Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Jimmy Naganuma Interview
Narrator: Jimmy Naganuma
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda, Yoko Nishimura
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: September 20, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-480

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Today is September 20, 2019. We're in San Francisco at your brother's home doing the interview. And Yuka, I'm not sure of your last name.

YM: Murakami.

TI: Yuka Murakami is on camera, and then co-interviewing is Yoko Nishimura. So this is an interview that's being done both with the Japanese American National Museum and Densho, so this is kind of a fun partnership that we're doing. So I'm just going to start from your very beginning. Can you tell me where you were born?

JN: Yes. Callao, Peru, South America.

TI: And when were you born?

JN: 1936, May 23rd.

TI: So that makes you, what, eighty-three?

JN: Eighty-three.

TI: Eighty-three years old. What was the full name given to you at birth?

JN: Jimmy... I'm sorry, Kazushige.

TI: Uh-huh, Kazushige...

JN: Naganuma.

TI: Any other, like did you have a Spanish name?

JN: Yes, our godmother gave us a Spanish name, and my name is Jose Antonio.

TI: I know you as Jimmy, how did you get the name Jimmy?

JN: Jimmy, well, when you go to school, teacher couldn't pronounce my name Kazushige. And I said, gee, I'm having trouble, so I just picked "Jimmy" from somewhere, I don't know.

TI: So you chose your name?

JN: I chose my own name.

TI: And when you say going to school, what school was this?

JN: This is grammar school, Pacific Heights.

TI: Okay, in San Francisco.

JN: San Francisco.

TI: Okay, got it. And so ever since then you were named, you called yourself Jimmy.

JN: Yes.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

TI: So I now want to just talk a little bit about your parents. Can you first tell me the names of your parents, your father, his name?

JN: His name was Iwaichi Naganuma.

TI: And do you know where in Japan he came from?

JN: Fukuoka, Japan.

TI: And do you know why he came from Japan to Peru?

JN: To find a job to work for, any kind of job available. He tried to do farming, but nothing would grow. He did other jobs that he did, but I don't know what other jobs. He found a friend that, as a partner, they decided to open up this laundry business. They were very successful, at the time they were doing real well, and that's when the war started.

TI: Okay, so before we do that, so he started first, like, farming, and then later on he did kind of...

JN: Any jobs, anything.

TI: But then he found a partner and they started a laundry business.

JN: He was also from Japan.

TI: Okay.

YN: When your father went to Peru?

JN: Gee, must be in the early '30s.

TI: No, maybe earlier than that, right?

JN: Oh, god, probably, but I'm not quite sure.

TI: So how did your father meet your mother?

JN: Oh, this is the war bride picture that he received. She must have been eighteen years old, probably. She came to Peru to meet my father, and it was that time that he had a wrist, a watch for my mother. So when she got off, he presented to her a new watch, and that's how everything started.

TI: So who told you that story? Did your father or your mother tell you that story?

JN: This is through probably our elder brother or sister.

TI: Okay, so that's kind of like a family story everyone knows how your father did that. When your mother came, you said your father was around eighteen years old?

JN: I'm sorry?

TI: Well, let me think. How old was your mother?

JN: She was eighteen when they got married.

TI: She was eighteen. And how old was your father?

JN: Oh, probably late or early thirties, probably.

TI: Okay, so quite a bit older, maybe over twelve years older. Are there any stories about your mother when she first came to Peru as a "picture bride," or she had never met your father? Do you know how it was for her, maybe what stories, was she surprised, was she excited, was she scared? Do you have a sense?

JN: Oh, probably she was surprised, but that I have not heard anything.

TI: And when your mother came, was your father already doing the laundry business at this point?

JN: I believe so.

TI: And I'm sorry, your mother's name? What was your mother's name?

JN: Isoka.

TI: Do you know her maiden name?

JN: Nakao.

TI: And was she also from Fukuoka, or from a different prefecture?

JN: I believe from Oita.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Let's talk about your siblings from the oldest to the youngest. Can you tell me all your brothers and sisters?

JN: You want me to give you their names?

TI: Yes.

JN: Oh, my.

TI: And I'll help you. I have a list here, so if you forget one, I'll remind you.

JN: Yes, let me start with my elder sister Shizuka. Next we have Kyoka, then my brother Kazumi, I had another brother who passed away, his name was Kazuaki, and my sister Sumika, my name is Kazushige, Kazuharu, Kazumu.

TI: And so there were, in total, eight children, and one died, Kazuaki died when he was young. So I have a question. For all the boys, they all start with Kaz, the oldest to the youngest, and then the ending. Do you know why that was? Was that common?

JN: Oh, I don't know, I never asked my father. And also my sister ended up with K.

TI: The "ka," yeah, Shizuka, Kyoka, Sumika.

JN: Right.

TI: So no one knows why?

JN: No, I'm sorry, I don't know why.

TI: So I wanted to, we talked a little bit before the interview, I want you to describe first maybe the home that you lived in, what it was like, and kind of the rooms and as much as you can remember about your home in Peru.

JN: Well, I remember that home, but not the room. It was a large home, I would play in the shop. My sister Kyoka, she would do the cashier. My other sister Shizuka, she would do the tailoring part, and of course, my brother would do the laundry part. And I was eight years old, so most of the time I was at home. My sister Sumika, she had time to go to school there. I didn't get the chance to attend school at the time, even though I was (four years old). Uprising against the Peruvian Japanese, animosity against Peruvian Japanese, so I had no education at all. We had two nannies.

TI: Well, so let me follow up on that.

JN: Pardon?

TI: So you talked about this anti-Japanese kind of uprising, and so...

JN: Yes, it was too dangerous for me to go to school.

TI: So this happened, I think I read, like in 1940, May of 1940...

JN: Probably early '40s, well, it started in '39.

TI: And when you, did you ever talk to maybe your sisters about what it was like before and then what it was like after? Because you were pretty young, you were maybe only four years old when this happened so you may not remember. But did your sisters talk about how life changed for them?

JN: In Peru? No. I never talked with them or anything to do with war. We never talked.

TI: But for your life, because of the uprising, you didn't go to school, you stayed at home. Was that because the family didn't think it was safe for you, or why did you not go out?

JN: Well, it was kind of dangerous for me to go to school. I'm sure the family's business, everybody worked, must be the reason.

TI: And so for the business, who were the customers? Who would come in?

JN: I think the locals, but also the Japanese, the navy or any merchant ship that would come into Peru from Japan. All the business, he would bring it into his shop.

TI: With your customers or people like that, would anyone, did you ever get a sense that they maybe didn't like Japanese? I'm trying to understand the environment for Japanese.

JN: I didn't feel any of that, no. People were kind, the local people were very kind.

TI: How about when you had kind of free time and you weren't working, did you go out in the streets and play very much?

JN: No. Most of the time I would stay inside the house. Next to our main gate, and the window that I always look out all the time, see what's going on outside. Or if I'm not looking out there, I would go to the backyard and play by myself. I would gather some boxes and pretend it's making an airplane, I would then be by myself because my two brothers were really young. Tony was a month, not even one year, and George must have been about two.

TI: And how about your older brother? What did he do? Did he also stay in the house, or did he go out more?

JN: Oh, I don't remember if he went out, but he'd help out with the business inside the shop.

TI: And how about the sisters? Did they go out very much, or did they stay inside, too?

JN: Well, the others, they had a chance to go to school. But I don't know what happened when things got worse, if they stopped going to school.

YN: You mentioned that you didn't go to the school, but also I read that your father started a Japanese school? Do you remember about the school that your father started?

JN: Oh, was he, you're asking me, was he one of the founder of the school?

