo once in a while? Kokugikan is that, the main sumo hall in Tokyo. My uncle was living fairly close, about ten blocks from there. That whole area, everything was wiped out. There wasn't any single building there.

TI: So where would people stay and sleep?

HN: So, people who were... my uncle was a construction contractor, so he knew how to build, so he'd gather, scraped up all the parts and built a roof over their house so they were able to survive. But other people weren't able to do it, so his house was the only house I could see for, about ten blocks down there was another house and so forth. And other people evacuated to the countryside during the bombing, so there weren't hardly anybody living around there in 1946.

TI: And so for, you said you went to Tokyo, and when you said that, you said "we," so did you go with your brother?

HN: Yeah.

TI: Okay, so the two of you went to Tokyo. Was it hard for your uncle to have two more people?

HN: It must have been, but he never showed it, you know.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: So, Hank, where we left off was you were in Tokyo with your uncle, and you and your brother had gone to Tokyo to look for work. And I guess the question I asked was, given that your uncle had very little other than just the structure he had built, it was probably a, probably a little hardship for him to have two more people to come, to come live with him. So just talk about what you did when you got to Tokyo.

HN: Well, the cousin of ours, he was, I guess he must have just finished college before the... he took us around, and the best place to go was, there was any place where they use, need English translator. That's what my uncle says, maybe the best place to... And the only place that required, or basically required English speaking translator was with the U.S. forces, occupation forces. So we went to Tokyo, then somebody at the Tokyo employment offices recommended we go to Yokohama. That's where the Eighth U.S. Army headquarters was. So we went to Yokohama, and then immediately, I immediately got a job. We were probably looking for someplace which has any kind of connection with the food processing area, because of the food shortage, so I say, "Yeah," I says, "Red Cross doughnuts factory, they need a couple of translator." And this army lieutenant says, "Yeah, I'll make out the assignment and you guys take this over," and then we went there and they said, "Oh, we're glad you came over," and we started working for the Red Cross doughnuts factory. But by working for the Red Cross doughnuts factory we were able to get some doughnuts after work, a little box, and we took some over to our uncle's place. Repaid them for what they did to us. And my mother was also sending some products from the, Shizuoka. Anyway, working there, I met a repatriate like me, and he talked me into another office, which was involving shipping. And there was a lot of Army ships that were coming in with all the cargos, and he was one of the checker checking all the cargos coming in. He talked me into going there, so I quit the doughnuts factory and start working with him as a cargo checker, cargo checker where the Japanese were working, and we were checking and telling, translating the work. Then, then later on -- my brother was still working for the doughnut factory and later on started working for the Japanese transportation company, was a big trucking and bus service company --

TI: So this was you or your brother?

HN: My brother. My brother, yeah. He got into that. And I still stuck, stayed (as translator in) the U.S. Army. Then, eventually, some... I ended up meeting some people from (an Army intelligence unit) and they asked me to start working for them. So (I started working for them as a) translator.

TI: So I have to ask this question at this point. So working for the U.S. Army, earlier you were talking about there was some resentment towards the U.S. about what happened to you and your family, how was it working for the U.S. Army and then (intelligence unit)?

HN: I was kinda concerned at first, but surprisingly, these combat veterans I met... and they asked me, "How come you're in Japan?" I told 'em what happened, I said -- they more or less supported me, and they said, really, says, "If I was in your shoe I would have done the same thing." Honest, they did. So I got to know these guys much better, and I was favorably influenced by that to restore some confidence in the U.S. And that was the start of maybe working for (them), too, because... well, one of the guys knew a guy working at (an Army intelligence unit) and introduced me (to the unit). (...) Fortunately, all the people I met, the American I met, was very nice. I didn't hold back. I told 'em what I, my background so that they wouldn't have any suspicion or question. They... to everyone, to a single person, they agree with the position I took, because they weren't involved and it's easy for them to say that, but still, it was very encouraging.

TI: Now were they surprised at what happened?

HN: Yeah. They couldn't believe what happened. They couldn't believe the incarceration and so forth.

TI: And so these experiences in some ways restored your confidence or, or good feelings towards the United States.

HN: Yes, yes. That was the stepping stone for me to, getting back to the American way of living.

TI: And in this case, the fact that you had renounced your citizenship, U.S. citizenship, was no barrier or --

HN: Until, until... there's a... until this guy in (the Army intelligence unit), this commander called me in. "Look," he said, "Hank, we got this damn notice saying that people in your kind of situation, we have to fire you." Because he said there were some Japanese American organization that came to GHQ and influenced them, policymaker, in making this decision. Right away I said, "JACL," in my mind. But the commander said, "I'm not gonna do it. This is a bunch of baloney. They shouldn't be doing to these Americans. You went, all the thing you went through." So this commander says, "I'm gonna disregard this, okay?" And so I continued to work for that office.

