Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Takeshi Nakayama Interview
Narrator: Takeshi Nakayama
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 20, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-ntakeshi-01

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: -- September 20, 2011, we are at the Centenary United Methodist Church. We will be interviewing Takeshi Nakayama. Tani Ikeda is on the video and I will be interviewing, I'm Martha Nakagawa. So, Tak, what prefecture was your father from?

TN: Wakayama-ken.

MN: So did your father live on Terminal Island like a lot of the Wakayama-ken people?

TN: I don't know. I don't think so. But my grandfather did, and my father's older brother, I think they lived on Terminal Island while they were working on the fishing boats.

MN: So what happened to them while they were working on the fishing boat?

TN: They died. They got killed in a fishing boat accident of some kind, I don't know. Explosion or something, or maybe it just sank.

MN: So then what happened to your father?

TN: So he went to work as a schoolboy for some rich white Americans in L.A. in the Wilshire area. That's just like a houseboy and stuff like that while he went to junior high and high school.

MN: So your father got a high school education, so he was very bilingual.

TN: Yeah, I guess so. Went to junior high and high school in L.A.

MN: Which high school did he graduate from?

TN: Poly High School. It used be in downtown L.A. Polytechnic High School.

MN: So after your father graduated from Polytechnic, what did he do?

TN: I guess he was working for an import/export company called Saji. I'm not sure when he went there, though. I think he went back to Japan for a while. I don't know how many times, once or twice.

MN: He must have doing pretty well, though, if he could go back to Japan once or twice.

TN: I don't know. Enough to go back there, maybe.

MN: Did he get married?

TN: Yeah, he got married in Japan.

MN: So where was your mother born?

TN: She was born in Kyoto but grew up in Wakayama-ken, same village as my father, Wabuka, which is now a part of the city of Kushimoto.

MN: And so when your parents came back, what kind of visa did they come back on?

TN: I think it was a merchant's visa.

MN: So after your father returned on this merchant's visa, did he continue working at Saji?

TN: Yeah.

MN: And Saji, where was that located? Was it in Little Tokyo?

TN: It was just outside Little Tokyo, I think. I'm not sure how far Little Tokyo went in those days. But the store was on Los Angeles Street around Fourth.

MN: So when your mother came over, did she have to work also?

TN: No. They came over together.

MN: And I guess shortly after your mother started to have kids?

TN: Yeah. I was made in Japan and born in L.A.

MN: So where are you? How many children did your parents have all together?

TN: Seven.

MN: And where are you on the hierarchy of the siblings?

TN: Number one.

MN: So once your parents got married, I guess, on the boat here, that's where you were made?

TN: In Japan.

MN: In Japan, really? Okay.

TN: Yeah, that's what they say. "Made in Japan, quality goods." [Laughs]

MN: What year were you born?

TN: 1937.

MN: And where were you born?

TN: Los Angeles. A Japanese hospital in Boyle Heights.

MN: So were all your younger siblings born at the Japanese hospital in Boyle Heights?

TN: No, my three sisters were born in Arkansas, at the concentration camp at Rohwer.

MN: So when you were born, what part of Los Angeles were your family living in?

TN: Around the Pico-Union area. I'm not sure what street or anything... oh, Union Avenue.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

MN: So from Pico-Union district, where did your family move to?

TN: To Boyle Heights, around Seventh and Soto.

MN: And what is the first language that you learned?

TN: Nihongo, Japanese.

MN: So when you started preschool, did you have a problem with...

TN: How did you know I started preschool? [Laughs]

MN: Because you told me. [Laughs] Well, let me ask you, did your parents enroll you in preschool?

TN: Yeah. At Maryknoll at first, I don't know how old I was, about four, I guess. I spoke no English then, and I had never seen a nun. So when I started at Maryknoll, that scared the hell out of me, these ladies with their black gowns on. I didn't know what that was. And I spoke no English, felt kind of lost, I guess. Although I don't remember too much about it. But when my father came to pick me up, I guess I was crying and everything, so he thought I really didn't like the place. But actually, I think a lot of little kids, on the first day or first week of school when the parents come to pick them up, they're so glad to see them they're crying and all that.

MN: How long did you last at Maryknoll?

TN: I have no idea. Either a day or a week or something, or a few days. But then my parents sought out another school, it was a preschool at Evergreen Baptist School in Boyle Heights. I fit in better over there, I guess.

MN: So your parents are enrolling you in a Catholic school, Maryknoll, and then Evergreen Baptist. Were they Christian?

TN: No. No way, they're Buddhists.

MN: I guess they just wanted you to get --

TN: To learn English or something, I don't know.

MN: So when you went to Evergreen, were you able to make friends?

TN: I guess I did. One of my best friends was supposed to be this African American kid named... well, my father pronounced it "Henery," it might have been Henry, but I don't know.

MN: Do you have any other childhood memories from this time?

TN: None whatsoever, it's all blank.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: I'm going to get into the war years now. On December 7, 1941, which was a Sunday, what happened to your father?

TN: I guess the FBI questioned him. Might have been at, work at Saji, I'm not sure. But I don't remember all this, but from what my mother and all them said, he was kept, detained at work overnight and all day the next day or something along with a bunch of other people. Eventually they let him go, so he came back home.

MN: Do you remember if the atmosphere in the family changed on that day or the day after?

TN: I don't remember any of that. The same old stuff, I think.

MN: So when the government announced that all West Coast Japanese Americans had to go into camp, what did your family do with their belongings?

TN: Well, some of it they stored with the landlord, this Russian guy. I forgot his name. And the rest, I guess people came around from all over buying stuff off of Japanese that were desperate to sell anything. So I think we sold our stuff for ten cents on the dollar, or my father did, including a new car which he had just bought. Sold it for about a hundred dollars. So there were scavengers coming from all around.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MN: Do you remember the day you left for Santa Anita?

TN: No, I don't.

MN: When you arrived at Santa Anita, where did you live?

TN: Well, I don't remember too clearly, but my parents said we lived in a horse stall, and that it still smelled of horse manure.

MN: Now you're still, like preschool age. Did you attend any classes at Santa Anita?

TN: I think I went to kindergarten. I think it was kindergarten, I'm not sure.

MN: Where did they have the classes?

TN: I believe it was in the grandstand.

MN: Now you're still very young and you're with a lot of people. Did you get sick at Santa Anita?

TN: I had measles. I remember my father was taking me to the doctor, holding me by the hand, and I fell down on my knees on the asphalt. That's one of the few things I remember.

MN: And the doctor that saw you, was he...

TN: I don't remember that.

MN: Did you have to be quarantined?

TN: I don't know. I have no memory of that.

MN: So tell me about that riots at Santa Anita. Where were you?

