Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Frank Kitamoto Interview
Narrator: Frank Kitamoto
Interviewer: Lori Hoshino
Location: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date: April 13, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-kfrank-01-0036

<Begin Segment 36>

LH: And what were you trying to accomplish at that point?

FK: What our mission has always been, that there was something that we felt was really important for our kids. That they need to know who they were, so we were doing this for the sake of them, and that they had a better idea of who they were and about our background, that they would feel more comfortable with being Japanese Americans or Americans of Japanese descent. So when we finally started this project though, we decided we were going to do a book. So we started taking, getting oral histories. We got a lot of help from people who had worked with the Suquamish Tribe for their stuff. And we were real fortunate, that we had a lot of people that volunteered their time to help us and train us and tell us what to do as far as interviewing and oral histories. We had some people who had been trained in that area to help us out and so forth. So...

LH: So were the, were the Bainbridge Island Isseis or Niseis reluctant to talk to you at first?

FK: Yeah. Also though they, we had, like my cousin Hisa had done some taping with some Isseis. In fact, most of the taping was done in Japanese, so it was, [Laughs] to find people to translate it to get on, [Laughs] get it on paper. But, and then we started systematically going through who was the oldest and trying to catch people that way. There's some people who refused to be interviewed, and there's still people that have refused to be interviewed. There's some people who... say they always get misinterpreted, so they don't want to be interviewed and so forth. At the same time, when I start talking with them, I wish I had a tape recorder hidden, hidden under my shirt because they can't stop, once they start. But they just don't want to be put on record. And they, they tell amazing stories that I've never heard of before. But they, they just don't want to be interviewed, and that still exists. But at the same time, we found the more we got into this, back in '83 up to now, that the more the people felt more comfortable in doing that. And then, and eventually, almost everybody that was contributing to the project really felt like it was really worth while, because they saw the results of what we were doing. We started with a book and ended up with a photo exhibit, because we could get funding for a photo exhibit and we couldn't get it for a book, so... now...

LH: And that would be...

FK: Yeah.

LH: The one that is called Kodomo No Tame Ni.

FK: Kodomo No Tame Ni, For The Sake Of The Children. And then now, we have a, an interview with University Press to convert the photo exhibit into a book. So, we're trying to do that and trying to add some things. And actually the idea we have is to... intersperse among the photo exhibit by chapters or whatever, the different sayings that the Isseis used to say, and how that relates to our background. And we're going to have to change the name of the book because it there's already a book called Kodomo No Tame Ni from Hawaii. So...

LH: Oh, I see.

FK: So we're gonna call it Gaman. And...

LH: Can you explain a little bit about that saying?

FK: Well like, like persevere, shikata ga nai -- I always had trouble pronouncing Japanese words - [Laughs] or gaman or all those words that they, they tell you... to be strong or... things can't be helped, so do what you can... that kind of stuff. Those are things that probably will get lost, but at that the same time, they really shape us, because they're things that the Isseis passed onto the Niseis. And although the Niseis might not have said the same words, they kind of instill that in their third generation kids about how, how you react to certain things and how you do certain things. So there are times probably when the future generations will know why they act like they do. But it's because these things have been passed on, not particularly genetically, but just because it's reactions and behavior that people do. So we feel like if we can get people to understand it, there'll be a better understanding of what's going on and, and... it was interesting because Ron, who's one of the guys who started this project with me, one day when we were all talking about camp experiences, came up with a... "You know," he said "you know I really envy you guys for going to concentration camp."

LH: Well then...

FK: And I thought, oh gee, why would he say that? [Laughs]

LH: That's an unusual thing to say.

FK: Yeah. And he said, "You know, you guys have gone through a common experience and a real hardship. And you made it through and you were able to, in most cases overcome that and, and get on with (your) life and do things." And he said, "But you know, when I sit here listening to you guys talk, you guys have a bond. You have a bond, a common bond and a feeling that you wouldn't get unless you went through this experience together." He says, "I really envy you guys because I was too young to go through that." And I thought, that's true. There's always, I always believe there's always a yin, a yang. There's always a plus and a minus to everything that happens in life. That if something's really good, there maybe something you have to look at the other side and say well there might be something else going on with that. You try not to dwell on that and at the same time, if something bad happens, there's always another side to that, too. There's always something that balances. And I, and I feel like that's the way I want to lead my life... that there's got to be a balance between things. And, and he's right... it was an awful experience and it was really hardship, but at the same time -- wow. There's really something there that could really make you feel closeness. I remember...

LH: So.

FK: Yeah, go ahead.

<End Segment 36> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.