TI: So when you heard about this you suspected the JACL had gone to GHQ?

HN: Well, I didn't suspect. It was... I suspected JACL went. I was told that some Japanese American organization was triggering this. I didn't know that; I was told.

TI: And so there was sort of this blanket order that went out saying, essentially renunciants should not have jobs, they needed to be fired.

HN: Yeah.

TI: And so you were, but then, fortunately in your case, the commander said, "I'm gonna disregard this. Don't worry about it."

HN: Yeah, because I was away from the headquarters.

TI: Now, what kind of work did you do with the intelligence unit?

HN: Basically translating, interpreting. That's about it. Nothing too sensitive, you know, because still I was not considered an American citizen.

TI: Uh-huh.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

TI: So, again, tell me what, what else about Japan during this time? Is there anything else that really stands out as a memory for you, because now you're actually making pretty good money, working for the government, I mean, working for the...

HN: I wasn't making good money, but I was surviving.

TI: Surviving, but you're being paid in U.S. dollars?

HN: No, no. Japanese.

TI: Oh, in yen. But, yet, you had a job, so that was, that was good, but, like, your uncle, how did he do during this time? Was he able to rebuild and do all that?

HN: Yeah, he was scraping and doing all this, but then later on, when the boom came, he did okay. Boom... real slowly the Japanese economy started recovering, and when the Korean War started, this is when all the procurement by the U.S. forces, procurement of the materials and equipment and so forth that was needed, that had to be sent to Korea, was all purchased in Japan. That was the, that was the start of the Japanese recovery, of Japanese boom: Korean War. So my uncle made out real good on it, and then, by the time Korean War started, 1950, and by 1950, by 1952, when the Korean War was still going on, Wayne Collins, the attorney from San Francisco -- he, all this time was, I guess, more or less on pro bono basis -- was trying to restore our citizenship. I wasn't directly involved, but I signed up for that when they contacted me. In '52 I was notified, Wayne Collins' office notified me, then the American embassy notified me. They felt I am eligible to have my citizenship restored. If I so desire, come into the embassy and take appropriate actions, so I did and I got my citizenship there.

TI: So before we talk about, finish with that, so why, why... what was your thinking about getting your U.S. citizenship back? Why did you want that?

HN: Okay, I was no longer, no longer incarcerated. I gained again, to a great degree, a confidence in the American way by associating with the forward-looking people, and it was a time where either I should stay in Japan, work there, or get my citizenship restored and become an American citizen and eventually live in U.S. That resentment of incarceration was not there. The resentment was not there because of the good relation I had with these American soldiers, and also the people from, soldiers from Hawaii, the 442nd veterans. They were translator in the business, too, and they were real nice. They... it was different from the JACL. They say, "Of course, we support you." They say, "If I was in your position, we would have done the same thing," so that kind of feeling made me feel, you know, at a point where either I could restore my citizenship and live in America, or I could stay in Japan, work as a Japanese. And I still had the, I still remember those good old days in the schools, and I was fortunate enough to meet many good teachers, so those things I remember and the good relationship with the soldiers restored many of the faith I had in the U.S. So I decided, because I was, I was not incarcerated anymore, that I'll apply, reapply, apply for the restoration of my citizenship. And then I decided to join the Air Force because there was a draft still going on.

TI: Okay, before we go there, though, so your citizenship, restoring your citizenship happened pretty quickly once you decided?

HN: Oh, yeah.

TI: So, some people it took a lot longer. Why was it so quick --

HN: I don't know, because, maybe because the embassy and so forth had a better organized way and they were, they didn't have all these nitpicking people around. I think that's... were there a lot of people that had, they had difficulty?

TI: Yeah, well in your case, though, it may have been your age when you signed the, the renouncing citizenship that... I've read some things where it says if you were actually under twenty-one and signed that, that was considered invalid, and so that people in your age group that signed it were able, it was restored much easier.

HN: And also the judgment, illegal judgment that -- for anybody over twenty-one, though, then that made it not null and void?

TI: Well, I think it took longer for people who were over twenty-one who renounced their citizenship. Like your brother, did he apply for his citizenship?

HN: No, my brother, he was bitter. He didn't go... he was at that age where, that age go to UCLA. Never had the chance. And he was, had a good job by then, with a Japanese company, and so he says, "No," he says, "never again."

