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Densho Visual History Collection

Title: Flora Ninomiya Interview

Narrator: Flora Ninomiya

Interviewer: Virginia Yamada

Location: Emeryville, California

Date: March 13, 2019

Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-473-12

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

<Begin Segment 12>

VY: Do you know anything about what happened to the Solano families? If only ten percent of the families returned, what happened to the orchards?

FN: They were taken over by the bank either selling their properties if they had a mortgage, or the county itself could sell property. And since the property is valuable, greenhouses require a lot of work, but orchards, you have a potential crop. And so if you treat the plants reasonably well, by pruning or whatever farmers do, fertilizing, controlling insects, well, I think you will be assured of a crop. And so especially during wartime, when it's so critical to have production from agriculture, they think that so many of those farms were lost. And so if you were wanting to return to your farm to your farm, it was gone because it was already sold to somebody else. Those people, those farmers had to find another place to live, I think many of them moved to the cities. I think by then, many of them had aged to the point where they could no longer work, I really don't know what happened to those families, they just lost their property.

VY: It sounds like that must have really changed the face of the orchard industry in that area.

FN: I'm sure it did; I'm sure it did. Because many of those farmers changed during that time, many of those farmers. And that happened throughout California in other farmers.

VY: Did other farmers take over the orchards?

FN: I think so, I think so. Or people could come in and buy the farm or get another mortgage from the bank and continue the farm. I think that happened in many places throughout California.

VY: So it sounds like in Richmond, it was a little bit different.

FN: Richmond, I think, really was a different place. And there are other communities that were like Richmond, but I don't think that was the norm. And it's really tragic, because from what I understand, half of the Japanese population at the time of going into the camps, were farmers. Half of the people. And so in certain communities, the population changed after the war because the farms were loss. And then the farmers that did come back, many of them did have difficult times because there was a lot of anger, of the Japanese coming back, they were blamed for the war still. And I think that many people in the farms did have a hard time returning. It was difficult.

VY: Did you ever experience anything like that when you were growing up or even as a young adult?

FN: You know, that's why I think I'm so lucky. When we started going back to school, I entered the fifth grade and we were welcomed. My teacher in kindergarten was now the principal of the school, and she really welcomed me. And so I really feel I was lucky, and I was fortunate. School was easy for me when I returned, but I will admit that when people found out that I had been in a prison camp, and they would ask me about it, I just didn't talk about it, and I wouldn't talk about it. It was something that was so negative, the idea of being sent away, and the idea of not being American, that idea that the government felt toward the Japanese Americans, I didn't want to talk about it, so I didn't, I just kept quiet. And I'd say, it wasn't so bad, and that was it, I would not talk about it. It's hard.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.