TN: I was with my father somewhere, going somewhere, then a bunch of people were going off, running in one direction, 'cause they said there was something going on, a riot or something. So my father wanted to go see what was going on and took me along. And then there were a bunch of people gathered around, looked like they were beating up one guy. I think somebody hit him with a bottle. And then the U.S. Army came in, they were on their little trucks with machine guns on the back, a lot of soldiers in each truck. That's all I remember about that.

MN: So when you witnessed this, what was going through your mind, how were you feeling?

TN: "Oh, wow, there's a fight."

MN: So you weren't scared?

TN: No. There were a bunch of other Japanese people around, and my father was there.

MN: Do you have any other memories of Santa Anita like the food?

TN: I think we had to line up for mess hall to go eat, I think. Took us long lines heading for the grandstand. But I don't remember too much about that. I don't remember the food or anything.

MN: Did you get diarrhea?

TN: I don't think so. Or my parents probably would have mentioned that.

MN: What do you remember of the --

TN: What did this diarrhea thing come up? Why did this come up?

MN: Because a lot of people who were at Santa Anita early on got diarrhea.

TN: Oh. Maybe we weren't one of the early ones.

MN: Maybe you were, like, in the middle somewhere. The early people definitely got diarrhea.

TN: Oh. That's a lot of toilet paper.

MN: Oh, there was lines to get into the latrine.

TN: Wow.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

MN: So what do you remember of the train ride from Santa Anita to Rohwer?

TN: I don't remember that at all. I don't remember arriving in Rohwer either.

MN: Okay, so you arrived in Rohwer, you settled down. What did your father do in camp?

TN: First he was a lumberjack until one day he kind of chopped his foot with an axe, got injured, laid up for a while. But he didn't chop off any toes or anything, so he was okay. But after that he didn't have to do lumberjacking anymore, and eventually he became a block manager.

MN: So what were some of the responsibilities your father had a block manager?

TN: Getting supplies for the block. It was Block 3. I think our address was 3-8-A.

MN: So you mentioned that he had to go get supplies.

TN: Yeah. I don't know when, maybe it was later on. Maybe not the first year, but after the government loosened up a little bit, but he got to go outside to get supplies. Like I think he took me along, maybe one of my brothers, too, to McGehee, the metropolis of McGehee. I don't know what the population was.

MN: So what was McGehee like?

TN: I don't know, but there was a Chinese store. That's where we went. My father went to patronize fellow Asians, I guess.

MN: Now you were kind of sharing the history of the Chinese in Mississippi. Can you share with us, like, why were there Chinese in Mississippi and actually in Arkansas?

TN: I think the Chinese in Arkansas, they might have come from Mississippi. From what I hear, Chinese were recruited to Mississippi to work in the plantations, maybe to replace the former slaves. There were a lot of 'em in Greenville, Mississippi. And one of the Chinese that grew up there was the famous reporter Sam Chu Lin. One of my friends introduced me to my wife, Pat. Anyway, we saw Chinese in other towns, too. Oh, by the way, friend's name is Ray Chow. We saw a Chinese store in Pine Bluff, and also Dumas, Arkansas.

MN: You know, when you saw these Chinese Americans in these areas, did you wonder why they weren't in camp?

TN: Well, because they weren't Japanese. It was Japanese that were in camps.

MN: So you know, when your father took you out to camp, did you also see the whites-only, colored-only sections?

TN: I didn't know anything about it at the time, but I did... well, my father pointed out that there were black people, African Americans, they were all sitting around, I don't know what they were doing. That's the first time I was aware of the black race, African American race.

MN: So when you went on these trips, was it just you and your father or did like an MP go out with you folks?

TN: I don't remember any MP, and I don't remember how many times we went, either.

MN: Do you remember what your father usually bought on these trips?

TN: No, probably toilet paper and stuff like that, I don't know.

MN: Did he give you, like, treat you with candy or treats on the trips?

TN: Probably, but I don't remember.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

MN: So let's talk about your mother a little bit. What did your mother do in camp?

TN: Raise seven kids. It's a full-time job.

MN: You mentioned that your parents had three girls at Rohwer.

TN: Born in Rohwer.

MN: Born in Rohwer. What years were they born?

TN: 1943, '44, and '45. Boom, boom, boom, one right after another.

MN: So with so many babies, was your mother always running to the latrine?

TN: I don't remember.

MN: The little babies didn't have to go into the bathroom...

TN: They wore diapers until they were two or so. Besides, my father had set up a big bucket to use as a chamba, indoor toilet thing for the little ones. I guess it smelled bad, but I don't know. Beats going all the way to the toilet, wherever that was.

MN: And that was, like, set in a corner of the room, barrack?

TN: Yeah, far away from where we ate.

MN: You ate in our barrack also?

TN: No, but if we had snacks or something.

MN: Did your parents have their own garden near the barracks?

TN: Well, my father grew some vegetables in the back of the barracks, tomatoes and something, I don't know what else. I liked the tomatoes. Still like tomatoes.

MN: So your parents have three girls to look after...

TN: And four boys.

MN: Four boys. Did you boys get into trouble? Did you play with matches?

TN: My brothers, two of my brother started a fire in the awning of the barracks. Good thing my father saw it and put it out, or we could have been burned out of our home. I don't know how old they were, little.

MN: Did your brother get in trouble for that?

TN: I guess so. Parents can't be too happy about that.

MN: But it doesn't sound like there was a lot of damage from the fire.

TN: I guess not.

MN: So you're getting to be grammar school age. Where was the Rohwer grammar school located?

TN: Way at the other end of the camp from where we were. We had to walk a long ways. And when I was in kindergarten, in the winter my mother went to pick me up from school, and on the way home, it was raining a lot and the winds were blowing pretty hard, it blew my mother's umbrella inside out. And I think by the time we got home or by the next morning, it was snowing. First time I had ever seen snow. And I guess we made snowmen or something.

MN: And so when it also got really rainy, too, I hear that it was very muddy?

TN: Oh, yeah. It was almost like quicksand, only not very deep. And one of my brothers, he was trying to walk in that mud, and he got stuck and he couldn't get out. He would go about that deep, and he just couldn't get out. So my father had to come and pick him out, like a miniature quicksand.

MN: Did you folks also wear geta?

TN: Yeah. I don't know who made 'em. Some neighbors or somebody made geta for us so we could walk above the water, I guess.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MN: Now you're going to grammar school, I'm assuming a lot of these teachers have a very strong southern drawl?

TN: Just the white ones. The Japanese ones didn't. I think some of the teachers were Nisei and some were white Arkansas people, whatever you call them. It's hard to understand, though, the accents. Whatever they said, "Now ya'll sit down and read your assignments."

MN: So Rose remembers getting lined up and getting an Anglican name. Did your class do anything like that?

TN: Anglican name?

MN: Caucasian name. Did your teachers give you a Caucasian name?

TN: Nope.

MN: You were always Tak?

TN: Takeshi.

MN: So at Rohwer, did you play any sports?

