Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jack Dairiki Interview
Narrator: Jack Dairiki
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: March 15, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-djack-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

[Description of photographs]

MN: Tell me some of, the photo right there, who is that?

JD: Right, this is my grandmother in Japan, and she passed away 1990, that area, at the age of ninety-nine, so she lived a long time. And this is city of Sacramento, where I was born, we lived in Sacramento where my father worked in a hotel. There was a, my grandfather owned the hotel and my father became the manager of the hotel. Main Hotel was the name of the hotel. That was where I was born and grew up, until I was ten and that's when I left to Japan. So these are the photographs that precede me when I was, before the war. This street in front of the hotel, from the roof looking toward the east, you see the state capital building. We were about six blocks away from the capital. And our street in front was M Street, and M Street and Tenth was the capital; we were on the Sixth Street, so four blocks away.

This is the picture of the family, my brothers and sisters, all four of us, my father in the center and my brother Kenji, my brother Ned, myself, and my sister Helen. And this is a picture, again, of the hotel, very handsome hotel, about fifty rooms in the hotel, so was quite a big building, quite handsome one. And my mother, of course, worked. My father and mother worked. And sometimes we had my aunt come to help, and this is one of the neighbors that also came to help. I don't know why they had helper, but I guess it being a big hotel we needed a lot of help. So this is my aunt Tsugie, my mother was the first, first daughter of the family. Aunt Tsugie, she's still alive, about ninety-five, and my mother passed away some time ago, but, so they also worked together at the hotel.

And this, family activities, my brother Ned, Ned and my mother, Ned in one of the bedrooms, Ned, and then in the living quarter we had radios and so forth, phonograph player -- my father loved to play the Japanese records, so he had that for us to enjoy. My brother Ned again, my mother, there's a sewing, we did a lot of sewing and repairing sheets and pillows and so forth, and ironing and washing. And family photograph, my brother George. He died in camp, in Tule Lake, when he was eight years old. An interesting, we didn't know... well, we learned about his death through the Red Cross when we were in Japan and they said he died in camp, so I said how could it be in camp, we lived in Sacramento? So we didn't know anything about the camp life. We were looking in Japan. And this was 1942, June I think, my mother, my father learned about it. And these are all the photographs of the activity as we were growing up, swimming pool, wading pool in Southside Park in Sacramento, my brother and sister catching the flu and staying bed recuperating, interior of the hotel, what it looked like, the activity around the front of the hotel, playing at the riverside here, outing, some of my sister's friends that came to visit.

And this is a picture of myself just before I left to Japan in 1941, August. And again, the same, picture of my brother, myself and my sister. My sister's about a year and a half younger than I am. Myself in a Cub Scout uniform, a neighbor tenant, Mr. Taguchi, he was a attorney, had an office in the ground floor of the hotel. And some of the friends came to visit; we played in the front of the hotel, there's the hotel sign here. And we had a play area in the roof of the hotel, so we used to occupy a lot of activity on the roof. There's a soldier uniform friend; I don't know who he is, but one of the visitors. Here's a group picture. That's my grandfather. Actually, my grandfather is my mother's side, my mother's father. And so my grandfather was the owner of the hotel and he ran a grocery store, a place called Penryn, which is about thirty miles outside of Sacramento. He did very well and was able to purchase this hotel that we occupied. These people who came to the hotel to visit, a group of teenagers we encountered at the park -- my father took a picture of them -- and some of the pony rides that they had available at one of the parks. They called it Williamland Park, and they still have the same, same system there that, they have pony rides.

