Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Min Tonai Interview I
Narrator: Min Tonai
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 2, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-tmin-01

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: So Min, the way I start this is just a kind of, it's called video slate, so the, I'll talk about the date and where we are. So today is Thursday, September 2, 2010, and we're at the Centenary Methodist Church in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. On camera is Dana Hoshide and interviewing is me, Tom Ikeda. So I'm going to start, Min, with the first question -- Min Tonai is who we're interviewing -- is can you tell me where and when you born?

MT: I was born on February 6, 1929 in San Pedro, California.

TI: And can you tell me whether it was, like, a medical facility or at home, or tell me, tell me the circumstances of your birth.

MT: My family was living in Terminal Island at the Japanese fishing colony in Los Angeles harbor. And my mother's midwife lived in San Pedro, the town itself, across the, the channel in town, and so she went to, as they did, she went to live at the home of the, facility of the midwife for about a week to ten days before she gave birth, and after she gave birth she stayed there for a week to ten days. It was necessary back in those days because, in Terminal Island particularly, there were fishermen's wives had to get back and had to take care of the family, take care of everything 'cause the husbands are usually out to sea, and so this was a kind of a ritual that they had. And although my father was, at that time, no longer a fisherman and was in the produce business, this was a routine that they had, so I was born technically in San Pedro, although the family lived in Terminal Island.

TI: That's, that's interesting, so when women were going to give birth they would leave Terminal Island, go to this facility. How much, how long would they stay? I mean, before birth how long were they, how long did they stay after?

MT: A week to ten days.

TI: So about a week to ten days before they would go to this facility, give birth.

MT: Yes.

TI: And then they would stay for how long?

MT: Week to ten days, depending on the condition of the, of the mother.

TI: Okay, so two to three weeks, they're, they're...

MT: Well, yeah. One of the things is that you couldn't count on being, being born exactly at seven to ten days before the date that was due, but they would work within those kind of parameters. So if you were born, say, three days later, but you still may have only stayed only seven to ten days afterward, depending on the physical condition of the mother. Not, not everybody in Terminal Island went to Mrs. Tanaka -- that was the name of the midwife -- but quite a few did. Quite a few did. There were other, there was a midwife on Terminal Island itself, so there, some people were there. My younger brother was born in Terminal Island, the midwife that my mother went to was on Terminal Island, so that's where she went.

TI: Now, why was there a difference between where you were born and your younger brother? Why was he born in Terminal Island?

MT: Was the choice of the midwife. My mother chose one... up until I was, we all had Mrs. Tanaka, I believe. I believe that's, but subsequently she met the other midwife and then she decided to have her, my brother.

TI: Do you have any memories of the facility, Mrs. Tanaka's facility and what it looked like or where it was or how large it was?

MT: When I was a youngster I know I passed by it and it was just a regular home down near the waterfront, by then way up on the cliff. And Terminal Island is, I mean, sorry, San Pedro is built up in bluffs above the harbor itself, so I didn't, I don't now recall exactly what it looked like. But I do remember where my brother was born, but other than that -- he's a year, eleven months younger than I am -- but I remember that, going with my sister to, to see my mother.

TI: Okay. Going back to your life story, what was the name given to you at birth?

MT: Minoru.

TI: And is there any significance to that name?

MT: Yes. This is not a common character that is used for Minoru. The common character is what's called jitsu. It means fruitful, bearing fruit, whereas mine specifically is rice, bearing rice. The reason for that was that my father loved calligraphy, and with the name Tonai, which is fuji uchi, the character for wisteria, and among the wisteria the strokes said that I should have a more complex first name, which would mean the character which is nugihennone.

TI: So it sounds like your father was, was educated. So let's talk about your father. First, tell me his name and then where he was from.

MT: His name is Tonai Gengoro. He was the eldest son of the main Tonai family in a place called Esunokawa, which was a district of a town called Esumi in Wakayama-ken in the southwestern part of the peninsula, about halfway between Kushimoto, which is on the tip, southern tip, to Tanabe, which was a big town north of Oshima.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So tell me a little bit about your father's family. What did they do?

MT: My father was twenty-first generation Tonai. His home was named, was named Gengoro. People called it Gengoro. So when I was a GI, first time I went there I told the taxi driver, "Take me to Gengoro." He took me right to the house. And the reason for it is because they had been there so long, and the firstborn son in my father's family were all named Gengoro and goro means fifth born, but apparently one of their ancestors, or the first ancestor of his branch was named Gengoro so subsequently everyone was named Gengoro, except my father was only the fifth generation that was born to the Gengoro family. The other previous didn't have sons, so they either had youshi or a adopted son -- not adopted but married into family taking the name -- or they were adopted into the family, either way. My father was the first born of, in five generations. And his younger brother below him was named Genichiro and ichiro means first son, but the Gen was from genji, that same character.

TI: And so was the family wealthy in Japan?

MT: Well, not... well, my father's family were wholesalers of fish. They were, and they had a natural harbor in their town and so all the fishermen in the area brought the fish there. When he was a young teenager, the neighboring town built a large artificial harbor, so all the fishermen went there and they, business went way down and they were... part of that time they were shipping the fishes to Nagoya and to Osaka, Kobe, and to, over to Tokushima and places like that.

TI: Okay. So as the eldest son, how did, let's talk about his journey to America. How did he decide to go to America?

MT: My father graduated from, from upper elementary school. They have two kinds of elementary; you go through regular elementary school then you to upper elementary school, or you could go to high school. He went to upper elementary school and I don't know all the transition between that, but I know that he was going to school in Kobe when he got a letter from a friend from home saying that, "Your brother in law," my, his younger sister's husband, who was living in Bellingham and had opened a cafe there, was asking for help from people in town, and during that time Japan was in a recession or depression, having a very difficult time, and particularly my father's family. But he decided -- he was not supposed to go to America -- but he was now of age, he could get his own passport, so he quit school in, in Kobe and came to the United States, primarily because he was competing with his, his uncle the same age, his mother's youngest brother who was brilliant and he would always lose to him in tests and so forth, so he decided that he didn't want to go to school anymore. Surprisingly he was able to read English, so he must've had some education in that manner. He came by ship to San Francisco, and there, Honolulu then San Francisco, then there they got on a, I believe the ship was named Taiheiyo maru, the ship that he came to America. Then from there he -- oh, it had a sail and whenever it was becalmed they would use the engine, and I think he said that it was, they burned wood, and, but when it was, so it took a long time to get across.

TI: And do you know about what year, the date that this...

MT: Yeah, that, he left in December of 1906 and arrived in January 1906. He arrived in San Francisco, then he saw the remnants of the earthquake, San Francisco earthquake, and that's where he went through immigration. Then he got on an American ship and he went to Seattle. He came with, I think, about three others and he, because, and he was the leader of the little group of guys from his hometown, and it was a, the interesting part of it was that none of 'em could speak English, of course, and they were on steerage and suddenly they were getting hungry. "Where should we go? How can we eat?" And my father said, he told 'em, "Wait. They'll ring a bell and if we see a hakujin going by," a white person going by, "then follow him because he's probably gonna go eat." So that's what they did and they went, and they went into the dining area and they went there and they said, "What are we supposed to do?" "We'll sit here and we'll copy that man, what he's doing." So they copied him. So he picked up this brown thing, broke it, then he took and put this yellow thing on it, put it on there and started eating it. They said, my father said, "Let's try eating this thing." They tried the yellow thing, and it's greasy and terrible taste, so they said, "What are they giving us?" So they quit eating that. Then they had this brown thing on the plate, large brown thing, and the man was cutting it. He got his knife and cut it, then he put it in this mouth, so they started cutting it and they were, it was so hard. They were cutting it, finally put all kinds of strength on it and suddenly it slipped and fell on the floor. "They're giving us bad stuff. They're trying to, they're trying to torment us. So we're not gonna, we're not gonna put up with that." And they stormed out. My father stormed out and all his friends stormed out and they went to the room. 'Course they hadn't eaten anything; now they were getting hungry. They didn't know what to do and the pride prevented them from going back to the kitchen, to the dining area. And then they heard a bell ring and they looked and this man is selling bananas, bananas, oranges and apple, so they decided to eat that. They ate that all the way to Seattle.

TI: That's a good story. So they were being introduced to bread and butter, essentially, at that, that sit down...

MT: That's right. And a steak.

TI: [Laughs] That's good.

MT: [Laughs] And it was tough. And so they get there and they had heard all the rumors about the white people, the Americans picking on Japanese that come over, so when they, they found the hotel and they went in the hotel and, I guess there were two others, that's all. There was only two others.

TI: And this is now in Seattle or Bellingham?

MT: Seattle. Yeah, in Seattle. They went to this hotel, and it wasn't three, it was two others, and one double bed and they were all small. My father's only about five four and a half. They all sat, slept crosswise on the bed. My father said, "We're gonna, we're gonna have to make sure that we be prepared if somebody tries to break in," so they took the dresser, pushed it up the dresser, tied a string to the doorknob and he tied it to his toe, and that's how they went to sleep. But he knew enough about what the bathroom was and tub and so forth, so they didn't have any problems with that. Other Isseis had trouble with that when they first came over. So when he woke up nothing happened. And a friend was supposed to come after them from Bellingham to show them the way and the guy came and they were at the station and the guy said, "No, that's not the train." My father, "Isn't that the train?" "No, that's not the train." Well, they didn't, finally the guy said, "Didn't come today, so we have to walk," and they had to walk to the next station to take the train to, to transfer onto another train to Bellingham. So they walked. He said they walked over trestles, railroad trestles, through tunnels, really dangerous, they went and they, and there was snow on the ground and they finally got to this place where it was supposed to go. My father looked and says, "That's the train you said not to take," and he found out that time that the other man from the hometown couldn't read English, so he didn't know. So he teased him for the rest of his life.

TI: That's good.

MT: Anyway, he got on the train, got to, got to Bellingham.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: And then, tell me about Bellingham, what did they find when they got to Bellingham?

MT: Pardon me?

TI: And so what happened when they got to Bellingham?

MT: Well of course, my, his sister was there and she was a waitress and my uncle was the, he cooked and what they had him do was all different kinds of odd jobs and so forth, and as more and more people come from his hometown to help, there were more people than work to do, so then he decided to go fishing. So he would take, go fishing out on Puget Sound and particularly around Lummi Island, with the reservation, Lummi Island. And he loved the island at the time; he said it was beautiful. And he then -- in fact, he named my sister Rumi, Japanese name, because he like Lummi Island, so anyway, he then took these catch fish, and I got a lot of stories. I really shouldn't keep this up. Funny stories, but he's got...

TI: No, go ahead. This is, this is...

MT: Well he's, one day he and his friend is fishing out there. It starts to rain, as it does up there, so he said, "Let's deflate ourselves, get right next to one of the islands as close as we can and be some trees growing over, so we'll go under there and wait 'til the rain ends and then go back out again." And suddenly, crack. Lightning struck. And then pow, into the boat something fell. The other man on the other side of the boat said, said, "Tanuki wa baketa." Tanuki is a badger, in Japanese fairytale he transforms from woman to animal, so forth, and this guy, young guy, course all his, all these ghost stories that he heard when he was young suddenly appeared and he thought this was tanuki had suddenly appeared there, and he jumped into the water and started swimming. And my father said he looked up and saw that what happened really was it was a raccoon, and it was sitting up on the branch and when the lightning struck it scared the poor raccoon and it fell into the boat. Well, man swam that way and the raccoon swam the other way. [Laughs]

TI: That's a good story.

MT: So he had funny tales like that.

TI: And how did the, the people in Bellingham treat the Japanese?

MT: Well, they faced a lot of prejudice. They faced a lot of prejudice. But some people were very nice to them. When more and more people came to my father's, my uncle's restaurant to help them -- 'cause he was sponsoring them, my uncle was -- my father then got a job at a, at a lumber mill, all Japanese crew lumber mill. And they, when he went there they said, "Which job do you want?" He said, "Well, which one pays the best?" They said, "This one." Said, "I'll take that one." What it was is feeding the raw lumber as it came in into the saw. No guard, he just... and then he found out why that job was open. They were supposed to take all the rocks, after it fell, all the rocks out of the lumber and then they put it to the saw. Well, it happened sometimes they didn't take all the rocks out and the last one, it shattered the blade and killed a guy, so my father, better part of valor, he decided that he'll take another job. He ended up being a purser there, the steward, he's the one that buys, so he could handle the soroban, you know, abacus, and he could, he could handle math things and so forth, so had enough education that they had him get that job. Then there was a forest fire, burned it down, so they had no job.

So then he got a job, I know that he got a job as a piano refinisher. He's pretty handy with his hands and he would help, and my father was, was slightly deaf, so the guy wanted to teach him to be a tuner. But he didn't want to be a tuner, piano tuner, but he did many, many other things over there. He, once when they were working there, one of his friends became adept at roller skating. There was a roller skating rink there, and so my father, so he persuaded, there were about six of them, to go together to roller skating. So they went there and, of course, my father and the other guys knew nothing about roller skates, so they're struggling away, slipping and falling and stuff. Well, one American kid, teenager started having fun, would come around and kick their skates from under them. They'd fall, my father getting madder and madder, and so finally he said, "I'm gonna get this guy." So when he came by, he kicked off his one skate, grabbed him and koshinage, hip throw and hit him on the ground and a big fight broke out, big riot between the six Japanese guys and the, and the police came and had to break it up. When the police came they, the owner of the place said the, his friend that could skate, said, "You can come, but none of you guys can come." And he said, "I don't care. I don't want to come here again." [Laughs]

TI: So your father was a very proud man.

MT: Yeah, he was. He was. But afterwards, when he got, later when, as an adult and so forth, I never found that in him. He was very calm, very calm guy.

TI: Yeah, these, these stories about your father, how did you find out about this? I mean, they're such powerful, vivid stories. Where did they come from?

MT: Some I would ask, other times he, he loved to tell stories and, because he's, he became deaf, people wouldn't pay attention to him. He'd be talking to 'em, and so he would talk to me 'cause I would listen and I asked him questions, so he would tell me all these stories. Now, I don't think my younger brother and my father, my older brother or my sisters knew about all these things. They knew some of the incidences, but I don't think he knew, they knew all of it. It was only because I would ask the questions, like I would ask my mother a lot of questions.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So any... let's, let's move on because we could stay in Bellingham probably for an hour, but let's, so what happened after Bellingham?

MT: Well, he got a notice from, he was, it's another story, but anyway, he was working as a helper of a paralyzed man in, I believe it was Spokane he was, went to, and anyway, he was there when he got a letter from home saying that his father was dying. His father wasn't a Tonai, but was, married his mother who was a Tonai -- no, his mother wasn't even a Tonai. She was adopted. She was a niece of the Tonai family. And so she, well, she was a Tonai, but she was married into another -- no, I'm sorry, she, her mother was a Tonai and then she was adopted by her aunt, and then she married another man from Mukai family to become a Tonai. And he was dying, so my father got on a ship and, of course, it took a long time. He finally got to Japan, back to Japan when he was, had passed away already, and then what happened is he went to the funeral and everything was done. When he got out, the long arm of the law said, "You draft dodger you," and put him in the Japanese army and for three and a half years he was in the Japanese army, and he went to Taiwan to pacify the headhunters there. They were, head of the Taiwanese populace was happy to have Japanese soldiers as compared to the Chinese soldiers. They said the Japanese soldiers were better behaved and they were nicer to them than the Chinese soldiers. That's what he said to me. And then, but the aborigines that were up in the mountains were headhunters, and taking heads gave them -- excuse me [clears throat] -- taking heads gave them moral strength, so that's what they were doing, and so they were trying to pacify them. He was in artillery and that's how his hearing, bad hearing accelerated because somebody pulled a lanyard and set off a gun and he didn't know it and blew his ears.

TI: So let me, let me summarize this to make sure I got all this. So when your father returned to see his dying father, but he had passed away, so went to the memorial service. And during that time he was conscripted into the Japanese army?

MT: Yes.

TI: Then sent to Taiwan to, I guess, go after the headhunters, you said? To actually...

MT: Yeah, they were going, they were trying to, and the headhunters would, would operate at night, always at night. They had muzzle loaders. They did not have regular guns; they had muzzle loaders. And they had, they used to be, shoot bow and arrows and they used to use nerve poison on tips of the arrow, so instead they would take the little ball that they would ram down the guns and dip that in poison, so if you got shot you'd die. And so they were trying to pacify those people, 'cause it wasn't only the Japanese soldiers they were after, they were after anybody, Chinese, their Taiwanese, didn't matter to them 'cause that's what they...

TI: They just wanted a head, or to, to...

MT: To get a head. And, and the people were encroaching their territory, like any other people, indigenous people, when other people come in and try to take over their land.

TI: So your father served in the Japanese army for three and a half years?

MT: Three and a half years.

TI: And then what happened?

MT: Then he came back home, stayed there, and he got married. They, then he came back to America again with his wife, and his wife died in childbirth in Bellingham. And the child died, too. They both died, so they were taken and buried back in Esunokawa, to the family grave. which, because of a lack of land in that area, was very mountainous -- the mountains come right up to the ocean and very few plots there -- their cemetery is on a hillside and was buried there. And I discovered that when I was a GI, didn't know until then. And then, then my father came back to America again and he, meanwhile, when he was working in America he would keep sending money, and my uncle, meanwhile, whose family had a, had fishing boats and was, as I understand it, the two family, the Oka family, my uncle's family, and the Tonai family were the two who settled that Esunokawa area the, at the very beginning, so they were very close families. When he heard that at Terminal Island that they were financing fishing boats he then sold his cafe and moved to Terminal Island in California.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: So your father had a cafe, he sold that in Bellingham and went down --

MT: My uncle.

TI: Your uncle did. Okay. And when you say they were financing fishing boats, who, who was financing?

MT: The canneries were. The canneries wanted Japanese fishermen 'cause they knew they were good fishermen. See, prior to the canneries coming there Terminal Island, before they had finished dredging the, the harbor to make the Los Angeles harbor, Japanese fishermen were living there. They originally started out, some of 'em originally started out in Palos Verdes area getting abalone, but the people, from the prejudice and all the problems that they were having and all kinds of bad rumors about how bad they were, that they were morally corrupt, everything else and they were doing all these bad things, so they passed a law they couldn't be there, so they had to quit their abalone fishing, which they were, they would dry and then send to Japan. They then moved to Terminal Island and started fishing. Now, there were a few guys there fishing already, so that's why they moved there. And the homes were on stilts 'cause it was, was just outcropping, and then they, and they had a railroad going up there. But they soon filled that whole area and they built this island of sand on, in the Los Angeles harbor. And when they did that they created specifically an area called Fish Harbor where the canneries can, can exist, so around the harbor were all these canneries and the canneries then recruited Japanese fishermen, not others. The Italian and the then Yugoslavians, Slavic people, were in, went to canneries in the Terminal, in the San Pedro area or they fished out of San Pedro. They didn't come to Terminal Island, the Japanese. Now, there were two colonies on Terminal Island. This one's Fish Harbor area, the Japanese, about three thousand lived there, then another area down further south that I'll, was called Terminal, everybody called Terminal. They were in the Wilmington area and San Pedro, was East San Pedro, the station was called East San Pedro, and they were part of, the kids there went to San Pedro schools, junior high school, high school. Elementary school was right there on the island. People on the other side went to Banning High School, which was in Wilmington.

TI: Now, would both these, these colonies be called Terminal Island, then? When you said there are two --

MT: The whole, the area was Terminal, but people say there were very few, relatively few Japanese on Terminal. They're mostly whites, Mexicans, Filipinos, whatever have you, and a few, and the people over there spoke English because that was the dominant culture, whereas in Terminal Island Japanese was dominant culture, so they spoke this pidgin Japanese. And the, because sixty percent, about sixty percent of the people were from Wakayama prefecture, and then people from another area, Mie-ken was very close to Wakayama, they spoke in the same kind of dialect, not the same, but very close, and so they, that became the dominant language, dialect spoken. But it was a combination of English, well, basically Japanese with English thrown in, words like you-ra, me-ra, you and a Japanese ending, you and me, me-ra. So this is the kind of words they would use, aside from standard Wakayama dialect.

TI: So, so Terminal Island had essentially its own dialect.

MT: Yes.

