Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Homer Yasui Interview
Narrator: Homer Yasui
Interviewers: Barbara Yasui (primary), Tom Ikeda (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: February 11, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-491

<Begin Segment 1>

BY: All right. This is an interview with Homer Yasui that's taking place on February 11, 2022, at the Lakeshore Retirement Community in Seattle, Washington. My name is Barbara Yasui and I'm going to be conducting the interview. And I am, for full disclosure, I am the daughter of the narrator here. And other people in the room that are present are Tom Ikeda, Dana Hoshide, who's operating the camera, Meredith Yasui, my sister, Erin Flory, my brother-in-law, and me. And prior to doing this interview, I reviewed the transcripts of the interviews, there were two interviews, actually, that were done by Margaret Barton Ross, in Portland, for the Oregon Nikkei Endowment. Those were done in October 2003.

HY: Long time ago.

BY: A long time ago. And so the purpose of this interview was to maybe revisit a little bit some of the topics that you discussed with her, but mainly to go deeper on some of those topics. And so there will be some familiar ground that's covered, but I'm to ask you more in-depth questions. So, that's okay?

HY: Fine.

BY: All right. So just to sort of recap, you grew up in Hood River, Oregon, you were living in Hood River when Pearl Harbor happened. You and your mother and sister were then sent to the Pinedale Assembly Center, and then from there you went to Tule Lake, you were there for just a few months, and then you went to Denver, Colorado, got your college education there, went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for medical school, and got married and lived in New York for a while and then came back to Oregon. So just a recap, is that all correct?

HY: It's correct.

BY: Okay. And so what I want to do is to talk more in-depth about some of those things. So the first thing that I want to talk about is you had to have told me that you were an orderly when you were in camp. And I'm not clear whether that was in Pinedale or Tule Lake or both.

HY: It was both.

BY: Both. And how was it you became an orderly in both places? How did that happen?

HY: I think probably because I knew that Shu, my older brother, next older brother, Shu, Robert Shu, was interested in medicine. Although he was an undergrad student at that time, but he talked about it at home a little bit, about becoming a doctor. So I guess it spilled over onto me, kind of infected me, too. Said, well, sounded like a good business being in the medical field. So when I was in Pinedale, of course, this was in the summertime, late spring, summertime. We had no, we didn't have to go to school because that was gone, and we didn't have to work if we didn't have to. So after a little while, a week or so, it got kind of boring. You're by yourself, you don't know anybody, and I said, well, okay, maybe I can do something interesting, get a job in camp. Because they did have camp jobs, pay scale was twelve dollars, sixteen dollars, eighteen dollars a month. So I applied for a job as an orderly at the infirmary. At Pinedale, we had only about four thousand residents, internees, and so it was small, so they did not have a full-fledged hospital. It was called an infirmary and it was much smaller. And so I said, well, okay, I'll volunteer to be an orderly. I didn't even have any idea of what an orderly did. I found out after I applied for the job. And so an orderly really is not much more than a glorified janitor in a hospital. But that's what I did.

BY: And what did you actually do as an orderly in Pinedale?

HY: Well, in Pinedale, we helped get the patients ready, help the nurse's aides make the beds. Although we didn't have a whole lot of beds because, as I say, we were an infirmary, we didn't have a lot of sick people. We'd sweep the floor, help empty the bedpan, help carry the laundry to the wash and so on, that's the sort of thing we did. We did nothing skillful; any fool could have done what we did. [Laughs] But the thing is, because everybody, young people had a lot of leisure time, and there were a lot of young people my age and a little bit older. So we would, after work, we'd sit together and tell stories and sing songs and have a great time. I did that in Pinedale until that closed, then we transferred to Tule Lake and I did the same thing at Tule Lake. Although at Tule Lake they had a full-fledged hospital because, at that time, there must have been twelve thousand people. So that was a real hospital although it was in a wooden barracks and it wasn't very sanitary. It wasn't very nice compared to the brick and mortar hospitals. But that's what I did at Tule Lake.

BY: And there was just one hospital for the whole camp at Tule Lake?

HY: Yes. This is at Tule Lake, correct.

BY: And did you work every day, or how often did you work?

HY: It was probably... I don't remember. It was probably eight to five, five days a week because I don't remember that we worked on... I may have worked on Saturday, but we did not on Sunday because holy day, it was church day.

BY: And so what did you do at Tule Lake? Was it different from Pinedale?

HY: Yeah. Pinedale was, as I say, an infirmary. We really didn't take care of really sick people. So in Pinedale, if everybody really got sick or injured, they were immediately transferred to Fresno General Hospital because we had no capability to take them. We only had two doctors in Pinedale, and both of them were general practitioners. So we had really no inpatient except for overnight observation, or if somebody got knocked over and was unconscious for a while for observation, things like that. But in Tule Lake, it was´┐Ż full-fledged hospital. I wasn't in every department, but they had OB and they had surgery and medicine and so on. I was, I think I was in the orthopedic ward although I'm not sure. But we did have beds there, and we did have a ward. And one of our... Tule Lake was a different setup. It wasn't nearly as friendly as it was in Pinedale, because Pinedale, we had a coterie of maybe ten orderlies and nurse's aides, and then a little bit more educated people and we had a great time. Tule Lake hospital was not like that. Also, I wasn't at Tule Lake very long, I was over there a month and a half.

BY: And what were your duties in Tule Lake?

HY: Well, you know, I don't really remember, but I think it was helping make up the beds, sweep the floor, because I was an orderly.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 2>

BY: But didn't you also say that you had a job where you had to deliver milk to the mothers or something like that?

HY: Oh, yeah.

BY: Can you tell about that?

HY: That was in Pinedale, and that's when I learned that my Japanese was heta, bad. Because I'd always thought that I was speaking standard Japanese. At Pinedale I learned that I wasn't, I was speaking dialect. But I never knew that.

BY: So can you tell the story about...

HY: Yeah. One of the jobs, we had a lot of jobs. At Tule Lake I'm not... this is Pinedale. At Pinedale, I think one of my more interesting jobs, I was a toilet inspector. [Laughs] At Pinedale, they had outhouses and they had showers, and these were separate buildings. But the outhouses were pit holes, you know. So one of my jobs is I'd go around with my little bucket of white powder, I think it was lime, but I'm not sure, sodium hydroxide, and dump it in the hole. And then I'd go knock on the door -- these were two-hole privies -- knock on the door of the women's, I said, "Dare ka haitemasu ka?" "Is anybody in there?" And most of the time they'd say, "Hai, hai," or there would be no answer. So sometimes I'd open the door, and my god, there's a woman squatting on the pot. [Laughs] But that happened to me in the shower, too, that's where I ran into a naked woman in the shower one day. She didn't answer. So I had to change the foot bath solution, sodium hydrochloride. In those days, before you went in the shower, you had to put your feet in the foot bath, which was a disinfectant for fungus and toenail rot and so on. But anyway, I knocked on the door, "Dare ka haitemasu ka?" No answer, I'd go in there, a naked woman. I beat it out of there. Nobody reported me as being a sex fiend, you know. [Laughs] That was one of my jobs.

