Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Esther Takei Nishio Interview
Narrator: Esther Takei Nishio
Interviewer: Sharon Yamato
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 21, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-nesther-01-0006

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SY: So then, then this, your life actually had to turn around at some point. I'm wondering if you have strong memories of when Pearl Harbor happened?

EN: Well, I was home alone because my parents had already gone to the pier.

SY: So they were still working.

EN: So they were working already, and I heard the news on the radio and it really frightened me. And I was supposed to join them, of course, but I was too scared to leave the house.

SY: And how old were you? Do you remember roughly?

EN: I was, let's see, sixteen.

SY: Sixteen, so you're old enough to realize that it was something really...

EN: Something horrible had happened. So I finally gathered up my courage and went to join them a couple of hours later, and by that time my father was pretty upset, but that's all I remember. I don't remember his, how he reacted or anything. I'm sure he was very distressed.

SY: I see, yeah. And was he concerned about you being at home, or do you remember that?

EN: I don't, well, I don't remember.

SY: Yeah, that was a long time ago. And then what happened? Do you remember the series of events that led to your...

EN: It's very jumbled and it's hard to recall. I just remember that my cousin, William Takei, was with us. He was working for us.

SY: He's your uncle's son, the one that started the business?

EN: I think so. And he had purchased a property in Los Angeles, a nursery, and I think, I don't know what happened, but we, after he was drafted we had to go take care of the nursery for him. And so I don't know when we left our home in Venice, but...

SY: But eventually you --

EN: And I think my dad was taken by the FBI while we, when we were still in Venice, but it's still all so jumbled. I don't remember when he disappeared.

SY: I see. But it, but you do remember him disappearing, or being gone.

EN: Yes.

SY: And it was...

EN: I don't remember what, how early it was. I just remember someone taking us to visit him in the Santa Monica hills somewhere. I believe it was a CCC camp. And then that was the last time we saw him.

SY: I see, so they took him relatively close by, Santa Monica being...

EN: Yes.

SY: And there was a camp for just Japanese Americans there?

EN: All the Issei, whoever the FBI gathered up, were taken there first.

SY: And you have memory of going there.

EN: I just remember going somewhere to meet my dad.

SY: And he was, you don't remember what it was like, whether there were a lot of people?

EN: No, have no recollection at all.

SY: Yeah, pretty traumatic.

EN: And I don't remember what happened to our property or, we had a lot of equipment at the time because during the summer my father would join a carnival and he'd take some of the employees, and he had a huge trailer to carry the game booths and two house trailers and then go traveling and leave, be gone all summer, and so they must've disposed of it somehow. I don't know what they did.

SY: He had a, this was a fairly big operation.

EN: I think so.

SY: So later on did you find out why he was picked up, why your father was picked up?

EN: Well, my father and mother were too busy to really be active in the Japanese community, but I think in 1941 he had become president of the PTA for the Japanese language school, and so my thought was perhaps that was why he was picked up.

SY: I see. And that was the same language school you, you were in?

EN: Yes. We went to Japanese language school after regular school every day and all day on Saturday.

SY: Every day.

EN: Uh-huh.

SY: And that was close by?

EN: I believe it was called Futaba Gakuen, and it was on the border of Ocean Park in Santa Monica.

SY: Wow. And it was, and how long was it that you attended this school? Was it all through your --

EN: Forever. I don't remember. [Laughs] Ever since I was a little kid, and through high school.

SY: And you kept going even in high school. Interesting. Wow, that's...

EN: I didn't learn much 'cause I was a very poor student. [Laughs]

SY: In Japanese. But how, you, were you actually, you hadn't graduated from high school when this happened, so you were only sixteen so were you just starting high school when Pearl Harbor --

EN: No, I was a senior in high school.

SY: Sixteen was, you were a senior in high school. And did you graduate from Venice High School, then?

EN: They gave me my diploma, but I didn't graduate officially.

SY: How did, how did they...

EN: I don't remember whether I visited the school before I left for Los Angeles or whether they mailed it to me in camp. I have no idea. I just know I have it in my hot little hands. [Laughs]

SY: That's very good.

EN: So I didn't have a graduation ceremony.

SY: So it was very close to graduation, though, must have been.

EN: Well, we left for Santa Anita, I think, around April 30th, somewhere around there.

SY: Yeah, that was close then. And so you were at that time, then, living near your uncle, who, inland somewhere.

EN: In Los Angeles somewhere.

SY: Somewhere.

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