Densho Digital Repository
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Robert Moriguchi Interview
Narrator: Robert Moriguchi
Interviewer: Brian Niiya
Location: Granada Hills, California
Date: October 4, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-densho-1000-515

<Begin Segment 1>

BN: So we're here on October 4, 2022, in Granada Hills, California, and we're interviewing Robert Moriguchi at his home. Yuka Murakami is shooting the video and my name is Brian Niiya. And we'll start with Robert, or Bob.

RM: Bob.

BN: Bob. As we often do, I'd like to start with your family. So I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about your parents, your mother and father, and what you knew about them even from... in your dad's case, from Japan as well.

RM: I was born in San Francisco, but they were farming in Half Moon Bay. They were farming with... my grandfather was there also from Japan, and then the number five son was there, number six son was there, and my father was number seven son, number eight son. Those were all farming together in Half Moon Bay. So I think when I was born, Half Moon Bay is about maybe 30 miles from San Francisco, and I don't know if my mother spent the day in San Francisco at my other uncle, number two, who was in San Francisco. Anyway, that's when I was born. And how our family came to America is that in 1915, San Francisco had the Panama-Pacific Exposition to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. And that was a huge exposition in the north end of San Francisco by the Golden Gate Bridge, and it occupied quite a bit of that territory, part of the Presidio there. And in the Japanese pavilion, my grandfather sent his second son to the exposition to display our somen. This is the ibonoito somen, which was the most popular somen in Japan, which was started by my great-grandfather about 1860s. But it was a co-op, it wasn't a family business, it was a co-op. So it's Ibo-gun, like a county of Ibo that was occupied by the workers there. And since my great-grandfather started it, my grandfather at that time was the president of the co-op. So he chose his second son to come to the exposition to display the somen.

[Interruption]

BN: Maybe go back to the somen.

RM: Okay, since my great-grandfather started it, my grandfather was the president of this co-op. So he sent his second son, Kinjiro, to the exposition to display and to promote the somen. Now, the somen was already being sold here, so in fact he headed to Seattle first to settle an account with a firm, and I don't know what the name of the store was, but they had complained that there was some bugs in the somen, so they wouldn't pay their bills. So my uncle went over there to settle that problem, then he came down to the exposition. And when he looked around, he said that this might be a good place for him and his (brothers) to start their lives. Because they had been planning to immigrate somewhere. They were preparing already, my uncle said that they had learned plumbing -- not plumbing, but carpentry and various farming and things like that, so they were preparing to immigrate. And, in fact, they almost went to Indonesia at one point, however, that deal fell through. And then they were almost going to go to Brazil, and that deal fell through. And also, Hyogo Prefecture was not too keen about people leaving. They said, "Well, there's plenty of jobs here," you know, Kobe was a very busy port, and so they said, "You people don't have to go." So it was not encouraged to leave. So there's very few people from Hyogo Prefecture in the United States.

However, my uncle decided this might be a good place for him and his brothers to start their new lives, so he told his father in Japan to come and take a look, because he was only twenty-one years old. So he told the father to come and take a look. So my grandfather came in 1916 and decided this would be a good place. So he started calling his sons over one by one, so the number five son came first. Now, in Japan, the chonan, the firstborn inherits everything that the family has, but then they're responsible for taking care of their parents. So the number one son took care of the family, and the number three son went youshi, which is to go to a family, married into a family that didn't have any son, so he took over that family name. So that was in, he went to a nearby town, what was the name of it? I can't remember. [Narr. note: Kogeta] And then the fourth son went to Kyoto and started a jewelry business. So the number five son came, and then in 1919, the number six son, Torao, and my father Tatsumi, my father was thirteen, his brother was fifteen, they came together. And my father turned fourteen when the boat landed. But it was an interesting thing that he told me, he was looking for the Golden Gate, the Kinmon, you know, that means "golden gate" in Japanese. So he was looking for the Golden Gate, couldn't find it. This is before the Golden Gate Bridge. but anyway, that was the story he told me. One of my uncles said that when he landed, he was surprised at the cows that was so huge. But that's getting to the side issues.

BN: So he was very young, he was fourteen when he came over.

RM: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 2>

BN: Then just to circle back to your grandfather, you said that he was, they were looking for a place to migrate or immigrate, but that relatively few people from Hyogo immigrated. So what was it that made your grandfather or your uncles want to go?

RM: Well, because the oldest son inherits everything and the others have to find land or some kind of a profession. But in Japan, you inherit the land. You don't buy land, you inherit the land. And that's another point that I was curious about, which I still don't have the answer, is that my great-grandfather had a huge parcel of land. Because instead of the oldest son inheriting that land, it was divided between my grandfather's brother, the older brother, which supposedly was supposed to get the whole land. But it was divided between his older brother and him, and the grandfather stayed with the younger son. There was quite a gap between the brothers. There were five girls in between, so it's almost a generation that separates. So the great-grandfather stayed with my grandfather, the younger one, rather than the older one. And I still don't know how they, my great-grandfather inherited that land. Because in the old days, the daimyo, the lord of the area, would give the land to the person who performed various good deeds for the daimyo. And we were under -- and this is Akechi Mitsuhide -- if you know Akechi Mitsuhide, he's the one that assassinated Oda Nobunaga. But the mon, looking at where this mon came from, it came from the north of Hyogo, or the northern part of Hyogo. Of course, it wasn't called Hyogo then, it was... what was it called? It started with an H, I can't remember. But the area was known by a certain name, it started with an H. Can't remember now.

BN: So since your father is number seven, right?

RM: Number seven.

BN: And it's a big family, obviously, so the younger ones all kind of were looking for other places to go?

RM: Yeah. So my grandfather told them, well, go to school, learn English and so forth. And, of course, he didn't know any English, so he's stuck in with the second graders or whatever, and he didn't like that, he was too embarrassed.

BN: Who was he living with at that time?

RM: He was doing schoolboy, so he was living in a home somewhere and doing some...

BN: This is in San Francisco?

RM: San Francisco. But he said he didn't want to go to school anymore. So my grandfather said, "Well, if you're not going to go to school, you have to go to work. So he went to work, and my grandfather was farming also, so he went with my grandfather and cut asparagus and worked out in the orchard picking fruits and so forth. And, of course, my grandfather and my uncles, they didn't know the land, they didn't know the way that they farmed, and so they were not very successful, farming. In fact, when my father landed here, my grandfather was actually working in Southern California. So he went all the way up to pick up my father. So anyway, they did that, and I don't know anything. I know he worked around Stockton and all that, but I don't know too much of the details of the farming that they did. Except he told me about the asparagus and things like that. And they took time to play tennis, and he was playing tennis. So they were not working all the time. And the family was not a poor family. They had workers.

In fact, my father said while they were in Japan, they never worked. They had servants, they had workers where they, they had land where the workers worked, and they worked on their land. In fact, my grandmother's family, Akamatsu, and my grandfather's brother, older brother's wife was also Akamatsu. And they both came from a samurai family up in (Kobe) area. They said they owned, they lived in a castle. And then one of the older brothers' son was sent to the Akamatsus as a youshi in exchange. So they got wives, and they also sent men over there when they didn't have any men. So there was a lot of exchange there. So the story that I'm not clear on, because it was just word of mouth, is that when Oda Nobunaga was assassinated by Akechi Mitsuhide, we were supposedly involved. But when Hideyoshi, who was fighting in Kyushu, came to avenge the loss of his master and killed Akechi, we somehow escaped. So in reality, if that was the case, we would have lost all our land, because he would have avenged it by taking over all the land. But somehow, we got a large parcel of land, and I don't know how my great-grandfather had that land.

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

<Begin Segment 3>

BN: Well, let's set that aside for now, and then let's go to your mother's side.

RM: Okay. On my mother's side, my mother is a Nisei, she was born in Mountain View, California, in 1912. And my grandfather came in 1903 from Wakayama. It's funny that the name of the area was called Chikago, Chikago, Matsushima. Matsushima, and I don't know which is the cho or the chi or whatever it is. But I noticed, in fact, I have, what do you call that, passport.

BN: Okay, this is your mother's father.

RM: My mother's father's passport. In fact, I gave one to the museum when they were having that... Hiyami. What's his name? Hiyami?

BN: Hayami.

RM: Hayami, yeah, when they were having his story. I gave them one of my...

BN: And then what was your mother's name?

RM: Morimoto. So my grandfather was Mitsugoro. He was the chonan, the oldest son, so he could have inherited everything that the family had, which was quite a large parcel of land, just kind of north, I guess, north of Wakayama city near the river. There was a restaurant named after that river in Torrance. What was the name of that river? Oh, I can't remember. But anyway, he had a large parcel of land there. So they could inherit it all, but his best friend, Kiichiro Matsumura, came earlier that year, 1903, and told my grandfather to come and join 'em, "Because you could make a lot of money. There's a lot of opportunities here." So my grandfather, who was already married at that time. He had a son, but he left him in Japan and he came and found out that it wasn't that easy. Wages were twenty-five cents a day, he told me. And so you couldn't make a living on twenty-five cents a day, so he started working for the railroad. He said they were paying about seventy-five cents a day. And so he worked for railroad for about maybe six years, saved all his money.

BN: Where...

