Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Ronald Ikejiri Interview
Narrator: Ronald Ikejiri
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 6, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-461-2

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

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So you mentioned, let's start with your father. So tell me a little bit about him, his name, and maybe his family.

RI: Well, my father was born on April 6, 1917, in Fillmore, California, which is just north of San Fernando Valley in the Santa Paula area. And he was born on a farm, and when he... his name was Matsuo Ikejiri. Only when he came back after he went to Japan and came back did his name become Mac, M-A-C, because, I guess, Matsuo was hard to say, so people used Mac. In 1923, when my father was six, the entire family moved back to Fukuoka-ken, Japan. And my father's grandfather apparently had a lot of farming land and other landholdings, and he was becoming ill so my father was called back. And as the oldest son, he needed to go back to Japan, so he took the whole family back. So in 1923, after six years old, my father went back to Japan.

TI: Oh, so that was your grandfather was called back.

RI: Yes.

TI: Because your father was six.

RI: Right. The great grandfather was ill. So my father stayed in Japan until about 1936. And what happened is that the recruiters from the imperial Japanese army would come to the rural areas in Fukuoka-ken and said, "Oh, okay, you're now of age, we need for you to join the imperial Japanese army and we're going to send you to Manchuria." Well, my father thought about it and said, "Well wait a minute, I'm an American citizen," and so he opted to return back to the United States. His parents remained, and his siblings remained, although one of his next oldest brothers was also born in America and he was an American citizen but he stayed. So in 1936, my father left from Yokohama, went to Hawaii, San Francisco, and then ended up departing the ship, disembarking the ship in San Pedro, California. And back then, they didn't know whether he was a citizen or not a citizen of the United States, so in Terminal Island he was placed in, for lack of better words, a holding area. And so for about two and a half, three weeks, he had to wait until, by postal service, they didn't fax machines or any other ways to get it, information that yes, indeed, he is an American citizen. After that he was released and returned to be living with his aunt and uncle in Gardena, California.

TI: Now, at the point he came back, how proficient was he in English?

RI: Zero.

TI: So he was coming across, pretty much like a Japanese immigrant in many ways.

RI: Yes.

TI: His language abilities, his knowledge of the country.

RI: The beautiful aspect of it is when my father was in Japan, obviously he learned Japanese language, writing, history. And it served him very, very well, because in later years he was very, he ended up being the principal of the Gardena Buddhist Church Japanese language school. And even later on when I was practicing law and I would have clients in Japan, every New Year's my father would send them boxes of mikan or oranges, and he would write a letter with a fude. And my father's writing in Japanese is actually really beautiful. You can just tell it was just very graceful. It doesn't look like anything I could do. And then my clients would all write me back and say, "Oh, Ron, we cannot write back to your father to thank him." I said, "Why?" They said, "Your father's handwriting is so beautiful, if we wrote back, he'd think that we're so stupid, we're so ignorant." And so I said, "No, no, just write back." "No, please tell him that we really appreciate his gesture." So although proficiency in English was not strong, his ability to write and understand the Japanese language was very strong.

TI: So would it be fair to say that he was fairly well-educated in Japan?

RI: Yes.

TI: And how, at what level did he go through?

RI: Well, my guess is because he was probably around seventeen or eighteen by the time he returned back from Japan, he may have finished high school in Japan, but he never went beyond high school.

TI: So what's interesting, I'm just thinking in terms of when he came to the United States, it was during a time when the 1924 Immigration Act had already passed. And so there was no inflow of new Japanese immigrants, and so for the community, he was maybe not unique, but maybe a little different in terms of someone who had recently come from Japan with all these Japanese skills. So I could see where that would be kind of a unique decision for him to do that.

RI: Well, he's fortunate that he was born in the United States, and therefore he could come back.

TI: Right, I mean, that's the only reason why he was able to do that.

RI: Otherwise, he would be excluded. Yeah, he was fortunate.

TI: Okay, so tell me, so he's now in Gardena staying with his uncle. So what does he do?

RI: Well, what they did is they had little farming ranches, they grew vegetables and a lot of flowers. And their home was located, which is the current Redondo Beach Boulevard and Broadway, which is part of the L.A. County strip. But their farming operations, joint farming operation with the Japanese Americans, was located on Hawthorne Boulevard and Carson, which is now Del Amo fashion center in Torrance. And that whole area was all Japanese, and I remember after World War II, and then when I was five or six years old, I'd be playing in these fields, and there'd just be lots of different Japanese families, Miyazakis and Horis or others that would just all be farming next to each other.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.