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Title: Akira Otani Interview
Narrator: Akira Otani
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: March 3, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-oakira-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay. So Akira, we're going to start, and so I always start with the date and where we are. So today's Thursday, March 4, 2011, we're in Honolulu at the Ala Moana Hotel. On camera is Dana Hoshide and then I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda. And so Akira, I'm going to start, the first question is can you tell me when you were born?

AO: Birthdate, January 26, 1921.

TI: So that makes you ninety years old?

AO: Correct.

TI: Okay, ninety years old, you look great. And where were you born?

AO: Honolulu, Hawaii.

TI: And which neighborhood?

AO: Kakaako.

TI: And where's that located?

AO: Kakaako would be... the best reference would be Fisherman's Wharf. At Koula/Keawe Basin, would you know where --

TI: Well, I know where the Fisherman's Wharf area is, right there, it's kind of just --

AO: It's between here, it's not very far from here at Ala Moana, so from here downtown it's not quite midway, one third of the way to downtown on the ocean.

TI: Now were you born in a medical facility?

AO: No, born in a home and my grandmother, my mother's mother delivered me.

TI: So next I want to ask you about your father. Can you tell me your father's name?

AO: My father's name is Matsujiro Otani.

TI: And where was he born, where was he from?

AO: He was born in Oki-Kamuro, the island, a tiny island of Oki-Kamuro in Oshima-gun, Yamaguchi-ken, Japan.

TI: And what kind of work did his family do in Japan?

AO: Well, they were involved in the fish business even then. The fishermen more or less brought their catches in, naturally those days the ships were very small, they beached the boats with the catches, unloaded and apparently sold the fish to different buyers right there on the beach and he was one of the buyers. My dad wasn't, my dad's father, you know, my grandfather more or less did the buying of fish then.

TI: And then he would buy the fish and then what would he do with the fish?

AO: Well, they would peddle it to different people.

TI: So why did your father leave Japan?

AO: Well, my father... well, he had been, even at his young age he had been talking to different people and the story was that rather than the meager wages they were making in Japan with that type of livelihood, that some people were going to Hawaii and others were going to Korea to better their type of living. And so he made up his mind if there is that kind of opportunity in other lands then he would like to take advantage of it, too. He tried very hard to make arrangements to come to Hawaii but then before that he... the tiny island he lived on was real tiny, was a little island off the island of Oshima, which is again off Yanai which is in the Inland Sea. After he got through grade school in order to get further his education he had to go by boat from Oki-Kamuro island to Oshima island to get a little bit more education, you know, to go to so-called middle school today.

TI: So every day he had to commute to go to school?

AO: No, no, he couldn't do that so what he did was he was... the principal of that school was good enough so that he let my father stay in his house so for maybe one or two weeks at a time and in between he would come home to his home in Oki-Kamuro island.

TI: Oh, so the island, how many people lived on the island?

AO: Well, I don't know for sure but it must have been two, three hundred people, it's a real tiny island.

TI: Small. So your father, he essentially left Japan for a better life I guess.

AO: Correct.

TI: Was that with the blessings of your grandfather? Was that okay with his father?

AO: Yes, definitely, he knew it was going to be hard but it was always his intention as well as I think many of the other people that left Japan to go to other countries, it's always to earn enough money, send money back home to their families and eventually come home to wherever, to their birthplace, so to speak.

TI: And do you know about how old your grand -- or your father was when --

AO: My father was sixteen at the time he left and he made seventeen upon arrival in Hawaii.

TI: And about what year was this that he came?

AO: So that would be about 1906, 1907.

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