TI: So he stayed in Japan.

HN: He stayed in Japan, yeah.

TI: And remained a Japanese citizen?

HN: Yeah. A Japanese citizen, yeah. And there were a few others who took the same position. They were making out good, established, settled.

TI: So there were some men who, or individuals --

HN: Not too many, but, you know, a few that stayed.

TI: -- a few that stayed and did this.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

TI: Okay, so you get your U.S. citizenship and then you get -- I'm sorry, did you volunteer or drafted into the Air Force?

HN: There was a draft going on, and I didn't want to... I saw these army guys coming back from Korea, crippled and all that. "Jesus Christ, if I get drafted that means I'm going into the army, and I don't want to go through that darn thing. Why struggle yourself to get killed or hurt, you know? I wanna, I'll go into the Air Force, and if I'm gonna get killed it'd be a clean kill." That's the mentality. So I said okay, I'll volunteer for the Air Force because of the draft. If I didn't volunteer then eventually there's a strong, real strong probability that we'd be drafted in.

TI: And where were you when you volunteered for the Air Force?

HN: I was in Tokyo.

TI: Okay, so you were in Tokyo when you volunteered. And so obviously they accepted.

HN: Yeah, they accepted me. And with minimum training. Just administrative, just get the idea you're in the Air Force. Okay, when you meet an officer you go like this [salutes]. That's about it. Then one time go out to the firing range, you know, taught us how to handle the guns and that's it in Tokyo, because they didn't have the training facility. They didn't have the time. They want us to go right in and start working.

TI: Because did the Air Force need interpreters?

HN: Yeah, interpreters.

TI: Oh, so right away you were a valuable asset to them, and so they wanted to dispense with all the normal training and...

HN: Yeah.

TI: Okay, and so what did you do in the Air Force?

HN: Well, mainly administrative type work, and then eventually I got into the industrial engineer function type of work. My commander used to encourage -- Air Force is different type of service than army or Marine. They encourage you to improve yourself by GI bill, go to school, take course, get your degree before you get out of the service type mentality. They were pushing me, so I started in Tokyo with Sophia University. It's a Catholic university there. Then I finally, before... I made a career in the Air Force, twenty years, and before I got out I was able to, on the GI bill, I was able to get my undergraduate bachelor degree and my graduate degree before I got out of the service.

TI: And then you joined the civil service?

HN: Yeah. When I got out of the service I, for a year or so I started working for this international accounting and consulting firm in L.A. Then, they were... that was a high pressure job, working from, I started working from about five in the morning then get out of the office at ten, you know. I said, "Wait a minute." I said, "I got twenty years, I got a pretty good retirement going, and if I go back to civil service, probably get a good job," so I said, so -- but they promised me in L.A., "If you go through this understudy and if we're satisfied you'll be able to take over the office, we're gonna open up an office a year and a half in San Francisco, and we'll want you to take over that." But there was too, the workload from five-thirty to ten at night, working seven days a week, maybe get one day off every three weeks... it was too much, so I switched over to the civil service and got into the industrial engineering function.

TI: So I'm curious, when, going back to your long career with the Air Force, did you ever have a conversation with your father about getting back your U.S. citizenship and then working in the Air Force?

HN: Yeah, my father says, "It's your life, and we did what we had to do during the war and this is a new stage, a new stage. It's a different environment. If you want to go into the Air Force, do so." And he more or less encouraged me in my decision.

TI: So he was okay with you doing this, how about his personal resentment towards the U.S.?

HN: No, he didn't, he didn't... he met some nice Americans. The colonel... he was, my father was on this bicycle going to someplace. Coming back that evening, he saw this American couple with a flat tire on the countryside. They stopped by and with his English, helped them. And it was too late for them to go to schedule hotel, probably another seventy mile, and then this road wasn't that good, so my father invited them to stay in his own house. Upper second floor rooms were open, so they stayed with him. I wasn't there at the time my father got to know them. They got to know him, and they, this couple were from Northern California, Monterey area, and they treated him real nice and so forth. With that kind of experience he more or less forgave what happened before. And he, his life was stable, you know. No agitation from other people. If he would've stayed on the mainland after the war, being the resisters and confrontation with the government, I think he would've gone nuts.

TI: Interesting. Good.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 34>

TI: So, Hank, I'm thinking about this interview, so last three hours we've been talking, your life is pretty amazing. It's really gone through so many twists and turns. I mean, to the point where, you know, growing up at Terminal Island, Los Angeles, and then incarcerated for four solid years, renouncing your citizenship, going to Japan, living through that, and then having a career, a career military, U.S. military.

