Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Izumi Hirano Interview
Narrator: Izumi Hirano
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: March 1, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-hizumi-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so today is March 1, 2011, and we're in Honolulu talking with Izumi Hirano. We're at the Ala Moana Hotel, and Dana Hoshide is the cameraperson, and my name is Tom Ikeda and I'm the interviewer. And so, Izumi, I'm going to start at the very beginning. Can you tell me when you were born?

IH: I was born 1929, February 25th. Just, I made eighty-two.

TI: Oh, so you just turned eighty-two just a couple days ago.

IH: Yeah, yeah.

TI: Maybe three, four days ago.

IH: Four days ago.

TI: Four days ago. Well, happy birthday.

IH: Thank you. No, I'm not happy, because I'm getting old. [Laughs] So I'm sad. But happy, stay with our grandchildren. The life is really different.

TI: So February 25, 1929, where were you born?

IH: Where?

TI: Yeah, where?

IH: Hilo, Hawaii. The small camp, I was born. In Hilo, first, my father and mother, parents went to the Waiakea, and then my sister was born there. And later, they moved to another small camp, Pi'ihonua, P-I-I-H-O-N-U-A, Pi'ihonua, about ten houses there in a sugar field. That's on only one side of the street, and then one side is a small stream. So about ten houses lined up on one side of the street. That's small. And I was born there, and then again moved back to Waiakea. And I don't have any memories at Pi'ihonua, because a baby, but at Waiakea, I know around the house. And then those days, what they use in the house, only you can collect rain water in a big tank. And in a big tank, they put a few carp inside there so they can, something, bug and eat 'em up. We don't have a individual toilet, they have to go to the public toilet. And those days, I remember my father (was raising just a few chickens). And then, of course, they are working on the sugar fields as a laborer.

TI: So your father was like a laborer in the sugar fields?

IH: Yeah.

TI: And so this little, kind of, where you lived, so they, the rain water, they would capture it into a big tank, and then have carp inside? Interesting.

IH: Yeah.

TI: And the carp would eat the insects in there. But then that was the water that you used to drink and to bathe and to do all...

IH: Everything from that.

TI: Oh, interesting. And how about like cooking? Was it shared cooking or did everyone have their own...

IH: Cooking is a gas stove. Sorry, not a gas stove, a gasoline stove.

TI: Gasoline stove? You mean like kerosene?

IH: Kerosene. Kerosene stove.

TI: You mentioned your sister, and you also had, I think, a brother also?

IH: Yes.

TI: A younger brother.

IH: Younger brother.

TI: And what was the name of your sister?

IH: Sister is Teruko.

TI: And how much older was she than you?

IH: Nine years older than me.

TI: Okay. And your brother's name?

IH: Takuji.

TI: And how much younger was he than you?

IH: It's two years, but almost three years. Because I'm February, he was born on December.

TI: 1931 then? December?

IH: Yeah.

TI: Okay, and your sister was born about 1920 then. Yeah, around there, about nine years before.

IH: Yeah, 1920. Mine is the '29, so my sister is 1920, yeah.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So we have the names of your sister and brother, let's go back to your father. What was your father's name?

IH: Tetsuji.

TI: And where did he, where was he born? Where did he grow up?

IH: He was born in Hiroshima. That's almost to the city limit, and then one of the old family. And then he was telling me they are a samurai family. [Laughs] Those days, they are really proud of the samurai families. And then my mother is...

TI: Well, but before we go to your mother, so why did your father come to Hawaii?

IH: Oh. He was the second son, and Japanese culture is only first son can get the higher education. So he didn't have any chance to get it. So he tried to go in the foreign country, tried to find something else. So he went himself. And then later, he come back, went back to Japan and then married with my mother.

TI: Okay, and then what's your mother's name?

IH: Shigeno.

TI: Shigeno. And do you know what year they got married?

IH: No, I don't know.

TI: Or do you know what year your father came to Hawaii?

IH: That, too, I have a record in home, but...

TI: Okay, no, that's okay. So first he came to Hawaii, he worked a little bit, then he went back to Japan, married your mother, and then they came back to Hilo?

IH: Yes.

TI: And then they had your sister Teruko in 1920, and then later on you and your brother in Hilo. What else can you remember from Hilo?

IH: That's all, about... another thing is we went to the swimming. Inside the Hilo bay has a Coconut Island. It's a really small island, and it's close to the shore. Now they have a bridge, but those days, didn't have. Just swim out to the Coconut Island. Still, I remember yet.

TI: Well, you were a young boy. Could you swim?

IH: No, somebody took me out there. That's not far from the shore.

TI: But you remember someone taking you to the island.

IH: Yeah, and then stayed there and eat lunch, something like that.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: So in about 1933, when you were about four years old, the family goes to Japan.

IH: Yes.

TI: Why did the family go to Japan?

IH: According to my father, his success in the business. Later, he was contracted with the sugar company, and he had his own sugar field, too. But my mother said he got really bad homesick, so they went back to Japan.

TI: Oh, so it sounds like, so business-wise, he was doing quite well. He had land, he had his business, but then he got homesick so he wanted to go back. Okay.

IH: That's not good, his excuse, the success of the business. But he did pretty good, I think. Soon as we went back to Japan he bought the land and then built a house.

TI: So what did he do with the land in Hilo? Did he sell all the --

IH: Sold it.

TI: So he sold the business and the land and everything. Okay, so he had money, then he went to, back to Japan, or Hiroshima.

IH: And he didn't sell the land, too, he just let it go, everything, and they went back to Japan. And then later, he asked his friend to sell the land.

TI: Explain that again? So first he went to Japan, and then he came back and then sold it then? So the first time he went, he wasn't sure he was gonna stay?

IH: No, no, that time already he wanted to go back for permanent.

TI: So why didn't he sell the first time? Why did he have to come back?

IH: Maybe he doesn't have a time. When you're homesick, you want to go home. That's the thing.

TI: And then you said in Hiroshima he bought some land and built a place?

IH: Yes.

TI: So where did he build a house?

IH: Almost city limit. And then they didn't have much houses around there. On that street, on the one block, only our house was there. Fill up the (farmer's land) so all around is just farmer's land. So no houses around there. All the land is empty lot.

TI: And how big was your, was the land that your father bought? How much land?

IH: That's not big, just about two houses, can build. Then so he built the house, then he tried to grow the vegetables. Just, you name it, everything we had. Only we didn't have rice, but from the vegetable, everything, potato to peanuts. And not only that, he bought about a hundred boxes of honeybee.

TI: Interesting. Why so many honeybees?

IH: Just as a side business. And then left (professional beekeeper) to take care. And that (professional beekeeper), from Japan, start from Kyushu, southern part, and then go follow the flowers. Then he had extra money coming in. And not only that, he was raising about two thousand chickens in the backyard.

TI: And what were the chickens for? The eggs or would he sell the chickens? Why so many chickens?

IH: Mostly it's the eggs. And when they become old, then they kill 'em and sell to the market, too. So he was self-employed. [Laughs]

TI: And so growing up, did you have to help a lot on the farm?

IH: Yeah. When I came to the seventh grade, I started helping my father clean the chicken house, and then also prepare for the harvest and seeding, too. So I helped quite a bit.

TI: Now, with all the vegetables, you said you had almost every kind of vegetable. Was that for the family?

IH: Just the family.

TI: Just the family. Did you sell some of the vegetables?

IH: No. Just when leftover, then give it to the neighbors.

TI: So it was the honeybees and the chickens, that was more of the business to make some money.

IH: So I'm helping honeybee, too. So I know how to handle the honeybee.

TI: So did you get lots of stings?

IH: No. Well, the stings, sometimes they do it, but for me, it's just like nothing. Even, didn't swell up or anything, just that time it'll get sore.

TI: Now, did you wear special, like...

IH: Yeah, the net on only the face. And the hands, no, just bare hands.

TI: And so what's the trick? Do you just have to go really slow? What do you do so they don't sting you? Is there a certain technique?

IH: No, they put the smoke on it. Before you do, shoot the smoke inside box, then it's calmed down. Then you can open the box, and then you can, what you want to do. And then if get the section, lift 'em up, too much honey, then with a brush, you just shake 'em down. Then when honey stay in there, then cut off the cover and then spin them around and take off the honey. That's all the kind of, I used to do. But that helped me on the college examination, entry examination.

TI: So that didn't help you, knowing all that?

IH: That really helped me.

TI: And what about the chores with the chickens? What kind of chores did you have to do with the chickens? To help out with the chickens, what did you do?

IH: Oh, most of the time cleaned the chicken house. Because not like now, now is only a couple chickens in the one cage. And then when they laid the egg just come out in the front. So they, chicken cannot move around, cannot exercise. But those days, get two hundred, two hundred, two hundred in the different sections. So nighttime, evenings, chase into the house, and then sleep inside the house. But in the morning, open the door and then let go to the field. But, of course, it's all with chicken wire fence.