TI: I mean, that, that little village of three thousand... and so if, if a Terminal --

MT: But the thing about it, on top of the dialect they were fishermen, so the Isseis talking to each other would speak in a staccato language because when they're on board ship they can't use niceties. They can't speak politely to each other. You know, get this, do this, 'cause it's dangerous if you start saying "will you please go get this," "will you please do this." You can't do this kind of thing, so they speak in a very staccato language, a very quick and rough language, and so the kids picked it up and that's how they spoke. The Isseis themselves can speak politely when they had to, 'cause they knew the language, but the kids didn't know that as well because their basic language was the fishermen language. And so whenever they went outside of Terminal Island the other Japanese people thought they were terrible because they have this very crude, course speech, and so they didn't want their daughters, some of 'em didn't want their daughters even be associated with 'em.

TI: That's really interesting because you hear stories about how rough the Terminal Islanders were. Lot of it had to do with their language, just may not have been so much that they were rough but it was their language?

MT: Well, combination, Terminal Island were fishermen's sons and they generally were rougher, just the whole attitude. They were, physically did hard, heavy work and so they, they worked rougher. They were rougher. They were rougher, yeah. And I grew up in that, in that environment, but I was, I was young when I left, so I never did --

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: Okay, so let's pick up back your story. Where you left it was your, your uncle sold the store, the cafe and then went to Terminal Island.

MT: Yes.

TI: So let's pick up the story, so how did your father get there?

MT: You have to understand, one other point about Terminal Island is that the canneries owned these cannery homes. Most of 'em were duplexes, two family lived there. You might have six, seven kids and still be in the duplex because you were just a crew member. If you owned a boat you might have a whole house like my uncle did. There were, he just had a daughter and he had a whole house, a barrack like house. It's really, unpainted wood and stuff, and there were very, kind of makeshift homes. They didn't, you didn't have regular posts on the, like you would have, in a regular home you would framework then you would put shingles on it and things like that. They didn't do that. Sidings, they didn't, it was a wood post, I would say it's four by four on the end, and then had a slit cut in there in top and bottom and they would slide pieces about three or four inch tongue in groove floor boards into it until it gets to next post, so what you had was essentially a very simple, rudimentary, with a very small door so that, like my cousin, when they had to put their piano in there, had to take all the walls apart, the door apart, walls apart, move the piano in, then put it back together again. That's how they, that's how they made those things. And so, but it was livable. It wasn't, had a floor. It was basically, and they had ceilings and so they would stuff things up in the ceilings, but they had two families in each one of those. And my, my uncle, of course he owned the boat and he did, he was a very successful fisherman, so he had a whole house and they even gave him, his wife a plot of land where his house could go to, for her garden. She grew flowers there. My uncle built a, in front of his house, my father built a pond and a bridge, so you had to cross the bridge to get to his house, small pond.

TI: So within Terminal Island there was a hierarchy? If you were a good fisherman, owned a boat, then you were kind of one of the top people in the community.

MT: Yeah, I believe, well, the successful, wealthier -- they weren't that wealthy, but wealthier fishermen were treated a little differently and they're respected because they were the owners. I think one family had a stucco house. There was a stucco house there and they were able to rent that. Now, they were owned, most of the houses were owned by each cannery, so long as you took your fish to that cannery they would give you a house. Now, after my uncle died in 1940 they had to move 'cause they didn't, afterwards they changed to a different cannery, so my cousin had to move and the mother had to move, but they still got a whole house.

TI: So it reminds me almost of a plantation mentality. I mean, the canneries owned everything. As long as you played by their rules then you were fine.

MT: Yeah. Exactly right.

TI: But they were making a lot of money off of all this.

MT: They were, yeah, but when they financed the boats they kept fifty-one percent of the ownership of the boats and, and then the fishermen, when they go fishing, they would give shares of the fish. So if you were a low crewmember or a crewmember you would get so much and then the captain of the boat gets so much and the owner'd get more. That's the way the shares went.

TI: And who were the owners of the canneries?

MT: They were very prominent people, that's all I knew them as. Some of 'em had started building large boats of their own and they built tuna clippers, which means as the fishes... there were a lot of sardines in that area and that was the main staple, and mackerel would come in and, and then in certain parts of season tuna would come in, albacore tuna, those, so they would do that and the Japanese brought the, the bamboo pole with a barbless hook, feather with a barbless hook fishing to the United States, and so they could, if the fish is large they could put three guys on three poles attached to one, one fly and catch. And so that's what they brought and they...

TI: But the owners, you say, are prominent people, so these were, were white individuals or they're some Japanese who owned...

MT: These were all Japanese people.

TI: They're all Japanese?

MT: The whole Terminal Island was Japanese except for, I believe, two families. One, one was just an elderly couple. Another was, had kids and they were white Russians. The kids were born here, but their background was white Russian, parents were from Russia. You know what white Russian is?

TI: Right, right.

MT: I guess it's Belarus now. They, but the kids spoke this pidgin, they spoke this Japanese 'cause they went to school with each other and played with each other.

TI: But going back to the, the ownership of these canneries, that would take a lot of money, capital to do that. Where --

MT: Yeah, there was one cannery that was owned by Japanese, rest were all owned by other people, whites. I think Chicken of the Sea, you know that canned food, that was Van De Kamps, that was started in Terminal Island.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: So let's go back now to your family story. So how did your father come to Terminal Island?

MT: Well, my uncle, when he came down he took all of his friends and relatives to Terminal Island. That's how my father came down and he started fishing with my uncle. And my father said that, that he, rough storm, he would get seasick and it was not, normally he loved fishing, absolutely loved fishing, but if it's a rough sea he would have some trouble. And he, his family was business, the wholesalers, so he wanted to do something differently, so he saved his money and he started a Pop and Mom grocery store in Wilmington, California, across the, the... Terminal Island had two ways to get on there. One was by a bridge, down at Wilmington side they had a drawbridge, one armed drawbridge, and, and across that. Right next to it was a Ford assembly plant and another one was a vegetable oil company there, smells like peanut oil. And then the other one was a ferry. Initially they had a passenger ferry and an auto ferry separately, and after a storm the, one of the boats, the pillars broke and stuff and so eventually they got a, from Seattle, got an old combination passenger, automobile ferry and brought it down there and that's what they started using. And this was probably around 1939, '40, somewhere around that time.

TI: So, but your father had a store right around there, is that --

MT: So he went over the drawbridge to Wilmington. He had, had stores up there, and he would fail and come back and he'd go fishing again, but he would go fishing on a skip jack, a -- no, no. What do you call it? They, Japanese call it kenken bouto, but it was a, there was a small two-man boat and he would, he would go fishing with Mr., a Mr. Shindo, was a very devout Christian guy and he would go out with him. And he was a neighbor, very nice man, very nice family. And I think the mother lived to a hundred and five or something like that, but anyway, he used to go fishing with him and both were kinda nonchalant about things. They said, he said they were both, the Japanese word is nonki, and they went out there and one time they were fishing, my father said he looked -- he's telling me this -- he looked, they had a big school of tuna, but one man tuna, so they... and suddenly he looked and they're almost floundering, they caught so many tunas, so he had to yell at his friend to stop, Mr. Shindo to stop, and they started throwing the tuna back into the water 'cause there were, they had caught too many fish.

TI: Wow. [Laughs]

MT: Well, anyway, he would do that and make some money, then he'd go back out and try another Pop and Mom grocery store and back and forth. And he had, and finally he ended up in San Pedro instead of Wilmington and my older brother and sister, they were kids, and today they would be called latchkey kids and my mother would take care of the kids in the morning and my father would make the lunch, everything else, and then the kids would stay home and she would go help at the market.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

TI: And so let's, let's talk a little bit about your mother. So first tell me her name and how did she meet your father?

MT: Well, her name was Toyone Otsubo and the Otsubo family came from a little village called, called Oroshi in southern Mie-ken, in the mountains. They would call that Minami muro, Minami County, southern county, south county, I guess. And their family were descended from, from a retainer of the Ashikaga clan, and Ashikaga clan were at one time shoguns of... and when they were defeated they, they were supposed to run for Shikoku, the island of Shikoku, but instead her family stayed in the mountains of Kumano, which is up in the, which is Wakayama-ken, Mie-ken and that area, and they hid over there and became farmers. Except my mother said that when they were, their, each Japanese family have a, has a god that they pray to and theirs was god of war, so you knew that they were samurais at one time, and said that when she was a child she would go to the, the storage, the warehouse, family warehouse and they would still have the armor in there. And she said that, and today they only have two things left. One is a wakizashi, a short sword, and they have a spear, but the blade has all rusted away. Now that in the family home, my uncle kept the, my uncle married my aunt, my mother's sister, and he, because he was a kendo teacher, high ranking, he, they gave it to him and he kept it and then he passed away and my nephew now has the... my sister was adopted into the family, so...

TI: Wow, what a family heirloom to have, to have a...

MT: Yeah. It's a, what you call mumei, no name on it, but it's, it is the Muromachi era, the same time, and it's a fighting sword. It's not a, a display sword, so, but it was a very good sword, so my uncle really loved to use it. He would demonstrate with it, cut, put bamboo and straw and then he would cut it, and he would do tricks with it, like cut it and said, "Oh, you didn't cut it," and he'd tap it and fall down. Other times he would cut it and make it flip, things like that. So when I was in Japan years later I had a, had acquaintance take it in and get it straightened out and cleaned up, 'cause my uncle was paralyzed at the time, he couldn't do anything. But it was, it's an heirloom.

TI: So going back to your mother, so how does she meet your father?

MT: My mother, she, her father was a schoolteacher, later became a principal for a small school. Her family is generations of teachers. Her two sisters were teachers and my mother went to teacher's college in Mie-ken, 'cause she, although they lived, father taught in Wakayama-ken, they were, that was in, at the northern border, a place, city called Shingu. Because their home was in Mie-ken, in those days you had to go to, you went to teacher's college, you had to go back to the, your home prefecture and go to the school there, and so it was, they called it Kameyama Joshian, I think it's called, and there was a women's, they had, each prefecture had one man's teacher's college and one women's teacher's college and she went to the women's college there. And she was quite young and very lonely when she got there, said she cried every night. And she was, because she was tall for Japanese, she, and the teachers were small and in gym she had some problems because they would tell her to do things and they were so much smaller than she was. My, my mother was probably about, at that time probably five three and a half or so, which is tall for a woman at that age. And so she was going there and then she graduated, and then she went to, then she started teaching, and I have her bonus... I was, I went to, when I went to the, my father's home one time my cousin was fixing the house because of termites and, and out of tansu, the chest, came all these things of my mother's, including her graduation certificate and all these kind of things and all the bonuses that she got and where she was hired. She was initially hired over in Mie-ken and then later she, because her family's in, in Wakayama-ken, she started teaching in Wakayama-ken and she was getting, and I looked at it and I thought wow, she didn't get very much bonus. And then talking to my sister's husband who was, who was a teacher in Japan, he said, "Oh, she got big bonuses." Didn't seem much, but I guess they didn't get paid much anyway, and so she was, I guess did very well, very well in that.

She then was teaching school when her sister got married, her older sister got married, and they were, there's about a year difference in age -- and she has a younger sister, about three years younger -- and so they wanted her to get married. And meanwhile my father decided that he was, he needed to get married again, the family wanted him to get married, so his sister was living in Shingu and her husband was a friend of my grandfather, so he had a daughter who's marriageable, my, other guy had his brother-in-law who was marriageable. They were thirteen years' difference in age, but you know, that didn't matter in those days. And they met, and my mother's reaction was, my father was already getting a little gray. He was prematurely gray, so he was, and she thought, she said the only reaction she had was, "My, he seems old." [Laughs] But she wasn't going to argue about it. And then later she was telling me that he was sneakin' around looking at her, unbeknownst to her. He was checking her out, physically checking her out, what she looked like and stuff. So then they were married and they lived in Esunokawa at the family home, with the intention of staying there.

My mother was a city girl, town girl. She, father being a schoolteacher, never worked in a rice paddy or anything else like that and when went to live in Esunokawa as a wife of the eldest son, my grandmother, very traditional and known as being a mean woman, treated her pretty poorly. She had to wake up early in the morning to prepare breakfast for everybody and, and that means crew, people that work on the farm, too, had to prepare everything. And then she, then when they left she had to clean up and then she'd clean house, and then she had to prepare for the, prepare the lunch then take the lunch to them and meanwhile then had to work in the, on the farm itself, bring the stuff back, clean up. Then she had to go back out again, and then she prepared supper, came back and prepared supper, came back and fed everybody. Then, then she had to afterwards clean up, then she had to do the sewing, everything that needed to be done, and then at night she had to take care of the silkworms. And so she wasn't getting much sleep, she had never done work like this, my grandmother was a slave driver, and she, she said she cried every night 'cause she was so lonely and had to work so hard that she never had done things like this and she would be criticized for not doing things right, of course 'cause she didn't know. And my father saw that my mother, she was already thin and she was losing weight. He says, "I'm not gonna lose another wife, so I'm gonna go to America." And he took his wife and he went, went to Terminal Island 'cause he had been to Terminal Island with my uncle before, so went back there and started fishing again. And that's, that's how my mother went Terminal Island and then came to Terminal Island, she was much better educated than most of the women and so she was pretty lonely because there was, there wasn't a meeting of minds with a lot of people.

TI: Did you ever ask her what her reaction of Terminal Island was when she first got there, what she thought of it?

MT: Yeah, she, first thing she, my aunt did, my aunt, Oka aunt, was said, "I need fertilizer for my garden, so why don't you go out to the field?" 'Cause in the, there's some grass growing there so people ran cattle on it, so it had manure on it, so she had never done that before and gave her gunnysacks to pick it up, put it in there. Said it was terrible, says, "I guess I got to do that," so she did that. Later on found out my aunt had never done it herself, but she made my mother do it. [Laughs] And so, and so she had this relationship, I mean, she got along with her, but it's only because I think my mother gave in to everything 'cause my aunt was older and my, they called each other neesan, my, it's older sister, because my aunt was older then my mother 'cause she was only about three years younger than my father. And, but my mother was married to her older brother, so it was funny because they both called each other neesan.

TI: Interesting.

MT: But there was a respect kind of thing that went along with... my, my aunt was a little more craftier person.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: Let's talk about your siblings right now. So why don't we just talk about your sisters and brother in birth order?

MT: My older sister and brother, I said, were born in San Pedro. My older sister's name was Mizuyo, but when she was in San Pedro as a child and people would ask her what her name was she would say, "I'm Mary." So even my parents called her Mary. She's the only one in our family that has an American name 'cause she gave it to herself, and she, and again, it's a complex name because my father was a calligraphy, into that and then later came back to fishing and so forth in Terminal Island. When my father came back, my brother was then also born in San Pedro and he, his name is, but he was born when my father was living in Terminal Island, and he was away at sea and the child was born. They had not discussed name, my father, mother had not discussed any names and she didn't know what to do so she gave him the firstborn name, Ichiro, means firstborn, right? When he came back he got really angry at her 'cause that's just such a simplistic name. It doesn't go with Tonai, see? And got angry, she said, "He really got angry at me because I didn't know. I didn't know what to name him." It was the simplest thing you could think of, so that's, that's how he got the simple name. So then they lived in Terminal Island and after, then they moved to San Pedro again when he, when he started a business again, Pop and Mom grocery store, and so back and forth like that. And then my sister was born, when we, it was back in Terminal Island, sister was born, then this time they were, they didn't live, first time they lived in San Pedro, this time they still lived in Terminal Island and they would commute to the store in Wilmington. That's when my sister was young. And then later on when I was born, they had a, by then they had stores in San Pedro and he started to expand.

TI: Your, your sister, the third born, what was her name?

MT: Rumi. R-U-M-I. And as I said before, she was named basically after Lummi Island.

TI: That's a good one. I'll have to tell people in the Northwest about that one. They'll like that.

MT: Rumi is a, there were very few people named Rumi. A lot of Rumiko, but she was named Rumi. Today there's more people named Rumi. I'm talking about Japan.

TI: And then, Min, after you were born you had one more sibling, a brother?

MT: Had a younger brother name Yutaka, and he was born in Terminal Island itself.

TI: And tell me a little bit about the age difference in terms of your oldest sister, how much older was she?

MT: My oldest sister was born in 1922 in, in August of '22.

TI: Okay, about six and a half years older than you.

MT: Yeah. And then my brother was born in, in September of '24, and my sister above me was born in July of '27. And then my younger brother was born in January of 1931.

TI: Okay.

MT: He's almost, January 11th, so almost one year, eleven months younger than I. And that's, that's my earliest recollection of anything, is when he was born.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So let's, let's go to your life now. We've talked a lot about the family and your parents and a little bit about your siblings, which we'll probably talk more about as we go on, but let's go to your life, and what are some, what's your earliest childhood memory?

MT: My, it's when my younger brother was born. We were living in Terminal Island. I remember having my sister, my mother was not there, at home, and I remember going with my sister, oldest sister, she took my hand, the other two siblings going ahead of us, and tripping over the sand of Terminal Island. Terminal Island was sand. The whole island was sand 'cause it was dredged and put in there, and only time you had plants was when you put fertilizer into the ground and to make it loamy to grow things. So I remember tripping over the sand and the curb and so forth, going to see my mother, and we went into this house, one of the barrack-type houses, went in there and I saw my mother in a, what was then, now, a hospital bed. I didn't know at the time, but it was a, was a big bed and had a, basically a cream-colored, ivory-colored frame with slats in it. And she was lying in it and I wanted to crawl in next to her, and they wouldn't let me. He had, I wanted to do that and said I couldn't do that, and she had something next to her, but I didn't know what it was. I could care less. I want to be with my mother, right? And what it was, my brother was born and she was there and now she had recovered enough that we can go see her. That was my earliest recollection of anything in Terminal Island, the sand that I had to, tripping, my sister holding my hand and taking me over to see her. And I knew my brother and my sister were with me.

TI: That's pretty remarkable, 'cause you were under two years old when you --

MT: Yeah, one year, eleven months, little less than, a little over, five days. He was born January 11th and I was February the 6th.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Something else that happened when you were, were young, under five, 1934 you took a trip to Japan.

MT: Yeah.

TI: So talk about that, why you, the family went to Japan and your memories of that.

MT: My, we had a, my father got a letter from home, from his mother, stating that she was ill and dying. She had cancer, she had all kinds of other diseases, and she was on her last legs. She was gonna die. So my father, this was in late '33, at the end of '33, so he quickly gathered, took his business. He already had a partner, a relative that was a young person, young Issei named Kenichi Shintani, and then so he said, who was bilingual, so he put the business in his hands and then he took his whole family to see his mother. So we went on the NYK, Nippon Yusen Kaisha's, Tatsuta Maru, and we road on that boat and it was a, I think there was about twelve thousand ton. I thought it was large, but it was only twelve thousand tons. And we rode on that ship to Japan, stopped in Hawaii and I remember -- well, when we reached San Francisco, my brother's birthday, so he turned three at that time. I was still four and he turned three. And then when we reached Japan I turned five. But we stopped in Hawaii and I remember the kids swimming. They're asking people to throw coins and I wanted to throw coins. They gave me a few coins to throw out and they, they would dive for the coins and I remember, well, I remember also when we left, the throwing of the tapes to the ships and reeling on the side and then finally breaking as we left, so... and also getting seasick. And then when we finally reached Japan, when we got to Japan, who was waiting for us? My grandmother. My father's mother. She was not sick; she just wanted to see my father, and she wanted him to stay in Japan, actually. But she was... so we arrived there and my, and my, I had my, my mother's mother was a widow, too, widow, was living in Tokyo and so --

TI: But going back to, so when you got there, do you recall if your mother had any reaction, because earlier she had these difficulties with your father's mother, right? I mean, they, they didn't get along?

MT: Yeah, originally. Yes.

TI: And so here your grandmother essentially tricked your father to come visit her in Japan. Do you recall any reaction from your mother?

MT: Well, she kept that to herself. She didn't say anything. I don't know. I would, I would... she was still at that time a very dutiful Japanese wife, so she had to take all of that. It was, she would internalize it. When she cries at night my father would know that, things like that, but my father had to go because he is the eldest son of the clan, so he had to go see his mother. His mother was dying. And so get there and find that the case... and, but what happened with the, we were not planning to stay a long time, but what happened is that, 'cause he had a business to attend to, but what happened is that my mother's mother suddenly had a ruptured appendix and miracle upon miracle at that time, because in those days if you had a ruptured appendix you got peritonitis and you died, the Japanese doctor took everything, all her insides and washed everything out, all, took out all her intestines, everything out after they repaired it. They took everything out and washed it out to take all the poison out of her and then put it back in and sewed her up again. And my, and my mother had to take care of her 'cause my aunt was a schoolteacher, my uncle was a schoolteacher. They weren't around and they couldn't take the time off, so my mother took, took care of her and, and she did recover. It was a miracle that she recovered, but she did recover.