TN: Rohwer? No, we just played around. I don't know what we did. Played in the cemetery, and then people used to talk about hinotama, whatever that is. Some light, gas light or something, supposed to signify a ghost. And I guess one time my friends and I were playing in the cemetery, it was already dark. One of them saw the light and started saying, "Hinotama," so we just all panicked and ran out of there, ran home, probably broke the world record for the 100-yard dash. We just got out of there. It was the fastest I ever remember running. But maybe it was just really nothing, maybe it was a firefly.

MN: Were there fireflies at Rohwer?

TN: I don't know, I guess so.

MN: So was it common for you to play at the cemetery?

TN: Yeah, we liked to climb the trees. Tried to swing from one branch to another and all that stuff, or just hide up there.

MN: So when you were at Rohwer did you get into any fights?

TN: I remember in kindergarten or first grade, one of them, I don't know why I got into a fight with this boy named Clyde or something. We were scuffling around and rolling around on the ground and I tried to bite him, but all I got was a mouthful of jacket. That's all I remember about fighting.

MN: Did you get into any fights where you had to defend your younger brothers?

TN: Well, there was this crazy kid that lived across from us. I don't know what was wrong with him. One time he sneaked up behind one of my brothers and hit him in the head with a brick, so my brother's head was kind of bleeding. So my other brother and I later went up to the guy and just beat him up. I beat him up as much as a six or seven year old could.

MN: I want to ask you a little bit about holidays at Rohwer. What was Christmas like at Rohwer?

TN: I have no idea. I don't know if we got any presents or anything. But one time, they had a little party, and they invited the 442 people from Mississippi, I guess, Hawaii guys, only I didn't know they were from Mississippi at the time. I found out later as an adult. And they're singing Hawaii songs and all that, doing Hula. Something about "Manuela boy, my deah boy, no mo hila hila," and all that. That I remember.

MN: What about Oshogatsu?

TN: I don't know. I think we ate mochi.

MN: So that means there was mochitsuki?

TN: I guess so. But can't quote me on that 'cause I don't remember it.

MN: Did they show any movies at Rohwer?

TN: Yeah. One of the first movies I saw was about Sakamoto Ryoma, only my parents called him "Ryuma," I don't know why. And that was kind of weird, you know, we're supposed to be prisoners and they're showing a Japanese movie. I don't remember anything about the movie, but my parents said I enjoyed that movie. And I used to imitate Sakamoto Ryoma picking his nose and all that stuff, digging for gold. Another movie that I sort of remember was King of Kings. I guess it was about Jesus or something. And they showed rays of light coming from the clouds, I guess that's supposed to mean something. But didn't mean much to a little kid.

MN: Do you think they showed Sakamoto Ryoma because he was one of those that favored opening Japan to the Western world?

TN: Maybe it was just accidental, I don't know. He was a samurai, maybe the swordfighting and all that stuff.

MN: That's a chanbara?

TN: Uh-huh.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: So as you got older at Rohwer, were you able to go out of camp and explore the woods?

TN: Well, later on, I guess they were kind of lax about security or something, we went to the bayou which was, I think, next door, and we caught crayfish and all that stuff. One time I brought back a pet turtle I think, and kept it for a little while, but I guess it wandered off back to the bayou. It goes slowly. I don't know what we did with the crayfish either, or crawfish, whether we ate 'em or gave it away or threw it back in the bayou. I think bayou's like a swamp.

MN: Did you ever get in trouble for going out there?

TN: Not that I remember. One time my friend Freddy and I went way out of camp, went to the levee. I don't know how far we walked, but it was a big levee there. Looked really high to me. And we started climbing up there, and this black woman stood on the top and said, "What you boys doing here? Get out of here." And she pulled out a gun, rifle or shotgun or something. So we said okay, we turned around and ran out of there, ran back to camp.

MN: So, you know, you're going out to the woods, and there's a lot of snakes in the area. Did you ever get bitten by one?

TN: No, no way. But the bigger kids, meaning like twelve year old or so, they used to catch rattlesnakes sometimes. They'd get a forked stick, and branch, and just trap the head in the fork, and that way they could pick up the snake and kill it and give it to the older Japanese so they could eat it. Some old men, they ate it, said it was like chicken.

MN: Did you ever try to eat it?

TN: Nah. I don't want to eat a snake.

MN: This old man, too, you mentioned, didn't he also eat the turtles?

TN: I don't know if it's the same old man or a different old man, but he ate turtle blood soup. It's supposed to be good for you or something.

MN: What about the chiggers?

TN: I don't know nothing about no chiggers.

MN: You didn't get any chiggers.

TN: No.

MN: So you know, I hear Rohwer got really hot and humid during the summer. What did you do to cool off?

TN: I don't know.

MN: Was there like a swimming pool nearby?

TN: No. But they built a swimming pool later on in the next block, but we didn't get to go over there. I don't know what block that was, two or four or something.

MN: How come you didn't go?

TN: I have no idea. I didn't know how to swim then anyway. Could have drowned.

MN: So at Rohwer, how did you keep yourself clean? Like was there American-style shower?

TN: I guess so, I don't know. But there was a furo. We used to go wash in the furo. We must have washed before we went in, I don't know. Must have.

MN: So your block had an ofuro.

TN: Yeah.

MN: Do you know who built it?

TN: I don't know, some of the Japanese guys.

MN: So at Santa Anita you had the measles.

TN: Yeah.

MN: Did you get any other contagious illnesses at Rohwer?

TN: Yeah, chicken pox. My brother and I, Tomoki and I got it at the same time, so we were quarantined in the hospital. I don't know how long, maybe a few days. I heard Rose Ochi and George Takei were there, too.

MN: They had their tonsils taken out.

TN: Oh.

MN: So do you remember if the doctors and nurses were Japanese Americans?

TN: I don't know. Probably, but I can't say for sure.

MN: How was it to be in the hospital.

TN: It was okay. Not as crowded as at home in our own barrack.

MN: Did they give you ice cream?

TN: I don't know.

MN: Hawaiians. Do you remember any Hawaiians at Rohwer?

TN: At the time? No, but our neighbors turned out, the father, he was originally from Hawaii, only I didn't know him at the time.

MN: So while you folks were at Rohwer, do you know what happened to your parents' merchant visa status?

TN: I don't know.

MN: Did your parents ever talk about returning to Japan?

TN: My father wanted to go back to Japan after the war. I guess he was kind of disgusted. After the war he would go talk to the immigration agent about it. He kind of made friends with the guy. He was a salesman, so he was good at making friends with people and stuff like that. And he kept telling the guy he wanted to go back to Japan, but the guy, the agent told him, "I don't think it would be too good for you to take your American-born children back to Japan at this time, because people are starving and not enough food, no place to live." So he decided to stay.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: So going back to Rohwer, when you learned that the war was over, how did you feel?

TN: Okay. Get to go back to L.A. Only I didn't remember anything about L.A.

MN: When did your family leave Rohwer?