RM: I don't know where exactly, but it's probably the various trunk lines from the main line that was already built by the Chinese. But that's how the Japanese community got started throughout the country, just following the railroads. But anyway, he worked for the railroad for about six years and saved his money. And they went to buy a farm in Mountain View, about five acres. And where Moffat Field is, my mother said that's where they farmed that originally. But he was always ambitious or looking ahead. So he wanted something bigger. So he leased the land from the Castro family. The Castro family was quite a big landholder in the San Jose area. And so they got a, bigger land there, and so he hired two Japanese families to work for him, my grandfather. One was the Yamaji family, and the other was, I think, Nishimoto. And so my mother used to say that when they were taking the horse and buggy to, the Japanese community used to have outdoor shibai, plays and things like that, so they would all go up there with their horse and buggy. And so they would go out there and she said one time the horse got away. I don't know how they got home, she never finished that story.

BN: Where was your mother...

RM: My mother is the oldest, she was the oldest, and so she had to work like a man. My grandfather treated her like the son that he didn't have. So she was born in 1912. She was the oldest from the second marriage, because my grandfather's first wife died in Japan while he was working on the railroad. And so he remarried and married his best friend's sister, Umeno Matsumura. So that's my grandmother.

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

<Begin Segment 4>

BN: You mentioned that your grandfather had left also a son in Japan.

RM: Yeah.

BN: It would have been, I guess, her uncle.

RM: That's Mitsuyoshi. He was one years old when my grandfather left, and he was going to be adopted out to one of the families in the area. But he didn't want to be adopted, he wanted to be with his grandfather, I mean, his father. So I guess (...) he was already twenty or twenty-one years old. When he finally did come in Mountain View, and my mother was elated, because now she had an older brother, he was ten years older. Now he was the oldest, so she doesn't have to do all the hard work. But in Mountain View, there were five girls born, and my mother was the oldest, four other sisters were born in Mountain View.

BN: All girls?

RM: All girls. And then my grandfather would be, he would be the first one to buy a tractor. When the tractor became available, he would be the first one to buy a tractor so he could finish his land and then work on his neighbors' land and make extra money, and the same thing with the truck. When the trucks first came available, he would buy the truck and then haul his produce to market and haul his neighbor's produce to market. So he was always trying to be ahead, and he also knew that you can't grow the same vegetable that everybody else was growing because then the prices are very low, you can't make any money doing that, so he wanted to grow something different. So some friend gave him some seeds from straw flowers.

[Interruption]

RM: So some friend gave him the seeds for straw flowers, and he planted it. But because it's so hot in the San Jose area, the flowers would bloom out while they're still small, and he wanted it to get bigger. And so he moved to Pescadero where it's cool, it's on the coast, and so the flowers get much bigger. So he moved in 1925. In fact, he had a builder build his house. It took one year for this builder to build a house, because in the old days, we didn't have the Coast Road. You had to go through the mountains from San Mateo down to Half Moon Bay on the windy road though the mountains. In fact, the road was so narrow, sometimes you had to back up the truck to get around the curve. I used to always get seasick, carsick going down there. But that's how he built that house in Pescadero.

BN: Your mom, at that point, in '25 is...

RM: Yeah. My mother is high school, let's see, '12 to '25, but she went to high school in Pescadero. Two of her best friends were Italian Americans, Nisei Italian just like she was, Japanese American, and they were her best friends. She said they were known as the Three Musketeers.

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

<Begin Segment 5>

BN: So how did it happen that she and your dad got married or met?

RM: Okay, yeah. Now, I noticed when I was looking at the immigration records, that my grandfather, can't remember the year, but they were living in Pescadero also. Now, what I know is that my uncle, my father's older brother, the fifth son, Satoji, his name is Satoji. It's funny that I called all my uncles ojisan, uncle, if they're older than my father. If they're younger than my father, I called them by their name. Like Nancy's father is Hachio. So I just called him Hachio-san or the youngest, number nine son was Hideichi, I just called him Hide-chan, you know, I called them by their name. But if they're older, I called them "Uncle." It's funny. But on my mother's side, I called them all by their names. I was always known as Bobby. From the time I was a kid, I was a Bobby. So even now, my oldest uncle and all my older cousins, they still call me Bobby like I'm still a child, but that's how it goes. But anyway, so my grandfather and my uncle was farming in Pescadero, and my grandfather was busy driving his produce to market. And it takes all day to do it, so my mother used to be, taking care of the fields and the workers while he was gone, and coming back and going to sleep. Well, my grandfather was, needed some help driving the produce, so one day he knew that there was a Moriguchi, so he asked them if he could help drive the truck on alternate days. And then my uncle noticed that there was this girl in the family, she was going to high school yet. And so he asked my grandfather, that he has a brother who needs to get married if it could be arranged. And so my mother said that one day a strange man arrived at the house. [Laughs] And that was how they met, and they had a baishakunin, a tailor in San Francisco named Enomoto, Enomoto. He had a tailor business on Gough Street on San Francisco just off of Japantown, and he was the baishakunin. So anyway, that's my parents' wedding picture.

BN: And then what year did they get married?

RM: I'm not sure, but I think it was around 1930. Yeah, I think it was around '30.

BN: And then we were talking earlier, your mom was only...

RM: Yeah, she was seventeen. I think she was seventeen when she got married.

BN: Your dad was...

RM: My dad was twenty-four.

BN: He was pretty young, too, then.

RM: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 6>

BN: And then you were born like a year later?

RM: I was born in late '31, November of '31.

BN: And then we were talking about this earlier, that you don't have a Japanese name.

RM: No. That's very strange because all my aunts that were born in Mountain View all had Japanese name and no English name. Like my mother Shizuko, my next aunt was Kiyo, Kiyoko, and so forth. And then in Pescadero we had three boys, and they all English names and no Japanese names. Like the oldest one was Frank, Fred, and William. They didn't have any Japanese name. That's why my mother followed that and I was just called Robert. And my brother, however, had a Japanese name. He was Richard Hideo. I used to always call him Hide, Hideo, you know, until much later when I started calling him Richard.

BN: And that's unusual for a Nisei to have an English name and no Japanese name.

RM: Yeah, yeah.

BN: So what's the first place you remember then as a child?

RM: Well, I remember like when I was probably four or five... well, the first memory I have is of my grandmother's funeral. I have a picture of her lying, but I don't know if it was a casket or a bed or what it was, but I just saw her lying on... I was two and a half years old, and that's my earliest memory.

BN: Which grandmother is this?

RM: Hmm?

BN: Which grandmother?

RM: My Morimoto.

BN: Your mother's mother.

RM: Yeah, my mother's mother. She died in 1934, and my mother said that I wouldn't let her sleep, because I was afraid she'd never wake up. So I would wake her up. Every time she'd go to sleep, I would wake her up, because I was afraid she wouldn't wake up. At two and a half, I knew what death was. But that's my earliest recollection. Then after that, when I was about four or five, we moved... I was born when we were farming in Half Moon Bay, and then that was only for about a three-year lease, then we moved to my grandfather's farm in Pescadero, and I was there when I was still a baby.

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

<Begin Segment 7>

RM: So I was in Pescadero for, when I was still young. Then we moved to, my uncle found a farming area up in Mendocino County, Manchester up in Mendocino County. So our family, the Satoji family, and the uncle that's below my father, Hachio, he was still single. But we all moved up there, partnered, and we farmed there. So the thing I remember of that was that Christmas, we went to an old one-room schoolhouse, red schoolhouse, typical one-room schoolhouse, and had a Christmas party, like Santa Claus, that I remember. I must have been four or five. That was my next... and then after that, my father got real bad ulcers, bleeding ulcers, and there was no way to stop the bleeding ulcer. All you could do is drink cream, drink cream to soothe it. And so he couldn't work, and so my mother had to do double duty. My brother was just born, so she would carry him on her back, go out in the field and work, come home, take care of my father and make, do all the cooking and all that, and then she would do the bookkeeping, and it was too much. So we decided that while he recuperates, we'll move. So we went to my mother's sister's place in Esparto. It's an orchard, farm orchard. He had almonds and peaches and figs. I can't remember. Anyway, a bunch of fruits. He had even dried apricots, he dried apricots. Very handy guy, Koki Tsuji, Koki Tsuji, he did that. And so we lived... so my father recuperated there, and my mother went to work at a labor camp, she was a cook at a labor camp, took my brother with her. So she had to get up at four o'clock in the morning and cook breakfast for the workers and then make lunch for them, make dinner for them, make their furo, the bath, and then after they're all done, she has to bathe my brother, then she'll go to bed and then she had to get up and do the same thing. So it was a rough job, but she did that during the, I guess summertime. And I went to school, I started first grade in Esparto. And then when my father recuperated, it was not too long. We moved to Half Moon Bay, and we went to work, my father went to work at a nursery, flower, they grew flowers. I was still in the first grade, but I remember he was on a tractor, worked in the fields, and I would get on the tractor with him. The sound of the tractor would be so monotonous, I would fall asleep.

[Interruption]

RM: So Half Moon Bay, my father worked out in the fields on the tractor. And I would ride with him, and because the sound was so monotonous, I would fall asleep, and he would have to hold me to make sure I don't fall off the tractor, I remember that. And another incident I remember was, I guess when I went to school, my mother must have taken me to school, but I had to walk back. And I don't know if it was the first day of school, second day of school or whatever it was, but I was by myself, and I got lost. I didn't know where home was. And I started crying, and a neighbor knew where I lived, so he took me there. But I remember that. And then the third thing I remember in Half Moon Bay was that my mother gave me some money to go shopping and get some bread or whatever it was, she gave me a twenty dollar bill. You know, this is during the Depression, a twenty dollar bill was a lot of money. And on the way back, I lost the money, I dropped the money someplace, and I don't know where. And so I remember that, I felt so guilty. I still feel guilty about that. Yeah, I lost the money, the change.

BN: It might still be there.

