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

<Begin Segment 1>

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.

<Begin Segment 2>

MN: 'Cause your mother was one of the kids.

IH: Yeah, one from the first marriage. And so she was the oldest of the three daughters, and she came to the United States. They all came together in early... as I recall it's 1923 or 1924. I understand that it was after the doors were closed, you might say.

MN: The Immigration Act of 1924 closed the doors.

IH: Yeah, but they made some exceptions... in this case, because he was a Christian minister. I'm not sure on that, but I understand that (they) allowed him to bring in his family. So Kameji Komuro came as a minister with his three daughters and his second wife, and then they had other children as well.

MN: So do you know how your mother and your father met in the United States?

IH: I don't know. I can conjecture that my mother, when she first came, I understand she went to work at the Shonien orphanage, which is a Japanese orphanage, because there seemed to be quite a large number of Japanese orphans. So they had the Shonien orphanage in the Silver Lakes area of Los Angeles. And then she, because of her Christian background and my father's Christian background, there might have been a meeting because of, one of the supporters of the Shonien was a gentleman by the name of Nagamine who was quite successful, I understand, later in the produce business. Anyway, I think he might have had something to do with their coming together and marrying. That was in 1927.

MN: So then your parents got married, and then I understand they moved down to Imperial Valley.

IH: Yes.

MN: And that's when the children started to come. And you and your brother were the firstborns, is that right?

IH: That's correct.

MN: You're the (youngest by minutes). It was very unusual because you are twins.

IH: That's right.

MN: When you were growing up, did your brother and yourself get special treatment because you were twins?

IH: Well, we were, it was unusual in the Japanese community down there, so, yeah. I'm not sure it was special, but I know my mother had to have some assistance to raise us, 'cause I guess it was difficult to raise a couple boys.

MN: Now, where were you born?

IH: We were born in El Centro, California, Imperial County, Imperial Valley.

MN: Were you delivered by a sambasan?

IH: No, it was a doctor. According to the birth certificate, a Caucasian doctor, and we were born in a hospital, which I understand was unusual. In those days, most of the kids were raised, were born in homes where they get assistance of a midwife. But my father did have a job as the secretary of the Japanese Association. I don't know if that was a full time job, but he represented a lot of the Japanese community in situations where his language and education were useful in contracts and leases, and anything that required some negotiations using English.

MN: Yeah, I think it was very unusual for people to be bilingual at the time. Both of your parents were bilingual.

IH: Yes, my mother was, also went to missionary school.

MN: I want to go back to your birth. What year were you and your brother born?

IH: 1928.

MN: What is your birth name?

IH: Tasuke, T-A-S-U-K-E, Hatchimonji.

MN: And what about your brother?

IH: Megumi, M-E-G-U-M-I.

MN: And then around what age did you and your brother adopt the name Ike and Mike?

IH: I think in our early years, perhaps third or fourth year in Phoenix, Arizona. The story goes that there was a comic strip in those days, "Ike and Mike and Mustard." And my auntie, who was helping my mother raise us, Auntie Amy, she hung the names on us, Ike and Mike, nicknames. So we've used those names ever since.

MN: And when you first started to speak, what language did you first learn?

IH: English.

MN: So at home, your parents spoke to you in English?

IH: Yes.

MN: And at home, what did they call you? Ike or Tasuke?

IH: I think they called us Ike, called me Ike, Ike and Mike.

MN: And you were, you two were born right before the Great Depression. Did your parents ever share with you some of the difficulties or what effect the Great Depression had on them?

IH: I know they shielded us from the effects. They didn't let us know what difficulties we were having, but later on, I understand it was very difficult for them. It's the same attitude that they had when the war broke out. Somehow, they didn't want to give us bad news.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: And so you and your brother were born in El Centro hospital, and you were living in Brawley, California.

IH: Yes, uh-huh.

MN: And then you moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Do you know why your father decided to go to Phoenix?

IH: Again, I think it's because of business opportunities. He started as Valley Seed Company in Phoenix, because there was a lot of Japanese, small Japanese truck farmers, vegetable growers. And that was his customer base.

MN: Do you know how your father came with the name Valley Seed Company?

IH: I don't know.

MN: What sort of seeds was your father selling?

IH: Well, primarily vegetables, the ones they were growing, carrots, tomatoes, squash, the usual crops that they grew. They did quite well.

MN: So your father didn't sell Japanese vegetable seeds?

IH: He did. Very limited amount, because that wasn't really the marketing vegetables for a farmer to make. Yeah, he did sell the usual daikon and napa and nasu and so forth.

MN: Now, I understand you started kindergarten in Phoenix. Do you remember the school's name?

IH: Yes, it was Kennelworth.

MN: And what was the ethnic makeup of this kindergarten?

IH: I really don't know. Probably generally Caucasians.

MN: And when you were in Phoenix, I know you were very young, but who were your playmates?

IH: There was a little girl next door, her name was Yoshiga. Her father had a garage right next door, and she was our playmate, about our age.

MN: Now how long did your family live in Phoenix?

IH: Well, I think it only lasted for... let's see, I'd have to do the calculations. Probably about five or six years.

MN: And then from Phoenix, your family moved to El Monte, California.

IH: That's correct.

MN: Do you know, again, why he moved to El Monte? I know you were very young.

IH: Yeah, again, he opened a business there. I don't know why he changed the site of his business, but maybe business was a better thing to open in the El Monte area.

MN: Now, actually, when you first came over, you lived in Rosemead, not in El Monte, right?

IH: Yeah, just for a couple of years. At that point, he didn't actually have a store. He mostly was a traveling salesman.

MN: And then you moved to El Monte, and then that's when your father was able to open another seed store?

IH: Yes.

MN: What did he call the seed store?

IH: Valley Seed Company.

MN: And where was this store located?

IH: Right on Valley Boulevard, right in the heart of El Monte.

MN: So right in the city then.

IH: Yeah, right within the city limits.

MN: And where did you live? Where did the family life?

IH: We lived in a rented house behind, next door, but in the back of another house. So the landlord, we rented that from them.

MN: Now, for your father's seed supplies, where was he getting the seeds?

IH: Oh, major seed companies like Ferry-Morse, Germaine, I forget a couple of the others, but I think primarily from the Ferry-Morse seed company.

MN: And then you mentioned that he also had a little bit of the Japanese vegetable seeds?

IH: Yes, he did.

MN: Do you know where he got those seeds from? IH: I think he got some of those from the Kitagawa Seed Company maybe, if it were in existence at that time.

MN: And did your family have a little Japanese vegetable garden at home?

IH: No, we didn't have the space.

MN: And I think it was here that your sister was born, is that right?

IH: Yes.

MN: What year was she born?

IH: Let's see, so I think it's 1936. She's eight years, so it would be, yeah, '36.

MN: Was she delivered at home?

IH: No. Hospital, as I recall.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

MN: I want to ask you about your school situation, because it's very unusual. Can you share with us which school that you started to go to?

IH: You mean in El Monte?

MN: In El Monte.

IH: Well, unfortunately, it started off rather badly. We were put in a segregated school. I think the story's fairly well-known. School that would allow Mexican kids and Japanese kids. A rundown, dilapidated school called Lexington. And because of that, the irony was that right next door to where we lived, in fact, if I stepped out of our gate in the back of our yard, I would have been right on the school grounds of an all-white school, and I couldn't go there. But my father, shortly after we enrolled at Lexington, he went to the nearby school district, neighboring school district called Mountain View School District. And he talked to the principal of the Mountain View grammar school. It was an integrated school, and the principal allowed to switch districts, and we were able to go there. It was a nice arrangement, and I think without my father having spoken to the principal, we probably would have remained in that rundown school.

MN: Now how far was the Mountain View school, and how did you get there?

IH: Yeah, well, because it was outside of our district, we had to walk about half a mile to the bus stop where, which was right on the edge of the district. And then we rode a bus the rest of the way to school.

MN: So was the other bus not allowed into the other school district, into Lexington?

IH: Yeah, the limit's right up to the district line.

MN: And at the Mountain View school, what was the ethnic makeup?