TI: Interesting. When you did your chores and worked with your father, did he ever talk about his life in Hilo and comparing, maybe, his work in Hiroshima with Hilo? Did he look back at Hilo fondly or was he glad he was in Hiroshima? Did he talk about that?

IH: No, he doesn't talk too much.

TI: And how about your mother? Did she ever talk about Hawaii?

IH: Yes.

TI: What did she say about Hawaii to you?

IH: Oh, she likes Hawaii. She didn't want to go back to Japan. But cannot help, the family. And in those days, husband is the boss. Cannot do anything.

TI: Now, why did she like Hawaii? What did she say about Hawaii?

IH: First of all, the climate, I think. Not like Japan, cold and hot. Japan, when it's hot it's really hot. Those days, no more air conditioning, just with a fan. And everything, not only that, American custom is wide open. Not like Japan. Japan is kind of, so many things.

TI: Oh, so maybe especially for a woman, it was easier in Hawaii than Japan.

IH: It's different.

TI: Oh, interesting.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: Let's talk about school now. When you started school, what was school like for you?

IH: I wasn't good in English, but in Japanese, I was already same as Japan boys. So when going to the elementary school, I don't have any trouble. Just like a Japanese boy. Of course, I don't know Hawaii, so it's easy to adjust to Japanese custom.

TI: Now, as you were growing up, as a young boy, did you hear about war? Japan going to war and things like that, was that part of your education or things that you heard about?

IH: Yes. That was about 1937, July, the war started between Japan and China. And later, they started a shortage on food and then everything. Because everything going to the military.

TI: So for your family, like with the chickens and things, did you have to give the military some extra food or anything? Did it affect you?

IH: That time was pretty good until going to the World War II. That's when attacked Pearl Harbor...

TI: 1941.

IH: '41, yeah, December.

TI: But going back, in 1938/'39, that's when you started seeing some shortages?

IH: Some start to, slowly start to shortage. And then some of them, like rice or some vegetables, come to the ration. So that's limited. But we had a chicken, and then especially egg is really (scanty), they're looking for it. So we can exchange with our eggs or our chickens, because no more meat. But we have everything to support our family. We didn't have any expense except keep up the chicken farm.

TI: So your family was fortunate because it had the vegetable garden and the chickens, the eggs. Now, did you ever have to worry that some people might come and try to take eggs or chickens?

IH: No, no.

TI: No? Nothing like that.

IH: That time was good. One thing, Japan is really good in that part. Not much criminal. And even during World War II, we didn't have any trouble with that.

TI: Even when people got hungry, they still didn't have that problem?

IH: No. Didn't have a problem.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Let's go to the war. So December 8, 1941, in Japan that's when Pearl Harbor, people heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. How did you hear about it?

IH: Oh, that time, I was, I think, second grade, chuugakkou, that's middle school. And was going to the sports event from the school, and then we heard from the radio that war started. Oh, I was really scared. Not only myself, everybody got really scared.

TI: So scared.

IH: Yes.

TI: So was it quiet? Or what kind of...

IH: But cannot do anything, just we got to go to school and do it. But it's inside. Don't show on the outside, but really scared thinking what's going to happen. Maybe in a few months we're going to have an air raid or something like that.

TI: Because you were, what, about twelve years old when the war started? This is 1941, yeah, so you'd be twelve years old. This is, you said, like about eighth grade or so? What grade would you be in?

IH: Eighth grade.

TI: Eighth grade, okay. So you're scared, and so how did life start changing now that the war had started? What sort of things did you see? You said earlier there were some shortages, some rationing. Then what happened?

IH: First thing is Japanese military had so much power because of fighting in China, and they started to the United States. Then everything going to the military, so civilian doesn't have anything left. That ration comes and really strict. Not only they gain the power, they tried to educate in the military way. At the school, from the college, to the elementary school, so everything, fight, fight, fight.

TI: So that was a change. Before, it wasn't so much, and then now that war started, you started getting trained in school about more military.

IH: For the country. You're going to give the life to the country. So everything military. So when, instead of going to the regular college, they tried to pull into the military school.

TI: And how would they do that? They would just try to recruit?

IH: No, just kind of, they're going to educate to that. And then for the school, you have to be really good, too. Like me, on the seventh, eighth grade, I took the test for the military school early, but I failed. Then tenth grade, I took 'em for the army officer's school, naval and officer's school, and everything, failed. Especially in the navy officer's school, entry examination, every day, we're going to have a result. So in the morning, take a test, nighttime, already there, then have a list. So Japanese, and then science, I took the examination and I pass. And then the last test was English, and I failed. [Laughs]

TI: Oh, that's so funny. That's ironic. [Laughs] And here you were an American citizen.

IH: Yeah, so even now, when I go back to Japan, my friends say, "Oh, I didn't know you were a Nisei. I thought you were... you wasn't good on English."

TI: That's ironic. Which brings a point, I mean, because your sister, you and your brother were all born in Hawaii, were you ever treated differently because of your American citizenship?

IH: Not with my family. Because not too many people knew that we are American-born. Only after the war, I tried making, prepare for coming back to Hawaii, then everybody said, "Huh?"

TI: And so you had like a, what, a birth certificate? Or how did you prove that you were American later on?

IH: On the birth certificate.

TI: Now in terms of citizenship, did you have dual citizenship?

IH: Dual citizenship, right. That time I had. So when we were coming back and went to the general consul, they're going to check the American citizenship and then to Japan, they knew. Only thing they're going to check is history connected to the Japanese government and then the military. And if you go into the military, I couldn't come back. So my friends went to the army, that's the reason they couldn't come back. Way later, they came back, but they had a hard time.

TI: Yeah, so if you were American-born and then were in Japan, as long as you didn't serve in the military, you could come back as a citizen. But if you fought or you served in the Japanese military, then you lost your U.S. citizenship.

IH: Because when, student time, we get the order to help at the fire station because of the, prepare for the air raid. And even that, American consul asked question and then I have to get proof. I could work in the fire station, even we don't have a Japanese citizenship. So I have to go there and then get the certificate and come back. And after that, no problem. Because I was a student 'til 1940...

TI: '45, right?

IH: '44, yeah.

TI: Well, no, even '45, August, when the bomb was dropped you were a student.

IH: That time was, I was in college. Then three years' college, then should be '48 come back here. But Hawaii had a dock strike from August. So I couldn't come back until the following year, 1949, February. The first boat to be, catch and come back.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: We'll come back to that, let's go back to 1945 now. Right before the bomb dropped, let's talk about there because about then is when you started school, right? You started a new class or something. Let's talk about that right now.

IH: School is, around the eighth grade, we have to help once in a while. Not once in a while, maybe once a month, have to help the farmer. Then later, when come to the ninth grade, some of them, they have to go to the army factory from time to time. Then when come to the end of the ninth grade, upper grade student is, all get the order to work on the military factory. Make rifle, make airplane, pitched in, so we didn't have any class, school. Just seventh grade... yeah, only seventh grade had class.

TI: Oh, so after seventh grade, eighth, ninth and the rest, you really were working.

IH: Working, yeah.

TI: And was there any education?

IH: No. Our school, they tried to do it just a little time, teaching in between.

TI: But then if you had passed those tests, earlier you talked about, for that kind of training, what would they do? Would they be in class then? Would they go to school?

IH: No, we can't prepare anything for the college examination. But I was lucky because up to the ninth grade, still we had our classes. And then tenth grade, didn't have, just work. Then we had the end of the war, so pretty good. Like my brother was eighth grade already, he was going to the factory.

TI: And so why was your class different, you didn't have to do that?

IH: Because that time, when the time comes, we had enough to have the class.

TI: Okay. So keep telling me the story because now as we reach August 1945, what happens?

IH: Before that, we were working in the factory, but they had college entry exam. So everybody tried to get out to the college. Like me, the teacher tells me, "You don't have any chance at college, so better not take examination." But I told him, "No, I'll do it." And then I went one day, took one day off and went to the examination. And two-hour entry examination, only one problem come up. And it said on the top, "Bee, when a cloudy day, so much going out, and then a shiny day, so much out," and then they have a number. So from that, what you can find out. Just about this much on the question. So I know about the bee, so...

TI: Oh, so that's what you said earlier, now I understand. Because of working on the bees, you knew so much, and so the question was, it was the perfect question for you.

IH: Perfect question for me. And then rest of the one page blank. And I did possible rainy day is no more honey, or honey but dilute with water. Or with the rain, hit the bee, and then cannot fly out. So just, I filled up everything. And some of them is just about five line answer. And that made a difference. Because I took mechanical engineering, so you have to, imagination, you have to have it. So source and then what's going to happen, everything you have to put down, otherwise you cannot develop the mechanical. And that's the reason maybe I had a chance.

TI: And so because of that question, that examination, what happened next then?