RM: Yeah, look out there in the road. So those are the things in Half Moon Bay.

BN: Just to pause for a minute, your mother is Issei, so at home, did you speak Japanese at home?

RM: I was told that I spoke Japanese, and so I had to learn English. But once I had learned English, I think I just spoke English all the time because my mother speaks English, and my father, he's pretty good in English, he was here since he was fourteen years old, so I didn't have any trouble speaking English. But Japanese, I had to speak with my aunts and uncles, my grandfather, I tried to speak some Japanese.

BN: Even though both of your parents spoke English, you still spoke Japanese at home?

RM: I don't think I spoke Japanese at home although I went to Japanese school. I didn't go to Japanese school until I went to Pescadero. Now, after Half Moon Bay, we went back to Pescadero, to my grandfather's place again. And I was still in the first grade, I went to first grade, second grade, and I don't know if I was in the third grade when I went to San Francisco. But I always had, my youngest uncle is just a year older than I am, so I always had playmates. I always played with my two youngest uncles. My oldest uncle, somehow he was not with our gang. [Laughs] And so my two uncles always get blamed for whatever we do, because I'm the youngest so I don't get blamed. Like we would be smoking, we'd make it out of the weeds that that was growing, or we'd go into my grandfather's room and steal his cigarettes and things like that.

BN: And these uncles, these are your mother's...

RM: Brother, yeah.

BN: Because you were so young, they were just a few years older than you.

RM: Yeah.

BN: So you really... you had a lot of extended family on both sides, your father and your mother.

RM: Right. Also, in Pescadero, a little side note, actually. But Chiura Obata, when he was teaching at Berkeley -- this is what my mother told me...

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

<Begin Segment 8>

RM: So Chiura Obata, when he was going to the University of California, he would come to my grandfather's for a rest. That's what my mother told me out of the blue one day. I don't know what we were talking about, but she just told me. And he painted my uncle on a tricycle, and he gave that to my grandfather. And unfortunately, all that was burnt up when vandals set fire to all the structures in the farm. The house and the barn and the workers' housing.

BN: Is this when you, the family was in camp?

RM: Well, yeah, just before we came back, they didn't want us coming back.

BN: What was the connection between Obata -- I mean, who did he know?

RM: I don't know how he knew.

BN: You just know that he came.

RM: I guess he wanted to go out in the country, and my grandfather, I guess someone knew him and they recommended he come out.

BN: I mean, Obata was known for doing that, for going out in the country and painting.

RM: Oh, yeah. Yeah, so that's my connection with Obata. [Laughs] I'm sure he did more than one painting there, because I'm sure he went out there to paint the ocean. You know, my grandfather was a fisherman, so he would go out to the surf and bring back breakfast, you know. So he would be out there in the morning, out in that surf. So I'm sure Obata would have painted some of that, and unfortunately...

BN: All lost.

RM: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 9>

RM: So that's Pescadero. Then it must have been about 1938, I guess we moved to the city, San Francisco, because my father couldn't take farming, it was too rough on him. So we first moved to Myrtle Street, which was, I think, Block... it's kind of like an alley which was the other side of Geary or O'Farrell. It was behind the Salvation Army or something, it seemed like. Anyway, there was an apartment that we lived in there for a short time. I remember learning... not ice skating, but roller skating. We would roller skate there and almost get hit by a car and all that. And then we moved to Buchanan Street right in J-Town near Bush, which was right around the corner from Kinmon Gakuen, which was, our backyards were against each other. So I went to Kinmon Gakuen.

BN: What did your father or your parents, what did they do for a living at that point?

RM: My father, when we went to the city, was a painter. He painted houses. So that's what he did. He had a lot of things in the basement that, in fact, when the war started, we put everything in the basement, boarded it all up. It was three flats, so we lived on one flat and rented two flats, so made income.

BN: It sounded like you had other family nearby?

RM: I had Haluto, that soldier, his family lived in... I don't know where they went before the war, if it was after the war or before the war. Must have been before the war. They lived on Clay Street, you know, it's about five blocks away. So when the war started, California Street was the border, you couldn't cross California Street. You couldn't visit them anymore. So when we went to camp, I think they first... no, I think they went with us, I'm not sure. Can't remember if they went to Esparto.

BN: And they were... his family, this is on your father's side?

RM: Yeah, my father's side.

BN: One of your father's brothers.

RM: Yeah. But when we went to camp, my mother's family all went also. Not all of them, because those that were married didn't go, but the unmarried, the three boys and two girls went with us, because it was their sister's place in Esparto. In fact, that's their place. Koki Tsuji, the one that, he took the picture, the Tsuji family, he was the oldest son. And when he graduated high school, he wanted to be a photographer, so he actually went back east, I don't know exactly where. But he went to photography school, and while he was there, his father died. So he had to come back and take over the family. And so he never got to be a professional photographer, but he was always our family photographer. So when my grandfather and grandmother came from Japan in 1938, I guess it was, we took them to Esparto, and so he took their pictures under those blossoms.

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

<Begin Segment 10>

BN: Now, before we get to the war, I just wanted to ask a couple more things about San Francisco. Now you're in a city, there's kind of a Japanese community there, I'm wondering if your family was involved in any kind of Japanese church or kenjinkai or any kind of community activities at that point?

RM: No. My father was Seicho-no-Ie, you know Seicho-no-Ie? He got into that. As far as I remember, I remembered going to a meeting in Pescadero when I was in the first grade. And the reason I remember is the early books of Seicho-no-Ie had beans just as it's coming out of the ground with a couple of shoots. It was on all the covers of the books. So I remember going to this house where they had that book. So I remember that first Seicho-no-Ie meeting that my father took me there. And I remember that the house was next to a running brook, you know, waterway. But that's about all I remember.

BN: Was it just your father?

RM: My father.

BN: Or the whole family?

RM: Just my father, just my father. It was because of his ulcers, you could cure the ulcers. In fact, there were many cases where illnesses were apparently cured. And, in fact, he said that in x-rays, his x-rays were shown that his ulcers were completely gone, but it resurfaced. He had ulcers until he had surgery.

BN: Did he continue with Seicho-no-Ie through camp?

RM: Yeah. After the war, he was the leader. In fact, he was the highest ranking non-minister in northern California. And then in the summers he went to Japan to the Seicho-no-Ie training center, and he did that for maybe, I don't know how many years, at least three years on his summer, when he was working. He was working at Simmons mattress company, that was what he did, worked at Simmons. Because that was the only job he could get after the war, Simmons Mattress. And then on the summers, vacation, he would go to Japan and study at the Seicho-no-Ie training center in Uji and in Tokyo, and he became a minister. So he would go all over northern California lecturing on weekends. And that was what he was going to do after he retired was to keep ministering. But unfortunately, he was killed. In fact, another thing that he was going to do was Koki Tsuji, his wife Mary Jane, or Toshiko, got sleeping sickness in Esparto. And so the only thing was to get away from that heat, so he moved to Lomita and became a gardener. And he was a Boy Scout, he took the kids camping and all that stuff, and he started building a trimaran in his back yard. And then it got so big, he had to build it on the front yard. And then finally the city says you can't park it here, you have to take it to the marina. But anyway, he finished it, and him and my dad was going to go to Hawaii on that trimaran. But my father got killed, so he couldn't do that anymore. But he took us on that trimaran out in the ocean there. It was very nice, a trimaran's a nice, kind of steadier. But that's how handy he was. All his furniture was homemade, he made his own rocking chair and everything. But he was a farmer so they had to always make their own things, and so he was very handy.

BN: That kind of skill came in handy in camp, I bet.

RM: Yeah. And photography, he was our family photographer.

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

<Begin Segment 11>

BN: Okay, so let's go there now to the war. Do you remember, I think you were about nine, ten years old.

RM: I was nine -- ten, I was ten. Yeah, when the war started, of course, I didn't think myself other than an American. It didn't even dawn on me I was Japanese, although I was going to Japanese school. But that morning, I looked out the window and I saw police on every intersection, and I don't know whether they were there for our protection, or because they were afraid we were going to do something or whatever. But that was my first impression of when the war started. And then we went to school normally, like any other day. We would try to be patriotic, and school, we would dress up like a soldier with crepe paper. And then we also noticed that all Japanese families were anxious in there. They were all on edge. People were being taken away, they don't know why he was being taken away or whey this guy was being taken away.

BN: Was anyone in your family among those?

RM: No. but my mother was very worried that my father might be taken away, although there was no reason. Of course, my Japanese school teacher was taken away first, and he was taken away right away. But my neighbor, his father was taken away, Watanabe, his name was Watanabe. So there was a lot of anxiety in the family, so anything Japanese, either destroy it or hide it or do something with it. And so my mother... my father liked Japanese music, that's why we had shortwave radio, we could listen to Japan, listen to the radio. And he used to buy records, we used to go to the record shop. He used to listen to record, I used to go to the toy department, look at the toys. Anyway, so my mother was worried that because he had Japanese music, they might take him away. So she destroyed all the Japanese records. I don't know what else she destroyed, but I still have the obutsudan, I still have it. I think my father got that about 1937 or '38, and I still have it upstairs.

BN: Where was it during the war?

RM: The obutsudan?

BN: Yeah.

RM: My father made a room in the garage, I mean, in the basement, and put all our personal things there and boarded it up with plywood, made a big room and boarded it all up. And so when we came back, everything was there, so we didn't lose those things.

BN: Was it hidden?

RM: Hmm?

BN: Was it sort of hidden? Did he put the plywood up sort of to hide it?

RM: Made it like another room, yeah.