And meanwhile, to have five kids with her, and my father was the typical Japanese husband, doesn't take care of kids. Play with 'em a few times, but... so what happened is that, decided to take my sister above me and myself, Rumi and I, and send us to the country to live with my grandmother and then let my younger brother, who was so, only three years old, stay with my mother, 'cause he was so young. My, the older, my older brother and my, my older brother and older sister, they went to school in Tokyo 'cause they, they didn't know how long they would be in Japan, so they had to have schooling. So they went to school in Japan. And we were, we were left in the country and I hated it. I used to fight with my grandmother all the time. Constantly. I had a bad mouth and that was part of the problem. And one of the things the Niseis didn't have is having a grandmother, usually, didn't have a grandmother living with them, because in Japan the grandmother is the one that tells you your family history. Your parents are working, if they're farmers, working on the yard, they're cooking, they're doing all kinds of stuff, so don't have much time for the kids, but grandmother was now retired, would sit there and relate the family stories. Well, when I was in the country now suddenly I have a grandmother and she would relate things, and I would fight with her and then she would say, tell me that, "You shouldn't talk to your grandmother like that. I am a descendant," from, from her father's side, descendant of this famous Japanese family, one of the Minamatos, Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu, and he was Minamoto Yoshimitsu, and his brother was a very famous warrior named Hachimantaro Yoshie, Minamoto Yoshiie. This is back in the year 1040 or something like that, fifty, somewhere around there, but anyway, and I would say, "I don't care." I would mouth off on her. "I don't care." And I was always in trouble, always in trouble with her because, one, I didn't, I'd rather be with my mother. I didn't want to be with them. My father was with us.

And then their, their practice out in that country, in that area was, was terrible. I'm used to eating eggs and bacon at breakfast and eating all kinds of things like that and sometimes would have fried rice for breakfast, and then at lunchtime we would have sandwiches or have other food, and nighttime we could, sometimes a steak or we have chow mein or some okazu or something. I'm used to that. Well, I go to country, they don't do that for kids. The men eat separately from the women. The children eat three times a day in that place. Okayu, you know what that is? That's rice gruel in which they would put a umeboshi in it, a plum, pickled plum, and they would then also give you some tsukemono, but -- and there was misoshiru, that's your protein -- and in that rice gruel would be one sweet potato, and I wanted the sweet potato, but I was a bad kid. My sister was the angel and she would milk it to the nth degree anyway. She was smarter than I was, so she would, my aunt and my uncle and my grandmother would always give it to her and then I'd be in a big fight again. Every day, and I was in terrible shape doing that. And they would never give it to me. Occasionally they might give me a little, but oh. So then I would look across and I see my father, my uncle, they're eating fish or chicken or something. I said, "I want that." He said, "Children don't eat that." But the women were eating the same thing we were eating, and I'm thinking, as I got older I said, how did they survive? How did these women survive? They work hard, they really work hard, and yet they didn't get much to eat. The only protein they got was the miso shiru, miso soup. Then as I got older I realized what really happens. When they cook, and I remember seeing them, they would taste everything to make sure it's right, so they were getting some of the proteins, some of the other things, but the kids never got it. Occasionally you might have fish. Occasionally, if they had a lot of fish. Occasionally.

So it was a very interesting... and a point that I lived that, the real frugal country life, but their, lot of superstitions and things there, like when, once they, they told me not to go -- we were the proper family -- not to go to a certain area of the town. The right people aren't living there. So they told me not to go, so I went. They caught me. When I came back they said, they checked my head right away. "Ah. We found remains of lice eggs," shell of lice eggs in my head, so they cut -- since I was from America I had long hair -- they cut all my hair off and that was, and I realized later that there was no way they could've found that because I didn't play with anybody. I didn't do anything. It couldn't have happened, but this is a way of disciplining me. But I was not a good kid. I, neighbor lady had died of a, of cancer, and so nobody, the superstition was you, you'll catch it, it was contagious, so none of the kids would play with the son who was my age. And so Grandmother would bring the, 'cause they knew we were from America that I don't have that prejudice, so bring the kid over, say, "Would you play with him?" I would say, "I won't play with him." Because she asked me, right? I just, I was just bad kid. Ten minutes later I'm over at the house playing with him. That was kind of, I was, I didn't like it there and I guess some of that was rebellion showing up, hoping they would kick me out and send me to Tokyo, 'cause my uncle would take my younger brother out to Mitsukoshi Department Store, up to the playground on top, buy, and they would always eat nice things and at suppertime they would always have a fruit. They're always eating, you know, and I had been there and that's how they ate, so I could see the contrast between there and with the country.

TI: So you were envious of your older brother and sister? They were in Tokyo and getting all this.

MT: Oh yeah, sure. Of course, course. And I was, I think I was, as I got older I think it was a rebellion on my part, so I was really acting out.

TI: Now, was your rebellion, I guess maybe, very different than, it was, was it partly because you were raised on Terminal Island and San Pedro in these early, early years that did this, or is this just your character? I'm trying to understand, how would you have survived if you had stayed in Japan?

MT: Well actually, I'd be oddball in Terminal Island because I'm vocal, I'm outgoing and those guys, within themselves they're that way, but with outside people they're, boys are not supposed to speak. They're supposed to be stoic. I can take pain. Pain is not a problem for me, but I'll be vocal, and that's something that you're not supposed to do in Terminal Island, 'cause they were, they were more Japanese than they were American, in those kind of behaviors.

TI: So essentially you're, you were kind of a fish out of water in both places?

MT: Yeah. I had my friends and we got along and stuff like that, but I would, I would think so. One is my mother had other interests and things, compared to the other ladies. Before she had kids and stuff, the principal would take my mother to the, on the red car, streetcar, all over San Pedro to Los Angeles to see the opera or see ballet or things like that, 'cause my mother had interest in those things.

TI: And that was because she, again, she was a little more educated, she went to teacher's college?

MT: There was, I think, maybe one or two other people that had some education. One lady was a university graduate and she was head of, her husband was a head of the organization.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Well, let's go back to Japan. You're five years old, you're there for, I think, about eight months or so. What happened to your older brother and sister in Tokyo?

MT: Well, first of all, they wanted to adopt, they didn't say so, they asked me if I wanted to stay in Japan 'cause my aunt and uncle didn't have any children. My mother's side of the family had no heir and that's very important in Japan, so they asked me if I wanted to stay in Japan. I said, "No. I don't want to stay in Japan. I want to be with my mother. I don't care how fancy it is here. I want to be with my mother and father." And, and so then the, my father's family, the clan got together with my father and said, "You have to educate your son. He's the eldest in the clan, eldest son of yours, and so therefore he's gonna take over the clan. So he has to have Japanese education." And my father agreed with that and decided to leave him there. My mother --

TI: We're talking, we're talking about Ichiro right now?

MT: Ichiro. And my mother, although she had some trepidations about that, she was very, she was a dutiful wife and so she agreed to let him stay but felt that for him to stay by himself would be too lonely, so told my older sister to stay, and she didn't want to stay. My son, my brother didn't care. I mean, he was treated like a god, so he didn't care. He got the best of everything and so forth. And his English wasn't good; my sister could speak English, but he couldn't speak too good. Terminal Island English. And so he was nine years old and he didn't... he accepted it. He knew he was eldest son, he knew all those things. He was old enough to understand what was going on, and so he accepted it. My sister really didn't want to go. He wanted, she wanted to go home 'cause she was a girl and in Japan girls are not treated very nicely, particularly in those days. And so, but my mother acquiesced and had her stay, I mean, my mother, she kind of forced my sister to stay. My mother, afterwards, my mother said that was the worst thing she ever did. She never wanted, she said you never separate a child from their parents because their feelings change. They feel abandoned. And then the other part of it was that when my nephew -- my sister now lives in Japan, got married in Japan, had children -- when her son was of high school age they wanted to send him to America to get educated in America. My mother refused. She didn't refuse; she would not answer them 'cause, again, it was her principle, don't separate the child from the mother.

TI: Even though this was high school, this was, the child was much older. Because when --

MT: She felt guilty about what she did, 'cause of, my mother, my sister, whenever she came to America it was just like she had left when she was still eleven years old, the way, her attitude toward my mother and father were. And then, like when I was a GI, I went to see her, the first time I went to the PX, the army store, I took her along, but they wouldn't let her in because obviously she wasn't my dependent or anything, so what happens is that I asked her, what does she want? She wanted a Babe Ruth, Abba-Zaba, wanted all these candies, all the candies that she used to eat when she was a child. That's what I bought her.

TI: And we're talking about your, your older sister Mary, or, or...

MT: She's married and had a child at the time, but yet her memory of America was that.

TI: This is a little off the timeline, but did your sister ever visit?

MT: Oh, yeah. That's when, whenever she visited... she came because either my father was sick or mother was sick or something happened like that and then she'd come down. It was a good excuse for her to come, so she would come. She had four children of her own, two boys and two girls, so she had to be, she couldn't just come out here, so she would do that. And she would, she would really enjoy it here, but, and her husband once came down here and they were here almost a year, and she wanted him to stay here, but he can't speak the language. He finally decided to go back to Japan, so she had to go back with him.

TI: So let's, let's go back to 1934, and so after about eight months your, your sister and brother --

MT: It was eight months.

TI: Yeah, eight months, they stay in Japan.

MT: And they stayed in Japan and we came back to America.

TI: So your father, your mother, you, your, Rumi, your older sister, and your younger brother, five of you came back. Okay.

MT: And we were aboard the Asama Maru, which was a sister ship of the Tatsuta Maru, same size, about twelve.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Okay, so Min, we're gonna start the second section of this. Where we had left off was you were five years old, in Japan, 1934, and this is after eight months and now you're returning back to Terminal Island.

MT: To Terminal Island.

TI: So let's pick up the story there.

MT: Well, we arrived in Terminal Island in September of 1934. I had already, because I was a half year student -- L.A. used to have half years, two semesters -- I went to kindergarten in Terminal Island. Elementary school was called Walizer School, and aside from that one family, everybody else was Japanese. And I was put into the second semester of kindergarten, and Terminal Island was such that, because people did not have any English skills or very little English skill, that they had a extra semester of a class when you went into the first grade, and it was called Transition B1. B was the early, I'm sorry, B was the first semester and A was the second semester, so I went to B1. Now, if you did well enough in B1 they would put you in A1, but most people then, if you didn't do well, then you went to the regular B1 and then the other one. So most people in Terminal Island were a half year behind in school. Well, I did well enough in Transition B1 to be what we used to call Little B1, to move on to A1, and I finished that.

And meanwhile, my, the principal had talked to my mother and said, "It's so futile to teach these kids English because soon as they leave the school they speak Japanese." Albeit, very bad Japanese, but they would speak the Japanese, and so this was frustrating. Said, "Now, you," she said to my mother that, "Your husband is no longer a fisherman or involved with fishing, so you should get off the island so your children have a better chance of learning English." So she moved off the island and... well, there's a little bit of a story there, but we can talk about that later. But I was actually left, here they were trying to, I should talk about... I was, in Japan my uncle wanted to, my aunt, uncle wanted to adopt me. I thought that's what they wanted, to leave me in Japan. Then I refused that and came back. When my folks now wanted, felt that they should move for the children's sake, move to San Pedro. They're gonna... it was difficult because people would not rent homes to Japanese. They finally found a place and they moved in there. My sister and brother were angels, and they claimed that they didn't want to show me there because they might refuse to rent the place, and that was their excuse 'cause I was a brat. Well, what happened is that they left me with my aunt, uncle who had no son, just a daughter, and even at six and a half years old I said, "I'm suspicious of what they're doing to me." Yeah, I get to eat well, I got to do things and I had a lot of freedom, but that's not, and I didn't like that. So when my folks would come to visit me from San Pedro at the end of the day on Sunday, end of the day, I would hide in their car. Obviously I can't hide; they can see me. But my mother would say, "Oh, let him go. We'll take him. We'll take him to San Pedro." So they would drive me to San Pedro, I would sleep with them, and then in the morning my father would take me back to Terminal Island.

And that happened for a while, and then one day I decided that, I heard that there were some fishing on Terminal Island off the pier, so I want to go fishing. I didn't know how to fish, but I went. So I took my uncle's rod and reel without permission, went out to the pier. I didn't know how to handle it, so I backlashed everything and I couldn't, so I brought it back, I was coming back. When I was coming back, the son of one of the stores there, little grocery store there, saw me and I, and he quickly saw that he was gonna tell, rat on me, he's gonna go tell my cousin's cousin about it, which he did, and so now I'm in trouble. I knew he had done that. I guess I saw them or something. Anyway, I was now in trouble so I decided I'd better hide, so I was, I hid, so I hid under my uncle and aunt's bed, that's furthest where, from where we were. Well, underneath the bed I fell asleep. When I woke up suddenly I find all kinds of commotion. My mother and father's there, my aunt's there and my cousin's running around and everything else, and pretty soon the police is there. They thought I was kidnapped. They couldn't find me. Or I ran away or something. And I thought, well, I can't get caught, so I hid in the closet. I thought, "Well, I got to be caught 'cause this is getting too bad," so I, no one would catch me, so I thought, "Well, I'll go back under the bed and I'll crawl where they could see me." Nobody could see me, so I keep crawling further and further out and then my cousin, cousin's cousin, I think, was sitting on the rocking chair that was in that bedroom. Rocking, and finally I moved far enough away that she could see me. "Oh," all excited. 'Course, everyone was glad that I was there, everything, but my mother said, "Oh no, we'll just take him home from now on." And that's how I got...

TI: And what was behind your staying there? Did, was the thinking that --

MT: I suspect that they were trying to adopt me. I don't think it was anything else but that. So they told me that I was, that they had to be careful or else they couldn't rent the place, but I always suspected that they were, my uncle didn't have a son and he was a very prominent member of the community, so he needed a son.

TI: That's a good story.

MT: But, but that's how I ended living with my parents again.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: And so let's go back to the school. So you talked about earlier, on Terminal Island it was essentially all Japanese except for one, one family you mentioned. Now you're in San Pedro. Describe the school there. How was it different?

MT: When I first went to San Pedro I was in second, I was going into the second grade. When I was in second grade, I could read, I could write, I could, and from my sister I picked up a little arithmetic 'cause I would see what she was doing and she would tell me what she's doing. I would pick it up and so I was able to do that. And then I was, went to school and I was, first assignment we got was a book report. No problem; I could read the book, I could understand it. So -- it's an oral report -- I got up and gave my book report. Nobody understood me 'cause I was talking in Terminal Island English, or their pidgin. What I thought was English, but it was really basically Terminal Island, lot of words mixed in there that was really not Japanese, not English, and so nobody understood me besides my bad accent. And so they decided to put me back to first grade again. I was flunked all the way from second grade to first grade. I was crushed, of course. I'd never been flunked before. In fact, I was a good student; I moved, I missed B1, right? So, but like anything else, when you're seven years old you learn quickly, and within a year I was there. And then by the time I hit the fourth grade I had made up for the one year I was behind.

TI: This goes back to what the principal told your mother and why he, he recommended getting off the island, was that the language would, would be...

MT: Yeah, because of the language, inability to really speak English. The kids would not use it as a conversational language. They could all do the, they could read, they can write, they can do math, arithmetic. All those things they excelled in. The kids worked hard, studied hard, did well. Conversation was a difficult part of it. They had an accent. And to this day, you listen to some of the Terminal Island people, they all have accents. I mean, the people that grew up there. Some people worse than others. One of the things that happened in camp, I think, was a, was the kids, when they went to junior high school, you have to get off the island to go to junior high school, to the seventh grade. They took a ferry boat and most, most did not spend the two and a half cents, five cents round trip or something, to go to, on the bus to junior high school. They walked there. Quite a few blocks, but they would walk there, saved the pennies. And that's the first time they had to start speaking in nothing but English in class, and so, but when... and then lot of them, Niseis, older Niseis became fishermen, so they continued on what they were, but what happened is we all, during the war they had to go to camp. Now they had to speak English. So their English improved because of that, except for a few guys. There's some guys that just, like Charlie Hamasaki still talks as if he's in Terminal Island.

TI: But when, going back to, so when the Terminal Islanders went to junior high school, was it, and then like the people from your elementary school, so at junior high school they would all kind of come together. Was there a big difference between, say, the English abilities between Terminal Islanders and, say, the people who went to your school?

MT: Absolutely, absolutely.

TI: And how did the people from --

MT: To show you the differences, when, now I learned English, I speak it properly with a proper accent, everything else, I would go back to Terminal Island because my aunt and uncle's there, and then I would go with my friends to play. They wouldn't say anything; we would play. The older guys would hear me talking, say, "Ah, city slicker." There was a definite difference in the way you spoke.

TI: So when you, like, self identify, when people ask, as a kid where did you grow up, do you say Terminal Island or do you say San Pedro?

MT: Well, I always tell, I said originally was in Terminal, I was raised in Terminal Island 'til I was seven. I always say that, and then I moved to San Pedro and learned to speak English. [Laughs]

TI: The Terminal Islanders, when they hear you say, so, "No, you don't speak like a Terminal Islander," they can figure it out. [Laughs]

MT: Yeah, right. Right. Well, that's why I have to explain. And you know, I thought that a lot of people wouldn't recognize me being a, Terminal Islanders wouldn't recognize me 'cause I only stayed there seven years, although I used to go constantly 'til the war started 'cause of my aunt, uncle. I used to go in some time. His ship is coming in, I would watch his, I mean, his boat coming in, I would watch. It'd be loaded with fish coming in. Things like that. 'Cause what they would do is radio in to the cannery that they have so many tons of fish, of certain, whatever fish they had, they were coming in, so then the cannery would be ready when they docked. And if there's, if it was a big catch, everybody had a lot a fish, then they'd be lined up waiting to unload the fishes.

TI: Good.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Going back to school, earlier you told me about this interesting sort of, I guess, concept called the "Opportunity Class." Can you describe that and how you got involved and what that was?

MT: I was going Fifteenth Street School and I was in A5, the second semester fifth grade, when, I didn't know what it was, I found out later it was IQ test, and what they did was trying to start a class of high achievers and they decided to take two people from a certain class, grade, a boy and a girl who scored the highest in that particular IQ test and put 'em into a class. Now, this was a class not only of your grade but lower grades. I happened to, and this girl from my school, we were A5. We were the second semester fifth grade. Then you had B5s and down to the second grade, so we had this wide range of students in this one class and the idea here was trying to develop other interests other than, because regular schoolwork was relatively easy, so to keep us interested and occupied they would pick hobbies and different things, go on a lot of field trips, different things like that. And that's how we were placed in this opportunity class at a place called Leland Street School, which is far from where we lived. My folks, I had to walk to the school and they said, "Gee, that's too far," so they decided that they'll move. And they couldn't find a place nearby and they ended up being even further away, like a couple miles away, and about a mile and a half, I guess, I would have to walk from that place all the way to school. And then finally we found a place nearby, and so we moved over there and I went to that class. And I, being the oldest, we were the only ones that could do certain kinds of things because other people had not advanced. One of the hobbies was a night map, astronomy was one of the things that they wanted us to get interested, so I read about it and it was a lot of fun and I memorized the constellations and the stars, Betelgeuse, Antares, all those kind of stars, the big stars and dwarfs and all the kind of things that, kids like those things, would be interested. And then they started to put a October sky map up on pulleys made out of cloth, put stars where the constellations were, then pulleys would pull it up onto the thing. Well, it happens that I was the only one that could do extrapolations, from the little tiny map to that, so I ended up laying the whole map out and then we put it up there, and we also rigged up the pulley, but most people could handle that fairly easy. We did that. It was, so I had fun. Went to see trains, and I might still have a picture of the class going to the train station.

TI: But it's a very interesting concept. So it was very experiential, a lot of field trips, creating things, But, but taking essentially the brightest kids and exposing them to this.