TN: I don't know. Around November 1945, I think.

MN: How did you feel about leaving Rohwer and parting with your friends?

TN: Just said bye, that's all. I figured I'd see some of them back in L.A. or California anyway, but I never did see them again.

MN: You never saw Freddie again?

TN: No, that, I'm not sure if I saw him, if he was at Burbank or not. He might have been.

MN: So when you got on the train to return to California, were your family the only Japanese Americans on the train?

TN: No, the whole train was Japanese Americans.

MN: So what do you remember of the train ride back to California?

TN: It was long. And we stopped off in El Paso for a little break, so I remember getting off the train, and my father got off the train, we took a few steps into El Paso, or the station, anyway, and got back on the train. And all the way on the train, my brother, Makoto, he was the youngest brother, he had asthma, so he was just coughing his lungs out. It must have been a bad ride for him.

MN: So as the train neared Los Angeles, how did you feel?

TN: Kind of excited, I think, seeing... 'cause my father said there was a lot of tall buildings in L.A. and that we will be passing Alhambra before L.A. and there will be some big buildings there. But I didn't see any real big buildings in Alhambra.

MN: So when you folks returned, there was a housing crisis in California. Where did your family live at first?

TN: We lived in trailer camps, first at Burbank, across the street from Lockheed, which used to be testing their jet engines so it was pretty loud. Really loud sometimes. And I don't know, they must have not tested it at night because we were able to sleep. We used to have to walk... we used to take the bus to school. I think I was in the third grade. The school must have been about a mile away, and there were so many Japanese in the area, all at the trailer camp, that I think the lower grades went to Washington school, which was much closer, but kind of dangerous because you had to cross San Fernando Road to go over there. And the other class is third, fourth, fifth, sixth. We had to take the bus to Bret Harte school which was about a mile away. And so we'd get bus money, take the bus to school, then we'd walk back usually. Walk through the golf course, kids would pick up golf balls and return it to the place for some money. Then we used to go to the drugstore on Victory Boulevard and look at the comic books and all that, not buy any. Some of the older kids, being smart alecks, they would make crank calls to I don't know who. Then we would walk on home. We even made some white friends at school.

MN: So how did the white students and the teachers respond?

TN: Okay, I guess. I made some friends there, white friends even. I don't remember their last names or anything. One of the guys, his name was Jackie, he came over, he might have come over to the trailer park once. I'm not sure.

MN: So how would you compare the education you started to get at Bret Harte in comparison to Rohwer?

TN: I think a lot of the same stuff we learned at Rohwer we were having again at Bret Harte. Makes you wonder about California education, or maybe the educational system at the concentration camp was not bad. Maybe it was the Nisei teachers. So we were reading some of the same stuff again, you know, reading, writing, arithmetic.

MN: So for you it wasn't that difficult.

TN: Not that I can recall. But my father kept me out of school for one semester. That first semester of the third grade, 'cause we were going to go back to Japan and all that. So then when he changed his mind, by that time it was time for the second semester. And they were going to put me back a grade, but my father went in and argued with the teachers or principal or somebody and I got to stay in the same grade.

MN: So you were able to keep up?

TN: Yeah, I didn't get put back and I was able to keep up.

MN: So when your father kept you out and had this thought that you were going to go to Japan, were you prepared to go to Japan?

TN: I guess so, yeah.

MN: Going back to the Burbank trailer, there are seven kids and two, your parents.

TN: Two trailers, I think.

MN: You didn't fit in one trailer.

TN: No, I think the boys were in one trailer, and the little girls and my parents were in the other trailer.

MN: So where were the bathrooms located?

TN: They were in the bathroom trailer, mobile home like thing across the way somewhere.

MN: So how would you compare the Burbank trailers to the Rohwer barracks?

TN: I don't know, they're just trailers, a place to go pee and poo and stuff. But no furo that I remember. I think it was showers at Burbank.

MN: So the living conditions, were they the same at Burbank and Rohwer?

TN: Just different, 'cause we were in trailers. That's different. And my youngest brother, if he had to go to the bathroom like late at night, he didn't want to walk all the way to the trailer, he'd just pee out the window. [Laughs] I don't know how many times that happened. I remember that.

MN: So the demographics at the Burbank trailers, were they all Japanese Americans?

TN: Just about all Japanese Americans I think, except there was one white woman there, I think. I don't know what was up with that.

MN: Do you know if a lot of people from Rohwer ended up at the Burbank trailers?

TN: They must have, yeah.

MN: Did this area have a recreational barrack?

TN: Well, there was a field over there where they could play softball. And they had a little... I don't know what it was. Not like a kiosk, but something with a roof over it where they held boxing matches. Like I was a little kid, and they put me in with another little kid to box. We weren't gonna fight, we didn't want to be in with big old gloves on our hands. And the other kid hit me, so I figured I'd better put my gloves up like this, could block the punches. Then I hit him in the ear or something and he started crying, so I guess they declared me the winner, but I felt like crying, too. Held it in, went to the water fountain and had some water, that was it. That's the last time I boxed, or over there, anyway.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: So what other activities did you do in your free time at Burbank trailers?

TN: We used to dig holes under the administration trailer, I think. Like my brother said, "We're digging to China." The other times we'd be playing, just throwing a tennis ball around, or playing marbles, that was our favorite sport, marbles. Trying to hit those little marbles out of the ring.

MN: So while you were living at Burbank, did you attend Japanese school?

TN: No.

MN: What did your father do at this time?

TN: Oh, a lot of different jobs. One time he was working at a nursery doing labor stuff, I don't know what. But then he was a gardener's assistant, stereotypical Japanese job at the time. And then he also worked downtown as a janitor, night janitor. One time he took me and my brothers along with him, so we had a lot of fun just playing with whatever those carpet sweeping things are.

MN: So when your family was living in Burbank, how often did your father go to the INS office?

TN: I don't know, I guess he went a lot, but I have no idea.

MN: I guess INS, Immigration and Naturalization Service, which we don't have anymore. You also mentioned that while you were living at Burbank, your father took you to the Linda Lea Theatre?

TN: Oh yeah.

MN: Can you share, where was the Linda Lea Theatre?

TN: It was in Little Tokyo on First Street. Must be where the Citibank is now, I think, right around there anyway. They used to show Japanese movies sometimes, and they used to show American movies, the older movies. And sometimes they would show African American movies, too, so I got to see one or two African American movies. I don't know who was in it or anything, and we got to see a lot of American movies. That's when my father would drop us off there and go next door to play shogi or mah jong or something, I don't know. Then he would come pick us up and we'd go back to Burbank. I don't know how long we stayed at Burbank, though. Then they were renovating Burbank or something so we had to move to another trailer camp in Hawthorne, which also was across the street from defense industry things. I think it was North American Airplanes or whatever you call them. Yeah, North American. And I'm not sure how long we were there, but I think we went to Hawthorne schools for a while. No, I don't remember the schools. Maybe it was summer, I'm not sure. Then I don't know how long we were there, but then got transferred to El Segundo, that's another trailer camp. And over there, I remember the first and only time I rode a pony. There was a little pony ride thing somewhere, my father took the boys, and I got to ride a pony. That was fun.

