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Title: Ike Hatchimonji Interview
Narrator: Ike Hatchimonji
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: November 30, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-hike-01-0001

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MN: Today is Wednesday, November 30, 2011. We are the Centenary United Methodist Church. We will be interviewing Ike Hatchimonji. We have Akira Boch on camera, and I will be interviewing, my name is Martha Nakagawa. So, Ike, I wanted to start with asking about your father, and what is his name?

IH: His name was Kumezo Hatchimonji.

MN: And what prefecture did he come from?

IH: He was from the Miyagi prefecture in northern Honshu.

MN: And your father was bilingual. Can you share with us what his education was like in Japan?

IH: Well, he came from a poor farming family outside of Sendai. I don't know how he did it, but he got connected with the American missionaries in that area, particularly those, I think that were responsible for the Tohoku Daigaku, which was, I understand, a Christian school. But he did learn English early in his young childhood, I think, through the missionaries. He went to a middle school not too far from his home, and I think he learned English there as well. He did... I know some time in his early years again, with the missionaries he did some bible translations in Tokyo of all places. I think he was something on the order of two years, that's a long time, but he was really a devout Christian, and I think that helped him in the transition to the United States, of course. And then, well, he did go to Tohoku, I guess, University. It seemed out of place and time, but anyway, he did continue his education there. I don't think he got his degree there. And after that, I guess even as the oldest son, he would have inherited the (land). I'm not sure that there was that much to inherit, and life was tough. He used to tell us about, at night, they used to raise silkworms for silk, as a means of some side income, and he used to hear the silkworms eating the mulberry leaves at night, so that was amusing. But that was just an aside there.

He made his way to the United States. I imagine he, like a lot of young men, had wanderlust. Of course, with being missionaries, maybe they encouraged them to go abroad as well. Anyway, he got a job on a merchant ship, and then he made his way to the United States. I don't know how long he worked on the merchant ship, but he did travel to several international ports. But he did finally arrive at New York City as a member of the crew, and I've got the manifest of the crew at that time. His name is listed on the manifest as a fireman, which is a way of saying he shoveled the coal in the boilers in the ship. So as the story goes, I understand the ship broke down atNew York City port. And I imagine, for some reason, (he) and (...) a couple of other Japanese friends of his, they literally jumped ship and they, I don't know how that happened, but they got connected with going to school, Columbia University. So he began at Columbia University, and he got a job as a houseboy, but he was actually a cook for a wealthy family, I understand. And then I understand he didn't know much about cooking, but somehow he used recipes and such, and somehow he was able to hold onto a job. But also during the summertimes, I understand he used to be a barker at Coney Island. You know, the barker is somebody that stands outside of a concession at Coney Island where all these venders there, and he would encourage people to come. That was part of his years at Columbia, and he did get his degree at Columbia in business administration. In those days, it was a bachelor of science. I think today it would be a bachelor of arts. But anyway, he did get his bachelor of science degree at Columbia.

And then he made his way back to Los Angeles. I guess he felt there might be more opportunities for him, but I don't think the degree did him much good as far as job opportunities were concerned in those days.

MN: And then let me ask you now, before we get into further about your father's life, about your mother. What was her name?

IH: Her name was Nobue, N-O-B-U-E, Komuro, K-O-M-U-R-O.

MN: And where is she from in Japan?

IH: She was from Kobe, and then later from Shizuoka. She was the daughter of, one of three daughters of Kameji Komuro, who, again, I don't know how it happened, but he was a Christian minister. But I think he's just, it wasn't a full-time ministry, 'cause at some point in his life, he worked for Standard Oil Company. Maybe they had some sort of business in that area in Japan. But his origins were from Miyagi Prefecture as well as... as far as my research is concerned, he was from Miyagi Prefecture. But anyway, he had three daughters, and his wife, his first wife died at an early age from tuberculosis, which was common in those days. Then he remarried and came to the United States with his second wife. Well, you want to go on to the kids? He had other children as well.

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