TI: Yeah, the Japanese school. Do you remember anything about that school?

JN: No, I don't remember. This is something I heard later on.

TI: So you never went to Japanese school.

JN: No. Like I said, no education at all.

TI: So during the day, were there, didn't that concern your parents or your sisters? Like they said, oh, you need to have some schooling, you need to learn how to read or write or anything?

JN: No. I never asked them, they never told me anything. So I was wondering why.

TI: Yeah. Because you're now, later on, you're getting older, like six, seven, eight years old, you must be getting a little, what's the right word? Like more energy, you wanted you do more things, right?

JN: Exactly.

TI: As far as just living in a house with a backyard, you want to see more. Do you remember that time? Was it hard?

JN: I remember sometimes probably the whole family would go together, especially on weekends, probably, go out and have some ice cream or go to the beach, but not often enough. So for me, it was like being in the house most of the time. Like (being six) years old, I want to really do something. I had no friends.

YN: So in Callao, there are so many Japanese immigrants there at that time. So you don't have any interaction, not that many interactions with other immigrant kids?

JN: No, I don't.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

TI: So tell me what you're, during the day, what did your father and mother do?

JN: Well, my mother would help out. My father would probably go out. He also had two other stores.

TI: Oh, okay, what were those stores?

JN: Same, doing laundry business. So he was busy going in and out all the time.

TI: Okay, so one business was the same building as your home.

JN: Yeah.

TI: Okay, so that was kind of a storefront in the front, and then in the back would be the house?

JN: Exactly.

TI: Can you remember the house part? Like your bedroom, like where you slept?

JN: Oh, yes, very well. The dining room for the family to eat, naptime for my two brothers in a small room, and a family room bedroom. Also, for the business, there were ironing board for the employees, I remember there must have been about four to six people every day ironing. I would only watch, that was me, just watching, because there's nothing else for me to do. There was a kitchen that my, one of the nanny would cook, and on weekends, she would make barazushi, Japanese sushi, all the rice and all the ingredients mixed up. And then she would go home for the weekend. And there's another nanny, they both had the same name, Louisa, and they would take care of my two brothers.

TI: Who would train her or teach her how to make barazushi? Your mother?

JN: Of course, my mother taught her. That was a treat for us on weekends. There were two gentlemen, I remember a room for them, they were Japanese. They helped my father most of the time.

TI: So they worked for your father?

JN: Yes, they did. And also, I'm looking at the, where they're washing, rinsing, I still remember the big tank was for, two big tanks to wash the sheets, mainly sheets. And outside they would dry the sheets, there were ropes hung all along, and then we used the outside to dry the sheets. I remember the chicken, the turkey, the ducks, each one had a different large cage. There were a pigeon that, in a cage that my older brother was very interested.

TI: Now, with the chickens, the turkeys and ducks, were they for pets or for food?

JN: Oh, he loved to raise it, but I'm sure we must have ate some turkey or chicken or duck, yeah. [Laughs] We had a pet dog named Duke. Now, I'm looking further inside the backyard, a nice garden with a pond for the fish. Another thing was a dance hall that my father would entertain all these people from Japan.

TI: So this was in your house?

JN: Yeah, oh, in the back, there would be a special dance hall.

TI: Oh, so tell me about that. So your father would entertain people from Japan?

JN: Yes, because of the way he was getting all the business from the Japanese sailors.

TI: Okay, so they were sailors, and also maybe the military, too?

JN: That I don't know. But yeah, it was a dance hall with a piano for entertainment, record players.

TI: And how many people would be at these parties, do you remember?

JN: No, no, I don't remember anything.

TI: Did your father have a car? Did he own a car?

JN: A car? If we're looking at the pictures, probably he did have a car, Model T, probably.

TI: But you don't remember driving in it.

JN: No, I don't remember. But traveling with the family to the beach or getting some ice cream, of course, with a car that we got on, but didn't believe that was my father's car.

TI: Oh, so like he had someone drive you there?

JN: Probably, yeah.

TI: Your mother, what did she do during the day?

JN: Oh, like I said, she helped out with the business.

TI: So did she go to the other places, too, or did she stay in the...

JN: Stayed inside the house, yeah.

TI: And when you say she helps, how did she help? Did she manage, or did she iron or did she wash?

JN: Oh, probably did everything to help out. Because... to supervise, probably.

TI: And you mentioned people coming to do the ironing, the workers. Were they Japanese or were they...

JN: No, they were local people, Spanish people. And doing business for that long, my father and mother, they were fluently Spanish-speaking, both of them. They learned how to speak.

TI: And how about you? What languages did you speak?

JN: At home, the nanny probably spoke to us in Spanish at home, and our parents probably both Spanish and Japanese.

TI: How about you and your siblings? When you spoke to each other, what did you speak?

JN: Oh, I don't think I was a very good brother. No, I probably spoke to them in Spanish, probably.

TI: Spanish?

JN: Yeah, Spanish.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

TI: Any other stories that you remember from Peru that was... well, no, you were too young. I was going to say, your older brother died when he was three, so you probably don't remember that.

JN: I was not even born.

TI: Yeah, you weren't even born, so he died. But any other big events that you remember growing up? That when you think of Peru, it's kind of a special thing or a hard thing?

JN: No, being that young, you don't think of that. Like I told you before, next to the main gate, there was a window that I always looked out to see what was happening. Certain times of year, there were some festivals. And a group would come and set up a merry-go-round. It was right in front of, at the time, was an open lot, there's nothing there.

TI: This is right outside your window?

JN: Yeah, across the street. A merry-go-round, yeah, my sister and I were always looking at it.

TI: And you never went on it?

JN: But never went on it, just admired it. Yeah, that was probably once a year that group would come and set up the merry-go-round.

TI: That's a powerful image, to have you looking out the window at the merry-go-round.

JN: And I remember looking out, behind the merry-go-round there would be a park, like any park here. To the right, I would see a big, tall building, it was a beer factory, and I forgot the name. And right behind this building, across, it was a theater, Peruvian theater. And that's the time I couldn't understand, but a cartoon was showing images of, I believe it was Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse, they were buck teeth with the glasses., and that was telling us, the Peruvians, that the Japanese were hated. I remember that. But I didn't think it was anything for me to understand because I didn't know. I was only (six).

TI: Did you have any concept that things like Donald Duck, those cartoons, were being made in the United States, they were American?

JN: Oh, maybe it was not Disney.

TI: I think they probably were, I mean, they had racist Disney cartoons back then.

JN: But now you realize it must be, that was during the war.

TI: Something you said earlier, I wanted to follow up. When you talked about the workers, you referred to them as the "locals." How did you think about being Japanese and then the locals? I mean, was there a clear... did you ever think that you were, I guess, Peruvian, or did you always think of yourself as Japanese?

JN: No, no, you don't think anything of that, no, you don't. If I were older, probably, I would have some kind of feeling, but no, it's nothing that I (be) prejudice or anything like that.

TI: So if you had not been taken from Peru, what do you think your life would have been like in Peru if you had stayed there and grown up? What do you think would have happened in your life?

JN: Well, I'd be a Peruvian, period.

TI: What would that mean, what would that look like? Would you be like a businessperson?

JN: There were a lot of Japanese, too, so you would be, since my parents were Japanese, even though you feel you're Peruvian, you will be learning more of the Japanese culture. That's how I feel. At the time, I don't know, we were so young.

TI: Like when you look at your brother, what was his life like? I mean, did he have Peruvian friends and...

JN: Oh, probably, oh, yeah. He was about fifteen years old.

TI: Right.

