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

<Begin Segment 1>

MN: Today is Tuesday, February 14, 2012. We will be interviewing Minoru "Min" Tajii at his home in Gardena, California. We have Tani Ikeda on video, and I will be interviewing, my name is Martha Nakagawa. So, Min, I wanted to start with basic questions like what is your father's name?

MT: Jitsuo.

MN: And which prefecture is he from?

MT: Hiroshima.

MN: Now, who on your father's side came first to the United States?

MT: Grandfather.

MN: Do you know about his early life, your grandfather's early life here?

MT: Well, they were farmers in Japan, in Hiroshima, and they came over here and they started farming over here.

MN: And when did your father come over?

MT: My...

MN: Father?

MT: Father? Well, he came over here when he was sixteen, he said. That's what he kept telling me, sixteen. So he knew America better than Japan.

MN: Let me ask you [your mother's name].

MT: Sadako.

MN: Do you know what her maiden name is?

MT: Ikeuchi.

MN: And which prefecture is she from?

MT: Hiroshima.

MN: Do you know what year your parents got married?

MT: No. Well, she came over to... well, she came over because she was going to get married. It was more like these "picture marriage."

MN: So in total, how many children did your parents have?

MT: Four.

MN: Where are you in the sibling hierarchy?

MT: I was the third son.

MN: Now where were you born?

MT: I was born in Brawley, California.

MN: Were you delivered by a sambasan?

MT: That I don't know.

MN: When were you born?

MT: When? February 23, 1924.

MN: And what is your birth name?

MT: My birth name? Gee, I don't know.

MN: Is it Minoru?

MT: Just Minoru Tajii, yeah. I don't have any middle name or anything else, just Minoru.

MN: So later on, you didn't adopt an English name?

MT: No. It's just Min, short, they called me Min.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

MN: Now, before you were born, did your father always farm or did he do other things?

MT: Once he told me that he had a dairy, but that didn't last too long. Because the kind of work that you have to do for a dairy is hard, 'cause you got to milk the cows in the morning, and then in the evening again. So he quit that went into just strictly farming.

MN: Now you were saying when your father farmed, he had to move quite a bit. How long did he stay in one area?

MT: Well, that one place would be, at the minimum, two years, but at least three years. Because after three years, then your crop isn't very good, so they go to a fresh place and do another two to three years.

MN: So as far as you know, did your father start farming in El Centro?

MT: No, he was doing in Brawley first, and then from he moved to El Centro, and then from El Centro to Calexico. And then from Calexico we moved further west to the Mt Signal area.

MN: So on average, how big was your father's farm?

MT: What?

MN: Like how many acres, about?

MT: Oh, gee, whatever that land is, some of 'em are forty acres, some of 'em are fifty acres. But always about forty acres.

MN: And what did he usually grow?

MT: Cantaloupe, lettuce, tomato.

MN: So when you were moving around, how close did your family farm to the Mexican border?

MT: One time we were about a quarter mile away.

MN: So you were sharing when your family was farming in Imperial Valley, how you prevented the crop from freezing. Can you share that story with us?

MT: Well, what you have to do is go out and get the arrow weed. They put the arrow weed, and then they'll put a post at each end, and then string a wire. And then you put the paper, brown paper, big roll, and then you put some more arrow weeds in the back, because otherwise the wind will blow your paper away. The arrow weed can't hold it, but arrow weed is to keep the paper from blowing around. Then the wire keeps it strong so it won't get blown away.

MN: So is this... you covered the entire plant like that?

MT: Well, you put it on the north side. That's to keep it warm so the seed will germinate, but then you get the freeze. When you get the freeze, then you had to cover the south side with the same paper. And you use clothespins to keep the paper up at the top closed. That is where all the works come in, when you're gonna have to take it off. You got a lot of trash. But the arrow weeds you save. It's what the Indians used to use to make arrows with, so it's very strong. That's what you have to save. But the paper, brown paper, you have to throw away. Also, when they plant seeds, they used what they call an oil paper, and they use wire and make it like a tent. I have to say that the wire's about twelve, fourteen inches long, and they'd make it into pole, then they'd put the brown oil paper over it and cover the edges with dirt so it won't blow away. And then that makes it hot inside, an your seeds will germinate and the plants would grow.

MN: So, and then so once the plant starts to grow, you have this oil paper on there. What do you do?

MT: You have to take it off. Take the oil paper off, or you burn it, have to burn it, but the wire you save for the next year. That is a lot of backbreaking work, but they used to use, we used to have the Mexican people come to the farm from Mexico. I don't know if they came in illegally or not, but they used to mostly come from Calexico because that's where the border was. Calexico and Mexicali was just divided with a wire. That's how... so you could come across easy. But there's a place where you can come by legally, they would take you back and tell you, "Hey, you can't come in anymore." But there used to be a lot of Mexicans those days. I just took, lived with a Mexican family most of the time, because they had tortillas and refried beans, oh, I just loved that. So I used to eat over there more. So my father had to buy flour and beans and give it to them because I eat almost every night over there. But the tortilla that they used to make is very big. But they cook it on a disc that's, oh, I would say about... gee, I would say almost eighteen inches disc, they would make the tortilla almost as big as that. Now, I could eat two or three of those.

MN: So how many, you know, when you're working and doing this, it's very labor intensive, and you have to do it very quickly, right?

MT: Yes.

MN: If there's a freeze or when you're germinating the seeds, is this a twenty-four hour thing? You have to do work at night and day?

MT: If there's going to be a freeze, my father would wake us up about nine, ten o'clock, then we'll go out and cover. 'Cause you don't get the Mexican people from Mexico to come in. You can't hold of 'em anyway, so we had to do it. So my brother and I, we used to run out there and get the brown paper, run together in so that the paper would be there, then you cut it, and then you start it both ends and start cutting up your pins and your arrow weeds in the front, too, and keep it from falling off and letting the wind blow it away. Sometimes we had to work out there 'til about midnight, and then you have to go to school. The bus picks us up at seven, we'd have to clean the house, wash the dishes and get on the bus before seven. So that's the reason why I was never a farmer. When the war ended, that was it.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

MN: You mentioned that your father hired some Mexican workers. On average, how many workers, when you were doing, like, germination, how many workers would come and help?

MT: Well, when they were covering it like that, he'd have to have about eight, ten people. Because you got to cover it up fast. You can't have it take a long time. Then my mother and father, they were both out there working, too. So you got about twelve, fourteen people working out at one time. So that's why I feel sorry for my mother. She had to do all that, and then she had to come home and then cook. It's not easy for a woman, but that's the way they used to treat the women.

MN: So your parents, did they speak Spanish?

MT: My father spoke quite a bit. As a matter of fact, when I was five and I had to go to school, I went to kindergarten, I didn't know English, not very much, anyway. So they kept me in kindergarten two years. [Laughs] They said that, "You have to learn English before you can go to first grade," so I had to stay two years in kindergarten.

MN: So what language did you learn first?

MT: Well, you learn Japanese first, 'cause your parents was always telling you what to do. But when I was five, I spoke mostly Spanish. I was very fluent in Spanish, 'cause I was playing with them twenty-four hours a day almost. Eating at their place, playing with them.

MN: So you had a lot of Mexican kids as your playmates.

MT: Oh, yes. But at that time, only thing you're doing is playing with the Mexican kids. But then as you start growing up, though, they can't get their education over here, they have to stay in Mexico. So you gradually start forgetting your Spanish. But I had a hard time learning English.

MN: You mentioned that a lot of people would come over the border to help work. How did you get along with the immigration people?

MT: The immigrations are very nice. As a matter of fact, whenever they come around, you (gave) cantaloupes, the immigration officers come and, "Hey, take 'em home, eat." We used to give 'em cantaloupes, tomatoes, cabbage, whatever we got growing, if they want some, we give it to them. Because the immigration officers were very nice. As a matter of fact, one of the first revolvers that I shot was from an immigration revolver. He let us use it. "Yeah, sure, but be sure you aim it over there against the dirt bank so that the bullet don't glance up." And we had to shoot it, that was a lot of fun for us, anyway. We were, at that time, it was about, I would say about ten at least when I first fired a gun. It sort of shocks you because the recoil from the gun, and it goes upward, so you try to aim it down. They don't want the bullet to go somewhere and hit somebody.

MN: I know a lot of the farmers had guns. Did your father have a gun?

MT: Oh, yes. We had 410s, bullets don't go too far. It's like a shotgun, the bullets are very small. So we had a 410. We had a .22, but then we didn't use the .22 too much because it goes too far. Only thing we were using the 410 is to shoot out on forty acres or fifty acre field, and you don't want it to go into the neighbors too far.

MN: Like did your father also go out -- did you go with your father to go hunting?

MT: No, we'd never go hunting. Like I say, they tried to keep us away from guns. They didn't want us to have too much guns anyway. Some of these people, I understand, had sort of like an old World War I army rifle. I know one family had, it's a 30-30 rifle, and the bullet goes too far. I don't know why he ever bought that kind. But my father only just bought a .22 rifle and a 410 rifle, but no pistols. Why, I don't know. Pistols more fun.

MN: You shared with us a story about how your father, when you were farming way out in the desert, he hired a hakujin man...

MT: To plow it? Yeah. The disk to plow three feet, because he heard that the devilgrass roots go down at least three feet. And this guy here thought he could cheat my father, he only went down two and a half or less. And my father went out there into the field and he measured it with a yardstick, and he told the guy, "No, you didn't go down as deep as I wanted you to." So he says, "I want you to go down and dig it to three feet." And he was gonna attack my dad. I picked up a shovel handle, my father just stood there, and he started coming up with that, and he reached to his back pocket. And the guy said, "Oh, you got a pistol in your pocket?" and he went out and went out to plow it as deep as he's supposed to. But actually, my father only had a wrench in his back pocket.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

MN: Now, you were talking about how you had to do some chores in the morning before you went to school?

MT: Oh, yes.

MN: What kind of chores did you have to do?

MT: I'd have to clean the house, sweep the house, fix the bed, because my mother, you know, she'd have to work from morning to night. So we'd do the, all the washing of the dishes and everything.


MN: So the chores, you had to do the bed and sweep up?

MT: Well, you got to wash the rice and that, too, 'cause wash it and cook it is not that good, huh? And you like to let it soak, so we used to wash the rice and then have it ready for the night. Then my mother had to come home in the evening and make the okazu. Like I say, my mother had to work really hard.

MN: So what did you have for breakfast?

MT: Rice and tsukemono. I think we had a chicken, but we didn't eat too much eggs at that time. If you need meat, you used to kill the chicken, and I had to chop the head off because my brother was too kindhearted... well, I should say too timid. He couldn't do that. So I said, "Okay, I'll cut the head off, but you got to pluck it," 'cause I don't like the smell. So he agreed to that. So he always plucked it and I did all the chopping. Take it out there, lay the chicken down, whack, and it's finished. My work is finished in about two minutes, and he had to pluck all the feathers.

MN: So when you came home from school, what did you have to do as your chores?

TM: Well, we got to get the water for the bath, so we'd chop wood. Because that's the way we used to heat up the bath. My father always had a galvanized bathtub, like in Japan. It'd be about four feet by five foot and about, oh, gee, three or four feet deep. But we had to fill that water because there was no pumps or anything like that. We'd have to use a bucket and fill it. And so he had it so that he put a washtub and had a pipe that goes into the bathtub, so that when you fill the tub up, then it'll go into the bathtub and then you got to go out and check and make sure you got enough water. But you know, after so many bucketful, your water should be real close. Then we had a little, go out there and get the fire going and have the bath ready for the parents when they come home. Anything else that had to be done... then my mother wanted vegetable peeled or anything like that, we did all that. We tried to help as much as we could. My mother's job was too hard. She always had to work hard. That's why I don't like farming. [Laughs]

MN: What about the rice?

TM: The rice, too. We used to light the fire for, it was a kerosene stove, but we'd cook it. Sometimes... I know one time I forgot, and boy, did it burn the pot. Then I was cleaning the pot when my mother came home. She said, "How you forgot?" I had another pot going, but then now, you just washed it and you're cooking it right away, so it doesn't cook as good. But can't help it; I burnt it.

MN: And you cooked this on a kerosene stove?

TM: Kerosene stove, yes. Even your lamp for your light. We didn't have electricity until 1939, and we didn't have a telephone until 1942. You know how kind of country we were living in.

MN: But you had a gasoline lamp, right?