MT: When you say brightest kids, there could've been someone that, in there that could've been not very bright. By that I mean they took the two highest scores and put 'em in there. But the one kid could get the highest score, but they came from a disadvantaged school. They didn't pick, they did not pick anybody from a disadvantaged school, by the way. They took it from the better school, but if it was that you could have someone who wasn't too bright but scored the highest and be in our class. And there could've been five girls better than me in my school, but they didn't get to go, four didn't get to go. I got to go. And so it wasn't really scientifically or properly, I think that it was just an experiment that they were doing.

TI: But conceptually, they did do something like an IQ test and say, okay, so this will be the measure of the smartest kids and we'll get them together, we'll not do the traditional classroom.

MT: Yes. I'm sure that if you weren't gifted you couldn't get in. You had to be at least gifted, I would suspect. I would suspect. Well, in any class you're gonna have some gifted kids, anyway. Some, most class would have, unless you're at a disadvantaged neighborhood, you may not have anybody who's gifted because of the educational background.

TI: Well, and I'm guessing for you that, that actually worked well in the sense that you're very, you mentioned kind of being rebellious, being very vocal, but probably this more, this nontraditional way of learning actually worked for you.

MT: Yeah, I had fun. I just thought that, afterwards I thought, gee, if we had concentrated on schooling I would've been way ahead at school because I, we would've got a lot of time to do it, instead of in a regular, traditional classroom you had to wait for the, for the poorer ones to catch up with you.

TI: So yeah, sure, if you were in traditional you would have excelled in what they teach in school. What do you think you learned by this experience? I mean, are there some things that you picked up or, or did that you think, yeah, that you learned?

MT: I really learned what they do today. They put people in the same grade in the same class, all the, all the, let's see, the gifted kids would all be in a class together so they compete against gifted kids. And so they feed on each other and do even better, and they don't, they may have other things they could do, but it almost seemed like they were keeping us to do these other activities like make bookends. With the copper, I drew a picture of a dog and I hit it with a hammer and raised it and put it on a bookend and made wooden bookends. Now, what does that got to do? I, although, because if somebody was not very skilled, didn't have the skill with their hands, they would not, they would not probably learn much, except they made a mess of things. So I think by putting, and that was to help the younger kids so they could compete, but if they got people in the same grade, I think it would have been better. The other thing, though, to my benefit was, came from Japan, was in Terminal Island, I was not very good at sports. I didn't know the rules. The kids had learned rules and I didn't learn it. I didn't know how to play baseball. I knew about it, but I didn't know the rules. When I went to this school, the younger kids taught me how, so I never became a star, but I became proficient in it. I would make the team, but I would not be the star kind of a thing, instead of being the last guy chosen or the next to last guy chosen because I didn't know what to do. That's, that was the biggest benefit that I received on that thing was suddenly I could play sports, baseball, basketball, whatever have you.

TI: Or how about group dynamics? I'm thinking in terms of you being older, you had to in some way mentor the youngers and whether or not that was a useful experience in terms of going into the future, thinking of how you worked in groups, were you ever influenced by what you did back in elementary school?

MT: I think so. I think so, because you had to look after these kids and make sure things were going well, or if they're having problems to help them and so forth. And so you feel good you're helping them, you're teaching them, you're mentoring them. You feel good about it, so it nurtures that part of it for you, and I think that was a good thing that happened. No question about it.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: In addition to regular school, let's talk about Japanese language school. Did you, tell me about that. Where did you go? How was that structured?

MT: When I was in the first grade, just got into first grade in Terminal Island, I registered to go to the Japanese school, Sogi Gakuen in Terminal Island. It was a Buddhist church and it, they had Japanese classes there. And the teacher told my mother at that time, says, "Oh no, he should not go to Japanese school 'cause he's already having difficulty with English and this will make it worse." So I was kept out, and when we moved to San Pedro, then I went into the Japanese school and so the kids from San Pedro that, that were basically not Terminal Islanders, we went together to Saturday and went to Japanese school. Whereas the Terminal Island people went every day for an hour or so or whatever it was that they go. So we were Saturday school people and they, so we were in with much older kids and things like that, the same class 'cause they were behind, even further behind than I was. So that's how we went to school there, but my mother, being, with her background, she determined that we were not learning properly, and particularly being in Terminal Island, the influence of the language that influenced, the Terminal Island dialect, it was not helping the situation any. So she found this other school called Kanputo, this town of Compton, which was actually a rural town then, a white town with, and they had a Japanese school there in midst of some poultry farms. And this was, the principal was Endo. Endo Sensei, he was the principal there and he was from Tokyo. And the day we arrived there, he said that, "From now on you cannot speak your family's dialect. You must speak standard Japanese, Hyoujungo, because in America people come from all over Japan and as such, if you spoke your dialect they may not be able to understand what you're talking about. So from now on you have to speak the standard Japanese," which was already in the textbooks, but conversationally we were not using it." So he made us change and it was, it was the greatest thing for me because I'm able to go anywhere in Japan and they would understand me, whereas if I spoke Wakayama-ben people would not understand me in most parts of Japan. So that's the one thing that happened. This was a school that was considered the best Japanese school in Los Angeles area. In fact, after the war I found out that this was a school that even Northern California people would use as example. One fellow would say, "Oh, you went to Compton?" He said, "I went to such and such and our principal said we're as good as Compton." This was before the war. So we were the measure that everybody measured against, so I would now say that we're probably the best, we were the best Japanese school in America, whether it's true or not. [Laughs]

TI: So tell me a little bit about how it was structured, in terms of how large were the classes, who were the teachers?

MT: We had, we had two stucco buildings that had multiple classrooms. I was trying to figure out how many classrooms we had, must've been about three in each building, two or three. In each building you had, each classroom you had a class, the same, we were taught same grades. I presume that the highest grades were multiple grades 'cause as people dropped out, because they had classes beyond elementary school. And there was another building, if I recall, that was a frame building next to it, one of the older buildings, and in it the first students went, I went in that building originally, classroom originally. And it was, it was a nice facility, very nice. It opened, it was, they were perpendicular, the buildings were perpendicular to each other except it was not attached on any part, so in the quad in front of it they had, it was lawn, and so we used to eat lunch there and as kids we played football and things like that on the place. They had a walkway all over, a sidewalk all around that. And way off to the side, to the east of that, they had some old trolley cars sitting on blocks there and then we used that for special occasion to, or to use sometimes as a classroom. We wanted isolation, they want to do that and they would do that. And also to, we would go there to play sometimes. Some guys to torment some kids, some of the guys did. I didn't do that, but I, some kids got tormented there. And then off to the south of the, of the building, the building where one was facing, one was facing the east side, the other's facing south, then beyond that was a playground and where they also had a dais, a little riser that the principal always stood. Now, what, what was unusual about this thing was that every morning when we came to school, of course we had to go by car. My father, because he had a business and he had a lot of flexibility, he would take us to school, and Mr. Kamiya, who lived several blocks away, had a, has a wholesale house on the San Pedro docks, a fish wholesaler, so he couldn't go in the morning. But he would then, so my father would take his three children and us three to school, then Mr. Kamiya would pick us up in the evening. When we got to school we got out of the car in the parking lot and we walked, we had to walk past the principal's home, which was attached to one of the buildings. We walked past it, we'd turn and face the door, and we'd bow and would say in Japanese, "Kochou Sensei ohayhou gozaimasu," or "Mr. Principal, good morning," to the door. And then we'd walk to our classroom, sit in the classroom until the bell rang. The bell rang, we would file out to the playground by class, in rows, and then he would sit on, stand on the dais and then he would read to us whatever's happening today, if something, and whatever he wanted to do, and also at the end we would do exercise, Japanese exercise. Then at the end we would file, single file back to our classroom and we'd sit there, then the teacher came and then we would start the session. So very, very Japanese.

And that was where, in 1940 when we were, when we were, (autumn), probably autumn '40, when he said he received this letter from, from the Prime Minister Tojo saying that, "You Niseis are Americans and you should be loyal to your country." And we were, all were kind of shocked about that, that he would say something like that. It was only after I... then I, during the war, in camp, I thought I misheard it. Came out of camp and I talked to my friend, like Jiro Takahashi and Bob Oda, and they said they heard the same thing, so it was true.

TI: So this, this letter, was this a letter that went out all the Japanese schools?

MT: I'm not sure. I'm not sure. He said he received this letter, and he said this. I would suspect if it got to ours it must've gone to all the Japanese schools. I would suspect, unless for some reason he had some special relationship. I don't know. And so I couldn't fathom this thing. I said, why would he say something? And it's only when I got older and I realized that Prime Minister Tojo actually was a general, he was a military man, and they go by the bushido code, and bushido code said you must be, primary thing that you're supposed to be is loyal to your lord. Lord means country, because once the Meiji era started it no longer became a lord, it became the country. So for us, we have to be loyal to our own country.

TI: So in some ways it could be viewed almost as a premonition that war was coming and he wanted the Niseis to know where their loyalties needed to be.

MT: Yeah. I would suspect that. I would suspect that. And that all fits in, and I've known people have, who have quoted that. I've read people, the MIS people, as interpreters trying to get prisoners to give up and when they were challenged, when he was challenged about why he as, as a Japanese American were fighting for the Americans he quoted the bushido code and they understood.

TI: Interesting. Good.

MT: And so that was, it's all part of that. In Hawaii, as I understand it, actually the foreign minister of Japan spoke and said that to the Hawaiians in Hawaii before the war.

TI: Interesting.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Going back to your, your Japanese school, so your experience was different than most Niseis, when I ask about their Japanese school experience they tend not to be as organized or as disciplined experience as, as you had. This was, as you say, you mentioned probably the best Japanese school in America.

MT: People came from all over L.A., Los Angeles area, all over, the valley, everywhere, to go to that school. I knew one guy who became a judge and things. They went to everyday school here in town and Saturday they went to Compton. And it was, it was run like a Japanese school, highly disciplined, and if you misbehaved they would kick you out. Most Japanese school, they wanted the money so they would not kick you out even if you misbehaved or weren't learning, but there they would kick you out.

TI: So how did this sit with you? You, again, you have a rebellious streak in you; how did you deal with this, this type of schooling?

MT: My mother was very important and she would, you know, and schooling was very important for her, so she would impress upon us how it is and she would, she would work with us and do things like that. So it was... I did fairly well in school, too, in Japanese school because, I think because of my mother more than anything else, and I didn't necessarily love it 'cause one of the things that, my hakujin friends, my white friends, in summer they would get to play and three, two months of the three months summer vacation we had to go every day. They didn't do that at other Japanese schools. We had to go every day in the summer and we had to start from the early morning and, and we, I think we went from nine to four, I think it was, on Saturdays and every day during the summer. One of the reasons why was we had to read three textbooks: the current Japanese textbook for that grade, then the past Japanese textbook, and then the American published Japanese textbook before we went to the next grade, so we were all behind in school, but we, we did learn. And so I was, I only finished, I had just, I had gone into the fifth grade, yeah, fifth grade when the war started.

TI: But in regular school you were what?

MT: Seventh grade. I was second semester seventh grade

TI: Seventh grade, okay. So when you say behind, so you were --

MT: Couple years behind.

TI: You were a couple years behind.

MT: And so the, the important thing about that school that I appreciated it, a lot of it afterwards, but it did give us the discipline, it did do the thing. I mean, he scared you, you know? You were scared of the principal, so you had to study. And I wasn't the best student, I wasn't the worst student. I was up, I was one of the better students in that class. I was more serious than some of the other kids. There were some kids that weren't as serious; they just, they got by. They didn't excel, but they got by. But its reputation was such that after the war when people heard me speaking Japanese they said, they would think I'm from Japan. They said, "Where are you from?" And I'd tell 'em, well, I said, "I got, my Japanese education was over here," that I'm born and raised in America. They said, "Oh, where did you learn your Japanese?" I said, "Well, I went to Compton Japanese School." And they would say, "Oh, that's the reason why. Naruhodo" So had a, had a great reputation.

TI: An observation about your mother, I mean, just in terms of the importance she stressed about education. I think about how you talked about how you moved from Terminal Island to San Pedro to, to get to a better school to improve your English, and then moving again for the school for gifted kids, and then for her to kind of research and, and realize this is the best Japanese school, it's really just an observation of how important education was to your mother.

MT: Oh yeah, very much so. One of her biggest disappointments, when I quit UCLA, went to... was the biggest disappointment. She didn't say anything to me. I mean, she, she's much smarter than that. She didn't say anything to me, but I heard later from my sister how disappointed she was.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

TI: Yeah, I want to then, when you talk about your mother, there was an incident -- I'm moving now to 1941 -- where two gentlemen came to your place and, and they were speaking Japanese. But why don't you tell that story?

MT: It was in the fall of 1941. I came home from junior high school and we had a rule in our family that none of the children can go by themselves into -- not by themselves -- children could not go to the front door; we had to always go through the back door. Only if we were accompanied by an adult can we go through the front door. So I came home and the door was ajar, and being a kid, twelve year old kid, I said, oh boy, I could sneak in if the door's open, so I start to go in and I heard Japanese voices. I said, "Oh, okyakusan," we visitors here. So I decided that I would, I had to go through the back. I went through the back, through the service porch, the kitchen, and since we didn't have a central hall I had to go through the dining room to go to my bedroom to do my homework, and I peeked and I was shocked. The two visitors were white and one man was speaking Japanese. So I went to my bedroom and started doing my homework and then when I heard the, the visitors leaving I went out there, and my mother at that point said that she was so ashamed because he spoke such beautiful Japanese that she was ashamed. And I, she could speak beautiful Japanese, but to hear, see a white person speaking perfect Japanese with no accent at all was just a big surprise for her. He was a son of a missionary in Japan, American missionary in Japan, and he went through grammar school, elementary school and through college, university in Japan, and when he graduated he came to the United States and that's when the, the FBI recruited him to become an interpreter. My father's reaction was a little bit different. His reaction was, "They knew things I had forgotten about." They knew everything about him, every trip he took, where he went, everything he did. They knew everything about him and he was just shocked that he knew, they knew so much about him.

TI: So things like the fact that he served in the Japanese army --

MT: Oh yeah.

TI: -- that he was in Bellingham and --

MT: Yeah. All that. Terminal Island, he was a fisherman, all those kind of things, and he was a vice president of the, of the Wakayama Kenjinkai, their prefecture association, he was vice president of the Japanese retail produce association. And he was deaf, but they, because he had a business they wanted... because he had a fairly large business, he had a dozen stores and things, that they wanted him to be a vice president for the name only, 'cause he couldn't, he couldn't participate in a lot of these things. And he also -- I took kendo, my brother and I, younger brother and I took kendo before the war, and, and then he was the vice president of that association. And then what happened is that all those things were against him. They knew all about that; they knew everything about him.

TI: And so why were these two men there to talk with your father?

MT: They were just interrogating him to find out if there were anything else and if all these things were true, to make sure. And so, as many people know, there was a ABC list of potential enemy aliens and he was on the A list, 'cause on December 7th, somebody rang the doorbell at eight-thirty in the evening. They were FBI agents, wanted to see my father. My father was waiting for 'em. He was --

TI: Before we go there, going back to the first meeting, back in the fall before December 7th, do you know if the FBI, were they looking for other names, too? I'm trying to think, going back to your idea of the ABC list, I'm trying to get a sense of how they constructed those lists and --

MT: He never talked about that and my mother never talked about that, and I don't know. I don't know. See, one of the things is that when, when Tsurukichi Maruyama, Maruyama Tsurukichi, when he came to the United States he was the head of the Kendo Association in Japan, came to our dojo, where we practice, and he saw us practicing and so forth. And my father, they must, I'm assuming they must've had a reception for him. We would, we won't be invited, but he had, he received a calligraphy from him, which he posted on the wall -- and my brother got it, now his son has it -- but later I found out, after the war, that he was the head of the Black Dragon Society in Japan and those things are all against you, of course. So just being, taking kendo is not the problem; it's problem of meeting Maruyama Tsurukichi.

TI: So the FBI probably had that under surveillance. They probably knew who was there, who you met.

MT: Exactly. And you don't know, it could've been a Japanese American that was, was doing that for 'em. We don't know.

TI: Are you aware of any other examples of, again, before December 7th, of the FBI or other authorities sort of watching the community?

MT: I did not know that, but I had heard that one of the wholesale house employee -- I know who it is, I won't name who it is -- was reporting, had reported him to the FBI. He was a JACL member and he reported him to.

TI: He reported whom?

MT: My father.

TI: Okay, so he was turning names in.

MT: Turned it in, 'cause he mentioned it.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: Okay, so this first, this first meeting where the FBI came was before December 7th. Let's next go to December 7, 1941, and why don't you tell me about that day and how you found out about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

MT: We were not a very religious family. We're just, my father isn't, my mother isn't. They're nominal Buddhists, my father is a nominal Zen Buddhist, and, and far as going to church, going to church is fine, Christian church is fine. When we were in Terminal Island, we used to go to church. Me occasionally, my sister would go regularly and we got a penny and we put it into... and gave it. I didn't really want to give it. I'd rather spend that, but you know. And in fact, we lived back to back with this other family, the Izumi family, and the son was my age. They used to go every day. We have a picture yet of what happened. And I used to go to Christmas regularly, Christmas and Easter 'cause they gave you candy. Those are two musts; other days I couldn't care, I could care less. But we have a picture, one Easter, and Kats, Katsumi, one of the sons, was my age, is there with his sisters and my sisters and my brother and I were standing -- this is before it was banned. We're all holding an Easter basket and they're taking picture. I have this tiny, tiny -- well, candy's all gone -- tiny basket and Kats has this huge basket 'cause he goes on a regular, and my sister has a big one, 'cause they go regularly. But I, since I go occasionally I've got this tiny, tiny basket, showed how religious I was. [Laughs] But my folks never, if I was gonna go to church they would always give me the penny if I wanted to go, so there wasn't a case that they opposed it. They just never made it a mandatory thing or a thing that we should do or anything. Never said we should do it, but to go to Christian church was okay. We always went to Buddhist churches for -- aside from the Japanese school -- we went there for funerals and things like that. So religious thing was not something that we did, so we weren't... I went for other reasons when I went to church, other than religion and, and I didn't, the problem with Buddhist churches for me was that in those days everything was in Japanese and I understood most, some of it, not all of it because they would speak in very polite terms and different things and they would, or they would give prayers in, I guess, Japanese Sanskrit or whatever it is supposed to be, so I didn't understand what was going on, whereas in Christian church they, I understood everything they said. Whether I believed it or not was something else, but I, at least I understood what they were saying.

So we, we were just kind of a -- and so we were home that Sunday. None of us went to church; we were home. And it was close to noon when suddenly I get, we get a phone call, and I answered the phone. It was my cousin in Terminal Island and she said, "Did you hear?" I said, "What?" "Did you hear?" I said, "What?" "Didn't you hear?" And she's hyperventilating, she's saying, " Didn't you hear? Did you --" I said, "Wait, Em." Her name was Emiko, so we called her Em. I said, "Wait, wait, wait, Em. Stop, stop, stop. What didn't I hear? What did I hear?" And so she said, "Oh, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor." I said, "Quit kidding." Said, "No, no, no, it's true. Listen to the radio. It really is true." So I knew, because I liked geography, I knew where Pearl Harbor was, so I listened to the radio and sure enough they're talking about Pearl Harbor. Then I turned it to the shortwave to get the Japanese station 'cause we, the year before we had bought this console, a Philco console that had -- in fact, there was a slogan, "No stoop, no squat, no squint," 'cause they had a fairly large dial and it was, it was canted, it was sloped instead of usually it was vertical and you had to look like this. It was sloped and that was a big thing. And so --

TI: I'm sorry, so what was that saying one more time?

MT: Oh, the saying? "No stoop, no squint, no stoop." No, "No stoop, no squint, no stoop." Wait, "No stoop, no squint..." No, "No stoop, no squint," what was that? Now I got it... there's three words. "No stoop... no stoop, no squint." I forgot. I just said it and I forgot what it was. [Narr. note: "No stoop, no squat, no squint."]

TI: Alright. Don't worry about it. That, that's okay.