IH: I pass on that one, and they're going to have a, with a professor, have to get a question, too. And before I go inside there, boy, everybody get a hard time because math equations, you have to put 'em down. This equation you have to do the, right down this one. Oh, I thought I don't have any chance. But when I go inside, "How come you are trying to get engineer?" So I tell 'em I'm interested in engineer, especially going to the factory. And they use a machine, and when I'm really interested in the machine, too, so I tried to get an engineer degree. "Oh, that's good. Then what other school did you try to go in?" I tell him, "None. Only this school, college." "Okay." That's the only thing, so I thought I failed. Questions were so simple, then not too long, and other people, it's a really hard time. Then surprising I was passed. So by the time -- and usually, Japanese school system, April is a new year. And should go into the April, but college, too, they don't have classes, so keep working on the same place. July, beginning of July, we had an order, go back to our college. Only the mechanical engineer, because of the shortage of mechanical engineer. Then we go back to the college August 1st. And then first, second, third, and then the sixth is a Monday. And then Sunday, too, we had classes. No rest.

TI: And so tell me, where was the school? Where was the school located?

IH: That's from the center of the atomic bomb dropped, 1.3 miles from the center. And a wooden structure building, and we were on the second floor. The second floor we was on, two class, and our class was fifty and the other class was fifty. That's the reason we are all safe.

TI: So two floors, so you were on the top floor. There were two classes, and then on the first floor, there were more classes?

IH: Empty ones. Empty, but we had the second floor. Because if we had stayed on the first floor, we wouldn't have any chance. Because that tall second floor roof, you can reach out from the ground. And, of course, like me, about twenty people came out from the building and then tried to rescue the other people, hundred people. And then surprisingly, everybody hurt, but that time, we didn't have any die.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So, Izumi, so tell me, so let's go back a little bit to when the blast happened. So if you could walk through that.

IH: Sunday, one day before, we were sitting down anyplace. Then end of the Sunday, they pointed out where our seats. And usually I was sitting down on the window side because the window side has some wind and it's cool. But I was in the opposite side, in the front side of the classroom. And sitting over there, and that morning, from the dormitory to the school, we have to pass the center of the atomic bomb drop. If fifteen minutes earlier, we are all dead on the street. But we went to the school and then copying all the equation from the math, I heard, it sounded like a big rain. Really big rain coming. So look out the window, I saw the fire is coming down from the top of the window, and then all the whirlpool coming in, just like they have the picture. It's slowly coming down. And first thing I thought, "That isn't a bomb." Because I didn't hear the B-29 airplane sound. And then second, I didn't hear any blasts. Only thing, I saw the fire. So that time, next building, in the college, the naval laboratory was there. So first thing that came to my mind, they made some kind of mistake, something exploded or fire came. So I stand up, tried to get out from the room, and just blank. Next minute I was lying down close to the teacher's desk. I couldn't see because of so much dust, but I can see the big beam from the building is coming down. So when that's coming down, just like a slow movie you're watching. And I thought, if that big beam hits my head, what's going to happen? If I die over here, what would my family think? I wonder if they can find me if I die over here. So many things go through. That's only the second, not more than ten second or something like that. But next thing, everything starts to -- and stopped falling down. Then I jump up and go out from the building. But I cannot see. Maybe I can see the front about five yard, ten yard, just you know kind of where you can go. But inside the college, so many buildings, cannot tell which way to go (...). So once I get close to the gate, so come out from gate, go around and go into the ground, open ground.

TI: Okay, so before we, let me just make sure I understand everything and then we'll have you continue the story. But, so before the bomb, from the dormitory, you had to walk to your classroom, and you walked right through the epicenter of where the bomb was. So if the bomb had just come a little bit earlier, you would all have been killed. And then you go to your classroom on the second floor, and your seat was -- I want to understand. Was it by the window or away from the window?

IH: Away from the window.

TI: Away from the window. Okay, so you were moved away from the window. And then when the blast happened, you saw this kind of rain of fire coming down, that you thought was really, perhaps, an experiment, a bad experiment by the navy building next door. And then a blast happened and then you kind of woke up and you were next to the teacher's desk with a beam falling down like in slow motion. Although it was happening within a second, everything slowed down. It missed you, so you were able to get up. The question I have is in the classroom, how many were able to get up and leave? You said there was about fifty in there, did you say like about twenty were able to leave, or I was wondering how many in that room were able to leave.

IH: Our room was fifty, and then next room was fifty, so hundred student. And then get out to the outside is about twenty or twenty-five.

TI: Okay, so that means seventy-five to eighty people were still...

IH: Were still in that building.

TI: ...either they had been killed or they were trapped or something, or injured?

IH: Trapped in between the desks. And that's the reason they are safe. And then, of course, stay in the window side, some of them got the burn on the right-hand side. Anyway, when we get out, looking at all the classmate, and then one of them came out, to me, "Hey, I cannot see in this eye what happened." Actually, his eyeball was out, and then just covered with blood. And (I said) nothing, just kind of hurt above the eye, put a band-aid, something to cover him up, and then we go and try to help the other, rescue the other people. And in the meantime, I was, I noticed something. The warm thing is coming down from my head, and right away I noticed that was blood. It's just like warm water is coming down. And those days, we have the Japanese towel, individual, they have Japanese towel. So take out that one and put 'em, mine is from the head to this side. And still I cannot cover because I kind of had that, this side. And then the friend gave me, classmate, so this way. Then I go into the classroom, try to get out the classmate. And try to lift up the one side, other side is crying, and sore, so... and then go into the other side and trying to help, this side going (to complain). But somehow, we all took the students out an hour later. So then everybody out, so I said, "Oh, better go out and find out what it is."

TI: When you were able to get as many students out as you could, how many students were there that you were able to help out?

IH: Oh, rest of them.

TI: Oh, so almost all hundred?

IH: All of them.

TI: All hundred were accounted for.

IH: Yes. One of them was unconscious, but he came back afterwards.

TI: Yeah, and in your building, you mentioned how you were injured, blood was coming down the side.

IH: That's the window glass that (shatter and) fly.

TI: And then your other, that one person you said his eyeball was out, was that... when you think about your classmates, were a lot of them burned on one side because of the window side that they were burned?

IH: One side, yes. And then one of them told me when he opened the eye, he could see the sky. And what happened to him, he was thrown out from the building, second floor, and was on the school grounds, he was lying down on the ground, but didn't hurt at all, nothing, normal.

TI: So the blast just threw him out?

IH: Just kind of threw out, and then somehow, gently...

TI: And this was the second floor?

IH: That's amazing. It all depends on where you were staying.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: Okay, and now you're saying so after you helped everyone out of the building, you then went out into the --

IH: So everybody, most of them can walk, and a couple of them, they broke their legs, so everybody helped out and then going out from the school. Because no sense staying in school. But us, I tried to find out what happened in the college, and then maybe the kind of bomb that we didn't hear, we looked all over the campus, couldn't see the bomb hole. "Oh, no sense staying inside the (campus), better go out." And go out to the street, and looking to the center of the city, found out it's flat and everything burning. So you can see the mile away, building, no nothing between. And then people walking out from the center of the city, everybody hold the hands out like this [holds arms out in front] and slowly walking out. First thing I noticed, naked. No clothes, and no more underwear, too. Some of them were completely naked. Then say, "Sore, sore." And then when all the hands, arms, like on the arm, they're hanging down, some thin plastic-like. Those days, no plastic, so I thought, "What is that?" Just like a silk, thin silk. And then when you look at it, girl or boy, bald head, because hair is all burned off. And they're slowly coming down, and some of them beside me said they're tired, sitting down, and right there they died. Just as they sit down, and then died. So that's really... how I exaggerate, cannot explain. It's terrible. Unless you see it, you cannot believe it.

TI: So the blast burned the hair off, burned all the clothes off, and then you mentioned this, it looked like plastic or silk, what was that?

IH: That's the skin, body, and it's hanging to there. And then why they kind of put their hands up, just recently I found out. When burn or something like that, this position [holding arms out in front] is less pain. If they put their hands down, it's kind of painful. So everybody put their hands in the front and then walked out. Of course, that people cannot have, I mean, they don't have a chance at all. But sometimes inside the house, they might have a chance, but again, if close to the center of the atomic bomb drop, they're trapped inside the house, cannot get out, and then a fire coming up right away. So some families come out from the house and tried to rescue the sister or parents, cannot. Fire slip so fast. So you see it, they're gonna burn, but they got to move out.

TI: Now, when you left the school and you saw this, you would look to the center of town and you could see a whole mile just flat, all burned, and then these people walking, what were you thinking? What were your feelings at this point?

IH: That time, no feeling at all. Just kind of ourselves got shocked with the blast, and then when look at that, we don't feel, felt anything.

TI: Do you recall --

IH: Just come and then just take it.

TI: Do you remember any words that anyone, your classmates or anyone said when you saw this?

IH: No. And then tried to get out from the center of the city, go outside. Then an army truck came --

TI: But before we go there, a few more other questions. So when you came out of school and you looked to the center, it was flat. Was your school like one of the last places where... or was your school also flat? I'm trying to figure, from the epicenter, how far away before there were any buildings left standing?