TM: Yeah, they had a gasoline lamp, but then it's kind of like a, they used to burn like a Bull Durham bag, and you tie it up there and you burn it, and it makes a white crystal there. And when you burn the gas, it gives out a white light like these light that we have now, and that was our thing. So you had to be very careful you don't shake that lamp or that thing will break right away because it's only... what would you call it? It's very fragile. It's sort of hard to explain. But it will break very easy if you just hit it one time, that was it. So when you're moving that thing around, you pick it up very gently and move it to where you want, but you don't move it too much because that's when you break it. But the kerosene lamp, it don't matter, 'cause they only gave out an orange light anyway.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

MN: Now, your parents have a big farm, but did they have a separate smaller patch where they grew Japanese vegetables?

TM: In your forty, fifty acres, you usually take a small area and plant your daikon and those things right there, yeah.

MN: So when your mother made tsukemono from these vegetables, did she just salt it or did she use the nuka miso?

TM: No, we didn't have too much miso, it was too expensive. The only thing we had is salt, and they were usually rock salt, I think it's cheaper.

MN: So what kind of vegetables did your mother pickle?

TM: Nappa, daikon, that's about it. They have a lot of that.

MN: So not carrots or cucumbers?

TM: Well, very few cucumbers. Because cucumbers are a little bit harder to grow. You're working too hard trying to grow the cantaloupe, and both of 'em is a vine, so you try to keep away from things that's gonna take too long. Because nappa and daikon, the leaves like that, we used to feed it to the chickens for their feed, chicken corn and all the green leaves from the veggies, we used to feed it to the chicken.

MN: So where did your family purchase the other Japanese grocery goods like the rice?

MT: Oh, we went to (San Diego), you know Okamura? They had a grocery store there and we used to buy there. We didn't go to Calexico to buy it; it was too high. He was the one that used to take advantage of all the Japanese farmers there. He would always tell the people, "Yeah, you can come to my place, and even if you don't have enough money to buy your, pay for your vegetables or groceries, so you could just charge it. But when it's time for your crop to come in, you have to bring your crop to my company and let my company sell it." You can't take it to Friedman, he was one of the biggest one in El Centro. And my father always went to Friedman, because he got a better deal from his. I'm not going to say the name of the Japanese, but his father was very sharp business-wise.

MN: Now, when you were living in Imperial Valley, were you able to purchase perishable foods like tofu?

MT: Once in a while we used to get tofu. Because it used to come from Los Angeles, and whenever he gets it in, we'd be going, because we know what day he's going to come in. I don't remember exact day, what day it is, but usually around Thursday or something like that he used to come in, because that'd be close to the weekend. And some of the farmers don't work too much on weekends, so he would get the tofu and miso and things like that on Thursday. Because he used to just bring a truck in, it's gone right away. So you have to get there early and make sure you get your pick early.

MN: So your parents are working on the farm five days a week?

MT: Oh, no. Seven days a week when you're doing this kind of work. You have to work, keep working, because you have to finish it. Anytime you're planting and trying to make it grow, you got to make it grow as fast as you can. Because you want to be the first one out with your cantaloupe. My father was always around one of the first ones to get it out. If you don't, you don't get the best price. If you're the first one, your name is up there in the, like Friedman, he'll say, "Oh, yeah, he got the good crop," and then he'll send it to New York or anywhere that he can get the best price. That's when you get the best price. So you got to work it that way and try to get the best price by being the first. You have to be the first.


MN: So let me ask you, your parents are working very hard. When did your mother do the laundry and handwashing?

MT: On the weekends when there's not too much work. She did it all by hand. In those days, you didn't have a washing machine, so you use a washboard. And that's why I say, like I say, my mother had to work very hard.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

MN: Now your parents are both in Hiroshima. Did the people in El Centro have like a Hiroshima Kenjinkai?

MT: Oh, yes. We used to go to the church in El Centro and then get together there.

MN: Were there picnics? Kenjinkai picnics?

MT: Well, we'd do picnics once in a while, but not too much, because people were working too hard and too many hours.

MN: So when you gathered at El Centro, what sort of programs did you have?

MT: At the church?

MN: Uh-huh.

MT: Well, we used to go to Japanese school, Saturday they have schools and then Sunday, half a day, and then they make us to go a church. But then after that, we'd just play. But actually, you didn't have any playground to play in as a kid. It's not like right now, 'cause kids have a lot of places, parks to go to. But the only place that we really could play on the grass like that would be where the high school was, high school ground and you got grass there. But otherwise, you didn't have any, what they call a real park.

MN: So this Japanese school that you went to, was it a Christian church or a Buddhist church?

MT: That's a Buddhist church, 'cause it's a Buddhist church, and then they have their own religion. But that's why I say I don't have a religion. [Laughs]

MN: How strict were the teachers there?

MT: They were from Japan, though. They were farmers, too, though. I guess if they had a high school education or something like that, they could be teachers. They got the Japanese schools books, and they just teach the books, how to read it and write it. But that's a hard way to learn. It's not like an American school; it's different. And it just... well, they didn't learn how to teach, so they just say, well, this is ka or mi or ni or whatever. That's all you learn. And then they tell you to write it, just write it over and over until you can write it pretty good. Like me, I have very good penmanship, so I had a hard time reading mine.

MN: Did you have to learn, like, the Kimigayo?

MT: Oh, yes. That's at first. They sing that, and then that was it.

MN: So Japanese school was all day Saturday?

MT: Yes. Well, eight hours, from morning to noon. So my father had to bring us to school and go home and farm. In the meantime, my mother was out there telling the Mexicans what to do. She had to lead 'em, and then he'd go over there. And then when he had to pick us up and he'd leave 'em and come after us, go back again and work some more. That was the life for me.

MN: So you were having lunch at Japanese school. What sort of lunch did you pack?

MT: Whatever my mother made. I love the musubi and nigiri. She'll have chicken because we have our own chicken, she'll maybe put in a couple of pieces of chicken and vegetables that we had, she'd cook and we'd take that. But it's nothing like right what you have here, though. It's just plain. You cook it with shoyu, that's about it. They don't have too much miso because they're too expensive.

MN: Did you take the same kind of lunch to regular school?

MT: I used to like to. But a lot of kids, they didn't like to take the nigiri 'cause the Caucasians, "Gee, what is that?" I didn't care. Hey, you eat what you want, I'll eat what I want. But I used to love peanut butter and jam, so I used to take a lot of peanut butter and jam sandwiches to American school.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

MN: Now, did you take any martial arts like kendo, judo?

MT: Yeah, I learned kendo for, gee, how many years? Maybe four or five years until I was about twelve. After that, you had to help on the farm. You're all big enough, you don't want to be playing.

MN: How did you choose to learn kendo?

MT: To learn kendo? They had the uniform, you know, then your helmet and all that, yeah. Then we would go after each other. They just show you the basic of how to use it and then you could just learn to be quick and protect yourself. I used to love that because it was, you attack the other guys as hard as you want, take your frustration out. [Laughs]

MN: Where were these classes held?

MT: At the church. They take all the chairs out. Because they didn't have chairs that were bolted to the ground, there was just the folding chairs. So take all the chairs and take it out and then they have it there. And the teacher that's gonna teach us says, "Okay, you're going this wrong," or, "You should do this to get better on hitting." They tell you, "You have to hit below the elbow," for the arm, and the head is straight up or I call it yokome, you could hit the side of the head, but that's it. But they had it, never taught us where we could use a tsuki, they used to go for the throat one, they called that the tsuki. This is the yokome and then this is the tsuki, and me. But they didn't want us to do that one 'cause you're not very good and that thing is only about three inches wide. If you miss, you hit the guys in the throat because it'll go underneath your helmet. So they didn't like us to do that too much. They don't want to hurt the guy or kill 'em, they just want us to learn how to do the things. So they tell you, "Mostly hit where the head, like dual, kote, yokome, me," and you'll learn to do most of those. Never they should aim for the face. You don't have that. It's always where they got the... like on the helmet, they got that think mat on the side here, comes down to your shoulders, so you're supposed to aim for that.

MN: Now when was kendo classes held?

MT: Just on the weekends.

MN: After Japanese school?

MT: Yeah, after Japanese school.

MN: So on Saturdays?

MT: Saturdays. Saturday, or sometime on Sundays, but not too much. Even the teachers have to farm, and he can't be taking two, three days off. He'd just take off one day here and there and that's it.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

MN: Now going back to your farming, now, Imperial Valley is mostly desert.

MT: Well, there's nothing there, really. There was a town called Brawley, that was the biggest one. And then they had Niland, which is right there by Salton Sea, bottom of the Salton Sea. Then you had Imperial, it's a real small town, and then El Centro. El Centro, Brawley is the bigger, then Calexico was small. Then they had a little place called Holtville, that was more towards Yuma way. There was other smaller place like Seeley and things like that, but they're just maybe one, one little store or gas pump, things like that. Just your Brawley, El Centro and Calexico, Holtville was about the biggest place, all the rest are too small.

MN: Were most of the farmers Japanese Americans?

MT: Well, Isseis, mostly Isseis. Because they're the ones that opened up Imperial Valley. The kids, like us, we're really just helping, kids. We're just helping the parents do the work. But we didn't know how to farm like that.

MN: So where do you get your water from?

MT: From the Colorado River. The water used to come from the Colorado River, mostly to Imperial Valley. Then they made the All American Canal, and that's bringing more water from the Colorado River. That ran from near Calexico all the way towards where we were in Mt Signal area. And then from there, it came back toward Salton Sea, the excess water. So that's why the Salton Sea was getting bigger and bigger, because all the farming and the water there.

MN: Now can you share with us how you filtered your water to drink?

MT: Oh, we had what they called a sand filter, and then you put the water into a bucket, and then you have a tube that came out from the sandstone, and you have a bucket on the bottom. You suck on the pipe to get the water coming, and then you put that down in the bucket and that's your drinking water, cooking water. And that's it. All the rest of it, you just use it straight out of the ditch. Or you get it from the ditch into a pond, because the horses got to drink water, because we had two mules. And they have to have water, the dog's got to have water, chickens got to have water, so we would just use that straight, don't do anything for 'em, no filters or nothing. Only one is for the humans.

MN: How often did you have to clean the sandstone?

MT: Well, at least once, once a week, because water in the Imperial Valley is, when it comes into the farm, it's muddy-like. It's sort of tan colored instead of clear. So you got to make the water settle, and then you take that water and then you filter it. And that, even then, you get a lot of the dirt in the water, so you got to take the sandstone, otherwise sandstone can't filter, it plugs up. So we used to use a, what they call a tawashi, it's a brush. I don't know if everybody knows about it, but you wash it off, you rinse it off, and you put it back in the filter again. That was the way we got our drinking water.

MN: Well, I know the Imperial Valley is also really hot. How do you keep your food cool?

MT: They have what they call an ice box, and the ice man used to come around once or twice a week, and you put, buy a twenty-five pound cube of ice, and you put it in the top to get the cold air to come down, and you never open the top where the ice is, 'cause the ice would melt too fast. And that was the way everything was kept. Otherwise, you don't cook too much, so it'd be too much leftover. If you're going to go to Japanese school, and we're gonna have chicken or something for the lunch, they we just cook enough so that they had one or two piece for the kids to take to school, and that was keep it cool in the -- not refrigerator, but ice box. You have it in the bottom of it, and it'll stay cool and it won't spoil. That was the way we used to keep things from spoiling, just use the ice box.

MN: Let me go back to your farming. And you mentioned this earlier, like your father was first to have cantaloupes go to market. So what if, like, the season is almost over, the prices are going down, what do you do with the leftover cantaloupes?

MT: Give it to the cows. Well, the cows were, there were a lot of, like I say, immigration officers used to come around, they can have it. Once the prices are too cheap, you can't ship it, it's no use. So you make your money early so that when it gets cheap, you can quit. Then you disc up the field, and then we have to, what they call flood it. We used to get the, have two furrows made, gee, I would say about twenty, twenty-five feet apart, and then we let the water run between the furrows. The reason you do that is you're going to always get the grass seeds. So you flood it, and then when it gets hot in July like that, all your grass seeds will germinate. Then when we come back from one month in Los Angeles and one month in El Centro, we go back to Imperial Valley around beginning of September or maybe a little earlier, then you disc up the field and then your grass that hasn't had time to get seed, so you disc it up and then you don't have too much weeds when your crop is coming. 'Cause you have to pay the people to come and hoe the thing. In those days, they usually use what they call a short handle hoe. They take the long handle hoe and cut it so only about one foot of handle, so you bend over all day cutting the weeds because you don't want to be hurting the plants that you got growing, otherwise you'll cut the cantaloupe. That was back breaking work. My mother and father used to go out there and hand... you don't go slow, they have to lead the people, the Mexicans. So my father would be in the front and my mother would be in the back, and they got to stay in between there and keep up, and all these Mexicans got to work that way. That's a very back breaking job, when you're bent over. Now, it is against the law to have short handle hoe. You cannot use it. Too many people were getting back problems. Can you imagine those poor Mexican people who were doing that? But that's the way they used to learn to work.

