Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: John Kats Marumoto Interview
Narrator: John Kats Marumoto
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 28, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-mjohn-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: Today is Monday, February 28th. We are at the Centenary United Methodist Church. We will be interviewing Mr. John Katsuyuki Marumoto. Tani Ikeda is on the video, and I will be interviewing, my name is Martha Nakagawa. Okay, Mr. Marumoto, let's start with your father's name.

JM: First name (is Tomitaro). Marumoto.

MN: And I'm gonna explain, he was born, actually, a Uyematsu, right? He was born Uyematsu and originally from Tokyo, but his father passed away and so your father's mother married a second time into the Marumoto family.

JM: Right.

MN: And then they moved to Wakayama prefecture.

JM: Yes.

MN: What is your mother's name?

JM: Fumi.

MN: Marumoto. And your, when your grandmother married a second time into the Marumoto family, there were (two) brothers. Your grandmother married Katsunosuke Marumoto, a younger Marumoto, and your mother is the daughter of the oldest Marumoto.

JM: Right.

MN: And your mother was born in Hawaii?

JM: Yes.

MN: And she was sent to Wakayama to get an education, and so that's how your mother and father knew each other growing up? Is that right?

JM: Right.

MN: So what year did your grandfather come to the United States and where did he land?

JM: I think he landed in Seattle, and he came down the coastline.

MN: Do you remember what year he came out here?

JM: I know it was early 1900s, but I forgot the date.

MN: And do you know what he did in Seattle?

JM: That's where the ship comes and from there people go south.

MN: So he --

JM: Some go to the railroads, some go to farming. And since he's a fisherman he was looking for (fishing ports). Stopped over in San Francisco, Monterey, then to Terminal Island.

MN: And then your grandfather built a ship and it was called the Kii-maru?

JM: Right.

MN: Tell us about the Kii-maru?

JM: It's a two-man boat, so my father, when he came he worked on the boat with my grandfather, so once he got settled then my grandfather left and (went) back to Japan and my father took over.

MN: Now, the Kii-maru, was that a motorized boat or was it just --

JM: Motor.

MN: Now, at the time your father and your grandfather were fishing, California prohibited the Japanese Issei from owning their boats.

JM: Right.

MN: How did your father get around that?

JM: He, oh, he went in partnership with the Van Camp seafood company and he was skipper in their boat.

MN: So Van Camp owned the boat and he was the skipper of it. And so your father, your grandfather went back to Japan, your father stayed here, and he decided it was time to get married. How did he come to choose your mother?

JM: Well, they wanted him to marry the oldest daughter, but there was some complication and he selected the younger, second daughter, which was Fumi.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

MN: Now your parents came to Terminal Island and had five children. You're the second oldest.

JM: Right.

MN: You have an older sister, one younger brother, and two younger sisters. Is that correct?

JM: Right.

MN: Now, were the children all born on San Pedro or on Terminal Island?

JM: I'm pretty sure it was Terminal Island.

MN: And were they most likely delivered by sanbasan?

JM: I'm sure.

MN: And what year were you born?

JM: 1927.

MN: And what is your birth name?


JM: Katsuyuki Marumoto.

MN: When did you get the name John?

JM: I put it on because it's hard for people to say Katsuyuki Marumoto, so I put the name John.

MN: About what, how old were you when you got John?

JM: I was working Standard Battery company (in East L.A.)

MN: Oh, this is after the war?

JM: Right.

MN: So until then you were Katsuyuki?

JM: Yes.

MN: How did you pick the name John?

JM: Oh, this, somebody suggested that I put John, so I used that.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: Now, your parents' home on Terminal Island, did they own it?

JM: No, the cannery owned the homes. They built all the homes for the workers, the fishermen and the cannery workers, so all the homes were rented, but you had to work for the certain cannery to rent the house.

MN: How many canneries were on Terminal Island?

JM: Oh, about five. Four or five.

MN: Which was the largest cannery?

JM: Van Camp Seafood and French Sardine were the biggest.

MN: Now, for us non-Terminal Islanders, can you explain to us where East San Pedro refers to?

JM: East San Pedro is, they named it Terminal Island because it's east of San Pedro and it's west of Long Beach.

MN: And on the island itself is, what area of the island is East San Pedro?

JM: Southwest side. That's where the fishing village was.

MN: The Japanese fishing village? Where did the non-Japanese people live?

JM: There was another section, it's in northeast, they had another community over there. But in Terminal Island, the Fish Harbor, there was only one Russian family, one or maybe two, and they all spoke Japanese.

MN: So the, why was the Russian family living in that area and not in the northeast side?

JM: [Laughs] I don't know.

MN: And they spoke Japanese because they were around so many Japanese?

JM: [Nods] Because the kids went to the same school we did, and we all spoke Japanese, rough, Terminal Island Japanese. They learned the Terminal Island lingo.

MN: So you're talking about, like, regular school, everybody spoke Japanese at regular school?

JM: Uh-huh, and Thursday was English speaking day, so we all had to speak English. [Laughs]

MN: Was that strictly enforced?

JM: More or less.

MN: What was the grammar school called that you went to?

JM: Mildred O. Walizer School.

MN: So once a week you had a "speak English" day.

JM: Right.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MN: And I want to go back to one thing you said. You mentioned Fish Harbor, so that's another terminology referring to Terminal Island? [JM nods] What was it like growing up on Terminal Island, what kind of activities did the children do?

JM: All kinds. It's wide open space, a lot of sandlot, and we used to play football on the sandlot, and baseball. And they built a baseball field, a professional baseball field. They brought sand in and really packed it in. They made a real nice baseball (field) and the San Pedro Skippers were very highly rated. The Terminal Islanders, had to cross the ferry to go to junior high school and high school, and it's all uphill and about twelve, fifteen blocks. We're all practically running, so our legs were real strong, so we all excelled in baseball, judo, kendo, all the sports.

MN: I do hear that a lot. Terminal Island had a reputation for being very strong in all of those. Now were you part of the judo team?

JM: No. I wanted to get into judo. My uncle wanted me to go in kendo. But my doctor says don't take judo 'cause it's too strenuous. He said I had a heart condition, but later we found out that I didn't have the heart condition; the doctor was wrong. So I missed out.

MN: But you still did judo informally?

JM: Right.

MN: You just were not on the team.

JM: Yes, we did judo on the sandlot.

MN: Terminal Islanders also had a strong reputation, a big reputation for being strong swimmers. How did you learn how to swim?

JM: At the beach. They had a beach and it was kind of sheltered, so it's easy to swim. Then we went to the wharf, Fish Harbor, and the older guys, they'd grab a hold of us, we had the cork life buoy -- we don't need it 'cause we know how to swim, but it's scary to go into the deep water -- so they'd come in and they'd take the cork off and dump us in the ocean. And we'd go deep. Oh, we can't touch the bottom. It's scary. [Laughs] Eventually we come up, then naturally we know how to swim, so we swam. But in case we can't swim, the older guys would jump in.

MN: Tell me about how you made money at the wharf.

JM: In Terminal Island?

MN: Uh-huh.

JM: I wasn't working.

MN: No, I mean the older people would...

JM: Oh, oh, lot of them, they went fishing, so they were making good money. They were paying, like I was talking to a couple of guys in high school, they used to go on the boat during the summertime. They said they made about ninety dollars a month, and that's a lot of money.

MN: I was referring to when they tossed coins in the water.

JM: [Laughs] Oh, yeah. By the wharf they'd toss a coin and coin goes pretty fast, if it's straight, so we're all swimming by the (wharf) and a whole lot of people, they'd come and throw coins and we used to dive in. Sometimes we had to go all the way to the bottom then rush to the top, 'cause it was pretty deep.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

MN: Did you attend Japanese language school?

JM: Right, every day we had to go after English school. We hated it.

MN: What was your Japanese school called?

JM: Senshin or something. I don't know. I don't remember.

MN: Did you have to learn the Kimigayo and bow to the Emperor's picture?