IH: Oh, that all depends on how the blast goes to. Because not go in a circle, just like a finger out like this. Some, they go far, and some is not. I don't know how that happened. Now, my house is the same thing. It's far away, but burned. And some kind of close to the center, some safe. So all depends on the, again, location.

TI: Okay, so now you were saying, so you're trying to get away from the center, and this is where you...

IH: Tried to get out from the city, and the army truck came, and soldier look at me, and, "Hey, you better hop in the truck." Because they're going to the army hospital, that's on the opposite side of where we stayed. And then my house is the same side of the city. So I jumped onto the truck, then so many people want to get on, too. And one girl asked me, "Help me," pull up. And I didn't think anything, just hold her arm, and tried to pull her up. And what happened? The skin came off, just slipped off. Then I have to think, "Oh, maybe not the burning, (part is) under the arm." So I jump off from the truck and put my hands under the arm and then push her up to the truck. So skin is already burned and really it's off. So that's what I found out.

TI: And was she in pain when you did that?

IH: No, didn't say anything.

TI: People are just more shocked.

IH: Maybe kind of numb already. Didn't say anything. But I know I cannot pull up because if I did hand to hand, that's not too long, so I have to...

TI: And can you recall any of the smells during this time?

IH: No smell, nothing. Just already everything... just burning.

TI: What about sounds? What sounds can you remember from this time? Do you remember any...

IH: No, no sound.

TI: So just this...

IH: Just the fire.

TI: Just the fire. So you could just see things.

IH: Because I asked a classmate afterwards, and nobody hear the sound.

TI: No, but even afterwards. Afterwards, as people are leaving, do you just remember what kind of sounds? Was there like any people calling out for help or anything?

IH: Nothing. Just quiet. Just nothing. Just, you can hear the burning sound, house burning. And then the smell, that's the only thing. It's really quiet. No sound, just a dead town.

TI: And before that, you had hundreds of thousands of people there, 250,000 people in the city of Hiroshima.

IH: But close to the center is, die instantly. They die, no more chance at all. And then what they survive is maybe some shade of something, or the kind of weak part they were in, not people coming up from... that time, too, not too many people. There was not too many people coming out there like that.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Okay, so now you're on the truck, you just helped this girl into the truck by holding her on her armpits, and then what happens next?

IH: Oh, then they were trying to get on the army hospital, but the houses are all burning, cannot go anyway. They turn around and then go to the ocean side. Then -- [coughs] excuse me.

TI: Do you want a drink of water?

IH: Yeah. Then I figure out no sense, because opposite side from my house, so I jump off with my classmate. And then tried to get out from the city.

TI: Now, when you were on the ocean side, were there many people on the beach or in the water trying to treat their burns or anything like that? Did you see anything like that?

IH: They had some hospital on the other island, so the army boat going to take 'em to the other island. And some people on the bank of the river, they were so hot, so they tried to cool off and go into the river. And that place, no more fire, and it's so hot, they're going to jump into the water and die. Or some cannot go, just lie down on the bank of the river and then die there. And I didn't see it, because I was just trying to get out from the center. So less people, only the people can walk out. And then that's emergency time, with the family, in case you have something, cannot come home, going to the meeting point. Number one here, number two there, number three, and then my last meeting place is my mother's parents'. That's really far away from the city, maybe four hour, just walking down.

TI: So I want to understand this. So before the, during wartime, everyone had kind of a plan in case of bombs or something, we get separated, we meet here, number one, if not here, then number two, number three? So where was the meeting places for you?

IH: More outside the city. My friend's house first. Then tried to, about three or four.

TI: So this was, this was worked out with your parents. Okay, "So Izumi, if something happens, here are the good safe places to go after."

IH: Yes. So I went to the last spot, and then they didn't show up, so next day, I'm coming out, and then look inside the city again.

TI: Okay, so let's talk about how you went from the ocean side to your mother's parents house. Because it's pretty far away, you said four hours? How did you get there?

IH: Just walked. No train, nothing. No transportation.

TI: And it took you four hours?

IH: Four hours, it took. Four to five hours. Of course, not fast, because kind of hurt, so everybody walking slowly. It's kind of far away.

TI: And while you're walking, are there other people around you walking also?

IH: Yeah, all going back to their own house.

TI: And what were people saying or talking about as they were leaving? Did you hear voices?

IH: Then about evening, they started talking. That was some kind of new bomb they dropped on Hiroshima. And then those days, only one B-29 come fly over. Nobody going to the bomb shelter or anything, just another one coming. Nobody expecting the bombing. And what I heard later, B-29 fly over, and then they dropped three parachute, they saw. And then one is the atomic bomb itself, one is a trigger, when exposed, and this one going to be the atomic bomb exploding. And another parachute was a ton of water, they say. Because the chain reaction going through the water is kind of fast and then more explosive. That's the reason maybe Hiroshima damage was so big, because of the seven rivers running inside the city. So that maybe affected the water, gonna affect the atomic bomb.

TI: I didn't know that.

IH: I didn't know, just later I found out.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So when you got to your mother's parents' house, what was the reaction? Tell me what happened when you got to the house.

IH: Oh, that time, when reach up there, "Oh, your family's not here." And then one of my cousins went into city with a bike and then tried to get to my house, but couldn't get inside already, so much fire. And he was back that time, and he said, "I don't think your house is safe." Not sure, but he couldn't go out, "So you better take a look next day." And next day, again, no more transportation, so I got to walk down to the city.

TI: And before we go there, how about your wounds? You mentioned the blood coming down, how severe were the injuries?

IH: That's just, I was put (towels) on, and I didn't know so much blood came out. But when looks from the outside, they thought I'm really hurt, maybe my head is all wide open or something like that. Because the two towel is soaking wet with the blood. And then my uncle... at my mother's parents' house, "Izumi, I don't want to say, but you're not really bad. That's not yours. Only scratch." That's the one, what happened is the door glass shattered and then go into my right side. And then some head and then some right hand side. That's a, cut up inside. Then I'm a curious guy, so just follow the city train tracks.

TI: But before we go there, I just want to make sure I understand. So essentially the wounds you had were all surface wounds, that was just the glass just cutting not too deep, but it caused lots of bleeding. So when you put those bandages on, they got covered with blood, and so when people saw you, they thought it looked a lot worse than it really was. With all the blood they thought perhaps --

IH: On the head.

TI: Like maybe heavy burns or big gashes, but actually it wasn't as bad.

IH: And then maybe my face was all with blood.

TI: Okay. And that's why the army person stopped, because you looked bad, and others, okay.

IH: I couldn't understand why they said to jump onto the truck.

TI: And so when you got to your uncle's, or your mother's parents' place, they cleaned you all up and it wasn't so bad. And so the next day you then, you said you followed the tracks into town?

IH: Right. And then I passed right center of the atomic bomb drop. Only fifty yards away from the street, I passed right there. Of course, train was in the middle of the street, burned down, everything. And then people inside there burned like charcoal. And then both sides of the street, all the dead people were just black. Some of them just like charcoal. Some of them is close to the house. One of them I saw, head just kind of sit on top of the road, then everything, you see the picture, all white. And when I look at it, still inside is the fire. Inside the head is burning. So just like a Halloween mask, outside is all white, and you can see inside the eyes, red, nose, mouth, still inside, hot. It's red.

TI: So what, what did you think at this point? Because now you've had a day or so...

IH: Yeah, one day.

TI: And so what are you thinking?

IH: Just nothing.

TI: But some of these figures, these images of like a skull, I guess, burning from within.

IH: Didn't feel anything. Just, oh, people die, and what happened. And some of them carried a baby, tried to protect the baby and then died right over there, mother and baby died right by the street.

TI: And you would see this? You would watch this happen?

IH: Yeah.

TI: Now, were there any officials like army or police or anyone helping people at this point?

IH: No, no, nothing. Because on that day, still next day, just a dead town. And then from the third day, fourth day, they, from the countryside came out to help. And so much body, so they're going to have to cremate. And that time, you cannot carry with hand, because of, some of them burned, some of them already start to rot. So just like a fish, they just hook 'em and take 'em in one place, and put a big fire, wood, line 'em up, all line 'em up on top of there and make 'em high. Then start to burn.

TI: So we're talking about hundreds of bodies burning?

IH: Uh-huh. And that didn't happen 'til about ten days after.

TI: And so I'm imagining the smell of just cremated bodies.

IH: Oh, that was terrible. That's terrible, that kind of thing. If you want to know, cut a fingernail, put it inside the fire.

TI: That's the smell...

IH: That's the smell. First, the second day, went back to my house, already they started burning and cremating the people. Oh, I couldn't eat. Something you want to eat, just the smell. But from the next day, so used to it, cremating right next to me, don't bother at all, can eat. So when you become used to it, it's really bad. Really bad. That's not a human being already.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: So talk about finding your family, how that happened.