JN: So I'm sure he did have some friends, Peruvian or Japanese. But you don't think about being prejudiced.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

TI: When the war started, World War II, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, did you know that was going on in the world, that the United States was at war with Japan and World War II was going on? Because you were still in Peru, and I was wondering how much you knew about what was happening.

JN: No, none of us, the younger ones especially, no one told us anything about the war.

TI: Did you know that, once the war started, there were some Peruvians, Japanese Peruvians who were being picked up? Did you hear about that at all?

JN: No, not until we got into camp.

TI: So let's talk about what happened when your father, when they started coming for your father, do you remember that, when the FBI...

JN: No, but what I've heard from our sisters, they came after... well, my father, of course, and all the males. Before that, they ran away because they heard they were coming around.

TI: So your father and your brother?

JN: And brother, yeah, they ran away. But they couldn't stay away much longer, because they were thinking about our family.

TI: And do you know why they came after your father?

JN: Now I know, but at the time, I didn't even know the FBI came in the first place.

TI: And so what do you know? Why do you think they came after your father?

JN: Well, of course, he was considered a spy, bringing all the Japanese sailors and entertaining them, being close to them, one of the founders of the school, being president of some society there. So people were on the blacklist, people were doing something like that.

TI: So because your father was so prominent, he's such a business, community leader, he entertained Japanese visitors, he was on this list. So when this started happening, so at first your father and your older brother went to run away and hide, but eventually he just knew that that wasn't going to work. So tell me what you can remember, what happened next?

JN: Again, I have to say, I don't remember. These were all information that was given to us from our elders.

TI: But do you remember, did you have to pack or anything? Do you remember packing up things?

JN: No, not even the packing, no, I don't remember any of that.

TI: How about leaving the house? Do you remember leaving the house?

JN: Oh, we were going in and out all the time, so I don't remember at that time.

TI: How about the transportation away from the house? Like was there a truck or something that took you, do you remember any of that?

JN: No, don't remember at all how they took us out.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

TI: How about the ship, going to the ship? Do you remember that?

JN: Oh, yeah, just going inside, we were given a room, one room for all our brothers and sisters. We took our belongs, whatever we could carry, some were confiscated, they took it away from us. In fact, my sister would, she hid some money in her shoes and they took that away. Anything else, I don't know, that's all they told me.

TI: Yeah, I read a story about your sister, I guess she was even kind of limping a little bit because maybe some money, and maybe, I think she had like a pencil or pen in there, too, so it was a little awkward. So when you went to this small room on the ship, I believe it was your mother and your sisters and then the younger, the boys. And they took your father and older brother to a different place?

JN: Yeah, they were belowdeck. All the males, belowdeck, kept away from the family.

TI: Okay, so they separated the men and the older boys away from the families. During the trip, did you ever get to see each other?

JN: No, just my mother and brother, sister, I never had a chance to see them. But I heard my father was in very bad shape down below.

TI: How? So like getting very sick?

JN: Very sick from being seasick. And I don't know how well they were eating. Well, funny thing, I'll tell you, it took us about three weeks from Peru to where we landed. We had only cookies, I believe, a can like so big, I don't know how we brought that, but that was something to eat for me and the family. Besides that, I remember I would, at that age, you wander, like you wander around the ship, somehow, I did, with my sister. We looked around and wanted to see what's going on. And my sister opened up this door, and it was a mess hall. And she opened it up and you could smell some of the food. So there were people eating there, and we sat down at a table, and I guess we didn't think about people that were there, and we were kind of hungry, too, at the same time we were sick. And we were fed. They gave us two plates, and it was sauerkraut and sausage. Oh, when you're sick, you don't want smell the sauerkraut, and I still remember, we didn't get to eat sauerkraut, we munched on the sausage and we left right away and went back to our room. That's the only time I remember. Oh, another time it was a drill, "Everybody get on deck," "Everybody get on deck," so we all got on deck. And the reason was somebody said, "Oh, I think a Japanese submarine was nearby." That's what they told us. So we did a drill. By then, the time went so fast, the three weeks to me was kind of fast, because nothing else to do. But anyway, that was my pastime on the ship.

TI: And as you walked around the ship, did you meet any of the other prisoners that were there?

JN: You know, once I was, again, wandering around, and somehow, I don't know why, but when you look down, down the stairs, you could see the stairs going down, and I saw the men. I didn't see my father, they were down below, all together.

TI: Could you see how many? Were there lots of men?

JN: Well, you can't see, only from the top, can't see many people. I remember that. So like I say, (six) years old, we were always, want to do something.

TI: Did you have any idea of where you were going?

JN: No, no one told us anything. Even my mother and father, they (didn't know) where we were going. We just went along, whenever they went, we went. So that was, until we landed in the United States, we had to go through the Panama Canal.

TI: Yeah, so what was that like? That must have been interesting. Were you able to see the Panama Canal?

JN: No. I tell you, take a little peek, if there were shades, but that's all.

TI: Oh, so they made you stay inside?

JN: Yeah, so they used to have that, nothing more than that. Of course, you could see the water when we landed, it was almost green-like.

TI: But when you were going through the Panama Canal, did you know that was the Panama Canal?

JN: No.

TI: Oh, so you didn't know what was going on?

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

JN: No. So we landed in New Orleans, Louisiana, we got off and right away (we were spayed with) DDT fumigated everybody.

TI: Oh, so you remember that?

JN: Oh, yeah.

TI: So tell me about that. So they took everyone off...

JN: We got off and right away they stripped you naked, everybody, and sprayed the DDT.

TI: And so they did this by, with your whole family all together, so you and your sisters and mother?

JN: Oh, yeah, right.

TI: That must have been very difficult for your mother and sisters.

JN: Oh, yeah, for my sisters and my mother. I was small.

TI: And do you remember who did this? Were they soldiers who did this?

JN: Probably soldiers. Of course, we did take a shower after that. I remember eating sandwich that they gave us to eat, I remember it was a white meat, so it must have been chicken or turkey.

TI: Going back to the spraying of DDT, can you remember any of the smells or sounds? When you think back to that time...

JN: Oh, I'm sure the people were probably yelling, complaining, oh, yeah, and that kind of thing going on. But for once, it didn't bother me at all.

TI: Can you remember any of the smells?

JN: Smells? Oh god, some smell, I just can't remember.

TI: And when this was happening, was your brother or father around?

JN: Oh, we didn't get to see them, so they were not even close with us.

TI: So then you got some food, you said maybe it's chicken.

JN: Well, it was just a sandwich, probably, nothing more than that. So we right away got on a train. So I didn't think we had that much time. On our way to our coach, there were three, well, probably two or three, two where we sat down. There were soldiers on both sides of the train, we had to go through. I remember they were saying something that I couldn't understand, American soldiers on both sides of the train.

TI: And when you say soldiers, were they...

JN: With uniforms?

TI: Yeah, how would you describe it? Were they angry, were they threatening, were they nice?

JN: No, I know they were something.

TI: Serious.

JN: So we had to go through the aisles to the next coach.

TI: Did these soldiers have guns, did you see the guns?

JN: No, we didn't see guns.

TI: So you just saw soldiers (sitting down).

JN: Yeah, they were all in uniform, no guns. So from New Orleans to Crystal City, I don't know how long it took. Not three days, but it was long enough.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

TI: So do you remember your first impressions of Crystal City when you first got there?

JN: Yeah, oh, we had a warm welcome.

TI: Oh, describe that.

JN: A warm welcome as we approached the main gate, the entrance to the camp. There were people all on either side of the street waving at us, saying, "Welcome," and then clapping, it was the people that were already there. So that was really nice. And my mother, at the time, she felt that it was safe for the family, because she saw all the faces were Asian.

TI: And how large was your group when you got there for this welcome? I mean, it was your family...

