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-1000-462-4

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TI: So how long did you stay in Los Angeles?

HU: Just a few days. Then we went back.

TI: Now at this point, because I know you come back to Los Angeles, and before the war you had the farm in Florin, at this point, did you kind of know that you were going to resettle in Los Angeles and not go back to Florin?

HU: Oh, yeah.

TI: So you knew this at this point.

HU: Oh, yeah, because we had a 40-acre farm, but then my father died and my brother was taking care of running the farm. But then during the war, he was one of those "no-no boys," and hachimaki going, "Wasshoi, wasshoi," and he was sent to Bismarck. And then he went to Japan, so most of my brothers went to Japan. So the Japanese tradition is that the eldest sons would look out after the family or farm or whatever. So my oldest brother Ben was gone, my second oldest, Sam, was gone, and that left, I'm the third son.

TI: Right. So having your oldest brother, and in the last interview you talked about how, after your father died, right after he finished eighth grade, he didn't go to school anymore and he took over the farm, and pretty much was running it as this sixteen-year-old, kind of the age that you were when you left Manzanar, he took over the farm. So when he decided to go to Tule Lake and then renounce his citizenship and go to Japan, how did that affect you? Did that surprise you?

HU: No.

TI: Why didn't that surprise you?

HU: I wasn't thinking that deeply.

TI: Because here he was giving up, in some ways, wasn't it a dream for him? Because he had 40 acres, he had been planting all these new grapevines and everything, so it looked like it was, the land was still there, it was being taken care of. So he had, in some ways, a place to go back to.

HU: Yeah.

TI: So what do you think happened?

HU: I think that during three years, where we lived, it was cultivated, in a few months we were able to harvest the grapes, but we didn't have anybody to do that. So what Ben did was to ask the shipping, freight people to take care of it. So that's why they just harvested, and supposed to be table grapes, but it wasn't up to par, so they sent it to winery.

TI: Not as much value, right.

HU: Then for three years it hasn't been irrigated, pruned or anything. So by the time the war was over, it was sort of worthless. I guess you could revive it. There were, some of our neighbors, they had somebody to lease the land. So when they came out of camp, it was still in good shape. But in our case, it was gone. It wasn't worth reviving it. Of course, I was only sixteen years old, that's why mother... well, actually, Muro-san was so influential, he said, "Well, just get rid of it, and when the war is over, you could leave that in Los Angeles with me." So that's sort of the things we did. I wasn't thinking.

TI: Now, did your brother Ben, so he was, I think, like eight years older than you, or more?

HU: Fifteen. Oh, thirteen.

TI: Thirteen years older? So yeah, he was in his late twenties. Did his whole family go to Japan?

HU: Yeah.

TI: So his wife and he had a child also?

HU: Yeah.

TI: A young boy.

HU: Boy, and I think he had a daughter in camp, wife and two kids.

TI: So I just think about your family and how much it got, when your father died and then your brother going to Japan with his family. Because his wife was pretty important, too. I remember your story of how she would cook breakfasts for you, and you got bacon and eggs for the first time.

HU: Yeah. [Laughs]

TI: So I'm just thinking, lots of changes were happening.

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