IH: Oh, my family is... that day, my father was sick. So my brother tried to take, just happened to be the day of, that Monday. And then he tried to take my father to the doctor with the bicycle, they were making ready, then that bomb happened. And at my house, they saw first the flash came on. So my brother tried to take a look outside, and next minute, blow him out. My brother was on the second floor, he tried to come down from the stairway, then wind blow him down to the first floor, and he didn't get any injury. Only back of the ear, something scratched. And my father was lying down in the room, and he saw the flash, so he stood up, and those days, not pajama, they wear the kimono. And when stand up, the wind blow, it's coming in, and then he went out to the bomb shelter. And nobody coming out, so he came back to the house. Then my brother was just, from the second floor, my mother was on the kitchen, and something fell down and then hurt above the eye, and then she thought she lost her eye. And then the three of them meet in the room, and then my father said, "Everybody okay?" and he collapsed. So my mother opened the kimono, and she found out, the right hand chest wide open, and blood was gushing out. And when my mother saw it, it's already bubbles coming out. In that case, nobody can't help, everybody same situation. Nobody can help. So my brother went out from the house, find a stretcher. Because those days, they prepare for the... he found one and come back, and they put my father on the stretcher. My mother and then my brother, my brother was only fourteen years old, they knew that the school is about two hundred yards from my house. They tried to take him down to the school, but the street is not a regular street. Already, everything comes down, and no more place to walk. But the two of them, nobody else helped, took him down to the school. And the army doctor gave him painkiller.

TI: But he couldn't do anything for his... it sounded like a punctured lung or something?

IH: Yeah.

TI: So when the blast happened, it sounds like there must have been some kind of object or something that hit him?

IH: Glass stick inside.

TI: Okay, glass.

IH: So they can just put a bandage, wrap around. That's the only thing they can do.

TI: And how far away was the house from the blast?

IH: About a mile and a half.

TI: So about a mile and a half. And so your brother saw a flash, started running down the stairs, and then when the blast hit, the wind hit, he was pushed off. Your mother got hit above the eye, and then your father, it sounds like glass from the blast punctured his lung.

IH: And then fire is coming down to the school, too, so then now get plenty soldier around there, so they carried. And when they carried, four soldiers have to carry.

TI: Your father?

IH: Yeah.

TI: Four soldiers, and it was your brother and your mother carried him a couple hundred yards to the school.

IH: Because that heavy, you know, that's really deadweight. But when something happens, they can do it. It's not easy, but they did it. Nobody going to help, you have to do it. And then went out to the bamboo forest, because, again, if an airplane comes, cannot stay on the open place. Then my father died over there. But he wasn't burned, so really clean. Because if burned, your body comes about three times bigger, arm swell up, the head swell up, everything swell up and cannot recognize. But he was just hurt.

TI: Oh, so there was no burns. It was just a blast and the glass puncturing his lung.

IH: Yeah. Of course, I didn't see what the cut is. The next day I come, I didn't see that far, just what happened over here?

TI: So describe when you first got to the house where you met your brother and mother. What was that like?

IH: Oh, that's inside the bamboo forest. And then I found them, and then talked, and then I had lunch, I mean, two musubi, rice ball, and I said, "Here, this is for you." They didn't eat from that time until next day about lunch, nothing. Only the water. And so I stayed a little while over there, and then I got to do something on my house side. Because my father is dead, so I've got to go someplace to look for the sleep and then with my mother back to the house. Then we had two bomb shelter, one close to the, right next to the house, if we don't have time, just we can jump into the close one. And then the other one is a vegetable garden. Everything, clothes and food for a short while, we stock inside there. And we looked inside there, everything is fine, nothing damaged. Then when we look at the chicken house, some of them wasn't burned. House is completely burned, but the chicken (house), some of them left. Of course, it's flat, oh, we can do something. So find a post, and then corrugated iron, just make one place three of us can sleep. First I put the roof on top. And that's not high, about four or five feet, just for sleep. And they had the mat, so put 'em over there. And by the time, from the countryside, they started to bring the food. But they couldn't go inside the city, so all the food stuck at the, close to our place. And then we heard that food is there, so we went over there, oh, so much food. About three days we didn't have to worry, just go over there and just get it.

TI: And who was bringing the food? Was it the government that was bringing it?

IH: No, no, just all volunteer.

TI: So like farmers?

IH: Farmers. And then bring down, but cannot take 'em into the city. So leave 'em over there and somebody take care. Because the farmer have to go back, too. So that part was kind of, we were just around the city limit, we were lucky. And later, I put all the side on, and then we can sleep. And we don't have to worry about blankets because hot in the summertime. That's the middle of it. And for a while we stayed there, and then clothes, of course, were inside the bomb shelter. And everybody started to get rumors already, so many years, cannot live inside Hiroshima, inside city. So everybody started to go out from the city. We was prepared to get out.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: So, Izumi, we're going to start the second part, and where we left it was, this is after the bombing, and you had heard that people wouldn't be able to live in Hiroshima for years and years. And so you were talking about, at that point, people were starting to move away?

IH: Yeah.

TI: So why don't you tell the story.

IH: And my mother saw the weeds coming up, grass is coming up. So they, "Hey, if grass is coming out, we could stay, too." So couple days we think about, then might as well, we can stay, better stay inside that part, our land. Then we can do what we can do. And plus, the chicken house is quite a bit left over, so we can do something. Then my mother started to... taking off the lumber and wood like that, and my mother just go and wash the board. And that time, my father was thinking ahead. In case water is out, we don't have any water, so he made a well, pump. And that's in the wintertime, water is warm. Summertime, it's cold. So we didn't have to worry. That really helped us. Then I go back to the, after the Hiroshima, volunteer doctor, nurse, then army doctors, nurses, came into the center of the city and tried to help other people. Later on, less than a week, everybody started getting sick.

TI: So these are the people closer inside the city.

IH: Yeah.

TI: But on the city limits, it wasn't so bad?

IH: No, it wasn't so bad. And then when they get sick, they die. And only, so they stay about a couple of week, they didn't know, but a couple of weeks later they're all out from there because they found out it's with radiation, something happened to the body and then they die. Just like other people, victim of the blast. So that's... the only people that tried to cremate people that's left inside there. We stayed that land, and then made, just about... more than double this room, I made a shack. And later on somebody out from our place, coming back, they want to go to the center, came to our house to sleep, we can share the, just sleeping place. And that year in September, we had a flood.

TI: So this is about a month after? August, September...

IH: About a month. It still wasn't cold. And just happened to be I was again out to my mother's parents' house, and my mother and then brother was home. But they just go under the water so they have to evacuate.

TI: So the land was underwater because of the flooding.

IH: Then I have to make a higher place, another house. I wanted to make a permanent, you know. So about four people, four or five people can sleep, and then a kitchen, and then a bath place, the tub was iron, so that's saved. So I put, all put 'em in the house.

TI: And I'm curious, how many other people were also living around there, the neighborhood? Were there other people living also?

IH: Yeah, they came back, most, all of them. But some of them, they couldn't come home, because nothing, and then everything have to do from scratch.

TI: Now, were there very many people living, from where you lived, closer into the city? Were there other people living like... you said in the center...

IH: No, all around, around the city.

TI: So just more around the city, but not closer, but more just around.

IH: Not closer. Close to the, inside the city is maybe a year after, they started to gradually come inside.

TI: Now, how would people know where was safe and not safe to live? Because in the center there's radiation.

IH: Just guessing. Maybe okay. And some people go back, "Oh, they're okay. Maybe it's okay, let's go back."

TI: So how much did people know about radiation poisoning?

IH: Nothing.

TI: So it was just like, they thought, well, if people were okay, who looked okay, they must be okay. But still people were getting radiation.

IH: Yes. Those days, we talk about, everybody said "gas," something "gas" is affecting. We didn't know the radiation.

TI: Oh, okay. So they thought it was gas, and so if the gas was gone, then it was okay.

IH: So maybe gas is, with the wind, it'll blow out. But maybe the radiation, too, on the surface is gone, but inside, they had, some of them left inside the ground. So even one year later, go back and then tried to fix the house, they tried to clear up the land, then they got sick.

TI: Because they would kind of... the dust, probably the dust had a lot of radiation and things like that. How about officials? Now we're talking about months afterwards, are there, I guess, government officials and rules and things happening at this point?

IH: They don't have any problem. Most of them right after that, the government started giving rations really cheap. Not the city price, really cheap, they're giving rations. So at least we can survive.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: How about U.S. government officials like army people? So this is after the war is over, the occupation forces, did they come to the area to see what happened and did you see them?

IH: Only for their purpose, their study. That's the only thing. Not too long, they didn't stay. Maybe a day or so they'll come inside, look around, then so many days later come back again. So didn't see the American people, I mean, American soldier that time. Even they're afraid to come.

TI: And when they did come to look around, did they ask questions?

IH: No, no.

TI: They just looked and then they drove away? And what was the feelings towards the Americans? When they would come to look around, how did you and others feel about that?

IH: That's the funny part. They're not mad or something like that. Because American soldiers give 'em chewing gum or something, oh, everybody think they're really friendly. And then just like, not the enemy. So there was no, we didn't have any problem.

TI: But what about any anger about the Americans dropping the bomb?

IH: That's later.