JN: Oh, we were on a bus or a big truck, I don't know. That I don't remember. But we weren't just the only family, there was others.

TI: And you mentioned your mother feeling good about it, how did you feel? Do you remember what your feelings were like when you saw all those people clapping?

JN: Oh, yeah, well, like I say, my mother felt good about it, so did we.

[Interruption]

TI: And so the first hour we talked about your childhood in Peru, the trip to Crystal City, and the last thing you talked about was how when you came to Crystal City, I asked what was your first impressions, and you talked about how people were there to greet you, and you had this big welcome, people waving and clapping and how that really, really felt good for you and the members of the family. So let's talk about that more. So when you're coming into camp, when you get off the bus or the truck, what happened next?

JN: Oh, yeah, let me see. Since we didn't have much to eat, they took us to the mess hall and we all got there inside, not only our family, there was others. And the first thing I recognized was a can of plum or prune with syrup in juice, and I just took a couple of those. And it tasted so good, I never ate anything like that. Few more, and I waited to be given our meal. So when we got our meal, I don't know what it was, either French fries or potatoes somehow. And everybody was using ketchup, so I used it. That was the first time I had ketchup, and it was so good, I tell you. To this day I use ketchup on almost anything that I eat. So that was the beginning, we ate what we had been given. And soon after that we went, we were taken to our home, let's put it that way, to a barrack, a large barrack where two families were divided. Our family one, another family on the other side. Each half of that barrack would be two rooms and a half. So one room would be for my sisters, the other room would be for my brothers, and the half would be for my parents. Time went by, we got used to living there, we would go do our shopping. We received some sort of token, plastic, maybe supposed to be money. Each family would get so much, and we'd go to the market to pick up our groceries, I don't know, was it every other week? But my father was good at carpenter, he made a cart, and we would push it to pick up all our goodies, that was another thing. And so every day was that way, do whatever we had to do. My brother would like to raise some fruit, he did the garden part.

[Interruption]

`

TI: And so, Jimmy, when you first talk about your, the barrack kind of room that you were in, is that, I guess the question is, when did you first see your father and brother at Crystal City?

JN: Probably that was the first time.

TI: When you went into the barrack there?

JN: Yeah. I don't remember having the meal that was given there, I don't remember my father or brother being there. After moving to the barrack, that was the first time that I saw my father and brother.

TI: And the first time you saw them, did you notice anything, how they looked or anything? Do you remember that?

JN: No, it was too much for me to see what was going on around most other than my father or brother, just knowing that they were safe.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

TI: So let's talk about Crystal City. Because when we talked about, before you got to Crystal City, we talked about, in Peru, how you pretty much had to stay in the house all day. And you talked about, oh, looking out the window and seeing other people, a merry-go-round. Tell me what life was like in Crystal City. You were about (six) years old, and I think now you have a little more freedom to go around. So tell me what it was like. You talked about your little wagon, but what did you do during the day?

JN: So we settled down, I've had more time for myself. And so there was time for me go to swimming, enjoy the area that we stayed. It was open, lot of space was open. This is how it felt to me, it was something new. I would run all over the place, everywhere I went, going to the swimming pool with bare feet, I would run to go swimming. I never knew how to swim, but I learned how to swim there. Even though it was hot, the pavement was hot, I would run. I had to run because it was hot, Texas summertime is very hot. I enjoyed doing that. There were other activities like sumo, taking sumo wrestling or even doing calligraphy, playing baseball. That was the first time for me to enjoy that. It was very enjoyable at the time, best time of my life. Of course, I attended Japanese school, English school. Japanese school was a lot of fun because I already knew how to speak. English was hard, English was very hard. They would show me a picture of a dog, said, "This is a dog." Flip it over, and you see D-O-G. To me, D-O-G was, I couldn't read it, so it didn't mean anything. But slowly we learned just words, but never enough to speak. That was about it. I remember at night there was curfew, they want all the lights out. Shower, restroom would be outside for everybody. You hear around eight o'clock, or maybe earlier, seven o'clock maybe, you could hear someone blowing that bugle, and that's the signal for you to go inside your house. So before, as soon as we hear the bugle, we would run to the shower and run back out.

TI: Explain that to me. So you hear the bugle, you would run to the shower?

JN: Pardon?

TI: So you heard the bugle, you said you would run to the shower?

JN: Yeah, to take a shower.

TI: Oh, so it's like you had to take a shower really fast.

JN: Yeah, we had to go there.

TI: Because the bugle said you had to be in your house, so that was your last chance to take a shower. Okay, I understand.

JN: So that was almost every night.

TI: And Jimmy, when you say "we" had to take a shower, who were you with during this time?

JN: Oh, the family.

TI: So your brothers?

JN: Oh, yeah, family, everybody. When we took a shower, we just, my younger brothers. At times it would be with my older brother, sometimes it would be just by myself, all depends where you were at. Maybe it's someplace, at a friend's house. When you hear that, you better run and go home and get the towel and go take a shower.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

TI: Well, so tell me about the friends you made at Crystal City. Because when you talked about Peru, it sounded like you didn't have very many friends other than just family.

JN: Exactly.

TI: Now you had other people, so tell me about that.

JN: Yeah. Well, across from where we lived, a family named Shibayama, and they were from Peru. (Three) brothers, the older brothers were old enough, but there was two other brothers that were about the same age. And everyplace we went, we were together. But there were other friends besides the Shibayamas.

TI: Before you, would that be like Art Shibayama?

JN: Yes, that's the family.

TI: Okay, we interviewed him also.

JN: Yeah, Art Shibayama. I can't remember the two younger brothers' names, but I'm sure I can recognize them because they looked much like Art. There was another family, there's two boys again, their (last) name was Dozohara. I don't remember their name anymore, but they were friendly, just normal people.

TI: Now, when you would be around other Japanese Peruvians, were their experiences kind of similar to yours in Peru? Did you ever talk about that, how you had to stay in your house? Did they also have similar things like that?

JN: No.

TI: So their life was different than yours.

JN: We didn't talk about that.

TI: Oh, you didn't talk about it. Well, how about when you guys played? Did you guys speak in Spanish or Japanese?

JN: Oh, probably Spanish. If they couldn't understand, maybe I spoke in Japanese.

TI: Did you come across very many Japanese Americans who spoke English?

JN: You know, I didn't know there were people, Niseis, Japanese Americans in camp, I thought they were all like us.

TI: Oh, really? So you didn't know about any Japanese Americans?

JN: Because the sections where we stayed, and the sections where all the Niseis were, being different area.

TI: So there wasn't much mixing between them. How about Germans or Italian families? Did you ever see them?

JN: Well, I didn't see the Italians, but once, at night, when the light was off, it was outside playing basketball, they were playing basketball. And wow, I never saw Caucasians that tall. They were tall, the basketball players were tall, and wow, that was the first time, and I would go home. Always spent time playing by myself every place I went.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

TI: Well, how about like the swimming pool, though? Because everyone used that.

JN: Yeah, everybody used that.

TI: So at that point, did you come across, or remember any, like, "Oh, those are the Americans and they speak English"?

JN: Yeah, yeah. Really, I didn't meet anybody there. But I'm sure they were there, the Nisei. But enjoyed going to the swimming pool quite often. I'll never forget how large it was. That's where I learned how to swim. Nobody taught me how to swim, I was just watching, so we had to do this.

TI: How interesting, so you taught yourself how to swim.