JM: No. I don't remember those things. I know when we went to Japan we had to do that 'cause they put us in school.

MN: Now you mentioned that you didn't like Japanese school. Why not?

JM: 'Cause you go to English school all day and to go to Japanese school, that's taking away our time to play baseball and all those sports activities.

MN: Wasn't that what Saturdays are for? What did you do on Saturdays?

JM: Saturday, Sunday we used to play.


MN: What about Sunday churches, did you go to church?

JM: In the morning.

MN: Which church did you go to?

JM: Baptist, Baptist church.

MN: So your parents didn't have a problem with you going to a Baptist church and not a Buddhist church?

JM: No.

MN: So I'm gonna ask you about how your study habit changed during (junior high) school when this new family moved onto Terminal Island. Can you --

JM: Oh, the father was the principal of the Japanese school and the mother was a teacher, very strict. And the son is Simon Sato, that was in junior high school and there's always a rowdy bunch, so they'd kind of pick on him, so I told him to stop over at my house then I'll walk to school with him. So I started walking to school with him. He was straight A student. Then on the way back they're all waiting for me to play baseball and football, so I told Simon, "Come on, play with us." "No, I can't. I have to go home and study." "What do you want to study for? You're straight A student." Then I thought about it. He studies, that's why he's straight A. Then I started going to his house after school, and for the first time I got all As and Bs. I never got A before, B once in a while. That year, that was in 1941, February my (...) grandmother was ill. She was dying, so my dad took the whole family to Japan. Then they put us in school, so I was in the fourth grade. My aunt was teaching.

MN: Before we get to Japan, let me ask you a little bit more about your life on Terminal Island.

JM: Okay.

MN: Now, did your family, on Terminal Island, did they have a homemade ofuro?

JM: Yes.

MN: Did most Terminal Islanders have ofuro? [JM nods] Not showers.

JM: No.

MN: What was the hardest part about preparing the ofuro?

JM: We had to chop the wood, and I was only about ten, eleven, twelve. It's a lot of work chopping the wood. Then we'd put it in the burner, and that's the way we heat up the water.

MN: And then you sit on the slab of wood inside the ofuro?

JM: Uh-huh.

MN: Now, your father, as the male head of the family, did he go in first?

JM: Well a lot of times he's not home 'cause he's fishing, so it didn't really matter.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

MN: Now how many months per year was your father away from home?

JM: Practically every day, unless they had a full moon. When the full moon comes out you don't fish for five days, two days before, two days after, 'cause it's too bright and you can't see the fish in the ocean.

MN: So you're talking about fishing at nighttime. Is this for sardines?

JM: (Yes), sardine.

MN: How do you see the sardines?

JM: When it's swimming in the ocean it creates a phosphorous, so you could see the phosphorous from the top.

MN: What months were sardines, what was considered sardine season?

JM: September, October, (...) to February.

MN: Now how do you catch the sardines?

JM: Catch it?

MN: Yeah, how do you --

JM: A net.

MN: You just toss the net over?

JM: No, no, no. We have a big net and it's (...) piled on the back of the ship and the end of the net is tied to a skiff, a big skiff. Then when we follow the school you find out which way they're traveling, see how fast they're going, then we go in front and lay the net out. When they let the net, we (...) unleash the skiff, then the boat goes and it's pulling the net out, so the net goes around and it comes around to the skiff and we catch the end of the net, pull it on board. There's rings on the bottom with lead, cork on the top, so the lead goes down. Then there's a cable in the rings, so we pull the cable up and that closes the net so the fish won't be able to get out. Then we start pursing the net up on the one end, bring the (fish) all the way to the bag -- that's the strong part of the net -- then we would bring the net up and we got a big, what do you call it, scoop, with the net, and that's the way we would reel the net (and the fish) onto the ship.

MN: How many men does it take to bring the net over, and how heavy is the net?

JM: Nets are heavy. About five (men) on the net, one on the cork, one on the lead line, three or four in between, and what they do is we pull the net up with the winch, then lower it so we'll have to pull it and lay it out flat, nicely so it'll go out smoothly (in the next set). If you don't do that it, then it (gets tangled). That's the way you tear the net.

MN: Now what's an average catch of sardines?

JM: Usually ten ton, if it's a smaller school we don't touch it (...).

MN: So when you say five ton fish, you're talking, you're saying that's a small school?

JM: Uh-huh.

MN: So you would go after --

JM: (Larger schools).

MN: Bigger tons of (fish), and you have carry that net into the boat?

JM: Yes.

MN: So it takes about five people to bring that in?

JM: Usually it's about ten to twelve people, crew members.

MN: So that's sardines. How different is that in terms of catching tuna?

JM: Tuna usually, after the war we have to go down to Mexico 'cause (large schools of) tuna weren't coming in to San Pedro.

MN: How about before the war? I know you weren't fishing before the war, but how did they catch tuna before the war?

JM: They'd catch it, well, with pole and they had nets.

MN: And what kind of pole was this?

JM: Oh, about six foot pole and a small line with hook, and when they see the tuna they throw live bait. Then the tuna gets so excited they'll bite anything, so when they see the, the hook, it's silver, it attracts so they bite it, so they hook it, bring it up, and they snap (their wrist) right when it gets to the back. That releases the hook, so they put the (line) right back in the ocean so they could catch another, one after another. When a fish gets bigger, then they need two poles, and bigger than that, get three poles with one line. So everything has to be real teamwork. They all have to do the same thing. And the new fishermen, don't know (how) to do that, they don't know timing, so they have to bring that fish up, drop the pole, go over, (...) take the hook out, then put it back, so you waste a lot of time. So newtimer, don't get full share; they only get half share.

MN: Now, the hook, does it go in the mouth or in the gills?

JM: They go in the mouth.

MN: In the mouth.

JM: (When) they see that shining (hook they'll bite anything).

MN: Now, before the war, how far did your father go out to catch fish?

JM: Before the war there were a lot of fish, so they didn't have to go too far, so maybe Newport Beach and Santa Monica on the north side.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MN: Okay, you were talking about, you went as far as Newport Beach and Santa Monica, which is actually not very far compared to now.

JM: And Catalina (and San Clemente) Islands.

MN: Now, when your father went out to the ocean, did you miss your father a lot?

JM: No. We had so much activities, in fact, my mother used to push us out so we don't get in the way. So we were busy playing.

MN: Your family, did you have a shortwave radio where you could contact your father?

JM: Yes, every family did. That's the only way they could contact their father to find out what's happening. And (...) we used to listen to the shortwave radio and hear them talking. When the war broke out, every family had a big pole for antenna to catch the shortwave radio, and they thought that we were listening, (and) were contacting Japan. That's one of the problems. But it wasn't. We were just listening to the fishing boats.

MN: Didn't every family also have a big pole to dry fish?

JM: Right. [Laughs]

MN: What did you call those poles?

JM: They used to make himono. They'd dry the anchovies, sardines, mackerel.

MN: Now, when your father wasn't out in the ocean, what was he doing on shore?

JM: Usually they're working on the nets, because the nets have to be patched. There's a lot of (torn areas that had to be patched).

MN: What was the net made out of?

JM: Before, it was twine, then later on they started getting nylon so it was stronger. But it still tears and had to be repaired.

MN: So when you say these nets are big, how big are these nets?

JM: One fathom, it's about six feet, and usually it's about two hundred fathom long. It's about five fathom deep.

MN: That's a big net. How heavy were these nets?

JM: Pretty heavy. Nylon, it got lighter. But on the nets, see, when they pull the net, pull it up and put it down, each man has a certain amount, so you have to get that, but you have to leave a slack in between 'cause the guy next, he's pulling too, but he takes the slack off, you pull the nail from the (guy's fingers) next to you. So they're always cussing each other out, seems like they're fighting, but they're not fighting. That's the way they talk. That's why Terminal Island guys, when they talk everybody think we're always fighting, but that's the fishermen language. In fishing everything is rush, rush, double time, triple time 'cause you have to bring the fish in before the net (tears), and when you have a lot of fish in the net it (tears).