TI: Okay, but these days, I mean, right then...

IH: Not right then, at the time.

TI: Okay, so later on...

IH: Later on, then think about, and why it's like that. And then one year later, one authority for the atomic bomb, professor came to our college and talked to us. What the atomic bomb is, everything that they told us. And then he said, "Atomic bomb is not a secret thing, nothing." Because Japan, if it has money and then material, they could make. That they told me, they told us. So that's, again, Japan has money, and then material, they could make it.

TI: And what did people say when they heard that?

IH: No, they didn't say... just surprise. And then later on again, my professor told us that, not secret. Because during the war, Germans had, they was working on that. And then all the plans and paperwork came into Japan.

TI: Oh, from Germany.

IH: Germany with a submarine. They sent to Japan. So they were expecting, so the high rank of the government, military, they knew already the atomic bomb is, what it is.

TI: So he gave, this was a year after, he gave kind of a talk about this, about how that technology wasn't a secret to Japan, because the physicists in Germany were working on a similar thing, so they knew about that. Interesting.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: So going back to your life, earlier you mentioned how your mom noticed, okay, so weeds are growing, so we can start doing, we can live here. So did your crops grow okay?

IH: Yeah, everything started growing, and then I started to clean up the outside and then make it all flat. Then we tried to do vegetable, oh, it's growing good. So again, we start to grow the vegetables.

TI: And how about the chickens and the honeybees?

IH: No, chickens... but honeybees, too, we broke, I mean, burned out, so didn't have. But we didn't starve. We had enough to eat. And during the war, too, the fertilizer, couldn't get 'em, so one day the farmer looking for the chicken manure, so you know, surprising, one bag of the chicken, exchange with rice, one bag.

TI: Wow, so fertilizer was so important to farmers that they would...

IH: That's a surprise. That's the reason. We were just lucky, chicken, we had a chicken.

TI: But after the war, I'm sorry, did you have the chickens?

IH: No.

TI: So how did you get fertilizer then?

IH: Oh, that's already, fertilizer is all inside the ground.

TI: I see. So your ground was already well-fertilized.

IH: Ground was really rich, so really grow. Everybody was surprising. Everything that we put in just...

TI: Now, why didn't you try to raise chickens again? I mean, you had the know-how and you knew how to do it, so why didn't you try to do maybe a few chickens?

IH: Too much time. Because I was still college. My brother is high school, and only my mother, my mother just enough for the, take care of the vegetable garden, that's the reason. And then that's not an easy job, that chicken farm.

TI: Okay, that makes sense.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

IH: And then when graduate, 1948, graduate college, I told you should be that year, August, coming back to Honolulu, but couldn't do it 'til the next, following year. '49, February, I came back to Hawaii.

TI: So explain this again. So 1948, August, you graduate...

IH: No, March.

TI: March of 1948.

IH: Yeah.

TI: Okay, March 1948, and so at that point you wanted to come back to Hawaii?

IH: Yes.

TI: But then explain again. So the Port of Hawaii wasn't open? There was a, you said a strike or something, or some problem with...

IH: No, for the second generation, didn't have no trouble.

TI: Okay, so why didn't you come back in 1948?

IH: Oh, 1948, first of all, my father's friend in Hawaii found out my father died, so my mother have to raise the two boys. That's hard in Japan so, "Why don't you send one of them? As long as they're working, if he's willing to work, send him in." Because we cannot pay the dollar, somebody have to pay the boat. So then we tried to talk, hey maybe we have more chance to Hawaii. Then I start to do it. Then everything came out good and had the okay to come back here. My boat was August 1948, but that time Hawaii has a dock strike and couldn't, boat was, cannot come this side. So I have to wait 'til the following year, February. That's when the first boat, first ship came out to Honolulu from Japan.

TI: So who paid your boat fee?

IH: Oh, that time, my uncle. My uncle is in Honolulu, and then we have an uncle and then if I don't, we don't ask, that's a bad.. we're going to ask uncle first. And if he cannot, then my father's friend.

TI: I see. Before you come to Hawaii, in the years right after the war, how much help did you get from family and friends in Hawaii? Did they send packages or anything to you during the war?

IH: Yeah.

TI: What kind of things did they send?

IH: Something, clothes mostly. Because clothes, cotton you couldn't get. So they put 'em in a box and then send us quite a bit.

TI: And how important was that to the family to get these packages?

IH: Oh, it's really good, because the clothes, they don't have. So if we have enough, we can sell to the... and then we can make money. Because everybody says American clothes is good. And later I'm going to tell you, but after I come down, I did the same thing. Send things.

TI: Oh, so after you were in Hawaii, you would send things to Japan. And you knew it was, how valuable that was, how important.

IH: Right.

TI: Interesting.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: So we're now February 1949.

IH: Yeah, came back. Then I went to the English school in church 'til August... no. I think around June, I think. Then...

TI: What church was this?

IH: Olivet Baptist Church. That's when they had an English school for the Japanese people. And then on June, I went to the McKinley High School summer school, and then getting into the high school, junior, on September. Then they took the x-ray for the chest and then found out I had TB, tuberculosis. And then I had already cavity in my right-hand side. So no excuse, just throw me into their hospital, tuberculosis hospital. That's in October.

TI: So this is while you were going to high school, they discovered tuberculosis, so they put you in the hospital right away.

IH: And then when go into the hospital, everything's free for the TB.

TI: I'm sorry, so who paid for it? Why was it free?

IH: Government.

TI: The U.S. government paid.

IH: Yeah. I mean, Honolulu County or Hawaii state. Those days it was still territory of Hawaii. So that's the only thing. TB is, everything's free. So then the following year, new medicine for the TB came out, so they try on me. And what happened is worked really good, and in three or four months' time, already cavity close. And then progressive is so fast, so the doctor was worried. That time was a bed patient, you've got to stay in bed twenty-four hour a day. And they waited, but still, everything improved. So one year... not one year. Eight months later, they put me into the outside. It's in a hospital, but outside. I can go to the cafeteria and can do some kind of hobby, everything.

TI: Do you know what kind of medicine it was, what the new medicine was?

IH: The Streptomycin just came out.

TI: What was it again?

IH: Streptomycin.

TI: Oh, okay, Streptomycin. So it was kind of a penicillin type of...

IH: That's a new type, and then it worked really good for me. And those days, just, they had a cloudy, show on the x-ray, they couldn't come out in a year or two years. Some of them are three years, stays in the hospital. But mine, exactly one year and one month, discharged.

TI: Now, given how much it had progressed in your body, did you have tuberculosis when you were in Japan also?

IH: No, we didn't know.

TI: You didn't know.

IH: Because we don't know.

TI: But I'm wondering if you had tuberculosis like this in Japan, what kind of treatment would you have received?

IH: Nothing. That's the reason, if I didn't come Hawaii, I was dead.

TI: That they wouldn't have been able to treat you the same way or find it.

IH: Because we didn't know. And then only find out, something show up on the body. They're coughing, something like that, then too late. So that's another thing, I saved. Then city-county helped me, and then, "Oh, you cannot work, so why don't you go back to the school?" So I went back to the McKinley High School, junior, second semester. And until finished high school, city-county helped me, government helped me. And still, I'm not in condition to work, so tried to find out what I can do. Then I asked, "How about sending me to the university?" They said, "No, that we cannot. Only up to high school." By the time I took a test for the entry exam for the UH, and again, my teacher said, "You don't have any chance, so don't take 'em." And then two days went to our test, and then nothing.

TI: So you passed.

IH: Passed. Said, "Oh, you passed." And then first two hour is math. That's, for me, just high school. And I did a kind of tricky way to do it, because it has a question and five answers, so multiple choice which one is. So if the last number is all different, only I figure the last number, okay. And then if a decimal points (different) place, just find the decimal point. Had a hundred questions, I did it one hour.

TI: [Laughs] So you figured out a way of passing the test without really knowing the answers. You could just kind of figure out just how the multiple choice...

IH: So I did it once, and then double check, one hour time, I finish. I hand in the paper, went home. Second day was English. Again, multiple choice questions, five words, and then you have to check which one. When I look at it, oh, almost same meaning. Nothing... you cannot tell how difference, all close. "Oh, that's okay, just a close one." Then again, one hour later. I cannot check, because just all guessing work. I hand in, and next day, my classmate said, "Hey, you hand in one hour time. Did you finish your work?" I told him, "That's a duck soup." [Laughs] All I did. Everybody's surprised, but I did guess. See, another lucky thing, I passed. Then the teacher was in the front, my one classmate came to, "Even Izumi passed. You could take it," something like that.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: I was going to ask you about, in school, were there very many others at, like, McKinley High School that were recently from Japan? 'Cause you had just come back from Japan and went to McKinley High School, were there others like you from Japan during this time?

IH: The difference?

TI: Well, like when you... so this is after the war, in 1949, you went to McKinley High School as a junior. In your class, were there other Japanese who had recently, after the war...

IH: Oh, yeah, yeah.

TI: So it was pretty common for Japanese to be...

