Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jack Y. Kubota Interview
Narrator: Jack Y. Kubota
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: May 4, 2012
Densho ID: denshovh-kjack-01-0001

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TI: So today is Friday, May 4, 2012. We are in Los Angeles, at the Buddhist Temple on First Street, and so Jack, I'm gonna start -- and here we're interviewing Jack Kubota. On camera is Tani Ikeda, and I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda, and this is an interview being done for the Densho Project in Seattle. [Interruption] So I'm gonna first kind of focus on your parents, and let's talk first about your father. Can you tell me his name and where he was from?

JK: Ukichi, U-K-I-C-H-I, Ukichi Kubota. He's from Shizuoka-ken in Japan, and he came to America in 1906.

TI: Okay, before we get to the, to America, what did his family do in Japan?

JK: They were in the farming business.

TI: Good. And so in 1906, or where, thereabouts, why did he decide to come to the United States?

JK: Well, he'd actually come to the Western hemisphere in the year before, in 1905, and he offloaded from a freighter or something in Mexico and then he worked the silver mines in Mexico. I just looked at a tidbit of family history, and it turned out that that's, the Japanese nationals were told this was the promised land, but they started out in Mexico. And they had a one year contract in Mexico, and at the expiration of that they decided, a group of them that were there, to come across the border and come to California.

TI: Now, do you know much about what it was like to be a silver miner back then? I mean, was that hard work?

JK: Well, that, I don't know. It's pretty much that these folks were the classic immigrants, well, what you see today. They just came, they wanted to make a living and send some money home and stuff like that. So a group of them started out that way.

TI: Now, do you know how your father found out about this job?

JK: In Mexico?

TI: Yes.

JK: No, I don't know.

TI: Okay, so he's in Mexico silver mining 1905, then after about a year he decides to leave Mexico. So what happened then?

JK: Well, according to this tidbit of family history, he, including my mother's oldest brother -- his name is Masashi Suzuki, okay -- they got to be friends there, and they and a group of them bought some mules and things and started this, I don't even know where Sonora, Mexico is, but they made the trek north and they ended up in Nogales, Nogales, Arizona, which is just south of Tucson, and they crossed the border there. And then I remember family stories about the fact that they got on the train and they were told to buy soda crackers and American Eagle condensed milk and sit in the back of the train and keep quiet, and then make their way to Los Angeles to get into the Japanese underground railroad, so to speak, but illegal immigrants.

TI: And so they came across undocumented.

JK: Oh yeah.

TI: They, essentially, walked across and then, I guess, crossed the border.

JK: Yes.

TI: And then hopped on a train.

JK: Hopped on a train, yeah. In today's language I'd be a classic "anchor baby." Isn't that what they call 'em?

TI: Right, so you would be born in the United States, "undocumented."

JK: Right, my father was undocumented. My mother, my mother was actually, she came in legally. She was a "picture bride." Remember I told you that her oldest brother and my dad were good buddies?

TI: Right.

JK: Okay, so yeah, I guess he showed him a picture of his kid sister and they said, "Okay, she'd make a good bride," and then she came over. She came to San Francisco, and she came in 1915 or something like that.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2012 Densho. All Rights Reserved.