BN: I was just wondering if he did that on purpose so that people wouldn't know that it was there to vandalize or whatever.

RM: Well, people wouldn't vandalize it because we had it rented. We had somebody rent it, had them keep the rent, just give us our house back when we come back. But you could rent it, keep the rent, yeah, so that's what we did. And three flats, so they would have made money.

BN: So the renters, I mean, they didn't pull anything? They did return the property?

RM: Yeah, because it was under my mother's name. Because my mother's a Nisei, so we had our own house. So we were fortunate. And then like even the land in Mendocino County was under my mother's name for my uncle. She took care of all the books, paying the payments and all that, she took care of it for them.

BN: Who was the renter of your house? Was it someone you had some...

RM: I'm not sure, I'm not sure. But before we came back, my father came back early to have it empty so that we can come back.

BN: So in that respect, you were kind of one of the fortunate ones, that you had something to come back to.

RM: Yeah. So we had it emptied, so we had three flats, all emptied, so all our relatives could have a place to come back to.

BN: And then when we were talking earlier, you mentioned that before the exclusion order came, that you and other parts of the extended family that gathered at Esparto.

RM: Esparto, yeah.

BN: Your, Esparto was your...

RM: My mother's sister's place, yeah, Koki Tsuji, and Toshiko, or she got that American name, which, Mary Jane, which is just a given name.

BN: Who all was there? It was your family and...

RM: All the Morimotos, my grandfather, Frank, Fred, William, the boys, and then the two youngest girls, Mae, which is Sumako, and Ayako. There was Ayako, and Mae is the youngest. She married Frank's buddy in the army, so she went to live in Nampa, Idaho.

BN: And then how long were you there before you had to --

RM: Probably short time, I don't know how long it was. I think in this confusion, too, I skipped a grade in this process. I thought I was in the fourth grade in San Francisco. It might have been the fifth, but I thought I was the fourth. But because when I went into Amache, I was in the sixth grade, and that was one year later, so I must have been in the fifth grade though. But I know I skipped some, at least a half a grade there.

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

<Begin Segment 12>

BN: Then from there, you all went together to Merced.

RM: Yeah. And then also in Esparto, we had the Matsumuras, that's my grandmother's family, her brother. Of course, my grandmother was passed away already, but her family, it was my grandfather's best friend, his family, extended family were all living there. So they all went together to Merced. So I had the dates... in fact, I probably have a form that tells you the dates. That we went to Merced, and then I think it was in September that we went to Amache. But in Merced fairgrounds, it was in the middle of a vineyard. And I don't remember anything about it except the address. It was H-4-27, and I don't know what that stands for now, but it was grape season. So the guards would cut some grapes for us, and pass these grapes through the barbed wires so we could eat some grapes. That was kind of nice.

BN: And were your extended family members in the same barrack?

RM: I don't know. In Merced, I don't know. I don't have that much recollection of Merced. In Amache, we were pretty close, so most of them were in Block 8E. But my grandfather and the Morimotos were in 7E, next block.

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

<Begin Segment 13>

BN: So after Merced, that you don't remember too much on...

RM: Going to Amache? Yeah, I remember the train ride where it was quite hot and stuffy, and no air conditioning on the train in those days. It was not comfortable trains, and when you're on those trains for two or three days, kids get pretty restless. And so somewhere out in the desert they stop the train to let us kind of stretch and kind of run around a little bit. But when we got out of the train, we were surrounded by machine gun. So my reaction was that we're going to all get killed, we're going to all get killed out there in the desert. But, of course, that didn't happen, we were put back on the train, and we traveled for another day or so, and we ended up in Amache, Colorado.

BN: What else do you remember about Amache? Were you involved in... you must have gone to school.

RM: Yeah, I was in the sixth grade. I had a Caucasian teacher, John W. Cochran, his name was, and a very nice teacher. I remember he took us out to the Arkansas River, which is outside the camp where we get our water. So we took a hike out there, which was kind of nice, that I remember. Other than that, the only thing I could remember about the camp was that someone told us that we're going to have a war with the next block kids. So arm yourself, collect as many rocks as you can. So we collected rocks but we never had to fight.

BN: Were you involved in Boy Scouts or sports, baseball?

RM: No. I played ping pong, we had a ping pong tournament. I don't know who started it, but each block would have their own competition and the winner would go to the, play against all the champions of all the blocks. So my first opponent was my cousin, Tosh, that was my second oldest cousin. And he didn't know too much about ping pong. But he was about sixteen, I guess, and maybe fifteen, sixteen. And I was ten, but I beat him. And my next opponent was Haluto, and he's good. He was playing before the war, and I used to go to his house and that's how he taught me how to play ping pong before the war. And, of course, he soundly beat me, and he eventually beat all the other champions of the blocks, and he was the first camp champion.

BN: How many years older was he than you?

RM: He must have been sixteen or... maybe six years? Maybe six years. See, he was in high school before the war. He was at Commerce High School in San Francisco, that's the reason I went to Commerce, because that's the only high school I knew. Well, in '45, 1945, he was twenty years old, twenty years old.

BN: And then did your parents work at Amache?

RM: Amache? Yeah. Of course, everybody had to work, otherwise you couldn't buy clothes or any of the incidentals that you wanted. So my mother was a nurse's aide, and so she learned a lot about nursing, so she did a lot of nursing for a family. In fact, Toshiko, when she went to Esparto when she had her last son, my mother went and took care of her for a couple of weeks. So she was a nurse's aide, and my father was a second cook, second cook in Block 8E. My uncle Satoji, the older uncle, was the chief cook. He was the chief cook for the block, and my father was the second cook. So that's what he did until... and we stayed about a year, less than a year, and Hachio, the brother that's below him, found a farmer that needed workers. And so we went to Utah, Spanish Fork, Utah, to farm. And that's where our connection with Fred Wada comes in.

BN: Before we get to that, I just want to go back to Amache for a couple more things.

RM: Okay, yeah.

BN: One was, I think we talked about this, that in your block, which was 8E, right?

RM: 8E. BN: E Block, Barrack number 4, and Apartment D.

BN: But I believe you said that the block was, that was where the San Francisco people were?

RM: No, no. The San Francisco people weren't in Amache.

BN: Oh, that's right, you were...

RM: Yeah, they were in Utah, they were in Southern Utah.

BN: You're coming from...

RM: Sacramento.

BN: Esparto.

RM: Esparto.

BN: So who were your neighbors in the block? Were people...

RM: You know, I don't know who they were, except my relatives, because people in the barrack were my relatives.

BN: Right, right. So you mainly hung around with your relatives?

RM: Well, I'm sure I hung around with friends, too, but I don't remember anybody. Even in the army, I don't remember anybody from the army.

BN: Right. Or maybe you didn't necessarily didn't know where they were from? Once you were there, everyone's kind of the same.

RM: Yeah.

BN: Okay. Well, then do you remember other things like movies, talent shows, that kind of thing?

RM: No, I don't remember anything like that. It was so short that, you know, when you're ten years old, you don't remember.

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

<Begin Segment 14>

BN: So anyway, your family and some of your extended family then go to Utah.

RM: Yeah. We went to Spanish Fork... well, you want me to get to Fred Wada now? [Laughs] My uncle Hachio, the one that was farming up there in Mendocino County, knew Fred because, through the produce market. Fred was involved with the market here in Los Angeles, and my uncle was up in the San Francisco area. But they somehow knew each other. So when Fred took a bunch of San Francisco people up to, was it Utah or Colorado? Utah, I guess it was. Yeah, Utah, no, around Salt Lake, Ogden area, he took them up there to farm. He needed farming equipment, so he asked my uncle for farming equipment. Because if you're going to leave anyway, you don't need it. And so my uncle sent him the farming equipment. And then in the meantime, most of the people who had gone up with Fred decided they didn't want to farm, so they went to Salt Lake City or Ogden and found another type of job. And so Fred needed workers, so he asked my uncle if we could come over there and help farm. And so my uncle went out there to take a look at the land, and when he saw the land, he said, "No, this not that conducive for farming," so he declined. But while he was there, he looked for other places that we might go to. So he found this place in Spanish Fork, Utah, that needed workers, so he contracted for us to go.

BN: Where was Spanish Fork?

RM: Spanish Fork is below Provo, below Provo, a short way below Provo. So we went there, I was in the sixth grade, finished my sixth grade there, I guess. And we finished a contract. I don't know exactly what they did, I never saw what they did. But we lived in... it must have been two houses there, I don't know if we had two houses, because I think Hachio, Nancy and his family, they lived in a separate house than we did. We had a whole house with, you know, three or four families, so we had only one room. And I know my older cousins, like Haluto and Tosh and Eddie, who was Kinjiro's adopted son, actually, because he was actually my Morimotos, Mitsuyoshi, the one that was in Japan, well, he married the Tsuji, one of the sisters, the older sister of Tsuji. And when he died, she remarried. She married into the Moriguchis, they were adopted by the Moriguchi, Kinjiro, the oldest brother, second oldest brother. And they were never told that they were adopted, or that they were a Moriguchi, that they were a Morimoto, until she was going to pass away. Before she passed away, finally told them. But Jack or Eddie, I can't remember which one, one of them suspected that they were adopted because when they went in the army, they had a blood test, and they didn't match their mother, or something was different about the blood test. But they didn't say anything, but the mother, before she died, she told them the truth. So the mother never told the kids who their father really was, and they didn't want anybody else to tell them. So all his pictures were hidden, and so when they finally found out, when she died, I found the pictures that my mother had of him, a very handsome guy, he was a very handsome guy, my Morimoto grandfather's son. And so I gave it to them so that they'll have an idea of who their real father was. But they were still, grew up as a Moriguchi.