IH: Yeah. McKinley was, they're used to, outsiders called McKinley "Yokohama College." So many Japanese, they're called Kibei-Nisei, returned from Japan, so many. So it wasn't so bad.

TI: And how did the, like, non-Japanese students treat you and the others?

IH: Not too many at that time. Only a few Chinese. But only the Japanese, the ones that had American citizenship, that's the one that all came back.

TI: Well then how about the Niseis? The Niseis who maybe weren't, had never been to Japan, how did they treat you and other Kibei?

IH: No, don't make any difference. I couldn't even notice, they treat us pretty good.

TI: Okay. So now we're at U of H, so you passed the test, and so what happens next?

IH: I tried to get in, but I thought I'd get some credit in Japan college. So I went and I talked to UH, "Can you give me some credit for this? Then in a short time I can graduate." Said, "No." None of the credit good for an American university. So I started to work in the radio station in the morning, part-time. Then by the time my social worker came, and then, "Oh, you can start working, so why don't you work someplace, light job you can get?" And he's gonna look for me, the job. And then I tell him, "Okay." Then they find for me one small shop, repaired electric motors, repair the washing machine, laundry washing machine, dryer, something like that. So I learned over there. And then by the time the social worker came, "How is it going?" Okay. "Oh, you're doing, using (not) much money, so buy for you the tools. You're going to do it," and give me the tools. And from there, from the other company, they offer me that job, then working over there for a while. Then that company, something happened to my friend working inside that company. Said, "Izumi, don't stay over here. Why don't you go to the other company?" He said he knows one place, "Why don't you apply?" So I went and then right there, "Okay, why don't you come?" So the first time I'm looking for the job. Then working up there, and then that company started growing, and two Caucasian boss, every time it sell, each other. One time they have, one guy's the president, owner of the company, and then a couple years later, other one buys back, and just back and forth, was doing that. And then finally both of them are old, so they gave up the business and they sold it. And then the new boss came in, Oriental boss. Then one day, they guy working under me said, "Hey, Izumi, boss say gonna take care of this one. So I'm gonna take care of this." Okay. And then four or five days later, (another guy came to me and said to me), oh, this is the field, boss said take care of this. So I went to the boss, "Hey, you're giving all my jobs to the other guys. Where I stand?" And he didn't tell me what was going to it. I figure out, this one I don't have a chance. So I know one guy, I asked, then he was working at Ala Moana shopping center maintenance. Right after that, went to him, came to the Ala Moana shopping center, "Hey, do you have a job opening?" "Oh, wait, wait." Call the boss, boss came down and talked to me. "You can come from next day, tomorrow." I told him, "Wait a minute. Even how the boss is bad, I cannot quit like that. Give me two weeks. Just give me a gentleman's agreement, and after two weeks I'll come down." Then I started working Ala Moana shopping center maintenance. Then in the meantime, one mainland company on Texas was looking for me, because nobody takes care of (their equipment), they had equipment in Hawaii, on the other island.

TI: So say it again, so there's someone in Texas who wanted you because... I don't quite understand. What was it that made you so unique or special?

IH: That's on washing machine, laundry washing machine, and then dryer company. And then they was looking for the repairman.

TI: And so you knew how to repair these special washer and dryers, and so he was looking for you because you knew how to do it, okay.

IH: Eight months later, they found me. "Hey, why don't you work for that company? Waco, Texas, has a factory, and then service department has Memphis, Tennessee." And then they gave me the good deal, so I went. Because the pay is good, and then only myself in Hawaii. I can expand the business, that I figure. And then that goes on quite a long time.

TI: So did you have to move anywhere or did you stay in Hawaii?

IH: Hawaii.

TI: You stayed in Hawaii. So you were just like the service representative.

IH: Yeah, for Sheraton. And then going to the other island, taking some of the machines was inside. And then when I come to the Sheraton Waikiki build up, they put their machine in, our machine inside there, then from Memphis, they came, my boss came, and then the two of us set 'em up. And it was going good, and now, another big company buy us out. That company, maybe you know, but chemical company, Ecolab. Used to call that Economics Laboratory. That's not only the nationwide, worldwide company. They buy us out, so I go into the local Ecolab.

TI: Interesting. So, okay, so because you had this sort of unique knowledge about these washer dryers, and it sounds like they must be really big ones, because the Sheraton bought it, so it was a big industrial type of...

IH: So that's, again, lucky. Just went and just... then I worked 'til seventy-four years old. When sixty-four years old, they wanted me to go into the part-time, so I tell them, "No, I'm not going part-time. Just go into the full-time or retirement." Then when it comes to sixty-five, "Why don't you from now go into the part-time?" But one year difference, the company give me the cash. Then after that, go into the... and then part-time, I worked 'til seventy-four years old.

TI: So just not that long ago. Maybe, you're eighty-two, so eight years ago you retired. Okay. So I want to now go back -- oh, go ahead.

IH: Another thing. You were saying that something you sent to Japan.

TI: Yes.

IH: Okay. Just when I came from Japan, my uncle introduced me to the chicken farm. Again, that kind of chicken farm, I'm used to it. And then they liked me, so half day I go to the, half day I go to the high school, and then soon as finish, go to the Waialae. Used to be, they have so much chicken farms there. Working over there, take care of the chicken, mix the chicken food, then collect the eggs and then eat dinner and then come home. And over there, used to be the chicken feed is in a cotton bag, okay. It's nice, and have a design. Not like now, kind of brown sack. It's nice. And then owner said, "Hey, why don't you send this chicken feed bag to your mother? Just take 'em home and then wash 'em out, and then you can do something." And it's nice for the, they can make nice clothes for the kids. Nice design, too. So take 'em home, and then it's a big, and then wide like this, wash 'em clean. And then when you wash it, it becomes white, really good. Cannot tell, so sent them to my mother with something. My mother used to sell. This is American clothes. And then she was making good money with that. So I was doing it until going to the TB hospital.

TI: Oh, that's good.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: 'Cause I was going to ask you, yeah, whatever happened to your mother, and then your brother and sister. What happened to your sister, your older sister?

IH: My older sister is, her husband was drafted to the army, and then only them and then two kids, and then mother-in-law. It's dangerous so they going to the, way in the country. And they were living in there, so that kind of, she didn't have any damage. But the husband was army, so that was close to the center. Then she came out, looked for the husband, and he died about one week later or something like that. Then when I get sick, nobody working, no more, nothing, so my mother asked my sister to come Hawaii and then leave the two kids to my mother. Then my sister can send the money to the, for the kids. So my mother raised the boy and girl. And meantime, that's the one, 1950 was, she came to Hawaii.

TI: And what kind of work did she find in Hawaii?

IH: Oh, she had, private maid, housemaid.

TI: And so from the money she made, she would send that back to your mother.

IH: To my mother and then take care of the two kids.

TI: And how about your younger brother? What did he do?

IH: And then that time, then the time is, my brother graduated high school and he was working American Air Force as a civilian. Then that Air Force, tried to move to Korea. So my brother said he's going to the American force. So my mother worried about that, in case something happened, die, good for nothing, nothing would come out. Because the civilian, not from the Japanese government, not from the American. So, "Why don't you go to Hawaii?" Then he came to Hawaii.

TI: So all three...

IH: Three, every year. '49 I came, my sister came '50, '51. Then he went to McKinley, graduate, and he went to UH, engineer, general engineering. Then he used to work on the Pearl Harbor.

TI: Now, did your mother ever come?

IH: Yeah. Later, my sister's kids came in, came to Hawaii. Then only herself, so we called back. And when we called my mother, we're all American citizens, but we have to take out an affidavit of support. So everything (turn in paperwork), and then the following year came, all bam, bam, bam.

TI: So the whole family came back to Hawaii, even your sister's children.

IH: Yes.

TI: Okay, interesting.

IH: So it was pretty lucky. So everything, so I'm not a smart guy, but everything just lucky that advanced.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So next I want to talk about, you're part of an organization of survivors of the atomic bomb, and you talk to lots of people about that. Can you tell me how you got involved in that?

IH: I forgot the year... 1980, I heard from the San Francisco organization, physical examination from Japan, they're coming in '81. And that's on already third mission, "So you better organize the Hawaii chapter, otherwise you're gonna miss the third mission in Hawaii. So why don't you organize an association?" So I just called people and then we started from 1980, September, I think.

TI: Now, how did you know the names? I mean, how did they even contact you? How did they know who was a survivor?

IH: That time, again, Kuramoto, found out my name through the San Francisco member. And my relative was over there, too. My wife's sister was in San Francisco.

TI: So the Japanese government didn't have a list of the people, and so it was all kind of word of mouth that people had to organize.