MT: Yeah, but it's the three. "No stoop, no squint..." Anyway, the dial was sloped and so you didn't have to do that. It was the first console that they, or anything that sloped the dial. And they had shortwave and all those things on it, so we used to listen to shortwave. And anyway, I turned it on and sure enough they're talking about glorious victory in Pearl Harbor, and, "Oh no," you know. So then I told my father about it, and my father says, "No, no, no. It's Germany. It's Germany." I thought that's strange. Why was it Germany? That's the other side. And I thought that, but I didn't think about until later, I thought, oh, it's wishful thinking on his part. He doesn't want, he didn't want Japan to bomb Pearl Harbor, 'cause he was here, he was building up his business, spending, taking everything he earns and throwing it into the business and suddenly Japan's... and he's already had the FBI interrogating him, so he, knowing he was going to go to jail. So when the FBI came later, of course, it was very glum. We didn't know what to do. Listened to the radio, what's going on? And then eight-thirty that evening, knock on the door, I mean the door, door bell rang. I answered it. It was the FBI, wanted to talk to my father. And I told my father, "Some people are here to see you." Well, he was very prepared. He knew, so he had a suit on and put on his overcoat, got his hat, cap, hat and went out with them. And they said, "Oh, well, we just want to talk to him and he'll be back." Never came back, of course, until 1944. This is December 7th at eight-thirty in the evening.

TI: Did the, the FBI agents, did they look through the house during this time period?

MT: No. No. They didn't. So of course we burned everything, so this is the part of the problem that the Japanese had, is that anything that would tie us to Japan, everybody was saying get rid of it, get rid of it, and everybody would burn it. We had a fireplace; we burned all our things in there. And it's too bad because that was part of our history.

TI: Although that calligraphy from the kendo guy, that survived. You didn't --

MT: That survived. There was, lot of things survived, but certain things, letters and stuff, photographs. I think maybe my parents thought nobody could read it. [Laughs]

TI: You mentioned, so you mentioned that your, when your father first heard, it was almost like he didn't want to believe this because he had been building up the business.

MT: I believe so.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: Let's talk about your father's business, because I think the last time we talked about it he was just, just starting doing Mom and Pop stores, but over time he had developed a fairly large business.

MT: Yeah. They found, he and his partner, Ken Shitani, they didn't, they found that a more lucrative thing for them would be if they went into the stores, markets, to become concessionaire for the produce part of it. Other people were doing that, so they started doing that, then they started expanding it to other stores, and so what happened is that they ended up with a dozen stores, twelve stores, store stands, all over the Los Angeles basin.

TI: And so describe what a concessionaire in a, in a store... so this is like a larger, like, grocery store?

MT: Well, today you would call them supermarkets, but it's not as large as that today. I mean, today, those were large markets. They were the ones that had, like Ralph's, Safeway, those were all, but Ralph's, Safeway, AMP, Roberts, those were, they had their own, they ran their own produce part and it was self service, whereas these were others like Fitzsimmons and other, particularly Fitzsimmons, my father would send, was where they would have concessionaires in, in the meat market, the Lures or the Swifts, they would run the meat market and Van de Camp Bakery would run the bakery. They were the largest concessionaires around here. And, and then usually the delicatessen was run by a Jewish family or Italian family or something like that, and then most of the produce in the L.A. basin from a Japanese, the produce. And the difference was that all of these, you were served. They were not self service. There were clerks behind the showcases, what have you, or the produce stand, and they would wait on you. You didn't go pick anything out. And that was important back in those days because then you could ask certain things and if you got friendly with the clerk, they knew you and you were a good customer, they would give you special treatment, like tell you, "Don't buy that today. It's not so good, unless you have to have it." Because they wouldn't sell you anything that's not edible. And they, or they'll say, "Oh, today you should buy this one. It's really good." So, and then other people aren't touching everything, so it was not damaged. The tomatoes were not squeezed, 'cause some people would put their nails in the tomatoes and things to see how juicy it was. And so, so the choice and the better stores were served and they were Japanese. Now, another group that had produce were Jewish people. There were some Italian people, but, on the whole, the most, majority of the people were Japanese in this area.

And my father kept pouring it back into the business and kept expanding and Fitzsimmons stores, which were later bought by Roberts, who later became part of Ralph's, they had, my father had, The Garden Basket was the name of my father's company, and had the first, right of first refusal. Whenever they opened a new store they were given the right of first refusal, and sometimes they turned it down. They said, "This is not a good area. This is not right. We won't be able to sell." So they turned it down, but ones that were good they did. And they had stores in other places, like over at, in South Pasadena. Now, they gauged that and they said they have two kinds of clientele there. South, this was on Huntington (Drive), so south of that were not the rich people, they were the regular, ordinary people, but north of that were all the estates, so they created two stands. It was a very, in those days a very large market. They had one in Kenmar which would have each, you would buy things one pound. This side would have the three pound something, two pound, five pound something, because this is where this side, and they would put the premium products over here and, and various products they couldn't sell on this side, because chauffeurs and maids would come with the person to buy. And this side people would come, like ordinary people, and it was cheaper so they wouldn't go to the more expensive side. My mother started a flower shop in the middle, between the two to separate the two stands. Then once she got it started she had somebody else run it. But they had places they made their own candy, taffy. We'd stick our nose over there and they would give us free taffy. And that was the first time I ever ate hamburger. They mayonnaise and all kinds of huge hamburgers. They had a restaurant there and they had a bakery there, smells so good.

TI: So these were stores that generally Japanese didn't shop at. It was more...

MT: No, no, no. None of them were, this was not in a Japanese area. But there were certain things that my father did that to this day I admire him for. Our best store was in San Pedro, the highest gross. The best people in San Pedro would come to buy there. And he at one point, probably around '39, about 1940, '39 or '40, he took this Kibei fellow who was only twenty-five years old working for us and made him the manager, over the Isseis, over the Kibeis, all the older people, he made him, and I asked him -- I had the nerve to ask him -- I said, "Why'd you do that? He's so young." He said, "He's the best man." And he was the best man. And we're still friends today. He's in his nineties now. We're still friends today. He was, he appreciated what my father did to him to this day. Then another thing I saw was in Long Beach we had, well, San Pedro, we had three stores, but in this... there's a long story on that one, but in Long Beach we had two stores. And one white American boy was in high school, wanted a part time job, so they gave him a part time job there and, which is unusual because we're all, there weren't any whites working for us, then when he graduated school they gave him a full time job there. My father said, "Hire him. He's a good guy." They made him manager. I always said, my father didn't, he said good man, he's gonna promote him. That was, that was really what I noticed and I thought wow, I admire him for that.

TI: So this was a large operation in terms of volume. He was, he was moving lots of produce through all these...

MT: Yeah. Yeah, there were a dozen stores and then he had a wholesale house in Ninth Street Market of Los Angeles, the wholesale area, where he would buy directly from farmers, cut out the middleman, buy, and then other things that he couldn't buy directly like bananas or different things like that, then he would buy from the other wholesale houses. And so he would stock it there and then ship it out to... and each store would send every, every day send what they wanted then he would send things out to them, and that's how they operated.

TI: So in terms of investment, it's like trucks and the wholesale, these new stores.

MT: Yeah. And he built, my father being good with his hands and good at carpentry, he built custom made stands for every store. He built himself, made it in the back of our, in the garage, and I would help him, and he taught me how to be, to make things in carpentry, so when camp time came I can build the chairs and tables and stuff. And he would build these things, then he would have me saw and do things like that.

TI: Now, oftentimes when you build an operation like this it takes money, capital. Did he ever have to go into debt? Did he ever have to borrow money to, to grow like this?

MT: I don't know. That, that part I did not get into. I don't know. I suppose -- the way things happened at the beginning, I think, were he would have the stores and he would go broke and then he'd go back fishing and come back -- I would suspect that the only time he would borrow money was from my uncle. I know the first time he got some money from my uncle. My uncle was very well off because he was a very successful fishing boat, had a fishing boat. He just, he was always within the top five catches in the harbor, so he did very well. For a purse seiner, not a, not compared to a tuna clipper.

TI: And in terms of, I guess in terms of cash flow or... how lucrative was your, your father's business? I mean, is this something that at some point he was actually being able to save money?

MT: Well, he was able to save some money, but primarily he was putting into yen deposits to, so that my, my sister and brother in Japan, they could draw that money for schooling and living and all those kind of things, so he was supporting his family over there. And then he was also sending money to his mother, to help, she, before '34 she had said their house's roof is getting bad, their tile roof is bad so he needed to have a roofing, so he sent her some money and we got there, wasn't fixed. He was so angry 'cause my, my father's youngest brother, who was, who was apple in my grandmother's eye, sweet talked her and got the money so he could go to the geisha houses. Needless to say, my father was upset with him.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

TI: So big operation, big business, your father is taken away from the FBI, so what happens to all these businesses? Who takes care of this now?

MT: When he was taken, and then about (one day) later my father's partner was taken, because of his association with my father, 'cause he was not involved with any of those things. So what happened is that my mother had to take over, and my mother, of course, didn't have the background for it, so she had a very difficult time. And we were living in San Pedro and she couldn't drive, so the people at the market, the person that was the young manager, he would buy food for us and different things and whatever we needed 'cause she couldn't, she couldn't go. She didn't have a car. We had a car, but she couldn't drive. And so then after my father's partner got taken his, his Nisei wife was talking to my mother and she and my mother was, I guess she must've been talking about how difficult things were and said, "Well, why don't you live with us? 'Cause I can take you to the, I can drive you anywhere you want, I can take care of you here, and then we can, it's closer to the market office, the home office, so I can take you over there." So -- 'cause she had to sign checks and stuff -- so what happened really was that before Christmas we moved to, probably about a week later, so we, before Christmas, we moved to the southwestern Seinan area of L.A. where, because of a strict covenant, all the, lot of Japanese lived there. This is in the Adam's Boulevard, Jefferson, Arlington, Vermont kind of area. Not Jefferson, I'm sorry, Expo, Exposition, that area where all the Japanese, cluster of Japanese lived there, and this is where the Centenary used to have a church and this is where the Seinan, Senshin had a Buddhist church, and this is the area that they lived. And we were just out, just west of that area; we're just on Arlington. My father's partner who's found this place that didn't have restricted covenants, and so he bought the property there.

TI: Now, why was it your mother and not a partnership with this Nisei who was married to your father's partner? Why was she in charge?

MT: Well, because she was older, much older, and my mother had worked in the market, so she knew something about it and because of her curiosity as well as need would ask my father things and my father would tell her things when she would ask, so she had some rudimentary knowledge about it. She didn't, she hadn't supervised anybody. Whenever we had a store opening she always went to help. That lady, she had small kids, she didn't go. She always went there and so for several days she would be at a new store opening, or during Christmas she would go help, when they're having a, some place would be having a, and she'd go there to help and other things. And then she would be involved sometimes with something happening at the store or something like that 'cause she was very good with people. And so she had that, she already had a connection and I presume people respected her, so, so she was basically supposed to run the thing. The problem was that people were not patronizing our stores and, because of the war, and so they were losing money, lot of money in, particularly some stores, so the people in the office advised her to close these stores because it was such a, it was such a cash drain, and as far as our individual bank accounts, all Issei's bank accounts were frozen except for a hundred dollars a month, after a while, not the beginning but after a while. So she, so they were telling her to close it, but she said, "I can't do that, 'cause if I close the stores, how will the work people, the people that I've employed, be able to eat? They have no income, so I can't close it." So she kept the stores open until every one of them were evacuated.

TI: And where did she get the money, if the assets were frozen, I mean, how does she get cash?

MT: The company had money.

TI: Okay.

MT: The company had money. So what happened is that essentially she spent all the reserves that we had and she paid off all her debts. There was no debt that she did not pay, pay off. So she ended up, we ended up having no money in the business, and my, my mother said that her biggest disappointment was when one store, the manager left -- I mean, one store, the home office got a call from the, from the market saying, "Hey, you haven't opened up your produce section," so they went over there and found out that the manager was evacuated but didn't tell anybody, and so that was a big disappointment, that somebody would do that to her.

TI: That someone would just leave or the fact that, that she felt a obligation to the store to have the, the...

MT: They just left. No, just tell 'em they're leaving, 'cause if they said was leaving then she would made arrangements to close and everything else. They had produce there, they had all kinds of stuff there, yet he didn't, he just left.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

TI: So your mother had to shoulder a lot of responsibility with your father leaving. How about you, because I'm looking at the family, you're now --

MT: Thirteen.

TI: Well, you're young, you're thirteen, you're now the oldest --

MT: Male.

TI: -- male in the family. Did your mother, father ever say anything to you about being the oldest?

MT: They didn't, but they would, she would include me in a lot of discussions. Before and after the war, she would include me in a lot of discussions, and so I did find out a lot of things and I was involved with some things that she didn't know anything about, things like when the evacuation came and the notice came and it was just up to the street next to us, near us, Arlington Street. Anything west of that didn't get the notice 'cause it was for everybody east of Arlington and we were west of Arlington, and so my, most of the Japanese family were now signing up to go to other camps. They would, on this side where they weren't given notice, they want to be with their friends, so they would change their address and things like that, but I said, why go in? More freedom is better, wait as long as we can, so we waited and suddenly we got the notice. We're supposed to go, the people east of Arlington went to Santa Anita Assembly Center. Our, we were supposed to go to Tulare.

Well, let me step back a little bit. Even before that, when they started evacuation the Terminal Island people had been, on December 24th given forty-eight hours notice to get off, not where they were gonna go, just get off the island. People were, some people, the fishermen, the Issei fishermen were all imprisoned, so they were women and children. Most of the Niseis were under twenty-one. They were in dire straits. The churches came, the Quakers helped them, the Japanese community through some people, some of the Japanese community came, had trucks, we had trucks and we helped and so, and things like that to get 'em off in the forty-eight hours. And my cousin came to live with us at that time. When the assembly centers started and they knew everybody's gonna be put into camps, the Terminal Islanders said, "Hey, we want to get together again," so they volunteered for Manzanar. They called my cousin and us to say, "Let's go to Manzanar and be together." I said, "Hey, last summer I was at Manzanar. I passed there. I went fishing up in the High Sierras with my father and the, Mr. Miyo and his son George Miyo. That's a terrible place." 'Cause I like geography, I had kinda mapped my way up there and back. I said what the place, so I knew where Manzanar was. I said, "Terrible. Sage brush, dry, it's hot in the summer, cold in the winter. It's a terrible place. Rattlesnakes. Who wants to go to a place like that?" So I told 'em, I said that's not a place we want to go, and so we opted not to go. Well, meanwhile, then the Shintani's, or the Mr. Shintani who was in prison was told that, his wife was told that if they moved to Zone Two -- there was Zone One and Zone Two, Zone One was the coast and the other's inland -- if the family moved to Zone Two, then Mr. Shintani could come out. And so they gave us, let us, let us live in their house and she moved to Arosa in central California. This is south, around Tulare, so that's where they moved and then Mr. Shintani was able to come out. Meanwhile, then now we're sitting over here and we're gonna go to Tulare. I said, "Well, I don't want to go to Tulare. I know what Tulare is, assembly center. That's a terrible place. It's dry, it's, it's a terrible place." And so I said, "Let's rather go to Santa Anita, 'cause we know people there, too." So my mother somehow were able to find a boarding house located on Central Avenue in the south where, a Japanese boarding house, where they were going to Santa Anita, so got permission to change our address to that boarding house and so we then evacuated from there prior to going away to Tulare, and so we went from there to Santa Anita, but of course we ended up in the horse stables, stinky, smelly.

TI: Yeah, and before we go there, just, as you talked about this, it's interesting how you sometimes hear about how you get the orders and you have to just follow, but there were kinda areas where you can kind of work the system. I mean, different addresses or...

MT: Yeah, that's what I found. All, all the way through, all the way through camp there were ways to break the system a little bit or, or bend the system a little bit, if you tried to find out and tried to take and tried to take steps. Most people were very dutifully, would obey any of the rules and that's, that's the Japanese way. The government says do this and they all do that, but in some instances, like myself and some of the other people, we would look for avenues to get out and do other things or not, or not follow through what other people are doing for, for one or another means to stay out of camp. And, and so what happened is, is that so we end up at Santa Anita and in the stables, smelly. The people that would've been, we would've, if we had changed the address originally to east of Arlington Street, Arlington Avenue, we would've been in the regular tarpaper barracks, which was a choice place to be.

TI: So in some cases working the system can, can work against you, too, if you... [laughs]

MT: Yeah. In that sense, yes.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

[Ed. Note: Due to technical difficulties, a portion of the interview is missing.]

MT: My brother was younger, my younger brother, would stay around the house more, I mean, around the room more, and so he was there. My sister would hang with her most of the time. She had friends, she was in a club and stuff like that, but most of the time she would hang around there. So in that sense, she was not as, wouldn't wander. 'Cause I was always known from when I was younger to break the rules first and get people used to that. And then my sister and brother broke the rule and it wasn't so bad anymore. [Laughs] You know, like curfew, night curfews and stuff like that. But she generally didn't do too much as far as I know. She stayed around home and she would scold me when I did something wrong. She had a lot of worries, lots of worries.

TI: And talk about those worries. Was it around your father and just trying to figure out where he was...

MT: Didn't know where he was, and what's going to happen to us. What was going to happen to us? Those were the kind of things that she was concerned about. Were we going to be pawns in the war? She thought about those kind of things and she was worried about those. And also the breakdown of the family, she was worried about that.

TI: And so did you see a shift in her, I mean, a definite change because of the experience?

MT: No, she was pretty good about that. She was pretty astute, and she would watch that she doesn't get my angry, there would be a clash. She would reprimand me when I don't do something, wrong, and I know I'm doing wrong. But in case of certain things, she'd be careful. And it was later, I'm thinking, I said, "Gee, whiz, she outsmarted me." [Laughs]

TI: So she'd know what your hot buttons were, so she'd kind of avoid them, but get you to do certain things.

MT: And she would use psychology.

TI: Interesting. Any other memories, stories about Santa Anita before we move on?

MT: Yeah, I was at the riots, I saw the riots. That was instituted, as far as I can see, by the civilian guards. They were having trouble. First of all, the whole thing was ill-planned, the whole assembly center was ill-planned. And they didn't have any baby food, they didn't have any dietary food for people who had... 'cause we were all eating the same thing. Babies can't eat... if you were an infant and having breast milk, you wouldn't have any problems. But now you're trying to eat food, then the mother would have to do kami kami, they have to masticate the food and then give it to the child, and a lot of them didn't want to do that, they wanted baby food and stuff. So they would ask the friends to bring in the baby food, they had to pay money, bring in the food. Or pretty soon, everybody started getting hotplates to cook, 'cause some of the food wasn't good, they want to have that. And so people on the outside, whether it be Japanese, or that haven't gone to camp yet, or their American friends, to have them bring things. We had a hotplate brought in. There was a Filipino guy that were our friend, Mr. Milo, and I give him a lot of credit. Of all things, Filipinos were really angry at Japan for attacking the Philippines and the atrocities committed and stuff, so they were really angry, and they would beat up Japanese if they caught 'em. Yet this man remained our friend. He would come to Santa Anita, to the Shintanis and us, and visit.

Oh, that's another interesting part of, deviation. What happened is the Shintanis were there in Central California, Zone 2, when they were told they had to go to camp, Poston, I believe. They had to go to Poston. They said, "We don't want to go to Poston," they want to join us. So they said, "Well, we're relatives and I want to go into Santa Anita," and he got permission to come into Santa Anita. Another way of skirting things. So they came into Santa Anita, but they got to go stay in the barracks, not in the stables. And he was a young Issei, so he knew a lot of the older Niseis. So he was involved with some things and so forth, and then it was time go to go relocation camp. We were told that because we came from Central Avenue, that our group is going to Rohwer. That's Arkansas. That's in the bayou, that's terrible. It's swamps and cottonmouths, a terrible place to go. 'Cause I knew where that was, and I said, "Oh, we don't want to go there." Well, Mr. Shintani came to our place, our room, and want to have a discussion, and I was part of that discussion. He said since he came in voluntarily, the people told him that he can pick any camp that he wanted to go to. And he said, "So I can pick a camp, then I can say, then you can say that you're my relative and we can go to the same camp. We can make arrangements from there," again, breaking, not going accordingly. Oh, great, where do you think we should go? We don't want to go to swamps, of course, and we don't want to go out to any of the Arizona camps, Poston or Gila, 'cause that's desert. That's a terrible place to be. Don't want to go to Heart Mountain, 'cause it's cold up there, it's terrible. The best place to go -- and also Delta in Utah is also desert area, south of the Salt Lake area. But the best place is Colorado. And I'd envisioned this Colorado, Rocky Mountains, big trees, trout streams, beautiful place to go. And it's not as hot, it's not as cold, it's a place to go, and it's not swampy. So we chose it. So they volunteered to go to Amache, and we followed along, said we were relatives and got in. Get to Amache, sagebrush, rattlesnakes, hot in the summer. 110 in the summer, and winter is usually 10 below. The first winter was 22 below. But Heart Mountain was 34 or 35 or so.