MN: So when the farmers were ready to just disc everything up, and you had this neighbor with the watermelons, did you go and enjoy the watermelons?

MT: Oh, yeah. Well, we had the cantaloupe, he wants cantaloupe, he can come out in the field and pick all he wants, or you go to his place, watermelons, and we used to go out there and pick a lot of them. And then we put it in the shed where it will stay cool so that it won't get overripe too fast. Then when we're out in the field, too, you never ate the whole watermelon. You only ate the heart of the watermelon, 'cause that's the sweetest part. So we go out in the field and break it open, dig out the heart, eat as much as we want, and then take the rest of it home.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

MN: So you farmed in Imperial Valley during the wintertime, and in the summertime, you went somewhere else.

MT: We came to Los Angeles. We came to Los Angeles, to Gardena, really, 'cause we had a relative over here, and one month, we stayed here. Then we'd go to San Diego and stay there one month, and then the hottest part in the Imperial Valley is over. Then around, before, beginning of September or before that, we'd go back to Imperial Valley. It's still warm, but it's not as hot as Fourth of July. So we always left Imperial Valley Fourth of July. We'd flood the field and then take off.

MN: So did all the Japanese American farmers do this?

MT: Yes, oh, yeah. Because, well, if they don't have any money, if they did make any money on their crop, which was this Calexico man, he made sure that they didn't make money, so they used to stay most of the time in Imperial Valley and they had to stay there. Yeah, I know our friends used to do that. He made sure that they didn't make money, because if they made money, they'd go, become independent. See, like my father was independent, so he can take his crop and says, "Friedman, I want to ship to you," and he would let him ship it. But otherwise, you had to take it to him and they made sure that you didn't make money, "Oh, you broke even," when my father made a lot of money. In 1939, he bought a new car, and he bought a Chevrolet, of course. But that's the way it was. He made sure that they didn't make money, so that he always had them under his thumb.

MN: Now, can you share a little bit about the flooding the field and how long it took to do that, and was this a twenty-four hour...

MT: It's a twenty-four hour deal. My mother and father flooded in the nighttime, so when it got dark in the evening, oh, I'll say about seven o'clock, and my brother and I, we'd do all the daytime, it's the hottest time, too. But we could see how everything was going, and we'd get sleepy at night. My father and mother, they're used to staying awake at night, 'cause like I say, when there's a freeze like that, they wake up, tell us to wake up and we got to go cover the plants. So they're more used to nighttime, but like us, my brother and I, we just couldn't do that. So we did it during the day, and my mother and father did it at night, but it's a twenty-four hour deal. It takes about three days to finish the whole thing.

MN: And then around what time of the year did you usually flood the fields?

MT: What?

MN: About what time of the year, I'm sorry?

MT: Around, just before, around Fourth of July, around there. We visited, like I say, we'd leave Imperial Valley after the Fourth of July. So we'd have to flood it, as soon as it has flooded, then we leave.

MN: What about the Fourth of July? Did you celebrate it with firecrackers?

MT: You had to be over here in Los Angeles. You can do it. They didn't regulate it like right now. But that's why there was a lot of fires.

MN: Now, your family had mules and dogs and chickens on the farm. What happened to them during the summer?

MT: They have to sweat it out. We had the Mexican people, there was always a family lives on the farm all year round. 'Cause there's always some kind of work to be done. So they fed the chicken and the horse and the dog for us. But when we had to move out of Imperial Valley, I don't know what happened to 'em. What can we do? We had no time to sell it, give the dog away or nothing, so we just had to leave 'em, and the Mexican people that were living there, I don't know how long they lived there, but they took care of it for us.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

MN: You said you spent about a month in Gardena after you left Imperial Valley for the summer. And where did you stay?

MT: On a farm. Like I said, we had an uncle over here, so we'd all just pitch a tent, or if he has a room there, we would rent another building, he has another building there. They too used to move a little bit. We'd get one room or something like that. When we were little, Father and Mother, we'd all just jump in one bedroom and live, 'cause we'd take our own blankets and everything, take pots and pans and cook.

MN: And then from Gardena you went to San Diego for about a month?

MT: Yes.

MN: Where did you stay in San Diego?

MT: There was a farm, there was a Japanese man that has a farm, and we'd just pay him a little bit. I don't know how much they paid him, but they paid him for the month and we used all his water that he had, electricity, and we'd just string a wire and have it light.

MN: Did you go out and swim in the beach?

MT: Oh, yes. We used to go every morning. That and dig clams, go fishing, that was our biggest thing, go fishing. And then you had all the fish you want to eat. And we used to catch what they call covinas, I think that's a trout like, near the beach, though. Any fish that was close to the beach, you could catch. They had a pier in La Jolla that we used to fish at. We even had some lobsters; my dad used to catch lobsters there. You weren't supposed to, but we used to catch 'em.

MN: You had a lot of fresh seafood.

MT: Oh, yes. We would eat all the fishes that we caught. When you go to Imperial Valley, you didn't have those fishes anymore. Only fishes that came from Los Angeles to El Centro, which is about once a week. That's the only time you could get fish, tofu or anything else like that, that was once a week. But this man, he used to bring quite a bit of fish, so he figured that all the farmers going to come. Then he used to go to Brawley, El Centro, Calexico, Holtville, he had to go to those place and give them, get the Japanese food. 'Cause your rice and like that came from Los Angeles. Even the rice you had to buy, so you'd buy a hundred pound rice, or how many rice you're gonna need for the, through the winter.

MN: So was it in San Diego that you learned how to swim?

MT: Yeah, you jump in the ocean and just swim. But you don't swim too much because... well, the waves, you can't swim too much. But we never went to a pool because that cost money. Sometime when we get a place to pitch our tent on the farm, we used to pitch a tent on the beach. And you have to pay to, pitch your tent. But they used to have a public toilet there, and even hot water for showers. Well, not hot water, but warm water. So we would get showers, so then we used to swim from seven o'clock in the morning, jump in the ocean, play around and build up a big appetite, take a quick shower and then go eat. Then my poor mother had to work again. But we used to enjoy it over there because it wasn't really that bad. Like I say, we tried to help my mother as much as we could, wash dishes and things like that. Because we had two tents, and we used to pitch it apart. And then there's a flap that's supposed to make it so you can have a closure for the tent, but we used to pick it up and connect it so that we can cook underneath and eat, that was our dining area. But that's the way we lived over there.

MN: So when you were out in San Diego, were there other Japanese American families?

MT: Oh, yes. They'd come out there, too. Those that could afford to come out there. You had a gasoline, they knew you had to pay for your own gasoline. To get to San Diego from Imperial Valley, it used to be real hard, because there was only one road that went over the mountain to San Diego. And they had the one place with the Mountain Spring Road, it was very steep and hard for cars to go up. Your car, you had to have a lot of power. See, like my father, well, he never had too old of a car, so we could make it. But some of those people, you had old cars, they won't make it up. So those people, lot of times, they used to come to where the Mountain Spring grade is, and they used to camp in the desert. There's a cave there that had a running water, or cold water, it's a mountain spring water that's very, very good. Oh, we used to love that water 'cause it's cold in the summertime. You don't have to filter it or nothing because that's, you know, it's spring water. So they used to go there and camp. Well, we used to go there sometimes too when we'd come back from San Diego too early or we'd go over there and camp, live out there about a week.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

MN: I'm going to change the subject on you now, and I want to ask about your schooling in Imperial Valley. Do you remember where you attended kindergarten?

MT: Yeah, I should know the place there, but I cannot remember why we were living there, I had to go to kindergarten there. Because usually we were around Brawley way to El Centro, and that place that I went to kindergarten is... oh, let's say it's about a mile and a half from the Mexican border. It's Mt Signal is the school, and I can't understand why I went to the Mt Signal kindergarten, and then we moved away and then came back and lived around there. But I guess my father, because I had a sister, and she drowned in the canal when she was three and I was six. Now, why did we go back and live on the same farm again? I still remember that. It's something that stays in your mind, I guess. There's no canal there now, they just have like a ditch that's all cemented, that carried the water. Before, there just used to be mud. A dirt road, dirt made the banks, and the water used to come down there. That's why my little sister drowned there because... we shouldn't have taken her across. We used to tell her, "When you're going to cross this bridge" -- it was just a plank of wood, it's a twelve by two inch wood, and it went across the canal. And when we walked there, one of us always walked our sister across. And one day, she nagged my mother and nagged my mother saying that we're going to come home, so she wanted to come home. And my mother thought, oh, it's almost time for the school to let out, so okay, she let her go. And that was a bad mistake. That's the way they used to live, though.

MN: So your little sister, she went over that plank and she...

MT: She must have, 'cause it was a windy day, and she probably got blown off that little plank there.

MN: And how did you know that she had fell into the water?

MT: My father found her body about ten miles down. It was coming toward Salton Sea, and he found this one arm sticking out at the gate. Well, they used to have gate every so often because they had to shut it, slow up the water so that the farmers can get water. And he saw that one arm, pulled it up, and that was her body.

MN: Where did you have your sister's funeral?

MT: The funeral was in El Centro, but then the cremation was in Los Angeles. I remember coming here, but I don't know where the crematory was, but I remember the body going up into this little cart and then they just ran down, roll it down into the incinerator, then the door just closed and you can't see it burn up.

MN: What did your family do with her ashes?

MT: She kept it until we went back after the war, and we took it to Japan.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

MN: Going back to your schooling, you went to kindergarten and then grammar school...

MT: So we went to different grammar schools. Whenever you move, whatever district you go to, and you go to that school.

MN: And then you already shared with us while you were in kindergarten for two years. Now, when you went to grammar school, is this when you were growing up and you were climbing the date trees?

MT: The tree? Oh, well, yeah, that was when I was about, I would say maybe, yeah, somewhere around about twelve. A great big eucalyptus tree, the branches... oh, gee, how big would I say? The branch must have been around three feet, circumference. And for no reason at all, one hot day, the branches broke. But the branch didn't fall all the way down, it was still hanging onto the tree, so we used to use that as a playground. We used to climb up, down, up and down on that. My father used to get mad 'cause we might get hurt, but that was our playground.

MN: But you used to also climb the date trees, right?

MT: The what?

MN: The date trees.

MT: Oh, yes. Well, they used to have a lot of dates in those days just growing on the side of the street. So whenever the dates were on the trees, then we'd want to eat 'em, so we used to walk. We don't catch the bus, we used to walk. We don't catch the bus, we used to walk, leave home early, 'cause the school started at eight. So we'd leave home early and go out, pick the dates. There's one that we used to call... well, it's black dates, but we used to call it "nigger dates." It's a small, like a daizu, size of a daizu. But they're very, very sweet, and we used to like that better than the regular dates. So we used to go past the school, go way out there and pick it, come back to the school, and eat it all day in class. But it's hard because you just put one in your mouth, the teacher can't see it, but you got to spit the black skin out, and the seed. So you're very careful and you put it in your pocket, and then when it's recess time, you empty your pocket.


MN: ...grammar school, let's see, Mt Signal grammar school.

MT: One of them, yes.

MN: One of them. That was the one that you went for eight years, right, about eight years?

MT: Oh, no, longer than that, because like I say, I went to kindergarten there, that was part of Mt Signal school. Then when the war started, I was still in the Mt Signal area.

MN: So which high school did you attend?

MT: El Centro.

MN: What about your older brother?

MT: He went to Calexico. The school buses, both of them, came right in front of our house. That was the borderline. But my friends who were going to El Centro, his friends are going to Calexico, so he says, "I'm going to get on that bus," and I got on the other bus. [Laughs]

MN: What was the ethnic makeup of El Centro High?

MT: Oh, it was mostly white. Because blacks could not come to our school. They had to go to separate school there.

MN: What about the Mexicans?

MT: Mexicans would come to our place. Only one was blacks, but why, I don't know. The Portuguese could come our place, but if you were black, you have to... that was something you can't understand.

MN: Now, you also shared like your father had a sweet tooth. There was always candy in the house?

MT: Yes. Well, actually, us kids, he wanted to make sure that we don't get... what would you call it? You know, you go to other people's house, and if the candies come out, you know how kids are, say, "Oh, well, I don't have any at home," so they're going to want to eat it all up. He didn't want us to be like that, so he made sure we always had Babe Ruth, Butterfinger and things like that, Oh Henry!, those are three of the popular ones. And we always had a box of it. We could eat it whenever we want, but we didn't eat that much because it's always there in the house. But some of the other kids, when they come to our house, and oh, boy, they used to go hog wild on it. But my dad, he'd just buy another box.

MN: Let me ask you about the movies. Did your parents take you to see Japanese movies?

