Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ike Hatchimonji Interview
Narrator: Ike Hatchimonji
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: November 30, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-hike-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

MN: Now, your schooling at Heart Mountain, let me ask you, how far was your school from your block, 27?

IH: Well, it's... the whole block was about, the whole camp was about one square mile, I think. So, and the school was approximately in the middle of that square. So I'd say we were on one edge, one corner. So we walked about half a mile.

MN: Now your teachers, were they Caucasians or Japanese Americans?

IH: Both.

MN: How would you compare the education you got at Heart Mountain to what you were getting outside, out at El Monte?

IH: I'd say it was just as good. They were certificated teachers.

MN: Did you have Caucasian students in your class?

IH: I don't recall, but I understand there were some.

MN: Now you shared about enrolling in a music class. What kind of instrument did you pick up?

IH: Trumpet.

MN: Why did you decide on the trumpet?

IH: I guess a good friend of mine was a trumpet player. I kind of liked the, I was interested in playing the trumpet.

MN: Where did you get a trumpet to play with?

IH: Where? MN: Where did you get it?

IH: I think we ordered it. The mail order catalogs sold trumpets.

MN: And then you shared that you also joined the Boy Scouts at Heart Mountain.

IH: Yeah, that was the high point of my activities. That was really a good experience, I think.

MN: What was your troop number? IH: 379. It was a former Koyasan troop from Los Angeles, associated with the Buddhist church.

MN: So was there a lot of Koyasan members in Troop 379 at Heart Mountain?

IH: Yeah, former members as well as new members that they recruited from in camp.

MN: And was your brother Mike in the same troop?

IH: No, he was in another troop that was sponsored by, I think by... was it formerly Maryknoll Catholic school?

MN: So how many Boy Scout troops were there in Heart Mountain?

IH: There were seven, and they all did well.

MN: Do you remember how many Girl Scout troops there were in Heart Mountain?

IH: I don't recall, but there were quite a few, as well as the little kids, the Brownies.

MN: Now, before the war, Koyasan Troop 379 was very well-known for their drum and bugle corps.

IH: Yes.

MN: Were you part of that?

IH: Yes, I was. They brought all the instruments to Heart Mountain. Somehow or other I ended up playing the bass drum.

MN: But you were learning the trumpet in music class.

IH: Yeah.

MN: So you didn't do the bugle?

IH: No.

MN: So what kind of activities did your Boy Scout troop do?

IH: Well, we had little field days where we competed with each other in various activities. We got together in parades, we provided the music in the parades, and got little concerts inside the mess halls, pretty loud. Normal, I guess. We did, one of the high points of our Boy Scouting experience was going to Yellowstone National Park for a week. The director of the camp arranged that, provided us with transportation and just whatever we needed to have. It was a great experience. You know, we're outside, getting outside of the fence was really an experience.

MN: And what did you do when you were out in Yellowstone?

IH: I think some of the guys that focused on making a bridge, building a bridge out of lumber, logs. It was at the Nez Perce camp site. That bridge, I understand, is still there. Very crude bridge, but did the job.

MN: Is there any marker that says it's from the Boy Scouts?

IH: I don't think so.

MN: Did the Girl Scouts go out with you on that trip to Yellowstone?

IH: Yeah.

MN: So how many kids went out on that trip to Yellowstone?

IH: I don't know. I've seen a photograph, it looked like... a hundred, hundred and twenty-five faces.

MN: That's a big group.

IH: Yeah. They had barracks, a barrack of sorts, where we all lived in.

MN: Oh, so you didn't stay in tents?

IH: No. There was a ready-made camp site with barracks.

MN: Now you mentioned parades. Were you in the parade when Ben Kuroki came?

IH: Yes.

MN: What was that like?

IH: They had a big welcoming parade. Well, Ben Kuroki, of course, was a big attraction when he came, because of his war record and being, not a person from the West Coast, he was a farm boy, I understand, from Nebraska. I didn't realize at that time, but the purpose of his being sent to Heart Mountain and maybe some of the other camps was to recruit Niseis to join the military. And I understand later on that he wasn't too welcome by a lot of people (who) didn't feel that his role was to try to encourage young men to join the military.

MN: Now, let me ask you about your church participation. What activities were you involved in with the Heart Mountain church?

IH: Well, we were members of the choir, had a good choir director that was the wife of the minister, Sophie Toriumi, Minister Don Toriumi.

MN: Any relation to Howard Toriumi?

IH: Yeah, the brother. Well-known in the Christian community. Anyway, we were members of some kind of a club associated with the church, and I remember that gave us the opportunity once to go to Cody, town outside of camp, to join with another church group there, that church. I'm not sure we were that congenial, but it gave us a chance to get out of camp. Anything to get out of camp. I remember we went to, we saw that Buffalo Bill statue, but there's a museum there. I don't know if we went to the museum or not. But it was an adventure.

MN: And did you have other opportunity go out outside of camp, other than Yellowstone and Cody?

IH: No.

MN: Now during Christmas, did your choir sing, go caroling around the camp?

IH: I can't remember. I think we might have done some public gatherings, but I don't think we walked from place to place.

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