IH: Generally white, I'd say eighty-five percent white. Lot of Latino kids, Japanese kids.

MN: And how did you interact with the other students?

IH: Very well.

MN: Were there any African American students?

IH: I don't recall 'em if they were.

MN: Were there any African Americans in El Monte?

IH: Well, that's another thing. El Monte had a reputation of being very discriminatory. My understanding was that black families could not live within the city limits, and if they did, if they came to work, they had to be out by sundown or they would have been arrested. And the Mexican population, again, they were discriminated. They had to all live in an area, a place called Hicks Camp, which was all Mexican. Not only in the housing, but in the swimming pools, swimming, and the theaters, there was segregated seating.

MN: So when you were growing up in El Monte, who were your playmates?

IH: Mostly the neighborhood Caucasian kids.

MN: What did you do after school? What sort of games did you play?

IH: Oh, the usual. Marbles, and we had a bicycles. Liked to ride bicycles around. Played little games, maybe baseball. Whatever young kids do.

MN: What did you do on Saturdays?

IH: Well, I don't think it was much different. Went to matinees. But we did go into town, big thing, going to Little Tokyo.

MN: Can I go back to when you went to the matinees? You had to sit in a segregation section?

IH: No.

MN: No.

IH: But in El Monte we did. We used to go to another theater which was outside of El Monte which was not segregated.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

MN: So you were talking about on weekends you would go into town, Little Tokyo?

IH: Yeah, that was a big thing.

MN: What did you do in Little Tokyo?

IH: Well, the usual. Chinese food. I think we used to go to see some of those sumo matches and judo, right there on what they used to call Jackson Alley, which was, I guess would be where the museum is at, in that area.

MN: So where did eat your China-meshi, and what kind of foods did you eat?

IH: Well, the usual. Especially, I remember we used to go to wedding receptions, the Sanko Low, I remember that place, and the Far East. And there's another one called Lem's. I think that was downstairs, was it, or something. Anyway, yeah, it was the usual places.

MN: What were your favorite foods?

IH: Oh, the usual. Chow mein, and what they used to call pakkai.

MN: Hamyu, pichauyu.

IH: It wasn't as varied as it is today.

MN: And when you were in Little Tokyo, did your parents treat you to special sweets like manju or ice cream?

IH: I think so.

MN: What about Japanese school? Did you have to go to Japanese school?

IH: Actually, there was a Christian minister in El Monte, a guy named (Reverend) Yokoi. We did have a Japanese language school, and I don't remember, I think we went for a couple of weeks, but I don't think we enjoyed going. [Laughs] And my brother and I, well, my father really didn't push it, so I think he didn't feel that we need to learn the language because we didn't use it at home. But to this day, I regret that I didn't. That was our Japanese language experience, very short. But we did go to a judo place for, oh, maybe a year.

MN: Where was the judo dojo?

IH: It was, as I recall, more toward Temple City. It was a big building outside, and it was kind of in the countryside, and all the, maybe forty, fifty boys would go there. And I remember all these kids were farm boys, they were tough. They used to throw my brother and I around quite a bit.

MN: How about kenjinkai picnics?

IH: Yeah, I remember going to some, I imagine it would be, I don't know which kenjin.

MN: 'Cause your parents are from Miyagi-ken, and there wasn't a lot of immigration from Miyagi-ken.

IH: It must have been from other, there were large picnics, as I recall, so they must have been some of the larger kenjinkais.

MN: Do you remember what kind of obento your mother made?

IH: Oh, probably standard musubis and so forth.

MN: How about Japanese movies? Did you grow up watching Japanese movies?

IH: There used to be, at the Columbia School, which was right next door, the all-white school, they used to show the, in the auditorium, every couple of weeks or something, I remember we used to, all Japanese. It was the usual kind of films that people watched. I didn't really enjoy it because they were all in Japanese.

MN: Did you and your family take trips out to the beach, like Brighton Beach or White Point?

IH: I remember White Point a few times. There used to be picnics. Those were about the only excursions the Japanese would... we also used to go to see the ships come in, passenger ships, but also sometimes when the fishing boats would come in, we'd go down to San Pedro.

MN: What about Sundays? What did you and your brother do on Sundays?

IH: We did go to Presbyterian church down the street quite a few years I guess, Sunday school. As I recall, we were baptized.

MN: Was this an all-Japanese American church?

IH: No, it was an all-Caucasian church.

MN: How did they treat you there?

IH: Oh, real well.

MN: Did your parents attend a church as well?

IH: No, I don't think so.

MN: They were probably too busy working.

IH: Yeah, I don't know why. They should have, being Christians as they were. But there was no Japanese Christian church that I recall that they went to.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

MN: Now since your parents were Christian and you boys were baptized, what were your Christmas like?

IH: Oh, usual Christmas, Christian Christmas. Tree, decorations, presents. Parents, the year they gave us the bicycles it was a big (thing). We were just kids, really a big moment for us to come out and see the bicycles there. And I think at that time we still believed in Santa Claus. They enjoyed doing that.

MN: That's a nice memory. How about Oshogatsu? Did your parents do anything special?

IH: No, you know, I think we might have participated, but we never did anything at home such as pounding mochi and stuff. We did have a special table set out with mochi and the usual shogatsu. I think those kind of traditions they observed.

MN: Now, during the summer, you shared this memory of going to camp. What was that like and who did you go to camp with?

IH: That was sponsored by the school. There was all Caucasians, maybe a couple of, three Japanese kids. But it was sponsored by the school and it was summer camp in Big Pines, lasted about a week. Those were real fun camps, we enjoyed that.

MN: Now at home, what kind of food did you eat? Did you eat Japanese food or American food?

IH: Probably a mix of both. And maybe a few other kinds as well, Italian and Mexicans. My mother loved to cook all kinds of foods. In fact, her daughter-in-law was quite surprised when she first started cooking, after our wives came to dinner sometimes.

MN: Do you recall any, like, peddlers coming around to sell perishable foods like tofu?

IH: Yeah. Fish, there was a guy in a fish truck, might have been others as well. Vegetables, maybe.

MN: And then you also shared that you raised rabbits.

IH: Yes.

MN: What did you do with the rabbits?

IH: I raised them and sold, killed, 'em and skinned them and sold the rabbit. Small business. We had to take care of the rabbits, feed 'em and clean up their pens and so forth. But, yeah, I learned how to kill rabbits and skin 'em.

MN: How do you kill the rabbits?

IH: You have to -- it's quite brutal -- you have to hit 'em in the back of the head with a long piece of iron.

MN: And is this the money that you used to go to the movies?

IH: I guess, so, yeah. Had little savings accounts.

MN: Now, before the war, did your parents ever talk about visiting Japan? Did you visit Japan before the war?

IH: Never. They were too busy, I guess, working and trying to make a living.

MN: Did your father drink at all?

IH: Early in his life, in his college days, I think he did take to drinking. Very un-Christian of him, I'd say. And he told me, he told us he used to go on these binges, pretty bad. But he quit after he got married. He got more responsibilities, so he stopped. He did, I know, after the war, there was a time when he was under a great deal of stress. For about a week there he was on a binge.

MN: Is that from trying to restart his business, restarting his life?

IH: Yeah. It was very difficult.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

MN: Now let me get into the war years.

IH: All right.

MN: What were you doing on Sunday, December 7, 1941?

IH: That's a good question. I really don't recall. It was a Sunday, we might have been going to Sunday school. Again, the news of Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Pearl Harbor didn't have much of an impact on us, we were thirteen-year-old boys. Again, parents shielded us from the devastation, the impact of that. I know my uncle, my father wrote in his diary that my uncle Jim, he came by and he was very distraught. They knew what the consequences of that was. Because they had a business relationship, my father had... my uncle Jim ran the branch store, Valley Seed Company, in the Imperial Valley, so they were concerned about the business. Just existence, living their lives because of the war.

MN: Now, did anybody you know get picked up by the FBI?

IH: There was one young Kibei that worked for my father as a salesman, he wasn't there at the house, but the FBI did come looking for him. And I understand they found him later, but they questioned him for a few days and they released him.

