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-01-0015

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MN: Now, when Japan surrendered in August 1945, how did you hear about that?

IH: At that time we were out, resettled out of the camps in Glendale, Arizona. And, well, I guess it was a relief. And finally the war's over, and return to peace. And I guess for our family it meant that we could return to our homes and try to resume a normal living.

MN: How would you describe your overall experience at Heart Mountain?

IH: Mixed. Overall learning, I'd say it had other aspects to it. Of course, learning more of who I am, but also learning that what I should not have experienced, it made me more conscious of being an American. But I think it was regretful that it had such a strong impact on my family and my parents. 'Cause they're the ones that really suffered the most, 'cause of all, having come to this country as immigrants, working hard, trying to raise a family and make a decent living. It was... and all that was taken away from me. So those are the feelings I have about that experience, and I'm glad that we did have redress and a greater understanding of the mistake that we've made.

MN: Now you said by August, your family was in Glendale, Arizona. Now, Glendale, was that a free zone during the war?

IH: Interestingly enough, half of it's free and half of it's not free, because there was a street, a road, actually a boulevard, called Grand Avenue. On one side was Military Zone 1, and the other side was the free zone. So it was interesting because of the Japanese families that lived on either side or had farms on one side or the other. Some of the farmers couldn't get to their farms because it was in the restricted zone, they lived on the free side, and vice versa.

MN: Now when you got to Glendale, Arizona, what was your family living situation like?

IH: Well, it was crude. We lived in an old house out on the farm that my uncle had arranged for, and we were all, it was him and his family and our family all crammed together in this small, rather run-down farm. It was a difficult start, but it was a start, and we tried to make the best of it, at least we were free to do what we wanted to do. Well, we were cooking our own food and taking care of ourselves every day, went to school.

MN: Which school did you go to?

IH: Well, I was finishing my senior year in high school called Glendale Union High School.

MN: And what was the ethnic makeup of Glendale Union High?

IH: I'd say eighty percent Caucasian, maybe ten, fifteen percent Latinos, and, oh, maybe ten, twelve Japanese, Japanese Americans.

MN: So how did the non-Japanese American students treat you?

IH: Well, there's no experience of any animosity or remarks that were made.

MN: Now when you were living in Glendale, did you have to work also?

IH: Yeah, did lot of farm labor work on some of these labor... like migrant labor work where you work in the fields, go from one field to another. Either some sort of stoop labor, very difficult, hard work.

MN: What about your father? What was he doing?

IH: Well, he started his, trying to start his business again. But at first, he had a... somehow he got a pickup truck and he started peddling Japanese foods that he got from Los Angeles. And he did quite well with it, rice and canned goods and that sort of thing, travel around. 'Cause there was a lot of Japanese, small Japanese famers in that area, and he would sell to them and make a small profit. And then he started getting into producing some seeds, but very basic. I remember going out to seeds that were harvested already and picking up whatever was leftover, like tomatoes and cantaloupe and so forth, and processing, getting the seeds out. Which was a kind of difficult thing to do because it gets very messy. But he produced some seeds and he was able to start selling them.

MN: So he wasn't getting it from a wholesale, your father was actually going out into the fields?

IH: Yeah, I think he did get some certain other kinds of seeds, 'cause he had established a wholesale relationship with some of his former wholesalers. 'Cause at that time it was difficult because he didn't have a credit record with them. He did go to certain companies and was able to acquire some supplies.

MN: Now when you were living in Glendale, did you also attend church?

IH: Yeah, there was one Japanese church there called the Free Methodist Church. That was the only choice you had if you were Japanese American, 'cause of the social aspect of it. It was a nice church and nice people, and we were really friendly. But certain members of the church, they were very strong in their dedication to Christianity, that particular brand of Christianity, Free Methodism. And I think... I didn't expect, I didn't appreciate the amount of pressure they put on you to convert you. And it got to be quite a mission. I didn't appreciate that. They'd have these retreats and these, I guess they would be kind of like a service. The amount of emotion and persuasion, pressure. More than I can... I really feel if one is to be converted, it should be done calmly and rationally and with thought and conviction, not under a lot of pressure.

MN: Now going back to your high school, what year did you graduate from Glendale Union?

IH: 1946.

MN: Once you graduated, what did you do?

IH: Well, that summer I guess I did more farm labor work. Then in the fall I went to Phoenix junior college, started my college career. And that, then driving to Phoenix, which is about ten, twelve miles away.

MN: What did you major in at Phoenix junior college?

IH: I think it was just a liberal arts.

MN: What about your twin brother mike? What happened to him?

IH: Well, I guess about the time we graduated, he went off to Cleveland, Ohio, to join with the family that he knew there, family that he knew in camp, as I recall. He got a job there. But he must have started some kind of education there as well, I don't know. And that lasted, I think, a couple years.

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