MT: Yes, and boy, I always went. My brother, he didn't like it. He stayed home and just listened to the radio. But me, every time a Japanese movie came, I was there.

MN: Where were the movies held?

MT: At the Buddhist church. That was the only big place that they had, anyway, for the people to get together. Funerals, all that, yeah, always had at the church.

MN: At the El Centro Buddhist Church?

MT: Yes. That was the biggest one. It was bigger than Calexico's or -- well, Calexico's was pretty small. But even Brawley. Brawley's supposed to be bigger, but El Centro was the biggest one.

MN: So what kind of movies did they, Japanese movies did they show?

MT: Well, in those days, before the war, they were war movies like that. That and samurai. I liked the samurai the best.

MN: So how often did the El Centro Buddhist Temple show these Japanese movies?

MT: Oh, gee, not even once a month. That's the reason when whenever they had one, I never missed it because my father and mother would always go. I loved getting out of the house. My brother, he didn't want to get out of the house. Me, I wanted to get out of the house where a bunch of people are. It's more fun that way.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

MN: Now when your family moved to Calexico, you shared that you started to attend a Christian church. Were your parents Christians?

MT: No. But that's what Kokubun, Kei Kokubun's family, the father used to teach it. 'Cause he was a Christian. So he had a Christian church, so we used to go there.

MN: So was there a Japanese school held there also?

MT: Oh, yes. But I liked El Centro 'cause it was bigger. You had more different teachers. So we always went to El Centro. And besides, at the same time, they could do the food shopping, so we always went to El Centro. 'Cause we always went to one Japanese restaurant, it was a grocery store. There weren't too many grocery stores around for the food. Because everything had to come from Los Angeles by truck. So we all went to the biggest place.

MN: Now you mentioned that when you were very young you'd play with a lot of Mexicans.

MT: Yes.

MN: And as you got older, who were your friends?

MT: Japanese.

MN: What kind of games did you play?

MT: Oh, gee. We didn't have too much with games. Marbles were one of the biggest ones. In those days, marbles were the biggest thing then. My father didn't like me to play marbles because I would tear my knees. Because your knees are always touching the ground and the knees gave out. They didn't like me... so I used to put the marbles that I won into a coffee can and I'd bury it. And every once in a while he'll find it, and boy does he... he takes it, in those days, we only have outdoor toilets, and he'd throw it into the toilet. So I have to go out and win some more. But I never bought any because they never gave me money to buy marbles. Like I say, they didn't want me to play marbles. He taught that... in a way, my father said, that's like gambling. Well, yes, in a way, because any marble you knock out of the big ring is yours. And I don't buy any, but I'll always have marbles because I used to win.

MN: So your dad would just put it into the outhouse hole?

MT: No, not outhouse, I used to bury it in the backyard. But my father, he sees a place where dirt is moved, and he'll dig it, oh, yeah, get the marbles. I always tried to hide it near a bush so it'd be harder to find, but he'll find it, or he'll see me taking some marble out because I need some more. Then he'll throw it away.

MN: Let me ask you about your outhouse. When it got full, what did you do?

MT: Dig another hole and move it, bury the other one. You always have a lot of dirt because you're digging another hole to put the outhouse over. You always have to bury it.

MN: Did you put, like, lye on it?

MT: Nothing. That's why my mother used to hate it. She used to do something. I can't remember, she used to put like a mask over her face. But she must have used a perfume or something so that it won't smell so much. But us, we don't care, we get used to it. That's the way we live, everybody else is the same way.

MN: What did you use for toilet paper?

MT: Newspaper. He used to take the Japanese paper, so we used newspaper. Then on the weekends, he would buy us an L.A. Times, so we always got newspapers.

MN: Which Japanese newspaper did he take?

MT: The Rafu Shimpo. He used to have the Rafu Shimpo a long time ago.

MN: So you're helping out on the farm before you go to school, after school, then you had Japanese school, you had kendo and you went to church on Sundays. Now, if you had any free time...

MT: No, we don't. That's why I'm not a farmer. [Laughs] I used to hate that. You don't have enough time to really play with your friends. Although sometimes when I'd come home from grammar school, and a friend of mine, anybody that's about your age or two or three years younger than you, you become friends with. I'd jump on my bike, and my father bought me a Japanese bike in those days, before the war. And I used to jump on it and go to the friends' house, play, and come back in time to do my cooking and whatever house chores. That's the way we used to live.

MN: Farms are not very close together. When you say you biked, how far are you biking away?

MT: Sometimes three, four miles. But then on a bicycle you can go pretty fast, you know. It'll only take you, go two, three miles, it don't take you very long, fifteen minutes, twenty minutes. Then you play a couple hours or one hour and then come home, rush home and do your duty. Get the bath ready, cook the rice, don't burn it.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

MN: Let me ask you about the holidays. How did your family celebrate oshogatsu?

MT: Oh, we used to... couple of days before we always had the mochitsuki, and we used to be the one that pounds it. The young kids used to pound. We used to love it because it was fun for us. And then we'd get carried away and go faster and faster and then pretty soon you hit the side of the pans. The pans only last one year, and you just smash it all up. But still, we used to enjoy doing it. Then the girls and the mothers, they make the manju or mochi, shape it.

MN: Now, tell me a little bit more about the usu. You said the pan, what do you do with this pan?

MT: Throw it away after...

MN: No, where do you get the pan from?

MT: Oh, you can buy it. They used to come from Los Angeles, 'cause like I say, everything comes from Los Angeles. All the Japanese families make mochi, so he used to bring it down there and they'd buy it, beat it up, and then throw it away. You have to throw it away.

MN: So that was your usu.

MT: Huh?

MN: Your usu, that's where you pounded the mochi. You didn't have a traditional rock?

MT: No, no. The only thing you had was a tree stump down there. And you just put the pan and hold it down with wires, wired down, and then you start pounding away. Pretty soon you're hitting the side, so the pans won't last long. 'Cause it's not into a shape, it's just flat. So the pan gets beat up easy with young people.

MN: How did you eat your fresh mochi?

MT: Mochi? Oh, I used to just, when it's soft, oh, I used to love that, 'cause it's very soft. Just go up there and eat it. You could use shoyu and sugar, but I didn't care. I'd just eat the mochi. I used to love that. And manju, one thing you had is an inside, the red beans, that's it. But even then... well, they used to use, some of 'em where they use kinako, 'cause kinako lasts a long time. But I just liked it plain. And even now, to this day, I can eat it plain.

MN: But you know, mochi gets moldy really fast. So did you eat it...

MT: Well, as it starts molding you put it into water to stop it from molding. Now the mochi gets very soft, the water goes in. And then when you get it out of the water and you take all the mildew off and then eat it. But you don't waste it; food is scarce.

MN: What kind of, like, New Year's gochiso did your mother make?

MT: She used to get the cooked daikon, carrots. Gobo used to come from Los Angeles, so once in a while we'd get that. But especially for New Year's, we always have that. But you don't use too much of that for everyday. Although we tried growing gobo, but it didn't grow. The one coming from Los Angeles, they were, I would say about... gee, sixteen, eighteen inches long. We tried to grow it in Imperial Valley, the ground is too hard. They only get to be about six, eight inches, and then they go outside and they get hard. So it's not that good. But it's better than nothing.

MN: And then did your family rest for the traditional three days?

MT: Oh, yes. They took off three days. About the only time they really rested, except when we came to Los Angeles or San Diego, then you can't do anything, that's all.

MN: Now I know your parents weren't Christian, but did you observe Christmas?

MT: Yeah... well, just school, no school. For Christmas and New Year's, the whole week was always off. That's when we can really go out to our friends' house. Parents were not working too much anyway, so we just take off in the morning, go out and play all day, then come home hungry.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<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.

<Begin Segment 16>

MN: Now let me get into the war years. Do you remember what you were doing on Sunday, December 7, 1941?

MT: Gee, not really, except they were helping on the farm. And then we went to school, and hey, "You're a J-A-P." They started pushing us around.

MN: So a lot of the students on Monday harassed you?

MT: Oh, yes. Because, well, we were Orientals there, and you don't have that many Orientals there. And they were all farmers' kids, and we were told not to fight, that they where white, so they're gonna take it out on the parents. So we were told not to do anything. So we were very quiet.

MN: What happened to your father shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked?

MT: Oh, he was picked up. And he was farming out in the field, and the FBI came and told him, "You're Tajii?" He said, "Yes." They just handcuffed him and took him away. And we didn't know where he was for three days. He had no change of clothes or nothing. They just took him out there with the dirty farming clothes. And then when we found out where he was, then we packed a suitcase and brought it to, came here to Tujunga. He was here in Tujunga from Imperial Valley to here. You know, that was two hundred something miles away. But that's the way it was. We didn't see him until we went to Crystal City, Texas. I never saw my father for how many years.

MN: Now, were you the one that brought your father the suitcase?

MT: No. My brother took it into town, then from town, they brought it over to Tujunga.

MN: The town people did, or who brought it into Tujunga?

MT: Well, my brother was able to help, but they had that restriction on how many miles you can go. So they didn't let him travel too far.

MN: Do you know why your father was picked up?

MT: They thought that he was a leader. They said, "He's the leader." But he was only a farmer from sixteen, he's farming. Well, how are you gonna become a leader? They had a Japanese company in El Centro. That would be about... 1940? Somewhere around there I think it was. They made a Japanese company, and he became one of the board of directors in there. And I think that's why they picked him up a potential leader.

MN: Was your father also involved with the Japanese Association?

MT: No, I don't think so. He was a farmer, he's always in farming, I don't think he can do anything. Even when they had the Japanese company, he didn't have time to go out there to the meetings like that. The only reason why they made that Japanese company was because Japanese people, they couldn't get rich. You had to go through these other companies that was around, so they made a Japanese company, trying to make it so that they could become independent.

MN: Now, from Tujunga, do you know where your father was sent?

MT: From there he was sent to Montana. I don't know where... then from Montana he went to New Mexico, and from New Mexico we went to Crystal City, Texas.

MN: You know, when your father got picked up, how did you feel?

MT: Oh, I was angry because he's the only one that we were relying on. He's the one always telling us do this and do that, and then all of a sudden he was gone and my mother, she was crying all the time anyway. Yeah, it was something, though, to lose your father, the one that used to lead you all the time, all of a sudden gone.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

MN: Now, when talks of having to go into camp started, how did you learn that you had to go into a camp?

MT: All that story went around that all the Japanese had to go. So they all went over there to the Buddhist church in El Centro and got on a bus, and they bussed us into Poston.

MN: How did you feel about having to go into a camp?

MT: We didn't know anybody except the people that we were farming with. You didn't know what's going to happen or anything. Only thing they told us was, "One suitcase per person," and that was it.

MN: So what did you do with all your furniture and big items?

MT: Well, what we had, including the car, we put into this airplane hangar. This guy here had an airplane hangar, and we went into camp. And we went into camp, and about a year later, he sends out notice to everybody, "Get your thing out." We can't even come to California, and how are we gonna take it out of the storage? I don't know what he did with it, but the car, we had the pink slip, he couldn't sell it, so we resold it and got two hundred dollars for it, that was it. And they wouldn't... it was low mileage, because farm to El Centro and that's it, about once a week. But that's the way it was.

MN: So the other items, you just lost it?

MT: We lost everything, yes. Everybody that had the furniture and anything else, you lost everything. Especially your clothes and like that, the only thing we had is the one suitcase.

MN: What happened to your crop?

MT: We sold it to Friedman, and he was the only one that would be willing to take over. But we didn't get anything, we lost money on that. Because, you know, the company's not going to say, "I'm going to give you top price," they're going to give you less amount he can, but what can we do? The crop is getting ready to come out, and so you just settle. My brother and mother went out and sold it.

MN: I think you mentioned this earlier, but what happened to your mules and chicken and dog?

MT: We don't know what happened to it, because those Mexican people that were living there, they did whatever they wanted with it.

MN: So on the day you were supposed to go to camp, where did you gather?

MT: We gathered in the Buddhist church.

MN: In El Centro?

MT: Uh-huh, in El Centro.

MN: Do you remember what month or day it was?

MT: Gee, I don't remember. Everything was very confusing in those days. Because your father is gone, he used to be the leader, and your mother, well, she doesn't know what's going on because my father was gone, only thing she was doing was crying, because she didn't know what to do. So it was hard then.

MN: Do you remember how you got to the El Centro Buddhist Church?

MT: No, I don't remember. But somehow we got there, 'cause we couldn't take our car there, 'cause we had no way of parking it anywhere.

MN: So from the El Centro Buddhist Church, what happened?

MT: Well, from there, we were put on bus, taken into Poston. And when we got into Poston, they gave us a bag and says, "You see those straws over there? Put that in your bag, that's going to be your bed.