TI: Well, what's interesting to me is how you were so kind of analytical about it. I mean, here you had these choices, so looking at Arkansas versus Wyoming versus the desert, Arizona. Yeah, I guess just based on, in some cases, just your geographic knowledge of these different places.

MT: So-called, 'cause I didn't know we were going to go into... and the western edge of the Dust Bowl. Amache was the western edge of the Dust Bowl. And also it was area where a lot of the farmers had gone broke.

TI: Was Manzanar or Tule Lake a possibility also?

MT: Oh, yeah, you could go to Manzanar. But I knew what Manzanar looked like. Amache sounded to me, at that point, much better. Colorado, I think of those Rocky Mountains. I don't think about it as the western plains, I mean, eastern plains.

TI: And about how many people from Santa Anita went to Amache?

MT: About three thousand, little over three thousand. We were about, I think about forty-four percent, forty-five percent of the camp, fifty-five percent was from Merced Assembly Center. There was an interesting thing about that. I used to think, why did they take -- these were people from, most of the people from the Seinan, L.A. city, gardeners, produce workers, they were placed in Santa Anita. Then they had these farm people that were placed first before we were there, just weeks before they went into Amache. In fact, some, the first group had to go finish the barracks. They weren't even finished. We were the last camp to be built and we were the one different camp. We didn't have tarpaper walls. The walls, what they did was they put a foundation, regular foundation on, poured it, and on top of it put the framing, but no floors. What they did was to put brick, new bricks end to end without mortar on the, 'cause it was sandy soil, all on there end to end, filled it up and that was your floor. Then you had your wall and you had your roof. They had tarpaper on the... but the walls were made by two feet by four feet composition, course composition tongue in groove walls. First it was, they put a coating of tar on it, then they sprinkled light gravel, a beige gravel on the outside, in tongue in groove.

TI: So the construction was much, much better than the other...

MT: But you could kick it and it'd put a hole in it. It was about three quarter inch thick.

TI: But still, compared to some of the other just tarpaper with no insulation...

MT: But the problem was they had floors. We didn't have floors. The reason I say that is because this, the foundation isn't perfectly even, the wood isn't even, so there's a gap there, so when the wind blows -- we're on the western edge of the dustbowl -- when the wind, and we had wind blowing every night, not much, but when, and the air, the wind and the sand would sometimes come right through that. So we would, we stuffed all that area to keep it from coming in.

TI: It's still interesting to me that Amache was so different. I just, I kept thinking, my thought was that for the camps they just followed the basic blueprint. I mean, this is how, and they gave it to contractors and they just built it, and so this is, this is different.

MT: Our floor plan was exactly like Heart Mountain, just the same. We had an entryway, and go in the entryway then you went to two rooms. And we were a hundred twenty by twenty size and we had, there were sixteen foot wide then twenty-four, twenty, and sixteen, I think it was. That would come out to... no, no. Yeah, yeah, that's right. That's right, sixteen, sixteen, twenty and, and it was up to three people, then it was up to seven people, then up to five people. That's how it...

TI: But the floor plans were the same, but the materials used were different.

MT: Different, 'cause there were regular tarpaper barracks with wooden floors. Now also, we had drywalls between the rooms and our ceiling, we had a ceiling, so we were much nicer in that sense. Now, and they also then gave us Celotex. You know what Celotex is? That's a fibrous material, four by eight sheet, feet sheets that, much, it's much finer than the one they used, and it's just plain, so they gave it to us, so we would just cut it and fit it onto the walls where there so that we have that. And we had sliding windows.

TI: So why was Amache so different in terms of the --

MT: We were the last camp to be built. We're the last camp to build, the smallest camp, too. And so, and we, so it was different and yet it was nicer and wasn't as sturdy. Worried about that, 'cause when the, we had a wind storm one time, it popped open some of the walls, fell down. If you had a, if you had regular construction like camp with all the wood on it, it would not have happened.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

TI: Before we, we continue talking about Amache, I just want to, to follow up because you had started a story about the riots in Santa Anita, so why don't you finish up that and we'll get back to that.

MT: Well, what happened is that the guards then, then the edict came down because now what happened is every has hot plates and so forth and cooking there that it was shorting the lines, the fuse box, and so people were buying, first they were requisitioning and they were using so much of it that they had a hard time getting it, so and each room had a bulb and wouldn't have any bulb, or if you had a hot plate you can't operate. So they would now, you didn't know this, but they were shorted out by putting a penny in there and then putting the screw back, the fuse back in. And that was dangerous because you could burn down. So the edict came down saying they're gonna confiscate all the hot plates and they're gonna confiscate the food, and then decided they will also confiscate any knives over x number of inches, four inches, whatever it was, and any scissors over that. Well, normal sewing scissors are over that, so now they're gonna take all the sewing scissors away and everything else away and they're gonna take all the food away. And people were pretty upset about it. Well, initially they would search with people in there, then some of the guards took advantage of the situation and would kick people out of the room. They would search for money. They're slashing mattresses, going through, dumping all the, all the drawers or suitcase, whatever they have, looking for money. And the rumor that I heard, which I don't know if it's true, it probably was just a rumor, that couple of these guards -- they were, they were, these guards there, they had a Japanese interpreter with them, but they were, they were whites -- they asked for a couple of the young girls to come to the room with them and immediately sent signs up saying this is not good and that's when people resisted and pretty soon that's how, they claim that's how the riots -- I don't know if that's true. I know that when the riots started they went after one guy, claimed to be he was Korean or part Korean, Korean, that was a inu or a spy, was spying on us, and so they went after him. And I knew that he was badly hurt because I saw the remnants where the blood was on the ground, claimed that somebody threw a typewriter on his head. But I saw them chasing one of the guards right through the mess hall, one of the mess halls, and as he was running through the thing the guys were running back and they had set the tables for the, for the lunch and they were picking up the plates, saucers and cups and throwing at the guy as they ran after him. They would grab, [motions throwing]. That I saw.

And then one of the things I saw was by the grandstand -- I was wandering around -- I must say that it gave me a life lesson when I saw what I did. What happened is that through the, that area in Santa Anita was a drainage ditch, open drainage ditch, rocks lined up along the thing, and I saw, and as the riot was going on one of the administration, one of the Americans, administration, the white administrative, stood on a, on a milk cart, on one of those and starts saying, "Stop, stop, stop. This is not gonna be good for you. You got to stop. Don't do this." He's trying to, and I'm thinking, wow, what a brave guy. Here it's rioting and he's up there trying to calm everybody down. And one, one of the young teenage Nisei said, "What do you care? We're all Japs." "No, no. You're not Japs. You're American." And I'm thinking, wait a minute. What are we doing here? We're American, kind of a thing. But I'm saying what a brave guy, and I thought, gee, that's really, really, I admire the guy for being so brave like that, trying to quell the riot down and so it won't be a consequence. You don't know what happened to us. Then I saw a, either he was a Kibei guy or a... probably a Kibei guy, he, 'cause the way his appearance, a younger guy, he ran down, probably in his, about thirty, he ran down the gulley, came up with a rock about this big, brought it to a Nisei guy, teenager, probably seventeen, eighteen years old, told him in Japanese, "Throw it." And I thought, and that was a life lesson for me. If he, that kid threw it, it hurt someone and he got arrested or something happened to him, paid the penalty for it, this guy who instigated, nothing happened to him. Right? They probably don't even know each other. And it happened in corporations after that. So often were we in a meeting and doing something and somebody said, "Tell him this," do that, say something, so my reaction, because of that, said, "You do it yourself." Life lesson I learned. Great lesson. So...

TI: Go ahead.

MT: So then I saw, when I was in, a little proof of stealing or something going on wrong is the, the MPs were alerted. It was a funny incident about it because they blew assembly right away, so the guys ran out, the soldiers ran out, the MPs, 'cause they were separate from the civilian guards, they ran out and they were in their shorts and shirts. They said, "Get your clothes on. Go back." They put their clothes on, they get back out. "Where's your weapon?" They run back, get their weapon. I didn't see this, but a friend of mine saw it who, he was at the fence. He saw that, he said that's what happened. And anyway, I saw them coming in the main gate, coming through that. They had the tanks, weapons carriers, different people like that. In front of this whole thing was a soldier with a BAR, Browning Automatic Rifle. Big gun. Everybody starts snickering and laughing. His fly was wide open. [Laughs] He couldn't figure this out 'cause, well, here he's coming out all menacing and people are laughing. He couldn't figure it out. So it kind of broke up everything seeing something like that. And, and nobody challenged the police, I mean, the MPs. I was in the grandstand area after that. I was over there when I heard some commotion. An MP was yelling at this guy to come out of the bathroom and this guy came out and he told him to move. He wouldn't move. He took his bayonet -- it was, it was a, had a bayonet on his rifle -- put it on the guy's buttock and slashed his pants, so he'll move. Then the guy moved fast. And my suspicion was the guy was trying to flush money down the drain, down the toilet. I don't know if it's true or not, but we had already heard rumors about people stealing, the guards were stealing.

TI: So I'm sorry, the person in, flushing, you suspected maybe --

MT: Was a civilian guard.

TI: Was a civilian guard. I see.

MT: And he, and the MP was trying to get him out of there. He was telling him, yelling at him to get out of there.

TI: And so what was the aftermath? After all this happened, how did things change?

MT: There was basically a lockdown, initially kind of a thing, you couldn't do a lot of things. And then things kind of quieted down right away. They were fairly, the people were fairly, or not the people they thought were spying on them and reporting things. They did not, aside from the civilian guards, they did not challenge the MPs at all. Nobody challenged the MPs. The quarrel was with the administration, not with the MPs.

TI: And in particular the civilian sort of police.

MT: Yeah, civilian guards who took advantage of the situation. The problem was that, you know, what were the people gonna do if they had a dietary problem and they couldn't prepare the food for them? And then the, as I understand it, they started making, changing situation so that you had food for the children and you had food for the... things did change because of the riot.

TI: Any other memories, Santa Anita?

MT: Pardon?

TI: Any other memories of Santa Anita you want to talk about?

MT: Well, I know that some, couple of guys sneaked out of the drainage drain and went to see a movie. [Laughs] They got caught. Couple of teenagers, about sixteen, seventeen years old, they snuck out.

TI: How about you? Did you do anything like that or mischievous or anything?

MT: No, no, no. I wouldn't do something like that, 'cause I, consequences were too severe for me. I would think I wouldn't want to try this. I was not that adventuresome anymore. I would do things verbally or challenge people, but I would not, I would not break the law per se, on purpose.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

TI: So let's, let's kind of move to Amache now. That, you told that great story of actually looking at the various options and thinking that Amache would, would be the one that you'd want to go to. So you go to Amache, what are your impressions?

MT: The train ride was interesting. One thing is, I don't know if people remember this kind of thing, but when we came out of L.A. we were on the Union, we were on the Union Pacific. The food was great. We got served regular food. It was really good. Oh boy, this is really good. Even the cooked carrots were good. [Laughs] They were good. And we rode to, instead of going the south we took the northern route. We went up to Salt Lake City and Salt Lake City, on the way, every time we came to town we had to close shades. We always had to close shades; they didn't want anyone to see us. And when we got to Salt Lake City, we get there, surprise, surprise, the Japanese people looking for their friends. People in Salt Lake City knew that we were coming there. I don't know how. They were looking for their friends. And, and then we got on the Denver Rio Grande, or Rio Grande they called it, and we went from Salt Lake and went through the Royal Gorge and, because I like, I said, oh boy, I get to see the bridge over the Royal Gorge. That was to me a thrill, because I want to see that, because I had read about it. I saw the bridge over the Royal Gorge and, oh boy. It's way up there. Because we're by the riverbed and there, up there... and we went there and we went to Pueblo, and then we changed to, and the food wasn't as good as it was. It just wasn't as good as it was in Union Pacific. Then we got on the, then -- and see, each time the tender changed, the engine changed. We were on different, our car was the same. Our car was very old. It had gas lamps on it. These, because the regular trains were all being used for military purposes and stuff, they didn't have anything, so only thing they could find were these cars that were basically in moth balls. They brought 'em out. And so rigid back, no, no cushion, just rigid back seats, you couldn't tilt 'em or anything. And if you tilt it you would bother the other person anyway, if you had it, and so we had to, we basically slept sitting up. And so then the next train went to, went to... and so that was the same car. We never changed cars. They always had MPs at the entrances so that you couldn't get off. One time I snuck off and they yelled at me to get off, so, but other than that, I made some friends on there, people I didn't know and still friends today. but then we got off at Pueblo, which is Santa Fe. The food even got worse in Santa Fe, and that took us into Granada, the town. It's written Granada, but they pronounce it Granada because that's what it was pronounced when the town was further east, and they moved the railhead over there, so that's, that was the head of the cattle trail from Texas. So anyway, that's where we got off and got on trucks and we went to, to Amache.

TI: Now, back then what did you and the others call the camp? Was it Granada or Amache?

MT: Well, we went to there and it was, we called it Granada Relocation Camp because if you come from California we pronounce it Spanish-wise. The people call it Granada, but we called it Granada. But what happened is that, soon as that, soon as we moved there and the paper came out, Granada Pioneer. That was our paper. But soon afterwards they had a problem, because if we were Granada and it was Granada outside, you had two post office with the same name. So they decided to change the name, so they changed the post office name to Amache, which was the wife of the person, big landowner, and she was a daughter of a Cheyenne chief. So, and she became well-known in the place, so we became Amache and so everybody called Amache. One, there were two reasons, one is because of differentiation, other was the people in Granada didn't like us initially. They really didn't like us and have anything to do with us. I found out some of the German-born, German descent people wanted, were afraid that they might be treated the same way as we were, so they kind of shied away from doing anything with us or being kind to us. I didn't know this and way after the war when the kids around there told me about it. So anyway, we, so that's why, and then after that we called ourselves Amache. People called... and the, and the sad thing about it is we're the only ones that's call only by the legal name. Right? Poston is really Colorado River.

TI: Right.

MT: Gila is Gila River. It's not Gila; it's Gila River.

TI: Even Manzanar is Owens, Owens Valley, I think.

MT: Something or other. And then the one in Utah is, what was the name of that?

TI: Topaz.

MT: Topaz, it's called Delta or something. No, Central Utah something or other. Okay. And we, and they, and their post office became Manzanar, whatever have you, Poston. Everybody calls it that, but for some reason everybody avoids calling us Amache. So you look at anything and we're, I'm very vocal about it, I get after the Colorado people all the time 'cause they want to call us, then if they call us they want to call us Camp Amache. I said absolutely not, 'cause one of the things we always fought with the Colorado politicians, they always wanted it, said we're being coddled in the stucco -- because it was beige colored -- in the stucco palaces. And they also said, one guy said that we have three swimming pools there. We were the only camp on a hillside, so from the highway you could see our camp. Well, the three pools they were talking about were the sewage settling ponds. I know one guy fell in there because he was trying to ice skate on it, but other than that nobody, we avoided -- in fact, the block that was closest to the thing, we used to kid 'em because it smelled so much when the wind blew the wrong way. But we still, people were still calling us Camp Amache and I'm forever telling 'em and slowly they're trying to get in because I, the last time I wrote to 'em I just wrote, I just blasted 'em.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

TI: Well, the other issue with Amache is it was on a reservation, Indian reservation.

MT: No, we were not. We were the only camp they, that the government purchased the land.

TI: Oh, so it, so it...

MT: And that created a problem, that in itself, because the people, because they paid whatever they, the least amount they could pay, and some of the people were in bankruptcy. You know, times were hard. Depression, they never recovered from it, so there were people, on that school district sold an acre of land for five thousand dollars. Some people only received fifty cents an acre. So whatever they can get they did that, so these people now are mad at us, not at the government. They lost their property and they only got fifty cents on it. Now, that's the worst case situation. Others got paid more, five dollars, ten dollars, five hundred dollars, thousand dollars. It varied.

TI: So what was the, the thinking of the government?

MT: Oh, by the way, that is for not only the camp itself but the farmlands. We had a huge farmland. We had a cattle ranch and we also had a poultry farm as well as produce.

TI: And so what was the thinking of the government to purchase the land? I mean, that, you were saying it's unique.

MT: As I understand it, first of all, Governor Carr, Governor Carr of Colorado was the only governor to welcome the Japanese, even before the camps were there, and when the camps were there he also welcomed us. And in fact, his next election he lost, for senate, he lost because of that. There's a book, Reluctant Politicians. Then what happened is that some places like Durango on the other side also wanted us 'cause they wanted us to farm. What they wanted us to do is farm. One of the things that the government wanted us was to farm areas to, for producing produce, not only for the camp, for otherwise. We were what's called a surplus camp. We produced more than we can take, 'cause there was a, there was a budget of fifty cents a day of food, so if we produced more than the fifty, put everything together, if it was more than fifty, we had more than that, then we had to give it to somebody else, either to other camps, for that particular product, or to the army, army base. So we were, we had storage sheds, underground storage shed, we put products that go in the, like watermelon, melons and stuff.

TI: Well, when you first got there how developed was the land? Was it pretty undeveloped and, and that was part of the reason --

MT: No. It was already developed. It already had irrigation and had everything else, but it was, but they had limited, limited produce that they, they didn't have much truck farming, hardly at all, if any, there and the Japanese came there. Now, that's, that's another thing I really wondered about, because we had so many people from the city and the farm that we had a culture clash. When we went there, some of the farm people were really rural people. The guys were in bib overalls, the teenagers were in bib overalls, red bandana on the neck and this, and a straw hat. And clod hoppers. You know, for us, what is this? Some of our guys were wearing zoot suits. Tremendous cultural divide, and so the city folks, of course, made fun of the farm folks for that. And the city folks all had gangs. Country folks are from little towns all over, so they don't have gangs. And so, so there was this clash and I actually wondered, why did they do that? Why did do that? Why didn't they keep the city folks together so that they didn't go -- 'cause there were plenty of city folks around, L.A. people. So when they do that, then, and they had this cultural... then it finally hit me. We were just a fill. They wanted the farmers to farm all that land, 'cause those central California farmers were superb farmers. They raised things that'd never been raised around there. The farmers, they were just amazed the stuff that we were raising, and they were good farmers, the really, really excellent farmers. One farmer came from Tule Lake and he said, "I'm a --" it was in our block -- he said, "I'm gonna take that four acres and produce celery." And these, and the other Japanese farmers said, "You can't raise celery here." Says, "I can do it." Beautiful Utah type celery. Beautiful celery he raised. So we had superb farmers on the place and they raised good stuff. And we had, we had enough to serve ourselves and then sell to, send to other camps, so the... we, we lowered the cost of our living there from fifty cents to thirty-three cents, I believe. That's what the final tally was. We had chicken farm, raised eggs and the chicken. We had a cattle ranch where they slaughtered the cattle, although twice we had horse meat brought in. We ate horse meat.

TI: Earlier you mentioned Governor Carr. Were you and others aware of his stance during that time?

MT: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, we knew about Carr. In fact, one of the first domestic help, I guess you would call her, 'cause they sent her to school, too, came from Amache. His domestic help when he became governor was from Amache, and he sent her to school.

TI: Oh, so when, when he became... I'm sorry, say, so he became governor, his domestic help was Japanese?

MT: Once Amache got settled, he asked for a person to become a domestic helper for him. He was single and so he had for a domestic help, and this girl from our camp went there to be his, basically maid, I guess, but he also sent her to school.

TI: So this was a Nisei that he --

MT: Nisei. So we, so we were aware of what he did and we, we admired him, even back when -- we didn't know all the things he did, but little snippets and pieces of what you read in the paper, you would have that.

TI: Interesting.

MT: People calling him names.

TI: You mean like in Granada or the town, like that?

MT: Yeah, or in the paper. The Denver Post used to come to us and Rocky Mountain News would come to us, and Rocky Mountain News was, were more kinder to us than Denver Post. They were, they were, Denver Post was very bad.

TI: Interesting, 'cause I, it's interesting. I mean, when the book came out I learned a lot more about Governor Carr, but I didn't realize his stance until then.

MT: Certainly I learned more about Governor Carr after the book came out. Before that I just knew little snippets here and there.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

TI: So in Amache, I wanted to ask you about the schools. What were the schools like?