MN: So it seems like every time you fish you assume the net's gonna break?

JM: Yeah. Lot of time it doesn't, but, because we'll bring it in fast enough. Sometimes we have hundred (tons) of sardine in the net. One time we had so much fish it took the whole net underneath the boat and came up on the other side. Then you can't pull the net, I mean, boat back 'cause the net is under the propeller (...), one time in Newport Beach the school was so big we lost over half of the school. By the time we saved the fish there was only about twenty-five, thirty ton out of a hundred ton school. So when you're so much in a rush you can't talk nicely to each other. You got to talk real fast. So when we went to Manzanar everybody think that we're really bad 'cause of the way we (spoke). [Laughs] So I used to explain to them, "That's the fisherman's language. We're not fighting. That's the way we talk."

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

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: Let me ask you about the women on Terminal Island. Did they help patch up the net?

JM: No.

MN: What did they do on Terminal Island?

JM: They helped the mothers, clean the house, cook.

MN: What about the canneries, did they work in the cannery?

JM: Oh, yeah. Each cannery has a different blast, horn, so when the boat comes in you know where they're gonna go. So if they're Van Camp (Seafood) they'd have a horn for Van Camp, so when they (...) hear (their horn) they come to the (cannery) day or night.

MN: So you're on Terminal Island growing up, what kind of food did you eat?

JM: A lot of fish. And I hated fish. I liked sardine. We used to cook it on the fire outside and that was delicious.

MN: How did you cook it? Did you just cook it and put a little shoyu on it?

JM: No, we just cook it with salt on them. Then we'll put shoyu when we eat it.

MN: So you eat a lot of sardines, and what, what other seafood did you eat?

JM: Anchovies, mackerel. Mackerel didn't taste (as good). It's not like hamachi. Hamachi, they catch in the cold area, the ocean is cold so the fish has a lot of oil. That's why it tastes good.

MN: Mackerel's known to have a lot of oil.

JM: Yeah, not the local mackerel.

MN: The water wasn't cold enough?

JM: Uh-huh.

MN: How, how about, like awabi?

JM: Awabi? Yes, we used to boil it, dry it and make it hard, then we'd get a knife and carve it and eat (it). That was good.

MN: So people went abalone diving, and was there octopus, too?

JM: Hmm?

MN: Octopus, tako?

JM: Yes. But we didn't eat too much tako.

MN: What's isomono?

JM: It's small sea snails. And a lot of time, when you take it out it curls (...), and that's good.

MN: How did you eat those?

JM: Boil it, salt water. Then you peel it with a knife, I mean, needle. You'd poke it and pull it out. Isomono was good.

MN: What area did you find that?

JM: By the rocks (in areas) like Point Fermin, (Palos Vede), in that area. They had a lot of rocks down there.

MN: So what did Terminal Island smell like to you, growing up? Did you notice the fish smell?

JM: Not really, 'cause you're used to it. We used to watch these hakujin people coming, they had, their nose (closed), with a pin, they, so they can't smell it. [Laughs] When you go out for a (week or so and) come into Terminal Island, then you could smell, but when you lived there you're used to it. And that's a healthy smell.

MN: Now, during the Great Depression, I understand the Terminal Island canneries closed down. How did your dad make a living?

JM: They took the fish to the farmers and they traded for vegetables. My father had a real good friend, had a big hog farm so we used to go there. He used to give us baloney, wieners, (and) pork.

MN: Was that the first time you ever ate meat?

JM: No, we had meat at the market.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: Now I'm gonna ask you about Japan. 1941, your family traveled to Japan in February. Why did you have to go to Japan?

JM: Because my grandmother was dying.

MN: Now, the ship had a stopover in Hawaii. What was the ship ride like to Hawaii?

JM: It was rough. I was seasick all the way. When we got to Hawaii, oh, we had a feast. I was so hungry. My mother was born in Hawaii, so she had lots of friends and relatives. Then from there we went to Japan, and before we got to Japan we had a big storm, big waves and the boat was going under, but I didn't get seasick. I got used to (it by them).

MN: Now, Hawaii, what was your first impression of Hawaii?

JM: A lot of Japanese. [Coughs] Excuse me. Is it alright? It was sort of like Japan, where you have to take your shoes off to get into the house, and they all spoke Japanese. It was a comfortable place.

MN: It was almost like Terminal Island, also.

JM: Yes, similar to Terminal Island.

MN: Now, your older sister had already gone to Japan, so when the boat landed in Yokohama, was she there to meet you?

JM: Yes. She was so happy. (About three years ago), one of my father's crew member decided to go back to Japan and my sister heard about that, and she decided she wants to go to Japan and no matter what they told her, (she was) so hardheaded, my folks sent her over. As soon as she got to Japan she wanted to come back. [Laughs] My grandfather (built) a beautiful home -- my father sent the money every month -- he built a beautiful mansion, and he bought rice paddies and mountains. He was really well. He didn't work after he went back to Japan, so my dad sent the money every month, so we had to suffer.


MN: And I was asking you about what the train ride was like from Yokohama to Wakayama.

JM: It was congested, no sitting room. I had to stand all the way to, and that's a eight, nine hour ride?

MN: That's a long time to be standing up. So that was sort of your first introduction to Japan?

JM: What I really like was every station has lunch. Oh, it was delicious. I could look forward to the lunch.

MN: They call those ekiben? How many days did it take, at that time, to travel from the United States to Japan?

JM: Oh, almost three weeks. Maybe a little longer.

MN: So in the meantime, what had happened to your grandmother?

JM: Before we got on the ship we heard that she passed away.

MN: But because you had already made the arrangements to go to Japan you went anyways.

JM: She was my (...) mother's mother, and my father's mother was still alive, and his grandfather was still alive, too.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: Now, when you were in Wakayama, why did your family enroll you in school?

JM: Because we went there in February and during school time, and my aunt was one of the teachers, fourth grade, so they put us (in school), and they went, toured throughout Japan. But you know, I was in a habit of studying with Symon Sato, so in Japan I (...) used to go home and study. I was at the top of the class. Then she put me into the fifth grade, I went right to the top. I was really surprised.

MN: But when you first got there you weren't in fifth grade, right?

JM: Fourth grade.

MN: And what --

JM: No, oh, in Japan?

MN: Uh-huh.

JM: No, in States I was in junior high school.

MN: But when you first got to Japan, (what) grade did they put you in?

JM: Fourth grade.

MN: And because you studied hard you were put into fifth grade. How much Japanese did you speak when you got to Japan?

JM: We spoke Japanese, but mixed Japanese, Terminal Island Japanese.

MN: So when you went to school in Japan did the kids laugh at you?

JM: They used to call us Amerika-san, and they didn't really laugh at us. They enjoyed us.

MN: You know, Wakayama had the Amerika-mura, so were there Niseis in your school or around your area?

JM: No, only one guy was from the States. He was in the class. He was couple years older than I was, and his uncle was the principal of the elementary school. He was really rough. (...) Kids get in trouble, they line them up in the front, then they'll genkotsu, you know? [Makes a fist] And my friend's name was Kiyoshi.

MN: Now how would you compare the Japanese school system to the American school system?

JM: American Japanese?

MN: Or, I guess, the Terminal Island school system to the school in Japan.

JM: They're really strict (in Japan). Over here we used to get by. We never studied. Every time we had exam we're copying each other, we're making the same mistakes. [Laughs] But the teachers weren't strict.

MN: So when you say in Japan they were strict, how were they strict?

JM: Well, you can't fool around. You can't go to the movies. They have movies at school; (but) we're not allowed to go. And they regimented everything, history, they have different subjects.

MN: Did you have to line up in the field in the morning and do the exercises?

JM: Yes. That's a good idea. Every school should have that.

MN: Did you have to bow to the Emperor's photo also?

JM: Yes. I don't know, I don't remember that part too well, but we used to bow toward the, Tokyo, I guess.