MN: Now early on, your father had been the secretary of the Japanese Association in Imperial Valley.

IH: That's correct.

MN: Did he ever get questioned about that?

IH: No, not that I know of.

MN: Now the next day is a Monday. Did you go to go school?

IH: I believe I did.

MN: Do you recall what the atmosphere was like at school?

IH: I think it was normal as I recall. I don't recall any incidents, any remarks, nothing at all. Only when word got out that we're gonna be evacuated, then we got called into the principal's office, and the principal said, "I'm very sorry to see you leave," and he didn't think it was right. At that time -- I guess I'm digressing a little bit -- he gave us an American flag, a school flag.

MN: Do you still have this flag?

IH: No, I do... it was made out of nylon, and it just disintegrated through the years.

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

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: Now, when you heard that you had to go into a camp, what was your reaction to that?

IH: I really didn't know because... what it meant. I suppose I had some regrets because leaving my friends and our home and school and so forth. But again, I didn't really understand what the impact of it would be, of why we were being asked. I sort of treated it as an adventure, we're going to some strange place. We just went along with it.

MN: Was it like going to summer camp at Big Pines? I mean, you were still a teenager, thirteen, fourteen.

IH: Yeah.

MN: Is that what it felt like?

IH: Yeah, we really didn't understand why. We didn't know if it was because of our ancestry or because of political reasons, because of the war with Japan.

MN: Now, what did your father do with the seed business?

IH: Well, he had to dispose of his stocks. I think he put a lot of it in storage, anticipating that someday he'll come back and restart the business. But he did have to dispose with a lot of the physical parts of his business. I think the economic impact was pretty tough on him because he extended a lot of credit to farmers. In those days, he went with the farmers and he supplied 'em with all of his inputs. And then when harvesting time came, that's when he would pay off the account. Well, we all left in May, crops were ready to be harvested. They just, they had to abandon everything. So he had a lot of accounts receivables that he never got paid. I'm sure it's a common story for a lot of people.

MN: Do you recall if your parents bought new clothing to go into camp?

IH: Yeah, we did get some jackets, I believe. As I recall, we didn't know where we were going to go. I remember a couple of jackets. We've got some pictures, we're wearing new jackets.

MN: What did your parents do with the Japanese books and records, magazines?

IH: I really don't know. I don't recall having seen them burning things and disposing of them. I don't think... they didn't have photographs of the emperor in the house and all that sort of thing like a lot of families did, things that would tie them in some way to Japan.

MN: What happened to your family car?

IH: We had to sell it.

MN: What is the most cherished thing that you had to leave behind?

IH: I think it was our pet animals. We had a dog. I had to leave him with a friend. I think, to a child, that's probably one of the most...

MN: What kind of dog was it?

IH: It was a German shepherd.

MN: Did you ever see your dog again?

IH: No.

MN: Now, do you remember the exact day that you left for Pomona?

IH: Yeah, it was sometime in early May, wasn't it? We, somehow, there was an assembly point in West Covina where we boarded the buses. I don't know how we got there, but that's the way we had to go, and they used regular municipal buses to transport us from West Covina to the Pomona Assembly Center.

MN: Now the day you left your home, did any of your neighbors or friends come to see you off?

IH: I think our neighbors that we rented the house from, the Mills family.

MN: How did that make you feel to see the Mills family to see you off?

IH: Well, I don't recall, but I know my mother was in tears. It impacted her quite strongly.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: Now what was your first impression of Pomona?

IH: Well, it was quite a disappointment. It was just dilapidated, hastily built barracks, not well built. And you've heard the stories about cracks in the walls, just single walls where you could see everything in the neighboring unit, open ceilings and such. And the bathing facilities and latrine facilities were very poor. And as well as the food and the way it was prepared, it was just very discouraging.

MN: You mentioned food, what do you remember of eating? What kind of food did you eat at Pomona?

IH: Well, at first it was very bad because the cooks were Caucasians and I guess they didn't particularly care. They burned a lot of food. How do you burn oatmeal? They did, oatmeal. We just had a lot of things that were very... frankfurters, just raw frankfurters and a slice of bread or something like that.

MN: You know, did you get diarrhea because of the food?

IH: I recall having some digestive problems. It was a long wait, the long waits in line. You've heard this story, it was very common. And it was quite hot and dusty, and we had to stand in long lines.

MN: I know Pomona gets really hot in the summertime.

IH: Yes.

MN: Now, when you were at the Pomona Assembly Center, did any of your Caucasian friends come to visit you?

IH: Yes. Mrs. Mills came, because they did allow visitors. They had an area, sort of a compound of high fences, double fences, you couldn't actually be in contact, you had to talk through a double, might have been a chain link fence. And, but we were, I remember Mrs. Mills brought some chicken one time, a box of chicken, and that story I remember very well. We took the box of chicken back after visiting was over, took the chicken back to the barrack unit, and then my brother and my sister and I just gorged ourselves with that. It was delightful to have chicken, fried chicken. But my mother saw that and she was overcome. So I remember that very distinctly.

MN: When you say your mother was overcome, did she break down?

IH: Yes.

MN: Was any school or classes held at Pomona?

IH: I don't think so, but they did have some sort of handicrafts and that sort of thing. They did have organized sports, softball was popular. They had some real good softball games. And the American Friends Service Committee, they were, I think, one of the organized groups that came on a regular basis for counseling, to bring gifts, books, crossword, jigsaw puzzles, that sort of thing. And they, I think to this day, I admire the extent that they did for us.

MN: Now you mentioned there was a graduation ceremony?

IH: Yes, there was. Because most of us had to drop out of school before graduation, and so they, somehow or other they arranged to have all the diplomas from various schools that we were in brought, and we had a ceremony outdoors. And so I received a little grammar school graduation diploma.

MN: Now was this only for grammar school kids, or up into high school?

IH: I think they might have gone as far as high school.

MN: Was there cap and gowns, or what did you wear?

IH: No, just ordinary. It was very informal.

MN: Who passed out the diploma?

IH: I really don't recall. Probably some of the administrators.

MN: And was this held up on a stage or just in the...

IH: It was in an open field. There might have been some bleachers, maybe a flat platform or something.

MN: What was your feeling about getting this diploma?

IH: Well, satisfied because I had something tangible that showed that I graduated. I don't know if at that time I felt any regrets or hatred that we were being denied the regular graduation. I don't recall having that feeling.

MN: Now you shared this memory of when people drove their cars into Pomona they had to leave it in a dirt field.

IH: Yes.

MN: Now, what did you witness happening to these cars?

IH: Yeah, well, they were all in a fenced-off compound right outside of the camp area, and we could walk out in an open field, dirt field. We don't know why, but whoever's in charge of the military, there was a lot of soldiers who ran the place. They were able to literally race around with those cars and crash into each other. It would be called a jalopy derby, they didn't care if they, how much damage they inflicted on the cars. They were just raising dust and just going around and around, just having a great time. And I remember the nursery truck, the Hayami family, my good friend Walt, I was standing with him and we were watching this. It was amusing at that time. But when you consider what they were doing, allowed to be done, terrible. I don't think there was any compensation for those vehicles. They were just given to the military to destroy as they saw fit.

MN: Now, what were your parents doing at Pomona?

IH: You know, there might have been some small handicraft classes that my mother... I don't think there was much in the way of organized. We were only there for three or four months, so we don't really, there weren't any activities like that that I recall. The only organized thing that I recall is like the softball games.

MN: Now you didn't grow up in a large Japanese American community. How did it feel to be all of a sudden to be surrounded by so many Japanese Americans?

IH: It was a new experience. My goodness, I remember as we came into the camp, there were barricades on both sides that we were walking down, coming into the camp, and gee, all the Japanese faces. It was surprising. Well, I didn't really, I guess at that point it began to sink into me what was happening to us in the world we put together, confined, because of the war and because of our ancestry. All those things really didn't occur to me 'til I was in that camp.

MN: Now when you were leaving Pomona, you have this very distinct memory of how you left Pomona. Can you share that memory?