MT: Initially we were, our school was in a, took a block, 8-H, and we had high school and elementary, junior high school and elementary school all in one place, and the mess hall was our auditorium. And we went to school there and teachers came, most of the teachers, most of the teachers were white, came in to teach in our camp. Some were Niseis that were teaching, a few were Isseis, like we had Dr. Torami who taught at Stanford or somewhere, and he was in our camp and he taught math classes, he was Issei. And then we had, as far as I could see at that time, all, they were pretty nice teachers, pretty good, pretty nice to us. They were really, in fact, there was one high school teacher that, they were living outside of camp in a town seventeen miles called Lamar, which was a county seat. They were housed in a hotel there and they would take a bus, come in, and then at night they would go. And one, one teacher said, "I can't even talk to my students after class 'cause I got to catch the bus." And they found out they were building BOQs for, for male, bachelor office, bachelor quarters over there, and so she, she and another teacher demanded that they have, reserve some for the women teachers so they could stay in camp and, and be able to, be able to continue talking to the kids or have clubs or something like that. So they finally built them for the teachers, and they were, these were not tarpaper barracks. They had wooden sidings and they were, I think there were three rooms and, and two teachers in each room. I don't, I never been in one, so I don't know. Well, I did go to knock on the door once, but other than that I never went inside, so I don't know what, what it looked like. But then this Mrs., she was really a beloved teacher. Everybody loved her to the day she died. I would visit her just before she died, too. Great teacher. And most of the teachers, a lot of the teachers were like that. In fact, the teachers, when I was talking to her, she said that everybody she, all the teachers she knew and corresponded with said that that was the best years of their life, best teaching years of her life. She said kids came there, they sat down, they were ready to study from the very beginning, there were no discipline problems, and they learned. And they wanted to learn, learned to their ability.

TI: Was it also a sense, you know, these people came from different parts of the country or whatever to, to teach there. I mean, was, I'm trying to get a sense...

MT: Mostly from Colorado.

TI: Okay, mostly from Colorado, but I'm just trying to get a sense of was it just the teaching experience or was it the fact that --

MT: Teaching experience.

TI: How about the, just teaching Japanese Americans? Did that --

MT: No. It was the behavior and how they can teach, that they had no discipline problems. They just could teach. That's the important thing. Kids would learn. And for them as teachers, that's the ideal situation, to not have to worry about other things other than that. The problem she found is she, that after class she would have them come and discuss about themselves. She, she was a, she was a senior, senior living teacher and stuff, so she would want to talk to them about their ambitions and what they wanted to do and stuff, but only boys would show up. No girls would show up. She couldn't figure out why. And she had good interplay with the guys and they loved her, 'cause she was, she was really giving and she would understand what their problems were and advise them and so forth. She was senior advisor is what she was. And then what happened is then she found out what the girls, the girls had to go home, back to the barrack, their room, and they had to do wash, take care of their younger siblings, they had to clean house, they had all kinds of chores they had to do when they, as soon as school was over, so they couldn't stay at school. So now she then pleaded with the parents, let them stay at school for another hour or whatever it was. And that's how the girls started staying after school.

TI: In general, what was, from your perspective as a student, what was the quality like in terms of the education?

MT: It was varied. Some teachers were very good, and some Nisei teachers were very good, and some were not. They just had a job. One, we knew that he was alcoholic, and he would go on a binge on the weekend and so Monday he couldn't show up. Others were, were forced to teach courses that they didn't know anything about. And I was, I was one of the bad guys 'cause I found out that what he was pronouncing was mispronounced. He would say coal-ee-entrates, should be pronounced coelenterates. I found out in the summer, all semester he would say, he was saying coal-ee-entrates. He's teaching science and I said, and then, I don't know why, but I looked up in the glossary to make sure it was pronounced properly and it's coelenterates. It's C-O-E, but it pronounced coelenterates. So I baited him, poor guy, so he said coal-ee-entrates, bang. I said, "Mr. Jackson, I believe you should pronounce that coelenterates, not coal-ee-entrates." He said, "No, that's right." I said, "Please look in the glossary. You'll find that to be true." And I should've been nice to him, but I baited him, and so what happened is that he looked it up and he never pronounced it coal-ee-entrates again. [Laughs] But then I found out later that he was a music teacher. He was not a science teacher, but they didn't have a science teacher so they forced him to teach science. So I was really unfair to him. I was really unfair to him. I should've been helping him instead of baiting him like that. So he went with the textbook. We read the textbook. Not a problem, not a problem. So you, you had that variation. Others were superb teachers.

One teacher, Mrs. Hopcraft, a home teacher, she was deaf. She had a hearing aid. And she was a writer of children's, she had been teaching, and she was writer of children's books and found out that we had been sent to camp, said, "I have to go help them." So she came into camp to teach. Except she's hard of hearing and because of that, one guy -- he claims he didn't do it. I saw him do it. He went up to her and said... [moves mouth without speaking]. She's trying to turn her hearing aid up. Of course he was playing that game, so tormenting her a little bit. Then I also gave her a hard time once because we were in home room and she wasn't there, and we're all sitting in our chair and, but she wasn't there. Ten minutes goes by, fifteen, so pretty soon everybody gets up and starts chatting and stuff like that and suddenly she came in, so everybody sat down in class, and people behaved so they sat down. She said, "Children, I'm so happy. I'm so happy. This is the happiest day, I'm so happy." She kept saying, "I'm happy." So finally I said, "Mrs. Hopcraft, why are you saying you're happy?" "Oh," she said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I just found out you could" -- this was about January, December, January of, December of '44 or January of '45 -- says, "I just found out that you can now leave camp." We're stunned. So I said, "Mrs. Hopcraft, what's gonna happen to us? Are they just gonna kick us out of camp?" I said, "Where are we gonna stay? What's gonna happen to us? Can we eat? How we gonna live? Are they gonna throw us out of camp and we're gonna be here in Colorado? What's gonna happen to us?" And I said, "My folks are aged and they lost everything they had, so they don't have no place to go." And she said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I don't know. I don't know. I'm sorry." She, I crushed her. And she was thinking in terms of the, our liberty and the, our problem of being incarcerated and so forth, and I was thinking about survival, but I shouldn't have, I went after her pretty hard.

TI: But, but what your concerns were were true. I mean, it's just thinking about...

MT: Oh, I know I was, but she hadn't thought about that, 'cause she was thinkin' about the big picture. But I'm sorry I did that to her. I really regretted that. She died and I told that to her daughter, but she never answered -- I mean, wrote to her daughter, never answered me. She probably thought I was a terrible person, but, but anyway, so we had varying degrees of teachers. A lot of teachers really got along. Some were very young and so they kinda weren't much... you know, they were just out of college, twenty-one years old and stuff like that.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

TI: So I'm gonna switch gears a little bit here and, and --

MT: We were accredited, by the way. School was accredited. Oh, got to tell you another little story. This... when I was in the ninth grade and taking algebra, the teacher was Nisei, then he had to leave -- oh, then I got called into the principal's office one day, wondered, what did I do? Ninth grade was not part of high school now, no longer part of junior high school. We were moving into high school without graduation of junior high school, just moved in, and I complained to the principal about that. I said, "We were all planning on having graduation, graduating junior high school. What's gonna happen? We're not gonna have a graduation?" And he didn't like me saying those kind of things. He said, "No, you're in high school." And he wouldn't argue. I had other problems with him, but that's what he said. So anyway, one day he calls me in the office. Said, oh, I'm in trouble again, and goes in there. I said, "Mr. So-and-So --" I can't remember his name now, but names are bad for me. He has now gone out of camp. I think he went to college. I don't think he went to the army. I'm not sure. He had to leave, so, "And the teacher that's coming from Jerome to our camp is gonna be delayed, so she won't be here for a month, so I want you to teach your class." My own class. He didn't give me lesson plans. He gave me nothing. "Teach your class." I said, "Well, what am I supposed to do?" Said, "Well, teach your class." Okay. So I go to my class and I explain to them what happened and so I'm gonna have to teach. So the only thing I know is what the other teacher did before, so I would do the same thing. We would do things and I would read a day ahead and know what it is, then I would go to the chalk board and say what it is. Then I would give them homework. I would give them tests for one month. And the thing, people give me some credit for doing that, but it wasn't it. We were, we were college, we were, we were the academic course, so... but not one person gave me a hard time. Not one person complained. Not one person said anything untoward toward me.

TI: That's amazing.

MT: They all did it.

TI: Yeah, I don't, I don't get, why was that? I would, if, every class I've been in, if one of the students just took charge, we'd all kind of take liberties with that because... yeah, it's kind of a situation of...

MT: That's why I say I give 'em credit. And these kids, kids were very smart. One guy became a PhD in economics and taught at University of Rochester. He's emeritus professor. He's blind. Was one of the guys like that. Other guys were, became lawyers and others became doctors and, and dentists and stuff like that, so, and professional engineers, but nobody gave me a hard time. Not a single person, for one month 'til the new teacher came. It was amazing.

TI: Yeah, that's, that's interesting. That's a good story.

MT: Great experience for me. I have, to this day, I have total admiration for those people.

TI: But it also shows that, that you were the best student. I mean, for the teacher to say you should teach the class and the principal to go along with it, they had to have confidence that --

MT: No, I can't say that, 'cause one of the exercises they used to was arithmetic exercises. He would put four columns -- this other teacher, Japanese -- and I would do the same, put four columns down and then we had to go up and add. We had to add that up. I could take wo columns at a time. Pow. Bam. Take next two. The other friend of mine takes three columns at a time, boom, boom. And he was spastic. He got a Master's in economics. He couldn't get a job, of course, because he's spastic and he ended up working, running his father's grocery store in Fresno, but it's fast. Boom, boom, he's through before anybody else can, and other people just do one row at a time. And I thought I was fast with two at a time. Nothing. So I'm saying these guys, some of these guys were very smart, so it wasn't that I was the best student or the best for...

TI: Or you had the leadership or something they saw that --

MT: Probably, yeah, he saw something. I was always the one that gave him a hard time. When I got moved back half a year when I went to camp, 'cause I was a half year student and so they moved us back, so I put, I was in the B-8, was about to start eighth grade again. Wait a minute. I already finished half of the year. I should go to the ninth grade. So I went to complain to the principal and he says, he wouldn't pay attention. "You're in the right place. Stay there. You're in the right grade." So quite a few of us, a lot of the other people that were smarter than us, clever, they say they were in the eighth grade, so they moved to ninth grade, same grade as us, so they got a year ahead of us. But in camp, because in order to keep us out of trouble we would have, we would go, all go to summer school, keep us occupied, and what happened is that we would take academic courses. These, some of these kids that were once in my grade graduated a year ahead. So suddenly they're wo years ahead of me in school. One of my friends at twenty-one was a dentist.

TI: Interesting.

MT: So it's, it's crazy things like that happening and it wasn't, it wasn't... so I, then when the, my eighth grade was finished he calls in me the office again. Said, oh, I'm trouble. He says, "You can go to tenth grade." I said, "You mean skip ninth grade?" I said, "I can't skip ninth grade. That's all the academic, start of the academic courses for college. I can't do that." Besides, my sister was, would be the same grade there. I said, "I'm not gonna do that." I turned it down.

TI: Interesting.

MT: So I was having those kind of conflicts with him, so when he called me in the office to run the class, thought I was in trouble again.

TI: [Laughs] That's funny.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

TI: Okay, so I'm gonna switch gears because when you're at Amache, your father, your family's reunited with your father, and so I kind of want to pick up the thread in terms of, at this point the last time you saw him was December 7th, 8:30 at night when the FBI picked him up and, and then now you're reunited at Amache. But I wanted to just kind of quickly trace his path, because he, he was, he went to a lot of different camps. I just want to kind of document that.

MT: He was first taken to San Pedro City Jail. And then he was transferred over to Terminal Island Federal Penitentiary, in Terminal Island. From there he was taken to, to L.A. County Jail in Tajunga. It was a former CCC camp. All the fishermen were there and everybody was there for... they went to Terminal Island, then they went over there. My father was in that same group. From there he went to Missoula, Montana, and then went to Fort Lincoln in North, North Dakota. From there he went to...

TI: Was it Fort Sill?

MT: Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Then he went to Livingston, Louisiana, then finally to Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Narr. note: I also have a document that says my father was also detained at Lordsburg, New Mexico.) And, and so the reason we traced it is because the letters would come from those places. And being a A prisoner, he was kept a long time. When there were the, the Gripsholm, the ship exchange, we got a letter from him to my mother, of course, and saying that he has an opportunity to go on the exchange ship. "Do you want to go?" And my mother talked to us, and I said, "No. I know where the war is going and going to Japan is not the place to go." And I felt American, anyway. I didn't want to go to Japan. And my experience in Japan wasn't too good, anyway, in the first place, so I said no and then my brother and sister also said no after that. So my mother wrote to him and said the children don't want to go, so my father said, "If the children don't want to, I don't want to go." So he declined. And then we got another letter later on saying that they're adding another camp, which was Crystal City, where we can go as a family together, and so, "Do you want to go there?" So my mother talked to us and I said no. You, by then you could really tell where the war was going, and I said, "No, no we don't want to go there." And I had a suspicion that, it seems strange they would have a camp like that. And prisoner exchange, what it ended up being, what it was was a prisoner exchange camp. And I said no, and my mother was glad and she said no. So, so and then in early part, January, February of '44, it was after Mr. Meechum, our next door neighbor in San Pedro had, we had asked him to write some affidavits for him, saying he was a good man. Wrote the third affidavit, after he wrote the third, then is when he came out of Santa Fe and came to our house. And his hair had turned all white, but --

TI: And so prior to that it was just more graying, kinda?

MT: Well, he was gray already, but by then it's all white then. And I don't know if it's the stress on him or probably genetically he would have gray hair anyway, 'cause my mother, when she got married, found him gray hair, thought he was an old man, surprised he was grey already, started in the temples.

TI: So what other changes did you notice in your father?

MT: Well, he would not talk about camp except for his hobbies that he had, and he was surprised. He was not surprised how big I was 'cause my mother kept telling him how much I'd grown. 'Cause I was five foot by the time I went to camp. By the time I left Santa Anita I'm five, four and a half, four and a half months, I was five three and a half. And then in Amache I grew to five seven and a half, five eight, so by then I was about five seven, and so he was not surprised how big I was. Surprised my younger brother, how tall he had gotten, 'cause he had not heard, and he was, he was not tall, but he was one of those guys that -- I spurted; he slowly grew. Ended up being five six, but he, he was taller than he had expected. And of course he was very glad to get out of there and be with us, and he became boilerman for our block. One time heated up so he, he broke the boiler. [Laughs] He wanted to keep it hot for everybody. Overwhelmed, type of thing, but... and he started picking up hobbies and stuff in the camp. He was good for... he was artistic, even from before, so he would like to draw and things. He was not an expert, but he was, he was pretty good.

TI: Did you notice any changes in him, any, you mentioned he didn't really talk about the camps, but did you notice any changes?

MT: No. He was not bitter. He was accepting of his fate, surprisingly. Never would complain.

TI: So even about his businesses, I know he had worked so hard to build up the business and then it was all taken away.

MT: I think at that point also he had hopes of getting back into the business again and doing well. But, you know, he, I never heard him complain about losing his business or anything like that. He would talk about funny incidents that happened or something happened, but he'd never talk about that. He, he had that, I guess, that fatalistic view on it, what happens what happens and you just have to accept it. It's amazing. I would've been just the opposite. I'd be screaming to high heaven. He would not do those things.

TI: Yeah, it must've been hard, especially when you, he had to work so hard to build something up.

MT: Yeah. He was just at the crest of starting to feel as if he could, he would make it. When he was, he was getting his car overhauled, his engine overhauled on his old Plymouuth, '39 Plymouth in 1940, '40, '41, he had already, he would travel to the home office all the time, but he also would travel to every store, half the store one day, another store the other day, so that's when we used to go with him in the summer time. And he would do that, so he would travel a lot. And then he, also we used to go twice a day fishing to Lake Arrowhead from L.A., from San Pedro, so we'd take these trips. So life was getting a lot easier for him and, and he travelled a lot, and so I tried to persuade him, since he was overhauling the car, I said, "Don't, why don't you buy a --" They lent us a Chrysler. I'm sorry, the dealership lent us a Chrysler and it was great, right? Big car. So I was trying to, "Papa, Papa, you ought to buy this car. This is the car you ought to buy." And he'd just laugh at me. He'd smile and laugh. He wouldn't say anything about it. So we get our old car back.

TI: You mean, though, he could probably afford the Chrysler, he just stayed with...

MT: Yeah, it's a company car. It's a company car, so you know. And he would, he didn't want to be ostentatious. He didn't need to be, he felt. So he had no regrets. At least, he didn't show, outwardly show his regrets, and he would talk about funny things that happened, amusing things that happened while he was working and how things were happening and things that happened to somebody else or something like that. Just really never complained.

TI: Okay.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

TI: There's another incident that happened when you're at Amache. It was really a friend of yours and a memo that he saw when he's at Amache. Can you describe that?

MT: In 1945, summer, it was actually after the summer, after school was out, a friend of mine, Satoshi Hayashi, and we used to call him Heishi, we wanted to go down to certain areas in the administration building, but he had to drop by to another building to do some things, so I said, "I'll wait for you outside." So he went inside and suddenly he comes out with this document and he says, "Min, look at this." So I said, "What is it?" So I read it, and it was a white paper on how a document, in 1945, how the whole evacuation thing happened, why did they evacuate all the Japanese from the West Coast. And as I read that thing it was just tremendous, really, but incidents in there, clearly I remember those things happening, so it wasn't as if it's all made up. What it said, it was that when the war started, this group of, a farmers' association in Northern California knew that John L., then General John L. DeWitt was unstable and that the army had decided that this was his last post and they want to retire him. So they said, "Hey, this is an opportunity. We're gonna start sending him, giving him false rumors about the Japanese." So they, "and then get him to remove all Japanese from the West Coast so we can get hold of the farms." Japanese, I think they had about sixty percent of the truck farms of the United States, of the West Coast. "So now we can get a hold of those things and we can make the money." And then, and it talked about the first thing, when the war started General DeWitt said, "I have everything in hand, everything is calm. It's gonna be, everything is okay, and be calm." And then slowly it started getting worse and worse, worse. And they were quoting him on that. Finally to the point where -- I'm paraphrasing it -- "Once a Jap always a Jap, regardless of where you were born." And that's how it deteriorated. And, and he had, working with Colonel Bendetsen, started the evacuation plans and fought against it, and as opposed to Hawaii, they fought against evacuation, so, which was much more vulnerable than West Coast. And so these farmers would, and as the farmers did it, then the other businessmen started saying, "Hey, here's my chance, too." And they would jump on the bandwagon, and using the prejudice that the populace had toward Japanese to pressure on the politicians and have the politicians set up a motion to get us out of there, including the Attorney, Governor Olsen and the Attorney General...

TI: Warren? Was it Earl Warren?

MT: Earl Warren, yeah. He was one of the instigators, and the mayor of Los Angeles and all these politicians joined in and, and were pushing to get rid of us. Part of the problem, really, for the Issei farmers was they didn't know anything else. That was their livelihood. They didn't know anything else, so they kept planting the crops and they were nurturing, they were doing, continue on as if nothing had happened because that's the only thing they knew. So when they were evacuated the person took over the farm, harvest the crop, made all the money.

TI: So going back to this memo, I mean, do you recall, you said a white paper, like who wrote it or where...

MT: I don't remember that, the name of the person, the author of the thing, but I do remember that it was a copy, 'cause it was on onion skin with carbon on it, so you know that it was a copy of some original document. It was lying on this desk and my, my friend happened to see it and saw the headline on the thing, so he read it and then he snuck it out to me. And unfortunately we don't have copiers in those days and so we had to take it back or else they'll know that it was missing and then we'd be, really been in trouble.

TI: But was the sense, was it, like, an internal WRA document?

MT: Yeah. Yes, it was.

TI: Kind of an analysis of what happened and how it happened?

MT: Yes, how did this whole thing, how did it start, is what it was.

TI: Okay.