MN: Did you also have to clean the classrooms?

JM: No. They had... oh...

MN: Soujitouban?

JM: I guess so. The student, the girls used to clean up.

MN: But you don't remember doing it?

JM: No.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: Was Japan's growing militarism pretty obvious in '41?

JM: Oh yeah. Their, especially the navy, when they come around you had to get off the road to let 'em pass. They were kingpin.

MN: What happened if you didn't get out of their way?

JM: You get knocked off. It's just natural. Everybody just get off.

MN: Were there a lot of Kempeitai in your area?

JM: Huh?

MN: Kempeitai?

JM: Oh, there were some but in the village, no.

MN: Now, so you were living in the village, did you have to work on the farm or any that kind of labor?

JM: No. In fact, we used to eat, my brother and I used to eat five bowls of rice. And it's white rice, it's not mixed 'cause Grandfather had rice paddies, so he used to tear his hair out. "Don't eat so much rice." [Laughs] So I told him, "There's nothing to eat," so we used to put miso shiru in the rice. And ham, we had a big ham, dried one, so we used to carve it out and eat it with the rice.

MN: I'm actually surprised there was meat available in '41.

JM: No, we took it from the States. It's the dry one.

MN: So that must've been pretty precious, to have that kind of meat out there.

JM: I guess so.

MN: Now you shared about your father's family, how your father had been sending money to your grandfather and he was able to build a nice house. What about your mother's side?

JM: My mother's folks previously, they were very wealthy. They had a (large ship), and they got caught in a big storm and all of the fishermen died, so they sold all the properties they had to help the families survive. So that's when they lost all their money.

MN: Now, when you were in Japan, did you hear that there might be war between the United States and Japan?

JM: Every day. They said, "Don't go to United States 'cause they're gonna be at war and U.S. gonna lose, so you better stay in Japan." I said, "I don't want to stay in Japan." Then in fact, three times we went from Kobe to Yokohama. The first two times they stopped the boat. In fact, before that, one boat went to the States and they went back and forth and they couldn't get in. I guess they didn't have any permit or something, I don't know, so they had to turn around and come back to Japan, and a lot of people died of food poisoning 'cause they couldn't get the supplies in the States.

MN: Now, if your family couldn't go back to the United States, what were your parents planning to do, leave you in Japan?

JM: They were (planning to) go to China from there. So I told them, "You're not gonna leave us in Japan," and then they found out that a boat was gonna be available, so we went to Yokohama. You should've seen the people there. They all wanted to get back, but they only had one boat. They could only take so many people. So two time we had to go back, third time they finally got an agreement. Then my dad knew somebody at NYK building and he was able to get us on the boat, so our family, and they had three girls, my dad's friend's (daughters) he was responsible for them, so he got them on the boat, too. So we all came back (in the same boat).

MN: So that's a total of ten people? Five children and then two of, your mom and dad, and then three other... what month are we talking about?

JM: When we came back I think it was in September.

MN: September 1941?

JM: Uh-huh.

MN: So this is right before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

MN: So within a few months Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese. Now, what were you doing on that Sunday, December 7th?

JM: We were playing basketball, then somebody came, says, "Japan bombed Pearl Harbor." I knew where Pearl Harbor was because we were, went to Hawaii. We were really surprised, but when we thought about it, that's what they were talking about in Japan. Everybody knew there was gonna be a war. So I don't know the politics behind the war, but apparently America put a lot of pressure on Japan. I guess it had to do with oil.

MN: So when you heard Pearl Harbor was attacked, what were some of the thoughts going through your mind? Did you think this was gonna affect you personally?

JM: All the FBIs came (in the) middle of the night, came knocking on the door. I look out the door, window and see, oh, big FBI guys, about three or four of them. They came bargin' in, they went through every room. I had a bow and arrow 'cause at school we had a bow and arrow club. They confiscated that. And we burned lot of stuff, Japanese, anything that's written in Japanese. And my father was taken away, so he wasn't home, so nobody, just my mother and my (...) brother and sisters.

MN: The FBI, when did they come to your house?

JM: Oh, they came that night, eleven, twelve o'clock at night.

MN: So your father was already taken away that day. Did they catch him out in the ocean, or how did they take him away?

JM: He was, they were notified to come in by twelve. They were coming in, but one of the boats were having problems, so he stopped to help 'em out. By the time they came in it was about three o'clock, so they didn't even have chance to call home or come home.

MN: So did you know what had happened to your father?

JM: We got notice that they're gonna take him to a camp someplace, so all the bus, they're gonna pass by the house.

MN: But initially they didn't take him to camp, they took him to the Terminal Island prison, right?

JM: Yes, from the prison they transferred him to another place. And I remember we were all waiting by the street, then we saw our dad in the window. My daughter was --

MN: Sister.

JM: [Laughs] Sister, she must've been about three or four. She went running to the bus and hollered, "Papa, Papa, don't go. You're not gonna be able to come back." And we don't know where she got all this information. Then all the ladies started crying.

MN: Did you know where they were taking your father?

JM: No. (...) I know they were going out of the state. I heard they went to two or three different places.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

MN: You personally now, the next day, you had to go to school. It's a Monday. And you have to take the ferry to get to school. What happened at the ferry depot?

JM: We crossed the bay, went into the, the station first. They locked the door, and they wouldn't let us out. And we're junior high school kids. Somebody called the school, and the principal came and got us released, so we went to school.

MN: How did that make you feel to be locked up like that?

JM: We thought, man, it must be really bad. Then when we got to school, everybody, were really (sad), they never said bad words to us and they all worried about us. It was really amazing.

MN: So you're saying the non Nikkei students didn't harass you.

JM: No. All the Caucasian...

MN: Why do you think they didn't harass you?

JM: Well, we were real solid with the rest of the student body. We all participated in floor sports and a lot of 'em excelled, especially in high school. Junior high school we didn't have too many sports, but we're real close to each other.


MN: So you had no problems at school?

JM: No.

MN: From the students or the teachers.

JM: No.

MN: Now, tell me what happened to your father's net.

JM: Oh, they sold it. They sold it to somebody. I don't know, I don't know too much about it. My uncle handled it 'cause my father was in the prison already.

MN: What about his boat?

JM: It was Van Camp's boat.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

MN: So on February 26, 1942, all the Japanese on Terminal Island were given forty-eight hour notice to leave. Now how did you feel when you heard this announcement?

JM: I was too young, and my mom and sister were were doing everything. There was nothing for us to do. Only thing we worried about, where we gonna go? Then there's a gakuen in Compton. It was empty, so they all bused us in there. From there we went to junior high school in Compton, Enterprise Junior High School.

MN: How did the students treat you at Enterprise Junior High School?

JM: We didn't have any problem.

MN: What was it like living at Compton Gakuen? Is this like a dorm situation?

JM: Yes. We had a bed, so we had a [indicates a bunk bed], so I slept on the top and my brother slept on the bottom. And then the mothers did all the cooking. We didn't want to go to school, but we had to.

MN: How long were you at Compton Gakuen?

JM: I don't remember. about a month (or so)? Then we found out that we have to go, get on the bus, and we didn't know where we were (going). They put us in the train with the windows closed off, then before we know it we're in Manzanar. And when we went into Manzanar it was blowing sandstorm, and we had to go into one of the barracks, and you should've seen the barrack. It was full of sand. They didn't have any carpets, so all the sand was coming in from the bottom. They gave us a sheet, told us to go fill it up with straws. Then nighttime we had to put that army blanket, scratchy blanket, on our face to protect us from the sand. I said, oh man, don't tell me I'm going to have to spend all my life in this prison. That was really sad. And they didn't have any heating oil and it was really cold. I don't know where we were, but it was really cold.

MN: You're part of the early group, so you didn't go to Santa Anita.

JM: No.

MN: Straight to Manzanar.

JM: Yes.

MN: Do you remember any of the train ride at all?

JM: Yes, I remember the train ride.

MN: Did you get fed on the train?

