Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Hank Shozo Umemoto Interview II
Narrator: Hank Shozo Umemoto
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 6, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-462-11

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TI: Okay, but so here -- and this might be something that you didn't see as much, but in Seattle, I've asked some stories about like the hostels and things, and they said, not for everyone, some people were fine, but some people, when they came back, became really depressed. They got really sad, it was really hard, especially some of the Issei men who couldn't get jobs, and they felt like... because before, during the war, your housing and food were all taken care of, and now you're given twenty-five dollars and say, start all over, if you're in your fifties or sixties, Issei men, and you can't get a job or something, it was really hard. And so in Seattle there are some stories in the hostels that there were several suicides...

HU: Oh, really?

TI: ...of Issei men who just couldn't, decided not to go on. Do you recall any stories like that or any depression or maybe heavy drinking or anything like that that went on in the community?

HU: No. I've known, or I've meet a lot of the Issei people, but they just continued along with their lives. I don't know of anybody that ever complained about camp or being mistreated. But maybe I hung around with different kind of people. But yeah, as far as my contact with the Isseis, I've never heard any complaints. And my mother, I never, ever heard her complain about losing that ranch or anything of that sort.

TI: How about your classmates at Roosevelt? Did you hear any stories of having just difficulties, that they struggled?

HU: No, everybody seemed to be happy. Of course, there were a couple of people that were sort of loner, and even in Manzanar, I knew some guys who were loners, I think for them, I think it was miserable. It's all about people. If you don't have people to talk to, play with, it's very, very depressing.

TI: I was talking to some people, this is a little bit later after you, but like in Boyle Heights, in that area, probably about maybe ten years later, after you graduated, there were Japanese American kind of groups or gangs. And a lot of them got into drugs and stuff, did you see any of that kind of behavior where some of your classmates would do kind of dangerous things or bad things together?

HU: No. I had an employee at my shop, this was a much younger Sansei, and he had, I remember he was sleeping, he had red nose and things, yeah, I've seen in the Sansei generation, later generation, in fact, he died just recently, last month, at age fifty-something. So I've seen the younger generation getting into that, getting into trouble. But in our days, our generation, I didn't see any of that. I guess we were so much under the Isseis' control, rigid control, that we didn't have the opportunity to do those fun things.

TI: Yeah, yeah. How about... another thing I was curious about, when everything is in a state of flux -- and this happened even with the Isseis, I remember when the early stories of the Isseis, when they were recruiting men from Japan to work, there were stories of sometimes people would kind of cheat or they would take money from other people, like there would be kind of the bosses that would skim money, and so there's fraud and things like that. After the war, when people were coming back and everything is just like in transition, were there ever stories of some people being maybe dishonest and cheating each other? Or was it more cohesive, people helping each other?

HU: I think people who were helping each other, very, very courteous, so you see Japanese, you would go out of your way. I remember, I think it was in 1946, my brother and my sister, they were at Seabrook and they moved out to Lodi. The only thing I knew was that he was in Lodi somewhere. So I went to Lodi one day, I was working on the farm out there, and then before I came back, I thought I'll visit them. I went to Lodi, and that was the first time I went to Lodi, and I knew that there was a Japanese community, very strong Japanese community there. So I just walked around until I saw a store, Japanese store with a few guys just hanging and just talking. So I went there and said, "I have a brother, his name is Yosh Matsumoto, and I'm looking for him. Do you know, any of you guys know this guy?" They just looked at each other, and one guy said, "There was a guy that just moved here, he's working at such and such a place picking strawberries." And he said, "I'll take you down," and he drove me all the way.

TI: So people were really helpful with each other.

HU: Yeah.

TI: Like in the community, if there was a family that maybe struggled, maybe like a father died or something, were there ways for the community to support that person? Were there any social services, any kind of community services for that?

HU: I guess they would give the koden, that might help.

TI: Oh, yeah, so koden was a form of that.

HU: Yeah.

TI: Now, was that koden, did that happen a lot before... yeah, I guess it happened before the war.

HU: Yeah.

TI: So that was really important.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.