MT: And unfortunately, I have never been able to find it again. I've asked a lot of scholars at UCLA and other places that if they ever saw that document and they say they never have seen it. And I'm sure they destroyed it. They would have destroyed, they didn't want that around. Particularly if it got in the hands of someone like DeWitt or any, Bendetsen or any of those people. They wouldn't want those things around. Or any of the businesspeople or all of the farmers' association, 'cause the accusations are all there. And so, course, what I thought it was, although I didn't know about the unstableness of General DeWitt, everything came together for me and I became very, very angry. And interesting thing that happened to me was that I was so angry, and I was a, I was a senior patrol leader in our Boy Scout troop, and I decided that I'm not gonna study, I'm not gonna go to the Boy Scout thing, and I told my mother, I said, "What's the --" I told her about this document. I told her, "What's the use of studying? What's the use of getting good grades and going to college? They're not gonna give us any work. They're prejudiced against us. Now they're gonna, all they're gonna do, I'll be a clerk in a fruit stand or I'll become a, have to work in a farm or something, so why, why study? There's no use to it." And, and my mother said, "Oh, no, no, don't worry. Things will be, get better after the war. Things are not like that." She says, "Don't worry about it. Don't, don't do that. You should continue studying." And I'm mad; I don't want to study anymore. And then it was Boy Scout meeting, so I'd said, "Well, I'm not even going to the Boy Scout meeting." But I couldn't stay hanging around because my mother would find out I wasn't at the Boy Scout meeting, I didn't go. So I went to the block furthest away, 60, furthest away from my block, and we had some friends over there that were not in the Boy Scouts, met some friends over there. Suddenly, who comes to 60? My mother. I never knew how she found out I was there. I don't know how she found out, but she suddenly -- I didn't tell anybody. I didn't tell my brother, 'cause he went to the Boy Scout meeting. I don't think I told him. Anyway, she shows up and says, and she used psychology on me. She said, "Oh, Minoru, did you forget today's your Boy Scout meeting?" Instead of reprimanding me, she said that. And I said, oh no, she's really, really worried about me, isn't she? So I went to Boy Scout meeting.

TI: So through all that, she was always watching and just...

MT: She always felt that I was, I was a wayward son that she had to watch carefully. She always worried about me. When I became, had some successes and stuff she was just amazed. She was always worried about me. There was a time when I quit school, when I was not doing well and I quit school. I wasn't doing well because I wasn't studying. That's what... and I quit school and she was really, my sister told my brother in law that I was really, she was really, really worried about me.

TI: This was after the war, at UCLA you're talking about?

MT: At UCLA, yeah.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

TI: Okay, so Min, at the end of the last segment you had just talked about how disillusioned you were. This, this memo and how, how angry you were about these things, and how in some ways, even after the, after you left Amache, it impacted you in terms of your studying habits at UCLA and things like that, where you just didn't study as much as you normally would. And seemed like it was a tough time for you, right after the war.

MT: Well, coming, there were several things that happened, good and bad. You have tremendous persecution complex at that point because you know that everybody hates you. You just know that everybody hates you. Americans hate you. You're the bad guy. We were the scapegoats, and so... people don't feel that way about Italians, they didn't feel that way about the Germans. We were the bad guys. The Nazis, yes, but not the Germans. But Japs, yeah. We were Japs. So those were difficult times. I had a chip on my shoulder. Any time somebody looked at me kind strange I would think they don't like me, not that I looked different so they're lookin' at me. Had a real chip on my shoulder. When I first went to school, that was about the beginning of October 1945, I left at the end of September, so I missed about a month of school. I went in there and I was thinking, oh boy, I wonder what's gonna happen to me? Are they gonna, some of these guys gonna jump me and beat me up? I didn't know what's gonna happen. You just have the apprehension. But you go to school, you have to go to school, so you go to school. And I went, first class I was assigned to was a homeroom and I went to the, the room and the teacher was in session. He called me. He says, "Want you to meet a new student. This is Minoru Tonai." And suddenly this burly guy comes running up to me and grabs me, hugged me, said, "Oh, Minoru, I'm glad you're back," hugging me. I don't know who this guy is. I said, "Who are you?" He said, "I'm Bill Padveen." Oh. He had grown up so much. I knew him in junior high school. I went junior high school before I went to camp in Los Angeles, in Mount Vernon Junior High School, and I happened to be able to play, make baskets, so I was on the school, the class basketball team and we came in second place in our, in our grade. And what they used to tell me was, "Hey, look --" I was just medium height for that time, so they would say, "Stay under the basket. We'll get the ball to you." So I'd get the ball and make the basket. And so I was the star of the team 'cause I was making all the baskets. Well, the other guys were good, but they were bigger and they could get rebounds. I could, I wasn't as good as they were. I was okay, but I wasn't that good. So, but, so people would, would not give me a hard time. They were, they were really nice to me. And then this guy Bill Padveen was in our class and one day I was out there and some guys, and he was the kinda guy that was kinda loudmouth. And people were pickin' on, and one day there were these bigger guys were pickin' on him. He was a little, tiny guy and he was pickin' on him, so I stopped him. I said, "Leave Bill alone. He's okay. Just leave him alone. Don't, don't pick on him." And I saved him. I didn't think much of it. Well, he remembered that, so when I came out of camp now he was, played halfback on the football team, was second string at that point. No, he was a -- yeah, then next year he became first string, but he was at second string at the time, so he became big, burly guy. He wasn't tall, but he was burly, and so I didn't recognize. He had grown up. And, but he remembered, and so he, and it was a relief to me that he was so friendly to me and that he didn't harbor any ill feelings toward me. And, and then I was on the playground and this other guy comes up to me and says, "Oh, I'm glad you're out of the camps." He said, "You don't remember me because I joined your class after you had left," and he was, he was McGuire. And I said, "Oh." Nice guy. He was athlete. He was a good guy, very nice guy. He was a leader in the, in the class and stuff, and so that relieved me. Then I ran into another guy, another guy in my homeroom came up to me and he said, "My name is, is Vidmar and I'm so glad that you're out of the camp. It was such a wrong thing to do." Wow. He has a slight lisp, but he said that. He was an all-city free ex man, athlete, and he's saying that, so it was a big relief of that. There were some people that made some snide remarks. There's no question about it, but, or wouldn't have anything to do with me, but when you had these guys saying those kind of things to me, I was, I was really relieved on that. There were only six of us in our class and we used to eat together, in my class. Six Japanese males, we used to sit together. Maybe it was a little bit more. I'm sorry, there was more, because... little bit more. There were six in our graduating class, boys, boys and girls, but I think there might've been as much as eight, eight Japanese in my high school.

TI: And which high school was this?

MT: Dorsey High School. Susan B. Dorsey High School in the southwestern part of town. And I lived, and if you lived west of Arlington, again, you went to Dorsey. And a lot of the people that lived around there all wanted to go to the same school where most of the Japanese were, so they went to Poly High School and they would change addresses and stuff and go there. Other people were supposed to go to Manual. A lot more people were supposed to go to Manual. The reason why there weren't too many Japanese, Japanese in Dorsey was because of restricted covenants again. They still had restricted covenants after the war. It was slowly breaking down, Japanese were breaking down that, and in reality what happened, Japanese broke it down and then started moving west and the blacks followed behind them. Now it's, now the Hispanics are following behind the blacks. But anyway, that was, those were some relief points. In fact, some of these, these McGuire and Vidmar used to tell me they joined these boys' club, service clubs there, and I thought, oh, I'm, still have this persecution complex, said I don't want to be rejected, so I didn't join. And they kept after me, but I still wouldn't join. Then one day I got called into the office and I said, "What did I do again?" Boys' vice principal and I said, oh, he's the guy that gives discipline. He said, "Congratulations." I said, "What did I do?" Well, they didn't have enough people in this honor society, honor... it's a, not just an honor society. You had to have certain kind of grades, but you couldn't join this, this organization called Knights -- they had Knights and Ladies -- and they asked me to, he said, "They voted you in." They didn't have enough people, so they wanted more people, so they voted me in. I was shocked 'cause these were the guys who were trying to get me in. These were the leaders I thought, some of the people were the people I thought would reject me so I didn't join the organizations. And this was the honorary, the honor society, the, the top organization in the school, and that's when I realized, wow, I shouldn't have been so persecution, have such a persecution complex.

TI: Do you, do you think people were going out of their way to try to get you in to some of these things, or do you think that was just a natural process that you, you should've been in these things and, and it was just natural to go in there, or yeah, or some of these friends were --

MT: I think it was just more of a natural development. They liked me. I did well in school and you know. And I... and they thought I'd be an asset to the thing. I don't think they were thinking that, that this was a way of repaying us or anything like that. I don't think the people thought like that, yeah. I don't think so.

TI: Okay.

MT: Yeah, I could've joined the Lettermen Society 'cause I lettered in B football, but I didn't join that either, so it's, I think kids were just nice to me. They were just nice to me.

TI: So I guess what you found was that it wasn't as bad as you, you were thinking it would be?

MT: Far from it. At least among friends. You'd still get side remarks from other people, you'd get things happen to you and discouragement of doing things because they said, well, they won't have anything to do with you. Socially you didn't go out with them, 'cause they had their own sets of friends, and I felt awkward with white girls and stuff like that, and that's what, that's what most of these organizations had. None of the Japanese girls were ever involved with any of these organizations, none of them, the three in my class. So socially I wanted to be with the Japanese. I felt more comfortable in that situation, so that's what I, that's what I stayed with. And we had other social organizations that we created after the war. One was a church, a group that, called Saturday Nighters, where different high school Nisei boys around our age all gathered together at a church basement where this man wanted his daughter who was at a school that did church that didn't have any Japanese and wanted her, to associate with Japanese, so got permission from the church to use their basement rec room to have our meetings once a month. And so through the process, since she was from our camp, she got hold of, we got hold of people from our camp to come there and then we met some girls who had a high school, who were schoolgirls at a high school, one high school far away. We got them to come and they got, she got her high school friends to come. Her high school friends got other high school friends. And so we had this thing called Saturday Nighters 'cause we met Saturdays. And to this day we're still friends, and some of the people married. So it was a, it was a kind of a, we had a kind of a shield to keep from, away from the discrimination or any kind of... we knew each other, and then we were teenagers and having Japanese girls there was, was fun. We couldn't dance at that church, but we would go to other places to dance.

TI: So you had these ways of, of coping or, or coming back in.

MT: Yeah.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 32>

TI: I want to go to your parents a little bit, and wanted to talk about their readjustment. So your dad and mom, they had this thriving business and it was taken away. What happened to them?

MT: When they came back my father wanted to go back into the same business that he had before. He tried to, he went back to the Fitzsimmons stores where he had the right of first with he and his partner, and they said, "We had a great relationship. We really liked you, but things have changed from the war. We now have self service. We're running it and so we cannot use you anymore. I'm sorry, we just can't use you anymore." So my father and partner said, "Well, we'll have to do something here." So my father thought about it, then he went to my mother and he said, "We, we have to start all over again and let's get, let's buy Pop and Mom grocery store and start as we had started at the very beginning." And my mother said okay, 'cause we had to have some kind of income to come in. We had lost everything. So my father said, "Okay, okay, get the money." And my mother said, "I don't have any money. Don't you?" He said, "No." They both thought that they somehow had salted something away someplace. I think Japanese call it hesokuri, they put it away, in the umbilical cord, hide it there. But they didn't have any, so they couldn't start. They had to have money. So now they had to do something, and my father, his partner had a farm through his, in his wife's name in, in Cutler, California, which is near Dinuba, California. And so he decided he's gonna, he has to farm. He tried different things, tried to start a, start again, but he couldn't either, so he'd, he'd lost almost everything too. Now, he went out to, to start a farm and then my father went to help him, and one summer we went out to help him and I realized that I was not a farmer. It's really hard work. [Laughs] And he --

TI: And at this point your, your, how old was your father about this point? He must've been --

MT: My father when he came out of camp was fifty-seven.

TI: Okay. And so he, so at fifty-seven he's starting, starting all over again.

MT: Fifty-eight. Fifty-eight, I'm sorry. He was born in 1887 and it was '45, so he was thirteen, he's fifty-eight years old.

TI: Fifty-eight, okay.

MT: So he, and he had some back problems, got hurt when he was lifting crates and stuff and so on, so there was some problems there, too, but he was a hard worker and he worked... he was a person who could pace himself. He knew what his capacity was, amazing. I'm never like that, never was and never will be at this age. He could pace himself so he could, he can work forever. He would take -- I remember once we were helping a next door neighbor dig a flat area in his backyard so he could put clothing, his clothesline up, and we were taking as big a shovel as we can, throw it in the barrel big as we can and so forth, and so was the, so was the man. He was a judo man, next door Issei man. And he was doing, we were all working, and my father would only take half a shovel. Well pretty soon we're tired; we have to rest. My father doesn't stop. He keeps doing. And then Mr. Nagano saw, he said, "See that? He's smarter than we are. He'll end up doing more work than we did 'cause he knows his own capacity." And that's how it was. Any time he did... he gauged what he had to do and he would, he would do that. So anyway, worked on the farm and did all kinds of things, but being deaf he couldn't get another job, he couldn't do anything else. And, and they were not farmers, so they really didn't make any money. So that summer I went to help, my brother and I went to help them, we, I told them at the end, I says, "Don't pay me. I got paid from working outside, helping pick crops, grapes and things like that, so that's good enough." Said, "One of these days when you make enough money, then you can take your..." I said, "But forget about it." 'Cause I knew he would have to, he didn't have any money, and so then, and so we worked all summer and, and also I determined the only thing I, fun I had was driving trucks or driving the tractor. I hated that stoop labor, and so, or hoeing or whatever have you, picking crops and bending over all the time. And so we, I came home and I couldn't do what I wanted to do, buy things I wanted to buy or anything like that, and I also couldn't go to school. So I had to go work, and friend of mine, high school then, his brother, his uncle had started a fruit stand in Grand Central Market in Los Angeles. It's a low cost market. It's a, it's a concession, bunch of concessionaires, lot of fruit stands, lot of, some grocery, some, a lot of meat markets, so forth. And they would buy the inexpensive stuff and sell it. If something was expensive they wouldn't sell it. So anyway, I started working there on Saturdays and then finally when the, the year ended I went to work on a full time basis until I was ready for school, saving up money. And I would give my mother one check and I would keep the other check.

TI: So for the family, was this probably one of the, the toughest times, I mean, in terms of, of financial...

MT: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. My mother then started to work. She didn't have enough English skills, she felt, to do work in offices or anything else. In fact, she would love to have worked in an office. She told me that later, if she could have spoke enough English. So she knew how to sew, so she became a seamstress, worked for a custom... couture, you know, somebody... and she went to work for them and did that and finally ended up at the end working for, getting a job working for Saks Fifth Avenue, in their, into alterations. She worked in there. And, and so anyway, my father got a, later on got a job with the next door neighbor of his partner's place. Mr. Nagano had, he was a guy that the world was good for him, financially. I mean, he could no longer get his, he was a wholesale, wholesaler of produce, Nagano Produce, and he was also a little bit of a gambler. He would, by gambler meaning he would invest in cheap stock, penny stock, and before the war he invested in movie studios. They were the cheap stocks. Well, his assets got frozen and during the war they did great. The people wanted to go to movies 'cause they couldn't do anything else. It was cheap and they had to make a lot of wartime movies for the military and stuff, so they made a lot of money. So his stock prices went way up, but he couldn't trade. He would've, normally he would've traded right away, but he couldn't trade until the war was over and he made a lot of money on that and decided to open up a ranch market, produce part, so he opened a ranch market and it was doing well, and to help my father decided to give him a job so he can get social security. So my father went to work for him, trimming vegetables in the back 'cause he's deaf. He couldn't do any of the other things, so he started trimming vegetables in back. The problem was he could not, they asked him also, 'cause he's a fill guy, to work the, the midnight shift, graveyard shift because the person on graveyard shift had to have night off, so he would take that night shift for him. I never knew how hard that was. I just accepted that he worked that night, one night. And he, he said it was hard at night. He said it was, he got sleepy, so he would trim vegetables, so he would trim vegetables next morning. So he would do that, trim lettuce and wash carrots and whatever have you. And later when I came out of the service I told my father at that time, I said, he's over sixty-five, so I don't want him to work anymore. He could get his social security 'cause Mr. Nagano made sure that he would get his social security. So I said, "I'll go work for you, take your place 'cause I know how to do that." My father said, "I'd rather work another ten years than not have you finish school." Now the onus is on me, so I had to study, get good grades, do well, everything else, so that's what I did. I studied hard, got good grades first semester. But I went to City College first instead of East L.A. --

TI: And before you go there, I just want, what do you, how does it make you feel, I mean, when you think about how hard your parents had it after the, the war?

MT: Well, the thing about is that that, what I'm talking about is that when I, when I started to go to school I decided "I'll take his place," every holiday I had, summers -- I was going summer school, but I would take other times -- Easters, any time I had some time off I would take his place, so he didn't have to work, and he was happy about that 'cause I knew how to do those things. And the, and the Naganos were happy 'cause they knew I could handle it and I could lift things more, I could do more things, I could, I could do, they didn't have to have someone to help him lift things and things like that, so they were happy with that. And that was my father's salary, so it was cheap for them. So it worked out well, except when I worked the four days and that one night, that's when I realized how hard that was. I was like a zombie at night, to be working all day four days and on the fifth day having to work at night. I was trimming vegetables and I'm still falling asleep, I'm doing things trying to keep awake. It really was hard. It was really, really hard and I fully, really, really appreciated what Father did. It was just something that I would never wish on anybody else, to break a day, like, break days like that. It's easy if you do it at the same time, but you, if you have to, or something else, but to break it between night and day, it's just so difficult. Really appreciated that.

<End Segment 32> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 33>

TI: And so, Min, for this interview, I'm, I'm gonna kinda bring it to an end because we've been going for almost, almost five hours now. And I guess where we're ending is kind of the, the, just after the war and some of the difficulties in terms of adjusting for your parents and for you, and I guess the last question I have is, in thinking about the experience you went through, in particular during World War II and, and the camp, Santa Anita, Amache, what thoughts do you have about that?

MT: You know, the thing about it, and because of the, the experience we had, not so much about the, the meeting all the friends and stuff, but having to go that experience has, has determined me that no one else should ever, ever experience that again, and so I'm very vocal about when something happens like this. The Palestinians, whatever have you, to put them into camp, I say you've got to have due process of law. You don't have due process of law you do not have freedom, so you got to have, so any time something happens I'm very vocal about it. I'm not afraid to speak up. And so I'm determined that it will not happen to anybody else again.

TI: How well do you think the Japanese American community in general speaks out about these issues?

MT: I think the various organizations do, but individually they do not. I don't think my friends, some of my friends speak out. They avoid any kind of thing like this. I think so. But if you pin 'em down then they would speak up. But some of 'em don't intellectualize this thing, so it's hard. They just say, "It's wrong." They don't go into any of the details, and so it's, it's avoidance. They don't want to think about it. It was a, it was very unpleasant. It's, parts were unpleasant. Having to leave home and have to be incarcerated and not be able to do it and the fear that they had, and then coming back and having to pick up from scratch again. Some people had it easy. Most people, ninety-nine percent of the people had it difficult. Some people had the farms when they came back. The Livingston people in Northern California, the lawyer saved the farms for 'em, so when they came back they just right back into the farming business and they didn't suffer at all compared to us. I mean, they suffered because during the -- well, in camp there were, people were sharecropping, so they were getting money. They were getting income, but they weren't making the kind of money they should've been making. But I think people had different, different take on it, and some people just don't want to talk about, don't even think about it. They just say it was just a bad time for them.

TI: Okay, good. So I want to thank you. I know this was a long interview. A lot of things we didn't cover. I mean, in terms of your military experience, your, your career and all these things, but I think we, for, for our project we hit the heart of what we wanted to cover in terms of the, the early prewar life and then especially the war years and then coming back and what that was like, so Min, thank you so much for the interview. This was excellent.

MT: You're welcome. I'm glad I'm able to do this. From my aspect is you're helping me to, to put down on paper my experience, 'cause I have bits and pieces written other places and so forth, but nothing like this continuous interview. It's a, it's a pleasure for me for be able to do that. As you know, I'm quite vocal, verbal. [Laughs]

TI: [Laughs] This is probably the best way to do it, rather than writing, just, just talking to you.

MT: But it, if you, if I use just a microphone to do that, it's hard.

TI: So it's almost like having someone to talk with helps.

MT: Yeah. And, and steering me back, 'cause I would take off in places all over the place, yeah.

TI: No, this was, this was fun. Thank you so much.

<End Segment 33> - Copyright © 2010 Densho. All Rights Reserved.