But we all lived in one room, and the older kids, they lived in the attic because there was no room. So the older lived in the attic and the other families lived in one room. So it was very crowded. But we did that just for the summer, and then the Tsuji, Koki's younger brother, was farming in Springfield, which is near Provo. And they needed some workers to pick raspberries, pick cherries, and so my cousin Eddie, Jack, Haluto, who else? And my father was going to go to work. Well, I wanted to go, too, I'm eleven years old, I wanted to go. So I cried and cried and cried, said, "I want to go, too. My cousins are going and they're only a year older than I am." So they finally let me go since my father was going to go. And we picked raspberries, and we picked by the pound or the basket, I don't remember, but I did better than my cousins. And then we picked cherries and you had to carry the ladder. Well, the ladders are heavy for an eleven year old kid, right? My father had to help me carry the ladder from place to place to pick the cherries. But I picked a lot of cherries, and I guess I did okay. Because when we thinned the peaches, my uncle paid me adult wages, something like eighty-five cents an hour, that was adult wages. And he paid me adult wages, and doing, thinning peaches. And my father, of course, had to wash my clothes and all that. And I was quite proud of making some money, and went home and gave the money to my mom, it was a nice experience. So that was Spanish Fork. I didn't face any discrimination. Now, Nancy says they did, but I didn't feel any discrimination.

BN: Even in school?

RM: In school. In fact, we had a dance in sixth grade. In fact, before that, I had a crush on a girl in Spanish Fork. Her name was Carol Crump. And we didn't have desks, we had a table, and like four people sat on the table. And I wanted to give her a candy, but I had to give everybody on the table a candy, you know. [Laughs] Oh, my goodness. So anyway, I did something like that. And then we had a dance, so Jack was a year older than me, but we bought a bicycle, a Victory bike. You know, Victory bike, very plain and thin tires so that you could feel every bump. But anyway, we drove the bicycle to the dance, guess it must have been during the day. And the girls, I was very shy, you know, I wouldn't go ask the girls for a dance. So a girl came and asked me for a dance. [Laughs] So I didn't face any discrimination. So then we moved to American Fork for the next year, and we farmed. And we lived way out in the boondocks. You know, the paved road came only a mile, a mile and a half away, and that's where the school bus comes, they don't come to the dirt road. So I had to ride the bicycle to the paved road, and there was a farmhouse, so I leave my bicycle there. And I had to carry my brother on the bicycle to the bus stop.

Now, wintertime, snow, ice, cold, my father would take us sometime on, we had an old panel truck, but lot of times it wouldn't start. He had to crank it in the front to try to get it to crank to start it, a lot of times it wouldn't start, it was so cold. And then we didn't have any electricity out in the boondocks. We had a kerosene lamp, and so if it gets dark, you can't study. And my father made a furo, a bathhouse, and he made a galvanized tank, and then he put that in there, and I don't know what else was in there. He carried that galvanized tank all the way to San Francisco after the war, and he had it in his backyard. But we had a chicken coop, so we had chickens, eggs. I don't know if we had indoor water, because we had to have water running outside all the time. Because wintertime, if you shut it off, it would freeze and you won't have water. So it was running all the time, so icicles, big ice sculptures where the water flowed.

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

<Begin Segment 15>

BN: Did you have to help out on the farm?

RM: Yeah. You know, I don't know exactly what the main crop was. We had, I know we had cabbages, cabbages and... they harvest those at wintertime when it's cold. Your fingers are like ice already, the cabbages are cold. But you had to cut the cabbages and dump it onto the truck. One time, must have been the fall or something, way out in the sticks, so you don't expect anybody out there. But there's a car roaming around in our field out there. I had a whistle, I blew that whistle, scared the heck out of them, they're trying to steal our cabbage. [Laughs] Then one time when we're going to school, we're on a school bus. And the driver stooped down to pick something up, went off the road down in the ditch, threw me off, and landed on the back of the seat onto my stomach, boom. And I ended up in the hospital.

BN: What did you injure?

RM: I don't know what it was, I can't remember now. But it was just for a while. But backseat, I hit my middle in the backseat, because I went up and landed.

BN: Were there other Japanese families in the area?

RM: No. My cousin was farming there also, June, Haluto's sister, who was the same class, we were in the same class. So, in fact, before he went overseas, he came to the class and gave a talk. So my classmates knew that I had relatives in the army. The other... this is after the first year farming, my father quit and went back into the, we moved to the city, to the property of this guy that we farmed for the first year. We lived in a chicken coop, a converted chicken coop, we lived in a converted chicken coop. My mother went -- this is in a town now, and the outskirts of town. So there was a chicken processing plant, so she went there. That's where they defeathered the birds, then they'd go down the line and dip them in wax so that it becomes hard and you could take the wax off and all the hair would come off the chicken. Then my father went to work in the turkey farm up in the Wasatch Mountains behind Provo, way back in the mountains there, they had a turkey farm, so he went to work taking care of the turkeys. And I went there back one time, and I had a slingshot. I made a slingshot, and I go bing, I hit in the turkeys, ping it, mean guy hitting the turkey on the head. That I remember. What else is there?

BN: So how long in total then were you in Utah?

RM: Let's see, I was there from '43, spring of '43 'til September of '45. So when the war ended, we went back to San Francisco. But I faced a lot of, in American Fork, which is between Provo and Salt Lake City, I faced a lot of discrimination where they threw rocks at me and called me names, and then tried to drown me in this water, an old gravel pit where they had dug the gravel out, and then the water seeped up and made a nice water, swimming pool. So everybody used to go swimming there, cold water. But some of the people didn't want me, so they said, "We're going to drown you." So I quit. I quit swimming there.

BN: You said earlier, was it the first, it was the first Spanish fort, there wasn't much to see. What was different about...

RM: I don't know. I don't know why. It just, people were just different. Then the Morimotos, my uncles and my aunt and my grandfather, they farmed the next town over, Lehi. They didn't have any trouble either, and he was going to high school, my uncles were going to high school there, and they didn't have any trouble. They grew tomatoes and celery. And in wintertime, when we were out in the boondocks, the irrigation ditch where the water was always flowing would freeze up, and we would skate on there. And in the summertime, we would go to my uncle's place, my cousin's place, and dam up that irrigation ditch, make a swimming pool out of that, and sometimes we would even have a carp, carp would come up through there. A carp, we would catch a carp. So that's some experience.

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

<Begin Segment 16>

BN: So before we get to San Francisco, I wanted to ask you about Haluto. So can you tell, talk about his story? Was he drafted?

RM: Drafted, yeah.

BN: And this is after you were in Utah.

RM: Yeah. I think he wanted to graduate with the Granada, the Amache people that he was in school with, so he went back to Amache just to graduate. And I think that's where he got his draft notices, and so he went to Fort Douglas, Utah, which is right at Salt Lake City. And I don't know where he trained, I don't know if they trained at Fort Douglas, I don't think they did. So I don't know where he trained, but then before he went overseas, he came and talked, talked at the class and then he went to Shelby.

BN: And then he wrote back to...

RM: Yeah, I wrote him a lot of letters when I was in... and in fact, his mother told me that when his letters were returned after he was killed, his bloodstained letters that I had written him was returned. But I haven't seen that, they didn't show me that letter. This was all letters to his sister. It starts with this letter, I start this letter that his father wrote to him when he went back into camp, told him about that ping pong is all right to be good at, but to, "study hard," because he said, "there's going to be a lot of opportunity for you after the war," but unfortunately he never made it. So I started off with that letter. And I have a little letter in the back, because the younger, the only girls that's alive now never knew him. So I just told a little bit about him from my perspective.

BN: How did you find out about, that he was killed?

RM: I can't remember. But I think I was living in American Fork, and the family had moved to Salt Lake City at that time to work in in the city instead of farming. And the interesting thing is, when the war ended, the mother and June, the sister, met every troop train that went through to see if they could find someone that would have known him. And fortunately they did. One of the troop trains that went by had the 442 in it, and they got to talk to him. They recognized her because he had pictures of her, and so they recognized her. And I had talked to someone that knew him. In fact, he said he was right behind him when he was killed. In fact, his son worked for (JANM). You know Hamada? What was his name, first name? I can't remember. He was working the front desk, his son had the same name. Miles.

BN: Oh, yeah.

RM: Well, his father, when I talked to him, he was already in the nursing home in Boyle Heights. But he remembered that Haluto, when he was hit by or he was killed, he was hit by a mortar. He was a walkie-talkie carrier, he carried a radio for his company commander.

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

<Begin Segment 17>

BN: And then, because you said in '45, was it August of '45 that the family moved back?

RM: I went back in September of '45, yeah.

BN: Was there a precipitating event?

RM: No. The war had ended and so we can either go back... and so my father went back, I don't know if it was one or two weeks before, set everything up for us. And so we went back with, I can't remember who we went back with. We went back with somebody else that took us, helped us.

BN: And then you were able to move into your old house?

RM: Yeah. Instead of the first floor, we took the third floor. So the first floor, we hasd my mother's sister, Kiyo Matsuki, her and her husband Peter, and (his brothers were) in the service, but Peter was not in the service. The two brothers were in the service and one of the brothers, I think their family moved in with Peter and them. Then in the second floor, my father's youngest brother's in-laws, brother-in-law and their inlaw, the wife's sister, that's the Furushos and the Sekos, they moved in the second floor. They were single couples, not single, they were couples, no children, they were two couples with no children. They eventually had boys, two boys, one each, there at that time. And then we lived up on the third floor, and my youngest uncle William stayed with me, stayed in the same bed with me. My brother had the closet. [Laughs] It was a big closet, I guess it's a utility closet for brooms and things, but a bed fit in there, so he was able to get his own room.