MN: But you didn't take the bus into Poston, right? You got on a train first?

MT: Well, it was just a very short time, and then there was a bus. That's all I can remember, is the bus that we rode on into camp. In those days, you were very confused because your father was gone.

MN: How long did it take to get from El Centro to Arizona?

MT: Well, it took the whole day. 'Cause we got on the early... I would say nine, ten o'clock in the morning, got on the train, and then, well, they said it was a train, I don't remember. And then we went into, I think they took us into Parker, and then from Parker we got a bus into the camp.

MN: Which camp did you end up in?

MT: Poston I.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

MN: What was your impression, first impression of Poston Camp I?

MT: There's nothing there. It was wide open, and when we went into the barracks that they told you was going to be your home, there's gaps in between the wood, the floor has gaps, and when the wind blew, all the dust came in, so it was terrible. We just didn't like the place.

MN: And then you mentioned that you had to put in the hay in the bag?

MT: Yeah, straw, uh-huh, into the bag. That was going to be your bed, mattress, actually.

MN: Do you remember what your address was in Poston?

MT: That was... let's see. It was in 5-C, I think it was. No, 5-B, it had to be 5-B.

MN: Which block was this?

MT: Block 59.

MN: Were all the Imperial Valley people in Block 59?

MT: Not all, no. There were so many people, Block 59, 60, 53 and 54, and quite a bit of 'em went over to Block 39, that was further away.

MN: At Poston, what was your first job?

MT: Oh, my first job? Oh, I had a good one. We delivered milk. The milk was coming from Los Angeles, they come in and so they gave us a truck that we can keep twenty-four hours, because we never knew when the milk was going to come in. So they said, "You can keep it," but don't ride around with it. That's what they told us, but we didn't listen. We hear of a good movie at the other end of the camp and jump in the truck and go.

MN: But when you got into camp, you didn't know how to drive.

MT: I didn't know how to drive, but I learned. The first truck that I drove is a one and a half ton truck. My father wouldn't teach me to drive at home because he said, "Oh, your brother's already got a license. He's going to drive you anywhere you need to go if you have to in an emergency. So he got a license, but they wouldn't teach me. So I went into camp, and riding on the truck, and just unloading the milk, and I said, "Come on, you guys, let me learn to drive." I said, "I know how to shift gears," 'cause I was watching my brother shift gears. Everything in those days was gearshift. Then they finally told me, "Okay, you're bugging me too much," 'cause we had a Camp I, II and II, and we had to deliver all three of 'em. So they finally says, okay, there's a wide open place in between camps, there's space there, so he says, "Okay, we'll let you do it," jerk, jerk, jerk, and learned to drive. But I got to learn how to drive a truck real good.

MN: So as a person delivering milk, what were some of the perks that you got?

MT: Oh, when we were going around, all the kitchens didn't get the same food because that's hard to do. So we'd be going around, "Boy this place smells good." Our place was the only one that had frankfurters and wieners, those kind of things. I said, "We don't want to go back there." So we tell the cook, "Boy, your place smells good." He says, "Well, come on, if you're hungry, come on in." Two or three guys, that was nothing. "We can feed you." So they used to feed us. So we'd give 'em all the extra milk. Well, we controlled who gets how much.


MN: So you tell 'em, "Boy, your place smells good." Did they give you extra food?

MT: Yeah. They feed us, make our delivery, there's always some milk you got leftover. They say so much is supposed to be given out for so many kids. But when the truck comes, we don't know how much is on there because they load up the whole truck, full truck. And so we're the ones that said, "Well, they got this much milk," so we delivered what they told us. We got this much left, we'd go back to the kitchen that fed us good, and, "Hey, we got this leftover, here you are. Two case, three case, here, take it." And we used to give it to 'em. Well, he was nice enough to feed us. [Laughs]

MN: Now, why did you choose this job?

MT: What?

MN: Why did you choose this job?

MT: Well, that was the only job that was around at that time. And they said they're going to pay us twelve bucks a month, and we wanted money 'cause we didn't have any money in the camp. So any job that came around, and that was one of the first ones, so we took it. And our block got it.

MN: So now from delivering milk, what job did you transfer to?

MT: Well, I went to the warehouse because I heard that in the warehouse they got all kind of food, different kind of food you need to have. And when we got on there and we get hungry, you get bologna, you get two slice, and once slice of bread, and then we eat it. It's not two slice of bread and one slice of bologna, because we cut the bologna ourselves because it's there. So we'd eat bread sandwich, not a bologna sandwich. [Laughs]

<End Segment 18> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

MN: And then from your warehouse job, where did you transfer to?

MT: Then we went out and started cutting down mesquite tree. They wanted to cut down mesquite trees and clear the, pull out the roots so they can make a farm. They said they're going to grow vegetables on it so everybody could have fresh vegetables. So that's where we went. Went out and started chopping the mesquite trees. Then when we cleared it up, that's when they made the big farm there. They had enough veggies like that for the three camps.

MN: So when you were out there, did you have any interaction with the tribes?

MT: No. They never came near us. Well, the Indians didn't have anything. They wouldn't come out in the middle of the desert anyway. They lived closer to where the water is. You know, Colorado River is three miles away. For a while we were sneaking out and going to the Colorado River, because, well, we can get the food that we want. Soldiers by then were pretty used to us. We used to talk to them every day. At first they had rifles and they're carrying it back and forth, pretty soon, they got so used to us, they laid the rifle up against the fence and walked with us. You just talk and play. So they get used to us, and then we said, hey, at a certain time, that part there, there's no soldiers there, so sneak out and go to the Colorado River, stay there a couple of days and then come back. We used to sleep out there two, three days. Take enough food. Water, Colorado River, that water was real clear at that time, just not muddy. So drink the water there, swim. One of our friends, he was a good swimmer. He swam actually -- swam across the Colorado River, turned around and came back. He could go upstream, the river's fast, but he'd go upstream, then he'd swim across, then come back, and by the time he'd come back, he's way downstream, then he had to walk back to where we were. But he was a very good swimmer. He was the one that was very strong. He could chin with one hand. I've never seen anybody do that, but he actually went three times like that by himself. Here we are, struggling just trying to chin, and he'd do it in one hand?

MN: Now he's the one that sort of helped the guys in your area build up the body, right?

MT: Uh-huh, yeah.

MN: Was he a gymnastics teacher before the war?

MT: No. He used to take gym and wrestling, so he told us how to chin and do a parallel bar, handstands and things like that. He was strong, so we followed him.

MN: So the parallel bars, did you build your own?

MT: Yeah. Get the wood and shave it down, make it so we can hold it out. I don't know where we got the nails from, but they got nails and nailed it all down. So it's only about six inches high, so when you fall... we didn't know how to fall or anything, so it was only about six or eight inches tall, you just fall down on the dirt.

MN: How about like kendo or judo or sumo? Did you participate in any of those?

MT: They didn't have those in the camp. Because when you went into camp, you only went in with one suitcase. You take the kendo equipment, you're don't even take another suitcase, they won't let you anyway. You can only take one.

MN: How about judo or sumo though?

MT: Gee, I never... well, I know that some of the people had judogi, huh, but where are we gonna get it? We did sumo, but sumo, you just take regular pants and cut the knee part off and then use it. But otherwise, you forget a lot of things.

MN: So you're doing a lot of exercise, you're building your body. Why was it so important to build your body?

MT: Because when we went into camp, Boyle Heights group, they were the... well, they're a big crowd, big group, and they were controlling the camp. They'd go around anywhere, "Hey, get out of the way," and they would push you around. And we says, "Hey, we got quite a bit of people, young guys our age in our camp, why don't we get to know each other and exercise?" So that's what we started to do. After that, they don't push us around. We never went out to pick fights, but we always had, "Hey, you guys, don't come here." They stayed away. They had respect for us.

MN: But early on, did any of the boys from Imperial Valley get beaten up?

MT: From when?

MN: Early on in camp?

MT: You mean because they called 'em dogs? We didn't have anybody except, well, like that one family got, he was a little different.

MN: So the guys that you were with in your quad area, did you come up with a name?

MT: Blackbird. We got to be pretty well-known in camp because that guy that was a pitcher, boy, he had a very fast ball. And because of that they were winning quite a bit of games. So the Blackbird was known there. But I wasn't there at camp too much because I moved to Crystal City, Texas, but I understand that they got real well-known.

MN: So they were really well-known in softball then.

MT: Softball, yes. They didn't have baseball, it was all softball. Anything with softball. So it's an underhand pitch.

MN: Now, you went into camp with a broken arm. What happened?

MT: Well, in our days, your heels used to wear out fast because you ran around quite a bit. And so we put taps on our heels. And that was a bad mistake, because I was running one day and that tap slipped on the cement and I fell backwards and I landed on my left arm. And my, well, even now, this bone is funny. You could see that, look at this side here, just one bump? Look at this one. It's that big because the doctor, he put it into a cast. Instead of putting it in so that the joint will come in, he put it out. So the joint pulled out, so this bone here healed that way. So that's why it's like that, and this one here is like that. There's only one bump here, this one here has got a big bump like that. I don't think that doctor, he was quite... I don't think he gave a darn. He thinks, "Oh, another one of these guys."

MN: So your quad area also built a stage. What was the stage used for ?

MT: Plays and singing. One of the girls in our... well, I knew her real well, Hanako, she had a nice voice and she used to sing quite a bit. So she'd go up there and sing, entertain, because what else have you got except a movie every once in a while. So we had to start making plays like that or have people come up and sing to entertain us.

MN: Let me ask you, I probably should have asked you, when we talk about your quad area, which barracks, blocks are we talking about? 59?

MT: Block 60, 59, 54 and 53. That was the quad. And then they had Block 39 quite a ways away, 42. Block 42 people were mostly from, out here from Los Angeles area. Mostly Imperial Valley was right there in that quad and Block 39.

MN: So there was a swimming area near your quad also. How did the people make this swimming area?

MT: The swimming area? Only thing it was was a ditch. They just made the ditch wider right there, and so it's all like a mudhole, it's just mud. And I heard that one person drowned there, and they couldn't find him and all of a sudden they start checking and they found the body.

MN: So I guess the water was so muddy you can't really tell.

MT: No, you can't hardly see it anyway, yeah. But that water was for irrigating and all that.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

MN: Now let me ask you about your schooling in Poston. When did school start?

MT: Oh, about the year after we got in camp. I was already in my high school -- not high school, but senior year. I was going to graduate that year, so they went into camp. But there was nothing to educate us with, they didn't have books or anything. He was a college student, so he was going to be a teacher. But how can he teach when he didn't learn how to teach, he didn't have the books to teach? Actually, it was just, you got together and say, "This is a classroom," and that was it. As far as I can... I can't remember anything about the place. Because by the time they built the auditorium, I left there and went to Crystal City, Texas.

MN: Now when you were in the classroom, though, did you have desks?

MT: It was... well, not a desk desk, but it's all made in camp. They made it in camp. It's more like, more a bench, and they just made a table and bench and that was it. You didn't have any seat, no chairs anyway, a bench. I understand they got pretty good afterward, but not when I was there. Well, I was only there for half a year or something like that.

MN: Were there any Caucasian students in your class?

MT: No. This was all Japanese. Because, well, the guards like that, their kids went to a different school outside of camp.

MN: Do you remember any hapa kids, mixed?

MT: Mixed ones? Gee... I don't think so. There weren't any around in our area. I don't remember any hapas. I heard that they, about it, but no, I don't remember anybody, because ours were all just Japanese-Japanese, the whole quad.

MN: Now, you were in the first graduating high school class in Poston, is that right?

MT: Yeah. As a matter of fact, my wife had the picture here at one time. She said, "Here's a picture, when you guys got together you went out and took a picture." That was in, gee, how many years ago? She was showing me a couple of weeks ago. [Laughs]

MN: What was the high school called?

MT: Just a high school, that's all it was.

MN: Like Poston High School?

MT: I guess, because we had no name or anything. Like I say, we didn't even have an actual class. You didn't learn anything. Only thing you do is you just went there and then they gave you a piece of paper that says that you graduated. I don't even know what happened to that paper. Probably my mother had it in Japan. To me, it didn't mean a thing 'cause I went to class, we had no books or nothing. You didn't learn anything. You would think that if you have a math book you have one book, even if a teacher had it and he could write on the blackboard. He can't teach anything 'cause he didn't know what to do. That was real bad for the teachers.

MN: Do you remember a graduation ceremony?

MT: There was no such things.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

MN: Let me ask you about dances at Poston. Were there dances in your area, in your quad?

MT: We had dances in our... like I say, by then, we had our own group, well known among ourselves, we were known so that, don't butt into our quad. We had dances, and at the door we just says, "No, no, this is for our block only." That was it. They didn't bother us.

