Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Kunio Otani Interview
Narrator: Kunio Otani
Interviewers: Alice Ito (primary), Rebecca Walls (secondary)
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: May 31, 1998
Densho ID: denshovh-okunio-01-0035

<Begin Segment 35>

RW: I'm gonna bring you back to the period when you first started getting into the greenhouse business, and you returned to Seattle, after serving in the war. And I wanted to ask you more about what the employment atmosphere was like in Seattle when you first returned?

KO: It was pretty limited. And as an example, my brother wanted to become an electrician. And he couldn't get into the union at all. And probably his only out was to learn from another Japanese electrician, so he never, never followed that up. But, that's how the situation was. In fact, one of the people at church had a father who was a college graduate, and he was doing janitors' work to support his family. So, that's how tough it was then, and I hope the people -- Niseis, or Isseis, or Sanseis -- nowadays appreciate how far this thing has gone, and what Niseis in particular had to put up with. And, I'm sure there are many incidences like that. But, it was tough, and tight, and so a lot of people ended up working in hotels, and doing gardening, which I did. 'Course, those who went to school, I think it was a different story. I think that... I can't recall that they had too much of a problem there.

RW: Do you think -- did you try to look for work doing journalism, since you'd had some experience doing that?

KO: No, I was -- I didn't know anybody who was, [Laughs] where I could go. Because, as I said, I was totally lost here for awhile. I'm probably still lost, but that's... [Laughs]

RW: I don't think so. When you're saying that you couldn't find anyone, were you looking for a Japanese mentor, or someone that was already in the field, to connect with?

KO: Well, I don't think I made that much of an effort. I was just trying to find something. To get started.

RW: So you started working, doing some gardening?

KO: Yeah.

RW: And then your brother began working for Columbia Greenhouse?

KO: Yes, and he worked for the arboretum for awhile too. And then he went over to Columbia. And in that business, there's always work. Because you just never quite have enough help. And so, I ended up over there, too.

<End Segment 35> - Copyright © 1998 Densho. All Rights Reserved.