Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Minoru Tajii Interview
Narrator: Minoru Tajii
Interviewer: Martha Nakagawa
Location: Gardena, California
Date: February 14, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-tminoru_2-01-0015

<Begin Segment 15>

MN: Now, before the war, your father made a trip to Hiroshima to help out your grandfather?

MT: Yeah, when the house got flooded, yeah. It tore the whole house down. So they went over there and built the house over there and came back. When we went back after the war, Grandfather told him to get out. And he was the oldest son, that house was supposed to go to him, and the grandfather told him to get out because he wouldn't take care of his two younger brother and two sisters. They were all married except for the one sister wasn't married. He says, "I'll take care of her," because she never got married and didn't go out of the house. But the others all left the house because they got married. And yet, Grandfather wanted him to feed all of them. And they were here in California, and after the war came back, how can you feed 'em when there is no food there in Japan? And we only had two hundred American dollars to go back.

MN: Don't go there yet, but before the war, do you remember what year your father went to help your grandfather build the house?

MT: Oh, gee, they went in the '30s, I guess. It was about in the... '30 or '34, somewhere around there. 'Cause I was very young at the time, yet.

MN: Now your oldest brother was also sent to Japan. Do you remember how old he was and what year he was sent?

MT: Gee... he went back about four or five years before the war started. 'Cause he was almost finished with university, and he wanted to come back. And my father told him, "No, no, finish the school, then come back." And that was a bad mistake. He got caught over there. So the Japanese military told him, "You're going to have to be an interpreter in the navy," so they made him go. And they left Kure -- this is a city in Hiroshima -- and they had seven ships that went out. He was in the middle . The American submarines caught him before Taiwan or Formosa. They let the first one get by, then they got the next five, and the last one got away because they couldn't catch him because by the time they sunk the five ship in the center, they had enough time to turn around and run. So there was only two ships that got saved, the other five got sunk.

MN: So your brother was killed in action...

MT: Yeah. He was fish bait.

MN: When the war was going on, did you know that your brother had been killed?

MT: No. We didn't know until we walked into the house. When we walked into the house, my brother's picture with that black tape on it, what they do -- they do it over here, too, but they put that black tape on it. They went back because they thought he was alive, and he had finished college, so they figured that he could help. They one that they counted on was gone. Only thing they had was two dummies. Although my brother, older brother, he had two years of junior college, though. He went to junior college in El Centro. I was supposed to go away, except the war stopped it. Because I was in the last year of high school, that was it.

MN: I imagine... I mean, what was your parents' reaction when they walked into the home in Hiroshima and saw your brother's picture like that?

MT: Yeah. My mother was shocked the most. She was the first in, she opened the sliding glass door, and there it was. Well, they could have somehow notified our parents, and then they probably wouldn't have gone back. But they didn't. Well, it wasn't good news anyway, so maybe they didn't want to do it.

MN: Now, I know that before the war, the Kawakita family lived in Imperial Valley.

MT: Yes.

MN: Of course, after the war, the son, Tomoya, became notorious because he was, mistreated the American POWs in Japan. Did you know this family?

MT: Yes, I knew them. As a matter of fact, we went to the church, the Kokubun's church, we used to go there.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.