MN: Was the El Segundo trailer camp also...

TN: It was across on the other side from an aircraft plant. Might have been the same North American.

MN: It seems really ironic that all these trailer camps are across from defense industry companies.

TN: Yeah. Right across from the "enemy aliens," former "enemy aliens."

MN: So now you're in El Segundo. From El Segundo where did you go?

TN: Back to Hawthorne, I think.

MN: And then from Hawthorne?

TN: Back to Burbank.

MN: That's a lot of moving around.

TN: I know.

MN: And that's within like a year or two years?

TN: I don't know. Maybe within a year, year and a half.

MN: So you're back from all this moving around, Burbank, Hawthorne, El Segundo, Hawthorne, Burbank.

TN: Uh-huh.

MN: Okay. So from Burbank, you're back to Burbank, then where did you go?

TN: Well, first we stayed at Burbank for a while and I went to the fourth grade.

MN: You finished fourth grade at Burbank.

TN: Yeah, right.

MN: Bret Harte?

TN: Bret Harte. A lot of the kids in the class were Japanese. I don't think we were the majority, though, but there were a lot.

MN: Did you ever ditch class?

TN: I don't think so, but my little brother did. When he was about five years old and he was supposed to be going to kindergarten at Washington school, my mother would walk him to the edge of the camp and then she'd wave bye to him and go back to the babies. And my brother would just turn around and go his friend's trailer and play over there all day and then go back home. But that didn't happen for too long because I think the teachers inquired, where was he? So he got caught.

MN: So you finished the fourth grade at Bret Harte, and then what happened to your family?

TN: Then we moved to Boyle Heights. Actually, East L.A. We were about three houses away from the L.A. City line, so we were in the county in East L.A.

MN: Was there a difference between the county and city?

TN: Different governments, different services. The city had LAPD, we had the sheriffs and different garbage collection. Sometimes if we had a lot of garbage, my father would take the garbage can over to the city side, which was a few houses down, and get it picked up. Maybe they were more reliable, I don't know. Or maybe we had so much garbage we'd have two pickups.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: So what year did you move into East L.A.?

TN: I think it was 1947.

MN: Why couldn't your family live outside of East L.A.?

TN: There were a lot of housing restrictions then against not only Japanese but all non-whites. Blacks, Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, whatever. So obviously we couldn't go live in, buy a house in Burbank or somewhere, or even Pasadena probably, except certain parts of Pasadena. Not Gardena back then except on the farms. Not west L.A. So we had to live where the non-whites lived.

MN: So when you moved into East L.A., which grammar school did you attend?

TN: Malabar Street school, which was in the city of L.A. by about a block.

MN: And how long did you live at this house?

TN: Until 1951 about, January or February.

MN: And then before we go on, what was the housing situation like at this house? Did you have to share this --

TN: It was like an apartment house. The first floor was this Jewish family, or the woman and her son anyway, and the second floor was the landlord's son. The landlord was a Greek guy. And then I guess there was a third floor, we had a two bedroom and den apartment for my father and mother and seven kids. So the boys all lived in the den, we had two bunk beds, and the girls had one bedroom, three little girls in one bed. And my parents had the other bedroom. We put up with that for three and a half years.

MN: And I think you said it was... three and a half years, '51? It was 1951?

TN: Yes... yeah, three and a half.

MN: And then from this East L.A. house, where did you go?

TN: Little bit further into East L.A., near Stevenson junior high. We stayed there for... from February until about... I don't know, sometime in the summer of the same year. And then the owner said his daughter wanted to live there so we had to get out, so then we moved to Boyle Heights.

MN: Now during this time also, you started junior school.

TN: Right. No, I was already in junior high when I was at that other place on Winter Street.

MN: And so that junior high school...

TN: Belvedere junior high.

MN: How long were you at Belvedere?

TN: Seventh grade and the first semester of eighth grade, so three semesters.

MN: And then you said you moved closer to Stevenson.

TN: Stevenson, so one semester there.

MN: Then you had to move again.

TN: To Boyle Heights, to Fourth and Breed Streets. So I and two of my brothers went to Hollenbeck junior high, and my youngest brother and my sisters went to Breed Street School, elementary school.

MN: So you're moving around so much, how did it affect your ability to study and also to make friends?

TN: I don't remember studying, but I must have. I passed. And I don't know, just made friends, that's all. Besides, I always had my brothers and sisters.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

MN: Now, I don't know which house you were in, but you were talking about how television was coming in?

TN: Oh, that's at the East L.A., the first one. Around 1950 or '51, people are starting to get TVs but we didn't have one. So we would go get invited over to my neighbor's, this Mexican American family, to go watch boxing or something, or roller derby. All the stuff little kids like at the Canos.

MN: Who were the... you talk about wrestling, at that time, who were the popular people wrestling at the time?

TN: There was this white guy named Gorgeous George, he had permed hair and all that stuff, I guess. He was a villain. The Great Togo, Mr. Moto, were the Japanese villains. And Kimon Kudo, he was a Japanese good guy. So we would root for Moto and Togo and Kudo. They all had easy to pronounce names, too, only two syllables. I don't know if that was their real names, probably not.

MN: So since this was just after the war, it was fashionable I guess to have Japanese bad guys.

TN: Yeah. Well, that was about 1950.

MN: Did they have any bad Germans and Italian wrestlers?

TN: Yeah, I remember Baron Leone, Anton Leone or something, bad guy, Italian with long hair, always played dirty. But they balanced it out by having a good guy Italian from Argentina, named Argentine Roca, I don't know his first name.

MN: So how did it feel to see these Japanese American wrestlers on TV?

TN: Pretty good. See some of our own on TV.

MN: Even if they played the bad guy?

TN: Yeah, it's okay. We kind of knew wrestling was fake, anyway. Or rassling, R-A-S-S-L-I-N-G.


MN: So you're living in East L.A.. Which Japanese school did you start attending?

TN: I think we went to Daichi Gakuen first, which was near what is now Fukui Mortuary, around there. I don't know how long we went there. But one time for a little while we went to a Japanese school that was in the Union Church.

MN: Now that's the old Union Church building.

TN: Right.

MN: Today, that's the East West Players'...

TN: Ah, whatever you call it, yeah.

MN: So when you started Japanese school at the old Union Church and Daichi Gakuen, did you go every day or just Saturdays?

TN: Saturdays, always on Saturdays. So by the next weekend, we would forget some of what we learned.

MN: So how did you feel about going to Japanese school?

TN: It was okay. But lot of my friends were not going in there, just playing around on Saturdays. But my parents wanted me to go anyway.