JM: Yes, I'm pretty sure.

MN: Do you remember what you ate on the train?

JM: No.

MN: But they didn't tell you where they were taking you, is that right?

JM: [Nods] Maybe they might've mentioned Manzanar, but we don't know anything about Manzanar.

MN: Were there military men on the train?

JM: Yeah. I'm pretty sure.

MN: What was going through your mind when you're on this train ride to this place called Manzanar?

JM: Where we're gonna be, where we're gonna end up. And kids, we don't talk about those kind of things.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

MN: So you got to Manzanar, and were your entire family, except your father, were you able to live together?

JM: Yeah. Two families. So usually two families lives in one section. There's four sections to the, we had a separate room, and that's where the Uyematsus stayed, and we stayed in our (side).

MN: When you say separate room, though, are you talking about just separation with the sheets?

JM: (No, we were separated with a partition but no door).

MN: Oh, it's an actual wall there?

JM: Uh-huh.

MN: Now Terminal Islanders mainly lived on Blocks 8, 9, and 10. Which block did you live in?

JM: Nine.

MN: So do you remember the Bainbridge Island people?

JM: Yeah.


MN: Okay. I'm gonna ask you, do you remember --

JM: The Bainbridge group was next, they were in Block 3, so they came in before us.

MN: Did you ever get into fights with the Bainbridge Island people?

JM: No. I never got into fights. I was always there stopping the fights.

MN: When you first arrived in Manzanar, what did you do?

JM: Well, there's a lot of guys our age, so we got together. There's a rec room, recreation room, so we went in there. We just talked. We just communicated with each other, played with each other.

MN: What did you guys talk about in those early days?

JM: I don't know.

MN: How long was it before you started attending the junior high school in Manzanar?

JM: It wasn't too long. They got all the teachers in, all the Caucasian teachers came from all over. And lot of the teachers are dedicated people.

MN: How would you compare Manzanar, the education you got there, in comparison to the one you were getting in San Pedro?

JM: Well, San Pedro you had specific classes. Over there, they had different classes, but we didn't study. Nobody studied. In fact, I had a teacher that was really tough, and she put me in the front, right in front of her, and that's the only place I really responded to her. She really liked me. [Laughs] Everything she picks me, and I don't know where I got the answers, but I always had the answers.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

MN: Now where did you learn to dance?

JM: We all danced.

MN: But where did you learn to dance? Like the jitterbug, how did you learn that?

JM: Well, one of the older guys used to come to our rec room and they (taught) us how to do the jitterbug. Then we caught on pretty fast. (...)

MN: Were you a pretty good dancer, jitterbugging?

JM: Yeah. I caught on real, real fast.

MN: Did that make you popular with the girls?

JM: I guess so.

MN: Did you dress up in a zoot suit and have the duck tail hair?

JM: Yes. [Laugh]

MN: Where'd you get the zoot suit? Did your mom make it for you?

JM: No. I made it myself.

MN: How do you make it yourself?

JM: We had a sewing machine. I just sewed the sides. It wasn't that difficult.

MN: So did a lot of Terminal Islanders dress up in that pachuco style?

JM: Not really.

MN: So you're a teenager in Manzanar, you're interested in girls. Can you share with us some of the stories you had with the girls? You were talking about this one girl that you first saw in camp.

JM: This other friend of mine said, oh, he put a claim on her, so I couldn't barge in. Then this girl, one of the girls in the class, (her boyfriend) had to go to Tule Lake, so her friend asked me to take care of her, so I started taking her out and she asked me, "Are we going steady?" So I told her yeah, so I would side up with her.

MN: So you never had a problem with the girls. You always had a girl with you, or if you were interested you would go out and talk with the girls?

JM: I wasn't scared.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

MN: I want to ask you about the fights. Terminal Islanders have a reputation for getting into fight a lot, and you mentioned you didn't get involved in fights.

JM: No.

MN: And you actually stopped some fights. Can you share with us some of these stories? There's this one story you talked about, the older guy, this older guy used to watch over you at Terminal Island? Tell us the story about how he was gonna go into a fight.

JM: He liked this girl, and the other guy was trying to cut in. So -- I didn't know that -- so a whole bunch of us went over to beat him up. Then when I found out what it was, I got in there and stopped it, and this guy, he was a big, tough guy, but he used to watch over me in Terminal Island, so everything I say he'd follow my instruction. So I didn't have any problem.

MN: You were also friends with this professional boxer from Hawaii who ended up in Manzanar.

JM: Yes.

MN: And he got into a fight with the Exclusive 20s?

JM: Yes. [Laughs] Before the war. He had a date, was coming down the stairway, and one of the Exclusive 20 guys came up and took a poke at him, but he was a fighter, so he fended off and beat him up. Then all the Exclusive 20 guys came up to beat him up. Now all the professional boxers upstairs, all came down, so that stopped everything.

MN: Now there was a bunch of Exclusive 20 guys in Manzanar, and he was by himself. How did he get protection in Manzanar?

JM: Well, we got to be friends, so he told us, he'll teach us how to box. So he got in our group, so he didn't have any trouble with the Exclusive 20s.

MN: It sounds like most of the fights that Terminal Islanders got into were over a girl. Is that right?

JM: [Laughs] No, I don't know. Well, you know how it is. Some guys, they're trying to show off, I guess, and say things, not against the Terminal Islanders, but some irritating things.


MN: So I know that, some people used to call the Manzanar folks Yogores.

JM: That's the older group.

MN: What does that mean?

JM: Yogore is, how would you... yogore is like a fighting group.

MN: Kind of like the thugs.

JM: Uh-huh.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

MN: I want to ask you about December 1942 in Manzanar, when the riots happened. Where were you when the riots happened?

JM: I was right there by the, right in the front there, next to the sentry. I wasn't in the crowd, I was right up there.

MN: How did you end up next to the sentry?

JM: [Laughs] I don't know. I remember the sentry sittin' down and shooting.

MN: Now why were you there?

JM: Rumors that there's gonna be some kind of activity, so we went there trying to find out what's happening.

MN: Did you know what was happening?

JM: Not really.

MN: Did you know why there was a crowd?

JM: I guess they wanted to beat up one of the prisoners. I think.

MN: Now, did you get injured?

JM: Who?

MN: You.

JM: No, (I didn't get injured).

MN: Did you see any teargas?

JM: I don't know. I wasn't in the crowd, so...

MN: Now you said you were next to the sentry. Did he start shooting?

JM: Yes.

MN: So what did you do when he started to shoot?

JM: We backed off. I don't know what happened after that. They stopped it, I guess. Everybody dispersed.

MN: Before you went away, did you know that somebody had been shot and killed?

JM: I remember a couple of people falling. I don't know if they were killed. The sentries were petrified. They were scared. So I guess they just panicked.

MN: What gave you the impression that they were scared?

JM: By looking at their face.

MN: What reason would they have to be afraid? Was it an angry --

JM: There was a lot of people.

MN: Were the people shouting?

JM: They were shouting, yeah. And they only had so many sentries. I don't know how many there were, but they were scared.

MN: Now, later, did you hear that some of the people who were suspected of being inu were taken out of camp for their own protection after this happened?

JM: I heard rumors to that effect.

MN: What were some of the rumors you heard?

JM: It was for their protection, 'cause there were people coming after them.

MN: The next morning in Manzanar, after this happened, what was it like in camp?

JM: About the usual, I guess. I don't remember.

MN: Did the name Fred Tayama ever come up?

JM: Yes, it sounds familiar.

MN: But you had no real contact with Fred Tayama.

JM: No. I didn't even know who he was.

MN: What about the JACL?

JM: I don't think they were that popular.

MN: Why weren't they popular?

JM: I guess... I really don't know.

MN: Now, when the "loyalty questionnaire" was passed out, what was going through your mind?

JM: Yes, they were telling us how to respond to it, the older guys.

MN: Were there meetings?

JM: No, they, we had to go to this place to sign that questionnaire, and they just told us how to answer.