IH: Yeah, well, again, the impact of this particular day when we had to walk down this dirt road toward the train, because that's where we boarded the train for Heart Mountain. There were soldiers on both sides of the road with shotguns and every few feet there was a soldier with a shotgun. It struck me at that time that, "Why are they doing this to us?" They're treating us like criminals. I felt, again, the impact was quite strong. I was beginning to realize what's happening, I guess. I guess that's the military way of doing things, but still, it's the impact that it had on me and everybody else. Very unnecessary.

MN: So you felt like a criminal?

IH: Yeah, felt like, "Why are they doing this to us?" We did nothing wrong.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: Do you remember what month you left Pomona?

IH: I think it was... May, June... must have been September.

MN: And then you said they loaded you onto a train. What kind of train was this?

IH: Apparently these are all railcars that, passenger cars that were in storage, 'cause they were in very bad condition. They had been neglected for a long time. Those are the kinds of trains. MN: And how many days was the train ride?

IH: It was four days.

MN: Where did you sleep?

IH: In the seats where we sat.

MN: Now you're four days in this train seat, you had to sleep sitting up. Did some people just get tired and just sleep on the floor?

IH: I don't think so. Maybe. It was a tiring ride and I think they provided us with boxed lunches or food or something. So I think... well, the mood just was very quiet. There wasn't a lot of socializing.

MN: How was your father handling the train ride?

IH: Well, that's an interesting thing. For the first time in my recollection, he sat very quietly on another seat by himself. I guess there was enough room. And I remember going to sit down next to him, I don't recall why, but he snapped at me. He really did. I guess he was very, very upset about what was happening to him and the family, and I just had never seen him that way. And he would normally, never raised a hand or never shouted at us at all. But at that time he just pushed me aside, that sort of thing.

MN: On a lighter note, do you recall what the bathrooms were like?

IH: Uh-huh. Maybe you've heard this story, but I don't know, we had a rail car that had a bathroom, a little compartment, private little place. And it was really just a hole in the floor of the rail car. So as the train is moving, of course, and you're using it, everything just goes straight down to the ground. And I really don't know what they did when they were in the siding from the cities and so forth. But to me, well, it was an effective way to get rid of waste, but gee whiz, how crude.

MN: Now do you know which states the train went through?

IH: Yeah, as I recall, from California we went though, more toward, to Las Vegas. I think the first night I recall, we had a siding in Las Vegas. And Las Vegas at that time was just a small little town, 'cause the rail track goes right through the city even today. And then we went through Utah, Idaho, and into Montana. And I remember Billings, Montana, we stopped there. And then from there, to the siding right there where Heart Mountain's at. There's a rail siding right there.

MN: How did you know you were going through these states and cities?

IH: Oh, I don't know. Well, I guess you look for signs.

MN: But you didn't have to put the curtains down?

IH: Oh, not... well, not all the time. I don't think they enforced that too strictly in our train.

MN: Now you said the train went, there was a siding right by Heart Mountain.

IH: Yeah.

MN: Do you remember what time of the day you got to Heart Mountain?

IH: Yeah, it was late in the afternoon, and they were waiting, everybody was waiting for us. The people there were supposed to help us. And it was getting cold, I think it was late September. And it was chaotic. Of course, I'm sure they handled other groups that came in. But the idea of unloading all these people and getting them onto their flatbed trucks, and then taking them to their barrack unit, and everyone's tired and in need of a bath and hungry. We might have gotten some food that evening, but it was getting dark. It was an organized... not well organized effort to get everybody settled.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: Okay, so you arrived at Heart Mountain. Which block did you live in?

IH: Originally, we were assigned to a unit in Block 14 as I recall. We went onto the back of a flatbed truck, pretty hard to get on that truck and off that truck because there was not, there weren't the steps, and so I don't know how the old ladies and old men did. But anyway, we got off and we walked into our unit like everyone else, and lo and behold, there's a bat flying around. [Laughs] And that's kind of a scary welcome because bats... well, we somehow managed it. We opened the door or something and chased him out. But, you know, here you are in this barren room with these steel cots leaning against the walls, mattresses, the bare necessities. And you think, "It's time to go to bed, it's getting late." And I don't know about the food situation, if we ate or not, but that was our welcome. And then the next day, of course, you started to find out where you're at in relation to everything else, you find the bathroom, the latrine, the mess halls. Everything else you're supposed to know about. It's confusing, of course, because all the barracks looked the same. You got only the barrack number and block number to go by. Very easy to get lost. So we went through all that.

MN: You said early on you were supposed to go to Block 14, but that's not where you ended up, right?

IH: No, we ended up, I don't know why we went to 27 after that.

MN: Now, you were sharing also that early on, there wasn't a lot, you know, there wasn't enough to eat. And you guys were growing boys, so what did you do?

IH: Well, interesting, because you had to eat in the mess hall that you were assigned to in your block, but in those days, they were still not well organized, so we were able to go from mess hall to mess hall to get enough to eat. Because during the lunch hour, probably, say, lunch or breakfast, I think it was mostly lunch, we would run from one barrack to, one mess hall to another, the neighboring mess halls, to get enough to eat because we were growing boys. [Laughs] In a way, it was a lot of fun.

MN: What was the most mess halls you visited in one lunch hour?

IH: I think it might have been three. But you'd have to really move fast. [Laughs]

MN: What were they serving?

IH: Well, the usual, stew and frankfurters, potatoes. Based on, I guess, the military rations.

MN: Now, when you first got to Heart Mountain, did you actually eat with your parents?

IH: Yeah, as I recall.

MN: And then what happened? Later on, did you...

IH: Well, I think we did eat with our friends once in a while. I think that was quite common in the mess halls, that kids tend to eat with their friends. It's a natural thing, which I don't think was good for the unity of the family or the authority of the father. His authority was pretty much emasculated anyway when they went to the camps. Kids sort of ran wild, because they really didn't need the parents. Only to sleep in the same room.

MN: Now I understand that first winter was a very, very cold winter.

IH: It was.

MN: How did you cope with the cold?

IH: Well, we had a coal burning stove in each unit, but the clothing was not sufficient 'cause we didn't, we weren't prepared for it the first winter. So we managed, they did issue the military surplus clothing like the peacoats and other old clothing from the Civilian Conservation Corps. Mittens and gloves.

MN: These probably didn't fit the Japanese American height and body, did it?

IH: Yeah. There were some tailors that cut down and altered the clothing. It was enough to protect us, but winters were harsh, especially in that area because mostly the snow came down in blizzards. They didn't come down in white flurries. And walking to school, you're walking either against the blizzard or with the blizzard. A peacoat with a double back was good, and the high collar. It was good when you're walking with the wind to your back, but when you're walking into it, it's pretty cold.

MN: Now I know some people had chamber pots to avoid going to the latrine at night 'cause it's so cold.

IH: Very handy, yeah.

MN: Did your family have chamber pots?

IH: You know, I don't recall we did, but I'm sure there must have been some. Yeah, very popular.

MN: Now, since there's snow, did you, your barrack or your block area, did they have ice skating?

IH: Yeah, there were some places where, when the snow melted, where the water formed puddles next to some of the buildings, and that was the first little rink, ice skating rinks that they had. And I don't know, some people had ice skates and started skating, so it got very popular. And then later on they made, constructed large ice rinks with heavy equipment. They put the water in and it froze.

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

<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.

<Begin Segment 13>

MN: Now I want to ask a little bit about your father. You mentioned that your father became a block councilman. How did he get this position? Is this something that the people in the block vote for?

IH: I don't know. I think it's probably a voluntary thing. Certain people step forward in each block and they want to be, represent the block. And it's a popularity contest, but all of the blocks had representatives, and they formed the camp council, and they worked directly with the administration in the camp, the WRA, you might say. Because it was very important for the community to be able to express their grievances and so forth and iron out any problems and that sort of thing. So he did that and he enjoyed it. He worked together with the WRA social scientists that were the representatives from the WRA who by training was an anthropologists that sort of kept track of the level of... what shall we say... feelings of the residents of the camp. So he worked together with him very closely and they got along very well.