HN: Oh yeah, military. And then U.S. civil service.

TI: Yeah, and I'm thinking... and now you're living in Hawaii, and I'm curious about how Japanese Americans in Hawaii think about your story. On the mainland, Japanese Americans are a little more familiar about what happened in terms of the camps, perhaps the draft resisters, the renunciants. I'm curious the difference in reaction you get in Hawaii versus maybe the West Coast, like in California. Are there differences in how Japanese Americans view your story?

HN: Yeah. Yeah, there's quite a bit of difference. Kinzo Wakayama, you've heard of him, he passed away a few years back, and his son was a colonel in the Pentagon when the 9/11 happened. He became a hero there, saving people. He wanted to honor his dad who was a veteran of the World War I, to be buried here in Punch Bowl, so he had a little memorial service. I was invited to that, and it was, it was a Nisei Nikkei guy who was active and advocate of the Nisei accomplishment during the second World War, 442nd and so forth. And I met him at that, and I was talking. "I'm a renunciant, and I confronted the government during the war and I rejected going to the service because all that happened," and this guy says, "Good for you." That type of reaction.

TI: So more accepting.

HN: Oh, yeah, he said, "Good for you. You did it." And also was a lady that, I don't know whether you know her, Tanabe?

TI: Irene?

HN: Irene, something like. Anyway, she's an activist, too. She's got into this, Japanese zero fighter landing at the island off Kauai and the Pacific Aviation Museum portrayed that Nisei Nikkei guy helping the guy as a traitor, and it wasn't that. He was just trying to save human being from being burned and so forth. That's what she was fighting. She finally won the case. She took it to the state senate and stopped funding that museum because they were propagating the false information.

TI: Yeah, I think her name might be Barbara. I think Irene's her sister, so I think Barbara's her --

HN: Anyway, I told her about it. She says, "You know, Hank," she said, "you were sixty-five years ahead of your time." [Laughs]

TI: Yeah, because... it sounds more accepting. Like, you mentioned the Wakayama story, because even though he was a World War I veteran, later on he... I think he, I'm not sure if he ever got his U.S. citizenship through World War I, but he went back to Japan and never came back to the United States.

HN: Yeah, right. Right. Never came back, yeah.

TI: And was very bitter about what happened. Well, so how does that compare with California? When you say it's very different, what would the reaction be in California?

HN: Well, I never, never... the people I've been associated in California was within the circle of repats. I never went outside, like meeting JACL, because I probably gonna lose my control. The whole thing is this: when that happened, when the "loyalty question" came and people went and volunteered, went to -- we respected their decision, you know. Each individual had personal reason, their way of perspective, so why can't they say the same thing to us? They didn't do it. No respect. Just calling us disloyal. Well, that's, that's the reason why I try to stay away from JACL group. Even, even now, even at this day and age -- I don't read JACL, but some of the information I get -- they still got that "two hundred percent American" and all that. That's ridiculous. Live your own -- they can't even live their own life. Pretending like they're so good.

TI: Is there anything that organizations like the JACL can do that can make amends for...

HN: No... I feel, I feel that they should not propagate the American, especially the new generation, into their mentality of being two hundred percent American. That's the only thing I hope for, to teach the younger generation be a good citizen, but you don't have to bend your back and break your back to appease these guys, you know. If there has to be a conversation, if it's justified, so be it. That's the only way you can live. That's the way I look at it. You can't be appeasing to people all the time.

<End Segment 34> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 35>

TI: Well, that's a great way to end this interview. I think this really captures, I think, a lot of the themes that we've covered. Before I end the interview, is there anything else that you want to talk about, like your family or anything? I'm not sure if you want to...

HN: My family, yeah. My father and mother never came back. My mother never came back, but talking to them in their late life, we relaxed, having coffee, having beer, and they never once regret what they did. Well, I guess they must have been satisfied that they did what they had to do.

TI: How about your older brother? Have you ever talked to him about his decisions and how that, what that meant to his life?

HN: Yeah, well, he was resentful for what happened, and he says, "Okay, but I'm not gonna have that thing hanging over me and drag me down," and that's bygone as far as he was concerned. But he says, "I will never give the country another chance to do that to me again."

TI: Yeah, so it sounds like there's still pain and resentment there.

HN: Yeah. Oh yeah.

TI: And your younger brother, does he?

HN: No, he doesn't. He, he was so small when they came back, came to Japan, went to Japan. He was nine years old, ten years. And he did all his education in Japan, through university. Rikkyo Saint Paul University, Tokyo. That's one of the big six university in Tokyo.