IH: And then before that, used to send me the bulletins to give to everybody. I didn't want to involved, but so I was, joined in a couple years (later). But it said that they're going to take care of the physical examination. Then, oh, better do something. And then by the time, one girl, the friend of a hibakusha from Los Angeles, and then one lady in Hawaii, Honolulu, she was a schoolteacher. Two of them came out to my house and then, "Why don't you organize the association for help?" I wasn't sure because if involved this, it's going to be my job. But the two girls, and then not even related, one is just a friend of a hibakusha from Los Angeles, young girl. And then other schoolteacher was telling me she's going to help me. "So why don't you organize?" And she was really active on the peace job, and she was really famous. So that time I asked, "If you're going to ask, take care of me, you're going to separate from the other organization." Because I don't want to involve any other organization, even the Hiroshima Kenjinkai. That's a big organization. I don't want to connect it, because later they're going to tell us what to do. If we organize this one, we want to do it just for the survivor. And she said, "Okay." And even my friends told me, "Hey, you talk to those people?" I told them she said she's gonna get out from there. And she did it. And from there, she helped me. And then we started about fifteen people.

TI: And this is back in 1981?

IH: '80.

TI: Fifteen people?

IH: Yes. And then when get '81, physical examination, of course, we put it in all the newspaper, Japanese newspaper, English newspaper. And that time it was about fifty people.

TI: Were you surprised how many people?

IH: Yeah. And then every time increased. And then the next, fourth mission, we had about two hundred people, survivors. And then kept going, and then each year, getting old, so die or going someplace. And right now we have about seventy survivors. And the second generation is about thirty. Because they're going to take care of the second generation, survivors, second generation, they're gonna check. So we have about a hundred, little bit over. That's from all the islands. Some of them did come from the other islands.

TI: Before 1980, before you started organizing this, how much did you talk about being a survivor?

IH: Not at all.

TI: And why was that? Was it hard to talk about it? Why didn't you talk about it before?

IH: Because first of all, I wasn't interested. And then I didn't know so much survivor is over here. That's the reason, I didn't know that so much survivor, two hundred people.

TI: When you're kind of just walking around and someone you don't know, or maybe they didn't even know you, and then they find out that you're a survivor, what kind of reaction do you get? What do people say?

IH: That one, too... that's because of the association, good is, there is a physical examination. That's the most purpose that they're going to join. Because it's free, and then get everything.

TI: Yeah, so it was free, but I'm thinking again, so you're in Hawaii, say there's like an American tourist just from the mainland, and you have a conversation, and they find out about the organization or about you and that you're a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. What kind of reaction do you see?

IH: No, they don't have that much reaction.

TI: No reaction? They're not...

IH: But lately, I started talking to the people. Then they're more, that's really bad, really bad, shouldn't do that way.

TI: So when you go to like a talk or something, maybe a school or someplace, you kind of tell your story, and then people come up to you.

IH: Come up to me. And some of them just come to me and especially talking to me, and then they gradually hear my story. Now they know what to tell the other people, too. So that's a big reaction.

TI: And generally people are, they come up and say they're sorry it happened, it shouldn't have happened, things like that. Do you ever get the other side, where there are some people, even though they understand your story, they say it was, it was necessary for that to happen for the war to end? Do you ever hear that side?

IH: No, that kind I don't see. Because if they're like that, they're not coming to our meeting. I don't think they have an interest in peace talk or something like that.

TI: But now if you came across someone like that, so say they found out and maybe at one of your meetings they said, "Izumi, it saved lots of lives, American lives, by dropping the bomb," what would you tell them? What would you say to them?

IH: That's a hard question because they're thinking about American soldiers, save the life for the soldier. But other way, the Japanese people died so much, and then damage. But that's already, Japan was close to surrender. And then I don't know how soon they would surrender. Maybe if no more atomic bomb, then maybe another year. Because already, we don't, Japan didn't have supplies. Everything from the outside. But it's, supplies they don't have, nothing to bring inside from the other countries. Only the Manchuria side, China side, and Korea, that's the only thing. And then happened to be Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That's the reason Japan surrendered. So in a way, it was necessary, in a way, not. It's hard to say. All depends on which way, which side you stand.

TI: But when I think of what you do now, I mean, you speak at a lot of -- not whether it's right or wrong but more about peace now in terms of the importance of peace. So tell me why it's so important to you that we focus on peace. Why is it so important to you?

IH: Important to...

TI: To you. I mean, peace is so important to you, why? If someone says, "So Izumi, why do you work so hard at this?"

IH: That's kind of, again, freedom. We experience, I experienced Japan army style, and then they educated by the army, and then brainwash. So the automatic, you think in that way. You cannot, every day, from when order around, you have to do. Even freedom is good, but already brainwashed, just going, narrow up and going to. So without thinking, you're going that way. So like other countries, it happened in Europe, trouble, too, but that's what they're doing. Then finally they found out and then broke out.

TI: So it's kind of like when the military or when security becomes so important, then you see countries getting like this, do you see that happening in the United States sometimes?

IH: Yes.

TI: Do you think it's happening now?

IH: It's happening.

TI: Because you lived...

IH: But in the United States, you can talk. But in Japan, they couldn't talk. They cannot talk and talk back. And if something bad, army prison.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: Well, we're at the end of the interview right now. I mean, is there anything else you wanted to talk about? We went through the life history, I wanted to talk about your work for peace and helping the survivors, is there anything else that you wanted to talk about?

IH: Just... oh, another thing is so many people ask me, "How about the American government, why they don't help you folks?" And we did it, not with, (Kanji Kuramoto who was president of Committee of A-Bomb survivors in the U.S.A.) did it, to the California representative. And that time I asked him, Kanji, "If you do it, let me know. I will work on Hawaii." Because Dan Inouye is a strong one, and Matsunaga, we can work on it. But he doesn't want to ask. Maybe he wants to do it all by himself. And not only that, one year, they had a meeting on, they called it "radiation victims," at San Francisco. That's the atomic bomb survivor. And then the mine worker, and then veteran from the military, from the Kwajalein test site, and then also the Nevada. Then they called the "down under" wind blowing down (from the a-bomb test site), they have a victim. And then some locations (radiation waste), material they buried, and then on top of that, they built civilian house. And then they had so much trouble (with radiation). And that time they had a meeting and all, they talk about. And I found out not ten thousand, so many, almost ten thousand victims in the United States. And then now, only the veterans from the army at the test site, that's when they, you know, they take care because they're army. But (not) the civilians, if you do it, going to be big money. That's the reason they don't pass the rule. About a couple times they're out to the Congress.

TI: I mean, ten thousand's a big number but it's not that big. For the United States, it seems like they could take care --

IH: But that's we know, ten thousand. It may be more than that. Because the exact amount, I don't know. So that's the thing that kind of, we already give up on the American government. But Japan government, they started giving us help.

TI: Well, maybe you're going to have to go talk to President Obama about this. [Laughs] Because he did come out for a non-proliferation nuclear war, I mean, to try to get rid of nuclear bombs and things like that, at least he's come out publicly about that. And I think there's even been some talk about him, perhaps, visiting Hiroshima. I mean, what would it mean to you if President Obama went to the bomb site, Hiroshima, and what would you tell him if he went there?

IH: But now, even he goes. Just he sees from the pictures. So really, nothing to gain.

TI: Do you think so? I think there's this power of place, though. I visited the peace park, and there's something very powerful about being there. I mean, we've all read about it and we've seen pictures, but when you go to the site, I think there's something very powerful about that.

IH: Maybe. Because when go over there and then look, even the pictures, my granddaughter, oldest one, couldn't see. I was trying to explain everything, but some people, just cannot see. So when see Obama, maybe, might have something.

TI: Well, and how about you? How frequently have you been back to Hiroshima?

IH: Oh, I go quite a bit. Because one time they invited me to the memorial on August 6th, and then after that, not for the association business but other business, go from the company, went to Japan. From the company, two or three times I went, myself. And then after that, I found my classmate, too, so I started going back. Then latest one is 2003 I took my son's family with the granddaughter.

TI: And that's when she couldn't look at it.

IH: No, no, that's the one that we didn't go Hiroshima. But that time, just go to the Tokyo side. But I want to show Hiroshima, so three years later, I took 'em down again. I planned everything and then took 'em from Kyoto, Hiroshima, and then take 'em around Hiroshima. But that was a good experience for them.

TI: And how old were your grandchildren?

IH: Now they're sixteen, twelve, eleven.

TI: Okay, so they were about, they were younger when they went, so maybe... okay, they're still young children.

IH: Because I figure take a trip is educational. And especially something like Hiroshima. Their grandfather was there and a victim.

TI: And did you tell them the story?

IH: Yeah, yeah.

TI: And what was the reaction of your grandchildren?

IH: Sad, just sad. When I tell 'em, they didn't want to hear about that.

TI: Did your children know growing up about your story?

IH: No, not much, not much. I didn't talk to them much. But when occasion, something come up, then we talk about it. But my son and then my daughter, too, went that time. So both of them learned.

TI: Well, thank you so much for doing this interview. This was really, just really interesting for me just to talk with you. To hear the story and then now just to talk about it.

IH: So, now you can write down, too. Without my permission, you can write anything. I don't have any secret or anything. [Laughs]

TI: Well, Izumi, thank you so much.

IH: Yeah, you're welcome.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.