JN: And I'm learning how to float, but you learn when you're there. So slowly, you start from the shallow and you start going to deeper, that's what you want to do. A tragic thing happened, a family that I know, the son, their two sisters, what I heard later on, they drowned. Because the swimming pool would be, like I say, shallow, deeper, and then it goes really deep. And what I heard was they were holding hands, not knowing how to swim, somehow somebody let go and went under. Tragic. And I know the boy, because once in a while a teacher would tell stories, and people go listen to him, we liked to hear stories. And right across from them, this family was living there, so I know them quite well. And it was very sad that they passed away.

TI: Did they have, like, a memorial service or anything like that?

JN: No, not that I know, no. But I know I went by, and everything, the window and everything was closed.

TI: At the swimming pool, do you remember, did they have a lifeguard or anything like that? Someone to watch?

JN: You know, I don't remember that part. Just enjoyed swimming there every other day. I had a beautiful tan.

TI: Well, you mentioned Texas...

JN: Yeah, 'cause you go swimming quite often.

TI: Texas gets pretty hot.

JN: Of course, it's hot in Texas. It's a huge round swimming pool.

TI: So how about the food? I think you, early on, you were more in the barrack, so did you go to a mess hall for food?

JN: Well, we only ate once at the mess hall, because we had to pick up our own groceries later on. And my mother would cook at home.

TI: So let me make sure I understand. So when you first got there, you talked about the, kind of the barrack and the apartment, did that have a kitchen there, or did you move to another place?

JN: Oh, sort of like kitchen, yeah. Of course, otherwise you wouldn't be able to cook anything there. This is the barrack. I shouldn't say it's a nice kitchen where we have now, but it's similar to that, you had a sink and stove. But later on, we moved to another area because the camp was getting smaller, people were leaving, so there were less and less people. But while we were there, there were all kinds of events. One that I really enjoyed was, in Japanese, they call it undokai, where all the classes, all the students participate. Third grade would compete with another third grade, with another class, and so on. And running, especially, and if you win, they would give you a pamphlet, they would give you a paper, they would give you a pencil, eraser, that was our prize. But that was very enjoyable, just competing with another.

TI: And when you say third grade class, that was your Japanese class or...

JN: Well, I can't remember if that was third grade. Of course, we did Japanese class, undokai is a Japanese annual event.

TI: And in your class, your Japanese class, was it mostly Japanese Peruvians or were there Niseis in that class?

JN: Yeah, that I'm not sure. Yeah, I'm not sure.

YN: So you usually communicated with other classmate at the Japanese school, did you usually communicate in Japanese with your friends at the time?

JN: Oh, yes, Japanese school. They know if, well, if I spoke Spanish, they didn't know. If they asked me to, if they would speak to me in Japanese, I will answer them in Japanese. Of course, Japanese class, we were reading in Japanese, and we stayed in camp for three and a half years, and I learned to write and read in camp in Japanese. But in English, nothing that I remember, pictures, that's about all.

TI: When you were in Crystal City learning Japanese and reading and writing, where did you think you would go after Crystal City? Did you hear your parents talking about that or did you have a sense of where you were going to go? Like back to Peru, or what did you think was going to happen?

JN: No, there's no discussion, especially for the younger kids. We never hear anything, so the eldest would hear everything, but they really don't tell us where we're going to go. But camp was, for me, very enjoyable.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: Now, when you were at Crystal City, did you ever get in trouble? Did you ever do anything that you weren't supposed to do?

JN: Well, not really in trouble, but I could have gotten in trouble.

TI: So tell me about that. What were some of the things that maybe you didn't get caught that you did?

JN: Well, there were orchard of grapefruit. Oh, I tell you, on my way back from school, I would never walk on the pavement, I would go behind our homes, the people living there, another path, I would run, run, and all of a sudden I see the orchard and I would climb inside, move the barbed wire. Some guys already moved it already, so it's a big opening. So I would go in and climb up and see the grapefruit, it's big. And you take it and you start peeling it, and not knowing how bitter it is, wow, it was bitter. And I remember going, again going through the back, everybody's back, somebody had things growing, so I see sugarcane. And so I went (to pull and break it) and just take off, and just peel it. Sugarcane, you would peel that outer skin and chew on the inside, and things like that. Other than that, nothing getting in trouble, I never thought of it, but that was fun, again, running through the paths, the different path. Going to school or going to all the classes that I was taking, I mentioned kendo and sumo, calligraphy writing. One thing I didn't understand was not a Boy Scout, but I grew up, in Japanese, they would call it Seinendan, these are boys from maybe eight maybe, to about fifteen, sixteen. We all wore uniform, and the uniform was just a cap, white shirt, short khaki pants, white socks. And at the time, I didn't know why we all had the same uniform. And I realized the uniform, the soldiers would wear that during the summertime in Japan, a cap with a cherry blossom insignia. And I never asked anybody why we had to dress up that way. But time went by, and I forgot. I tell you, camp was a new journey for me.

TI: So you did this, you didn't really understand what was going on when you were eight and this was going on. Do you have a better sense of what that group was and what you were doing?

JN: No, I thought that was part of... I was taking kendo, so I thought they were same group. Very Japanese-oriented.

TI: Yeah, so I'm wondering if it was kind of a training, or a group that... people thought that maybe you would go back to Japan or something.

JN: Oh, well, you know...

TI: That that would prepare you for that.

JN: Exactly what you're telling me now. We went in the morning. We would face the sun all lined up. If you watch that, we look like a soldier. We would face the sun and bow, this is still (early 1945), war's not even over, so I'm sure it has something to do, we're bowing to the emperor. So, of course, after the war ended, nothing to do with that anymore. Thank you for asking me, I almost forgot.

TI: No, I'm glad, I didn't know this story. I didn't know that they had... I know Tule Lake, there were stories like that. I didn't realize Crystal City.

JN: Yeah, yeah, I saw some of the pamphlet.

TI: Any other good stories about Crystal City? Anything that you can remember? Like your parents, what did they do during the day?

JN: Oh, I don't know about my mom, but my father was interested in, it's called, not shigin, but it's called utai. You could hear this probably in kabuki, you don't sing it but you sort of talk and try to explain a scenery or whatever you can think of.

TI: So this was a group that your father was part of?

JN: No, I only heard at home. But I'm sure there were groups like that, they get together and then they chanted all together. But no, my father didn't... we would laugh because he's not singing, so we would laugh real quietly. I don't know what my mom did.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

TI: Tell me a little bit about, what was your father like? How would you describe him, kind of his personality?

JN: Oh, at that time, there wasn't too much communication. Like I said, he would probably talk to my brother and elder sister, but not, we're at the bottom of the totem pole. So nothing until later on, after we came to San Francisco.

TI: But then at your age, at eight, there probably, if you had to be disciplined, like if you're late for something, was it your mother or father who would discipline you?

JN: Oh, probably father.

TI: And how would he do that? What would happen?

JN: Well, let me tell you one... this time that I really felt bad what I did, you told me a while ago if I had anything, if I get in trouble. Well, what happened was everybody, my older brother and sister, my father and mother, probably did some job, what sort of job, I don't know, but they were saving a little bit at a time. And I happened to be in that room, and knowing where they were stacking the money, and I was thinking, and I took some of my friends, and went to get some candy. I came back and they asked me, "Did you take the money?" I said, "Yes, I did." And I explained why, and they probably, somebody yelled at me, "Why'd you do that?" And I told them the story, I told them why I did it and who was involved. So I named certain names, and either my father or my brother got their names and asked their parents to come over to our house, and they did. And I apologized, I was crying. I had never done anything so bad that I feel really sick. And I explained to all the parents, my father said that I should apologize to them, and but also apologized to my father for having their kids joining me to spend some of the money that they stashed. They worked hard for, whatever they did, I don't know, but in camp, there were some jobs, and my father was also in the laundry part. People making shoes, people worked at a shoe... but that's what he did, yeah. I almost forgot, you asked me.