BN: Housing was at a premium.

RM: And then we rented out two rooms in the front.

BN: Two, not...

RM: Two separate rooms we rented out.

BN: Not to other family members.

RM: Other families.

BN: Oh, to other people.

RM: Not related. But people needed a place to stay.

BN: So you had a lot of people in that house.

RM: Yeah.

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

<Begin Segment 18>

BN: And then you mentioned you started school?

RM: I was in high school, yeah, Commerce High School, that's downtown. That's why it was a multiracial school, lot of Chinese, lot of Italians. I had one Yugoslavian, Branislav Yaich, I remember his name. [Laughs] He was a football player.

BN: And then you told kind of a funny story about your father kind of telling you what you were going to study in college?

RM: Oh, yeah. When I was a junior, he told me, "What are you going to be when you grow up? What are you going to do?" I said, "I don't know." "Well," he said, "why don't you be a pharmacist?" I said, "Well, okay." Never been in a pharmacy, I mean, I never knew what a pharmacist did, I've never seen what he did. I've been in a drugstore, I've bought candy and things like that in a drugstore, but I never bought any medicine in a drugstore or anything like that. So I started Berkeley, because pharmacy school was in San Francisco, but they send you to Berkeley to take all your pre-pharmacy courses and eliminate you, actually. In fact, I had two friends who were going to be in pharmacy but they dropped out because they couldn't make it to either. But also we took ROTC. It was required because it was a state... what was that called? Anyway, ROTC was required, so we took ROTC. And I didn't continue after, I only took two years. I should have continued four years, I would have been an officer, but I only took it two years. But I got a B average, but that wasn't good enough. You're competing in physics with physics majors and you're competing in chemistry with chemistry majors and other... I can't remember now. So anyway, I didn't make it, and so I decided that I should transfer to a school that would accept me.

So I went up to Oregon State to see how that would be, but it was too rainy for me. Now, I knew Salt Lake City, so I said, well, maybe I'll go to Salt Lake City. And it didn't dawn on me that it snows up there. But I bought a car the second year I guess, while I was up at Utah, University of Utah. I had a car, I bought a 1950 Chevrolet with money that I had saved working for my uncle on his farm. And so I was very popular because I was the only one that had a car. But when we first went up there, I had the dorm, it was Fort Douglas, so the university had the Fort Douglas handed over to them, I guess. And so we lived in the barracks, so here we are back in the barracks. [Laughs] I lived in the barracks. That summer when I came home, I heard lightning hit that barrack. And then the second year when I went back, I got a different room, I got the hospital for the fort. So this was a nice building, a real big, it's a hospital, so it was a nice room, private room, and nice room, so it was very nice. Other people had adjoining wooden buildings, so they were not as comfortable.

But we had a lot of athletes up there, athletes that stayed up there in the barracks in the dorms. So we had a lot of contact with them. In fact, we played intermural basketball, and the football players played intermural basketball, and I was guarding this great big 250-pound, six feet two or six feet four, a football player, I'm guarding him. I couldn't guard him, but I was faster than him, so I could get around him. But if the ball went over my head, he'd get the ball but I couldn't touch him. So I also played basketball in the Nisei league there, and we heard that there was an all-star from Idaho, a Japanese American coming to play there by the name of Yosh Hirai from Idaho State. He's from Idaho Falls. So a Gen Mizutani, who was my best friend, who I met at the university there, we were doing everything together. So we hustled over to see him right away to recruit him for our basketball team. And Yosh at one time in high school scored sixty points in one game, so he was a real good basketball player. And so we played basketball, and they had an annual tournament, Salt Lake had a basketball tournament, and they used to recruit, not recruit, but have teams from L.A. come up to play. So we had people like Kaz Shinsato and who was that other basketball player that played for SC? Anyway, they came to play and we had teams from San Francisco, and the Chinese team, the Saints from San Francisco come and play. We had a team from San Jose, and we had a Greek team from Salt Lake City, all six-feet players. But the San Jose, San Francisco States always win. They were really good, they used to play, what do you call it... anyway, they were real good. When they came to play, I knew half the players because I went to high school with them. Most of them were from Commerce High. So I knew some of them, so it was a nice reunion.

BN: Then by this time, had you warmed up to pharmacy?

RM: Yeah, okay. When the junior, I can't remember, or senior year, our pharmacy school actually took a train to the pharmaceutical manufacturing companies back east, from Salt Lake. So we went to Detroit to Eli Lilly, we went to Park Davis, we went to Walgreen, and I can't remember where else. But on the train, for instance, it was on a Sunday, it's funny because most of these pharmacy students from Salt Lake were Mormons. Well, they don't drink anything stimulant. So they don't drink coffee, they'll drink milk or water. So they don't drink... so we go to a banquet, and they drink water, and here we're drinking coffee. And they don't drink any hard liquor or anything like that. It was kind of strange, but we had a good trip, had a nice time, learned about manufacturing companies, see how they make the medicines. So then I graduated in 1954, and I stayed to take the state board and my folks went back home.

BN: This is the State Board of Utah?

RM: Utah, I took the state board. And then after I took that state board, I went to California, came back to take the California State Board. But since I didn't have the experience, I couldn't take the practical exam of the State Board of California, so I couldn't get registered until I finished that one part, which I got when I was in the army. So I couldn't get a job, it was hard to get a job. I came home and looked for a job, but I couldn't get a job anyplace. Finally, I got a job in Vallejo -- you know, Vallejo is north of San Francisco on the East Bay side -- with Kaiser where the shipyard was out there, Kaiser. And a Japanese American was the head of the pharmacy there, he hired me. It only lasted a couple of months because I got drafted. But I had to drive San Francisco through the Golden Gate Bridge, and then the Richmond Bridge to get to Vallejo, so it was a long ways, but I had a job there temporarily. Then I got drafted and I was supposed to report in the beginning of December. December I was supposed to...

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

<Begin Segment 19>

BN: This is December of?

RM: December of '54. Fifty-four. December of '54. I graduated in September, and December I was drafted, and then they extended it 'til after Christmas. So I went after Christmas and went a couple of months to Fort Ord. And, of course, when you're in training, basic training, you can't leave the post, the camp. But since they don't have Buddhist church there, you were able to leave the camp to go to church to Monterey. So that was our excuse to leave the camp to go to Monterey, and my aunt Ayako had married Futakazu Sakino, who was from Monterey. So he was living not too far from the Buddhist Temple, so I would get off the bus at the Buddhist Temple and walk over to her house, and she would cook me up some Japanese food and home cooked meals. So I did that every Sunday. And then I finished basic training, and a lot of the people I was with were pharmacists, former pharmacists who had just graduated same time I did. And so we were all assigned to Fort Sam Houston in Texas. And we were supposed to be training as corpsmen and aidmen. And all the officers were all pharmacists also who had taken ROTC. So they were all people who graduated at the same time I did. And we had to, aidmen, we had to go in the battlefield to bring back wounded soldiers. And I was always the lightest guy, I was the smallest guy, so I was always the guy that they carried. [Laughs] So I didn't have to carry anybody, they always carried me. But while I was there, I was able to visit Sam Houston, the Alamo, I visited the Alamo. I also visited the Japanese sunken garden. It was called the Oriental Garden, at that time, I think, or the Chinese Garden, I can't remember what it was, but it wasn't called the Japanese sunken garden. But it was not on the river, by the river there, there was a Japanese garden. I don't know what it is now or if it's still there or not.

BN: Is this the one in...

RM: San Antonio, yeah. Still there. And I remember visiting that. And then one time I visited Austin, and I hit a sandstorm. You couldn't see anything, it was just sand all over. It was terrible, I got sand all over. Sandstorm. So anyway, that was about my experience in Sam Houston. Then we got assigned to our permanent station, and I got sent to Fort Lewis, Washington, 8th Field Hospital, 43rd medical group. So I was an aidman, and then I was able to get it changed to pharmacy specialist. And I gave a lot of lectures, lectures on pharmacology and CBR, Chemical Biological Radiological warfare. And also the captain, the captain of our unit was a former, it was a pharmacist, but he was in the military. And so when I got discharged, I gave him all my notes so he could give classes. And I was also the mailman. But we set up tents, we set up tents to set up the hospital, because it was a MASH unit, so we set up tents. So it was a surgical hospital, it's all tent by tent.

So you got anything else there about... oh, yeah. It was one my miserable time in the army was in Fort Lewis. Because it was so tedious doing the same thing over, and then you have guard duty, KP duties, walking the highway, picking up garbage, and it was really dumb, very bad for me. So I would complain and so forth, but I had a couple of interesting TDYs, temporary duties. And one was to go to Yakima, Yakima firing range in Eastern Oregon to support the National Guards in the reserves where they were training, but it was out in the desert. Sagebrushes, my allergy was terrible there because of the sagebrush. But the lieutenants who were there with me, they were all pharmacists just like I was, they graduated at the same time. So we were buddy-buddies, we went bowling together, we went to Yakima and bowled, or went to eat or whatever. So it was pretty informal, but that was just for a short period of time for temporary duty.