(Narr. note: My father, Kumezo Hatchimonji, worked as a block representative for Block 27 and was therefore a member of the camp council. In addition, he also worked as an informal advisor for the WRA Community Analyst who lived and worked in the camp to gather information on the internees for the WRA. The analyst was named Asael T. Hansen, a professional social scientist. A close and personal relationship developed between the two. My father was able to advise Hansen on the lives and attitudes of internees at Heart Mountain with respect to issues they may have, aspects of their Japanese culture that may affect their lives at Heart Mountain and other sociological data.

The relationship did cause some suspicion among the Issei that my father was an informant to collect damaging information for the WRA but no actions were taken to stop the relationship. The WRA felt it was important to learn about the feelings of the internees, especially the Issei. I'm sure the reports of the community analysts from all of the camps were important in WRA policy decisions.

Hansen has written about my father in the book: JAPANESE AMERICANS from Relocation to Redress edited by Roger Daniels; Sandra Taylor and Harry Kitano. On page 33 you'll find Hansen's comments.

Another story about my father while at Heart Mountain was his selection by the camp administration to represent Heart Mountain at the All Camps Conference held in Salt Lake City, Utah at the time that the WRA was planning the closing of the camps and the resettlement of the internees, a very important part of the program. Two representatives were chosen from each camp. There were many issues about the resettlement of the internees. In some of the minutes taken of the discussions, my father stated that in his opinion that families should be resettled in groups as against individual family resettlement. He believed that most of the families were still headed by the Issei and in order to make a smoother transition into an unfamiliar community that groups should resettle together, as opposed to individual families, would feel more comfortable especially where language constraints and living styles are different. Starting life anew with the problems of housing, employment and assimilation for individual families would be an enormous challenge in the transition from the wartime years in the camp to ordinary life in a community.

How many of my father's recommendations were taken is unknown.

The additional information on my father is important to help describe some what he was like, especially as it contributed to community betterment.)

MN: It would seem to me that if you worked too closely with the WRA people, you might be considered an inu.

IH: Yeah, I think from some points of view, that would be the case. But I think if you could resolve problems and express the feelings of the people toward the higher headquarters of WRA, it's a good thing.

MN: So your father never got targeted to be beaten up or anything like that.

IH: No, not that I know of.

MN: Your father started this victory garden program. Can you share with us that program? IH: Yeah, it was interesting because he had the seeds, the Japanese seeds that he had in storage, and I guess there was an opportunity where he could use some of those seeds and put some of the camp residents, give 'em some activities to grow vegetables they all liked. And so he arranged I guess with the camp authorities to get a plot of land outside of the, outside of the fence, really. At that time we could go outside. And run an irrigation pipe out there with a source of water, and then the plot was sectioned off into plots, smaller plots, for individuals to do their own farming. And it was a great thing because a lot of the internees were farmers, and they have a great chance to not only produce the vegetables that they liked, but also to provide those vegetables for the mess halls, the napa, the daikon. It was a big hit. That was not the same as the larger production areas where it involved large acreages. That was a different program.

MN: That was the actual farm, the actual farm itself?

IH: Uh-huh. Using equipment and everything.

MN: Did your father end up, did he donate these seeds or did he get any compensation?

IH: I don't know. I think he probably donated 'em, because the seeds aren't that expensive.

MN: What about your mother? What did she do in camp?

IH: I think she got together with a lot of other ladies, handicrafts and so forth. I don't recall if she ever worked in the mess hall, 'cause a lot of ladies did work in the mess hall washing dishes and so forth. She might have got involved in knitting. 'Cause I know my aunt, her sister, lived in a unit right across from our barrack, and she was a great knitter, liked to knit. And I don't if they got, where they got the yarn and so forth, but they did a lot of knitting. But she had her friends, and I'm sure they kept themselves busy.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

MN: Now in 1943, the government passed out the so-called "loyalty questionnaire." Was this an issue within your family?

IH: No, you know, the parents never discussed with us, but I understand later that it was a big issue, very controversial.

MN: While your family was in camp, did your parents ever say, "Let's go back to Japan"? IH: No. I think they pretty much cut their ties with Japan. Although they did have, I know my father's case, he does have some members of his family that still lived in Japan, of course. But I think if he had the opportunity, which he never did, he would have loved to come back.

MN: But you're talking about going back just to visit?

IH: Yeah.

MN: Now I know you were still a teenager, but do you recall or have you attended any of the Fair Play Committee meetings?

IH: No. Those were pretty much for the older boys. Although I understand they had, certain mess halls, they'd have these meetings.

MN: Now once the government started to draft the Japanese Americans from camp, did you see a lot more, did you see like memorial services in camp?

IH: Yeah, because some were killed.

MN: Did you attend any of those? Did you know people personally that were killed?

IH: Yeah.

MN: How did that make you feel?

IH: Well, you're always saddened to hear about the death of a young man that you knew. I guess even at that age, the importance of loyalty to the country and dying for your country and this sort of thing, and the fact that these young men that were taken from the camps where they should not have been, and they willingly went to fight for the United States. The significance of that, I didn't really appreciate at that time. But they were, I did respect them a great deal because they're going off to war. Now whether they were volunteers or whether they were draftees didn't matter. I know my father wrote something that... they had a public ceremony for certain ones who were drafted and leaving, speeches and all that. And my father wrote something in the newspaper, the Heart Mountain Sentinel about, "You're doing a great thing representing that." All of us were very proud of them, very encouraged.

MN: I'm going to change the subject on you now and ask you about... now, like in Manzanar, there were a lot of teenagers wearing the zoot suits. Was that common in Heart Mountain?

IH: Not zoot suits, but I remember the pants used to be... certain guys used to wear those tight pants.

MN: They were big in the bottom.

IH: Great pants, yeah.

MN: Was there a lot of gang problems at Heart Mountain?

IH: There were, but not really violent gangs, but tough guys. And there's some rivalries, but nothing, nothing approaching really violent acts.

MN: Did you ever get into fights with them?

IH: No, but I did get slugged one time just walking down the road. This guy came up to me and he said, "What in the blank-blank-blank are you looking at?" I don't know. I wasn't really trying to provoke him or anything. And he slugged me, and down I went. I guess, I guess he was looking for somebody that he could show some authority to, I guess. I didn't think much of it.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

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.

<Begin Segment 16>

MN: Now, from Glendale, Arizona, your family moved to Los Angeles. This is 1949 that they moved, does that sound right?

IH: '46, '47, '48... might be '49.

MN: Now once your family got to Los Angeles, what did your father do?

IH: He started his business in Imperial Valley, although the family had the home in Los Angeles. He thought he had business opportunities in Imperial Valley where a lot of the Japanese had resettled and started farming. So he opened a small store in a little town called Calipatria. But didn't stay there very long. He soon moved the store to a town called Niland, N-I-L-A-N-D. And, of course, the opportunity was to sell seeds, but he branched out into fertilizer and insecticide, farm supplies, things that small famers needed to produce crops. So that started about 1949. But we kept our house in Los Angeles while I went to school, Los Angeles City College. We would commute once in a while, back and forth.

MN: That's a long commute, from Los Angeles to Imperial Valley.

IH: Yeah, it's about two hundred miles.

MN: But I wanted to ask you earlier, though, didn't your father want to go into like escrow or real estate?

IH: Yeah. After the war, he came to Los Angeles. Took a trip from Phoenix, I guess, to Los Angeles. Found a hotel room in Little Tokyo. He wanted to get into some kind of work that was more permanent. He thought real estate would be an opportunity, but not being an American citizen, he couldn't get a job. And at that time, Little Tokyo was still transitioning from a predominately black community, and he didn't appreciate that because of the music and the noise. I guess you might say he was turned off with the community at that point. But he had a... I know he sort of connected up with a gentleman by the name of Gongoro Nakamura. I don't know what resulted from that, but he was looking for opportunities of some kind where he could use his education, his language skills. But I don't think it amounted to much.