MN: Where did you have your dances?

MT: Yeah, we had dances.

MN: Where?

MT: In the kitchen. Take the kitchen tables and shove them aside and have dances in there. You ask somebody, "You want to go with me? No? Okay." [Laughs] If okay, you'd go, otherwise no, okay. That's the only way you really get to know each other. In our days, boys used to play with boys, girls played with girls. You really, you'd say hi and that was about it. But then they started having dances, and you stood around and talked. So you don't care if they're older than you or younger than you, you'd just go, go to the dance and go back, that's it.

MN: How did you learn to dance?

MT: Whatever they teach us there. Some of those people, they knew how to dance, so just move. [Laughs]

MN: How often did your quad area have the dances?

MT: Oh, not too often. Gee, I don't think we even had it once a month. It's hard to get enough people together and you try to get some things to eat, but by then, see, most of the people were getting paid twelve dollars a month minimum. And then your higher paid ones got more, so the higher paid ones, they were either doctors or things like that. They're not going to come to our place.

MN: Now you also carved pins in Poston.

MT: The what?

MN: Pins, you carved pins?

MT: Oh, yes.

MN: How did you carve them?

MT: Oh, what we do is... by then, they were letting us go out. You can go out into the desert and find these, what they called ironwood. It's a oil-rich wood, so when you polish it up it comes out very nice, so we go out and find that and bring it back. By then, people got small saws, knives, and then you just carve it up. I should have had her find it for me.

MN: What did you carve?

MT: Birds. Birds and other things, because I made like a deer, and I gave it to my mother, so it must be in Japan somewhere yet. But one of the ladies at the, that was across from us in the next barrack, I made her one, and she sent it to me after I came back from Japan. As a matter of fact, I had the service station, and after I got rid of the service station, so that would be 1978 I sold the service station. So it was after that, she found out I was here, and she says, "You know, I was going through my things and I found this and you made it for me." She said, "Would you want it back?" I said, "No, I gave it to you, so no, no, you don't have to." She sent it anyway. She said, "You know something? You can remember that you made this and gave it to me," so she sent it to me. Last name was Shimabukuro. That would be an Okinawan name. She sent it back to me; it was real nice of her. That was a good memorial for me, I said, oh, yeah, when we went in camp I made it for her, yeah. [Laughs]

<End Segment 21> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 22>

MN: Let me ask you about your mother. What kind of work was she doing in Poston?

MT: She was working in the kitchen, so we always had enough to eat. Anything that's leftover, they didn't have what they call refrigerators, they only had ice boxes. So they got to get rid of the food, so everybody, after everybody eats, and leftover, everybody brings it home. Young people get hungry, so I used to eat pretty good.

MN: Now was your mother able to communicate with your father from Poston?

MT: She's was, by letter. That's the only way, not to know what they're doing, what camp they were in. Because even in New Mexico area, they had to go different places, camp. They kept moving him all the time, I don't know why. Looked like about every three or four months they'd move him. Maybe they didn't want him to really get to know a certain group, and they become like a gang or raise a fuss. Because he was cooking in camp, and that's where he learned to cook American-style. So when we went to camp -- I mean, went back to Japan, well, he got a job as a cook and was cooking for the Australians.

MN: Now, when your mother wrote letters to your father, was it in Japanese or English?

MT: Oh, it was Japanese. She didn't know English. The only thing she knew is Japanese. My father, that's all he knew. He learned all the bad words, too.

MN: So I guess those letters were, they weren't censored or heavily censored, they were sent through?

MT: Oh, you could... you got to get a stamp, and in those days, stamps were, what, three cents? We were working, she was working, so we always had enough small money to buy small things. So we'd buy stamps and mail the letter. You got to take it to where the gate is and give it to them and they'll mail it for you. And the letter comes in, and they say, "Hey, you got a letter," and you go get it.

MN: So through the letters, were they discussing plans to return to Japan?

MT: All this didn't come up until we went to Crystal City. Until then, the only thing they do is, "How are you doing?" what we were doing, this and that. And finding out what my father's doing, my mother and father found out what my mother was doing, and what the two brats at home were doing.

MN: What about your brother Shig? What was he doing in camp?

MT: Same as me. But he didn't go to chop trees. He didn't like hard work. Even farming, if it was going to be hard work like plowing, he didn't want to do it. I used to go out there and do it.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

MN: Okay. I wanted to get into the big strike in Poston in November 1942. You were part of this strike. Now, when the strike happened, were you there all the time or did you go back and forth to your barrack?

MT: No, we slept there. Ate there and slept there.

MN: Where did you get the food?

MT: From the kitchen. I told you last time you were here, we have a Ferguson, a tractor, we can go anywhere we wanted to except when they caught us racing each other and they took it away. Then we still had the truck, so the trucks go around to the kitchen and bring the food.

MN: Now, what about like, did you at least go back to your barrack to change your clothes and take a shower?

MT: Gee, you no, I don't remember going home to even change clothes. Actually, when you're in camp, gee, I don't think we changed clothes too often. We must have smelled good. [Laughs] As a matter of fact, we dug a hole under the barrack so that we can stay cool in the noontime, and we used to play cards there or whatever. Just dug the hole out there. We stayed underneath there until evening time, it's cooler there than up in the barrack.

MN: Going back to the protest strike, where was the center of the protest?

MT: Well, there was a, what they call a... they used to call them "dogs," inu, they were the people that was informing, saying, "Oh, he said this and that." And then the officers would come in and take them and take them to a prison, huh? Then they got hold of the one guy, and he says, "I'm innocent. Somebody else just told me the wrong information." They said, "No, we're going to take you out of camp." That's when the strike came out. Said, "No, you're not going to take him out if he's saying he didn't do anything. Why you going to take him out for?" All us young people got real angry and surrounded the police station, because that's where the prison was and that's where the store was, too, anyway. We just surrounded the place and said, "No, you're not going to take him out." They said, "Well, we're going to come in with the soldiers with guns." "Come then, but you're not going to take him out without a fight." And we were ready to fight. So they never did come in.

MN: Now you said you had this Ferguson tractor.

MT: No, but they took it away before then.

MN: But then what if the army had come in at that time? What were you gonna use the tractor for?

MT: Well, nobody was gonna use the tractor. We believed in just our hands, that's all we had. That and whatever sticks we're going to pick up. Like I say, we were chopping the mesquite tree like that, the branches? We could get all of that so we could make some club. We're gonna fight rifles with sticks. But we were determined, "No, you're not going to come in, take 'em out," they never did come in. Because around that place there twenty-four hours a day.

MN: But you really could have been killed if the army came in. Weren't you scared?

MT: Oh, yeah, if they came in and started shooting, yeah. So? We didn't care. We were already mad anyway, because they put us in camp.

MN: What about your mother? Did she come over and say maybe you shouldn't be involved in this?

MT: No. She was still working in the kitchen, getting her twelve bucks.

MN: Now, how many people from your block participated in this?

MT: Gee, all of us that were young. I would say there was about over twenty of us. We have lot of people from 15 into Block 20, 21. It's one of the biggest ones, anyway. That's why, like I said, when we got together, know each other real well, and when we start exercising, no other blocks came in to push us around. They just, "Stay away from us, we're not going to bother you, you're not going to bother us." So we have our dances, first thing we do is stand around by the door, and, "Oh yeah, our block, so come on in, come on in. Hey, you can't come in 'cause you're outside and we know where you're from. You're from the other end of the camp." So they say, "Okay," and they just leave. Because like I say, we had about twenty of us right there by the door.

MN: What about your brother? Was he involved in this protest?

MT: Yes, he was there, too. But he was quiet. Like I say, he's more on the timid side now. He wasn't hotheaded like me.

MN: How did you first hear that this protest was gonna happen?

MT: You mean about that guy? Well, before that, a lot of 'em were getting beat up. They said, "Oh, he's an inu," and they were beatin' 'em up. So the people in the office, the gate, people says, "Hey, you're beating up too many of 'em," and they're not getting any more information because those guys are getting scared. So that's the way it was, so they just quit. In a way, why were they informing what was going on? They just shouldn't be doing that kind of stuff. One thing I found out later was they were getting money. If they turned one guy in, they got money. Then they heard, "How come he gets a check from the federal government?" They get twenty dollars if they tell something like that. Then they started saying, "Hey, maybe he's an informant. Then they'd beat up one, and then they'd beat up another one, then it got out of hand. So the office says, "Hey, we're gonna pick that guy up and take him to federal prison," that's when we said, "No, you're not."

MN: Do you know if a lot of these informants were JACL?

MT: Gee, I don't know. But I know that it must be true that they were informing, otherwise, why would they get a government check when nobody else was getting it? There was a guy, he's always going to the office, what for? People began to watch because people were getting picked up because, "He's a dog," and he informed on him, and the guy gets picked up and taken? That's the reason why they had that Tule Lake deal, in camp, they sent him to Tule Lake.

MN: Now, if the administration had brought in the army, and it became violent, were you prepared to die?

MT: Oh, yeah, we said, "Hey, we're not going to let him go," okay, we're not going to do it. We all picked up sticks and things like that.

MN: When did you know the protest was over?

MT: Well, when they didn't come in and then they said, "Okay, we're not going to come in and take him out." And they let him out of jail. We said, "Okay, it's over then," so everybody just went back doing what they're supposed to be doing, not what they were doing.

MN: Why was it important for you to participate in this protest?

MT: I was still angry 'cause my father... kept telling 'em, "Why is my father over there in New Mexico or Arizona or somewhere? And my mother's here in Arizona, why can't he come over and lived with my mother here?" And they'll start coming out with the 27 and 28.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

MN: So let's talk about the questionnaire, this "loyalty questionnaire." When that came out in '43, were there a lot of meetings in your quad about this?

MT: No, we just talk about it ourselves. They never had a group talk. But like me, I was angry because my father was over there and my mother was over here, and already it's been a couple of years. So when they called me in, I said, "You're telling me you want me to become a soldier?" I said, "What for? My father is way over there, how many thousand miles away, and my mother's here." I said, "If you bring my father here to where my (mother) is, then I might talk to you differently." He said, "You know, I could throw you in the federal prison?" I said, "What's the difference between concentration camp and a federal prison?" I said, "They're both going to get locked up." He said, "Oh, no, no."


MN: So we're talking about the "loyalty questionnaire." What did you answer for the two controversial questions, 27 and 28?

MT: "No-no," and he told me he could put me in a federal prison. But he says, "You know, I could put you in the federal prison," I said, "What's the difference between federal prison and concentration camp?" I said, "I'm still locked up." He said, "What are you, a wise guy?" I said, "No, I'm mad. My father's over there and my mother hasn't seen my father in how many years and you think that I'm going to say yes?" I said, "You bring him here where my mother is, then you talk to me to change my story. Until then, no." They called me in a couple times, but no, I'm not going to change my mind, so they sent us to Crystal City.

MN: What about your older brother?

MT: He was same thing, but he didn't talk to them like I did. He just said "no-no" and he wouldn't talk to them anymore. But me, I was mad. I was talking back to them. Short-tempered, that's what you call me.

MN: What about other people in your quad? Did they answer "no-no"?

MT: Yeah, there's others that did "no-no." I don't ask everybody, because this is me. I'm mad. So I didn't ask them how they answered. But there was a couple of them that got sent to Tule Lake, but otherwise, not too many. They were scared to answer "no-no." Not me, I don't care what they do.

MN: So you answered "no-no" and your brother and your mother. From there, what happened to your family?

MT: Well, then we were sent to Crystal City, Texas. Then everything got real good 'cause my father was there, so we were, all four of us were together.

MN: How did you get to Crystal City, Texas?

MT: Train. From Parker, then they just sent us straight over.

MN: Do you know why they didn't reunite your family in Tule Lake?

MT: I don't know.

MN: I know Crystal City, the Department of Justice camp was a family camp, so I'm assuming that's why you were shipped to Crystal City.

MT: Well, we were asking for a place for the family to be together, and they said they had an opening over there. So they let us go there. It was the opening that opened up.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

MN: So when you got to Crystal City, was your father already there?

MT: Yes. He was there before us. Of course, he was closer than us.

MN: What was your first impression of Crystal City?

MT: What?

MN: What was your first impression of Crystal City?

MT: It was nice 'cause of the way it looked, but then it was not, the building itself was only a v-hut, what they call an army v-hut. It's a plywood, about eight by eight or ten by ten, they gave us two of those, one for my father and mother and one for my brother and me. So I didn't like that part. I wished they had given us one of the barracks. My wife, she was in the barracks, better place. They had regular toilets like that, but us, we had to go outside and go to another building, the bathrooms and showers. Plus, we were there late, so actually, we couldn't complain. But at least we were with my father.