TI: No, this is interesting. So your father had you apologize to the parents of the other boys that you essentially treated them to candy and things. So why did you apologize? What did you tell the parents?

JN: Oh, for influencing them to come with me and go eat.

TI: Oh, so you apologized to the parents for, in some ways...

JN: (Yes, I had).

TI: ...making their children, to do a bad thing.

JN: Exactly.

TI: And then after that, the parents apologized to your father?

JN: Father.

TI: And what did they apologize for?

JN: Oh, for following.

TI: Oh, for their children...

JN: Their children, and they shouldn't be doing that.

TI: And after doing that, what did you think? As you said, this was something very powerful to you, I bet.

JN: Oh yeah, it really hit me hard.

TI: I can tell it still hits you hard now to have you talk about it.

JN: Right now, oh, I feel worse than what it was then. Because I understand. They understood too, when I was young, you don't think about that. But now I do, because of the money that they stashed, I just changed completely.

TI: And so do you think this was just a really strong way for your father to give you a lesson? Because if he just, maybe, got mad at you, that would have been one thing, but for you to have to stand in front of these other adults and apologize must have been very, very difficult for you.

JN: Oh, yeah. So I learned my lesson. I changed quite a bit as I was growing up. I would listen more to my father. He was very strict later on. My father... well, I'll tell you later, after camp. But in camp, like I said, I enjoyed being there. I don't want to make fun of the families that were separated (from their) parents, father, I really felt bad, that I can feel for them. But I like to tell some of the stories that I enjoyed when I was there.

TI: Yeah, and those are all important. Because I've done lots of these interviews, and men and women who were your age, many of them talk about the very fond times, that you were able to play and have so many new playmates and new experiences, and they didn't have to worry about the world, really.

JN: Camp was enjoyable. Movie was shown outdoor, indoor, they were shown outdoor, you would go to like this [claps] or the mosquito would come, and you would rub lemon all over your face to watch the movies.

TI: Now, were these movies English movies?

JN: Yeah, English movies. There was Japanese movies, too. I was surprised to see Japanese movies. Oh, must have been old films. In camp it was very Japanese-oriented. Even though there were Niseis, they were staged in Japanese. Like I said, the undokai, classes would compete against each other, of course, kendo and calligraphy, all that. I didn't know there were Nisei there. I was surprised after that other camp.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

TI: Earlier you talked about how people started to leave Crystal City, so fewer and fewer people were there.

JN: Yeah, people were leaving. I didn't know why they were leaving, but the camp was getting smaller and smaller, so we had to all move to another area.

TI: And so when you were there at the end, who was left? Was it just mostly Japanese Peruvians or other groups?

JN: Well, there were Japanese Peruvians, there were Niseis, yeah, that's about it. This is 1947, yeah, 1947.

TI: So this is quite a bit after the war had ended, and you're still in camp.

JN: Yeah.

TI: And so why are you guys still there?

JN: In our situation, we didn't know where to go. Peru was, we lost everything, my father, all the business, everything we owned. Japan, it was starving, Japan, right after the war. There's nothing there. This is later I heard, when we went back to...  (Japan), fourteen of us went to Japan to meet our relatives for the first time. I met them once (before), but oh, everybody else, the first time they met our cousin. In camp, or in San Francisco, we didn't have anybody to go to. I'm sure people, they left camp, they had homes here already, or they had some friends, but we didn't have anywhere to go.

TI: And so those were the people who left Crystal City.

JN: Yeah, at the end. And Reverend Fukuda is the reverend that teaches Shinto, Konko church in San Francisco, he probably was the only one, a church that would be available for everybody. So we happened to go there when they had some church classes, and at the time, he found out that there was no place for us to go. He had a lawyer, attorney, right? Took all care of all his business. He wrote a letter to the INS saying that they'll sponsor us if we come to San Francisco and find them a job. So that was the reason we came to San Francisco. We stayed at one of these homes that he owned for a little while. We settled down, after we settled down, then they found an apartment for us. All of our family had to pay for the rent, so we all found some kind of job, whatever. Let me start with my father and mother, they would do housework. Later on, my mom would work for a laundry, Japanese-owned. My older sister decided to live in Los Angeles and marry over there. My second sister had a flower shop. My youngest sister had a, they used to call them schoolgirl, they would go someplace where she'd have to do some cooking, cleaning, at the school, and then come home. I think, at the time, Tony, he was too young, but we all had newspaper routes. Somehow we had to do something. So I remember delivering Japanese paper, it's called the Nichi Bei Times, and there was another one called Hokubei. So we were getting along with just so much. Later on he found a job as an import/export. I guess they were still too young for going to import/export. But later on, we ended up all working. And one place that I worked with the Hosoda Brothers, that was also an import/export. And my time was up, so...

TI: And, Jimmy, before we go there, I want to back to more like 1947, '48. So you're eleven years old.

JN: Exactly.

TI: And so at this point, you also have to go to school, too. Earlier you talked about how Crystal City, you didn't really learn much English.

JN: Yeah, I'm sorry for jumping.

TI: No, that's okay. So talk about what it was like going to school?

JN: Again, leaving camp was another, I shouldn't say a ballgame. Things changed around completely. We all went to school, my sister, myself, and two younger brothers. I don't know how we were introduced to go to grammar school. We went there, I was eleven, we went to different classes. I started at third grade, and not even able to speak, not even one word of English. People were asking questions, I didn't know how to answer. I would always shy away or just smile and move away.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Let's start back at going to school, and talk about how that was for you and your brothers and sisters.

JN: As I said, I was eleven, they put me in, I think it was in the third grade. I couldn't communicate with anybody. People would say something, I didn't understand, I would just smile and shy away. This was going on for a while, but slowly, you started learning sound, or how they were speaking, and you start trying to copy, and that's very hard. I was not improving fast enough. I was older than most of the kids, and so they skipped me to another level and things got even harder. Couldn't write, I couldn’t read. Couldn't even talk to anybody. I just wanted to quit, I didn't want to go to school. But we kept going, slowly, slowly. What made me keep going was besides going to school, at the church where a lot of activities going on, that kind of balanced it out, made me happy. Go to church on Sunday, we started our new boys club, new basketball team, new drum and bugle corps, it was fun. It was getting to be fun, and that kind of balanced it out for me to, wanting to speak the language. Because not everybody was Peruvian Japanese, these were local kids, Sansei probably. And listening to them, how to speak the language, slowly, I'm trying to catch up, but never enough.

TI: And how did Japanese Americans treat you? Because you, for many of them, you were very different, right? You didn't speak English, and you spoke Spanish and Japanese, and they probably didn't understand. I mean, did they even know where you came from? Did they understand about Japanese Peruvians?

JN: No.

TI: And so how did they treat you? What did they think about you?

JN: You know, many people didn't even know we were from Peru. And not speaking English, they never made fun of us. But I would go along with them, I may say a few words that they said before, but never exactly. And things I had said before, if I say, "How are you?" at the time, if I said, "How are you?" I would say, "How you?" "How you?" If I can communicate it was okay, but most of the time it was hard. You can't communicate by speaking that way, because you don't know how to pronounce the word right, especially "R" or "L." Even now, I still have problems with my "Rs."

TI: But were you ever in a situation with maybe a Japanese American where, because of the situation, you spoke Spanish? And then they would say, "Oh my gosh, Jimmy, how do you know Spanish so well?"