But another job -- and this one was by myself -- I made my rounds of the toilets myself. But the milk run, there was a driver and we had a had a guy that handled the bottles. And then another woman, another young girl, actually, and me. And our job was to distribute the bottles of prepared milk. This is formula milk for the newborn babies. But most of those mothers in those days, 1942, were Issei, young Issei women, not so many Nisei women. Of course, the Issei women spoke Japanese. So when we come up to a certain block, the women would be lined up to get the bottles, I'd say, "Nanchu nan desu ka?" In Japanese, to me, that says, "What is your name?" And they'd look at me, then they'd catch, they'd say, "Oh, my name is so-and-so, Watanabe," or something. Then my friend and helper would give them a bottle of formula. And then after we left to go to the next block, the young lady that I was working with, she said, "What did you ask that woman?" I said, "Nanchu na desu ka?" "What is your name?" She said, "That's not the way you ask for a person's name. You say, 'Onamae wa nan desu ka?" Until that day, I never knew that I was not speaking -- because my mother was an educated woman, she's a junior college graduate and a teacher, and she spoke Okayama-ben at home with my father who had never gone to college. But I'm sure he knew standard, you know, Teinen na Japanese. Teinen means respectable, fine Japanese. But in Hood River, there were so many people from Okayama that I think we all spoke dialect unknowingly. Because it seemed like what you call a rice paddle, shamoji? We called it a shakushi, and things like that. All kinds of little terms that only Okayama-ken people understood. But I never knew that; I thought I was speaking good, standard Japanese, and it wasn't.

BY: So not until you got to camp did you realize...

HY: Then I realized, oh, I'd better not try speaking Japanese. "Nanchu nan desu ka?" [Laughs]

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 3>

BY: Okay, and you've also told me a story about a time when you were an orderly in Tule Lake, where there was a young, white man who was brought to the hospital. I would love for you to tell that story, it's very interesting.

HY: Well, there was a little town, there is a little town called Merrill, which is near Tule Lake. Tule Lake is just south of the Oregon/California border, Merrill is just a little bit north of the border. And he and his friend were trying to repair a car, motor of a car. And so, I don't know why, he took the air filter off the carburetor and poured gasoline on it, they were going to restart the car. When he poured the gasoline in the carburetor, his friend stepped on the starter, and, of course, the rotor spun inside the carburetor and a spark, and it spewed flaming gasoline all over this boy, and he got very, very badly burned. There was a hospital closer by -- not closer by -- at Klamath Falls, but that was more than thirty miles away from Merrill. But Merrill was only about ten or fifteen miles from the Tule Lake hospital, my camp hospital. So his parents chose to bring him -- because it was an emergency -- chose to bring him to Tule Lake hospital because it was much closer. And when they got him here, he was badly burned, he was burned all over. So one of my jobs, in those days, the doctor, instructor said, "Paint this burned boy's skin, his back and his chest, with a solution called gentian violet." Gentian violet is a type of a dye, but it had some antibacterial or antibiotic properties. It was an dye, so it made him kind of bluish purple, it would color the skin. And that's what my job was, my orderly job, was to paint his skin with this gentian violet solution every four hours, night and day. Of course, I only had one shift. But anyway, after about a day in the hospital, the kid obviously wasn't getting better. Because all they had at the Tule Lake hospital was intravenous saline. They did not have any blood, and that's what this kid needed, blood plasma, actually. But there was no means or way of processing blood plasma at our hospital, so they just give him salt solution and that wasn't enough, so he was dying. And then one day his parents came to visit him and he looked up at his parents and he said, "I don't want to be in this damn Jap hospital." And I went, oh, gee. You know, I didn't say anything or do anything, but man, this young kid is dying and he doesn't want to be helped in a Jap hospital. Man, that made me feel so bad. But he did die, he died in a hospital.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 4>

BY: Another story that you have told me about, I think it was at Tule Lake, is how you got... the conflict between Hawaiians -- I'm not sure I'm getting this right, so I want you to explain -- that there was a group of Hawaiians in Tule Lake, and how you got challenged to a knife fight or something? Can you tell that story, please?

HY: Not a knife, fight. [Laughs]

BY: Okay, okay.

HY: Well, okay. The Hawaiian boy on the West Coast were almost all students, they were college students. So they're from the islands and they're going to UC Berkeley or whatever, UC California or University of Oregon. And so when the curfew order came, they didn't have the means to get back to the island or means of the time, I didn't know why. But a lot of them did not go back to the island. So, of course, come May, they were all, quote, "evacuated," the rest of them. And because they had no family, they hung together, the Hawaiian boys. I don't remember any Hawaiian girls. I'm sure there were some, but I never knew any. But the young Hawaiian men... I better be careful how I say it... are different from the Mainland Nisei. They act differently, their attitude is they were much more forward and outgoing and more likely to say what they're thinking and do what they think. As contrasted with the Mainland Nikkei, in those days -- now, I don't know about today -- but in those days, that was absolutely true. So the Hawaiian boys, let's say, would gang together. When they evacuated, the group, they hung together because, they roomed together, too, because they had no family. I had a family, most of the others did, but the Hawaiian boys didn't, so they all bunked together in the bachelor quarters. So they traveled together and worked as gangs. The other thing that, to me, they always hung together, tied together, and then this is including in fights. They never fought one-on-one, as far as I know. If anybody got in a fight, it was a gang fight. Because one of the Hawaiian boys get in a fight, the rest of them are going to help, two, three or four. So that's what happened. I went to a dance, camp dance, and I'm a hell of a poor dancer. But anyway, that's neither here or there. While I'm dancing, somebody tapped me on the shoulder, that's the signal to want to cut in. So I looked at my dance partner, and Naomi Namba, she was. And she says, "No," so I said, "Well, hey, what am I supposed to do?" She says, "No, I don't want to." So I refused to let him cut in. And this happened to be a young Hawaiian fellow whom I never knew, met before. So he was kind of upset about that. But anyway, after the dances ended, now we're going home, I was going home to my barracks, I had a good friend named Bob Okumura who was, fortunately he was a judoka, he was a black belt in judo. But he was my friend, and he was walking home with his date. And then this Hawaiian guy came up behind me and said, "Hey, how come you don't let me cut in?" He was with four guys. I said, "Well, my date didn't want to dance with you." "That's no reason," and bang, he hit me on the chin. I've got a scar, maybe it's still there. He hit me like that. But that's the first and only time I've ever had a physical fight anytime in my whole life including with my brother. And he hit me on the chin. First thing, I didn't know how to act in that. But anyway, he wanted to duke it out right then. I said, "I don't want to fight," and he said, "Come on, you got to fight." And one of his friends grabbed me, took me by the shoulder, said, "Come on over, let's go down and talk this thing over." He led me down to try to lead me -- this is nighttime now, after the dance, and he's trying to lead me down between a couple of barracks. He was probably going to beat the hell out of me. But my friend Bob Okumura said, "Hey, don't go, Homer, don't go with him." So he pulled me away. And so the fight ended. Because Bob was with me, and another guy, I can't remember who it was, but Bob was a big guy and he kind of was a referee, and we didn't fight.