MN: So now going back to your father opened his business in Imperial Valley again, he's commuting from Imperial Valley to Los Angeles, is that right?

IH: Well, yeah, but very infrequently. Only when he had an opportunity to do so. Pick up supplies and that sort of thing.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

MN: And then you were continuing your education. You said you went to L.A. City College and then you also went to UCLA, right?

IH: Yeah. I think I got my AA degree at LACC, and then I... the educational program is a very mixed one. I went to UCLA, I think, for one year, and then my father had an accident with the car, and so I felt I better quit education and go and help him. So I did go down and live and work down in Imperial Valley, his store. And for some reason, I don't know, at some point in time, I went to Occidental College for another year. I still don't have a degree. And then after that I went back down, I must have gone into the military at that point, 1953. I was drafted after getting a couple of years of deferments because I was helping my father. But they finally drafted me.

MN: And where did you do your basic training?

IH: At Ford Ord, California.

MN: Was it in an integrated unit?

IH: Oh, yeah.

MN: How did the other non-Japanese American soldiers treat you?

IH: Like anybody else, no problems.

MN: Now after basic training, you had sixteen weeks of advanced infantry training.

IH: Yeah.

MN: Was this common?

IH: Well, usually when you start off with basic training, about half of 'em go into this advanced training. I don't know why I was chosen to do that, but it was just as rigorous and difficult as the first half, first eight weeks.

MN: So those who show promise, is that, they get into this advanced training?

IH: I didn't... I hope not.

MN: Now you were sharing that when you were in basic training, the cease fire was declared in '53.

IH: That's correct.

MN: So why weren't you all sent home?

IH: Well, at that point, I guess once you're in the pipeline, they needed troops there anyway, after the cease fire to maintain things. So we were sent over, like we were going to, for combat, but we didn't.

MN: So when you arrived in Korea, were there still some fighting going on?

IH: There were some scattered incidents, so we were, we had our rifles and so forth. We had to guard over facilities, 'cause there were some incidents.

MN: What were your responsibilities when you were stationed in Korea?

IH: Well, I was rather fortunate because the way the army works, I went over to Japan on a ship, took that rickety old train down to the Port of Sasebo, and at that point, during one of the assemblies, they asked if there's anybody here that can type. So I held up my hand, and so afterwards I had to report to the orderly room and they said, "Okay, how much can you type?" I said, "Oh, maybe fifteen, twenty words per minute." Said, "Fine." So at that point they changed my military occupational specialty to "clerk typist." So when we boarded the ship, sailed over to Pusan, Korea, and we were all coming down, they put me aside to, put me on a train rather than send me up to the front, and from then on I was a clerk typist. After all that infantry training. So anyway, that was fortunate because I got to work and live in Seoul, even though it was decimated by the bombings and all, at least it was better than living way up in the front lines. And so I got a job as working in the labor office, I mean, labor office, where we hired local Koreans for the military, work in the mess halls and did all kinds of work for the military. I enjoyed that experience.

MN: Now Japan occupied Korea for a number of years, and you're an American but you have a Japanese face.

IH: Yes.

MN: How did the native Koreans treat you?

IH: They treated me well, oddly enough. In fact, they kind of sided up to me because I was of Japanese ancestry. It was really quite amazing that I didn't get any negative remarks or feelings, and they considered me to be an American, but an American of Japanese ancestry. And so it was good to know that. Of course, I felt very sorry for the Koreans 'cause they were having a very difficult time. Right after the war there wasn't enough food, and they had a hard time just to make a living. So I give 'em a lot of credit for their endurance. I remember little groups of orphans would come by and sing to us. I really saw some human suffering. I remember going to the Port of Pusan, I never saw such human suffering. People just... they were desperate. No food, clothing. I remember... boy, how lucky it is to be an American.

MN: Since you were in uniform, an American uniform, did you get propositioned a lot by women who were desperate for money and were selling their bodies?

IH: Uh-huh, yeah. Very common.

MN: Now while you were stationed there, did you get an opportunity to meet your, visit your relatives in Japan?

IH: I did.

MN: What was that --

IH: 'Cause they had what they call the R&R, that was seven day trips to Japan. Just about everybody got to get that opportunity. So I did visit some relatives, my father's relatives. But I did do a lot of sightseeing, some major cities. I saw my father's former friends (who) moved back to Japan. Yeah, really... but in those days, even Japan was, they were still recovering. There were still occupational forces there. They were still rebuilding.

MN: How did this experience in Korea affect you?

IH: Well, I think I got a broader outlook on life, the world, (a) broader understanding of human nature and the effects of war. Just... I think it led me into a greater interest in international affairs, international politics.

MN: And what year were you honorably discharged?

IH: 1955.

MN: Now once you were out of the service and you came back to Los Angeles, I think it's shortly after that your father died, is that right?

IH: Well, I finished college first. I finished my last year of college, got my degree, that was '56. He died in '56, so it must have been right after I graduated.

MN: Did you take over your father's business?

IH: Yeah, our family had a little discussion about what should we do? At that time, the business wasn't that bad, and it took a long time for Father to build it up to where it was at, and we had a customer base. And (we decided), "Well, that being the case, I think I'll just take over and run the business, keep it going." So I did.

MN: And then you also got married, too.

IH: 1957.

MN: To Ruth.

IH: Ruth (Mikiko Hirotsu).

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

<Begin Segment 18>

MN: And so the kids are coming, you're running your father's business, but then you quit in '62 and then you moved back to Los Angeles and you're working for the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, is that right?

IH: That's correct. I had to find a job, so I got a job as a health education assistant, working in the Watts community.

MN: And you were in the Watts community when the riots happened in '65. What was that like?

IH: Well, it was a terrible time for that community because I could see it coming. And when it did happen, it was so devastating that... and you could understand the feelings in the community, the way they methodically went about burning down certain businesses that were exploiting those people for many years. And, of course, the police, their attitudes toward the black people were terrible for many years. Public relations was awful. But having worked in the public health sector, I got to know a lot of the local leaders, people, community people, and they were all good, understanding people, and appreciated what the public health system was trying to do. We undertook a program of immunizations for the kids. So there was no damage or harm directed toward the public health clinic there. I guess I understand why... it was an eye-opener, but not unexpected.

MN: Now after the Watts riot occurred, though, did your wife ask you to quit working in that area?

IH: No. I worked for, I think it's... I must have done that for another year. But I did get another job, I don't know why, in Hollywood. Worked for Unemployment Insurance for a year.

MN: And what kind of people were you interacting with?

IH: Well, I worked in the Hollywood office where people in the entertainment industry would come by and get their checks. You had to work at the window, you had to interview them, and then you approve their checks. But it was an interesting experience because... well, first of all, we learned something about actors and actresses and how vain they are. [Laughs] Interesting people.

MN: Are you free to name any names, actors and actresses you met?

IH: Yeah, I remember... I don't recall the lady's name, but well-known actress. When I told her that, "I loved you," in this certain film, she'd just glow with flattery, getting such flattery. They're so vain, they love to be... especially if they're sort of, you might say, has-beens, living in the past, the glories of the past. But some actors and actresses, their character is quite different than what's portrayed on the screen. They're not easy people to talk to.

MN: Now how did you get involved with the foreign service?

IH: Oh, yeah. That was quite an accident. I think, just a newspaper article shortly after the beginning of the Vietnam War, and recruiting people for the State Department. And I said, "Well, looks interesting." So I followed up on it and went down and had an interview, I guess it was at the Biltmore Hotel, with a recruiter. Usually a well-known, a seasoned foreign service officer that knew a lot about the service and the kind of people he was looking for. He interviewed me and then he set me up for a series of interviews in Washington.

MN: And you got the job.

IH: Uh-huh.

MN: So once you got the job, did you have to move to Washington?

IH: Just for a period of weeks for that orientation. I don't know how long I was there, maybe a couple weeks.

MN: And then you go to this orientation, and then you were sharing that you had to go through a training, is it six months of training?