Now you see a picture of a ship called Tatsuta-maru. That's the ship that I went to Japan on, and we left on, as I mentioned, beginning of August 1941, and my father received a letter from Japan saying that my grandfather was ill. My father was the firstborn in the family, I was the first son in the family, so important for my father to perhaps meet my grandfather before he passed away. So that was the plan, go to Japan on a summer vacation trip, so we left there to Japan just Father and myself. We left my mother and other siblings behind, that we'd be back in about a month, so that was the plan. This is my grandfather in Japan, Mankichi is the name, and he fortunately recovered that we were able to enjoy each other. This is my, again, my grandmother, and now, this is, again, about 1941 in the fall. I wanted to return back to United States in September, but we found out there was no ship returning to United States. We were stranded there, so my father said, "You have to go to school," so he took me to grammar school where he attended, and became a student there. In doing so they have to conform to uniform; my head was shorn, short hair, as you can see. So my lifestyle completely changed, living style, and my yukata type clothing, of course, we had to wear uniform, but for me I didn't have a uniform, so I wore American clothes, whatever I had, to go to school. And in Japanese school system that, home school style; you don't wear shoes in the building, so you have to take your shoes off before you enter the building, so you're barefoot. And your footwear usually was zori, that homemade zori that, being the farmer, we made our own zori and wore them, and in doing so, of course, the winter, you could not wear any gloves or socks and that was the school system. The purpose of that was that they wanted to train children to become strong to become a future soldier of the emperor, so that was the training. So we gathered for school, marched to school about two or three miles, depending on where you lived, in rows of two. We had a leader -- the eldest of the group became the leader -- and we marched to school every morning. The return home was, each of the class were let out different schedules, so we came home on our own, but going to school we'd march to school.

And again, here is a picture of my cousin and my aunt, who was five years older than I was. She's the youngest of my father's siblings, called Aunt Shizuko, was the name. And she was very helpful in educating me in the Japanese language, because when I left the United States I was a fifth grader and when I got to Japan and went to school they dropped me down to second grade because of my language deficiency, and my aunt and a local teacher, helped me after school and I was advanced to third grade and then eventually fourth grade. Of course, being fifth grade in United States, my math and social studies was much higher up than the second grade, so they realized that and they advanced me. So that was the general, these are the general pictures I have here that show you the lifestyle.

Now, I have a painting here that I painted after I returned to United States, after the war. Of course, December '41, as you know, the Pearl Harbor and the Second War started, so United States did not enter the Second War until late, and of course when Tatsuta-maru left San Francisco in August of 1941, United States was not involved in the European campaign war, so that, one of the questions, why couldn't I get, return to the United States, we found out much, much later that the reason we could not get back to United States was because they were evacuating civil service people that worked in Japan for United States out of Japan. So this was September, so there was something that the government knew, that something was gonna be happening, so for the civilians who wanted to return to the United States there was no way to get back, so basically I was stranded in Japan and had to, forced to remain in Japan. And then, of course, the war came in December and then continued war years. As I mentioned, Japan system we started school in September but were taken out of school in October, part of October and November, to help harvest the rice, as a student helped the local farmer instead of staying in class, and then we returned to class after the harvest was over. That was the system, so for me, a city boy from Sacramento, was tremendous amount of training and education, different lifestyle. It was very interesting for me to live in that way. I became very physically strong, had to carry heavy things, bend down and use a sickle to cut their rice stalk, stalk it as you went by, and followed the other students, trying to keep up with them as a peer 'cause otherwise you'd be always ridiculed as a boy of my age, when you can't do the work like the other students. So I had blisters on my hands, many other injuries that I can't think about. Now, in the winter, of course, as I mentioned, can't wear stocking or glove, and it snowed in the winter and yet we could not cover ourselves. Only way to keep yourself warm was just don more jackets on your, on you, and there was no heater in the classroom. We ate cold lunch; we packed a bento bako, light, just an aluminum box packed with rice and in the center of it have umeboshi or something. That was the only, only thing we could eat. And we farmers were more privileged in this than people in the city.


MN: When did you draw this and why did you draw this?

JD: Well, I'm a major in architecture, so an architecture student you do a lot of artwork, and this was at City College Sacramento. I majored in architecture, so naturally I had to take a lot of art. One of the art classes, they had assignment, but there was a free day, so on the free day, somehow, I don't know, I start to sketch this and this came out. And the teacher's going, "What is this? What are you doing?" I said, "Well, this is what I recall when I was in Japan, when the atomic bomb exploded." And she got all excited and said, "Oh, you were in Hiroshima?" And of course there, that's the time, 1950, '51, Cold War, and there was a big issue about Russia and United States, the stockpile of the nuclear weapons and preparing for eventual nuclear war, so that was a big hot topic, and so when the teacher heard about my experience in Hiroshima she contacted newspaper people, and came to interview me. But before that, because of this, a free day, I just happened to sketch and my recollection of what I saw, and this is what I saw when I was age fourteen in the, August 6, 1945. We were conscripted to work at the factory as a student, because of the, during the three, three now four, going to four years of war, all the young men were drafted in the service and were off to the, off to the front fighting, and all people left behind was young people like myself or senior people, so anybody who could help with the war effort were conscripted.

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