Then another temporary duty was going to Madigan General Hospital, which was located in Tacoma, and that was another great duty. We worked in the pharmacy, actually, there, filled prescriptions. But we were still in the army so it was very strict. You washed down everything with alcohol every morning. Everything else was pretty lax, you know, and nothing was too strict other than at work, doing the work there. But that was very good duty, but also got my experience there, I got my experience as a pharmacist. And so I finally got my hours, I got my hours of experience. So one day I went to the University of Washington in Seattle and asked them when they're going to have their practical exam. And they said, "Well, we're going to have it today." So I said, "Can I take the test?" And they let me take the test and so I took my test there and I asked them to send it down to California, so that's how I got my, all my hours in and now I was registered in California. Also, going to Seattle, William, Bill, my uncle, him and his friends knew of a friend in Seattle, so they introduced me to this family. What were their names? I can't remember their names now. But it was two sisters and a brother, they lost their parents, so they're all living together. So they let me come and they would treat me to homemade meals. So I used to go there not real often but quite often, I used to go to Seattle and visit them. So it was a diversion.

There was also... this I haven't told anybody. [Laughs] But I think it was a Buddhist church I went to, and I met this girl, Sachi I think her name was, I can't remember. She was from Idaho. And later, much later when I moved down to Los Angeles, the church, Buddhist church had a district or some kind of an area meeting, and so they had a picnic. So I met this same girl from Seattle, and her cousin came, they were from near Ontario, that's eastern Oregon. And I met them, and I came to be very good friends with them. In fact, I visited them in Idaho when I went to see my aunt up in Idaho when I was single, working. [Laughs] So anyway.

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

<Begin Segment 20>

BN: So how long were you in the army?

RM: Yeah, I went in December of '54, and I got out in September of '56. I was supposed to stay 'til December, but if you went back to school, you got out early. So I went back to San Francisco State as a graduate student and took up some courses like merchandising or finance or something that prepared me for, to own a pharmacy. So I took some courses for one semester, and then I quit and I went to work. But I got out three months early because of school. And then before I got discharged, I came home on leave and I bought a car. So I bought a 1956 Oldsmobile, so when I got out of the service I had a new car and that lasted me a long time.

BN: Then where was your first job?

RM: The what?

BN: Where was your first job?

RM: Oh, yeah. When I got out, I looked for a job, and it was very hard to find a job, I couldn't find a job. I had one temporary job in the Mission district in San Francisco, that was very short term. And then I got a job in San Mateo. It's kind of a long drive but that was the only job that I could find. It was a new housing district and there was a new pharmacy that opened up. Can't remember the name of the school, the name of the pharmacy. It was right off the 101. But anyway, I got this job. I swept the floor. [Laughs] I swept the floor, I didn't mind that. There was an old man that was the pharmacist there, and then that was the first job. So I worked there, so from about, I don't know, just maybe a year or so. Then my friends who came to Southern California, my friends from the University of Utah, like Gen and Yosh, they were, well, Gen was a pharmacist, Yosh was an aeronautical engineer, they were rooming in Burbank and they had other roommates who were working in Burbank for Lockheed. And so they said I should come and join them since Gen was now going to active duty, he took ROTC so he was going to active duty as a second lieutenant. And so they needed somebody to take his place, so they told me to come and join 'em.

So I moved down here and I looked for a job, and I got a job, what's that main drag that goes from the airport? I can't remember, what is that street in Burbank? But anyway, Alba's Drug is the name of the drugstore that I got a job with. So I got a job there, and that's where I met my first movie star, Debbie Reynolds, Debbie Reynolds. She was queen of Burbank. At that time, she was married to Eddie Fisher. But anyway, I met Debbie Reynolds as the first customer. And then DeSilvan, that's the guy's name, he had another pharmacy in Toluca Lake, so sometimes I worked at the Toluca Lake on Riverside Drive, and that's where Bing Crosby lived, I never met him, and Bob Hope lives there. Well, I met Tennessee Ernie Ford, I met him there. So, let's see. When did I change jobs? Then I changed jobs to Van Nuys Boulevard, a medical building. Medical building, I don't know if that was after I got married. Maybe it was after I got married I moved there, because we had an apartment. In fact, October 3rd was our anniversary. [Laughs] I had forgotten all about it, she reminded me yesterday.

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

<Begin Segment 21>

BN: How did you meet your wife?

RM: Okay, so it was '58. My friend in San Francisco, Steve Ihara in San Francisco, he met -- my wife's name is Akiko, I just call her Aki -- her sister, Kimi, in San Francisco. She was working in San Francisco, so they met over there. And so when Steve knew that I was moving here, he told Kimi to have a party for, New Year party for us boys, because we were batching, our New Year's on that year when she comes home for the New Year's. And so when was that? '58, I guess it was. Anyway, so Kimi invited us for a New Year's Eve party at her sister's place, and so us boys, us single guys, we all went there, and we would dance and so forth. And so that's how I met her, because of my friend Steve up in San Francisco. He passed away already, too.

BN: And then when did you get married?

RM: '59.

BN: You're my parents' age.

RM: Oh, yeah? Oh.

BN: This would have been...

RM: Yeah, we got married in the Buddhist church in West L.A.

BN: Oh, okay. I live a block away from there.

RM: Is that right? [Laughs]

BN: I walk my dog past it every day.

RM: Oh, yeah.

BN: So sixty-three years then.

RM: Yeah. So when's your anniversary of your parents?

BN: I can't remember, September, I think. I can barely remember my own. [Laughs] And then regarding pharmacy, I mean, you stayed, you remained a pharmacist for decades, subsequently, right?

RM: Yeah.

BN: Something your father, you didn't even know what it was when your father recommended you pursue that. Did you come to enjoy it at a certain point?

RM: Oh, yeah.

BN: What did you like about it?

RM: Nice clean job, nice clean job, nice clean job, yeah. I was good in math and I was good in science, so I didn't have any trouble getting into even accounting, I could have done that. I would have been happy there, too, I think. In fact, that's what my cousin Eddie Moriguchi, when we were going to Cal, he was ahead of me in school. But he went three years into chemical engineering at Cal and he changed his major and he became a CPA eventually, but he changed his major. So I'm the first one in my family to graduate with a BS. But I got sidetracked again. So I was working in Van Nuys in a medical building, and I met a lot of movie stars there, even Esther Williams. And Bob Hope came through there, the Rifleman, Chuck Connors, Buddy Hackett, all kinds of people. Anyway, and then we, when we first got married, we stayed in an apartment in Van Nuys, but when the first born, first child was going to be born, we decided we'd better buy a house. So we bought a house a couple miles from here, still in Granada Hills, just below the dam there. In fact, we had to evacuate when we had that earthquake, first earthquake. But we moved there, bought the house there, and we stayed there until 1974. So we've been here since 1974.

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

<Begin Segment 22>

BN: I mean, this is about where JACL comes into play, right?

RM: Yeah, it was...

BN: Started soon after...

RM: ...about 1960. I had to do something. I don't know how I got into it, I have no idea how it did, but I got involved with the JACL. They wanted me on the board, and I was on the JACL board for I don't know how many years.

BN: This is the board of the San Fernando...

RM: San Fernando Valley, yeah. So it was mostly the older Niseis, the Niseis at that time. And we were pretty close, but they're all dead now, they're all gone.

BN: You were probably one of the younger ones, right?

RM: Yeah, there's one lady, Bo Sakauchi is, you know Bo Sakauguchi? You know the Sakaguchis? They're very prominent in the valley. In fact Sambo, he donated a lot of money´┐Ż to the symphony, the Asian symphony. I don't know if it was SC or UCLA. SC, I guess it was. And the Community Center, all kinds of different things. And Bo, that family, there were two doctors. One of the sisters and the older brother was a doctor, and the three other brothers were dentists. But the youngest dentist, Bo, which I was very close to, he was the last one to pass away just last year. And his wife is the youngest, she's younger than us. She moved to her daughter's, close to her daughter's place in Torrance, I think. But JACL, we did a lot of things. I was president in '68, and we did things like, well, repealed Title II of the Internal Security Act of 1950, that was one of the main things we did. We went talking to colleges and churches, and that's how I got Phil Shigekuni involved. Now, he's been very involved for many, many years, and the Kushidas, they all got involved because I went to their church.

BN: Do you know how that started? What was the impetus for the Title II campaign?

RM: Title II, there was Title II of the Internal Security Act, this was all about Communism.

BN: Right. I know, I'm familiar with it, but I'm just wondering how that started.

RM: Well, it was because of the, because they were going to set up concentration camps for Communism. So we didn't want any concentration camp for all these people on mere suspicions that they may be Communist or things like that. So that's why we didn't want something like that to happen, because that's what happened to us. So that was the impetus.

BN: One of the camps being prepared for that was Tule Lake.

RM: Yeah. So we were successful in that from a grassroots, from a small minority group.

<End Segment 22> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 23>

BN: And then you mentioned also, there was some involvement also with redevelopment, Little Tokyo redevelopment.

RM: No, I wasn't involved with the redevelopment of Little Tokyo. I was involved with the racial divide that happened after the riots. Yeah, that's what I was involved with.

BN: The '65...

RM: Yeah, the first riot. Because UCLA had a conference, and we went to this conference and they said that they wanted to set up community-based committees of different racial groups and then come up with some kind of solutions that they come up with. So we went, we had group-ins, most of them, I think, we happened to go to Van Nuys, Pacoima area, Black area, Black people's area there, Hispanic area, we went to their homes. There was about maybe almost a dozen people in the group, our group. I remember we had the police chief of San Fernando, and I was the only Asian, I represented the Japanese American community. I went to talk to our coordinating council to make sure it was all right. And they said I could represent them, so I did that, and I gave them a full report at the end. But after a number of meetings, we had a wrap up near Santa Barbara. There was a motel out there, I can't remember the name of the place, but we had a wrap up session up there to see what everybody else came up with. So I was involved with that. I also passed out Japanese American books, the few that we had. We didn't have very many, I can't remember the name of them. One was Nisei: The Quiet American, I don't know what else we had. But about two or three books, I went to all the high schools in the valley. And sometimes I was able to give talks to the class, history class, other times I gave a class at the library. Sometimes I just gave the book to the librarian. But that's what they did, we did that. So that was some of the things that we did as JACL, that I remember.