But the next evening, this guy, a yogore, we called him yogore, you know why? Because yogore means "dirty." [Laughs] We called them yogores, everybody did, the Hawaiian boys. So he and his friend came to my apartment, 74-C, knocked on the door and my mother answered. He said, "I want to talk to your boy. I want to find out why he didn't let my friend dance with his partner." And my mother said, no, no... because my mom knew I was in this so-called fight, which was really a one-sided fight. I never fought back. And she said, "No, you can't come in. You go home. Be nice boys." And then one of the Hawaiian boys said, "Obasan, anata no kodomo, miso shiru yarinasai." You know what that means? "Lady, feed your son miso shiru." Because that's supposed to give him courage. "Miso shiru yarinasai." And then they left. But I never heard her... or heard the last of it. But that's been the one and only fight my entire life. Even with my brothers, I never had a fight.

BY: So I know you were not in Tule Lake for very long, but was that sort of tension between the Hawaiian students, was that pretty common?

HY: It was almost palpable. Because... and then when you look at it from the Hawaiian point of view, they were isolated, they had no friends, they had no family, so they had to really depend upon themselves. So of course they would hang together because that's their friends, that's their support. Whereas we had family, we had friends, our community growing up. But they didn't have that. So when I stopped to think about it, said, "Of course. If I was like that, I'd probably be a bastard, too." [Laughs]

BY: Okay, all right.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 5>

BY: So now I want to talk about your decision to, how you left camp. You left Tule Lake and went to Denver, and then you eventually decided to go to, apply to medical school. So talk a little bit about leaving camp, going to Denver, and what Denver was like.

HY: Okay. When I stop to think about it, I'm not really sure how I got into the University of Denver. But this is what I think. I think that my older brother, Choppy, Ray Tsuyoshi Yasui, he was married. And my mother decided that, since my big fight with the Hawaiian yogore, they said, "This camp is no good for this young boy." You know, you're running around dancing and getting in the fight, one fight, and playing around, playing baseball, and who knows? Bad influence. "So we've got to get him out of here." So I think that my mother and brother colluded together and decided they should get me out of camp to go to college. But what I don't remember, I don't personally remember applying to go to college, the University of Denver. So what I think happened is that there was an organization called the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council. You ever heard of that?

TI: Yeah.

HY: Okay. That was a volunteer group of educators, Quakers, I think, Quaker leaders got together and they decided in May or early on '42 that there's going to be thousands of young Nisei, young men and women that are going to be deprived of college if something doesn't help. Anyway, this National Student Relocation Council decided to help the Nikkei, and they helped by finding colleges in the Midwest and the East who would accept Nikkei because not all of them did. In fact, a lot of them did not. So they did that, but I think more than that, they also helped apply. And in a few instances, I've heard that they even gave them a little bit of money to help them get there. And that's what I think. I think that Choppy went to the National Student Relocation Council and had them apply with my consent, of course, to University of Denver. The reason for that is because Shu... Shu is my next older brother whom I admired immensely, and Michi, my next older sister, were already in Denver because they voluntarily left the West Coast before they were captured by the evacuation. They left on their own, Shu first and then Michi. They were already there, so that was probably another reason why I applied to the university, because both of them were going there. So anyway, in September of '42 -- so I was in camp from, Tule Lake from mid-July to mid-September of '42, and I left around September 19th or so with three other young men from the camp. And in those days, the Western Defense Command extended to Reno. So for the four of us who were all going to Denver, an armed guard with a pistol very prominently displayed on his hip, rode on the bus, the commercial bus, to Reno. And then from Reno he left us, because that was outside the Western Defense Command. But from Reno, we caught a train and then went into Denver. So I still remember the name of the guys I went with. John Ishizuka, who remained a lifelong friend, and Fumio Nishida, who was a chemistry major at UC Berkeley, and Sam Takagishi who was a would-be theological student and he attended the Iliff College of Theology in Denver. So those were the four guys. I kept in contact with John Ishizuka who died a couple years ago, but we've been friends ever since then.

<End Segment 5> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 6>

BY: So when you got to Denver then, your brother and sister were there, and so you lived with them? Or where did you live?

HY: No, almost. It didn't quite happen that way. Because what happened is Shu did indeed go to Denver. And he went to, I suppose, until around summer of '42, then he transferred to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. Why he did that, I don't know. He never told me, I never asked him. And Michi, meanwhile, she had also been in Denver, and she had actually graduated, was supposed to graduate from the University of Oregon in 1942 in June, but she left in May. She escaped from Eugene in May and then she went to Denver. But I don't know if she enrolled in college at that time or not. But anyway, since she was going to get graduated, and went to the University of Oregon, she took a job at the War Manpower Commission in Chicago. So she left after she got to Denver. So when I got there, I don't know anybody. Well, I take it back. I knew the Reverend Seiji Uemura, because he was a Methodist minister in Portland that our family knew. So I contacted him, and Reverend Uemura was very, very important, that early-arriving Nikkei like me, because he helped find a place to stay, because I didn't know anybody in Denver. So it turned out that I stayed with Toshio Ando. And the reason I stayed with Toshio Ando is because Shu had roomed with Toshio Ando. Toshio was a, I think maybe he had already attended the Hastings School of Law in California in one year or so, and then he had to get out. But he had escaped on his own before the (army). He went to Denver where he continued his law study. So I roomed with him in Mrs. Snell's rooming apartment -- it was not a boarding house, it was a rooming apartment -- until, gee, a couple years, I guess, until Toshio married my sister, Michi.

BY: So Mrs. Snell's... what's the difference between a rooming house and a boarding house, first? I don't know that.

HY: Well, boarding house, they feed you. At a rooming house, you just got bed and bath.

BY: Okay. And did she rent only to Japanese Americans?

HY: No, no. Mrs. Snell's house was pretty big. She had, the Poirers lived there, I can't remember, no. But there were about three Nikkei residents there, and about two or three hakujin. They weren't family, but a couple.

BY: Okay, and so you started at University of Denver, then, right? And you were there for three or four years then?

HY: Well, I was there from September of '42 'til about August of '45, yes, three years.

BY: Okay. And then you lived in Mrs. Snell's rooming house that whole time?

HY: Oh, yeah.

<End Segment 6> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 7>

BY: And so tell me a little bit about the Nikkei community in Denver in those years. What was it like? Were there a lot of people? Did you all stick together, what was it like?

HY: Well, to me, Denver was a hub for Nisei students. Because, of course, socially, I didn't know anybody. I didn't go to the Japanese church, like Methodist Church. And I'm sure they had an organization like JACL, I never went to them. So I don't know how big... they did have a Japanese, quote, "town," called Larimer Street, and there were quite a few Japanese businesses there. But I don't know how many were old-time businesses, or how many had just moved there from the West Coast. But anyway, there was a Japantown, so I'm sure there was a fairly big Japanese community in Denver in my day, although I never participated. What I participated in was in the Nikkei college activity at UC Denver. Because in my three years at Denver, I would guess, conservatively, there were at least a hundred and fifty Nisei students that went to that, including me and my family. I mean, there were a lot of us at one time.

BY: And you were tight, a pretty tight-knit community?

HY: Yeah. And the University of Denver enrollment wasn't very big, it was only like twenty-five hundred. So we were proportionally a pretty big ethnic group.

BY: And was that because of Governor Carr, do you think, that there were so many?

HY: Yes. Well, that was one of the reasons why I suppose a lot of Nikkei did move to Colorado. Governor Carr was one of the few governors that didn't say the Japanese were all bad.