JN: No, Spanish never came out. But later on, if we talked about that I came from Peru, they said, "Oh, did you?" I mean, this is way, way afterward. Well, the story that I like to say was funny, I think I said it before, but after going to grammar school, junior high school, high school, and I went to City College, but I was not improving, my major was commercial art. So I decided to go to a private school. I saved all the money working at the, doing paper route, import/export. And so I got into Academy of Art, and one day it was a friend that would ask me, "Hey, Jimmy, you're Japanese?" "Yeah." "How come you're speaking English with a Spanish accent?" And I said, "Oh my goodness, I still have the accent." So I tried to correct as I was growing up.

TI: But when they asked that, what did you say? He says, "Well, why do you speak with a Spanish accent?"

JN: Yeah, well, I did tell them I'm from South America, Peru.

TI: And what did he say?

JN: Oh, well, they're all, they were all pretty much in age, after college, you're not seventeen no more. There were times like that. So I remember, "Hey, Jimmy, how come you don't have a girlfriend?" I'd say, well, you didn't make any excuses, but they thought I was too picky to find all the prettiest girl, so they brand me picky. But the real reason was my English is not far enough, especially if I spoke to some girls. Guys, it's okay, because they swear, you could cover it up. But when I approached some girls, I would shy away all the time, especially one to one. As a group it was okay, but they branded me as picky.

TI: But it was really because you were shy or embarrassed of your English.

JN: Oh, yes. But people didn't make fun of me, they never. So Konko church was the place where, it was a community for everybody to get together, and people from outside would come. Well, in fact, there was a basketball court that we played. Every day we played basketball. And somebody'd show up, we became friends, it was part of that basketball team. Oh, that was a very popular area. Mr. Fukuda did a lot for us. He said he was going to sponsor us, find a job for us. Well, what he did was he found somebody that wanted to, somebody that he asked to sponsor us, and it was Mr. and Mrs. Bill Nakahara. They're not living anymore, but they were the ones who sponsored us. Otherwise, we wouldn't know where we ended up, Japan or Peru, I guess, but nobody wanted to go to Japan or Peru. Well, now we want to go to Japan, I go to Japan every year now.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

TI: Well, let's talk about that, because you talked about how you went to the Art Academy, but from there, you actually, why don't you tell the story about getting a job at the tea garden?

JN: Yeah. Well, let me, I was going to art school, and also to pay for my tuition I had to get a job. So I got a job at a Japanese tea garden as a busboy, clean up, and I worked twice a week after school. I was doing that for a while and going to school at the same time. What happened was the tea garden was operated by three gentlemen as partner, and the manager decided to go on his own. And since I had already three years' experience there, not only cleaned, well, I did everything there they asked me to do. Well, the owners asked me if I would like to work for them, work as a manager. I said, well, I can't quit right now, I'm still in school. They offered me a free trip, a whole month, all the expenses paid. Every place you went was expenses paid. And I said, wow. At that time, I loved the Japanese culture. I said, oh, everybody here that are working are Japanese ladies. I said, well, I don't know if I should try, but I just fell in love with the culture, the place. Besides, I was working part-time, too, at this company that was hiring all designers, but I was getting too much pressure, so it wasn't fun at all. So I picked the Japanese tea garden, and they treated me very nice. And that's the reason, being treated, and me able to talk with them in Japanese, very few English. So even right around, I don't think my English is as good as they should be. But my Japanese got better and better and better. And I ended up going to Japan after I retired after thirty years almost. I fell in love and I worked almost every day, no vacation, almost every day. I got that reward from the boss, my boss, one month was all expense paid. When I came back, I worked hard for that, for one of my boss.

TI: Okay, so the thing that really got you to get this job is that one month all expense paid trip?

JN: No, not only that, I got to see my relatives for the first time.

TI: Right, you talked about that.

JN: The relative. When I went about what, four years ago that we went to Tony?

TI: Right, so you took the rest of the family.

JN: But before that, it was 1964, I don't know if you were born yet.

TI: Yeah, I was. [Laughs]

JN: 1964, that's when I went to Japan. And, of course, I enjoyed the trip and all that, I came back, I started working hard. The boss was, again, very tough guy, very, not many people liked him, but he's very sharp, CPA. I stayed 'til the end, until he passed away.

TI: Because you worked there for thirty-three years?

JN: Thirty years or more.

TI: Thirty years.

JN: Yeah, I started as a busboy, so I learned the business slowly, I picked it up. It was a very popular place in those days because they'd be free for everybody to come. Now they charge admission. So that kind of helped me out to keep me from being depressed. So going to school was hard.

TI: Okay, Jimmy, there's one question here.

YN: When you first went to Japan, what kind of impression you got? Because it's maybe completely different from working in the United States, and also in your, you already know some of the Japanese culture, but also when you first went there, might be, also be a different way. So could you tell me what kind of feeling you had?

JN: Yes. Even before I started to work there, my older brothers and sister, they also liked the culture. They would buy magazines, records, they would enjoy listening, and at the same time, I would look at the magazine and enjoy listening to music. They were showing Japanese movie two different places in San Francisco, and I'd go every Friday and Saturday. One Friday I'll go this theater, Saturday I'm going to go to the other theater. It was very much Japanese-y, more than being American. Because my father and mother at home would speak Japanese. My father said, "You have a Japanese face? You learn to speak Japanese." Still up here in my mind, so of course it got more interesting, myself, compared to George and Tony, they speak enough Japanese, but they're not like I am.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

YN: How did your parents emphasize your Japaneseness when you were growing up?

JN: You break that down?

YN: You mentioned that your parents said you're Japanese, you have to speak in Japanese, so I was wondering how your parents emphasized your Japaneseness when you were growing up.

JN: Well, they know I was improving, how to speak Japanese, and I did notice that I wanted to find some Japanese friends. Of course, I had all my other friends that spoke a little bit Japanese that were more Americanized, especially people that grew up here in San Francisco.

YN: Some of the cultural practice, celebration, like Shogatsu, or there was food or they had something related to Japanese that your parents always kind of let kids do?

JN: How should I explain? I'm sorry... how should I explain all that? I'm sorry?

YN: Did you practice, like did you went to, like Japanese event, Japanese celebration or festival of those kind of thing?

JN: Here, San Francisco? Well, Konko church is more Japanese. Japanese-y, how did you like that word? Of course, many people there was Japanese Nisei. They were speaking both in Japanese and English, especially on Thanksgiving, you don't see all the Niseis there, you see Japanese from Japan.

YN: How was at home?

JN: At home it was all Japanese. My father would speak Japanese, of course. Even though they knew Spanish, I don't think my two brothers were, it was Spanish. So it was all Japanese.

YN: Except for the language, Japanese language, your parents also celebrate as a family, like Oshogatsu or those kind of things?

JN: Yeah, oh, yes. We invited some friends that spoke Japanese, my father did. Of course, we'd celebrate in Japanese. At home, of course, it's all Japanese, but not in America, it's English.

YN: And what kind of food do they prepare for it?

JN: Pardon?

YN: What kind of food are they preparing for it?

JN: You know, I just got...

YN: What kind of food do they prepare for those events?

JN: My mother tried hard, I don't know how much she knew Japanese cooking, but she did her best. She cooked Japanese food. Not only that, but also, what she learned in Peru, we had Peruvian dishes sometimes, yeah. Interesting for me. So even now, I go to Peruvian restaurant. It's been a while, but interesting, I go to Peruvian restaurant. I tried to remember what my mother cooked.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So, Jimmy, I wanted to go back to a question. Earlier we were talking about your father and what he was like, and you said, well, there's a story about him after the war in San Francisco, that you got to know him a little bit better. Do you remember that, and how did you get to know your father better? What did he tell you after the war?