MN: So how would you compare your living condition to, at Crystal City to Poston?

MT: Oh, it was a hundred times better at Crystal City. Because over there, my mother would go to the market and buy what kind of food she wanted, cook it, and we eat together. And in Poston, it's just, truck brings it, dump it off, and you eat whatever the cook feel like cooking, or the way he feel like cooking. That's the difference. I thought over there was a lot better. We even had a good swimming pool there.

MN: Where did your mother get the money to buy food?

MT: Oh, they gave us allotment. They have so many people, so you get so much money. It's not cash cash, it's a token.

MN: So do they serve, I mean, did they sell Japanese food like rice?

MT: Oh, yeah, because there was a lot of Japanese food. Most of the Japanese there, we had a, well, a few thousand Germans and Italians. But all the rest of it was Japanese.

MN: Did you have any interaction with the Germans and the Italians?

MT: Oh, we played ball and things, yeah. As a matter of fact, when we first got into camp, we didn't have any kitchen set up, so we had to go this barrack, and there was a German, Japanese, they kept an allotment of food and you eat together. But then after a while, then you got your own place and you cooked yourself. But until then, there was Germans together and Japanese together. So this German guy that used to bake, they must have had a bakery or something, used to make bread. So he'd make some bread, oh, boy, that sure smells good, and we'd go over and eat bread. And it's supposed to be he was baking it for the Germans, but, "Oh, yeah, go ahead, help yourself." Because he always had extra food. Had a lot of food there. As a matter of fact, they even had a barber shop, and her father used to work over there collecting money for the barber shop, and you have to pay so much, twenty-five cents or something like that. But you have Japanese, just Japanese cutting hair for Japanese, the Germans had their own. Everything is, the way it was set up was real nice.

MN: How were you able to communicate with the Germans?

MT: English. They spoke English. The younger ones were born here in America, but their father got taken in, so they were like us, going into camp. And then a lot of 'em got sent to Germany with the exchange.

MN: Now, the v-hut that you lived in, how cramped was it inside?

MT: How close?

MN: How big was the room that you lived in?

MT: That thing was only about, I would say about eight by eight or ten by ten. Small, it's a square. And you get two of those, so they were... where my brother and I lived, we're furthest away, and my father and mother lived, they built a lean-to on the outside so she can cook, and they gave us a stove like that that we'd use to cook there.

MN: And then the other people living around your area, where were they from?

MT: Well, we were, the first eight was of America, and then they started bringing in people from Peru and other places. Those guys are the ones that had a hard time, 'cause the only thing they come with was just a suitcase there. Yeah, you feel sorry for them. That's the way it was. We got to know these Peruvians real well, 'cause the rest of the camp, they were there before us. They were more or less, what you say, shunned us, they stayed away from us. We were in the v-hut, only thing we did was take up some of their baseball fields, softball field where they used to play, and then they built that v-huts like that. They didn't like us too well. But the Peruvians, they came like us, too, they were in our area. We really got along with them real well. Even when we got out of camp, we used to meet 'em over there in L.A. Got along with them real well.

MN: These are the Japanese Peruvians.

MT: Uh-huh. They're all Japanese, but they spoke Spanish and Japanese.

MN: So how did you communicate with them?

MT: Oh, Japanese. They learned English fast. You had to, they're in America now. Everything was in English.

MN: Did you play any sports at Crystal City?

MT: Sports, yeah. We played softball, yeah. Basketball.

MN: So your teammates were the Peruvians? Were you on the same team as the Peruvians?

MT: Oh, yes. Sure, if they want to play, some of them sort of stayed away from everybody else, but still, most of them, they came and played with us. But the rest of the camp left us alone, too. We're the ones that came in last, so you get pushed aside. But we still had a lot of fun.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 26>

MN: You went to Japanese school at Crystal City. What was that like?

MT: Oh, it was regular Japanese school. You have the classrooms and everything. There, you know, there's a Bonsan, the preachers, they were fluent in Japanese and they know how to teach, so they were the teachers. So we were, like the one that we had was a very good teacher, but he was a preacher. He'd tell you something, you'd better listen. It isn't one of those, like in America where you'd get away with it. He says, "Listen," and you listen.

MN: How many days a week did you go to Japanese school?

MT: Five days.

MN: How many hours a day?

MT: Whole day, eight hours. So we learned quite a bit of Japanese before we went to Japan.

MN: Is that why you started to go to Japanese school?

MT: Yeah. That's why we really, I studied a lot in Crystal City. I wanted to learn how to write and all that, I learned as much as I could there. Because I knew, my father kept saying, "We're gonna go to Japan." "We don't want to go." "No, we're gonna go." We knew we were gonna go.

MN: Who in your family wanted to go to Japan?

MT: Well, my father thought my brother was still alive there, for one thing, and he was the oldest son. He thought that, hey, everything there is gonna be mostly his. So he thought that if he goes over there, he won't have to starve or anything like that. He was really mistaken.

MN: What about your mother?

MT: She didn't want to go. She wanted to stay back, my brother and I, we both wanted to stay back, but my father said, no, we're going to go back, so we went back.

MN: So you never thought about, "Well, I'm going to stay, you can go back by yourself"?

MT: No. We weren't raised that way. We were raised so you listen to the father. He is the boss.

MN: Were you in Crystal City when you heard that the war was over?

MT: Uh-huh, oh, yeah. We left Crystal City and then we came to California again and got on the boat. We were... gee, what would you say? When the war ended and they said, "You can go back," we were the first boat back to Japan. As a matter of fact, we were on the ship that was a flat bottom boat, it's not the regular v-shape. Well, for crossing the ocean it should be v-shape, but this was a flat bottom boat that was used between interisland in Hawaii. So going back was rough, oh, boy. We hit a storm, we stood in the back of the ship and we couldn't see... like that. Yeah, it goes up and fall down, then the water just splash out. Then the soldiers, "Hey, get away from the railing. You fall overboard, we're not going to rescue you. If you fall over, we're going to throw you a life vest and that's it, you're on your own." So we stayed away. But that's how it was, because the soldiers are there, they had bullets in their guns.

MN: How bad did you get motion sickness?

MT: Well, I didn't get seasick, neither did my brother. My mother and father, they didn't get sick, but she was on the same boat. [Indicates wife.] She said she got on the ship sick until she got off the ship. That was two weeks. She didn't eat too much. That flat bottom boat, so it was rough, very rough. But what can we say? They were using that to carry the troops overseas. If it's good for the troops, it's good for those "Japs."

MN: What month was this?

MT: Oh, they got into Tokyo Bay on Christmas Eve, '45.

MN: So going back a little bit, when you heard that the war was over and Japan had lost, how did you feel?

MT: Gee, I didn't think too much, I was too busy going to school. Only thing is, hey, I got to learn, I got to learn, I got to learn.

<End Segment 26> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 27>

MN: So you get to Japan. Which port did you pull into?

MT: Yokohama. Actually, we got off at Uraga. It's a little bit further south, it's on the back side of Yokohama Bay.

MN: Now you have to share with us how you got off the ship.

MT: Well, they didn't have any docks for us to dock. We were in the middle of the bay, so you get off the ship, from the top deck, you got on a rope ladder and came down into the barge. Then from the barge is moved to a little porthole that's... oh, gee, it was higher than my head, anyway. They opened up that door and handed us all the suitcases and the half trunks, and some of them are full steamer trunks, handed down from there. We had to catch it and take it to the wharf and put it up on the wharf. That was the way we got off the ship. Even the ladies had to get off that same ladder into the barge and get off at the wharf. They couldn't get into the regular place because the American army was unloading there, and the soldiers are first, we were last.

MN: So if you didn't catch those luggage coming out from that little other door...

MT: The door, yeah.

MN: Did it just drop into the ocean?

MT: If you did miss. So we didn't miss. The guys up there were very careful hanging on, hanging on, "Don't drop it, don't drop it." We were very careful. We didn't lose not one.

MN: I imagine those were really heavy, too.

MT: Yeah. As a matter of fact, our steamer trunk is in the garage right now, yet. Still got it.

MN: Now, once you got onto shore, where did they take you?

MT: It was terrible there. People that came from the South Sea Islands, you know, those people from warm place, they only had shorts and short sleeved shirts. And here it is freezing cold, snow outside. There's a lot of people that froze to death over there. And what they were doing is just taking the bodies, stacking them in a room like wood, just stack it up in the room. They can't bury it, they didn't have enough people there, they didn't have no money either. So they just stacked 'em up in a room. I don't know what they did with the bodies, 'cause we were there just so long and then they shipped us to Hiroshima.

MN: Did you see these bodies?

MT: Oh, yeah, 'cause we were walking around all over the place. Oh, gee, stacked a few more bodies again. It didn't bother us.

MN: Now when you were there, were you able to go into Tokyo and see what had happened to Tokyo?

MT: Oh, yeah. You could go anywhere if you got the money to go.

MN: What did Tokyo look like in...

MT: Flat. Hiroshima was, too, flat.

MN: Now I think you mentioned this earlier, but when you were sent to Japan, how much money were you allowed to bring?

MT: Two hundred dollars a family.

MN: What happened to the rest of your family's money?

MT: Just stayed in the bank. I don't know how long ago after that, gee, it must have been about a couple of years before we could even get it. But we didn't have too much money there. Because, like I say, the money was all in the crop, and the war started, and when we sold the crop, it didn't pay for the seed and the fertilizer, not all of it. So the rest of it was whatever money we had in the bank was your loss.

MN: Now before the war, there weren't too many Japanese banks doing business in the U.S. Do you remember which bank your father did business with?

MT: Sumitomo. Yeah, Sumitomo was a big one there.

MN: And that's now California Bank and Trust today.

MT: Yeah, now.

<End Segment 27> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 28>

MN: And so from Yokohama, how did you get to Hiroshima?

MT: Train. They had trains once in a while, and they let us on there.

MN: What was your relatives' reaction when you showed up in Hiroshima?

MT: They were shocked. They didn't expect us, and all of a sudden my mother just opened the door and, hey, my brother's dead. So they didn't say much. I still remember that. They just looked at my mother and father and then they just looked down. "Why didn't you let us know?" That's the first thing my mother said. "If you'd let us know, I wouldn't come back." They didn't let us know, so they thought he was still alive, and they were counting on him.

MN: And then you shared earlier that your paternal grandfather wanted your father to take care of the entire family?

MT: Yeah, the brothers and sisters that's married with kids, take care of 'em all. And he told 'em no. They're a different family, they got to go on their own. It's going to be bad enough to just feed Grandmother and Grandfather and the one unmarried sister, and then there was four of us. And man, Grandfather wouldn't listen to that. He said, "You're the oldest son and you're going to have to take care of 'em." And my father kept saying, "No, no." So Grandfather told my dad, "Then you get out." Because he's going to let the others live there anyway. So one snowy day, we just packed up and left. I still remember that day. It was snowing. Over there, you don't have horses, the only thing that moves the cart is human manpower. You pulled it yourself. We had to move it about a mile where we rented a house. But that was one of the better things we did in Japan, when we moved out.

MN: At that time, what did Hiroshima look like?

MT: It was flat. Well, from Hiroshima station to you know where the atomic bomb was dropped? It was flat except for a few concrete -- not concrete, yeah, concrete buildings. If you go into Japan, there's a Solo Building. That's real close to the center, that was left. Then there was a fire station about, oh, gee, about a mile away. Those were the only two that I can remember that was there. All the rest of it was just flat because the way they built the thing was not steel reinforced. Only one that was left was the steel reinforced one, rest of 'em all went flat. So all the people that... well, to show you how bad it was, they called it bomb shelter. Only thing it was in Hiroshima is they dug a hole, they took pine trees and put it on top and put small branches on top and then put dirt on top of that. A bomb shelter like that? What can it stop? Nothing. That's why all those people inside, they burned to death. Those bodies were there for how many years before they dug it out and really got rid of it.

MN: So when you walked around, were there still a lot of bodies lying around?

MT: Oh, yes, at the beginning, yeah. And like I say, it took so many years before they really got it cleared up.

MN: Weren't you afraid of radiation sickness?

MT: What's that?

MN: Radiation sickness?

MT: Oh, so they said. They said for a hundred years you're not going to be able to walk around here because it's going to kill you. We were walking around there when? Well, like I said, in December, we got off in Tokyo, we went to Japan about a couple of weeks later, I mean, to Hiroshima. We were walking around in Hiroshima after that, "Hey, let's go take a look and see what's it's like." It didn't kill us, I guess, or we're too dumb to learn.

MN: What did you think when you saw what had happened to Hiroshima?