BY: And so what kinds of things did you do with your...

HY: Well, we'd have parties and dances. But like I say, I was a bad dancer. But mainly I hung out with my friends like John Ishizuka and Bill Ito, things like that.

BY: And were there Japanese restaurants that you would eat at?

HY: Oh, yeah. But it was all down at Larimer Street and that's several miles away. We had to take the Number 8 streetcar and it would take us maybe an hour. Well, it would take half an hour or maybe an hour to get to downtown Denver. Because the University of Denver is towards the outskirts of town, so it wasn't easy to get to town. You'd have to take the streetcar and you'd have to transfer.

BY: Do you remember any kind of incidents of discrimination or racism or anything like that in Denver at the time?

HY: No, I don't remember any in Denver. Of course, you have to remember one thing, super remember, is that most of the Nikkei were extremely cautious. And very, very few of us... I only know one guy that would associate with the hakujin. So we were like the Hawaiians. We kept to ourselves, we talked to ourselves we entertained ourselves. We did everything, we did it ourselves. Because we didn't know how the public was going to treat us. So out of safety, we hung together, plus, we were all the same age, we were all college people. So the only person that I know that really had anything to do with how things were was a guy named Ken Sugioka. And he's the only one out of maybe a hundred and fifty, two hundred Nikkei that I knew. Otherwise, all of our friends were Nisei.

BY: All right.

<End Segment 7> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 8>

BY: So then you're in Denver for three years or so, you decide to apply to medical school. What made you do that and what was that whole process like?

HY: Oh, medical school applications. I don't remember how many medical schools there were that would accept, you know, outside the Western Defense Command, but I think it was around thirty or more. This is private schools and state schools all included. I think there were more than thirty. And of the thirty that I applied to, one accepted, and that was the Hahnemann medical hospital and college. And maybe the only reason they accepted me was because that medical school was under probation, meaning they may have their license pulled if they didn't do any better. But they accepted me and a hundred other guys from all over the United States, and that's what saved me. I think that I must have been second class type student, so they took me. But Hahnemann was under probation.

BY: And it was because your brother was going to be a doctor?

HY: Well, no. Shu had already gotten into medical school. Shu was smart. Well, he was. He'd gone to the University of Wisconsin. He applied to many different colleges, too, but he was accepted by Temple University, which is a private school, but a very prestigious school in Philadelphia. Already had been accepted, he was almost two years ahead of me. By the time I got accepted, he was, I think, a sophomore at Temple, which is in Philadelphia. So I was joining him in Philadelphia, not the same school. He was at a prestigious school, I was at a probationary school.

BY: But... and do you think that Philadelphia, that people were able to go to Philadelphia also because of the Quaker connection? Does that...

HY: Oh, I like to think it was because of the Quaker influence. But anyway, Chicago, Denver, maybe Salt Lake, New York, Philadelphia, were magnets for the Nikkei, because there were lots of Nikkei in Philadelphia. But as in Denver, I hung mainly to people that I knew, mainly Nikkei. And so my social life in Philadelphia, like in Denver, was not all that great. I mean, I'd go out dancing and partying.

BY: 'Til you met Mom, right?

HY: Pardon?

BY: Until you met Mom?

HY: Well, yeah, but that was late in my life in Philadelphia. That wasn't early.

BY: Okay. And so do you have any idea how many Nikkei lived in Philadelphia in those years?

HY: No, I have no idea. But I'm sure there's statistics that will tell you around '45, 1945.

BY: But there was a significant number.

HY: There were lots of them, yeah. But you know, Philadelphia is huge compared to Denver.

BY: Yeah, yeah.

HY: And New York was even huger.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 9>

BY: And how about in medical school or living in Philadelphia? Did you ever experience any kind of discrimination or racism or anything like that?

HY: Well, I did. It was when I was in medical school. In medical school there, they had a half-baked, so-called medical fraternity called Mu Beta Kappa, which was only good in Hahnemann. And then eventually, Mu Beta Kappa was, I don't know, incorporated or something with a medical fraternity called Alpha Sigma. And then by the time I was around junior or senior in (medical) school, Alpha Sigma wanted to affiliate with a prestigious national medical fraternity called Alpha Kappa Kappa. They should have called it KKK, but it was Alpha Kappa Kappa. But in order for Alpha Sigma -- and I was an Alpha Sigma, so was Bob Katase, there was only two of us Nikkei in the medical school, and we were both in the Alpha Sigma. They said that they would not accept anybody except, they would not accept Japanese Americans in Alpha Kappa Kappa, the national prestigious... So the president of Alpha Sigma says, "Would you and Bob resign from Alpha Sig so we can join Alpha Kappa?" I said, "Why would we do that?" He says, "Well, because we can't, because Alpha Kappa Kappa will not take Japanese as members, as fraternity members." Says, "If you guys won't resign, then we'll all resign and then we'll rejoin." So Bob and I capitulated, we resigned. And those bastards did become Alpha Kappa Kappa. Like I say, we should have called them KKK. But I don't know if it makes any difference. Which reminds me, I still have that little skull and little pendant, the Mu Beta Kappa pendant and the gold skull. I'm thinking of giving it to Danny, give it to somebody.

BY: That's interesting.

HY: But I still have those little pins.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 10>

BY: And when you lived in Philadelphia, where did you live and who did you live with?

HY: No, I lived in my entire four years there in a small apartment at 1408 Tioga Street, West Tioga Street, it was in West Philadelphia.

BY: By yourself?

HY: Oh, no, no. I had several... well, initially I was there by myself because Shu already had a roommate. This was an apartment, second floor apartment. But then his, I don't know what happened to his roommate, but his roommate left or did something, so I moved in with Shu, so I was Shu's roommate for a while. Then Shu graduated, as I say, so there was another Nisei student named Terry Hayashi at Temple. And so Terry roomed, he and I together roomed at the Tioga Street apartment. Then he graduated and then there was a student named Bob Katase at Hahnemann, two years after me, he got tuberculosis and so he lost the year. He had to go to Eagleville Sanitarium, then he came back, then he roomed with me. And then during my last year, I roomed with Ephraim Zackson, who was a good friend of mine and also a schoolmate at Hahnemann. So I had four or five different roommates, but it was always at the Tioga Street apartment.

BY: Tom, do you have any questions about Denver/Philadelphia period?

TI: The one question about Philadelphia, because Philadelphia was really close to Seabrook, did you ever come across people from Seabrook in Philadelphia? You smiled, so...

HY: Well, that's a very interesting question, very interesting story, because, yes. My wife, Miki Yabe Yasui, Miyuki Yabe Yasui, did work two years at the Seabrook Farms. It was called Seabrook Farms, but what they were doing is preparing frozen foods. So she and her mother, Mitsue Yabe, left the Heart Mountain camp in December of '44 and went to Seabrook. And Miki worked there for two years while she made enough money to go to college. And then she did, she commuted for a while. Let me take it back. Her credits were not considered good enough from graduation from the Heart Mountain high school from which she graduated. So they said, well, we'll take you at Drexel Institute of Technology, which was a college, if you make up your high school credits, which were not very good. So Miki commuted to Temple University High School. They had a high school there too. So she did that for, I think, one year until she got credit enough to be accepted by the Drexel Institute of Technology, which still exists. And then she started going to school. Then she left work and then she became a schoolgirl. Do you know what a schoolgirl is? Yeah, in Philadelphia from about, I would say from around 1946, '47. That's when I met her. That's where I met my wife, in Philadelphia, and she had worked in Seabrook. Seabrook still has a Nikkei community that they have a JACL chapter and so on. So I have no... and I've been to Seabrook once, but it was so many years ago, I've forgotten what it's like. So I know Seabrook.