BN: And then, I may have asked you this, I don't remember, but for many of the Sansei that we interviewed, they all talk about how their parents didn't tell them about camp and so on. Did you tell your kids about your camp experience?

RM: I think I talk about it off and on about my experience, and about the family and all that, yeah, they know about it. I don't know how interested they are.

BN: Right, right.

<End Segment 23> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 24>

BN: I wanted to circle back to, you referred to your father who you mentioned was killed. What happened?

RM: Well, my father's number... one, two, third brother, the one that was yoshii, they sent for him to come and visit. So he came to visit, so he was up in northern California and they met all the relatives up there. So my father took, brought him to Southern California to meet us. And this was his sixty-third birthday, or just before his sixty-third birthday. So they came down here and we took them out to dinner and he was going home. And so my kids, they don't know my grandfather, I mean, their grandfather. My youngest was only about four years old, I guess, and my oldest was six-eight. He was born in '61, so he must have been seven or so. So they know very little about him. They spent a few days with us and then he drove home. Well, in the town, San Francisco, he was going home and around... was that Fell or Hayes? Can't remember which street. And Scott, around Scott, I can't remember the exact street, he was broadsided. And they didn't have bars, he had a Buick Skylark. And this car just went right through and hit him, broke his ribs and his internal organs. In fact, he hit his brother who was sitting next to him, broke his ribs. And my mother was knocked out, she was in the backseat, she was knocked out, the car hit the post. And we can't get witnesses, and so we can't prove that he was in the right. But the other car, one guy that was in the car ran away, but there was no witness, so even the insurance won't pay for anything. So anyway, he was put under sedation for a week, but he died. So it was quite a shock for me. When we went back, I went to see him, and then he seemed okay, so I came home. But then I had to go back the following week, and I just broke down. I just broke down at the airport. And like I said, he was the head of the Seicho-no-Ie there, so when they had the funeral, even if it was a rainy day, there must have been, I don't know, a thousand people there at the funeral from all over Northern California. And I don't know if you knew... oh, what's her name? Mary Karatsu.

BN: Oh yeah, of course.

RM: So that name Karatsu, when I went to the museum, that name stuck in my mind because a Karatsu attended my father's funeral. So I asked Mary, "Was it your husband, or who was the one that, is he related?" And she said yes, that was, her husband's father was the Karatsu. He was also very involved with Seicho-no-Ie, he was kind of the leader of the Southern California section, and my father was the head of the Northern California. So they knew each other, so he came to my father's funeral. So there's another connection. Like Yamaji, too, the Yamaji family, there was a Yamaji that was working, volunteering at the museum in the Hirasaki Research Center. That Yamaji, their parents is the one that worked for my grandfather at Mountain View. And my father, my parents were the go-between for the two daughters to marry into the Matsumura family. [Laughs] So the two daughters of the Yamaji family married into the Matsumura family. One to George, the son of the old man, Kiichiro, that immigrated, George is the Nisei. And then the other daughter married the grandson, Paul. Now, Shuni, I knew Shuni, the younger one, she married one of the Sagara, Sagara family in Woodland, who was one of the prominent Japanese families did trucking industry up there.

BN: Then I wanted to ask you about redress. Were you involved in that, and what were your feelings about that?

RM: I wasn't too involved already, although I knew about it. The JACL, Paul Tsuneishi and Phil were very involved with it. They got the JACL district to approve it and they got the national to do it. So they're the ones that really started it, and it was already, I knew about it, but I was not involved with it now. But I, of course, supported everything, writing letters or things like that.

BN: Was it meaningful to you to get...

RM: What?

BN: Was it meaningful for you to get the apology?

RM: To get the redress? Yeah, the apology means a lot, yeah. Because that validates our position, yeah. That we were not at fault, I mean, that was the government's fault.

<End Segment 24> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.

<Begin Segment 25>

BN: Then wanted to make sure we got to... I wanted to make sure we got to the JANM stuff.

RM: Okay, yeah.

BN: You told me you retired in '98, and Nancy got a hold of you?

RM: Well, Nancy got a hold of me while I was still working. They wanted me to join but I said, "Wait 'til I retire." So I retired in June, I think, and I started working in July, I volunteered in July or something.

BN: We should clarify, this is Nancy Araki.

RM: Nancy Araki, my cousin.

BN: Who was also, held many positions at the museum.

RM: Yeah, she was the first employee. They were volunteering and they needed somebody to take care of all the things that were piling up.

BN: What did you do at the museum?

RM: Well, first I had training. Bill Shishima and Hal Keimi, Mas Matsumoto, they were the ones that trained me at that. And then we moved to the pavilion and then they had training for the tours. So we had to learn about the exhibits that's in the gallery. I guess the current people don't know that all the inputs that the volunteers put in, all the older people that knew about the wartime thing, we put in a lot of inputs, corrections and things like that, we were able to do that. And the staff was very receptive, they always came to our meetings and were very receptive to anything that we put forth. Maybe it's harder now because there aren't too many docents left that knows about the... so the staff knows more now than the volunteers. So I was volunteering. We tried to do everything or anything that's asked, not just tours. We do whatever asked, so stuff envelopes, or if we need to work on the store, we did that. We did whatever was necessary, we were volunteers.

BN: How often would you go in?

RM: I used to go in three times a week, maybe, but I cut it down to two times a week until the pandemic, and then I haven't been back since. I've just been giving some tours virtually, which was nice. I liked that, because it was a long drive, and my wife doesn't want me to drive, it's too far for me to drive, she doesn't want me to drive. But I know I can drive, I wouldn't mind driving once a week or weekends or things like that.

BN: What about being a volunteer? What was the best thing about it or the thing that appealed to you?

RM: Alone where?

BN: No, being a volunteer, what was it that appealed to you to do it, to keep doing it for all these years? What did you get out of it?

RM: Oh, well, there's a lot of satisfaction teaching people what happened to us. I mean, people should know and that's history, and most people don't know their history. To teach history, there's a lot of satisfaction especially when it concerns our part of the history. And I know what my grandparents had to go through, all the hardship that they had to go through. So I really appreciate what their contributions have been. In fact, I got my grandfather, if you don't mind... this is, see, like this is a picture of my grandfather, that was I able to get him an award, the Japan Agricultural Society. So this is the picture I got for him, and these are the pictures that I think they sent him. So it's got, it's in Japanese. There's two pictures, one of the group, I guess they're celebrating here, so if you can see that, I don't know.

BN: This is your mother's...

RM: Yeah, my mother's father. It was 1974, I got him the award. So I had to... because my mother knew a lot of the story because she's the oldest. And so I was able to get a lot of information from here, and I had to get a testimonial. So I think one of his friends that knew about him, I was able to get that submitted. But even his compatriots had all died because this is already in the nineties, he was already ninety-four. And when I got him the award, in fact, he died shortly after he got his award.

BN: What was the most memorable thing that you can remember that took place as a JANM volunteer?

RM: As a JANM volunteer? The most memorable... I don't know what's that memorable.

BN: No Debbie Reynolds sighting or anything like that? [Laughs]

RM: Well, I was there to give the tour to the queens of northern California, queens that come down for the Nisei Week. I usually give them a tour if I can, but none of them are my relatives. What else is there that's memorable? Sometimes I try to give the Japanese visitors a tour in Japanese -- not tour, but just point things out to them if I can, but it's very, very difficult because I don't know the words, the vocabulary. The vocabulary I know are when I was a child, so sounds so childish. Sometimes I tried my best, though. But in the virtual tour sometimes I put in some Japanese, I welcome them in Japanese.

BN: Has there been... because you've been there and seen many exhibits come and go, was there any in particular that was memorable for you?

RM: Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty, yeah, we had a line of people waiting to get in all the way around the, several blocks. That was really something.

BN: Do you go to, like, camp pilgrimages or any of those types of things?

RM: Well, I went with JANM to the conferences. I went to, I'd say it was Denver, was it Denver we went to, and Seattle, and where else did we go? I can't remember.

BN: There was one in Arkansas.

RM: Arkansas, right, yeah.

BN: You went to the Arkansas one?

RM: Yeah, I did. The Arkansas one, what we did was before the conference we took a trip, a trip on our own. So we were all over, went to Camp Shelby, and we went to, like... oh gosh, I can't remember now. Where's the jazz...

BN: Oh, New Orleans.

RM: New Orleans and what's that other one? Well, anyway, and where what you call it was killed.

BN: Martin Luther King?

RM: Martin Luther King.

BN: So Memphis.

RM: Memphis, yeah, we went there. So we took a nice tour, then went to the conference.

BN: That's about all I've got. Is there anything else you want to add? I mean, I often ask people how they want to be remembered.

RM: How do I want to be remembered? Well, you try to be honest, you want to be able to give, not only monetary but your experiences. What else can I do? It's pretty hard to think. To be remembered... I can't remember, I can't think of how I want to be remembered.

BN: Well, on that note, thank you very much. This was great. Thanks for spending so much time with us.

RM: Oh, my pleasure, my pleasure.

<End Segment 25> - Copyright © 2022 Densho. All Rights Reserved.