IH: Yeah, well, at that time, they were recruiting for Vietnam, specifically, so I was to be assigned to Vietnam. So I started a language training program, but that took place really, they selected Hawaii as the place for that, 'cause they felt that being in the environment in Hawaii would make the transition a little easier from living in a typical American community. So we did, spent six months, I believe, intensive language training, every day, learning Vietnamese language, the different dialects. Also learning about the... we had a number of guest speakers that talked about Vietnam, the war, the culture, number of things, political aspects of it. So, theoretically, we were pretty well versed in what we were getting into. But some of that training, the last two months that I recall, we moved the training over to the Big Island of Hawaii and lived in an actual sugar plantation town, a little village that was abandoned, you might say. So we lived in actual shacks, these were literally shacks. They were built up on stilts, we had chickens below. The chickens were still there, and you could see the chickens through the cracks in the floor. [Laughs] Anyway, so we, there again it's supposed to make your transition to Vietnam, but that wasn't the case. Anyway, it was an interesting experience.

MN: And these people that you were training with, were they also Asian Americans?

IH: Oh, no. Most of... again, seventy-five percent were Caucasian, maybe five, ten percent were Latinos. Blacks, we did have several, maybe ten percent black, African American, so we had pretty much across the board.

MN: Did people expect you to know a little bit more just because you had an Asian face?

IH: Yeah, I guess they did. I never really emphasized that. I did have a remark once from a seasoned foreign service officer, and I think a lot of Japanese Americans have had this same question asked, said, "You speak English very well." And I said, "Yes, I believe I do." And I was rather surprised, because this guy was a veteran, and to have him not know that, not know that I was born and raised in the United States, to me, really surprised me to hear that. Anyway, yeah, I think it was good training, prepared, 'cause we all worked in the provinces, and we had to use the language every day.

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

<Begin Segment 19>

MN: So, now you are going to Vietnam, you're being shipped to Vietnam. What happened to your wife and children?

IH: They had an arrangement where they couldn't take the families to Vietnam because the war was going on. So they had a safe haven system where the families could be located closer to Vietnam. There was a safe haven in Bangkok, Taipei-Taiwan, or Manila, the Philippines. Well, we selected Bangkok, Thailand, I think that was a good choice. Because it's closer, for one thing, and I could visit more often. So the embassy there provided the housing, schooling, and there was a lot of facilities there. Because we were with the embassy, we could take advantage of those. So it was a quite good experience for the kids, schooling was good, international school was good. We lived in a nice apartment at first, swimming pool and all, then we had a house. We had servants. My wife had a pretty easy time of it as far as housework was concerned. And we enjoyed the Thais, the Thai people.

MN: Now how often were you able to go visit them, though?

IH: About every six weeks I could fly. I had to, because I was upcountry or in the central highlands, I'd have to take a, (local car) transportation down to Saigon and catch a regular international flight.

MN: So once you get to see your family, though, how many days were you able to be with them?

IH: Maybe three or four days.

MN: Now, when you were in Vietnam, what were your main responsibilities? What programs did you oversee?

IH: Well, originally we were all assigned as provincial advisors, advisors representing... in this case, we were all with the Agency for International Development, which is a branch of the State Department. Primarily the agency, AID, provides the foreign service assistance to developing countries throughout the world. So we treated Vietnam as a developing country, and development is usually in the areas of agriculture, public health, medicine, education. So I was assigned as an agricultural advisor because my experience with intensive agriculture in small scale agriculture. And that's what was going on in the province that I was sent. It was primarily a vegetable growing area. So I was able to work with a lot of provincial agricultural, Ministry of Agriculture people and farmers.

MN: Now you shared that you worked a lot with the Montagnards.

IH: Uh-huh.

MN: What were they like?

IH: Well, to Vietnamese, they would be considered primitive. They weren't economically developed like the Vietnamese. They lived in small villages and remote areas in hillsides, pretty self-sustaining. They had their own communities. We knew that to develop the country we had to work with them as well, because they needed a lot of help in food production. I know there was other people that worked with them in public health. They had a lot of issues in public health, education, schools, they needed teachers. They wanted to get them more integrated into the Vietnamese community. And so we did quite a bit with them. Small scale projects, poultry and pigs and small crops. We used to bring over, bring in seeds, vegetable seeds. We would experiment and see which ones worked well. So hopefully they'd learn things about crops and nutrition, of course.

MN: What program were you most proud of when you worked in Vietnam?

IH: What was that... it was probably the, probably in agriculture, and I think we built some small dams, irrigation dams, and they were providing irrigation for areas that needed water. Very, very successful because they were easy to build. Just took some money and some input, materials, cement and so forth. Also, I think we introduced some purebred livestock like pigs, that the breeds that they had there were no longer very good. They needed purebred stock to improve the livestock. Also, we brought in some chicks, baby chickens for their poultry production. That was interesting because there were little day-old chicks and they had to fly in from the U.S. and it was very difficult to make that transition from the U.S. to where we were at and still get those little chicks to survive and distributed.

But those were some of the... we helped with the introduction of some improved rice varieties. International Rice Research Institute developed some high-yielding rice varieties that were very successful there. So hopefully some of those benefits are still there.

MN: Now you were working for an agency that was part of the State Department.

IH: Right.

MN: At any time when you were there, were you part of intelligence gathering?

IH: No, that wasn't our job. But we did, we were questioned by... there were certain, shall we say, members of Central Intelligence Agency there that were trying to collect information. And I really objected to that because they really spoiled the purpose of our trips. 'Cause we weren't there to gather information, intelligence. Because as civilians, Americans, I don't know of any case where any of us were targeted for assassination, because the Viet Cong, they pretty much knew what we were trying to do. Then although a lot of what we did was psychological in nature, you try to win people over to the government side because it was a very political war, warfare. But still, they were around. They knew what we were doing and we could feel their presence. But as far as I know, our work was not contrary to what they were trying to do. There was a part of our program, what they called pacification, which was something else. That's more on the psychological side of things. Some of that was objectionable, I thought, some of the intelligence gathering and assassination of government officials and so forth. That to me was not something that we had anything to do with.

MN: Now you mentioned the Viet Cong, you mentioned that you felt their presence around. Was your life... did you ever feel like your life was threatened?

IH: Not directly, but I did get in situations where my life was in danger. During the Tet Offensive, the well-known Tet Offensive, my home was the site of a battle between the Viet Cong and the Vietnamese military. And my, the house that I was living, I had a detached kitchen that sat away from the house, and that was, an American pilot saw fit to drop a napalm bomb on it and burn the whole place down. And then, but I wasn't there at that time. Fortunately, I was on my way to Bangkok. So during my absence and after that fight, these Vietnamese troops, they ransacked the house and they took everything, literally. Mattresses, beds, anything that they can move, take away. Such is living in Vietnam. But I'd say the whole experience I learned a lot about the war, about the politics involved, the people that, major issues. I learned a great deal about what the North Vietnamese were trying to accomplish, the Viet Cong. Unfortunately, so many people were killed, suffered, innocent people. It was too bad.

MN: How many years were you in Vietnam?

IH: Seven years.

MN: Were you there when Saigon fell?

IH: No, I left the year before '74.

MN: And why did you leave?

IH: My assignment was up, I was to be assigned back to Washington, between assignments, waiting for my next assignment.

MN: And when you were in Vietnam, were you aware that there was a lot of antiwar protests going on in the States?

IH: Oh, yes.

MN: How did you feel about that?

IH: Well, I always felt that what we're doing was not directly trying to persuade the... I didn't think we took sides. We were there for development, and then we're not there to condemn the Viet Cong or try to kill the Viet Cong, we just started to help develop the country. And so I didn't have any great feelings of guilt or anything like that. I know that a lot of it was against the will of the people. And really, you talk to the people, most of 'em just really wanted to be left alone. They didn't care which way they went politically, 'cause that's what the war was all about.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

MN: Now once you returned to Washington, you were, I guess, you had a desk assignment for about a year?

IH: Yeah, uh-huh.

MN: And then were you able to pick where you wanted to go next?

IH: I was able to make preferences, but didn't mean anything. I'm sure they considered it, but they had other needs. So I was assigned to another country, in this case to Nicaragua.