BY: Okay.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 11>

BY: And so then you got married, you lived in Poughkeepsie, New York, for a while, and then you decided to return to Oregon. So when and why did you return to Oregon?

HY: Well, there were two reasons. One, the main reason is because my father and mother had moved back to Portland, Oregon. Not moved back, they moved to Portland, Oregon, from Denver in 1946 when my father bought a home on, strangely enough, on 52nd Avenue, which is where I live. But he and Mom were alone and they were getting, when I say elderly, they were in their fifties. [Laughs]

BY: No, older than that. Older than that.

HY: Yeah, they were getting close to sixty by then. "Elderly," you know. So I thought, well, gee, they'd probably feel better if one of their kids was near 'em. And I, looking around at what I wanted to do with my medical career, because I had already finished my internship. After I finished my internship, I got married to Miki in 1950. So 1951 I spent the year in Poughkeepsie, New York, as a general (...) resident, which is kind of a glorified second year of internship. They don't do that anymore, but in those days they did. Then I said, well, what do I want to be? What do I want to do? I didn't feel prepared enough after general residency. Although I could have practiced general medicine and become a general practitioner, but I didn't think I'd want to do that. So I took a general surgical residency at Emanuel Hospital, which is in Portland, Oregon. So that fitted in just right with being in Portland with my folks. So that was the main reason. But the other reason was I had a bigger brother, Choppy, Ray Tsuyoshi Yasui, who was running the family farm on Willow Flat, and that's not far, so I knew I'd be seeing them. So I'd have family, so that was a very major reason.

BY: And when you first came back to Oregon, where did you live? And so you were doing this residency at Emanuel, but where did you live?

HY: We lived, Miki and I lived in an apartment called Varnell Apartments on 32nd and Belmont or near 32nd and Belmont. That's where you were born, as a matter of fact, in a few more days. [Laughs]

BY: Okay, yeah. And then so you lived in these apartment buildings and you were a resident in Emanuel Hospital. And were there a lot of other Japanese American doctors there, or were you the only one?

HY: Well, you mean in Portland?

BY: Yeah.

HY: No, no, there weren't very many. There was one practicing doctor there, Dr.... I forgot his name. Anyway, there was one practicing doctor, and there were about three or four medical residents of Japanese ancestry. And Emmanuel Hospital, there had been another one named Toshiaki Kuge, who was ahead of me, he was a 442 veteran. And in another hospital, there were two or three. So in the whole town of Portland, maybe there were four or five medical personnel, not all in surgery, in different fields. But there were only one or two practices -- oh, Dr. Kinoshita. Dr. Kinoshita was one of them. There was another doctor, too, in the entire town of Portland, two Nikkei. And both of them had been from Hawaii. [Narr. note: The second practicing Nisei doctor in Portland was Dr. Robert Shiomi -- who was an Issei -- from Japan.]

BY: Interesting.

<End Segment 11> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 12>

BY: And so what was it like being one of a few Japanese American doctors either in Emanuel Hospital or in the community? What was that like?

HY: Well, in Japanese, atarimae, regular, reason for that is because that's the way I was in Philadelphia and Denver, too.

BY: It felt normal to you.

HY: Didn't go around mingling with the hakujin friends, trying to make hakujin friends.

BY: Even when you got back to Oregon?

HY: Oh, yeah. It's been very difficult to assimilate, if that's the correct word, with the hakujin population because I didn't grow up under that kind of thinking. The mentality wasn't there.

BY: So who was your first good hakujin friend? Was it Fish Foster?

HY: But that was in high school.

BY: Okay, well...

HY: Okay, in high school it was Fish Foster and then in Philadelphia... I didn't have any Denver. And in Philadelphia it was Ephraim Zackson, and in Portland it will probably be Ray Veillet and Dean Earhart. I did a lot of hunting and fishing with him.

BY: But otherwise you just pretty much stuck with...

HY: Well, I'm a Nisei. Nisei are very different from... Nisei and Issei are very different.

BY: And what do you mean by that?

HY: Well, because we were mainly very insular, we hung to ourselves. Particularly Issei, because, number one, they didn't know the language or the customs. We did, but we also knew that we'd been crapped upon and spit upon all our lives, and we were looked upon as second-class citizens. So out of self-defense, we kind of withdrew everything. Although there were exceptions, people like Ken Sugioka and maybe Mike Masaoka said, "You got to go out and mingle with the haoles, show 'em you're as good as anybody else and all that. But most of us, that didn't take, because it was too hard to do. It was difficult.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 13>

TI: So I'm curious, when you were in Portland, then, did you ever consider being kind of the Japanese American physician in Portland? Like in Seattle, in other words, I mean, generally, there were a few Japanese American, generally Nisei doctors that all the Sansei -- and I went to Ben Inouye and all of the other Sanseis went to the JA. Did they have something like that in Portland and did you ever consider doing that?

HY: I'm not sure I understand the question, if that's what it is.

TI: Well, so you're talking about the insular nature of the Japanese American community. So oftentimes, in places like Portland or Seattle, you had a community within a community.

HY: Oh, yeah. We're talking about my residency?

TI: Yeah, your residency and whether or not...

HY: Very, very much like it. This is only five years (after) the war.

TI: Right. And so I was wondering if there was an attempt to maybe recruit you, to say, "Hey, Homer, why don't you set up practice in Portland and be the community doctor?" Because that's kind of what happens.

HY: Well, it may have happened to others, it didn't happen to me. Nobody has made a -- although I joined the armed forces like the Navy, and that's a very multi-ethnic group. But the other one was, I joined a, kind of a half-baked organization called the Active Club. I don't even know what the Active Club does anymore, but that was the only two. But no, I didn't set out to be any example or exemplar.

BY: So was there a, quote, "Japanese community doctor," during those years?

HY: You mean like a society?

BY: No, no. Like the one or two Japanese American doctors who everybody went to in Portland. Was there anybody like that?

HY: Oh, yes, there was. When we first came back to Portland -- now I'm talking about 1951 -- Dr. Kinoshita and this other doctor, I can't remember the name, were the only two. And that's where all Nikkei went to, there were only two. They were, as I say, they were both from Hawaii. [Narr. note: Dr. Robert Shiomi was born in Japan.]

TI: Well, and maybe that was enough. I mean, sometimes it was hard to break into that. Once you have that market, then it's hard for...

HY: When we come back, we don't have a doctor. Like me. I didn't have a doctor, my parents didn't have a doctor. I got to know doctors as a doctor myself, from the hospital I was working in. So that way, we began expanding, Toshiaki Kuge and, oh, Albert Oyama, there were several other Nisei doctors there. But they were all in different hospitals. So eventually we started going to different doctors. But in the beginning, yes, they were the ones that everybody went to.

