Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Alan Nishio Interview
Narrator: Alan Nishio
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Gardena, California
Date: November 12, 2018
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-450-1

[Correct spelling of certain names, words and terms used in this interview have not been verified.]

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BN: Okay, so we're here in Gardena at the home of Alan Nishio. It's November 12, 2018. And if you could just give me your name and your birth date to start.

AN: My name is Alan Nishio, and I was born August 9, 1945, in Manzanar.

BN: Manzanar, okay. And I think where we usually start is just to talk a little bit about your family background and maybe just starting with your parents.

AN: Okay. Well, let's see. Family background... let's see, I don't know where to start.

BN: Maybe your dad?

AN: Hmm?

BN: Maybe with your dad.

AN: Well, my father was Kibei-Nisei. He was born in Whittier, California, in 1911. And then he went back to Japan and went to school in Japan, returned to finish high school at Gardena High School, and then after that, he had gotten some support from my grandfather and others and he opened a small grocery. He worked in my grandfather's grocery store, and then was able to start his own grocery store in the late '30s, and so that was his involvement. He married my mom, I think, in 1935. It was kind of an arranged marriage, and so that was my father. And then was in camp, and then after camp was a gardener, and worked as a gardener for all that time. And so that was his background.

BN: What was his name?

AN: Kiyoshi Nishio.

BN: How long was he in Japan?

AN: He was in Japan for probably from when he was about four to about sixteen. And so that was, yeah, his involvement there. For my father, it was a difficult time. Camp was a particularly difficult time for him. Well, I'll get into that later. But then my mom was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1917, and went back to Japan when she was very small, I think three. And then went to high school in Japan, and was living in Japan and then married my father and then moved back out here in early 1934, '35, and they were married. And then she helped out at the grocery store. Then after camp was a stay-at-home mom and then took in laundry, ironing, things like that, and then worked, the last job was at Lindy Pen Company where she was an assembly line worker making pens, and so that was her life. So that was my parents and their involvement.

BN: So when she got married, she was, like, eighteen?

AN: Let's see, seventeen to... yeah, so she was like eighteen, she was young.

BN: And then they're both Kibei, so were their families mostly in the U.S. while they were in Japan?

AN: The families were in the U.S. and then they were sent back to live with grandparents in Japan. So that, for both of them, that was the situation.

BN: But when they came back, they came back to families who were still kind of semi-established in the U.S.

AN: Right, right.

BN: Did your mom get married before she came back?

AN: That's what I'm trying to remember. I think she got married in Japan.

BN: Okay, so she came back kind of as a wife already.

AN: Right, right.

BN: Interesting. And then you mentioned your father had a grocery store.

AN: Yes.

BN: Where was it?

AN: It was in south L.A., I think 41st and Wall Street. So they had started that in the late '30s, 'cause they'd saved enough money to have that, so I saw one picture of the store. So that's what they were doing at that time, was they had just kind of gotten the store going. So my mom worked out of there with my grandmother who was helping out, so it was one of these family businesses that was getting going at that time.

BN: And it's really just a few years before the war.

AN: Yeah, that was what happened, is that they had built the business. It was, from what I gather, it was doing fairly well, and my parents were beginning to start, they had my oldest sister was born in 1941. And so they were kind of, they were on their way to establishing their foundations here in the U.S. And then the camps occurred.

BN: Right. Before we jump to the war period, you may not know this because it was before you were born, but did they ever talk about being involved in any way with the community, with prefectural organizations or churches or any of that kind of stuff?

AN: Before the war? No, I don't recall any... I don't know if they were.

BN: They didn't talk about it?

AN: They didn't talk about it at all, but I know that just from what I gathered from family discussions, they were pretty well... well, my mom was just adjusting to life in the U.S. again, but pretty busy with the store.

BN: They're very young.

AN: Yeah, they were young and that was kind of the main thing that took up their time.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2018 Densho. All Rights Reserved.