MN: Now, these older people, were they older Terminal Islanders or just... [JM nods] So you would go to register and they just told you, this is the way you should answer it?

JM: Uh-huh.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

MN: Now when was your father reunited with your family?

JM: I think the last year they released him.

MN: That's 1945?

JM: Forty... I guess so. '44 or '45, I don't remember. I went out of camp, 'cause my sister and her husband (...) bought a car, so I just got into the car and went to Utah.

MN: What did you do in Utah?

JM: We worked at the Smith Cannery, canning tomatoes. They had one room reserved for the German POWs, and they were really happy, singing away. They're prisoners of war, but they're treated well, had good things to eat. No war for them. And (...) they were really (in a good mood).

MN: So what was the living conditions for you at this cannery?

JM: We had a separate room outside, bunch of us rented the room. Then one guy came over, says they needed us to go to Idaho to buck potatoes. So we all hopped on the car and drove to Idaho. And they said, they promised everything, they'll pay a dollar ten cents an hour. We were only making about sixty cents an hour. A dollar ten, that's good money. Plus they said they'll have Chinese dinner every night, catered Chinese. So when we went there, oh, everything was fine. Then bucking the potatoes got pretty hectic, 'cause they had to put it in a shed, underground shed, and usually they had a rope pulley that pulls the sack up and empties on the top. They didn't have the pulley, so we had to drag it up there and dump it, with all the dust, so finally said we want to pick the potatoes. Get somebody else to buck it. Then you had to have a bag on your stomach, drag it, put the potatoes in there. Gets pretty heavy, and we're not used to bending over, so next day we say okay, we'll go back to bucking the potatoes, but the owner was kind of, he makes decision just to get us all over there and change the rules, so finally we just quit.

MN: And then from there you went back to Manzanar?

JM: Went back to Salt Lake City, then went back to Manzanar.

MN: And then that's where you met your father again?

JM: Uh-huh. I was working for the community welfare before I went, and they gave me a real nice car, Oldsmobile, to drive all over camp and take the interviewers, talk to the Japanese people. And by that time war was over, so I had to go and tell the people to get ready to move out. They said, "Move out? Where we gonna go? We don't have any place, no home, no money." And they set up hostels, the different churches, so they finally agreed. In fact, Terminal Islanders, didn't have (any place to go), Terminal Island was closed. There's no home, so we ended up at the trailer camp. It was, it was all blacks in there, but they greeted us with open arms. Then one time there was a big controversy. Everybody was outside, so I asked 'em, what happened? "Oh, some black beat up this Japanese old man, so we're all looking for that person." They saw somebody looking through the windows, so they say, "Hey, there he is," so we all ran after him. But you know, black boys, kids are fast, got long legs. We couldn't catch him. But the group (in) ours were faster (...) so we caught him all the way at the end of the trailer camp. One guy had his leg and was twirling him around and hitting his head against the brick wall. Then they started interviewing him. "(...) What were you doing?" Then one of the guys in the group says, "Hey, that's my friend." He came to look for him, but he didn't know the address and all the trailers are all same, so he was looking through the window. Next day this black kid came over to me -- he was my friend, we used to box together -- said, "I'm the one that beat him up. I didn't really beat him hard. I was drunk." So I took him over to the man, made him apologize, then everything was cleared up. He said when he gets drunk he doesn't know what he's doing.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

MN: I'm gonna step back a little bit. I know we're talking about the trailer camps in Long Beach right now, but I wanted to ask you about, you graduated from Manzanar High School in 1945. Can you share with us what the graduation was like?

JM: We had a big graduation in that auditorium. It was pretty well prepared.

MN: Did you wear a cap and gown?

JM: Yes. We used to get everything from Sears-Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, and they made all the arrangements. In fact, we had a baseball team, basketball team, we asked Sears-Roebuck to sponsor us and they sponsored our team. We got bats, baseball, mitt, ball, bats, everything, even jackets, so we put Sears' name on the back. [Laughs]

MN: What happened to that uniform?

JM: I don't know. It's all gone.

MN: Did your parents and your siblings attend your graduation?

JM: I don't know. I guess they did.

MN: What did your mother do in camp?

JM: Just took care of the kids. When my father came back she got pregnant, and the baby died. It was stillborn. But I don't know what she really did.

MN: Was the baby buried at Manzanar?

JM: Huh?

MN: Was the baby buried at Manzanar?

JM: (I don't know).

MN: But when you were leaving, did you take the baby's remains with you or did you leave the remains at Manzanar?

JM: I don't know. (...) They had the papers. (...)

MN: Now, Terminal Islanders, they love their ofuro.

JM: Yeah.

MN: There was no ofuro in Manzanar, so how did you guys get around that?

JM: Showered.

MN: Took shower?

JM: Oh, they had one room (with) washbasin. They had two tubs, one for soap and one for rinsing, so we used to fill it up with hot water and took a bath in (and the other to rise off the soap). It felt pretty good. [Laughs]

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

<Begin Segment 21>

MN: So after Manzanar closed your family ended up at the Long Beach trailer park. You were already out of high school, but did you continue to socialize with a lot of the Manzanar people and go to the dances?

JM: We used to go to dances. Long Beach was all Terminal Island. So they had dances.

MN: Did you get involved in any of the gangs?

JM: The younger kids. We didn't get, I mean, we had groups, friends, but we didn't get into fights. Then I went to Long Beach State College and took the exam, then we found out that there was an opening in Monterey that needed some fishermen. I didn't know anything about fishing, but a bunch of us went, 'cause my mom was saying that I'm the oldest in the family, I have to help with the expenses. So I dropped the college and went to Monterey, worked over there for a while, getting the net together. Then we lost the contract, so we had to come back again. Then we started working someplace.

MN: Now, why couldn't your father work immediately as a fisherman?

JM: They wouldn't let Isseis, they wouldn't allow them to fish. (...) Then in '48, I think, '47, '48, they finally released that and they let the Isseis go fishing again. So by that time the sardine season was started and we had to get a boat, so we went to San Francisco, but the season opened already, so there were no boats available. Came back to Monterey, then this, this guy just finished building a boat. It was a smaller boat, sixty, sixty-five footer. So we leased that boat, brought it down to Terminal Island. On the way down we had a real bad storm, by Point Conception, and two other fishermen were seasick, so I had to pilot the boat. I never piloted a boat before because I used to get seasick. You know, that time I never got seasick, and my dad was really amazed the way I handled the boat, 'cause the wave (was from) the back and that's dangerous 'cause if you move the boat too much it flips over, and we're going through the rocks, so I had to just inch by inch move it on and go past the rocks. And we got to Terminal Island safe. But these two fishermen, they're old fishermen, they got seasick. [Laughs]

MN: Sounds like it was quite a storm.

JM: Yes, they can have the storm over there, especially (around) Point Conception.

MN: Now, right after the war, before you were doing all of this, did you return to Terminal Island? Did you know it was destroyed?

JM: Yes, we knew (that) all the houses were torn down. The cannery was still there, so in fact, when we started fishing we had to build a net and we're building that, we needed more nets. Then, before the war my dad helped this Italian skipper, taught him what to do. During the war he made a lot of money. He must've built a big mansion in the side of the hill. It was maybe a half acre, a big land, but he won't help us. He had all the nets. And the reason why is they go to the closed areas where you're not supposed to go, so they have two sets of net, one good one, one is the kind you throw away. They use those nets to go into the closed area because if they get caught they confiscate the net. That's the reason he wouldn't part with the net. We were willing to buy, pay for it.

MN: Now, when did you work for Ida Market?

JM: Oh, before I started fishing, (1946) or seven. My dad helped them when they opened up the market. He lent them some money. So he asked me to go help them out, so I worked over there.

MN: Ida Market was located in Little Tokyo?

JM: Yeah, on First Street, next to Sanko Low.

MN: And what did you do for Ida Market?