<End Segment 13> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 14>

BY: So you mentioned your military service, so I want to talk a little bit about that. So when did you join the Navy and why did you join the Navy, and why the Navy versus some other branch of the service?

HY: Well, in 1954, when I was just finishing my three years of surgical residency, in those days, to become a board certified resident, surgeon, you had to have three years of extra training above your internship. So I'd finished that in '54, and then just as I was finishing it in August of '54, we were living in Salem then, I get a notice, you might call it a draft notice, a notice from the army saying that we are going to draft you into the armed forces of the United States by such and such a date, unless you choose another branch of the service. So I thought it over and I said, gee, I don't want to troop and stomp with the army, so the navy sounds pretty good. It was clean and neat and all that. [Laughs] So I said, well, all right, if I have to go, then I'll go to the Navy. But the interesting thing about that, Tom, is that for three times before I got this notice in 1954 from the army, I was considered 4-F, not draft eligible. I was physically unfit, which is the 4-F classification. And that was during World War II, twice, because I was seventeen by then, by the time the war started. And I was rejected because I have a heart murmur. I still have this murmur, but in those days, in 1942, the medical profession thought a heart murmur was tantamount to a death sentence; you'd live a year or two or three and that's it. So they rejected me twice during World War II, and then once the Korean War started in 1950, I had another -- this was in Philadelphia now -- of course, I still had the murmur, which I still do. And they said, no, you've got a heart murmur, you're not fit. But it may be because they would have made me a regular foot soldier at that time, I don't know. But anyway, by 1954, then I'd already been a graduate doctor for four years and they said, "Well, we wouldn't draft you as a foot soldier, we'd draft you as a doctor." And maybe that made the difference. That's why I got this draft notice for the fourth time. And they took me this time, even though I still had the heart murmur. So I elected to go to the Navy because, as I say, I didn't want to do a lot of foot stomping around the mud and all that, which I found I'd have to do. So I joined the Navy and they sent me to Bremerton for my so-called indoctrination, which was practically non-existent. But I joined the Navy in 1954, and Christmas Day in 1954, the Navy sent me to Iwakuni, Japan, which at that time was a U.S. naval air station. It's a Marine Corps, U.S. Marine Corps station now, but when I went there in '54, it was a naval air station and that's where I became a surgeon, a doctor at the naval air station in Iwakuni.

BY: And so what did you do?

HY: I did surgery.

BY: And so people were sent from Korea to Iwakuni for surgery, is that what happened?

HY: No, no. By that time, the Korean War, in '53, there was an armistice. The shooting lasted from around 1950 to '53, but I was in '54. But the Korean War was not declared over until January of '55. So therefore, that makes me a Korean War veteran. Not because of anything great that I did, but by the nature of the bureaucracy and so on.

BY: So who were your patients, then?

HY: Oh, base hospital, base people. There were maybe five thousand people at the base, only the base people and their dependents. Because by that time, there were a lot of dependents at Iwakuni. You were a dependent, Mon was a dependent, you were a dependent, yeah.

BY: So what was it like, serving in Iwakuni?

HY: Oh, it was great. It was like a picnic, I mean, except for the medical thing. But that was not difficult because the medical practice was easy. I mean, there weren't that many sick people that needed surgery in the beginning to begin with, so a lot of it was kind of routine. But the time off, we had plenty of time. The Navy was so good to us, they told us base housing, great base housing, schools and all that, and all kinds of entertainment on the base. Plus, the meals were made at the base itself. But also, they sent the household goods over from the United States, and they also transported my car, all free of charge from Portland to this naval base in Japan. So we had lots of time, and we'd go traveling, driving all over. So I'm so sorry that Barbara and Meredith were too young to remember anything about it, because it was a great time.

BY: So are there any particular experiences about that time, either good or bad, that you remember or want to talk about?

HY: Well, it was beautiful. It was very interesting seeing places like Hiroshima, because it was still pretty devastated. It wasn't like it was obliterated by the bomb, or that bad. And wonderful places like Miyajima and there were some great Oshodo cave, and Kintai Bashi in (Iwakuni), the travel was... and then we got to see your relatives for the first time in Annai.

<End Segment 14> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 15>

BY: So, and then you stayed in the military. So you liked the military?

HY: No, no, after I got out, I was discharged from the military in 1956, and then, after I finished, I thought, well, okay, I better look for, start practice. Then the American Board of Surgery says now, instead of three years of recognized residency, you got to have four years. So I said, oh gee, I had my three, I was going to go and practice, but now I got to have another year of residency. That's why I spent another year, year and a half, actually, at St. Vincent's Hospital, my fourth year of surgical residency. I spent a year and a half there because the chief surgeon there thought I'd need the extra training because I'd been a year, well, two years not doing anything surgically. I was a surgeon at Iwakuni, but there wasn't that much surgery to do. So I spent another six months, so I spent a year and a half at St. Vincent Hospital, after which I took the board examination and all that. So I didn't start looking for a practice in 1958. And then when I started a practice all by myself, a solo practice, and that's tough. Because here I'm a surgeon, this is a specialty. Nobody knows me from Adam, from Tojo. [Laughs] So anyway, I set up my office there in the little town of Milwaukie, and I had lots of free time. So I said, well, okay. The Navy had been so good to me and I appreciate what the Navy had done for me, went out of the way to take my family and my goods and stuff, I thought, I think I'll pay 'em back a little bit. So I joined the U.S. Naval in inactive reserves. There's a difference between active... inactive and active reserve, but I joined the inactive reserve, and I spent the next nineteen years in inactive reserve. So I retired in 1970-something with the rank of captain, which is equivalent to an army colonel.

BY: So, yeah, talk about that. Tom had mentioned to me that, you know, that's a pretty high rank.

HY: Well, that's equivalent to a colonel. Well, to me, all you have to do is keep your nose clean. No, really. Any damn fool could become one. [Laughs] I think so. As long as you just pay attention.

TI: Well, so Homer, what does "inactive reserve" mean?

HY: Active reserve means that you're on active duty, but you're in, ordinarily it's called the U.S. Naval Reserve instead of USN. See, there's a difference between USN and USNR. I'm U.S. Naval Reserve. But most of the people, the active duty people now, are usually U.S. Navy. They could be reservers, but I was always... but inactive reserve means that you agree to spend one weekend every month drilling with whatever organization you're attached to. I happened to be attached to the Marine unit, but the Navy took care of them medically, took care of the Marines. So I was attached to a Marine Corps unit for twelve years. And then I'm seven more years with Submarine Division and different divisions. But inactive reserve, that's what it means. You drill with them for one weekend a month for the whole year, and plus two weeks of active duty training. The active duty training could be almost anywhere, doing almost anything in the medical field. I could have gone to medicine, I could have gone on the field, most of the time I chose to go with my unit, like the Marine Corps. Because the Marine Corps was good to me, too. They let me shoot the guns. [Laughs] So that's inactive reserve. So you spend most of your time in the civilian life, almost all of it.

BY: So I have a question. This is off the script, but it's just something that's made me wonder. So you tried to enlist when you were in camp, right? You were seventeen, eighteen years old. You tried to enlist, you got rejected because you were declared 4-F, right?

HY: No, no, no, who told you that? I never volunteered.