TI: So did he stay in Japan all this --

HN: No, he came back.

TI: He came back.

HN: He came back as soon as he finished his education. Came to Hawaii and right off the bat, he was drafted. [Laughs]

TI: Because, right, he retained his U.S. citizenship, and so... okay.

HN: He was successful in his career and he's working for the Japanese, big trading company.

TI: Good. Okay, so at this point I'm going to go ahead and end the interview, again, with my deep thanks for sharing. This was, this was a pretty amazing interview. Thank you very much.

HN: Oh, thank you.


HN: In 1952, when the renunciation was null and void, that's when I feel my life completely changed. Until then it was, my life was confrontational and tumultuous, but after 1952, deciding to join the Air Force and with all the fortunate experience of meeting good people -- Americans -- and starting the second phase of my American life, with the, joining the Air Force, I feel that I was fortunate to have a good career in the Air Force and with the U.S. civil service. And I have forgiven, but I have not forgotten.

TI: Well, in fact, I want to ask you, so 1952 is when you were able to get your citizenship back.

HN: Yes, right.

TI: Do you have a different appreciation of what it means to be a U.S. citizen?

HN: Yes.

TI: Because you had it, then you gave it up, then you got it back, I'm wondering what, so what does U.S. citizenship mean to you?

HN: Well, to me, having lived in Japan until then, Japan society is not as open as U.S. In the Meiji Restoration, that was only one hundred fifty years ago. They still carry that, the feudal type lifestyle. That I did not like. Although, all the confrontation and bitter experience, I still desired the openness of the American life.

TI: And so your time in Japan made you appreciate more the openness?

HN: Yes, openness.

TI: But I'm wondering if things changed, because -- well, maybe you didn't realize the openness at first, but just, when you lose something, I wonder if it means something more when you get it back. Because we talked about earlier, you talked about how maybe some people are, like, super patriots, but, but I think you may have a better appreciation of what citizenship means.

HN: Yeah, well, I'm not, as a person went through the tumultuous experience in life, I'm not blind to the dark side of the American society, or the, any other country has a dark side. But, still, on the bright side, there's more, to me, a more positive aspect in the American life than in the Japanese life. I was fortunate to, able to, able to appraise that... I appraised the value of the two society and I feel the open, the brighter side of American life was a better way of going. That was my feeling.

TI: Good. Okay, well thank you, Hank. That was a good way to end the, the interview.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

Addendum written by the narrator:

My Description of a pre-war Terminal Island Japanese-American Community

The pre-war Japanese-American community at Terminal Island was unique in the sense that it was a concentration of many Japanese Americans working in the fishing industry and related businesses located in a rather isolated area of the city in San Pedro, California. Yes, isolated in that it was separated from the city's center by the Los Angeles harbor channel. This separation was only 10-minute public ferry ride. I was told the peak population was around 2,000 in the '30s.

We used to go to town to see movies and pro-sport activities frequently in addition to going to school (junior and senior high schools) every week days. When family travelled to the Little Tokyo in Los Angeles we went on car via highway crossing a bridge located towards Long Beach where Ford Motor had a large factory just across the bridge.

I remember during my junior high school years I joined the San Pedro Boy's Club and participated in the club's sport activities such as softball and football games with boys of different ethnicity -- mainly Italian Americans.

With the large JA concentration many of the traditional Japanese customs were practiced such as annual Obon odori and New Year's Day celebration with small JA communities were not able to practice. There were Japanese language schools which children attended after the regular school hours. Judo and Kendo (Japanese fencing) classes were also offered once a week.

Community leaders arranged for Judo and Kendo trainees to participate in tournaments in different districts in California mainly during the summer vacation. Thanks to this program I was able to visit many districts and cities in California. By the time I was 14 years old I had visited Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, Fresno, Bakersfield, San Jose, Orange County, Riverside County, and San Diego, including two World Fairs in San Francisco and San Diego.

One of the unique characteristics of the Terminal Island JA community was that its children spoke pidgin -- English/Japanese -- among themselves. Later in my life when I moved to Honolulu, Hawaii in 1956 I noticed that the children in the JA community also spoke pidgin -- English/Hawaiian/Japanese. The Hawaiian JA community which is much bigger than that of Terminal Island also maintained many of the traditional Japanese customs, and it also had Japanese language schools, judo and kendo classes. I then realized that the Terminal Island JA community was a microcosm of the larger Hawaii JA community. It was a very interesting observation.

Hitoshi "Hank" Naito