JN: Yeah, well, like I said, everything that he said in the past, you had to be able to speak Japanese. You have a Japanese face, you speak Japanese. By the time I got to talk to my father more often, that's when my two sisters were gone, my older brother, they're all gone, married, and all left was one of my sister and three brothers. I'll tell you a story. During dinnertime, my father always liked to read his paper, the Japanese newspaper. Slowly it was getting, the family was getting able to subscribe newspaper, because everybody worked. So he would read all the news to all of us eating. And at the end of the meal, everybody would stand up, and they didn't want to hear any more news, so one by one, they would disappear. I would be the last one to stand up, I stayed down, and it was a good time that I asked my father, why, or who started the war, Japanese and the United States? I never knew it 'til then. He told me it was mainly from the oil that they cut down. All the countries would get so much oil, and Japanese in Japan, they were not getting the same amount that they were getting before. They reduced the amount slowly, and that's how the war started, they needed that oil.

TI: So that oil embargo, where they stopped the flow of oil to Japan.

JN: And exactly what he told me was if you chase a mouse, and a mouse would run, try to run, but you corner the mouse and the mouse has nowhere to go, and that mouse will jump on you. And that was the simple example that Japan, they started the war, they bombed Pearl Harbor. That was the example that he wanted to tell me. And I said, oh, that's how the war started? So I didn't know who to blame, which country to blame.  So from there on, I got used to talking to my father. And he always liked to talk of politics, the Democrats this and that, the Republicans this and that. Until then, he didn't have anything to read since we left camp. He was really hurt in camp, there was nothing for him. In Peru, we were a very well-to-do family. Then we (...) came to San Francisco, we had to start from the bottom up. By then he was already pretty old, sixty... well, almost probably seventy, yeah.

TI: Yeah, what a hard life, when you think of him being so successful and then having to have to go through the war and having everything taken away. And then as an older man, trying to start all over, it just seemed so hard.

JN: My father was a very strict person.

TI: Do you think at the end, was he bitter? Was he bitter about his life?

JN: Well, he never showed when we came to San Francisco. He never showed, he'd never bring it out, he'd never talk about the war. But if any of the family did something that he didn't like, my brother would probably tell you, too, but he would slap you. He had all this inside, he wanted to bring out, but not with words, but to teach you, to discipline you to do the right thing. So if he did something wrong, he would tell me, "Look that way." So I would look to my right. And when I looked to my right, he would slap me from that side. He slapped my brother, even my mother, sometimes he was very moody, but later on, he just changed as he gets older and older and older. So at the end he just didn't bring nothing on, not even talk about the war. He never talked with my brothers or sisters, so if they did, they would pass it down to me, didn't know anything about the war. But the hard part for me was coming to San Francisco and going to school, that was the toughest thing for me.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

TI: So, Jimmy, I just have one last question for you. When you think about your life, starting in Peru and going to Crystal City, and then starting, in some ways, a brand new life in San Francisco, this area, what can we learn from all this in your life? When you think about your life, when you think of young people starting over, what advice do you have for them, when you think about your life, all of the things you had to do?

JN: Now, I'm a citizen of America, I got my citizenship. I hate to bring what happened in the past, I know some people may not agree with me. I'm enjoying life right now, where I am right now. You think about being, living in another country, you talk about freedom, that freedom means a lot to me. But again, you have freedom here, freedom of speech, but look how it is right now in the United States. People are fighting each other. So I don't know what the future is going to bring, but listening to Satsuki Ina, and my brother going to Crystal City and trying to say to everybody what happened and so that it does not occur again, what has happened to us. Some of my friends, they don't really want to talk about it, they don't want to even join this group that they're going to go to Crystal City. So I'm right in the middle there, right in the middle. Sure, I want to go here, and I'd rather not participate. You have that choice. Sure, my parents and even I, we all suffered, but if you don't suffer, you don't know how it is. That goes for anybody. If you know the value of what your parents tell you, then you end up doing against your own. None of my brothers or sister, we never went to jail, because my parents were always on the right side, both of them, father and mother. So for me, I would say I'm right in between. Sure, I can complain about the past, what I'm doing now, living here in the United States, that's my feeling.

TI: At the end, though, you said, so you never went to jail, but when I think about what happened to your family, they were essentially kidnapped out of Peru and placed in a jail. And furthermore, you and your family did nothing wrong. Like you said, you lived a good life, and your parents were like that. But even doing that, and maybe this is what made your father so angry and bitter at times, even though he lived a good life and worked really hard, he was placed, and his family was placed behind barbed wire. Do you ever think about that, the unfairness of that?

JN: Well, I do. What we went through, the family went through, sure, I say what happened in those days.

TI: I was thinking more about your father and what he saw, because you were young and it was hard, but then...

JN: I feel for my father, he lost everything that he started.

TI: Because I think about, when you told me about the parties he would have in Peru and the house he had, businesses, what he thought his life was going to be, and then at the end, having nothing.

JN: Well, for them, I feel sorry, very much so. But thus is life.

TI: You said something very beautiful at the end, too, about how it's suffering, you learned so much from your suffering, and that was, I think, a very beautiful way of looking at this.

JN: Like anything else, if you don't go through, and it could be anything, suffering, experience, you don't know that result.

YN: So you said that you already got the U.S. citizenship.

JN: You know, before the war, I had two citizenship. But in order to become an American citizen, you have to get rid of it, so I'm an American now.

YN: So what is your identity? You are growing up in Peru at the beginning, and you went to Crystal City and here you're living a long time. Could you please explain how your identity changed?

JN: How do what?

YN: Your identity?

JN: Now?

TI: Yeah, so if you were to think about how you describe yourself? Like when people say, "Jimmy, what are you?" How would you describe that?

JN: Like I said, knowing what my family went through, everybody went through, myself, family, I can only speak for myself, because I became a citizen of the United States. And so this is what I wanted to be. Well, what's happening in the United States, I don't agree, all the trouble they're having.

TI: So we talked about that, but if someone just asks you who you are, how would you describe yourself? Would you describe yourself as an American? A Japanese American, or maybe a Japanese Peruvian or Japanese? How would you...

JN: I would say I'm a Peruvian Japanese. Also, I can say Japanese American. I could say both.

TI: Yeah, so what would you prefer? How would you prefer to be...

JN: How is people going to look at me? That depends, too.

TI: Right. But if you were to just state who you are, what is it?

JN: It's hard.

TI: I know there's a strong association as you're Peruvian, Japanese Peruvian, but now you're a U.S. citizen. But you also learned so much about Japanese culture, you love that.

JN: You know, I don't want to be too choosy, but still, I prefer both to be proud of. Sure, okay, I'm an American citizen now, but I was proud when I had Peruvian and Japanese, I was proud, and I still am. They'll probably tell me, "Oh, you're not Peruvian Japanese anymore, you're an American." Okay, so what? I'm not going to argue with you, I'll be happy with what I have, not what you have.

TI: Okay, good, that's a good answer. So, Jimmy, we went way longer than I thought we would, this is well over two hours. Thank you so much for this interview, this was fabulous.

JN: You're very welcome. If I had really more time, I would like to say more, but I'm sure there is a limit to this.

TI: Well, I want to give some time to your brothers. [Laughs] But I'm glad we just did this single interview, because it really brought your story out.

JN: Yeah, I'm sure they'll probably tell you the suffering part of being here in San Francisco. In camp, I think they were too young, but in Peru, they don't know anything, I think, but from what they heard from my older brother and sister. But they will tell you more here. And why they're into, especially Tony, why does he want to find out more and more, because he doesn't know anything, and he wants to explain this to his children, too, probably, they want to know, too.

TI: Okay, well, thank you.

JN: But I thank you so much for being patient with me, all of you. Thank you so much.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2019 Densho. All Rights Reserved.