BY: Well, what is it that you said you were classified as 4-F? Is that because you were drafted?

HY: Oh, that was draft.

BY: Okay, so you were drafted, you were rejected, right?

HY: Right, twice.

BY: Okay. And then you eventually ended up serving in the Korean War as a medical doctor.

HY: Correct, as an officer.

BY: And so it was pretty cushy?

HY: Oh, it was plush. I didn't have to go through the manual of arms and crawl through the mud, go out on campouts.

BY: So I am wondering, do you have any feeling of regret or disappointment or any of that that you were not able to serve in the 442 or the MIS or any of that?

HY: Well, no. In hindsight or even then? What are you talking about?

BY: Either.

HY: Okay. In hindsight, no, I have no regrets. I could have been shot and killed and mutilated while I was in World War II. That was a terrible war, and especially being with the 442 Regimental Combat Team, eight hundred casualties? No way. It would have been too tough. I was very glad to be in the U.S. Naval Reserve after, where no one was going to shoot at me and I'm not going to get hurt. And I just, like I say, any fool who spends enough time there, they're going to get their eagles. So it wasn't hard, and in fact, it was a lot of fun. And they also, when I think about it, I got a nice pension for life, and I lived longer than I thought I would, and I get most of my medical -- not my medical -- plus my medical, but also my medicine, my drugs. Not free, it used to be free, but it's gone up to twelve dollars now. So I got a tremendous bonus from that.

BY: In the moment, though, when you were declared 4-F, did you have any feelings of disappointment or wishing you...

HY: Well, yeah, because I'd hear the story of the heroics of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Battalion. You never heard much about the exploits of the MIS, though. Nobody really started much about them, it was always the 442 and the 100th. But I felt, well, yeah, could have been me, but then on the other hand, I could have been shot and killed, too. So I had no real regrets missing that.

<End Segment 15> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 16>

TI: Going back to Japan after the war, and you were stationed there, did you see very much in terms of the, just the Japanese population? Because I've read and talked to people, and they say it was really hard for a lot of Japanese. After the war, they were still rebuilding, and I remember some Japanese American families, we'd send, like, care packages to Japan.

HY: Those things, you know, Tom, they may have needed it, but remember, I'm almost ten years after World War II, so that makes it... when I was there, there was very little resentment against the United States.

TI: Well, just how about the economy and things like that?

HY: Oh, it wasn't booming, but it was not bad. It was not bad. They were building, they were rebuilding Hiroshima, but like I say, Hiroshima was still pretty devastated.

TI: How about their reaction to you as a Japanese American? Was there ever any surprise when...

HY: Well, you know, I think the funniest -- not funny -- to me, it's kind of amusing that we had a couple of housemaids and they were so deferential to me, it was almost like I was a god there. And I'd never been treated like a god before. Although they were very, very highly respectful, and the Japanese in general were highly respectful of me. I think maybe because I was a U.S. Naval officer, I'd go out, and if I was recognized, because usually I'd go in civilian clothing. But every now and then I'm in uniform, they'd see me. And one of the chief managers of the hospital, he was a retired Japanese army colonel, and he was so respectful of me. Here I'm maybe twenty years his younger. And of course, I was the only Japanese American officer there on the base, so maybe that made a difference I don't know.

BY: That's interesting.

HY: But I was unusual, I think, on that base.

TI: Or how about on the other side, the American side? Because of your Japanese ancestry, were you ever treated differently?

HY: Oh, yeah. I remember going out in the streets in Iwakuni, window shopping and all that. I was looking at something in a display window and a young hakujin boy, nineteen, twenty years old, he said, "Hey, boy-san, what is that?" [Laughs] And here I was probably twenty, thirty years older than him, he called me a "boy-san."

TI: And you're also a navy officer.

HY: He didn't know that, though, because I was in civilian clothes. So that's the only thing that I remember, when he called me "boy-san." I didn't let him know, "Hey, I'm a naval officer," never told him that.

<End Segment 16> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 17>

BY: Okay, so I want to ask you a question totally... well, not totally unrelated, but unrelated to wartime experiences. So you talked in your first interview about how your father would always stress to you and your brothers and sisters about how important it was to work hard, do your best, be honest, Christian values, you said plus the samurai and Confucian virtues to do good and be good. And Tom's dad also, in his interview, talked about "be good," "be a good example." And also your mom and dad were very, very big on education. And so all of these traits have been bundled into this term called the "model minority," you've probably heard that. Have you heard that term?

HY: Oh, yeah.

BY: And there are those who say that that's a myth, that's just a label. And I'm really curious about what you think about the idea of the "model minority" and do you think it's a myth or do you think it's true?

HY: I don't think it's a myth, I think it's absolutely true, and I think the Issei all did, like Tom's parents, his father, he got the same lesson from his parents that I did. And I'm pretty sure the Issei were like that, all Issei, and I'm pretty sure that most Nisei were like that. And of course there's going to be some aberration, there was going to be crooks and gamblers and pimps and so on. But they are very, very few because that the Nikkei, even today, are indeed a model minority. Look at our educational level, our criminal record level, the work ethic level, it's almost incomprehensible now when you stack it up to today. And I think it's remarkable what the Nikkei have done.

BY: And so do you think there's anything... it sounds like you think it's a positive thing then.

HY: Oh, absolutely, I do.

BY: Do you think there's any downside to that?

HY: Oh, yeah. You don't have as much fun.

BY: [Laughs]

HY: Well, because, you know, it's duty. It's duty, majime na neshin. It's duty. And duty is not always fun.

BY: Okay, all right.

TI: And so is this more genetic or behavioral? Is it like... how does this come about?

HY: No, I think it's behavioral. I think it was passed down from the centuries from our forbearers in the old country and they talked about "majime na," which means "solemn, regular," and "neshin," "persevere." I think all the Nisei -- Nisei now, I don't know about the rest of your generation, but I think all the Niseis' generation heard the same story from the same group of parents. I think that's amazing trait, is what I think.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 18>

BY: You've also said that you think all Nisei are "warped."

HY: I do.

BY: Right. And for the same reasons?

HY: Yeah, for the same reasons. Because I think the expectation is that we're going to excel, and we don't all excel. Some of us are crooks, like I say, some of us were pimps, some were gamblers, some were cheats, some were liars, they got twelve marriages and so on. We don't all excel, so whenever one of them falls down, said, "Boy, they reflect upon 'my people.'" So I don't like that.

BY: So why do you think they're "warped"?

HY: Well, they're warped because I think their expectations are sometimes unrealistic. When you got a job to do, you got to be a hundred and ten percent perfect, and I don't believe that. It's nice to be just a hundred percent. [Laughs]

BY: And does the incarceration experiences, that also, is that why you also think people are warped?

HY: Well, no, not all. I don't think that warped is... that even maybe strengthened us a little bit. The fact that we went through this because people didn't like us. And so we have to say, why didn't people like us? What did we do wrong that made people dislike us? And so I'm not saying it's a good thing, but I think that on reflection, as adults and things like that, I don't mean little kids, they can't think about that in that term, maybe. But in my age group, we reflect upon, said hey, we came out of this pretty good, considering what was dumped on us.