MT: Well, it was sickening. I thought, "What did we come back here for?" There was railroad tracks that come from trains, from the train station, and it comes around and it crosses over near where the bomb was dropped. There was a concrete bridge. They actually moved the tracks, instead of crossing over like that, it was apart, about eight, ten inches apart. The blast had actually moved the whole structure over. 'Cause one side was onto the bank of the river, so this other side was long 'cause it came from the bank all the way to the other side. So when the bomb hit, this side here moved. So it just moved about that much. So people came from the train station, got off, jumped off, and run across the bridge and get on the streetcar that came from the other way, those people got off, ran across the bridge, and then they went back. They just came up to there, back, back and back. That's how they could get to the train station to the Hiroshima station. If they wanted to go toward Tokyo like that, they had to come across that way. There was no other way they could get there.

<End Segment 28> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 29>

MN: So now your family moved out of your grandfather's house. What kind of job did you find?

MT: Well, by then, the Australian troop, it's the United Kingdom troop came. 'Cause that was the English troop, Hindu troops, Australians, and all that. There was about four different troops, kind of troops. We got a job with the Australians. I didn't know how to cook now, except how I used to cook for my mother, got to cook rice and things. But my dad used to cook in camp over here, so I went over there. Well, my dad can cook, but he don't speak English. I don't cook, but I can talk to my father and tell him what to do. So we're gonna apply for a job as a cook. They said, "Okay, we want you." I got hired right away. That's how I was an interpreter cook and my dad was a cook. [Laughs] So I told the sergeant, "But," I said, "food is short in Japan. My brother, I want him to be able to come to the camp and I want you to feed him breakfast, lunch and dinner." And he looked at me and said, "Okay." That's the only condition, I said, "That's the only condition. I want him to be able to eat." Then I said my mother can have the... well, you get a ration, but it's not enough to eat. But mine, my father's, my mother's ration for my mother, one person, she could eat enough rice. Other things she don't have, like fish or anything else, vegetables, she'll have to buy it. And so we said that's the kind of job we want, but that's the condition that I'll work. And they agreed to that. So my brother used to come every morning to the kitchen.

That sergeant, if it weren't for him, we would have starved in Japan, though. He made sure that I can have anything I want. Going home time, I want butter, we get bread edges. Soldiers don't eat bread edges, they don't like it. So we get the bread edges, put butter on it, get another bread edge, put jam on it, put it together, I take it home to my mother. My mother takes it apart, takes the jam out, takes the butter out, 'cause we would put a lot of it. She'd take the butter out, and then she'll eat the bread or she'll sell it. The butter and jam she sold or trade it for rice, 'cause that was the only way she can get rice. The Japanese farmers had rice, but they didn't have jam or butter or those kind of things that they want. So they bartered, and my mother used to trade with them. That's how she went. So we had a bag, they used to take home bread edges. How many of 'em? Take a whole bag and take it up and then let her sell it. That's how she lived.

MN: Now about six months before you left Japan, you worked for a sanitary engineer right, in the Australian military?

MT: Yeah.

MN: Now, when he asked you to translate documents, how did you do this?

MT: Oh. I was very smart. I can't learn to read or write too much, but my brother, it was amazing to me because he got to where he can read Japanese newspaper. So before that, when I had to get these things translated, I'd go to him and says, "I can get this, but how are we gonna do this part? These words, I don't know how to read it." If he can't look it up in the dictionary, then my mother would come over and help us. She said, "Oh, you read this way." She'll tell us in Japanese what it means. Then he would look in the dictionary, "Oh, okay, now you translate it like this." And I used to translate that document and take it to the boss. It always got translated. But otherwise, me, I wouldn't be able to do it. But anyway, this boss and I, we got along real well. We'd take trips, 'cause we were in Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Tottori, Shimane and Okayama, the five prefecture of the main island. That's where we were traveling all the time. He gets his ration, but he didn't want to eat those kind of ration so he would give it to me and we'd go out and buy Japanese food and eat at the hotels. When we go home, I used to give that to my mother, she used to sell that. That's how she made money; that's how she built her home over there, too.

MN: How long were you in Japan?

MT: From '45 until 1950.

MN: Did you ever think about just staying in Japan?

MT: Never. Because like I told you, I can't read those Japanese words. And if I stayed over there, I'm going to have to learn it. And I'm so smart, I can't remember. [Laughs] My brother, by that time, he was whizzing through those newspapers. Not me, I had to get the English one. So when I go to the office, get their paper, the one that the soldiers have and read that, get the news from that.

MN: Now, before you left Crystal City, had you renounced your U.S. citizenship?

MT: No, no. They didn't ask us those kind of things, no. I probably would have, the way I was mad. Well, in Poston, I was really angry. So at that time, if they'd have told me, yeah, I probably would have. But I didn't.

<End Segment 29> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 30>

MN: So when you wanted to return to the United States in 1950, did you have any problems?

MT: Yeah, I had to get dollars.

MN: You had money problems. [Laughs] But no passport or visa problems.

MT: No. I have to get a passport, too, five years the passport's no good anyway. And besides that, they took it away from us when we got on the ship to go back. So you don't have a passport, so I had to get a passport. I had to go to the American embassy and prove who I was, and then they take your picture and give you a passport. But I had to borrow the money from my uncle from over here. You can only borrow three hundred dollars. Well, three hundred dollars, the ship fare is going to cost me two hundred and eighty, I'm only going to have twenty dollars in my pocket. And smart me, I saw all those candies when I got off in Hawaii to look around, I had to buy it. So I spent ten dollars there. [Laughs] I had ten dollars when I got to Frisco. Smart me, huh?

MN: So once you got to San Francisco, what did you do?

MT: Then my uncle came over there and he... the one that, well, my dad loaned him, when he wanted his wife from Japan, he didn't have enough money in the bank, so my father put money into his account for him. So that'll look like he got a lot of money, so he can get a wife. And that's how his wife came. But he never paid it back. My dad, too, was good natured, "That's okay." But anyway, I borrowed it from him, and when they asked for it, right away he said... and I came back and he picked me up over there and then he told me, he says, "Farm, you can make money here and work hard and then make money." I said no. Imperial Valley stuff was still there. I said, "No, I'm not gonna be a farmer." I said, "I don't care what, I don't want to be." So he got hold of this friend that was in Santa Barbara, and I came over there to Santa Barbara, and he found me a place in West Lost Angeles, it was a boarding house. And he says, "Yeah, I'll show you how to be a gardener. You can be a gardener, you can make good money. But you don't know how to do anything so you can come and live in my boarding house, I'm not gonna pay you any money, but I'll show you how to use the equipment and how to do the gardening work." Hey, to me, I didn't care as long as I can get a job. So we came over there. He worked me twelve hours a day, six days a week, and then on Sundays, most of the time, almost half a day. But I was learning how to do the gardening work. And whenever I had half a day on a Sunday, I used to go out and dig pansies, put 'em into baskets so they can be sold at the market. Anything for money, that's how we started out.

Then when I got pretty good in gardening, then found a place in, near Jefferson and fourth Avenue, the family, the father had a heart attack and he couldn't work. And the son-in-law, he needed help. I said, "Okay, I'll take the job." So he said you get room and board and so much money, so I said, "Okay, I'll take it." That was when I started having money in my pocket, and so I could start sending goods to my mother. And in those days, in a week we could only send one package. So you could only send so many pounds, so you make up things and you send it. That's what I used to do.

MN: What were you sending?

MT: Sugar and coffee and anything, well, over there, those things are, they don't have any, so they sell these too, my mother could use it, too. So you get the canned goods, like they had corned beef and things like that. Things that my mother could open and make for her to eat, because my brother was still living with her. He stayed there all that time. That's how we started out.

MN: So your brother and your parents, did they ever come back to the United States?

MT: My brother came back for about, oh, gee, a couple of years or less. When I came to America, he went to Tokyo and got a job as a civil service job working for the American navy. Then he was there for a while and then they said, "We're going to cut back," so he lost his job. So they told him, "There's a job in San Francisco that's open that you can do." He'll be good because he can read Japanese and English, 'cause he was real good by then. So he came back and first opening they had in Japan, he went back, 'cause his wife was from Japan, born in Japan, she didn't know English. She didn't want to leave over here for nothing. Even though there's a lot of things here, and in Japan they didn't have too much, for her, Japan is better. So they went back and then they lived in Yokohama until he retired.

MN: Is your brother still alive right now?

MT: Well, he's still there, yeah. He's probably healthier than me, because he used to... oh, my goodness, I went back there and visited him and, you climb that mountain every morning and go over there and over there and then come back? He said, yeah. He said he used to walk five, six miles up and down the hills. So he was healthier than I am.

<End Segment 30> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 31>

MN: Let me ask you short questions about redress. When talks of redress started, did you think that was possible?

MT: No. I didn't think we were going to get anything. And all of a sudden, hey, it became a reality. Like this here. [Laughs]

MN: You used that money for this?

MT: Yeah. See that wall right there to there? That used to be a back of the house. Our door used to be right there, where your light is standing now. That used to be a back door and that's all we had. Said, no, I got the money, let's build it.

MN: Were your parents alive when the redress bill...

MT: Oh, yeah. Wait a minute, my mother was gone. I think my mother was gone, just my father was alive. And my father lived quite a bit longer than my mother. My mother, they used to, I don't know, in Japan they call it kotaizu, they have a container and they put charcoal in there, burning, she used to sit there and smoke. She was a smoker. I said, "You never smoked in America." She said, "Yeah, but I used to hide it from you guys." She didn't want us to see her smoking, but she used to smoke. So anyway, that's the way it was over there.

MN: Now do you think the money and the apology made up for what you and your family lost during the war?

MT: No, uh-uh. If they hadn't put us in camp, you know, like I said, my father was independent. He had enough money to buy both of his things that he needed. So the company, like this guy Friedman, he couldn't tell my dad, you can't do this or you can't do that. He wanted my dad's business, 'cause he knew my dad had the money to buy most of his seeds and fertilizer like that. So we had no problem. And that's what he had to give up. And like I say, the only money we had was two hundred dollars and we took it to Japan, and a few hundred dollars in a savings account, that was it. That was all that's left.

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

MT: No, not really. I've been talking too much. [Laughs] Not much more we can add. Like I said, if it weren't for that money that, redress that you gave us, that wall there to that washing machine like that is, that wouldn't be here. That was the backyard; all this was grass. [Laughs]

MN: Well, thank you, Min, for sharing your story with us.

MT: I hope you can use it, but it's just rambling, that's what it was. But it makes you think about, yeah, we did all those things. It was a hard life, really. [Referring to wife] 'Cause she came back in January in 1950, and I came back in February. And it was around March or April before I even knew that she was back here. Then one day we were talking to my friend, and he said, "Oh, yeah, she's over there. She lives over there." That's where we got, "Hey, you want to go to this? Want to go here? Want to go there?" [Laughs] We got married.

MN: Well, when you had your marriage, were your parents, were they able to attend it?

MT: No. We just had a small... her father and mother was not here either. They were in Japan, too. Then we had our first daughter, and then their father and mother and the two sisters wanted to come back, so they got the money together and sent it to her. And whatever we can, and then they borrowed some from the other places. And then they came back, we went... well, I don't know. If you go to Fourth Avenue and Jefferson, there was a Saito, doctor there. It was a small house by the alley. If you see that small house, you'll say, how can four other people besides me and my wife and a baby live together for a while? Because they came back and they didn't have any money, but the father, boy, he was gung ho. He went out looking for a job right away, he got a job, and he took the family and moved out. Well, he knew they were hard on us. But then he was broke. I give him credit. Well, he feels he's the man of the house and he's supposed to be the responsible person. He went to work at the Tam O'Shanter in downtown L.A., he got a job there. Boy, he stayed there all that time until he retired.

MN: You know, you had a rough life before the war, but your life after the war was also pretty rough. How would you say, how would you compare it?

MT: When we got married, what was the hardest part is I couldn't give her much money. And I started a service station in 1978, I'm sorry, '58, got enough money together and got a service station. In those days, she had two kids by then. How can you feed two kids, her, and she wasn't working? And only gave her a hundred dollars to pay the rent and everything, electric, food, diapers for the kids and everything. She did it all. I give her credit. I just didn't have the money. And the service station that I bought, that guy was just barely doing fourteen thousand gallons a month. And I bought that, and I built that place up to a hundred and thirty thousand. Until then, she had to struggle. I give her credit. That's why I can't say anything bad to her. She says, "jump," I jump. She tells me, "sit down," I sit down. [Laughs] She had a hard life, really. When I think about... only had that much money to give her, a week, and she had to do everything herself. I give her lots and lots of credit. Well, she was one that I wanted to marry.

MN: Well, thank you very much for your story.

<End Segment 31> - Copyright &copy; 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.