MN: And then meanwhile, you're moving from one junior high school to the next. In any of these junior high schools in East L.A., did you have any problems with the Latino gangs?

TN: Not really. I think in the sixth grade, one of the wannabe Latino gangsters, he was kind of like my buddy or protector or something, took a liking to me. That's all.

MN: They didn't bother you.

TN: Well, nobody bothered anybody anyway, except for, I think, he beat up some Jewish guy, then the next week the guy transferred somewhere.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

MN: So the last junior high school you graduated from was Hollenbeck junior high.

TN: That's the only one I graduated from.

MN: [Laughs] Which high school did you go after that?

TN: Roosevelt High School.

MN: So Roosevelt High School, what was the ethnic makeup of the student body?

TN: I don't know. About maybe sixty percent Latino at least, maybe more. Maybe two-thirds or maybe more. But for my graduating class, I counted it, looks like it was about almost twenty percent Asians, mostly Japanese, and about maybe fifteen, sixteen percent whites. I don't know how much was black, maybe five percent, and the rest were Latinos, mostly Mexicans, Mexican Americans rather.

MN: So by the time you got into high school, Roosevelt, I guess, a lot of the Latino population were moving into the area, it sounds like.

TN: Well, they were already there, but more were coming in and the whites were moving out. The whites were a majority Jewish and also a lot of Russians, ethnic Russians, and a few others, Anglo Saxons or Italians, Greeks, whatever, French. One French guy, anyway.

MN: So at Roosevelt, how did you do academically?

TN: Okay. B-plus average or something like that.

MN: Were you involved in any sports activities?

TN: I tried out for football once, that's about it.

MN: Did you make the team?

TN: I'm not sure what I was. Not quite on the team, but practiced or something, play in the practice games. I was a skinny little kid.

MN: Did you do judo or anything like that?

TN: No.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

MN: So after you graduated from Roosevelt, what did you do?

TN: I went to UCLA for a little while but then I dropped out.

MN: Why did you drop out?

TN: I didn't feel like going, I didn't know what I wanted.

MN: So what did you do?

TN: Worked at different jobs. Oh, by that time my father had lost his little import/export business, so I helped him help his cousin, my uncle, garden. And we did gardening in Beverly Hills or West L.A., places where the rich people lived, Benedict Canyon and Bel Air, Brentwood.

MN: And how did you like gardening?

TN: I hated it. You'd be gardening, and those rich people would walk their dogs over there and just crap on the grass while we're gardening. That's very inconsiderate. I hate dogs. They should wear diapers or a cork.

MN: How long did you garden?

TN: I don't know, I don't remember. Couple years, I guess. Then I was sick for a little while, and then I went to work at Robinson's doing stock boy stuff. Move furniture and big rugs around.

MN: So this was the big Robinson's department store in downtown L.A.?

TN: Seventh and Grand. Worked with a lot of different races. One of my buddies was this black guy from Arkansas, and he had never heard of a concentration camp.

MN: What was his reaction when you told him about that?

TN: "Oh."

MN: So what year did you start working with the Rafu Shimpo newspaper?

TN: 1965.

MN: How did you get hired there?

TN: I saw an ad in the Rafu, 'cause my parents took the Rafu. Went for an interview and they hired me.

MN: Who hired you?

TN: Henry Mori.

MN: Was Henry the...

TN: He was the English editor, pretty good guy.

MN: And who was the publisher at the time?

TN: Aki Komai, Akira Komai.

MN: And how would you describe Aki as a publisher?

TN: Pretty good guy. I thought he was pretty fair to his employees. Although the pay wasn't that great, he was pretty generous in other ways, like he would give bonuses, and he did have a pension plan at the time. Not bad.

MN: And Henry Mori, how was he as an editor? Was he strict?

TN: Not really. Not with me, anyway. He'd just joke around a lot.

MN: Who was the Japanese section editor at the time?

TN: I don't remember. Hashida was once, but I don't remember who was before that or after, I don't remember.

MN: So you got hired, and what was your first day like at the Rafu Shimpo?

TN: See, they told me to come in at eight-thirty, I came in at eight-thirty, nobody was there. [Laughs] I don't remember if Henry went on vacation or he just came in late, but nobody else was there. So I was just hanging around waiting until somebody showed up. That was kind of weird.

MN: I don't think things have changed that much.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

MN: So what were your responsibilities when you started at the Rafu?

TN: I was supposed to make display ads. That was not computerized. I had to actually get, pick type. The big type, we'd just pick it by hand to set a line, headlines and stuff.

MN: What were the types made out of?

TN: Lead, very heavy. And some of the pictures, advertiser would send us mats or something and then we'd have to make pictures on top of lead blocks, then I would have to cut the lead blocks on the saw into little pieces to fit in the, within the borders of the display ads. Then put the typeset words around it, and the smaller type, then we'd type that in the linotype machine, and they'd go at the bottom of something, then you'd have to put a border around the whole thing and put it on the page.

MN: So a lot of us don't know what a linotype machine is.

TN: It's a hot metal typesetting machine where... there was a keyboard at the bottom, and the operator would type out the letters, and the letters, mats would come down from the magazine on top of the machine to form the line. Typesetter would... typeset one line at a time, and then first the mats would come down, then if the line was made, pull a lever, and it would send the line up to the top, and another arm would send it down into the lead pot, I think. It was a mold, so it would make a lead line out of that and then the type would go back to the magazine. Do that with each line.

MN: So you're dealing with hot lead.

TN: Very hot lead, five hundred degrees or more.

MN: Did you ever get burned?

TN: Yeah, but not too bad. I made sure I wore long sleeves and long pants, and maybe a couple times I got really little pieces of lead falling on me, but then I would just run over to the aloe plant that Johnny Yamamoto, he filled in later, he had brought it in, so just squeezed the juice out of it and put it on the burn, and that would fix it. Johnny was always thinking.

MN: Sounds like a really dangerous job.

TN: Some people got burned pretty bad. Sometimes the machine would jam up, and it will squirt hot lead. I think Joe Yamada got pretty bad burns on his arm or shoulder or somewhere, so did Juan, he got it on his foot 'cause he wasn't wearing shoes.

MN: So these are all the... this is how the newspaper, the letters on the newspaper were all made before computers?

TN: Yeah, before 1981 or '82. Just one line at a time. You type it out, send it down the machine, it'll come back up.

MN: And then I guess you have to wait for the mold to get cool, the lead to cool down?

TN: It would get cool pretty fast. It would send the line back down to the tray, and while it's waiting in the tray for the other lines, it'll get cool or fairly cool. Cool enough so that you could pick it up without burning your hands off.

MN: And then once the mold was made, what did you do with it?

TN: It would get... by the time it came up, the lead would be off of it.

MN: Then you would carry that...

TN: So that would go back to the magazine, and it would drop it into their designated spaces. And the space band would go into its designated space. Only it's been so long ago since I used it, I don't remember exactly what happened. That was thirty years ago.