JM: I'd work on the fruit stand. Then, we'd get a lot of orders from the boats in San Pedro, Terminal Island, so we had to fill up the truck and deliver it, and you have to unload the truck on the wharf. The ships are (tied) down below, and there's about four or five boats tied next to each other. You have to lower the food onto the boat below, take it over and all the way over. And then next are hundred pound bag of rice. Oh, it's a lot of work, so Ida says he wants me to come back (after I unloaded). I said, "I'm not gonna come back." He doesn't realize how much work there is and takes half of the day. So he got mad and the next week he, he took the truck and delivered it, and next day he came and apologized to me. [Laughs] He didn't realize.

MN: So you're carrying these hundred pound sacks of rice, how do you get from one boat to the next boat?

JM: All the boats are tied to each other, so we had to pull the next boat together so we could carry it over. But to get it down to the boat from the wharf, that's the hard part, and sometimes there's nobody on the boat, so I (didn't know how to do it). Usually there's somebody on the boat to help me unload.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MN: Now I'm gonna ask you about Cedros, Mexico. Where is Cedros, and how did you end up fishing out there?

JM: This friend of ours, used to go there every year, so he came to us and (told us) there's a lot of yellowtail there, so we should go there. And we had a big boat, hundred footer. They had, he had a seventy footer, a smaller boat, but with a big boat like ours we can't work on a small school, but they could work on any kind of school. But in Cedros the fish shows once, once a month. It would run for about four or five days. If you miss it you (have) to wait another month, so in the meantime we'd go all over different areas to find schools of fish, but it was really hard. Then one time we were in a set and this storm came in, after everybody's in the set. Oh, it was terrible. And this boat came in from San Pedro. On a weather like that we'd never go out. We'd always anchor in the anchorage, but he saw all the boats in the set, and he knows the fish, you got to catch it when the fish shows, so he came and he let go of the net and come around, to catch the skiff. By that time the net is off the boat, so the rear end is high because the weight is off, so when he got to the skiff he put it in reverse. It didn't catch 'cause it was too high, and rammed into the skiff. And there's one man in the skiff, he fell overboard. He got on the (ship's) phone, "Mayday, mayday," but we're all working. We couldn't do anything. After we finish he says, "Man overboard. We need help." So everybody went looking, but in that storm, whitecap, you can't see anything, so we all turned around and we're going home, then he came on the (air again stating), "We're going against the rocks and we can't move," 'cause when they put the boat in reverse (and) when he hit the skiff, the man went overboard, they're all looking for the man. He (forgot he) had the engine in reverse and it chewed into the net and the cable, so they couldn't move. Then when it came on again, said, "We're going against the rocks. We need somebody to help us," but nobody'll go and (since) we had the biggest boat, I talked to my dad, saying we better go help. He said, "Oh, naturally, we're gonna help." The owner was on the boat. He's six foot five, big husky guy, came to the pilot house, said, "Where you going?" I said we're got to go help them. "It's too dangerous. Turn around." I said, "No, we can't do that. We're gonna help them. They're from San Pedro, too, and we have the biggest boat." So we went.

So we got on the skiff, we tried to row to the boat, but the current is so fast we couldn't reach it. Well, I took the boat around to the other side, we got on the skiff, and then we floated toward them. As we were (bringing) the net up, then all of a sudden the boots of the fisherman came in the net, and they grab a hold of the boots and then man was in (the boots) there. He was inside the net, so we brought the man up on the deck by my foot. So I'm stepping all over him. Say, wait, let's put him someplace, so opened up a hatch and we put him inside the hatch where's it's ice pack, and that was a good idea. After we got the net on board, we went back to our own boat and threw the line to tow them in. The current was so fast the boat was just going around in circles, so I put it in gear, to go forward. The rope got caught in our net, I mean, our propeller so we couldn't move. I got on the radio, "Mayday, mayday," and this steamship answered, but they were way out by San Diego. It's gonna take too long to get there. So we decided to dive into the water, and water was cold. The rope was wedged into the propeller, couldn't take it off. Everybody tried. Finally my dad went and he couldn't take it off either, but he went down again and got it loose, but when he came up he almost passed out. So finally we got it loose and we towed the ship into the (anchorage). They had divers at Cedros (Island) so they had, couple of divers come and they released that net and they were able to come home. Then after the season I got drafted in the army. I was in Fort Bliss, Texas. I got a (unexpected) phone call and the skipper called me, said, "I want you to get, get an attorney 'cause our insurance won't pay the, pay us." So we got an insurance attorney and we won the case, so we got paid, so we divided it among our crewmembers. But the skipper was devastated, especially when their insurance won't pay us for salvage. We salvaged the boat, and saved it. So that ended up pretty good.

MN: I'm assuming the skipper was devastated because he, that man died?

JM: Yes. (He got) hit, (fell) into the ocean. (...)

MN: Yes. And then when you saw the boot coming up with the net, did you know he was already dead in the net?

JM: No, no, we thought it was just the, the boots. They had the long boots. Then the body was in there.

MN: The insurance money must've been a nice bonus, though. I don't expect you were saving the boat for the money.

JM: No. (We just wanted to save the boat and the crew members).

MN: Were there other incidents like this where you thought you might actually die or somebody else might die on your boat?

JM: At that time?

MN: During this time you were fishing out there, did you have other incidents like this?

JM: No, that's the first... one time we had a big school of thirty, thirty-five tons in the net and we were being dragged into the rocks, so we threw the anchor, the big anchor (...). It broke the chain, and we don't know what to do 'cause if you're gonna hit the rock we have to abandon everything. Then the current took us around that and we were able to salvage the net. That was scary. But usually when it's stormy we don't fool around.

MN: There was also, you folks went dancing when you were on shore in Mexico.

JM: Huh?

MN: You went dancing when you went ashore in Mexico?

JM: Yes.

MN: That was every Friday, is that correct?

JM: No, we just went once.

MN: Oh, just once. Is this the time where you almost got arrested?

JM: [Laughs] We went to the bar, had a drink, then we had a bottle for the mayor, so we came out of the bar and the plainclothesmen caught us. And we (told him) this is for the mayor, but he couldn't speak English and we couldn't speak Spanish, so (...) he was taking us to jail. Then a Japanese diver came by. He was living there, but he was from Japan. He (spoke) Japanese, so we communicated with him, so he talked to the policeman (in Spanish) and he released us. So we took the bottle to the mayor, and the mayor was happy. You know, small island like that, (it's) hard to get whiskey. Then the dance, you can't go directly to the girl to ask for a dance, you have to ask the chaperone and then get the okay. (...) We took a shower, but we still smell of fish, those girls danced with us happily. They didn't even complain, so we had a good time.

MN: Did you do American dancing, or what kind of dancing did you do?

JM: Just regular walking. They had the swing, but they didn't know how to do swing. (Two cute mayor's daughters), we were real surprised that you had to ask the chaperone. (The mayor approved us).

MN: So why were the police gonna arrest you? Were you not supposed to have alcohol?

JM: No, you can't take alcohol on land 'cause it's tax free alcohol, Sea-store.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

MN: We were talking about Cedros, Mexico. Now I want to ask you about your military service. What year did you receive your draft notice?

JM: '51.

MN: But you were able to get a short deferment. How were you able to do that?