MN: And did you go though the same intensive training?

IH: Yeah, Spanish, mostly in Washington, D.C.

MN: What happened to your family? Did they go with you to Nicaragua?

IH: No, they didn't. Because the schooling wasn't good there, we chose to let Ruth and the kids stay in our home in Maryland, in Rockville, Maryland, and schools there were much better, much better. That isn't to say that schools in Bangkok weren't, 'cause when they went from Bangkok to Maryland, they were reviewing some of the same things that they learned in Bangkok. So they were ahead. That's how good the school was in Bangkok.

MN: Now when you were in Vietnam, you were focused on food production. In Nicaragua, what was your project?

IH: Well, I had two or three. One was Rural Electrification, where the point was to get electricity out to the countryside, to the small villages. And I worked with the National Rural Electrification Cooperative Administration on that. And then I had a small irrigation project, irrigation with small pumps and systems, 'cause irrigation was a problem, get water to crops. And, let's see... I think that was about all.

MN: And Nicaragua is another unstable... has an unstable government.

IH: Politically unstable.

MN: Was your life ever, did you ever feel that you were threatened out there?

IH: No, never. Although we didn't agree with the government, at that time it was a guy named (Anastacio) Somosa, he was one of the worst, corrupt, didn't care anything about his people. But anyway, no, we got real well with all the Nicaraguans, and there was no political repercussions from what we were doing, no.

MN: And how long were you in Nicaragua?

IH: Just two years.

MN And then you were sent, called back to D.C.

IH: Yeah.

MN: And then you were sent to the Africa Bureau.

IH: Africa Bureau, right.

MN: And so which country did they send you to next?

IH: To Zaire, which, now it's changed its name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was formerly the Belgian Congo, another very large country.

MN: So now when you were going through six months of intensive training, which language did you have to learn?

IH: French.

MN: So what happened to your wife and children when you went to Zaire?

IH: Well, by that time, the kids were in college, so they stayed back and went to college, lived in our house in Los Angeles, in Torrance. But they were cared for and they took care of themselves and they went to school. But they got to go to, come to Zaire during the summertime. It was provided for them.

MN: Now what projects did you manage in Zaire?

IH: Well, I had one that was having to do with manioc production. Manioc being, some people call it cassava, it's a root tuber, and it's the main staple, food in Zaire. They needed to improve it because production was way down, and they had a number of problems, productions problems having to do with pest and insects. So really what I did was I was a manager of a project called PRONAM, that's Project National Manioc. And we, as you do in many of these projects, you hire a consulting form. So we had a large International Institute, Tropical Agriculture team, they provided the technology. And so what you do as the manager is just making, evaluating their work and taking care of some of their logistical problems and visiting their, seeing how they're doing, very good. 'Cause they were making good progress.

MN: So that was one of your project, and then what is another -- you had fish culture, too, right?

IH: Yeah. I worked, I was assigned to work with the Peace Corps volunteers. There were about forty of 'em throughout the whole country assigned to fish culture, which is production of small tilapia fish in villages. Fish being a source of protein, 'cause that's, they're very protein deficient in the countryside. So I would, there again I managed the project, and so I learned a lot about what's going on, I had to visit the volunteers at the various sites and see how they're doing, and they made a lot of progress. Quite simple just to dig a fish pond, provide the fingerlings, grow the fingerlings and the feed for the fish, tilapia will eat just about anything. And so, and then when the fish mature, you just sweep the pond, drain it, and harvest the fish. And they usually dry 'em or sell 'em. But there was economic activity in the village. They provided nutrition.

MN: Now how about illnesses? Did you contract any illnesses in Zaire?

IH: No, I didn't. I avoided malaria, although, like I say, the Peace Corps volunteers, just about all of them got malaria because they were living in the villages and things. Very susceptible. No, but I did get cases of indigestion because all these, you're living off the local economy and the food isn't that great.

MN: How long were you stationed in Zaire?

IH: I was there for four years.

MN: And then you returned to Washington, D.C. again. And then once you returned, what did you do in D.C.?

IH: I went back to the Africa Bureau and I worked 'til the end of my work with the... I retired in 1988.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

MN: So you retired when the redress bill was signed, the same year.

IH: Yeah. In fact, I went to, I did have opportunities to go to the Capitol and I did sit in the galleries and listen to some of the dialogue going on, and Norman Mineta's speech, and it was interesting, some of the things that were said by members of the Senate and House. Not very good.

MN: Did you think that the bill had a chance to get passed?

IH: I didn't really understand. I hoped it would, but then I understand later on that it was a very close call.

MN: Did you testify at the commissions at all?

IH: No.

MN: Was your mother alive when the bill passed?

IH: No, let's see, that was... she died in 1989. Yeah, I guess...

MN: So she would have been eligible, '88 it passed. But she didn't live long enough to see her get redress.

IH: Yeah, because they didn't sign the bill for, the legislation passed in '88, and they didn't actually sign the Civil Liberties Act until...

MN: Oh, I thought it was '88 that they signed it, August '88? I think that's when Reagan signed it.

IH: Okay. But she didn't live long enough to receive it. It's regrettable because the ones that suffered the most were not around. They didn't receive the apology, too bad.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MN: Now currently you're a docent at the Japanese American National Museum.

IH: Right.

MN: Why is it important for you to volunteer your time to be a docent?

IH: Well, I think it's necessary that we tell the experience of Japanese Americans to most Americans there. And I don't think enough has been said, not enough people know about it. I think that it's a story worth telling. I enjoy, I enjoy when young people come and listen to me and ask questions. I really think it's... well, you've heard the expression "giving back to the community"? I think that's part of it. But I also think that, I hope that I'm doing it you might say as a memorial to my parents, because of their struggles in this country, I really feel that I owe it to them. And I just hope there would be others with the same attitude. We could use more.

MN: In general, what has been the audience reaction when you lead people through the museum?

IH: You mean on the war years?

MN: Yeah, in general.

IH: Well, it's a revelation for most people. They haven't heard about it they can't believe that such a thing could happen in the United States, and that I always try to emphasize the lesson that something like this should never happen in this country again. Hopefully as good Americans, they would learn the lessons of the past. And I always remind them of the Arab Americans and Muslim Americans and what they've gone through, and what they've learned from our experience. I think, I hope we've had some effect. But I think just being at the museum is, you're helping to make history, Japanese American history, and the people you work with are fine people.

MN: You've had this opportunity to work in different countries. And how has that given you a perspective about the World War II camps and redress?

IH: Having worked in different countries?

MN: Uh-huh. How has that given you a different --

IH: Well, I think from a worldwide perspective, I think that the benefits of living in this country would never happen in most of the countries in the world. This is the country that is unique in that respect. I don't think you would have seen redress and that sort of thing happen in any other country in the world, including the developed countries, most advanced countries in the world. It's the uniqueness of democracy, facing up to what the truth was. So, yeah, I think there is a definite connection with my experience, my personal experience with redress and the war years and my experience abroad, especially in developing countries. 'Cause I saw so much abuse and so much poor government and human suffering. Just so great to be an American. All the countries that I've worked in, I'm sure they represent most of the developing countries in the world.

MN: Well, I've asked all my questions. Is there anything else you want to add?

IH: Well, I appreciate this opportunity to tell you something about myself and my family, my views on certain issues, being able to record some of my life and history, and some of the high points of my life. I think, well, hopefully my family will be interested in the things I've told you, and that leaves something here that will be here for a long time to come after I've gone. And I think, I believe Densho is doing an outstanding thing. They really accomplished a great deal. Thanks to you and what you're doing, they'll move ahead.

MN: It's a community effort.

IH: It is; it's unique. I'm not sure all communities could do something like what Densho is doing.

MN: But we need people like you to be willing to share your stories.

IH: Well, yeah, that's a small part of it, but it's the people that take the initiative --

MN: But that's the important part.

IH: -- and do the actual work, and organize and promote, that's important. I think that's, I can say the same thing about the museum. So appreciate your time.

MN: We appreciate your time, too, coming out here. Thank you, Ike.

IH: Okay.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.