MN: And how heavy were these lead ingots that melted?

TN: Oh, they would come pretty big, you could weight lift with them, which some people did, just messing around.

MN: Well, I remember when I was there, it was used for doorstops.

TN: Oh, yeah.

MN: Those were pretty heavy. I don't know how many pounds they were.

TN: I don't know. Fifteen pounds, I don't know what it was.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

MN: So is that how the Japanese section made their newspaper, too?

TN: They had to pick all the little type by hand for a long time. I think later on, when we got computerized, things were much better for them. Except they didn't need as many people, so maybe some people lost jobs or things, we didn't tell 'em to retire. But they'd be picking type like this.

MN: Kanji?

TN: Yeah.

MN: Kanji, hiragana?

TN: Whatever, yeah.

MN: Can you share with us, like, how the ladies in that section did it every day?

TN: What do you mean? Somebody brought them the stuff they're supposed to type, and then they would just pick the type. They had a type case, and then they would just put it in there line by line, and keep working like that until somebody rang the bell for the break, then they would just turn around and stop and go have their tea or their lunch. Then at the end of the break they ring another one, back to work. Just doing that. You should talk to somebody like Mr. Ryono, or even Ruth Fuji.

MN: So when each section, they would, they're ready to print, now what does the page look like? I mean, did you put it into another mold, all the letters?

TN: We would put it on a... we'd put a mat on it, over it, and then send it through the matting machine which would press down hard on the mat so there'd be an imprint, and then they'd take it downstairs where they would pour lead on it. See, the mat is a mold, so they'd just pour lead on it. And then put on, turned it into a round whatever, after it's cool, and it's ready for the press.

MN: So this round cylinder thing is also lead.

TN: Yeah.

MN: And it's have the picture on it.

TN: Right, yeah.

MN: And then that's what's put on the printing press?

TN: Yep. I'm not that familiar with that part of the process, though.

MN: I remember the big, huge printing presses in the back. I don't know how they put it on either.

TN: It's kind of heavy.

MN: Yeah, it was pretty physical work they were doing back there.

TN: Yeah. You should ask Alan Kubo.

MN: So when you started at the Rafu office, where was the office located?

TN: 244 South San Pedro Street where the JACCC plaza is.

MN: So can you describe this building for us?

TN: Old building, rickety. I felt like it was going to fall down in an earthquake. But we got a big earthquake in 1971, Sylmar earthquake, it didn't fall down, but there are cracks in it. But the building next to us, to the south of us, the wall fell down into the street, so it covered up the whole inside lane. And the building next to that collapsed even worse. Later on somebody was, much later somebody was working to clear out the building, and one guy died. More of the building collapsed on him.

MN: So when you were at the Rafu in the early days, was it really a tough competition with the other papers like the Kashu Mainichi or the Pacific Citizen?

TN: They were there, but I don't know about tough competition. I think Rafu had the most subscribers. We didn't think we were competing that much, we just did our own thing as far as I could tell.

MN: So what year did the Rafu move from the current, you said where the JACCC is to the Los Angeles Street building?

TN: Around 1979.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

MN: So, now, Rafu has all this heavy printing press equipment. How did they move all that into Los Angeles building?

TN: I don't know. I guess they got a moving company to do it.

MN: So this is the year, '79 is when you also had an accident with your eye?

TN: Yeah.

MN: What happened?

TN: I guess I bumped my head somewhere, couple times. That was before we moved. That must have been early in the year. No, wait a minute. Oh, it must have been after we moved. I don't know what it was. But I bumped my head on one of those shelves that carries the lead type. Because I was working on a lower shelf, and I guess somebody came and pulled out the top shelf to take out something and forgot to put the shelf back, push it back in. And then I was working the bottom and I heard the phone ring so I stood up and banged my head. Really hit my head hard, saw stars. I guess that happened a couple times within a week. But then about three or four days later I started seeing stuff in my eyes, but I didn't attribute it to that bumping my head because it was a few days earlier. But then I found out I had a torn and detached retina, and later on a hole in my retina, and that also led to a cataract, all in my right eye.

MN: Has it affected your ability to work at the Rafu?

TN: No.

MN: Because you were reading, you do a lot of reading at times.

TN: I guess I did it out of my other eye, my left eye.

MN: So when you started at the Rafu in '65, were all the workers Japanese Americans?

TN: You mean in the editorial section or all, the total of the whole company?

MN: Well let's start with editorial.

TN: I think it was all Japanese Americans. Well, one woman was half Japanese, half Italian.

MN: And how about the press room?

TN: I don't know. I think some of the part-time people were, might have been Mexican Americans.

MN: How about the paper boys?

TN: Yeah, I think they were mostly Mexican Americans. I'm not sure. There was a Japanese kid that delivered in Little Tokyo.

MN: What made the Rafu stop having paper delivery boys?

TN: I don't know. Just noticed one day they weren't there.

MN: Do you think that was in the '60s or '70s that they got rid of the paper boys?

TN: I don't know.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

MN: So when did you start writing articles for the Rafu Shimpo?

TN: You know, I don't remember. Must have been in the late '70s. I wrote an occasional article about sports or whatever. In the '80s I started writing some more, 'cause I became acquainted with some of the people in NCRR, then I started going to their meetings, found out more about the redress movement, started writing about it.

MN: And NCRR is the National Coalition for Redress and...

TN: Redress and Reparations back then.

MN: And now it's... Nikkei for Civil Rights...

TN: And Reparations.

MN: Reparations. Is this how you got to know Frank Emi?

TN: Yeah. Somebody told me all about him and about Heart Mountain draft resisters, so I wrote a story about him.

MN: So now this is about the time when the redress movement was gaining momentum.

TN: Yeah.

MN: And when you started to hear about redress, how did you feel about that?

TN: Pretty good, but I was kind of doubtful we would actually get something. Thought they were just waiting for everybody to die off, or most people. "They" meaning the government.

MN: When William Hohri spearheaded the National Council for Japanese American Redress, NCJAR, did you go to any of the early meetings?

TN: I think I went to a couple of them, and somebody told me about another draft resister from Rohwer, Arkansas, Joe Yamakido, so I wrote about him. And one of the people active in the NCJAR, one of the local people, she was a lawyer in the firm where my wife worked as a legal secretary, Joyce Okinaka or something like that, I don't remember her name.

MN: Did you get any problems of writing about draft resisters at that time?

TN: What do you mean problems?

MN: Did anybody complain that this is not kind of the story you should be writing?

TN: Not that I'm aware of. Somebody, you mean in management or somebody from the outside?

MN: Both.

TN: Not that I know.

MN: You mentioned you wrote articles about redress and NCJAR and NCRR. Did you help out in other ways with NCRR?

TN: Oh, a few times I passed out leaflets with Kathy Masaoka. I don't know, that's about it. Something about Jesse Jackson coming to Day of Remembrance or something. I don't remember what he came out for.