JM: I was a skipper of the ship and I had a contract, so I can't break the contract. If I did, ten men will be unemployed, so the union lawyer wrote a letter for me, asked for deferment until after. So they deferred me. I went in February of '51, but all my buddies, got inducted before, so I was all by myself, and they all went to the language school in Presidio, so they became linguists. So when I got inducted I went to Fort Ord and I was on a special (group) where it was a short term, six week training. Then they shipped me to Fort Bliss, Texas, for artillery. In the meantime, they needed somebody to operate the landing craft at Fort MacArthur because all the soldiers they were getting from Oklahoma had never been out on the ocean, so they sent me a letter -- in fact, I went to navigation school in San Pedro -- so when I got a letter from the commander (from Fort) MacArthur, (I was in) Fort Ord, but they won't process the order 'cause I'm on order to go to Korea. So I went to Texas, went through the (artillery training, I) got shipped to Japan and was ordered to go to Korea the next day. Then I got a letter, I mean, they contacted me, asked me if I spoke Japanese. I said yes, I speak Japanese, so they pulled me out of the order, sent me to Tokyo to take the exam. Nine point was passing, I had nine point one. I barely passed it. [Laughs] So I got sent (to) Tokyo and took the training school for, I don't know, three months. My grade jumped the highest in the class because what I did was I took all the military terms and wrote it on a piece of paper, so every time I ate or go to the toilet I used to study that, and I memorized all the terms. So when we graduated we got a call from Sendai, they needed one linguist. They looked at my record, and I got selected. All the rest of the guys (went to) Korea. They sent me to Sendai, and from Sendai they sent me to Chiba for another class in, for interrogation. I don't know why they sent me there 'cause I wasn't (going to) go to Korea (but) I went there anyway.

MN: What were you doing, when you said, you said they sent you from Sendai to Chiba-ken, what did you do in Chiba ken?

JM: Chiba? They had a class for interrogation.

MN: So you weren't interrogating, you were taking an interrogation class?

JM: Yes. I was assigned to Military Intelligence in Sendai, and we were investigating the Communists coming into Japan, a lot of 'em from Russia.

MN: Did you work on a boat when you were in the army?

JM: No. They wanted me to operate that landing craft.

MN: At Fort MacArthur.

JM: Yes.

MN: Which, I guess, for those who may not know, that's in San Pedro. What was the Blue Sky, then? Which ship was this?

JM: It's owned by this Slavonian man. It was a hundred foot boat. We used to carry about a hundred ton of yellowtail (tuna).

MN: This is the ship that you went to Cedros? Is, is that...

JM: We leased the boat for one year, and we fished for sardine during the sardine season, then we went to Mexico for yellowtail.

MN: Now, when you were in the army in Japan, were you dating also? Did you have time to date?

JM: When I was in Sendai, yes.

MN: Tell us about your dating life.

JM: Well, my friend, he got orders to ship to Korea, so he asked me to take care of his girlfriend, so I was taking care of her. So I didn't date too much. We used to work on the translation for the military, I mean, medical terms, so we used to go to the hospital, see the doctor, and we asked for translation. I met this nurse, she had a very high position for a young girl. Then they gave me a (furlough), so I went to Wakayama, went to my grandfather and my grandma, and I came into Tokyo. My friend was in Tokyo, so I stayed overnight. That night I got an excruciating stomachache. When I was in Wakayama they had a big party for me, and I'm not supposed to eat raw stuff and they had sushi and all that stuff. Oh, I had a terrific stomachache. They couldn't take me to the army hospital, so (my friend) called a Japanese doctor. He came over, gave me a shot of morphine and that knocked the pain out. Oh, that really worked, so I landed up in hospital for two weeks, so when I got back to Sendai they were lookin' all over for me 'cause I'm on order to ship out, that day. So I shipped out. I didn't have any chance to talk to anybody. Then right before I (went on my furlough), I heard this surgical nurse really liked me, so I took her out one day. Next day she got busy, so that was it. Then I got shipped out, I didn't have time to call her. (...) When I got home I got a letter from her, she said, "Why didn't you tell me that you're going to leave?" I didn't know. She wrote in Japanese and I can't write in Japanese, so I never answered. That's my experience.

MN: So you left a broken heart in Japan.

JM: [Laughs] I didn't, I didn't think she liked me. But she showed me a burn on her arm, cigarette burn where a doctor was her boyfriend, he found out that she liked me, so he burned her arm.

MN: What year were you dishonorably discharged? I mean what year were you honorably discharged, honorably? [Laughs] I'm sorry.

JM: [Laughs] I was wondering what did I do?

MN: I'm so used to talking with troublemakers. [Laughs]

JM: '53. Beginning of '53.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

MN: Now, when you returned to the United States you did a lot of different jobs. I wanted to ask you about this one job you did in the 1990s with the Japan Expo organization. How did you get involved with them and what did you do for them?

JM: When I came back I didn't have a job, and my friend, (the attorney) Bill Sudo, he was taking care of this Chinese group, did the movies for Chinese television, and he knew this, insurance guy (...). Had a little office, so he put me in there. I thought, what am I going to do? I don't know anything about insurance. I don't want to get involved with insurance (work). Says, "Just use the room and do whatever you want." Then he needed some insurance, so I was kind of soliciting for him in J-town went to the radio station, (met) the owner. And he said, "You know, we just produced the Japan Expo last year," and I remembered the Japan Expo. It was very successful. He said, "We need some help," so I got involved with them.

MN: Now, through the Japan Expo, you also became friends with a Japanese movie star, Sonny Chiba.

JM: Yes.

MN: Also known as Chiba Shinichi. Now, what is your relationship with him?

JM: I was a real estate broker, and he needed a condo, so I looked around Wilshire Boulevard, by Westwood, high rise, nice condo. So he ended up buying the condo, and every time he comes (into L.A.), he calls me up, he wants me to take him every place. And that's how I got involved with him. And every place I go it's all first class, restaurants, all the best places. In fact, we went to Canada, he had a house in one of the cities in Canada, so went to see the broker, told him we want to sell it. So he says they don't work with outside brokers. There was a Japanese guy that arranged it before, so we got him to sell the condo. And he was all for himself, and he got Chiba to buy a golf club (...) so when he comes he can play with it. [Laughs] He never went back, so now he's got a beautiful set of golf club plus the commission of the house that sold.

MN: So would you call yourself a personal manager for Chiba Shinichi?

JM: Personal, not business. So I just, I still work once a week for him, but he's in Japan most of the time.

MN: I have a little bit of loose ends I forgot to ask you. I wanted to ask about your mother. She was born in Hawaii, so she would be considered an American citizen, although it was still a territory of the United States. What happened to her citizenship when she married your father?

JM: She lost it.

MN: So she became a, essentially, Issei.

JM: Issei, yes. Then she took the exam later on, passed it, and got her citizenship back.

MN: How did she get notified that she lost her U.S. citizenship, through a letter?

JM: I guess so. At that time I guess it was, when you got married you lose your citizenship. She was living in Japan (then).

MN: Yes, I think if a woman married, if an American woman married a non American she lost her citizenship. I think that was the law. I wanted to ask you about also how you met your wife, Betsy.

JM: At a dance. They were always going to a dance with this group, and I knew that the guy, one of the guys. He was a karate student, Chinese guy, so I asked him, hey, are you going around with her? No, they're just in a group. So I called the school board where she was teaching, and they told me she left for home. "Oh," I said, "Can I have her home number?" And they gave me the phone number. [Laughs] So I called. It was her sister's place, said, "Oh, she moved up to a friend, who lived in West, West L.A." So that's how.

MN: You had to work to get to Betsy. Now, thinking back on this community that you grew up, called Terminal Island, how would you describe it now, in retrospect?

JM: The friendship or Terminal Island per se, or what?

MN: Just everything in general, how do you feel about Terminal Island?

JM: The Terminal Islanders are close. They're really close knit. We're always trying to help each other, and I feel good about Terminal Islanders.

MN: Were you able to find another group like that as you grew older?

JM: Not really. I worked with Japan Expo about seven years, but, I mean, I became friends and stuff like that, but my Japanese is so-so and their English is so-so. I used to work for this company, Success Motivation Institute from Waco, Texas, and they were one of the biggest companies in the United States. Their training is terrific. They trained me, but I'm not a public speaker. You have to be a public speaker to be really successful at it. But I worked with individuals and small groups, biggest (group I worked with) was Department of Water and Power. The Executive Vice President was running the Water & Power, so I got involved with him, they used to have meeting once a month with all the managers, so I'd work with them. Then I got tied up with another big project.

MN: Okay. I've answered all my questions. I mean, I've asked all my questions. [Laughs] Anything else you want to add?

JM: What are you gonna do with all this?

MN: This will go on the internet after we get your approval.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.