<End Segment 18> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 19>

TI: So, Homer, what do you think about my generation? So we kind of think differently, right? And so do you think it's a loss for the community? Or do you have concerns about how the younger generations... it's kind of like maybe the immigrant story in America. The Olympics are going right now, and I'm looking at these Asian American gold medalists who are, you know, their parents were immigrants and so they're kind of like the Nisei generation. And the Japanese American community, we're now in the Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei.

HY: Yeah.

TI: From your perspective, what do you see going on with the Japanese American community?

HY: Well, I think that the Sansei, your generation, is fine, and mainly because of the Nisei touch. [Laughs] We touched our parents' ethos, okay, so you know, you've heard of it, even if you don't know that, you know where we come from. But I think it's your kids' generation and on, that they don't have that same flow of, I don't know what you call it, ethnicity, I mean, ethnic behavior. And being right, being good and all that, I don't think it's the same. So I think that your generation is fine, but after your generation, it's falling apart, it's different. And I think it's because so many of them are now Anglicized and being outmarried and got so many influences from the outside. Before, we were quite insular, but that no longer is true. I'm very insular; my parents were very, even more so. And you guys are, too, a little bit, because you still consider yourself Nikkei. But I don't know, after your generation, what they consider themselves. That I don't know.

BY: So for you, what does it mean to you to be Japanese American?

HY: I think Japanese Americans should be very proud of themselves and what we have accomplished and what we've done in this, considering all the stuff that was thrown at us, I think we've done very, very well.

BY: So didn't you, at one point, said something about... so I guess if you had your choice to be white or Japanese American --

HY: Well --

BY: No, you tell me. [Laughs]

HY: Well, yes. If I had my choice, well, sure, I'd rather be white. Because, hey, even if the whites don't understand what privileges they had, they do have the privileges, even if they don't acknowledge it. They have far more than I do even today. But since it's manifestly impossible for me to be white, then I choose to be what I am today, Japanese American.

BY: Okay.

<End Segment 19> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 20>

BY: And so if there... is there anything that you want your grandchildren or great grandchildren to know, or some particular value or whatever that you want for them?

HY: Very, very strong precept for them.

TI: We're recording. [Laughs]

HY: Whatever you do, do it the best possible way. In other words, do the job right the first time. Don't make shortcuts, because it only takes a little more time, a little more effort to do the job right the first time. So do it correctly.

BY: That's your one piece of advice?

HY: Yeah.

BY: Nothing else? [Laughs]

HY: Well, I've got lots more, don't tell lies and things like that. I got a lot more, but that's the one I tell. If you're going to do anything, do it right.

BY: We did everything. I don't know, do you have anything else you want to say?

HY: No.

BY: Maris or Erin, do you want to ask anything?

HY: Did we spend that much time talking?

BY: You answered every question that I had.

HY: Well, okay, that's good.

BY: Okay. Anything else you want to add?

HY: It's been a great life. I've been so damn lucky. It is so much better to be lucky than smart, isn't it? Because you know, when you stop to think, I'm ninety-seven, and here I can still think. I can't walk very well, I don't hear, don't see, but I can... and I've got friends, and that's very valuable. I want to pass on all this stuff that I got. I got tons, buckets of stuff that I want to pass on to my kids, but the kids don't want it.

TI: But part of this, you say you're lucky, and I feel the same way. But in the same way, I feel like you sort of make your own luck, too. It's kind of like some of the things you're saying in terms of if you work hard, you live your life...

HY: Well, yes. That has a bearing.

TI: That sets you up to be like you in some ways, right?

HY: Well, yeah, but other people like my brother, Shu, he died much younger than me, and he had a lot going for him, I think. But that's me, that's what I think.

<End Segment 20> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 21>

BY: Oh, could I... we're still recording, right? Can I ask you, I would like, I don't think you've put this on tape before. This is going back to Uncle Min and his decision to travel with (Mike Masaoka's brother, Joe Grant Masaoka), to Heart Mountain, I guess, to talk to the draft resisters. What is your understanding of what happened and what might have motivated him to do that?

HY: Boy, I don't know. I'm not qualified to answer that.

BY: But do you know that story?

HY: I knew he did it, but I never gave that much thought. But I know that Mike was a superpatriot, he wanted the Nikkei to go out there, die for the country and all that sort of stuff. I don't know that Min felt that way. Maybe he did at the same time. Because, you know, at one time, JACL and Min had fallen apart, they were kind of enemies. And then, like you say, Min and Mike Masaoka did go to try to drum up recruits for the army.

BY: But your understanding of that is a little different, too.

TI: Well, so my understanding -- this comes from other historians who looked at some of the documentation -- so they went to go visit the Heart Mountain draft resisters before their trial, and then your brother, one of his roles was trying to convince them to... because the JACL didn't want the draft resisters, the trial and everything to go on. So his role was to try to convince him otherwise. So he had a private meeting with him, I think without Mike Masaoka, I think it was just your brother.

HY: Oh, Frank Emi and his group?

TI: Yeah, Frank Emi and that group. And I think Frank would say things like, so they confided in your brother, but they were under the impression it was more confidential. And Frank said that eventually that conversation ended up with the FBI.

HY: Oh, that could well have been.

TI: So they felt betrayed by that, because they felt that there was some kind of client-attorney privilege.

HY: But how would Frank Emi know that?

TI: I guess it came up at the trial, and actually it was used as evidence against him.

HY: I wouldn't be surprised at all.

TI: Because you know your brother was such a civil rights icon, and even the community, his stand against the government, people felt that they could do that. So that was Frank Emi's...

BY: And it seems like such a, in a way, contradictory thing for him to do.

HY: People are contradictory.

BY: [Laughs] I agree, I know that. But I was just wondering... and I know that Holly has --

HY: Well, no, it wouldn't surprise me if actually Min did go to the FBI and tell them, oh, Mike Masaoka -- it wouldn't surprise me because Mike was, from what I hear, and know Mike, he wouldn't do that. I don't know about Min, I think maybe Min might. I think any one of us might, given the right circumstances and philosophy at the time. Draft resisters at Heart Mountain, that was a tough one. And they had a lot of rights on their side, they had a lot of moral right.

BY: Okay, I just wondered if you had any insight.

HY: So I can't really answer that, and I guess nobody will know the answer to that one now, because Holly's gone.

BY: And Holly didn't even know?

HY: No.

BY: Her speculation was that her... Uncle Min resisting the curfew was because he felt like it was unconstitutional. Whereas the draft resisters, it's like...

HY: Well, that was constitutional, but it was wrong.

BY: She thinks that's why he... it seems contradictory.

HY: Well, it makes sense.

BY: That in his mind, one was unconstitutional, one was...

HY: Okay, that was strictly legal.

BY: Yes, but he was a lawyer. So that from...

HY: But the moral equation didn't...

BY: Of course, of course. But that was her theory as to why he...

HY: Sounds reasonable. But as I say, it wouldn't surprise me if Min and Mike did go to the FBI. Because I read my father's records and man, some of his real close friends did [inaudible] on him, because it's in the record.

BY: His white friends or his Nikkei?

HY: Yeah. I think of Penn Crum, who was an optometrist and member of the Rotary Club, he blasted to the FBI. So I have the record.

BY: Yeah, okay. Thanks, Dad.

HY: All right, we all done?

BY: Yeah.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.