Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tom Matsuoka Interview
Narrator: Tom Matsuoka
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Ridgefield, Washington
Date: May 7, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-mtom-01-0019

<Begin Segment 19>

TM: Before I start war, I was thinking about, I want to tell you one thing. I went to Japan in 1940. There was a kengaku dan, you know, that's a group of the young boys. I took them in 1940 to the Japan. That time I took Hideo, too. Hideo Yabuki was in the group. He was the youngest one in the bunch. I think he was just graduate high school.

TI: Yeah. He got out in '40.

TM: And in Japan I had a hard, hard time because those government, they know it's gonna, war gonna start. And go to Japan, you know, everything is against America and England and you see those bus, town, every telephone pole. "Amerikajin kaire." And "He English." Some English name, they changed to Japanese name. Gee, I had a hard time. And you go all over, Secret Service behind you.

AI: Where did you take the boys in Japan? What cities?

TM: Huh?

AI: What city in Japan, where did you go?

TM: In Japan? First that's 1940 that was in Japan, 2,060 years old -- no. 2,600 years old, Japan, country of Japan.

AI: Oh, the anniversary.

TM: See, that's why they have a big celebration. Lots of people send from this country, Japanese, well-known Japanese, they went to Japan for that big celebration and representative like Mr. Okuda from Seattle and Takioka from Portland, all those big shot, they went. Mr. Okuda was in the same boat and we went to Japan. Well, and in Japan one day, I don't know what day it was, big doing. University kids they played the band and big played in Tokyo. That time I am supposed to take pretty good, supposed to be good group, but they never get permit to go Japan. One is Akira Aramaki, too. He applied one, but no, he couldn't go. They don't never give him permit. Oh, and in Japan, oh, we went all over. We have to wait quite a few days in Tokyo, too, the day of that celebration. And according to Ban Okada, you talked to Mr. Matsumoto, University Meiji professor, then he tell, he have all plan. Already went, he said he doesn't know nothing about, but I told him what Ban told me. Well, so he did what he can do in Tokyo, but all the guide and places take him around and he pick one boy. He is University Meiji, Meiji University student. He was a really smart kid and he said he is already done. Studies all done, just waiting for the graduation. And I think he went to Nakashima airplane factory or something. He was a real smart kid and he took us all over Tokyo and when waiting. We went to Nikko and when waiting.

Well, then after that big celebration, I start, Japan, travel... not the travel agent, they have some government work, I think. He arranges all the train schedule and city and hotel, everything he arranged. So I left Tokyo and first we went to Gifu and then we played basketball there. It was not very good. [Shakes his head] Then we came to Nagoya and we stayed one night in Nagoya, then we went to Seto, that's making those pottery, not the good stuff, though. Osara and chawan and all that kind of stuff they are making. Well, then took train and went to Ise and Ise and came to Nara and Kyoto and came to Osaka. Then Osaka we took night boat and went to Tokushima. That's in Shikoku because we went to Tokushima, that was where Ban Okada came from. That's why we went to Shikoku. Then at Tokushima is fast to Pacific Ocean. We cut -- we load in the train, cut across Shikoku, and came to the Seto naikai, that's inland of Seto, inside, you know. One side is Honshu and one side is Shikoku and other side is Kyushu and that's called Seto, Seto naikai. And so we had train at Tokushima and cut across Shikoku Island and came out to Takamatsu. That is the Seto, bay of Seto, you know. And Seto and Kagawa -- Kagawa-ken was where Uwajimaya that came from [Inaudible] because there is island called is Uwajima and that's what the name is from. [Ed. note: Uwajimaya is the name of a chain of stores founded in Seattle by a Japanese immigrant.]

Well, anyway that night we took boat. Then we came to the Beppu. Well, that's pretty fancy, big hotel, big dancing hall and everything; but nothing -- because in the Japan that time, already they have to be canceled, everything in the bunch. They can't do no meeting or no party, nothing. They all got canceled. Well, then we came to Beppu, then took the train, went the back side from Aso Mountain and that's volcano, well-known volcano in Japan. So we come up to the Aso, then came down to the city of Kumamoto and one night in Kumamoto. Then next day we went to Fukuoka, but Fukuoka, we never stayed nighttime. Then we came to the Yamaguchi. Then came to Hiroshima, and Hiroshima we went to Miyajima and this and that. So I think we have to stay a couple night. Then next we had to stop, supposed to be in Okayama and found out the boys, Okayama is too close to Hiroshima so no use to go and they want to end that trip Hiroshima. That's what we did. [Smiles]

We went quite around, but those Secret Service behind me, especially me, because they say I'm the leader. They ask all kind of question. "Why this boy's color is different?" It isn't. When they said, "Look, it's really color is different, American boys and Japanese people, is a color difference." Then most of the boys pretty big, well-fed. Funny kind of question, but that's what they want to know. Well, so at Hiroshima in the morning, that's big mess because some have to go back to Tokyo, some to go to Shiga-ken, some is staying in Hiroshima. All over. Well, you have to buy the tickets for them and find a train for them. So finally we end up at over there, at Hiroshima. That's what Japan trip.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.