Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kazumu Naganuma Interview
Narrator: Kazumu Naganuma
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda, Yoko Nishimura
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: September 20, 2019
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-482-13

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So, Kaz, we have like ten minutes left.

KN: Okay.

TI: And there a couple things I can go, and I'll ask you which one. Either talking about some of your work, or we can talk about your community service.

KN: Yeah, I think, all that comes down to one thing and that is, I think when you have success in what you do, and starts with, well, starts with actually basketball. The Japanese leagues, the Japanese leagues were formed back in the '40s actually, before the war, and then into after that because the Japanese were too small to compete. So that's why they had this, it's called the NAU, Nisei Athletic U, I forget what that stands for.

TI: Maybe Union?

KN: Yeah. So that was there, but as time went on,  I was able to try out for the high school team, and very fortunately, I made it from my first year, and for three years straight. Jim and George, I'm not sure why they didn't try out, maybe whatever reason. But one of Jimmy's friends was one of the first All-City players of Japanese descent, so that's big.

TI: So you made the high school, so this like a large public high school?

KN: Yeah, George Washington High School.

TI: So like how many students?

KN: Oh my god, my class alone had six hundred.

TI: Okay, yeah, so they had sophomore, junior, senior?

KN: That's correct, yeah.

TI: And you made the varsity as a sophomore?

KN: Well, I'll show you. [Laughs]

TI: So this is, again, Japanese basketball, this is big. [Laughs]

KN: Well, I got lucky and found these photos.

TI: And so these are?

KN: These are archived photos from...

TI: So that's you shooting right there?

KN: That's me shooting. I got the perfect form on that. Even, see that space between the hand and the ball?

TI: You have quite a bit of air, too, because you're stretched out, this guy's stretched out, and you're over him.

KN: I was, I had ups, I can hit the rim. That's another one of me.

TI: So did you end up becoming...

KN: This is what I got out of it. [Laughs] 1960.

TI: That's Most Valuable Player for the high school?

KN: Yeah, for the year of 1960, of all the guys that played basketball. So anyone that's graduating in 1960, they choose the basketball player of 1960 and they would give this award.

TI: Did you play the... so you said you played in the Japanese leagues, too, so you must have tore that up.

KN: Well, no, not really, because we had a lot of good players.

TI: That could play at that level?

KN: Yeah. And you talk about varsity, this was what's called the 130, which is right below the varsity, right? The coach there had a huge influence in my life. His name was Anthopoulos, he's a Greek, we called him Mr. A. Tremendous influence in my life, more than I ever had imagine. When I struggled in school academically, he would help. When I first started high school, I think I mentioned that I was very small. I was undersize, underweight. Well, it was malnutrition when I was growing up, I was really small.

TI: You had tuberculosis, you said?

KN: Yeah, my brother George, who was always taller, like my brother Kazumi, was always wondering when I'm going to grow. So when I get into school, I was five-foot-two, a hundred and two pounds, so I'm little. And the only reason I remember that is because they take your height and weight and your age. Through that, they say, "Okay, you can play in this class." But I had the same coach then, he says, "Come back and play for me next year," because I was so small. But he also coached in what's called the 130 level. So at senior, I played at that level, and all three years, I was a starter, but I had to work hard for all of that. But the third year I was a starter and I had a specific role, he's a Hall of Fame, Bay Area Hall of Fame coach, by the way. And our team would beat the varsity on a regular basis.

TI: So the 130, was that weight?

KN: They call it exponent, they take the height, age and weight together, and they figure out if you fit into the 130 area or under, you could play that level. So a lot of guys that were tall couldn't make that, so they would play junior varsity or they'd play varsity. But because of our coach, we had this team that was -- and we talk about success -- undefeated for the preseason, the regular season, and post season, so of course he was, we never lost a game, even the practice games, you know. And then when you have that kind of success, you don't know it at that time but it does something for you later on. And he just had a really good system, and he would chew you out, I mean, like nobody else could. But it's that kind of success, but also the varsity coach, I played with him when I was a junior. It's only between my sophomore and junior year that I finally grew, otherwise I would have stayed down at five-foot-two. My granddaughter kids around because she's taller and bigger and all that when she was two years younger than I was. But because of the success there, our shooting guard made the first string all-city, our shooting forward made first string all-city, our center and other forward made second string all-city, and I got the honorable mention all-city. So the team was an all-city team, and then this award is for the graduating senior, but they were supposed to call the MOP, the Most Outstanding Player, and I was given that as well. That's from the team. So at that time, team concept made a big difference. Today it's who scores the most, that's not what makes a good player a good player. So I was fortunate, but I also wanted to show you, I think, this is another photo. This is a photo of... that's me here. And we were at a point where this is guys from three or four different high schools who were all friends, by the way, but we went to different high schools. And I wasn't a starter on this team, there were guys that were all-city players here. And this is what's called the AA level, that's the highest level in the Asian league, the Japanese league. And we played for the state championship two years. We lost one to the L.A. team, we won one time. So, again, there's success there. When you have success and you're around good people, again, good things happen. I could say it easily now, but then you're not fully aware of it. We always talk about if you want to be successful, be around good people, or successful people, but genuinely good people. And the key here is this is an offshoot from the Boy Scouts that Reverend Fukuda started, so important. And after a while, the money that goes into the Boy Scouts, and all the money that went in there, part of that was going to the basketball. Well, not all the boys played basketball, so they had to break it apart, and the person that, they called us the Associate, because it's associated to the tribute, that name Associate stuck around all these years, and they have twenty-two teams now from six-year-olds up to college level. And I still do their tournament t-shirt design each year. Yeah, because they've done so much for us. But there's a gentleman, Mr. "Judo" Hosoda. Judo Hosoda had, with his brother, had an import-export, actually, import business, Jimmy, George and myself all worked there during high school, it's all hard labor. But he was so passionate about basketball he sponsored everything. I know he'd pay for all the uniforms and everything, this gentleman. And he even made arrangements, he even made arrangements to train with the Japanese Olympic team when they came here.

TI: With Japanese...

KN: Our team, yeah.

TI: And how did you do?

KN: Oh, we didn't win, of course, but these guys were much bigger and all that, and much better. But he was that enthusiastic about our group, but this is at that St. Ignatius High School.

TI: So is that the Japanese...

KN: Uh-huh, yeah. And they were all seated there, but he was so enthusiastic about our team, because we were so successful, of course, and so he arranged all this, and his son didn't even play. So it takes that kind of individual, Reverend Fukuda, it's that kind of thing that really makes a difference in life. And I want to show this because without these people, it just doesn't work. You look back and these key players, and every part of my life, and I know because of that -- and I could talk about my work a little bit -- but there's just something about, once you had a taste of success, you know what it is no matter what it's for, and then you know how to use it in a way, in a good way. When I was in school, I was at the city college for two years, again, I had very good instructors.

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