MN: So ethically, as a journalist, did you think this was a conflict of interest to be passing out fliers?

TN: That was on my day off. It's a free country.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

MN: Let me ask you about the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, the CWRIC. Did you testify before the commission?

TN: No, nobody heard of me.

MN: Did you go to any of the L.A. hearings?

TN: Well, at lunchtime I went to one of the L.A. hearings and Rose Matsui, Matsui Ochi was testifying. She made some joke about she adopted the name Rose, and good thing her name was not Petunia or something, I don't know, some joke like that. And then just after I left was when Lillian Baker came in and tried to, got into a scrap with a little veteran guy, tried to take away his papers or something. I think when I was leaving I saw that little white lady coming in, but I thought, "Oh, I have to get back to work."

MN: Can you share with us who was Lillian Baker?

TN: She was this white lady from Gardena who seemed to hate Japanese, and really was against redress, saying that the Japanese people were the enemy. She was really dead set against redress and said the concentration camps were not concentration camps, they were relocation centers "for their own protection." "And they don't deserve redress."

MN: I know there's some use of that term, "concentration camp" and right now we have this controversy about "relocation camp," "internment camp," "concentration camp." How do feel about a lot of people, a lot of Nisei still use the word "internment" or "relocation camp."

TN: I think those are euphemisms that the government created just to soften the blow, make it seem like they weren't such bad people, that they weren't such racist pigs, putting us in concentration camps. That's like the Nazis called their camps "concentration camps" when they were really "death camps." Hitler's final solution to the Jewish problem, "final solution," same thing. Just euphemisms. Franklin D. Roosevelt called them concentration camps in his memos to his secretary of war. Back then they called them what they were, "Secretary of War," not "Secretary of Defense."

MN: Now, you know, during the redress movement, how important do you think the Nikkei papers were in assisting the movement?

TN: Pretty important in getting the word out. Letting people know where things were happening, what was happening, and how to get involved and how to send their letters and phone calls to their representatives, let all the congresspeople know that they wanted redress and they wanted it now, and how they were the victims of racism and government hysteria. And things needed to be remedied.

MN: Now you've been with the Rafu Shimpo how many years?

TN: Thirty-six years.

MN: Over those thirty-six years, how have you seen the Rafu change?

TN: Could you kind of explain what you mean?

MN: Have you seen the Rafu get better or get better and get worse, or editorially...

TN: Oh, it really got better, better and better. First it was just community news, a little bit about JACL and a few other things like that, in the '60s and '70s started to have some stories about pressing for redress and reparations, and then Dwight Chuman ran this long questionnaire in the Rafu about how the community felt about redress, what they should do, how much they should get. I'm the one that linotyped that part. So that was a big effort.

MN: Actually that was a very important survey also.

TN: Yeah.

MN: I think it put to rest what Commissioner Dan Lungren said, that the Japanese Americans did not want redress.

TN: The survey showed that most Japanese Americans wanted it, never mind what certain leaders of the community said.

MN: So you've been at the Rafu for thirty-six years. What were some of the memorable personal stories from there?

TN: Personal stories?

MN: Oh, that were personally memorable for you.

TN: Going to Washington, D.C. for the awarding of the first redress checks to the oldest qualified recipients. I think the oldest must have been about 107 years old, and there were quite a few other centenarians there. That was very satisfying just watching that. And I got to meet Senator Daniel Inouye, Senator Akaka, and of course Congressmen Mineta and Matsui. And I also got to interview this Republican congressperson from Hawaii, Pat Saiki. And I also interviewed William Hohri at the time. Got some words from him, but part of the interview was hard to hear when I typed it, I mean, when I recorded it, because all of a sudden this bugler started playing in the background, was practicing. But it came out okay. But I didn't get to meet Mike Masaoka. Earlier I had tried to get an interview with him when I was going to be in Washington, D.C., but he said he was too sick to be interviewed, but there he was at the ceremonies. So I don't know. It was a miracle.

MN: What did William Hohri have to say about redress?

TN: At that time, I don't know. I could barely hear the tape.

MN: That photo that you took at the ceremony in Washington, D.C. also was used quite often. I see it a lot at the community events.

TN: Oh, which events?

MN: Day of Remembrance events and programs at the museum. And I always know it's your photo. Sometimes you get photo credit, sometimes you don't.

TN: That's okay.

MN: Were your parents alive to receive an apology and redress check?

TN: My mother was. My father died back in 1976, I think, or '75, '76, somewhere around there. '75.

MN: What was your mother's reaction to receiving it?

TN: Good. It took a long time.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

MN: You mentioned JACL before. Were you involved with the JACL at all?

TN: Involved?

MN: Member? Were you a member?

TN: Well, one time I was involved, a member of this chapter of the JACL that was mostly social stuff. The metro JACL or something like that. I think Ellen Endo formed it. I wasn't in there very long, but they did have a meeting where they met up with a couple of people who were in the American Indian movement, which at that time was pretty active. They had rebelled or something at the Wounded Knee reservation in South Dakota, tried to take it over. And there were other scattered incidents in different places. And one guy was Arching Fire, he was a Sioux, Lakota Sioux or something like that, and the other guy was Black Dog, he was from the Snake... no, I don't know what tribe he was. Crow tribe or something. But they explained their position to us, so we gave them a little bit of donation.

MN: Did you cover any of the early pilgrimages to Manzanar?

TN: Later on, not the earliest. Only after I got a better car. Actually, I took the bus up there a couple times, more than a couple, maybe four times.

MN: So you were incarcerated at Rohwer.

TN: Rohwer.

MN: What was your impression of Manzanar?

TN: It was just another concentration camp for Japanese Americans. Another ugly reminder of what the government can do to us.

MN: What were your thoughts about when the movement started to make it into National Park Service?

TN: Good, that's all. We needed reminders like that, we needed memorials like that. We needed monuments like that to remember all the victims and to remember to tell the government not to do that anymore. Like they tried to do to the Arabs and Muslims and South Asians after September 11, (2001).

MN: But we have this monument in Washington, D.C. What do you think about that monument?

TN: Which monument?

MN: That National Japanese American Monument, I think that's what it's called.

TN: I'm not that familiar with it. Can you kind of remind me?

MN: It has quotes from the President and Mike Masaoka as a civil rights leader on it, and the names of the camps, and a crane with barbed wires.

TN: The barbed wire part's okay, and the names of the camps are okay. What did the President say? "Sorry"?

MN: I'm sure it has Truman's quote on there.

TN: That's okay.

MN: "Fought prejudice..."

TN: But I don't know about having Mike Masaoka's, what's that thing called? JACL credo? That thing is, I don't know, that's like sucking up to the powers that be or something. I don't like that at all. I never liked that credo.

MN: Did you ever get to interview Mike Masaoka?

TN: Never. Never really met him except just say hi, that's all.

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